London always excites me…right from the times when I was English Hons Student in Hindu College, Delhi University, many years ago. As the title of the course suggests, we as English Hons Students were extensively taught Shakespeare, Milton, Bronte Sisters, Tennyson…many more difficult to recall now. I always marveled how beautiful Shakespeare’s UK would look? I made a scrap book of pictures of United Kingdom with the limited resources I could lay my hands on…
…with our limited means and all the more limited thinking, it was near blasphemous to express our desire to visit London (Read: UK) in those days. Life moved on, but dream lingered on! In following years, I got the chance of visiting many countries barring London and I had almost forgotten my dream. May be that was not for me…
Buckingham Palace, London’s Eye, Wax Museum, Thames River, Hyde Park…fascinated me no end particularly when I read about Bollywood celebrities spending their Summers in beautiful London! I will read about it with great interest and watched photos even more keenly. Everything about London looked so fascinating, but probably not for me.
But as goes the saying, every idea (read: dream) has its own time. Time of my dream too came and opportunity of visiting London just fell on my lap in January, 2004. Without wasting any thoughts, I just lapped it. & Here I was in London! London called me finally!!
My first solo trip to London was quite exciting, at the same time, was full of apprehensions as well. Just praying and wishing, hope all turns out well as planned. So how did my London trip turned out to be? Read on to know:
Landing at Heathrow Airport – one of the biggest airports on earth, it was beyond my comprehension and stores like Harrods, cosmetic shops, toy shops, designer dresses, big & well-known brands all over, quite enticing!
My sight-seeing began two days after I landed and my first destination was Trafalgar Square, I could not believe myself that I was actually there. It looked very similar to our Horniman Circle in Mumbai, never mind I had visited famed Trafalgar Square which I hugely admired in DDLJ where Amrish Puri fed pigeons. It was the first day of snow fall in London, so day turned out to be quite special. I was finding it difficult to bear the cold, so I had to cut short the visit to neighboring places.
Following days, I visited Buckingham Palace at 11 AM in the morning and was lucky to watch change of guard parade which was truly fascinating. Huge crowds had gathered on bright sunny morning outside the palace by London standards, not by Mumbai standards. Cruise in river Thames was an amazing experience in itself which was followed by the walk at Hyde Park. What to say of the Madam Tussaud Wax museum, I had never seen anything like this before, such real statues in wax. I wondered all through, how they have done this? Why we don’t have one in India? London’s Eye, just OMG!
On one of my tube train sojourns, I landed at a station – Wimbledon, accidently! When tube announced next station – Wimbledon, I quickly got down there to see the famous Wimbledon Stadium, which I had seen only on TV with Steffi Graf playing tennis matches and voila what a sight it was! I beamed with pride as I was at a landmark destination, but not without paying heavy price for this adventure, rather misadventure!
Now on the last leg of sight – seeing, I realized that I had not shopped for anything except for a pair of slippers as my sandal had broken during the outing. I walked to the nearest tube station and luckily found a shop of foot wear after walking barefoot for nearly a kilometer, may be more, in that chilled / wet weather, holding sandals in one hand and tears in both my eyes. I promptly bought a slipper from there, albeit two sizes large, but my joy knew no bounds. I will never forget that day in my life. It was the most expensive slippers I could have, rather forced to have.
On the last leg of my trip, I did some mall hopping, visited Harrods, did street shopping and ate nice spicy Indian food in famous Indian restaurants. Though Pound exchange was quite unviable even then, still shopping was a delightful experience, as one pound has so much value.
So how London cropped up again? Today morning I read in Economic Times that falling Pound may make holidayers’ English Summer Dream Come True!
And I want to visit again…
… With the Pound steadily depreciating against the Rupee in recent months post Brexit, cheaper airfares and attractive promotional offers from airlines and lure of London as a sought after shopping destination, indeed it is going to be English Summer for Indian travelers!!
Am I included?