This is Jonathan Goodman. Welcome to another episode of The World of Internet Marketing. Today we’re going to do something fun. We’re going to focus on my vacation. Vacations are always good learning experiences. This is a laid-back session since we’re in the holiday season. I’ll be doing a presentation on Monday at Dragon Search up in New York. I’ll be audiotaping that, which will be next week’s podcast. You’ll hear the audio for my presentation and possibly the Q&A, depending on how much time we have in the session.
Vacation in England
I was in England from Wednesday, November 20, to Wednesday, November 27. I was there for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary. I won’t bore you with all the fun details from Doctor Who. If you’re a Doctor Who fan and you were there, you know it was a great event. If you’ve never heard of Doctor Who, the show has been around for 50 years and it’s a lot of fun. So we’ll talk about everything else that I did while in England. I landed Wednesday and went right to sleep. I’d stayed up on the plane, which was the best thing to do because the plane landed around 9 pm. I got into the hotel around 10:15 or 10:30. The great thing about London is the Tube. It’s what we would call the subway in New York. It’s really quite incredible. You can go from Heathrow Airport straight to your hotel. We were dropped literally half a block from our hotel. We’d done a lot of research before making the reservations. We knew exactly where we wanted to be and what Tube line we wanted to get to the hotel. We wanted the Piccadilly line. We wanted to be near Harrods and Harvey Nichols. We wanted to do a lot of shopping. I bought some new clothes there that I’m wearing today. So it was great.
The Tube was attached to the terminal at Heathrow and we were at the doorsteps of our hotel 30 or 40 minutes later. It was raining a little, more like drizzle. The Oyster card didn’t really work with our credit card. The Oyster card is like our subway Metro Pass. Over there, credits card are just a little microchip embedded in the card and everybody puts in a PIN number. Supposedly, it’s safer. I’m comfortable signing, but I know that signatures don’t mean anything anymore, so maybe putting in a PIN is a safer way of doing things. Everybody was surprised that Americans don’t use a microchip in their cards because the U.S. is thought of as the first to take on a new technology. But in this case, I guess they’ve been using a chip for a long time, and we haven’t. So we had a little problem with the Oyster card that night, but we were able to figure it out.
We went right to bed after checking into our hotel. We already had train tickets to Cardiff for the next day. After waking up on Thursday, we made our way over to the Paddington Station to catch the National Rail. It’s interesting that different rails are owned by different companies. We took Virgin Train one day and we took National Rail another day. They were completely different services, apparently depending on where they were going in England. There is also an economic factor involved. Everyone there uses the trains. It’s really incredible. Here in America, everyone drives. There were plenty of people driving around London, but I don’t know why they would since it’s so easy to get around on the Tube. Of course, there are some issues. The Tube closes at 2 am. The bars also close at 2 am. They actually close a little before 2 am and they literally kick everyone out. They turn the lights on and announce that everyone has to leave. That’s amazing to me.
On Thursday morning, we had breakfast at the train station. They had a delicious selection of food. I had a great bagel and lox, although they called it smoked salmon. They don’t know the word “lox” in Britain. They call everything “smoked salmon.” When I ordered a bagel and lox, they looked at me funny. Then I said “smoked salmon,” and they gave me the order just fine and it was very good. The train ride east to Cardiff was very interesting. The following day we went to Manchester, so I have a comparison. The view was open, green fields, which I thought was very nice. But there seems to be a lot of poverty. There doesn’t seem to be much money in Wales. Cardiff itself is beautiful and very built up, but it seems to be an encapsulated area. Outside of Cardiff is farmland. I wouldn’t even call it suburban.
The return trip was interesting, as well. We got savory pies. Everything in England is either sweet or savory. That’s how they describe things. The name of the pie escapes me, but it’s available in the Paddington Station. It was late at night when we got there. We were the last train in and they were closing down the train station. The guy had a couple of pies left. They’re patty shaped. They’re not a full, 16-inch pie. They’re small patties. They were delicious. They were really, really good. Later, we were so desperate for more of those pies that we did something we probably shouldn’t have done. I’ll talk about that later.
