When I woke up on Wednesday morning, it took a moment for me to remember where I was. Then I saw the pot of tea on the night table. Ah, yes, London!
The only problem with whirlwind audition tours is that performers rarely have enough time to really enjoy the magnificent cities on their itinerary. Like most opera singers, I build my travel plans around auditions and performances. But I also look for little ways to experience the beauty and the culture around me. By taking just a few hours out of a work day, I can usually find something amazing. And these “stolen moments” make all the difference in the world! So let me share with you some of the little luxuries that I’ve discovered in London.
1. Royal Walking Tour
My hotel was located in Bayswater, just a few miles from Buckingham Palace. This inspired me to create my very own royal walking tour (with some help from Google Maps)! I picked up my morning coffee and pastry on Queensway, and then I proceeded to have a picnic breakfast in Kensington Gardens. (Now you have to admit: that’s a great way to start a Wednesday!) Then I set off on my merry way, visiting Westminster Abbey and window shopping at Harrod’s before taking my lunch at an Italian cafe outside Buckingham Palace. A perfect royal morning.
2. Soaking up Art
Then on Thursday, I had a few hours in between auditions. I needed a good place to rest and recover my energy. So I decided to go to one of my favorite places in all of London: the British Museum. I have spent many happy hours there in the past. For me, walking into the great court feels like coming home!
Museums are great places to relax because they have so many benches. I really needed to recharge my batteries, so I slipped quietly into the ancient Assyrian room and chose a bench in the back, near the famous sculpted reliefs from Nineveh. But eventually, I grew weary of Assyrian lion hunts, and I wandered into the Ancient Greek rooms. Suddenly, two dozen English school boys from St Paul’s School were all around me, pointing out the details of the Parthenon Frieze. They were adorable, but they were loud, so I retreated to medieval Europe, where I found a nice comfortable bench in front of a video about Sutton Hoo.
When I was fully rested, I decided to do some shopping. Museums are great places to find classy and original gifts. The British Museum offers everything from refined objects d’art to unsual kids’ toys. You can get bejeweled earrings or cufflinks for the medievalist in your life. Or a rubber sphinx for the toddler who is also a budding Egyptologist! (I considered getting one of these for myself, but I’m not usually in the mood for riddles at bath time.)
Incidentally, the museum restaurant also offers a full afternoon tea between 3 and 5 PM, where you will find a heavenly combination of scones, pastries and tea with clotted cream.
3. Joining the Circus
After my final audition on Thursday evening, it was finally time to relax and celebrate with friends. I needed to decompress after nine days on planes and trains and automobiles. So I took a walk up Charing Cross Road from Trafalgar Square into Leicester Square. And finally, I hit the bright lights of Picadilly Circus!
Well, now I’m back at good ol’ Heathrow Airport and I’m ready to return to Los Angeles. But it’s been a good tour — thank you for coming along!