At the beginning of October 2009, I was in London for the first time. The vacation took four days. Originally we went there to see Porcupine Tree, Opeth and Dream Theatre live, but once we were in London we wanted to take as much as possible from it.

The Hotel

We stayed at “The International Hotel Britannia” all the nights. It was very cool that it offered 20% off for staying for four days (that was basically the reason why we were there for four days, not for three). It was also cool that girl at the reception was Lithuanian, so we got a better room😀 Other advantages: good connection with the city using DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and London Underground services, many international people in the hotel, what gave a very cozy and friendly atmosphere. Pizzeria and room service 24/7 (haven’t used, though), pool, spa, gym (haven’t used these as well, but we just were in town all the time) and whatever a four star hotel should have. All that left me imagining what a dull life those serious businessmen have, if they don’t have anyone to go out to town with and pour some culture into themselves in the countless museums, theatres, exhibitions or pour some English ale into their stomachs in the countless English pubs. Instead of that, they stay at the hotel. Creepy.

Also, we were offered to upgrade to a room with a Jacuzzi and free access to all of hotel’s facilities. We refused, because that would have cost 120£. Well, if we would have agreed to have breakfast at the hotel (which would have cost 27£ each day), then the upgrade would be only 12£, but we thought that’s not a good deal for us, especially that we were planning on seeing London, not the hotel.

Ok, now it’s time for hotel curiosities. I was wondering, how a not so good room would be like, because from our room’s window we could see the DLR (what was cool) – and also hear it (which wasn’t that cool). And DLR goes about every three minutes, also at nights. Good that we were all tired after days full of impressions.

Other curiosities were about water. When we came back to our room after Dream Theatre and Opeth, we heard water running in the bathroom. And yes, in the bathroom there was cold water left running all the day while we were out – the bathtub was half full already, and it even wasn’t plugged up. We for sure didn’t leave the bath like that – but could have chambermaids done that? Weird, weird, weird. Furthermore, the next (and the last) morning it got a bit annoying – no hot water. Sunday morning everybody’s checking out and taking a bath before leaving, I guess – but no hot water in a 4* hotel is a bit of no excuse.

Porcupine Tree at Hammersmith Apollo

Sold out! It was a bit weird at first to listen to the concert while sitting, but later we got used to that. Porcupine Tree is not really that kind of music you could headbang to and jump around and scream and so on during the entire concert. Sitting actually fits, and quite well. Sound was a bit too loud during the warm-up band’s performance and at the beginning of Porcupine Tree there was a bit too much bass, but later it got just perfect. Lot too loud, not too silent. At the end of the concert people were applauding standing – it was really such a good concert.

There was one very nice moment in the concert, when the lead singer asked if there’s anybody in the hall who were seeing Opeth the next day. Several people raised their hands shouting (including us), and then he asked to give best wishes for Mikael Åkerfeldt, the singer of Opeth.

After the concert we went to a nearby snack bar to get something to eat before going back to hotel. I got cod and chips and it took a while for me to finish eating (I eat slowly), but during that time we could hear a fan of Porcupine Tree speaking stuff about them to his friends. He was so passionate.

Opeth and Dream Theatre at Wembley Arena

What can I say – it was a very, very good concert. Sadly we were a bit late, so we didn’t see the first band and half of Big Elf performance. They were ok. “She got me blindfolded” haha😀.

Opeth – goooood. They were playing the more brutal songs of theirs to differ themselves from the rest of the bands. Yeah \m/

Dream Theatre – also good. They were headliners of the concert, so they got a bigger stage with three screens and all the fancy stuff. The cool moments: at the beginning of the first song Mikael Åkerfeldt ran on the stage and growled several lines. Later there was a drum solo, first only by Dream Theatre’s drummer, but then he exclaimed that the drum kit was too big for him alone and started calling out drummers from other three bands. So at the end they were four playing one drum kit. Pure awesomeness, I must say.

After this concert we were discussing with Anders, that we see no reason for Opeth not to be headliners, as both of us find this band better than all-praised Dream Theatre. We’re not saying that DT is not worth their name – we’re just saying, that Opeth is better🙂

The recent Dream Theatre video contains some behind the scenes shots of this concert, watch it!

Airport

Firstly – it starts to annoy me, that airport officers get confused about my old green passport, back from those times when Lithuania hasn’t been part of EU yet. The date is written there in format “dd mm yyyy”. And everybody looks at the first number, 06, and says that my passport is no longer valid, although if they looked just two more symbols to the right, they would find 2012.

Second – *censored* terrorists. I’m not afraid of flying at all, but I’m afraid to get stuck in the security gates because of some minor issue. For example, that rule for liquids not to exceed 100ml. So you can’t even bring water to the plane – you have to buy that behind the security gates, where it costs at least twice as much. And I usually carry more than one lip balm with me – so, if I forget to take one out/don’t find it in my bag, I might be interrogated and what not. This is something that really gives me nerves in airports. Not to mention being touched everywhere if the metal detector detects something. And that super fancy new X-Ray machine – wonderful, anyone can see me naked. This gives me creeps.

London in general

–          I really enjoyed, that one can buy a snack-pack of fresh fruit almost anywhere. I wonder if this is part of some governmental “Eat more healthy food” campaign, or is there demand for healthy snacks? This saved me from eating junk food, which is usually unavoidable when travelling.

–          During our stay probably all the museums and galleries were free to enter. We took an opportunity to visit Tate Modern.

–          Camden Town is surely one of the reasons to go to London. It’s like an alternative universe, where it is always 70s – 80s.

–          Greenwich – this town (?) reminded me of Vilnius very much. Architecture, university, nature and modern buildings on the other side. Greenwich market is also remarkably good – one can find almost anything there.

–          “Look right” written on the roads. Yes, left side traffic is very confusing.

–          Metal pub “The Intrepid Fox” – took a while to find it, even longer to leave it. A super cool metal pub. Just why is the music so damn loud in all the English pubs? When you need to shout to your partner and your ears start hurting – it’s too loud. Don’t they know it?

–          The banks of Thames are ad-free. That’s wonderful, I must say.

–          Madame Tussaud’s museum. Quite fun, but we didn’t know half of celebrities. Maybe we need to buy a TV.

–          I heard a terrible advertisement on the subway. Something like: “Feel ugly? Have a plastic surgery at our hospital. Call now to book your appointment!” CREEPY!

–          We are weird tourists that didn’t go to see Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Windsor Castle and went to Trafalgar Square only by accident.

–          English food. Not the best kitchen in the world, really…

–          Mind the gap!

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I’ll be visiting London again in April. Again, for Opeth🙂

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Li’l update: photos from this weekend getaway are to be found here.