On Friday, we’d planned to go to Manchester. We planned to stay in London on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We got to the train station on Friday morning, but there was a problem with the Oyster card. I won’t get into the details, but we had to go talk to management. After he solved the problem, he asked where we were traveling to. We said Manchester and he said that could be a problem because someone had just died on the rail. It was a weird kind of experience because it was a lot of people just standing around. All the employees at Virgin Rail were very nice and very helpful. I thought we’d end up sitting next to some snotty people since we were going to another country, but everyone was extremely nice and friendly. The death on the rail was tragic, however. The person either jumped or was pushed. Unfortunately, the incident delayed everything and everyone, so decided to go get breakfast.
Another thing that is interesting about England is that the BBC and other news programs on television are constantly talking about the epidemic of alcoholism and drinking. I’m from New York, I live in New Jersey and I went to school in Florida. None of those states serve alcohol before noon. On Sunday, the shops aren’t even open. But at 8 am, the breakfast for us was at the bar and you could order a lager, beer or wine or cider with breakfast. I had a cider because I like sweets, but plenty of people were having a full beer; there were also plenty of people having a full glass of wine. This was 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning. I understand why there might be an alcohol problem in England, but I don’t know how you’d change that trend. In New Jersey, if Gov. Christie announced we’d be able to get beer at Dunking Donuts in the morning, everyone would be wondering “Why would we need beer in the morning?” Seeing alcohol served in the bar at 9 am was an interesting experience.
I ordered the full English breakfast at the bar. I wanted the opportunity to try a full English breakfast, which includes blood pudding, fried egg, baked beans, potatoes, toast, grilled tomato and a big a chunk of pork back. (Pork back would be considered a ham roast in the States.) The calorie count for that breakfast must have been amazing. Because of all the protein, it’s a fuller meal that what we’d have as a continental breakfast with pancakes, sausage and eggs. I ordered blood pudding throughout our visit, but the blood pudding at the bar in the train station was the best blood pudding I had during the entire trip. I’m thinking about making it at home. That’s how delicious it was. I’m not sure how to make it at home. You’d have to cook the blood sausage, fry the egg and tomato, cook the potatoes, cook the ham, etc. An English breakfast is a crazy, huge meal, but it was definitely one of the most memorable breakfasts I had over there.
After breakfast, we made our way to Manchester, England. We wanted to go to Manchester to check out the Christmas market. If I had to use one word to describe the Christmas market, I’d call it “spectacular.” The Manchester Christmas market is beautiful décor and great, tidy little shops. New York has something like it at 14th street at Union Square, but it’s not comparable. New York City has maybe 20 booths, while Manchester has close to 150 booths. It was literally up and down the streets. It was huge. The Town Hill was open, and there were more shops in there. Everyone was drinking Mulled Cider and Mulled Wine. Of course, other alcohol was also served. The food – sausages, sweets, fruit, candy – and drinks were really good. After walking around, we decided to get lunch at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We were starving. We knew we wanted to go to a couple of pubs during our vacation anyway, so we found a random pub and went in. Unfortunately, the meal was terrible. We left by the back entrance and immediately saw a giant sausage booth outside. Of course, we wished we’d walked a few more yards to find the sausage booth rather than going into the crappy local pub. Although lunch was terrible, the Christmas market itself was a fantastic experience.
Obviously, you always make a few mistakes on vacation at a new place. Our mistake was to pre-buy the train tickets. It was cheap to pre-buy because if you buy a month in advance, you pay only $10 a ticket. Switching would have cost $30 per ticket, or $60 for the two of us. That’s a lot of money considering the exchange rate. The exchange rate was horrible: $1.72 = one pound. That didn’t help the situation when we’d already spend a fortune on lunch. A 20 pound lunch wound up to be nearly $38 dollars. Of course, the terrible exchange rate didn’t stop us from eating in some of the best restaurants during our trip. After shopping at the Christmas market, having lunch and visiting a few other places in Manchester, we still had an hour and a half to wait in the train terminal. We should have just bought a ticket for that day and a return ticket when we were ready to leave. Instead of we had to wait an hour and a half to catch the train to get back to London.
