Tripping on The City

Why does a trip appeal to us? A change of locale, a holiday from work, time to spend with family and friends…what’s not to like? A trip is also hard work. You need to get up early to catch that sunrise. Too much eating out can play havoc with your innards. When a trip is an extended one, it is even more fun.

I was lucky to enough to call London my home for 2 and ½ months. That was enough time for it to grow on me, but not for me to tire of it. Initially, I would step out gingerly, burrowing in my coat for warmth. I kept my eyes open, so that I could soak in the sights. From red buses, telephone boxes, names of pubs, to yellow sunrises…everything fascinated me that first week.

I only dared to walk around near my apartment, taking care to follow the straight and narrow path, lest I get lost. Once I had covered all four directions, marveled at the graffiti in Shoreditch, reached King’s Cross Tube station on foot from the Old Street one, and checked out the Bank of England, I ventured on the Tube. It was surprisingly easy to use, not as crowded as I thought, and smaller than I had imagined. Multiple lines, maps, and signs made it tough for me to lose my way.

Christmas lights winked at us on shopping destinations like Oxford Circus. We bought London Passes, and took a whirlwind tour of the city over the New Year weekend. The first day we went to Westminster, which bowled us over with its intricate carvings. By the end of our trip of course, we had church fatigue, having seen as many there as there are mandirs in any Indian city.

We then took a river cruise to our next stop, the Tower of London. After marveling at the Kohinoor and ruing its absence from India, we dashed to Tower Bridge. We had a breathtaking view of the city from there, with the various bridges- London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, and Waterloo Bridge.

The next day we covered Windsor Castle, which was just like a castle should be, with a moat. A queen’s collection of dollhouses made her seem just like any other commoner.

Hampton Court Palace was nearby, so we walked in the acres of gardens there. A sudden downpour saw us rush back.

On the final day, we paid homage to Wimbledon. I’d like to come back to watch a match here. Even empty it was imposing. I could almost hear a volley or two. Strawberries and cream were out of season.

A chamber of horrors near London Bridge wasn’t very scary. Men popping out of nowhere shouting at you happens on an everyday basis back home. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre was imposing, and I would like to watch a play here, in the open air in summer, like the groundlings would have done in his time.

London’s beautiful buildings, historic shops like Harrod’s, Liberty, Fortnum and Mason’s are unique. I saw a bit of snow too while I stayed there. The tours at the museums and the art galleries gave me a greater understanding of treasures. Phantom of the Opera was a stunning musical. The 4 D film at Madame Tussaud’s was futuristic. We also did day trips to Oxford, Cambridge, and Bath, where this would have helped.

A delight for the senses, London took me to another world. One without dust, a melting pot of nationalities, cuisine, and cultures. A global city, not just a British one. “Are you alright?” was a phrase I often heard there. Before my visit I didn’t understand it fully, when I heard it in the movies. Now I do.

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