Experiencing Royal Albert Hall

In Royal Albert Hall in London, England on Dec. 19, 2012.

In Royal Albert Hall in London, England on Dec. 19, 2012. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

Note: Some of you (alright, 2) have asked about our trip to England so I have written retrospective posts about it because a.) Britain should rightly be called an unofficial stop on the B Tour. We were there for 3 weeks to celebrate the holidays with Bjorn’s parents, and in many ways it kicked off our travels, so I would be remiss if I didn’t write a little something about it; b.) I really like those 2 people; and c.) It’s my blog so I’m gonna write what I want, even if it’s about events that happened in the far distant past of December 2012. Nyah, nyah.

Part 2 of 3

My husband’s family, the Karlmans, attend a concert at Royal Albert Hall in England during Christmastime almost every year. It’s a tradition that started when my father-in-law was a child, more than 50 years ago. This year was the first time I got to go, and I was more than a little excited to finally be getting in on it.

The venue is stunning; a vision in circular tiers of red and gold. The hall was the dream of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who wanted it to be a place that celebrated the arts and sciences. It opened in 1871, according to an article on royalalberthall.com.

The performance we saw on Dec. 19, 2012 by the King’s College Choir featured a boys’ choir. The boys’ voices were indeed angelic, and though I feel a traitor to my sex, the boy sopranos sounded better than the adult women. There’s just something very pure and clear about their tone (although I have never heard an all-girls choir sing. Maybe a 7-year-old girl sounds just as good as a 7-year-old boy. Perhaps something to think about, King’s College, hmmm?)

Who's missing? Bjorn's parents and I snag a picture with a King's College choir boy.

Who’s missing? Bjorn’s parents and I snag a picture with a King’s College choir boy. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

I vastly enjoyed the concert which featured excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah” (no one stood during the “Hallelujah Chorus” which I thought odd), seasonal classical music and carols that the audience sang along to (a very clever way to get the audience to do some of the work, I thought). We sat behind the choir which afforded close-ups of the performers (some of those “boys” looked decidedly like men, ahem). Our enjoyment was marred a bit because Bjorn’s father was missing for some time, parking the car. He finally came in with 10 minutes to spare before the intermission. However, anything he might have missed was more than made up for after the concert, as we found a real live choir boy and took a picture with him. (You may note that Bjorn is missing from the picture, but someone had to take it and the choir boy’s mom had her arm in a cast while the rest of the service staff were busy not making eye contact with us.)

Upon leaving Royal Albert Hall, we stepped out into a night that was cold and miserably damp (read: alternating between drizzling and raining, but always with some sort of moisture in the air). My hair was looking terrific (insert intense sarcasm here). We had forgotten our umbrellas in the car, but were still in high spirits as we walked back to where it was parked. We walked past the memorial statue to Prince Albert, and past the Imperial College. We walked past embassies and buildings with wonderfully charming (read: expensive) facades. We were still in fairly high spirits when we reached the street where the car was parked… and kept walking.

A Prince Albert memorial stands right outside the Royal Albert Hall in London, England.

A Prince Albert memorial stands right outside the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

We couldn’t find the car. After walking around a bit more, it was decided that because I was in heels, Bjorn and I would cool ours in a cafe while his parents kept searching. (They are in excellent shape and quite good walkers, while anyone who is the least bit acquainted with me knows that I start hyperventilating and getting shin splints after half a mile.) We found a cafe in the lobby of a hotel and ordered a pot of tea. Twenty minutes ticked by. Then another 10. We started worrying. London is huge and it was dark. What if something had happened to them? How long should we wait before searching for them? Finally, they called us.

They were in the back of a police van.

In their search for the car, they had come across some policemen. The police were kind and offered to let them ride in their vehicle while they searched for their car, but they explained they had already been searching for some time and thought the car had been towed. The police called around and yup, it had been. The policemen were then so kind as to drive them to the tow yard.

Meanwhile, Bjorn and I were furiously trying to make that one pot of tea last as long as possible so we could stay inside the cafe. We had arrived there at 10:45 p.m. The cafe closed at 11 p.m. Fortunately, there were still some diners when we arrived so we attempted to keep pace with them. We sipped very slooooowly. When there wasn’t any tea left, we even drank the milk that arrived with the tea. (And started getting creative. Did you know that sugar tastes good in milk? It’s even better with a dash of salt. Trust.)

Sugar + salt + milk = delicious

Sugar + salt + milk = delicious. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

Finally, with all our tea, milk, most of the sugar and the other diners gone, we had to leave, too. It was 11:30 p.m. There was a small magazine/newspaper/convenience bodega open across the way so we wandered in. We bought cookies and crisps (aka potato chips), and ate them while attempting to read magazines without actually picking them up (apparently, that’s not done in England. Shame.) We stared as hard as we could at as many magazine covers as we could before it became too apparent that we were hanging out and eating snacks in what was basically a covered stall. That lasted about all of 7 minutes.

We continued walking down the street. The rain was coming down continuously now, and harder, so we took shelter under awnings and inside doorways where we could. Finally, we went around a corner onto a small street/alley that had no protection whatsoever: just smooth, blank, white walls stretching as far as the eye could see. The rain pummeled us mercilessly while the tall buildings and narrow street conspired to funnel the wind ferociously against us. Thoroughly cold and wet — I lost my head.

“AUGH!!! I DON’T LIKE THE RAIN!! AOIJ WQPHBVPOQWBVUIQBW!!” I howled into the still, silent, obviously residential night air.

Bjorn promptly turned us around and got us back onto the main road.

When I started staring focusedly at him while enviously muttering about his warm, pouffy, waterproof jacket that had a hood, he gallantly took it off and traded coats with me. AND he carried my bag (wonderful man!).

Orange is a fetching color on Bjorn.

Orange is a fetching color on Bjorn. (Photo by Jammie Karlman)

Shortly thereafter, the phone rang again. His parents were finally back with the car and his mother was out searching for us. It was midnight. We were all soaking. We hoofed it to the car, and in its steamy warmth traded stories about what had happened and had a good laugh.

My first time at Royal Albert Hall: an experience to remember, and cherish, always. 🙂

You can read Bjorn’s version of these events on culturemutt.com.

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5 thoughts on “Experiencing Royal Albert Hall

    • That—-and their parking enforcement officers may be ninjas (the deadly, assassinating kind, although some of the mindless hijinks of the primary-colored “3 Ninjas” may have crept in. Awww Tum Tum!)

  1. It’s a good thing you didn’t stand for the Hallelujah chorus because then people wouldn’t be able to see around the taba-ness.

  2. Pingback: Experiencing Royal Albert Hall | Go Karlmans

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