London Town; Piccadilly Circus - Leicester Square - Covent Gardens and Lio

Eros statue Piccadilly Circus

Jo and I made a big day of it Monday starting with breakfast at London Bridge at a new age eatery. Have you ever eaten scrambled eggs and sausages out of a cardboard box with a plastic fork? Well at four quid eighty p, it was nothing on the big English breakfast I had a at a little cafe in downtown East Dulwich. Two eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, bubble and squeak, baked beans AND two slices of buttered bread all for four quid thirty p. 
Covent Gardens underground

After eating we caught the ‘Original Big Bus’ outside, to follow the tourist route we’d already covered and drop us at Green Park station. From there we walked to Piccadilly Circus. A first for me had to be Carnaby Street. After seeing all the glam and glitz of Carnaby Street in the sixties newsreels and video clips, pop stars, movie stars, funky poeple wearing even funkier clothes it proved my second disappointment for the day. The new Carnaby Street could be best described as bland. A blur and fusion of brand name shops including Diesel, Ben Sherman, Industrie, Billabong and not much else. Just a lot of other global trekkers from the 60’s and 70’s walking the now paved road trying to work out what the fuss was all about. After a coffee and escargot and watching the pedestrian traffic  of no repute go by for a bit Jo and I decided to head off in different directions to see what we could find. Jo followed the Monopoly Board to the Regent Street shops and I headed back to the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus. The Eros statue is still a great meeting place. Lots of people and cameras, all the spectacular digital advertising walls continuously changing the landscape behind it.
I did a bit of damage in Lillywhites six story sports store. With more cash I could have bought enough to come back to Lausanne and start my own sports store. London is so cheap. Not wanting to carry too much around all afternoon i made my way down to Trafalgar Street to hook up with ‘The Beatles Walk’ but missed it by five minutes. The Big Bus lady pointed to them in the distance. I made a dash however the group I eventually caught up with were kids doing a school excursion to the National Gallery. Not to be totally outdone I thought ‘ Where would I walk if I were a Beatle?’ I followed my Ringo thoughts then changed to George and before I got to Paul or John I decided they probably walked around all these streets in some shape or form back then, so virtually I followed the crowd. 
It was a good follow between St Martins Lane and Drury Lane to Covent Gardens underground where people continued to emerge and vanish. In the streets of Covent  Gardens I found what was missing in Carnaby Street. The whole place was alive with groovers of all ages, eateries and street performers of high quality from opera singers to sword swallowers. Apparently the audition to be able to perform in this area is very selective and the acts considered of world class. At the underground I turned left towards the old market garden venues form the 1800’s which are now everything markets and great venues for the street performers. 
When I’d had my fill of music and clowns I ventured back to the corner opposite Covent Gardens underground to get some action people photos before heading back to Piccadilly Circus. It was there that I met Lio. He was taking video using a Canon 500D digital. We chatted for a bit about photos and people and light. It turns out Lio is an Iraqi war veteran who went back there to work as a security guard and body guard when he got out of the British army. Now with a baby daughter as a light in his life, he is doing an Arts Degree majoring in animation. I told him how friendly I’d found London. He said that was because I wasn’t a Londoner. We swapped email addresses and hopefully made London at least look friendlier for an hour or so.
From the gardens I headed back in the general direction of Piccadilly Circus to meet up with Jo. Leicester Square was in between Covent Gardens and Piccadilly Circus. This big rectangular area that also takes in Soho and The Westend is entertainment central with every stage show you have ever heard of, cinemas, film festivals, spaces, faces, perpetual motion, elbows and bodies that bump, cafes and pubs that grind and probably enough to do for a six months or more if you had the money and inclination. 
I sat up on the top step of the Eros statue at five pm and Jo found me amongst the throng. Not only did she have bags of clothes but a new Oxford street haircut which looked great. I told her about my adventures and we headed back to Covent Gardens together. The tenor was still singing in a cafe and we finished off the day eating Paella listening to songs that Pav made famous when he was still walking this earth. On the way back to Piccadilly we bumped into Lio squeezing digital images out in the fading light. We also had to buy another suitcase to put all our purchases in for the flight back to Geneva.
Before going to see Les Miserables we went to Garfunkles Coffee Shop ( not to be confused with Simon ) for dessert and hot drinks and to catch up on the day.
Les Miserables was awesome theatre. In its twenty-fifth year it still has a packed house on a Monday night. Great stage props and every actor could sing those songs that we know so well but are not always so sure where they come from (speaking for myself here). An inspiring day and night even though we caught a bus that stopped a suburb away from where we were staying and had to find our way home at midnight. People waiting in bus shelters were helpful to our cause. The bus trip was also fairly colourful. There was one interesting conversation on the bus between a drunk cockney woman (think Eastenders at closing time) and a very well-spoken, Muslim giant called Mohammed. 
London. Very entertaining, awesome place to visit. Learnt more about it in three days than three years of Social Studies. Thanks Jen for the cosy, warm flat close to all the transport. Next stop Wales.

Covent Gardens colour

Lio and a friend from Uni


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