London Calling!


How can you ever be late for anything in London.
They have a huge clock right in the middle of town
– said Jimmy Kimmel.

Spring was setting in and I was itching to travel. We were contemplating at travelling either to Cape Town, Tokyo or London. London was feasible as visa was available in fast track mode, since we were in a hurry, plus it was spring and cherry blossom time was something I didn’t want to miss. A wonderful surprise for us as our office had planned our outbound trip to London this year.

The Journey: 
Etihad Flight leaving Mumbai at 09.30 pm, with a 3 hour stopover at Abu Dhabi, reaching London at 06.40 am

Etihad Flight leaving London at 03.00 pm, with a 2 hour stopover at Abu Dhabi, reaching Mumbai at 08.25 am

There are other cheaper flights, but Etihad & Emirates being the most comfortable ones, we had chosen the former.

 

Stay at: Hilton London Wembley.
The place is one of the many Hiltons in London and is a bit too far away from the main city. I would only opt for this stay if I was looking at the luxuries of a 5 star hotel in a city like London and am willing to travel for an hour to get to the city centre. Our stay was comfortable; with spacious rooms, and an enormous view of the Wembley Stadium. Breakfast was elaborate and sufficient enough to last until lunch. The hotel has a terrace restaurant, don’t miss it for the view it offers of the Stadium. The closest tube station is Wembley park station and is a 10 minute walk.

London City:
The capital of UK, London has an inflow of business travellers as well as tourists the year-round. The city is located astride the famous river Thames. The Heathrow Airport is considered as one of the busiest airport in the world and that is exactly where this enthusiastic bunch of travellers landed. We were a group of 20 people, headed to the city of London on an all-sponsored trip from office, Lucky us!
The country is ruled by the reigning monarch, Elizabeth II. The current Queen holds the record for being the longest reigning female monarch in the world – 64 years, 9 months.

Architecture:
First glances of the city and I was impressed. The architecture of the city is beautiful. You may not find many skyscrapers except for hotels and a few more in the main parts of the city. London city has large buildings with unique architecture on streets that are beautifully lit at night. The main city of London was bombarded during the 2nd world war, and most of the buildings were dilapidated. The area now has fresh building structures & modern architecture. All of outside is greater London and only small part of London is the actual city of London.

Staying in London:
London in size is about 22 miles on the sides and 19 miles down. It is basically divided into 32 boroughs. There are 3 kinds of residences in London:

-Homes (Similar shaped row houses, with a small garden type space in the front porch)
-Bunglows (Separate houses with a backyard and a front garden)
-Apartments (Residential buildings).
Every house in London has a number. When trying to find a location, all u need is a postcode and a house number and GPS will drop u at exact location. Directions are easy to find as there are signboards across the city and there is no way you can get lost in London.
There are close to 90 lakes in London, and at almost every 300 yard there is a garden. These are beautiful gardens / parks maintained to sit or stroll or jog throughout the city. Some gardens are called Key Gardens, for a reason that it is maintained by a select few citizens and only those citizens have a key to use that garden.

One of the most exclusive places to stay in London is the Billionaire’s Park, closer to Hyde Park. You have to be a billionaire and not even a millionaire to stay here. Consulates, Arabs, and even Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla owns a house in that street. A few blocks away is Notting Hill, a place featured in many movies and accommodating many celebrities.

Houses in this region cost approx 1.5 to 20 million. These are almost like London’s villages but renting a house could still cost you 4000 pounds per month.

The countryside is more peaceful; St. Janes park is one such area.

3 Things most iconic to London:
– The Red Public Telephone Booths an iconic image of London is very much still functional and in use by public. They are everywhere, outside parks, on busy streets and residential areas.
-The Red Bus, the Black Taxi & the London tube, an easy mode of transportation
-The Queen and the allure that she displays

Markets:
-Oxford Street is known for its shopping frenzy. From Primark to a Harrods, Hamleys to the very famous Tea shop Fortnum & Mason, are all centred around Oxford street.
-Portobello market is famous for antiques. You will find vintage cars, bikes etc. The market on Sunday is a great place for fresh farm food.

Famous Hindi Idioms and their English origins in London:
Most houses are bricked. People at one point in time in London, actually paid a one-time charge for access to sunlight through their house window which in English is called ‘daylight robbery tax’ or what we call ‘Din Dahade Chori’ in Hindi. This tax was stopped after 1980.
Another hindi idiom called ‘Tang Khechna’ comes from London, coined in Marc Blanch. Criminals were hung on a tree and the table underneath was pulled very slowly so that they could be punished and killed slowly. Criminals who were at the receiving end would suffer from the slow pulling of the table and beg for mercy killing, kept asking for the table to be moved fast so they can be killed faster & without pain. This idiom is called ‘Tang Khechna’.

