for fellow travellers

Sunday, September 27, 2009

London Pass

Our second day in London. We had already paid for London passes from the VFS-UK centre in Delhi, but they had to be collected from the British Visitor centre at 1 Regent Street. In our previous trip also we had taken London passes but I think this time, with children, it may not have been such a good idea. Anyway we started from Trafalgar square towards Piccadilly Circus and the centre is just walking distance from the circus.

Piccadilly circus

The Criterion theatre is south of Piccadilly circus

British Visitor Centre
After getting our London Passes from the British visitor centre we also purchased tickets for a musical "WICKED",I had really wanted to see a play this time in London. We went straight for Tower of London, using the tube. The London Pass helped us to just walk through without standing in line for tickets. We went to see the Kohinoor and as this time it was not so crowded we could go round and see it again. We came out from the Tower of London towards the Tower Bridge and there was an exhibition of Bridges which we decided to see, but the elevator was out of order and it was not such a good idea with a stroller. The exhibition was good and going up the Tower bridge was a unique experience but we got exhausted going up the stairs. The entry fee was included in our passes.

After crossing over from the Tower bridge and walking towards HMS Belfast

Photogragh taken from HMS Belfast as the Bridge is being lifted
After coming down from the bridge we went to see the HMS Belfast a world war II warship which has been converted into a museum. The children enjoyed themselves thoroughly. We even met a sailor on the ship who showed us how things had been during the war times.

As we were walking towards an underground station we came across Borough Market London's oldest food market. We bought some fruits and vegetables from here and decided to call it a day as we had to go for a play as well in the night.

Borough Market


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

London - a home away from home

For Indians traveling abroad to the western world, London is like another home, for me it seemed a bit like Mumbai. You can easily hear hindi being spoken on the roads at various places. Saree and salwar suit clad women are seen at shopping areas in plenty. Numerous small general store sort of shops being managed by Bangladeshis who on first appearance look like Indians.
You can roam all over Europe but once you come to London you feel relaxed and at home ground, the reasons maybe loads of relatives and friends in London, familiar language, lot of asians around and friendly english people. I have experienced this thrice that when I am standing (with loads of luggage) at the bottom or top of an escalator in a tube station an englishman would come and help me with the luggage of his own. If you are looking lost and trying to decipher your way around with a map invariably the passers by on their own try to help you out - this happens only in England believe me.

Our stay this time was at Citadines Trafalgar Square Aparthotel, quite centrally located and walking distance from the tube station. We took the underground from the Heathrow airport to our hotel, which I thought was too much adventure considering the amount of luggage we had and a baby on stroller. We had our Oyster cards with us which we had purchased from VFS-UK,Delhi. We had even got one for my son who was eleven at that time and
the officials at the tube station in Whitechapel told us that we need not have got one for him, we could have got a day ticket worth one or two pound a day for him which would have been cheaper or us. We caught the Piccadily line the only one from the Heathrow Airport it was a rush and we changed from Hammersmith to the District line (green). Luckily we had to just walk across the platform for a change in line and not go up and down on escalators or stairs and the station was not crowded, phew! that was really lucky!! Though we had got down on the station after seeing that it had facilities for handicapped people. Then we got down at Embankment and just around the corner was our hotel.
It was chillingly cold that day and it had just rained. We settled down in our rooms which were miniscule, as compared to other aparthotels where we had stayed esp in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. After that we wore our jackets and walked across the pedestrian bridge to London Eye and took a flight.

Pedestrian Bridge

Inflight London Eye
After that we again crossed the bridge and went across to Trafalgar square. It was lovely.

Nelson's column

Just before going back to the hotel we bought some provisions from TESCO. We were staying in London for 4 days and we had to arrange our own meals.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Paris - I love this city

There is something about Paris (पैरी) which bewitches me, despite the snobbish french people, the language barrier, the difficult to pronounce street names or maybe its because of all this. Outside of India the one place which feels like home in the western part of the world is London. I adore London, but the fascination with Paris is much more.
This second visit to Paris was different from the first as we tried to cover the places where we had not gone before, chiefly Musee de Louvre, Chateau de Versailles, Musee d' Orsay and The Moulin Rouge.
Then there was some which we had done last time also, Seine river cruise was as mesmerising as before

The Notre dame at sunset
and Notre dame was as fascinating, Eiffel tower looked great and this time round I appreciated the view of Eiffel tower from Trocadero much more than the last time.

The Eiffel tower from Trocadero
There was so much we could not do, which we had planned. But thanks to Shaleen I managed to buy a purse from Galleries Lafayette, also something which had been overdue from last time. We were overawed by the dome at the Galleries Lafayette

The dome at Galleries Lafayette
The major let down was Eurodisney, we went there because it was here that we had sorely missed our children last time and almost cried for them at the gates of this amusement park and we had promised ourselves that we would get them here surely, but in all this we forgot that we have already been to the Mecca of theme parks and nothing can beat Orlando.
We loved walking on the Champs Elysses (शौंस एलिसी ) and standing at the Arc de Triomphe like the last time. We found our way around Paris using its metro but I think the stations were undergoing renovation, and if not they surely needed to be renovated. The musicians in the train were a novelty and I was fascinated with the different instruments which they used, with which I was not familiar except for the Piano Accordion. The french people we met on the train were mostly forthcoming and strangely we struck up more conversations with strangers on the parisian metro than on any other metro in the world. If you're planning to visit Paris the "Paris visite" is a must, it is the metro pass and it fetches discounts at many tourist attractions, we got a discount at Eurodisney.
A museum goer should get the museum pass. The Louvre (लूव)museum was all that I had expected and more.

The glass pyramid is the entrance to the Louvre Museum
It is a great museum, though we were living at walking distance from the museum we managed only a single visit there much to my disappointment, that too we just made a beeline for Mona Lisa and after that we saw a few more galleries. Musee de Orsay a railway station converted into a museum starts where Louvre leaves off. It was a beautiful museum with lovely paintings.

Musee de Orsay
Going to Versailles (वरसै)was also something which we had planned for days and stupidly I had booked the tickets for Versailles on the net for a week earlier than when we actually reached, so when we reached Versailles the tickets were of an earlier date. Shaleen had done his homework well and right at the entrance where hardly anybody was going, was a small office for redressal of problems with internet tickets and there our tickets were validated for the same day. The palace was magnificent and the gardens were huge we had to take a golf buggy on rent to see the gardens and we also saw the Marie Antoniette's palace.

The Moulin Rouge (मूला रूज़ ) was a great show. I enjoyed myself immensely and it had the distinctive french flavour which is not possible in other shows however great.
The most beautiful building in Paris is the Opera house.

The Opera house


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