Saturday was the big Doctor Who event. The 50th anniversary was shown simultaneously in movie theatres around the world. Before the event, we had breakfast at Harrods, which was delicious. Harrods was exciting. It was completely packed. We had a great experience at Harrods. In fact, we had a great experience at all the shops we went to on the vacation. We had went back to Harrods again later in the week for a calmer, more relaxed experience. Harrods on a Saturday the month before Christmas is insane. It is shoulder-to-shoulder crowds of people creeping along by the spectacular clothes and food. We found ourselves in a little café within Harrods. Let me tell you, the British know how to do large department stores. Tiffany’s has one restaurant; Harrods has about 10 different restaurants. It’s incredible. You can have a $40 meal or $120 meal. It’s depends on where you go within Harrods. We spent a fortune on meals over there.
For lunch, we went to Jamie’s Pop-up Diner in Piccadilly Circus. The idea of a pop-up diner is that it’s temporary. It pops up and will then go away at some point. This diner is very popular, but we hit it at the right time. We had dinner at 4 o’clock in the afternoon before seeing the show. The meal was delicious. I can’t remember what I had, but I have pictures that I’ll put up. They had avocado fries on the menu. The menu said, “Order these and tell us what you think of them.” They want to know what you think about the avocado fries. I said to the waiter,” What’s the deal with the avocado fries?” He said, “Some people like them; and some people don’t. Why don’t you order them and tell us what you think.” So I ordered the avocado fries. They were memorable, but I wouldn’t order them again. It’s not something I would get on a regular basis, but it was interesting. The most amazing thing is that the staff not only don’t expect a tip, they don’t know what to do with a tip. They’re under the assumption that you’ve left money behind. That’s how non-tip oriented that whole industry is over there. In New York, they’ll chase you down if you don’t leave a 20% tip.
After the show, we went to the bars. Chinatown is open very late. All the other restaurants basically close, but Chinatown stays open. So on Saturday night, we ate in Chinatown at 2 am. One interesting note: In London’s Chinatown, everybody prefers Hunan style, which isn’t fried and has a lot more vegetables. In America, we prefer Szechuan style. It took us a couple of nights to realize that everything on the menu was Hunan style because the British prefer that style. It was different from what we’d normally order, like chicken chow mien and General Tso. There was nothing like that. We went to multiple Chinese restaurants, and none of them had Szechuan food on the menus.
On Sunday, we went to the Doctor Who Celebration at Excel. The Doctor Who convention was very cool. We went after the episode had aired, so we were really able to talk about the show, whereas the people who attended it the previous two days couldn’t talk about the show. The amazing thing about the way they set up the show was that they asked you not to purchase multiple day tickets. They asked you very politely – everyone over there is very polite. They set it up in such a way that you would have enough time to see all the sessions in one day. There were four major sessions: the old doctor, the new doctor, special effects, sound effects and things like that. But they broke it up so that you were in one group or another, and they asked you not to purchase multiple-day tickets. It was hard enough to get the one-day ticket, so purchasing for all three days would have been nearly impossible. And you would have just been listening to the same people talking about the same stuff anyway. We went to Comic-Con this year at Jacob Javits, and the whole thing was just waiting in lines. And sometimes you didn’t get in because it was jam-packed. So it was very nice knowing that they had enough seats for the group you were in and you would be able to get a good seats and see the show.
The most amazing thing about ExCel is that it is so big there are two different train stops, an East and a West. And the train stops were several minutes apart. But when you got out, you were in the station connected to ExCel convention hall. I’m certainly not one to every give advice to Detroit, but I think Detroit should build a convention center as big or bigger than the Excel convention center. In fact, I would throw in a football stadium a soccer stadium, a baseball arena and do everything under one roof. Just take up a gigantic square footage. I’d make it a huge event center.