Weather in London:
The weather in London used to be so cold at one point in time that the River Thames used to freeze. Now it seldom snows every year in London. The weather is so unpredictable, it can rain horribly at one time and could it could be sunny the next hour. If it rains for more than one hour, London has a possibility of getting flooded. But once it stops the rain water will be cleared in one hour, since the city has a 600 years old drainage system built by Christopher rand, one of the best in the world. More so, Thames is also a tidal river. It is controlled to bring in fresh water and remove the dirty water.
Spring is the best time to visit the city decorated with white & pink cherry blossoms and yellow daffodils.

Transportation in London:
One of the fancy ways to get around in London is the taxi service. These vehicles are mostly black, yet if you spend more than a day in London, you will realise, there are taxis in various colours with variety of Branding on it. Taxi costs around 6 pounds for a distance that can be covered in 20 min by walk. Booking one of these taxis is more expensive than booking an Uber, although for tourists, it is better since Uber will not book if you try to pay by cash and payment can be credited only with the help of either a credit card or a Pay Pal account only.

The Red bus, another useful transport mode also ply everywhere. Payment by cash is not allowed while travelling on the bus, hence it is necessary that you purchase a day pass, which includes Bus & Train. Buy a day card from any of the Tube stations, costing 10 pounds for a day which includes travel after 10 am, and 16 pounds for travel before that (Rush hour). The card is accepted on bus and train travel throughout the city.

The hop on, hop off sightseeing buses are perhaps unrivalled in their ability to give you a speedy informed orientation to the layout of London. There are other tourist busses like the bigbuslondon.com with an open hood which is also a hop on hop off bus.

The London Tube is the oldest underground in the world and is 153 years old and ranked number 1 in the world. The Paris metro and then New York underground was built after that. The underground network is kept very clean and comfortable. No graffiti is allowed on the Tube stations or inside the trains. You can find one Tube station on every Bus route, and the interconnectivity is so good that for the longest route inside London, the max you will have to change is 3 trains, so getting around in the city becomes easy. The tube system in London comprise of eleven lines – Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Waterloo & City – serving 270 stations.
Take a train through the TFL website and the website will tell you the exact time to reach that location. If u get lost in London, catch any bus in any direction. It will definitely have atleast one Tube station on its stop. Get off at the closest tube station to reach home.

Another interesting way of seeing the city is a boat ride along the River Thames. Important tourist destinations are covered by this boat ride and you can hop on & hop off. Motor-boats throught the company ‘London Rib Voyages’ is a recent addition of transportation on the river Thames. These high speed motor boats add thrill to the River cruise for adventure enthusiasts. This mode of travel is also used for local commuting.

Pedalplus is a private company that offers an open group cycling vehicle where 10 people peddle to move along the road. These are often found in Amsterdam and are a great way to move around the city enjoying drinks with friends.

Going underground or walking through by-lanes, being on top of the Red Bus or taking a cruise down River Thames, the city has every mode of travel possible.

London is the most rigged city in the world. The city is controlled by cameras and so is the road traffic to avoid over-speeding. The traffic system is so stringent here that if a person earns 12 points by breaking the traffic rules, his license stands cancelled and he can apply only after 2 years. Most of the roads are one-way for easy traffic management

Thames River Cruise:
The very first pit-stop of our itinerary after lunch was a boat cruise on the famous Thames River. After an hour of traffic jammed roads, we reached the bay. As we looked around the harbour, seagulls flew over us in anticipation of food. They would walk close to us without fear. The river cruise lasted for about an hour with 2 pit stops – The Big Ben and the London Eye. We could also spot the Shard; a 90 floor building out of which 86 are for residences and others for restaurants etc. We got off at our next stop, the London Eye.

London Eye:
A city like London needs to be seen from the top. What better than taking a spin on the London Eye? This cantilever observation wheel, sits on the banks of the river Thames in all its glory, and offers the best views in London from the comfort of your very own glass-pod.
Uber Touristy I’d say. This place is full of tourists, either waiting for their turn, or watching a performance in the vicinity, taking pictures with masked men walking on stilts, or attending the 4D show in a theatre just below the London Eye.

Our fun day ended at 11.00 pm as we struggled to let go of our excitement and relax after a long haul flight, ridden with jet lags.

Hyde Park:
In the opposite direction of the road to Buckingham palace is the Hyde park with 700 acres of green land right in the heart of London. It is one of the largest patches of lush green ground in the city of London. It is home to a number of famous landmarks including the Serpentine Lake, Speakers’ Corner and the Diana and the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. The Serpentine is a large artificial lake, located at the south end of the park. Be sure to spot a variety of birds & ducks here. Other various recreational activities that are offered here include open water swimming, boating, cycling, tennis and horse riding. This is a very expensive area in London to live in and buying a house would cost anything from a min of a million pounds. The park is 2 yards bigger than the country Monaco and has its own culture. There are music festivals and other winter wonderland festivals that take place. Artists display their paintings on the gates of Hyde park.

Big Ben:
So true, the Clock Tower called Big Ben is one of the most iconic representations of the city of the Royals. The structure’s official name is the Elizabeth Tower? Big Ben refers to the bell inside. So if there’s a Big Ben, is there a little Ben too? Surprisingly yes. If you look at the top of the clock tower you will see a weather vane. That’s little Ben. The Westminster Tube station is closest to the Big Ben. Big Ben is part of the Palace of Westminster.

