import tales from 'London';
Visiting the UK amid warnings of snow/sleet for a few weeks of work, was a first-of-sorts of many sorts(ahem, I like to kill the language in many possible ways). The excitement of traveling alone/spending most of the time with self in a foreign country among foreign people, is a refreshing experience. When you have a few weekends in London, why wouldn’t you venture out to explore the land of so much art and culture? Especially when your curiosity levels ebb a little more above the average (‘can curiosity kill the cat?’). Reading through some of my old travelogues got me regretting that I haven’t penned down some of the recent trips that I’ll put this down for myself.
I boarded the flight to find an amazing view of the wing and nothing else(only to the greatest dismay did I find right when landing, that the flight had 3 cameras thru’ which I could’ve watched the mountains over which we were flying silentwail)! Interesting though was having a co-passenger who was an engineer in the same airways working on satellite technology and ending up having an entertaining trip discussing technology in flights and all that jazz. Having landed into a winter, the first surprise hit in the form of a dark window, way before it was supposed to be dusk! (Ooh.. I thought long summer days and short winter days was a Scandinavian thing! #blissofignorance) After battling the wind and the cold with tears streaming down, it took 2 days to find the right amount of layers and then to live happily ever after.
Okay, the tale hasn’t ended yet (you’ve to put through more drab considering you’re already here). Spiralling the reel of flashback into childhood till present flashed past all the literature consumed that featured/was set in Britain, that I just had to satisfy the cravings from my synapses and strengthen their visual associations.
The first fascination was to watch an authentic Shakespearean play in the native tongue/accent, after having been struck by an amazing performance by Madurai’s American College students in the school days. Though disappointed that the Shakespeare Globe (being an open theatre) didn’t stage plays in winter, the tour turned out to be one the most fascinating things because, there I was, standing right in the middle of a replica of a 17th century Shakespearean theatre and visualising all that could have happened as the guide narrated about no-water-only-beer, London-only-2miles-radius, 3000-people-crowd-in-single-show, no-bathing-plague-scare, heaven-hell-sound-effects-stage-arrangements, theatre-banned-so-on-Bankside, penny-stinkers, etc. of what one could have witnessed in the same place in the Victorian era. Snapping out of the vision brought the realisation that life didn’t seem so easy in the olden days.
Once out of the Globe, a few steps to behold the beautiful Thames and what better than watching it flow, from the Westminster Bridge, like Wordsworth did, while composing his poem at the early hours of the day…
A London Walk on the Old London, touches upon the Dickens and Shakespeare’s era and some of the key places in their lives and writings, and there are more literary specials in the Walks’ schedule. Especially interesting was how Robert Louis Stevenson met in the Barts hospital, William Henley, who inspired the creation of the character of pirate Long John Silver in Treasure Island! If you’re not into Classics, the contemporary world of Harry Potter has a prominent presence everywhere and where else other than King’s Cross to begin? There’s a platform 9 3/4 to get photographed at and a goodie store right next, to gape at. The sleepy little village Lacock has the Potters’ house Godric’s Hollow and it is assumed that(according to our really fascinating guide, Tony) a boy named Harry live(d) there and there’s a pottery store right in front of it, which Rowling put together as Harry Potter. Saving the best for the last, the most loved place was Bath with its rich and unique Roman architecture, renowned hot springs and.. Jane Austen! Watching some of the places depicted in my most favourite novels of hers was amusing and physical structures where Elizabeth and Darcy moved about, came to life from imagination and catching Sense and Sensibility on the flight back, sealed the experience. I feel an unexplained strong pull to the city of Bath and more fun was having a Finnish acquaintance with whom to discuss the politics and culture in Europe and learning how the grandeur of privilege in Windsor castle is an oddity in a country like Finland where everybody’s considered equal.
Though having very little second-hand exposure to art, I wanted to understand how/why modern art is created and how it is understood(mainly to understand why my family’s cynical of my so-called artwork), so ventured to Tate Modern, where I failed to glean much, though it just opened the vistas of what we generally consider art. For example, I couldn’t fathom social experiments like, a woman placing all kinds of weapons in front of her and letting the audience handle it on her however they wish. So, I still live with the open questions of what is considered art and whether it even has any criteria (and how my family would react to tons of human hair as art).
The most curious thing is how London preserves all its old buildings of heritage and the co-existence of the old with the new, with plaques placed at unexpected places explaining the significance of the building or the location. Especially significant was how lights that streak from beneath put the architecture into spotlight. We should try to make some of our prominent architecture in the cities similarly well-lit(as long as we pull in the power from a renewable energy source). You can even see where the bullets hit during the WW on the wall near the Barts hospital and some lucky survivor structures of the Great Fire. It is awe everywhere you turn around and the city is like an artwork in itself.
After all the solo-time, I got to visit the South coastal scene with a group of friends and catch up with some bright light and sun, after all the dull, dreary winter days in London. Brighton is a beautiful town(with the fun Brighton Pier and its upside-down ride over the sea, on the Booster) and the bus ride to Seven Sisters Country Park with its innumerable stop every 0.2mi along the coast is picturesque (tiptip - places to file in retirement plans). The Park is a huge sprawling area of green grazing lands through which trail you could walk to get to the beach full of pebbles, walking past the beautiful lagoon and catch sight of the cake-like-cut bright white chalk cliffs. A small but scary steep hike over the cliff, got us to an amazing view of different hues of green and blue, totally worth the heart skipping a beat or two while climbing.
Foooddd… is the best part of any trip and London has every cuisine imaginable at accessible distances. Though my most loved was the Indian I had at Neem Tree in Welwyn Garden City (having the same Herb and Cheese naan every single time), Leather Lane was an everyday fun experience too with its rice bowls and wraps and Lasagna. To keep crisp and not go on about food, Creme Brulee at Fish Central(absolute yum!), Rosemary chips and burger from Honest Burgers, Veeraswamy, Cozzo, Pieminster, etc. are some of the worthy mentions enjoyed.
Also loved the public transport experience while in London and I just couldn’t shake off how easy it was to get around the city with an Oyster Pass and CityMapper app, hopping on and off the tube and buses, blending in with the local hustle and bustle, of people hurrying with purposeful strides. Now that’s a pace of life to have.