Monday, September 10th

Monday dawned cool, cloudy and threatening showers.  The bakery across the street from the hotel proved to be the perfect spot for breakfast.  Then it was off to Leicester Square via the Underground to find discount tickets for Wicked.  In short order we had a couple of decent tickets for that night.  After a few minutes of picture taking in the square (imagine me taking pictures!) it was off to Kew Gardens.

The Underground or Tube is a wonderfully easy way to get around London.  While still at Heathrow on Sunday morning we had stopped to buy Oyster Cards loaded with £20.  When you tap the card on the reader at the turnstiles in the stations it deducts the cost of the trip from the card up to a daily maximum.  Additional funds can be loaded onto the card.  When you turn the card back in you are refunded the £5 deposit and any unused funds still on the card.  The cards can be used on the tube, the busses and on some ferries on the Thames.  It makes for a no fuss way of getting around as you don’t need to worry about buying tickets all the time.

Kew Gardens was only a 5 minute walk from Kew Gardens Station.  By now we were getting a bit hungry and a restaurant conveniently located just inside the gate served as our lunch stop.  Kew Gardens is immense with a number of pavilions you can wander through.  We soon came to the conclusion that there was more than we could see in one afternoon.  In fact you would probably need a couple of full days to really do the gardens justice.

One of the biggest surprises of the afternoon came when we got to the tree-top walkway.  This is a walkway about 40 feet in the air, even with the tops of the trees.  It provides a remarkable view of the tree tops and the gardens beyond.  When we got to elevator to the walkway Susan said she would try going up.  Now Susan does not like heights.  Anything over a small stepstool is normally beyond consideration.  Anyway up she went.  While I could tell she was far from relaxed on the walkway until she got back around to the elevator once again I was pretty proud of her for even trying.

We rushed through a couple more exhibits in order to get back to the hotel so we could get changed and ready to go to Wicked.

The Apollo Victoria theatre where Wicked is playing is only a couple of blocks from the Park Plaza Hotel where we were staying.  If fact it is right across the street from Victoria Station.  The theatre is quite beautiful although not quite as elaborate as some European theatres we have been in.  The production itself was good although in all honesty I can’t find myself raving about it.  Perhaps one of the most interesting things about it was the reaction of the audience (should I say mainly the women) who would scream when certain actors appeared as well as before and after musical numbers.  It was like being at a rock concert.  I don’t know if this is the latest trends at musicals or if it is peculiar to this particular one.

Following the show we headed to a nearby Italian Restaurant which I figured was appropriate as we were enroute to Italy after all.  From their wine list I ordered a Vino Nobile de Montepulciano which didn’t show the maker.  When It arrive I immediately recognized it as being from Geografico.  Not only had I picked up a case of it (a newer vintage) the day before we left but it is one of the Opimian suppliers that we are going to tour in Tuscany!  This must be an omen I told Susan.

The aforementioned “Opimian” refers to the Opimian Society which is a Canadian wine-buying co-operative.  I have been a member since 1981.  From about September through to about June, every 6 weeks or so an offering of wines from different regions comes out.  Wine must be ordered in case lots and you can order as many or as few cases as you want.  There is no obligation to buy any wine.  Generally the society deals with smaller wineries who produce quality products not available on local liquor store shelves.  Some months after ordering your case(s) of wine arrive.  In this particular case I had received 4 cases of wine the day before we left:  two were from Geografico.

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