Westminster:
Westminster is an area of central London within the City of Westminster, part of the West End, on the north bank of the River Thames. The Westminster palace houses both of the UK’s ruling bodies, the Houses of Parliament and the House of Lords.

Buckingham Palace:
An occasional residence and administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, the Buckhumgam Palace hosts the largest ‘Change of Guard’ ceremony everyday in the morning. The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes between 10.15-11.45am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from January to March. We enter through Marc blanch, one of the main gates of the Buckingham Palace.

Windsor Castle:
The impressive and historic Windsor Castle is a short trip outside of London and is famous for its architecture and longstanding Royal place of residence. The 1000 year old Castle is the weekend residence for the Queen. The fee collected from the entrance fees is used for charitable work. The castle has many people living and working there. The Change of Guard ceremony at Windsor Castle happens between 11:00 and 11:30

With a total area of 45,000 square metres, the castle contains about 1,000 rooms.
A few of the important events & areas within the premises include:

  • St George’s Chapel, a place of worship at Windsor Castle in England and no photography is allowed here.
  • Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House; a single miniature dolls’ house suitable for royalty complete with miniature crown jewels
  • The State Apartments are furnished with some of the finest works of art from the Royal Collection and reflect the changing tastes of the Castle’s royal occupants over the years.

Wembley Stadium:
The impressive arena with a seating capacity of over 20000 people is based out of Wembley park. For football lovers this is a must visit stadium. They offer a 70 min walking tour. The souviner store for all you loyal football fans opens at 10 am. The management paid around 2.6 billion pounds to create the Wembley stadium and is famous for athletics and football along with other star performances. The stadium also includes a Wembley arena which is different and seats around 3000-4000 people. This area is considered as greater London and many Asians live in this neighbourhood.

St. Paul cathedral:
The largest and most famous of London’s many churches is the St. Paul’s Cathedral. With its two 212-foot-high towers and a magnificent 365-foot dome, it is undoubtedly Britain’s most recognizable landmarks. No visit would be complete without scaling the interior of the dome. Don’t forget to climb the 528 steps to the top – a height of nearly 365 feet for stunning 360-degree views of the church.

London Bridge and Tower Bridge:
The two bridges are different and don’t look alike either. The London Bridge is the famous Bridge in the world and has a nursery rhyme centred on it and the Tower Bridge is a more beautiful bridge, a symbol of London and recognisable by visitors from across the world.

Places to Eat:

  • Burgers and Lobsters located at Piccadilly Circus street is a must visit
  • Just opposite ‘Burgers & Lobsters’ restaurant at Piccadilly Circus, is a small Chinese restaurant. The roasted Duck & Mussels is an absolute must-eat here.
  • A famous chain of restaurants Jimmy’s at London serves a variety of cuisine, from local dishes to Mexican, Chinese & much more. They even have a good variety of drinks to choose from.
  • Garfunkels at Leicester for street food lunch and Fish & Chips
  • Try Jamie’s Italian at Piccadilly. Celebrity chef’s relaxed Italian chain, with rustic menu and antipasti bar. For a more exotic menu, try their ‘Today’s Special’. Don’t miss the ‘Home Made Caserecce tossed through with slow cooked Wild Rabbit Ragu finished Mascarpone and Herby Pangrattato. Meal for one cost around 15 pounds.
  • There is a Leonardis chocolate shop at Fleet Street although i recommend looking up at 143 Wardour Street for a famous choclatier called Paul A Young. For that matter there is a huge 4 storied M&M shop at Piccadilly.
  • Fleet Street has old colonial style pubs playing great music and locals hang around there every evening. You could also head out to one of the wine & spirits shops there for buying liquor.


Places & Things to Shop:

  • Oxford Street has a variety of shops where one can shop for branded as well as non-branded items.
  • Find a Primark at Oxford Street. You can get great deals on all items for the entire family under this massive store.
  • For Lego Toy lovers, a Lego store exists at Piccadilly and they hold occasional product launches with large Lego displays.
  • Buy the famous Irish Scotch and die cast memorables of the London metro, the red bus and the black taxis from Hamleys to gift someone.
  • Selfridge, retail outlet is the most exclusive retail shop after the very famous & luxurious Harrods. Exclusivity is shown with the rates at which the show windows in these showrooms are sold at.


Places to Party:

  • Night Clubs & Bards for partying are mostly located around Piccadilly. The Piccadilly Institute and Baromba at Piccadilly Circus area are a few of them open all night until 4.00 am.


Other Places to visit in London:

  • Kohinoor Castle where the prestigious Kohinoor Diamond rests
  • The Sherlock Holmes museum. This fictional character was devised by British author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Even today, there are times when the team receives letters from around the world for help to solve crime mysteries.

 

London can be a bit expensive, but it is always a good idea to visit London for a well-deserved break. London is a city that makes us dream. Whether it’s about being one of wizards in the world of Harry Potter or eating Fish & Chips, meeting the royalty or drinking Irish Scotch

 

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