Despite the history of Rome or the grandeur of Paris, one city I will always love above them both in Europe is London. Seriously, for any die-hard Doctor Who fan and fan of things British (within reason, I ain’t no monarchist) London is the stuff of fantasies and more. It’s a freaking awesome place once you get past all the bloody Australians there (I can say that, I’m Australian)!
I stayed at one of the cheapest hostels I could find there, and from memory in 1999 it was pretty cheap for London, 17 pounds a night. Keep in mind that it was around 32 pence to the dollar at the time so it worked out to be around 50 bucks Australian a night, possibly the most expensive dorm bed I’ve ever had! It was in Earl’s Court, where you’ll find most Aussies, and it was probably the grungiest, dirtiest hostel I stayed at that year. Most dorm rooms wreak of socks, but this was taken to a level undreamt of before. It was foul.
Still, you could have vegemite on toast and watch Aussie Rules in the funky lounge room so it wasn’t all bad. The hostel was called ‘Curzon House’ – and appears to still be called that today.
London is a city full of sights, lights and more. The British Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tower Bridge are just some of the amazing places I’ve seen there. However, on my first trip to London, I saw almost none of the sights at all. Instead, I decided to go a bit crazy for…. Drum roll…. Musical Theatre.
In my four days in London I caught four shows. I started with the brilliant ‘Chicago’ which at the time featured former fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. I saw a pretty average production of ‘Grease’, then in one day caught Hugh Jackman in ‘Oklahoma’ and then a stage version of ‘Doctor Doolittle’ which was… interesting.
If you’re in London you really have to catch a show, because the prices can be pretty low (I tried in advance for the first show, but for the second I turned up and got a good deal). In 1999 the prices were pretty sensational – I paid between 5 and 15 pounds for each of the shows, and even with the Aussie dollar being at an all-time low, this was still a great price.
On other trips to London I saw more of the sights, but apart from visiting the ‘Who’ Shop in 1999, I didn’t see much before moving on. I headed out to Glastonbury Festival. I had been invited to go to it by a couple of Brits I had met in India. Well, people didn’t check the net very often back then so although we agreed to meet there there was no plan as to how to get in or find each other. No, we didn’t even have mobile phones.
Their plan was to scramble under the fence. Glastonbury Festival is a huge music festival in the sort of same vein as Woodstock I guess near a town called Pilton in South West England. I think I got there by train, I have little recollection to be honest. I wasn’t sure where to go to get under the fence, and so I decided to go with some guy selling tickets for cheap prices. I guess, thinking about it, they were stolen. I paid 60 quid for some sort of backstage pass but the normal entry was 90 or 100 quid so I guess at least I didn’t pay full price.
There were rolling hills, thousands and thousands of people. It was an awesome atmosphere on one hand, and a nightmare on the other. I was never going to find my friends and my first day there was spent searching for them. Luckily there were public areas with big tents set up for people to sleep in, and despite the warm beer and limited array of expensive food, I was fine. Plus, it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t muddy which the festival is famous for.
But the second day worked out, by pure chance I bumped into my friends and I moved into their tent. It was a fair way from the stages and the toilets were awful portaloos (really, enough to make you hold on for days!) but I was with friends. I watch Blondie, REM and a few other bands and I discovered that there was a theatre tent with the stars of ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ doing a show! At the time I loved that show! It was strictly the British guys, Steve Steen and my personal favourite Tony Slattery. Sadly, I was a shy young kid at the time and didn’t have the guts to ask for a photo or autograph.
I think it was four days there, but it’s hard to remember exactly. I said farewell to my friends and their friends (it was quite the large group) and vowed to return and visit them in Devon when I returned from a jaunt to Ireland.
I had a couple of nights in Bristol. I took no photos. Sorry. However, it was pretty nice! I think. I remember the hostel was good and from there I would take a bus and ferry to Ireland. With no diary to reference I can’t tell you much more than that. It was a little like Cardiff I think! Next time, I will tell the tale of my trip to Ireland and perhaps a little holiday romance….