For dinner that night, we went to Imli Street, which is an Indian food restaurant in SoHo. I’ll post the link. It was delicious food. It was really fantastic. We had a variety of different things. I like saag paneer, which is creamed spinach with cheese. We had a masala dish. The breads were fantastic. The restaurant was very well decorated. I took a video of the downstairs area. It wasn’t heavily crowded for a Sunday night. There was a nice attendance, but it wasn’t jam-packed. Although it wasn’t crowded at Jamie’s Diner when we got there at 4 pm, there was a line out the door when we left. We know to eat early or eat late to avoid the crowds. You don’t want to arrive at 7 pm. I’ll post some pictures of what I ate at Imli Street.
On Monday, we had breakfast at Fortnum and Mason. It’s a department store, although it’s a much smaller department store than Harrods. In London, everyone likes to dress up. I had on my polo shirt. As we were coming in, we saw a Brooks Brothers. I love Brooks Brothers. I shop there all the time. And as we were walking back, we passed another store I wanted to go in. It was Hackett. It’s been around for about 30 years. It’s very similar to Brooks Brothers. The prices are similar to Brooks Brothers. They carry very nice polo shirts. So I got the shirt I’m wearing today and I got a sweater that’s being dry cleaned now. It’s a really nice sweater. But everyone really likes to dress up in London, regardless of the time of day. I’m not sure why.
At Fortnum and Mason, we had the choice of going to an upstairs, more casual tea-type restaurant or a downstairs more elegant restaurant. I was dressed for winter. I was wearing a big coat and I had my thermal shirt on and T-shirt over that. Everybody else was in suit and ties and dresses. Really expensive clothing. But the wait staff was so nice that it didn’t matter than I wasn’t dressed appropriately. They sat us and treated us just as well as everyone one. We had a wonderful meal and a delicious time there.
That night we went see the musical “The Bodyguard.” What a disaster. We go to the theater in New York City all the time, and I will tell you that I have seen some very bad theatre. I have seen some very bad Broadway. If you’re a tourist, you probably don’t have the opportunity to see bad Broadway because it’s in and out too quickly. But this show in London was terrible. I will admit that I’ve never seen the movie, “The Bodyguard,” but you shouldn’t need to see the movie before seeing the play. This was my big contention when I saw “Billy Elliott,” which I also did not like. There were a lot of gaps that needed to be filled and were only filled in if you’d seen the movie. Otherwise, you have no idea what’s going on half the time.
Again, I’ve seen a lot of incredible shows and I’ve also seen a lot of terrible shows. “The Bodyguard” was a terrible show. The acting was horrendous. These guys either didn’t know their lines or they thought they were doing a David Mamet play. They were doing everything staccato. It was a nightmare. The scenes were long and drawn out. They added characters. I hadn’t seen the movie, so I didn’t know if the characters were supposed to be there. But you could tell that there were huge holes to the point where they needed to fill stuff in. The singing was mediocre at best. There was no in-depth characterizations. I understand that the character playing the bodyguard in the movie doesn’t really have much characterization either. But they didn’t build on the character. The little kid couldn’t sing. The kid was off pitch most of the time. The actor who played the sister (supposedly there wasn’t a sister in the movie) was a better singer than the lead singer. The sets were minimalist. There were characters that just didn’t belong. There were added scenes that seemed forced. There was no flow within the conversations between the characters.
