Sunday, September 30, 2007

London-5th September

Arrival at the heathrow terminal 3 was also marked with the longest immigration queue I've ever seen. Made even my 'favorite' Delhi airport seem much better. Though the one thing that was common was the Punju accent-London is more "tikka-ized" than I thought.
Happily smiling at the reverse imperialism, I met Devika and Sam-the journey back home took three times longer than usual, thanks to the extra wheels on the roads because of the tube strike. Home for the next 3 days was at Hammersmith.
After an angrez breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup, we ventured out. Took a day pass of 5.10 pounds (most economical way of travelling around-unlimited rides on all public transport). First stop was Leicester Square-home to many theatres, pubs and swanky eateries (the place really comes alive in the evenings). Walked towards Blackfriars and saw the Thames up-close-mucky water-looked like a grown up version of the Mithi river (yes, there's a river in Mumbai and it looks like a disguised drain!).
Passed the Hyliograph gifted by the Egyptians to Her Majesty for the English victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile. Found it very hard to understand this curious habit of the erstwhile Eqyptian governors of gifting national treasures to imperial powers for random battle victories. (the De La Concorde has an obelisk-its twin is in Luxor). Its like seeing one minaret of the Taj Mahal in Philippines, where you'd least expect it-Culturally discordant and a bit detrimental to tourism for the original monument. ( A funny anecdote from our Thames cruise guide-the sphinx were put in a wrong position-facing the hyliograph, instead of facing outwards- they are meant to guard the damn thing, not ogle at it admiringly!)
We met Annie (one of the most genuinely funny & really warm persons I've met) after much deliberations over directions etc. Had great pizza (we had loads of those on this trip) at Harry's bar & pizzeria. From there we walked to St. Paul's-we just lit two candles and spent most of the time admiring the cathedral from outside.

Took the DLR from Canary Wharf (this was like coming to Raffles Place-all concrete and glass) to go to Greenwich. But alas, the observatory was closed (closes before 5 pm) but we did have a look at the famed 0 degree that our time zones are based on.
Weather was gorgeous and we spent some time lazing on the lawns-that's one thing I was taught by London-enjoy good weather while it lasts! (though to give them credit, the weather gods in Europe were really kind to us-not one drop of rain in London-my umbrella felt so cheated!)
Took a river cruise from Greenwich to Westminster and thoroughly enjoyed it-thanks to the witty cruise crew who kept us in splits with his comments. Some gems:
" To your left is the house of contemporary art-Does not draw too many visitors-if you see the art-you'll know why!"

" To your right are the containers that carry Londoners' waste to Essex-that takes care of two problems-what to do with the waste and what to do with Essex!"

Saw all the picture postcard sights-Westminster Abbey, London Eye, Big Ben (which incidentally is the name of the bell that tolls insides-not of the clock tower). The evening was spent walking around Westminster Abbey, Downing street (closed to general public, but well, at least we saw the sign) and Trafalgar Square.The one thing I loved about London was the adorable little flower baskets hung at home & shop entrances, lamp posts and well, just about anywhere-Felt very pleasant!
Took the direct bus from Trafalgar home and crashed-I let jet lag catch up and win!

Sawadee-kaa: At Suvarnabhoomi airport

The best laid plans do go astray and you learn this the hard way when you start the big trip with many firsts (first independently financed, first 10+ hrs flight, first "long trip etc) with a big boo-boo-leaving the neccessary travel companion-the jacket snug in your cupboard! Armed with the knowledge that some of the cities I'm about to visit have temperatures hovering around 14 degrees and weakened by the body's low cold tolerance levels-buying a jacket was the single most urgent task at the Bangkok airport.
(my flight was not direct- Thai Airways insisted I spend some hours yawning at BK airport, before I was allowed to go to London-But entrepreneurial me decided hunting for a jacket was much more interesting-So there!)
But finding a decent jacket turned out to be a fair challenge-I was faced with 20,000 bags, but only 5 jackets-out of which only one was my size-Since laws of probability indicated that there was bound to be more choice than just one-I set out to hunt for another shop that was kind enough to understand that people forget jackets at home. My feet covered all square feet of the Suvarnabhoomi airport, but nope-bags, bags everywhere-not a jacket to slink.
Usually I hate too-much variety as it confuses the hell out of me-but on this one occasion, I just felt so cheated-Not that the jacket was bad-but having no choice while purchasing, did cause some post purchase dissonance!
The other airport experience (dinner) was surprisingly pleasant- Best green curry-rice I've had in a long time (at Pizza & More-dont judge by the name!). Made a trip to Boots too-impulsive shower gel type purchases, planned so that I could test my new credit cards :)
After all that walking around, I was sufficiently tired and sleepy to just head out to the boarding gate and well, board my flight!
The flight was quite comfortable and thanks to my walking expedition, sleep came easy. What didnt come easy was acquainting myself with the soggy, lifeless dinner plate in front of me. My veg meal request somehow got lost in translation and emerged as a vegan monstrosity-dull looking tofu, some red beans dessert, margarine, dinner roll and some bland, boiled-against-their-will mushrooms! I became that much more indebted to "pizza & more" and that much more determined to change my meal request for, at least, the flight back to "normal veg".
For the breakfast, i hurriedly returned the Asian veg plate (which had steamed rice & steamed veggies!), graciously accepted the normal fare- ignored the sausage and gorged on the omlette.
The small talk with the Brit lady next to me, revealed that 11 of the 14 tube lines in London weren't working-A welcome strike by the tube workers! Nice.
Anyway, Devika was coming to the airport to pick me up-plus weren't buses much better to "see" a new place? I think the yummy omlette made my outlook towards life really positive :)
The journey also allowed me to read my Paris and Rome printouts-but I had serious difficulty staying engaged with strange and unpronouncable names-decided to take on one city at a time and since I had researched nothing on London-I rewarded myself with what else, but sleep! Only to wake up and feast on the marvellous views of the wimbledon, the london eye, the thames and the other readily identifiable places. Paisa Vasool!

