30 September 2015
Once again I woke up before Pen, so after a traipse across the building to the loo, I did some blog typing.
Breakfast was Weetabix and fruit, with peppermint tea. Sitting on the end of Pen’s bed.
We went over the road and bought some sandwiches for lunch, and then dragged my case down the stairs (it’s easier going down than up), and walked to the railway station. (With a sight miscalculation detour.)
As we had a couple of minutes spare before the train left (or even arrived at the station) I went and got some more photos of the harbour. It looks a lot like Auckland about Westhaven Marina.
When the train arrived at the station we had the fun of trying to work out where to put my suitcase. I have to say that this is one way in which our trains are superior to English ones. They may have a better, more comprehensive system, but at least there’s room between the seats for big bags on ours. And of course our tourist trains have a full baggage car.
We stopped in Portsmouth & Southsea Station. We had both Kally and Scott sitting on my belt bag on the table looking out the window. One of the guards stopped and gave them a good long look as if he was checking if they had tickets. And then they got a chuckle from the conductor as he checked our tickets.
Intercom announcement. It takes four minutes to attach more carriages to a commuter carriage.
Okay, I’m up-to-date. Next lot of typing will be tonight when I’m in bed. It’s a little noisy here. Not badly so, but we can hear every time an Underground train goes past or someone walks around upstairs.
Bother, it’s now almost 8.00am and I haven’t finished yesterday’s blog.
We arrived at Victoria Station, and while I disapprove of knocking about old buildings to modernise them, it does need some changes… Like lifts! I wound up carrying my suitcase down several flights of stairs and up a few more just to get from the train to the Underground stations. What was really irritating was that only one person offered to help me, and he was a nice man in a suit as I was lugging the case off one of the Tube Trains.
We finally made it to street level in Kensington and had to find our way to our lodgings – the Astoria Hotel. I read Pen’s map that we had to go left. She read it as we had to go right. We went right and went a longer distance around some road works (they’re creating a new underground train track) as we doubled back on ourselves. Pen reckoned we met less people that way.
The Astoria Hotel is one of several that have been created out of terraced town houses. So you have the Olympic Hotel right next to the (making it up) Cambridge Hotel, right next to the Belmont Hotel, right next to the Pacific Hote (sic), right next to the Astoria Hotel which is sandwiched between that and the Thunderbird Hotel (really made that one up). So you have hotel, hotel, hotel… All about a room wide.
We had to go into the Belmont Hotel to get our key and WiFi ticket to the Astoria Hotel.
Once we’d let ourselves in I stayed on the ground floor while Pen did a recce for our room.
Remember how the Bay Tree was upstairs? We are now downstairs – in the servants’ quarters. We go down the corridor from the front door, slight dogleg to another corridor, hard right to a door which you push open over the stairs that go down into the pit. Another hard right turn (you need your wits about you here) and you’re descending. Straight ahead is the fire exit (complete with a mattress blocking it), then it’s a 180° turn to the right and our room, 23 (makes a change from 4 which we were at Bay Tree and Duke of Buckingham), is straight ahead.
After getting ourselves sorted, we were out again.
Our first stop, as we tried to find somewhere nice to have our lunch, was Kensington Park. It was a lovely, cloud-free day (like all the days I’ve had so far), and we were able to sit – away from the spray of the fountains – enjoy the sun, and watch the birds watch us.
One of the first feathered hopefuls that approached us was clearly a rail. My first thought was “it’s a Weka.” Of course it wasn’t. It was a juvenile moorhen.
Its parents were swimming about in one of the two ponds along with some coots – juvenile and adult.
After lunch we wandered through the park, greeting some parakeets that aren’t native to England, but have made themselves quite at home here.
We carried on, stopping off at the Peter Pan statue for the obligatory photographs.
We also saw some cormorants, some gulls,
And a dog, “Red”, that likes to people to play fetch with his rings.
There was also a Henry Moore statute that we decided was either a clavicle or a fused together pelvis and leg bones.
We also came across this interesting contraption that was an ice cream parlour selling expensive Fortnum and Mason’s ice creams.
We didn’t have one.
Next stop was the very Victorian Prince Albert Memorial. Which, with a lot of imagination (which I have in spades), could be called Thunderbird Three.
I was pleased to see over the road the Royal Albert Hall. On a whim we decided to pop over and see if we could have a sneaky peek inside.
It was possible to do more than that.
We were lucky in that a tour was about to leave. It was only £8 and there were only two others – a Chinese couple – along for the ride.
We were unlucky in that we weren’t allowed to take photos.
Our guide was Rob and he gave us a wonderful tour. We only went into the “public” areas, the corridors, one of the boxes, the circle where you can only stand, the private staircase that only the royal family uses, the private waiting room that the royal family uses…
We were able to sit in one of the boxes and look down on the stage or what could be the Proms mosh pit, a tennis court, an ice skating rink, or regular seating. My initial reaction was “Wow!” It all looks so regal with the red colours.
The boxes are all bought by families or corporations and the owners let the Royal Albert Hall know when they’re not using them and then the RAH can sell them and the owner makes a small profit.
There’s only one box belonging to a family that can’t be sold.
The royal box and it’s the largest in the theatre, and, when the Queen’s attending a performance has special more comfortable seats put into it. Rob asked us to find it.
It was the one right next to me, so I was able to put my hand over, and Kally over, and touch the area where the Queen’s been.
Apparently if the royal family isn’t using that box, then the usual seats are put in there
The Queen, when attending public performances, used to make a grand entrance. Now she sneaks in a more private way and retires to her private room for a meal. Rob tried the door to this room, saying “this is always kept locked so we won’t be able to go in…”
The door opened.
Rob insisted that he hadn’t expected that to happen, but he let us enter. The escutcheons are decorated with Wedgewood plaques. A couple of the seats had arms and these were reserved for the Queen. The arms are quite low to accommodate long dresses, but there were two in the private room.
I sat in one of them.
Then we continued upstairs to the cheap “seats”. These aren’t seats at all, but are where you can stand, or lean on a balcony rail, and watch. The price for these possis (about 500) vary. They range from £5 upwards. The modern outfit that was playing tonight were charging £37!!!!
I wish there was a £5 concert on.
But it was here that Rob said that if we didn’t use a flash and stopped if anyone on stage started rehearsing, then we could take photos.
My camera was out of my bag quicker than you could say “watch the birdie…”
I’d like to see the roof garden of Derry and Toms, but by the time we got there it was closed. We’ll have to try again tomorrow.
So it was back to the Royal Albert Hall for a hot chocolate.
My photos aren’t uploading tonight, so you’ll hopefully get them tomorrow when I upload today’s blog – which I haven’t written yet.