Ya'll know how I love planning itineraries, right down to bathroom breaks and beach time. But, what you may not know, is that once we get on site, I'm pretty good about going with the flow and responding to requests. That's the beauty of the itineraries - making adjustments and accommodations for random things that pop up along the way.
For example, I don't think Royal Albert Hall was ever on my list. I'd checked it off years ago, when Maxine Lefever took us American Musical Ambassadors over to see it. And by see it, I just mean, we circled it in a bus, and maybe (even if I can't remember) got off to look closer.
But, one of the things on my list for today - after our overnight flight - was the Albert Memorial, which I'd somehow missed in all my previous visits. Even if it was across. the. street. from the Royal Albert Hall.
And so our journey through Albertopolis*, London's first cultural quarter, began. The South Kensington area was so named because Albert, beginning with his Great Exhibition of 1851, had a hand in planning and/or developing the area with museums (National History, Victoria & Albert and Science), educational institutions (Imperial College), and the arts (Royal Albert Hall).
After a detour to the absolutely incredible Albert Memorial (wherein my love for Victoria and Albert as the greatest couple ever was validated again), through Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine Gallery (which was in between outdoor installations, so we missed out) and the Diana Memorial Fountain (which was closed for refurb), we finally got to do the Royal Albert Hall tour.
It wasn't the supercool behind-the-house tour, which made us a little sad. But, we did get to look at a lot of pictures (not even kidding), learned a lot about the construction (it's smaller than was originally planned, because it was too expensive to build the way Al wanted it) , got to watch the English National Ballet rehearse their Strictly Gershwin production (I'm not sold on Gershwin and ballet, it's got a bit of cognitive dissonance, watching it), and got to see what the view from every level was like (very cool views from the rafters, I swear).
We also got to sit in a box or two, and I don't mind admitting that I totally imagined a production there, and all the fancy lords and ladies in fancy dress, using their opera glasses to spy on the other boxes, rather than the actual show on stage.
We didn't get to go into the Royal box - apparently they hang a flag over her section, when she's present. Needless to say, she wasn't there when we were there. Nor did she greet us in her supernice reception room.
Yeah. I know. I was surprised she wasn't there to see me, either.
*RIBA has an excellent and in-depth online exhibition on Albertopolis - well worth checking out.