This play was a disaster for one main reason: Whitney Houston sang these songs in the movie. Everybody (including the guy behind me who was singing the entire time) knew that. It didn’t ruin the entire show for me because at least there was something to laugh at. But the guy behind me felt he knew every single word and could hit all the notes. I hate when that happens. Please just be quiet and watch the show. This is Whitney Houston’s movie and nobody can sing like Whitney Houston. Nobody can sing with that range, intensity and emotion. It’s just never going to happen again. There are two ways to do this play. One is to get Jennifer Hudson to play this role. Jennifer Hudson will never play this role because of what happened to her family. Jennifer had a terrible experience with guns and violence, so she would never play this type of role. The other person who could play this role is RuPaul. This is the way it should have been done. It should have been as a slight, off-beat comedy where the singer was a drag queen and you used Whitney Houston’s voice to do the performance. You’d just need to change the story a little bit. You could very easily combine what’s going on with Kinky Boots, so it would be a drag show of Whitney Houston and someone stalking here. If you go to this show, don’t expect Whitney Houston’s voice unless the producers used her voice and someone like RuPaul, who would be brilliant in it.
After the show, we wanted savory pies because we’d had such a great experience with the savory pies in the train station. But it was so late when we got out that we couldn’t find a pie shop. So we went to the closest thing, which was a bodega. We call them bodegas in New Jersey, but they’re more like a 7-Eleven there. They had pies there. They were terrible pies, but we bought them anyway. We had been drinking a little bit too much and we decided to buy pies there. They were very nice about it. I think we were the only people who’d bought pies there all month. He was a little nauseous that we bought three of these pies, with good reason.
Tuesday was the last full day of our vacation, and we had breakfast at Harvey Nichols. It was really delicious. For lunch, we went to the Lamb & Flag, which is one of London’s oldest pubs. It’s located in Leicester Square. We had a really great meal. We had fish and chips. It was really fantastic. That night we saw “Tory Boyz,” which is done by the National Youth Theater. The National Youth Theater, or NYT, has graduated people like Matt Smith, who is the current Doctor Who, and Daniel Craig, who is the current James Bond. Daniel Craig is quoted in the program as saying:
“National Youth Theater believed in who I was and who I could be. It is why I still believe in NYT and all the aspirational opportunities it brings to future generations. It is a badge of honor and one I still wear with pride today.”
Matt Smith, the current Doctor Who, says:
“I’m an actor who is working and a large part of that is due to the National Youth Theatre. The thing about the NYT is that you learn through practice both out there, on the stage and working as you’d work in a professional rehearsal room. It completely transformed my life. No understatement.”
There are a lot of other well-known actors that have graduated from NYT. So we went to see “Tory Boyz,” which was an interesting show. It was very emotional. It was a rewrite. It was originally written about 20 years ago. The writer went back and added elements to it, but kept the same concepts. Britain’s Tory party is comparable to the Republican party in the United States. That made it a little difficult as an American watching a political show about a segment of politics I’m not familiar with. I think I lost some of the nuances and some of the jokes. But the show was fantastically acted. Compared to “The Bodyguard” the acting in this show was excellent. It wasn’t necessarily the best script. There were some clunky parts. It dealt with a historical ghost talking to a present Tory person. It was a little difficult to understand the nuances in that relationship. It was difficult to distinguish what had happened in the past in the dead person’s life and how he were interacting with the living person. It’s not a ghost story. It’s a political story. But I’ll just say that parts of the show were confusing and some of the scenes didn’t really work and needed more smoothness around the edges. But the acting was incredible. These kids qualify to be in this program and receive an incredibly rich experience leading to an acting career, like Daniel Craig and Matt Smith. The acting “Tory Boyz” made up for the bad theatre in “The Bodyguard.” If I was in England more, I’d be more involved in the National Youth Theatre.
Next week, I’ll have a presentation for you that I’m doing for Dragon Search up in New York. That will be a combination of all the topics I’ve talked about at all the conferences over the past year. So it will be a little bit of all those different areas.
Again, this is Jonathan Goodman. You can follow me @HalyardConsult on Twitter. New episodes of the World of Internet Marketing can be heard every Friday. You can access the archives of my previous shows on Spreaker.com – user name Jonathan Goodman. The podcast is also available with transcription at halyardconsulting.com and geekcast.fm one week after the episode airs. Don’t forget to pick up my book The World of Internet Marketing on Amazon, and if you like this podcast please share it with your network of friends and family. Have a great week.