- Meghana Ravichandran
For those with a passion to enjoy, to immerse their senses in an intermingling adventure of interest, intrigue and culture, London should be a priority to visit.
My adventure, if I may call it that, started as soon as my family and I disembarked from the flight, to be welcomed by the chill weather one would have ever come across, if they had not strayed from the Indian shores. I was in absolute amazement that snow, white snow, frosting the window and the runways, made Heathrow airport look like a scene out of a movie.
The immigration line was one long queue, but surprisingly orderly (very English). As the officer checked my documents, he gave me a wry smile as he waved me on. Relief made me feel light headed, as I had seen people being escorted to a waiting room for further queries. After all the formalities at the airport, we were picked up at the exit by our relative, whose house we were to stay in.
After a night of much needed rest, the first thing we did the next day was to insulate ourselves to face the UK winter. We walked on cobble stone streets to the nearest subway station, where I had a tough time getting used to the long express escalators, where the left side was reserved for people in a hurry. The subway system was like a miracle of confounding connections travelled by more than million people daily and yet, the sense of order that prevailed was nonetheless mesmerizing. It took me a while to get used to the hustle and bustle of the constant influx of passengers boarding and getting off the trains, as we walked towards the platform where the sub, which would take us to The London Eye, would stop at.
The giant Ferris wheel, the London Eye, is a must experience attraction. It gave us a beautiful view of the river Thames and the Big Ben, as we slowly took a loop on it, enchanted by the new setting we were exposed to, suddenly. My first look at the Big Ben as we walked past it made me feel very tiny, as it towered over the many commuters alike.
Food culture here is quite accommodating, as one street was lined with restaurants ranging from cart food to gelato, to even a North Indian restaurant. We visited an Italian wood fire pizza restaurant that made us realize how simple the true ‘poor man’s food’ is. It was slightly bland, very light on the tummy and was not assaulting on the taste buds, unlike our Indian versions. Here, in London, they consider tipping to be a form of respect, a must and not an option (which we learnt the hard way to not defy).
The next place we visited, was the great Buckingham palace’s souvenir shop. The very first thing that I picked up was an oval blue pendent modelled after a jewel that Mary, the queen of Scots, wore. Most of the jewellery that was sold there was modelled after the baubles that the older and present generations of the royal family wore. Unlike in India, the UK has strict rules about the freedom of children inside shops and my brother was told off by one of the counter clerks for running around the shop alone. I still regret not having a photo taken with the palace guards due to a defence protocol, since the queen and her entourage were on the premises. Our day came to an end as we reached the house, just as a colourful sunset made the sky turn into a brilliant canvas of orange and fuchsia.
Our next day turned out to be more of an adventure as we had to traverse the city ourselves. We had quite a laugh after we realized that, we had hurried to catch a sub that would take us to Trafalgar square, which happened to be just a short walk down the road, off the shopping district we were in. The square, heralded by 4 bronze lions, was beautifully expansive and was truly worth seeing for its craftsmanship as well as the view. Thus, as our short but memorable stay in London came to an end, what I took from it was an appreciation for the strong sense of pride, cleanliness and aesthetics that the English follow even today.