How to get the most out of a 19-hour-vacation?

It sounds crazy, I know. Somehow it still feels as if it never happened. But strangely, I haven’t felt this well-rested and energetic in months. Even though, it was the shortest and most crazy trip to London ever, I needed it. Looking back, I needed it more than I anticipated in advance.

Two weeks ago, my friend Kris and I found out that Eden Espinosa [Broadway actor & singer; known for her parts in Wicked, BKLYN, RENT and so on – for those who aren’t into musical theatre much] was doing a one-night-only gig in London. Basically, within five minutes after we had found out about this most wonderful fact, we decided, at 1.00 am, that we’d be going.

You see, Wicked has been a huge part of our lives years back, and somehow (I can’t remember when or how) we ended up favouring Eden’s Elphaba above others. We have been listening to songs of a singer we found on YouTube for the last ten years. Most of them are crappy quality, because someone illegally taped them in a theatre. We only knew her from YouTube. Okay, scrap that, from YouTube and one performance of RENT, I had the pleasure of seeing on Broadway in 2008.

The opportunity to see Eden performing songs just as Eden and in London, was an opportunity we couldn’t let pass.

So the next morning, after making sure my shift at work was covered for the day of the concert, we booked our tickets for the show, the plane tickets and all other stuff that had to be arranged for the day. I have never booked anything that fast.

Skipping forward two weeks. Last Wednesday was the day! Since I knew we were about to skip a night, I tried to sleep in. I failed miserably. Wakey, wakey at 8.00 am. Normally I’m a zombie when it’s 8; today was a whole different story. I voted (general elections happened to be on this day as well), went to get some last things at the grocery store and around noon I took the bus to Eindhoven.

In Eindhoven I met Kris and we continued our journey to the airport. The weather was awesome, and we were basically queuing indoors at the gate, all for a good cause of course. Our plane took off around 3.15 pm and that was the beginning of our 19-hour-vacation. The first hour we spent in a plane!

Around 3.00 pm UK time (there’s an hour time difference with the Netherlands), we arrived in Stansted Airport. Luckily we didn’t have any luggage, however, please remind me to get an ID-card. Stansted has two queues for passport checks: one for passports and one for ID cards. It took Kris two minutes to get through border security. I can’t say that checking my passport took any longer than that, however, the line to get to the bloody machine took at least fifteen minutes.

From border security and the loo, we went to the Stansted Express and off we were to London Liverpool Street Station. Around 4.30 pm – still in awe that we were actually in London for a few hours – we left the train for the tube. Next stop: Buckingham Palace. If we were going to be in London anyways, we should go and see some stuff as well. Even though we’d seen most of it in previous trips. The weather was lovely and we had still some daylight left, so why not. From Buckingham, we walked to Westminster Abbey and the Big Ben. We bought some souvenirs and talked to the most incredibly nice people to whom the shop belonged.

We strolled along the river Thames towards Embankment and Trafalgar Square before going to Nando’s. You don’t want to get me started on Nando’s. I. LOVE. NANDO’S. End of discussion. In this Portuguese styled restaurant you can get the most delicious chicken dishes. It is a chain restaurant, but that’s a good thing. There is Nando’s in more than one place! You can wake me in the middle of the night for Nando’s. So much, one hour of our precious 19-hour-holiday was spent here. Please go there whenever you come across one!

Since the concert wouldn’t start until 11.00 pm, we still had some hours to spare after dinner. We decided to go to Piccadilly Circus. Apparently, they are renovating the Times Squaresk features of Piccadilly. The lack of light was refreshing to be honest. Nevertheless, soon, we could be found in a Tesco. At Tesco, we raided their chocolate aisle. Raiding isn’t an understatement. I reckon I bought 25 bars of different kinds of chocolate. The UK has such lovely assortment of chocolate that can’t be found in the Netherlands. If we weren’t travelling by plane, I would have hauled back some liters of Irn-Bru as well.

From Piccadilly, we went to Oxford street and the Disney Store. I couldn’t resist buying another major Stitch. I don’t care much about most animated Disney characters. Stitch is just my too cute for words spirit animal. From Oxford Street, we went back to Leicester Square. After some last minute souvenir shopping, we went to the Hippodrome Casino and we were actually proud of ourselves. We managed to do quite a lot in six hours. But, that’s not why we came to London.

Eden friggin’ Espinosa was, however. The auditorium was small and secluded which added to the atmosphere of the show. The stage was surrounded by small tables and booths. The show itself was just…. WOW! With every song Eden sang, my appreciation for her as an artist grew, and simultaneously, with each song, I couldn’t care less that I wouldn’t sleep at all that night. It was SO worth going to London, spending the night on the airport and not sleeping at all, and at that time, two out of the three still had to happen.

I never imagined to ever hear her sing any song from Wicked live. Listening to “The Wizard and I” and the finale of ” Defying Gravity” felt so surreal, especially when you have listened to these songs via YouTube for a decade. Each song was so heartfelt and though I didn’t know all the songs, it didn’t matter. It was a privilege to listen to her.

Before going to London, I told Kris that depending on when the evening show would end, we could have gotten some tickets for Wicked and see Willemijn Verkaik (Dutch musical actress, most famous for playing Elphaba in Wicked in four different countries and therefore in three different languages). It’s a good thing we didn’t do so. Willemijn was one of Eden’s guests. Together with Eden, she sang ‘Goodbye until Tomorrow’ from “The Last Five Years”, which isn’t a duet at all. Nevertheless, they thought it to be nice to sing it as a duet and it sounded awesome!

Video ain’t mine. Thank you @Gabby R for posting it on YouTube!

As always, when having fun, time flies. Around 0.30 am, the show was over. Considering our bus wouldn’t be leaving until 3.00 am, we were glad the concert was held in a casino. The casino was always open. So we ordered another two half pints of Blue Moon and decided to wait until later, because what else can you do in London after midnight. In the end, some things are meant to be. Waiting in the casino was one brilliant idea. After an hour, in which became pretty clear that I don’t do alcohol very well – I was annoyed by myself… majorly-, we had the chance to talk to Eden. Did I already mention that she’s awesome? Just when we thought this trip couldn’t get any better, that was the cherry on top of the gigantic cake. She’s just the sweetest!

Around 2.00 am we left the casino for Waterloo station. We walked back to Embankment, crossed the Thames, took some photos of the London Eye – because, why not? – and, as requested on the bus tickets, we arrived at Waterloo Station 15 minutes prior to departure. To make long story short, at 4.00 am we were back in the airport, together with heaps of other people that were trying to sleep. We played some card games, before we went through security around 6.00 am. After security we found a large bench, on which we laid down and fell asleep for 45 minutes. I had had a sore throat for a few days, and especially during the night I have to cough a lot. Basically, 45 minutes in this wonderful slumber I had to pee and my throat hurt like hell, so one grande chai tea latte was in order.

Around 7.40 am, we finally knew to what gate we had to go to. Around 8.00 am UK time we were in the plane that departed 30 minutes later. Around 10.30 am Dutch time, we safely landed in Eindhoven, which also ended our 19 hour and 15 minute vacation.

The weirdest thing about this trip is that I wasn’t tired at all. I went home, slept for an hour. I could have slept more because I had the time. I couldn’t sleep though, I was just awake. I went to work, worked until midnight and still I couldn’t sleep. The best friggin’ 19 hour spent in a very long time. I would do it again in a heart beat. Mark my words!

Sophie Written by:

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