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Quirk tag

Oh this is so unfair- just when I was about to start my travel blog (yes the 19 day glorious Europe trip has ended..(sob sob.).but (smile, grin, bigger grin)..what a trip!! Wonderful experiences which deserve to be told in much greater detail. But first the tag- since McD insists she wants to know my quirks, here goes:
1. I frown- a lot-and most of the times, i dont know im doing it- I've been frowning since i was a kid-its the thing i do when i want to listen, to pay attention, to understand, to disagree, to think- so if you havent seen me frowning-dont think you've met me :P
2. I smile- coz I really do feel it doesnt take much and just makes you & others around you feel better. And as a rule, I dont trust people who remain unsmiling for the better part of the day-something menacing about that! There have been times when I've done it rather unwittingly, like the time I did it when a prof was asking me something and I hadnt been listening and he ticked me off with " you will not succeed in the corporate world with a sexy smile" or something to that effect. I didnt know whether to feel insulted with his stupid comment or happy with the compliment. I just frowned in response.
3. I have a security blanket called "Satin"- I have slept under it ever since I can remember (there have been times we've come back mid way from a journey just coz I had forgotten it at home and wont sleep without it) and though I can now, get sleep even without it-its like a hug, a comfort wrap, a pacifier-yes, i do realize it is inanimate but such a constant in my life. (and no its not a museum relic- my aunts and relatives have been gracious enough to gift me substitutes every now and then-though I do have a hard time adopting the new one & letting the old tattered one go.
4. Food is a mood changer (share this with McD)- its a Top of Mind item-always! Singular in its ability to uplift mood or cause it to sink to deeper than deep levels. I love food and I love being a foodie! Loads of quirks associated with food (eating maggi sandwiches, or licking off the cream from cream biscuits ..but too many to list down here)
5. Doing random activities like reading, making cards, writing etc while in vajrasana, walking or standing- My parents used to get quite concerned that I stood for hours while I made Diwali cards for friends and family-but I just couldnt sit on a chair and do those things. Did get a cramp in my legs sometimes and my legs went numb sitting in vajrasana for 3 hrs..but well, I did it my way!
6. The color blue- Till college, 90% of my clothes were blue and I would have ended up as a dyed in indigo version of Simi Garewal, had I suddenly not discovered my fascination for other colors. (yes, even yellow and tan).
7. Extreme panic & hysteria when I dont find something-even if its extremely inconsequential. This is a very time consuming and painful habit (ooops, was I supposed to call it a quirk?). I am a mad woman on most occasions but go raving mad when I cant find something where its supposed to be or where I last left it. On most such occasions, I find it where it was supposed to be-the bloody thing just did a darn good job of hiding itself for an hr! (Recent case in point precious hours saved by Rashie through the discovery of my earrings in the original container- just seconds before I was to embark on a massive hunt).
8. Matching tunes- I'm good at tracking tunes and songs which sound like each other. So I know that "tanhai tanhai" from koyla was actually used as a background score in "karaj arjun". Or that lage raho munnabhai is actually a modified version of a bong song (dhitang dhitang bole).
9. Rembering just antaras or mukhdas and not being able to retrace the start/end of the song is such a nightmare!
10. My hello on the phone and other not-so-glorious ways of saying things- have been ragged enough about the former (of how the accent is so acquired etc-its not by the way-its just been that way since I was a kid and we didnt even have satellite TV then-only the world this week). I do have a sing-song way of saying somethings and have been imitated enough by uncles & aunties & friends when all I said was "Could-I-speak-to-Divya" or shouted "aale aale" (coming!). For more ask DT and wicked meera :)
This is an open request to others- if you think of any other quirks (worth mentioning and not worth censoring), do leave a comment-always good to agree/deny/refute/frown/smile :)
And the travel blog will start tomorrow-any more delays and it will feel as dated as the Roman Forum.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

3-2-1...Blast Off...!

This happened on way to Boracay (may). The kid was precocious. Would be about 10 years old. No loss of baby fat. All gains made in the decibels department. And as the airplane prepared to take off- the kid was almost choking with excitement, but that didnt come in the way of his rhythmic semi-screams, semi-chants of "1-2-3 Blast Off". (His dad did try to tell him this wasnt a rocket nor a missile & that the order should be descending). But no, the lil champ continued unperturbed.
His enthusiam was so infectious-my frowns at being constantly woken up (this was a flight at an unearthly hour of 7 am or thereabouts), gave way to wide grins.
I think I feel the same way, now that most of my packing and logistical nightmares are over (almost-there's always something I need to do right before the exit to the airport, to feel I've judiciously divided my tasks among my waking hours). This is the first trip I'm managing independently and though it may not sound profound, but this is really the longest I'll be in a foreign country (ies) on a holiday! And unlike most other holidays, wont have my security blanket-my fall back option (read the ear that takes in my cribs and the shoulder that supports me while i nap). Nerous am I. but Excited as hell.
And as I set forth on my Europe trip tonite, I know what I'll be chanting when the airplane prepares to take off.
Bon Voyage, Gnain & me!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

My life looks like this right now. So many things to do-desperately fighting the "why didnt i do this earlier" thoughts as I set about listing down stuff that needs to get done before i leave on the Europe trip!
And all this when i just want to complete "in spite of the gods". Just where is the magic wand when you need it?