Upon arrival at our hotel after an overnight flight from LAX, everyone's concern is the same: clean up, eat, and stay up as late as possible. The first night of sleep is never a problem. It is the first full day and second night that will dictate how quickly we can adapt to the new time zone. So, on the first morning in London, the first order of business is finding coffee. Starbuck's has invaded every street corner here. But preferring to sample local fare, a couple of colleagues and I opt for Valentino's, a small café which promises a full English breakfast for 3.90 pounds ($8.00). The coffee is excellent and we end up lingering for over an hour deep in conversation.
While on tour, the orchestra tends to split itself socially along instrument lines. There are the bass boys, the brass guys, and the freshman class, to name a few. While some cross pollination takes place, we tend to find our "people" and stick with them.
A visit to the British Museum is next on the list. Museums are always a favorite destination of mine. I find them calming, relaxing, and a good way to reacquaint myself with dim memories of art history courses from my college days. We see the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles and say hello to Cleopatra who, at the ripe old age of 17, is forever enshrined in the Egyptian mummy collection.
We head to Covent Garden next looking for some local color. Although there are many shops to visit, nothing catches my fancy and we end up at another outdoor cafe for lunch, coffee, and more conversation.
What, you may ask, occupies the minds of musicians on tour? The answer is simple: the orchestra itself. That is, the music, past and future performances, what went wrong, and what went right. By profession, we are intensely self-critical and completely dependent upon each other. The amount of concentration needed to play perfectly and precisely together while fighting jet lag is tremendous. This tour seems particularly daunting just from the sheer amount of music to be played. But that is the nature of the job: focus, precision, and beauty when the downbeat comes, no matter what.
Our evening concludes with a wonderful Indian meal at Hasan Raj. Without planning to, we run into another group from the orchestra. You would think that with all of the restaurants in London, one could successfully avoid one's colleagues; not so. We decide on an early evening in preparation for tomorrow's rehearsal and concert. Armed with various sleeping aids, we head back to the hotel with fingers crossed for an uninterrupted night's sleep.