Before I begin, I would like to make a disclaimer that most of my days working for Collider are uneventful. This is a fun job, but it’s still a job. I usually write from home and go to film screenings. I tell you this because the article you’re about to read is going to sound like bragging, but I assure you it’s not. It’s simply a recounting of one of the best weeks of my life. There’s no other way to put it when you’re flown out to London for the Blu-ray/DVD release of The World’s End, stay in a fancy hotel, eat delicious meals, go on a pub crawl of four pubs featured in the movie, interview stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, participate in overly-difficult pub trivia, and then have a free day to explore the city. It was an amazing time, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about it.
Hit the jump to read about my incredible trip to London and how I failed miserably at trying to jump over a hedge.
I left Atlanta last Monday afternoon to take an eight-hour direct flight to Heathrow. On the plane I watched R.I.P.D., which was quite awful but not the abomination I’d been led to believe. It helps that I was stuck in a flying metal tube with almost nothing better to do (except read Nate Jackson’s great memoir, Slow Getting Up).
After sleeping for a few hours on the plane (thanks, prescription medication!), I arrived to drizzling London at 8:00am local time. After a few hours rest at the hotel, I still had time to do some exploring, so I walked down to Big Ben, which was a few minutes from my hotel. Big Ben is surprisingly shiny, really tall, and quite impressive. I can see why aliens in movies always want to destroy it. Then I walked over to Picadilly Circus where I made it a point to visit Fortnum and Mason, a department store that’s older than America. The Christmas decorations were already in full swing, and the store wins you over from the moment you walk in the door and see an entire floor devoted to nothing but candy and tea. That’s how you stay in business for 306 years.
There wasn’t any candy or tea that really grabbed me, but I did pick up this tiny Paddington Bear who comes inside a suitcase. So cute!
I decided to pass on the less-popular Paddington Werewolf.
I then returned to the hotel for dinner with the Universal publicists and my fellow movie website writers. There was good conversation and tasty food. I’m unused to high dining (my attire to most of the meals on this trip: a t-shirt, hoodie, jeans, and sneakers), and noticed that the portions aren’t particularly big but they’re immaculate in their presentation. They’re also somewhat overdone for my poorly refined palette. For example, I chose the “Mocha” for desert. Here’s the description from the menu:
An equally accurate description would have been: “Sugary Things Arranged Nicely on a Plate”.
After dinner, we enjoyed fine cigars and adult beverages out on the terrace. I’m not a cigar smoker, but these were, shall we say, cigars that are somewhat difficult to find in the U.S. (I’ve been informed, perhaps jokingly, that I can’t actually give their name), and I’m a sucker for scarcity. We all had a good time until the hotel night manager made us pack it in because we were being too noisy (i.e. a lot of people talking in normal voices at 2:00am were disturbing the old woman on the second floor—fair enough).
The following morning, we went to the Corinthia Hotel for more fancy dining, and finely crafted food that sometimes didn’t make any sense. For example, the world’s tiniest ice cream cone:
We then drove an hour outside of London to Welwyn Garden City to begin our pub crawl where we would be going to the first four pubs from the movie: “The First Post”, “The Old Familiar”, “The Famous Cock”, and “The Good Companions”.
The First Post was actually Pear Tree. They didn’t really have a specialty beer or one I was unfamiliar with, so I went with the Foster’s because Australia used to be the home for British convicts. That’s the tightest local connection I could make.
As for the pub, it was charming, and the locals were friendly, although some of them were a bit miffed when the production came to town and closed down the place for a few days for filming. I can understand that. If you didn’t know the work of director Edgar Wright or anything about the movie, you would see this as an inconvenience. But no one was harboring a serious grudge because they were all nice to us and they knew we were there because of the movie.
The pub owners also had a cheeky sense of humor:
The light was beginning to fade, so we moved on to The Doctor’s Tonic, which served as the exterior for The Old Familiar. In the movie, the interior was still The Pear Tree (movie magic!), but the actual interior of The Doctor’s Tonic was cozy albeit a little too clean. It didn’t feel lived in like The Pear Tree, but I still enjoyed my time there. I also had the house brew:
At this point, it was getting fairly late, so we decided to cancel our dinner at the upscale Oxo Tower Restaurant and grab some pub food at the next pub, The Two Willows, before getting a proper meal back at the Corinthia. The Two Willows was The Famous Cock in the film, but a recent remodeling had drained the place of its personality, although they did keep the mirror bearing the flick’s best-named pub.
Most of us grabbed a pint (I went with London Pride) and were treated to a smorgasbord of pub food including nachos, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, pita bread with hummus, and other pub standards. If you were looking for a creative way to commit suicide, eating this entire buffet solo would be a delicious way to do it.
Aside from the pub food, the best part of our time at The Two Willows was meeting one of the delightful and quite inebriated regulars. [Name withheld to be the on the safe side] regaled us with stories like Jimi Hendrix playing a show nearby and other far-fetched tales. But he always made sure to end with, “I swear on m’life! Swear on m’life!” He also had some trouble remembering where he put his cell phone even though he put in the front pocket of his backpack every time. But he was a nice gentleman who wasn’t opposed to us buying him a round.
We then moved on to our fourth and final pub, The Parkway Bar (aka The Good Companions). By this point, I’d had three pints, and while I wasn’t drunk, my decision-making skills were slightly impaired. The path from The Two Willows to the Parkway Bar was the same park where Gary King (Pegg) did a pratfall over a hedge.
Now I know how movies work and that the production had stunt coordinators and a mat on the other side of the hedge. But after three pints, my rational voice was quiet, and my primary thought was, “The ground is damp and therefore soft! I’m wearing my sturdy leather jacket! I can therefore do a hilarious leap over this hedge that is almost half my height!” Here was the result:
My shoulder would hurt for the rest of the trip, and I was sure to relate the event to anyone who would listen because this was my badge of stupid pride.
Clutching my shoulder as it hung limply from my side, I entered The Parkway Bar and had a Guinness to numb the pain.
Here’s me fighting through my “injury”:
And here’s how I actually felt:
After spending more time at the bar enjoying good beer and good conversation, we made the trip back to London and ate at the Corinthia Hotel where I ate one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.
The following morning, we made our way to the St. Stephens Tavern where we had a long lunch with Pegg and Frost to talk about The World’s End and a variety of other topics. Click here for a recap of the conversation.