Travel....and everything will balance out.

Photo of Travel....and everything will balance out. 1/1 by Vinith

We leave for the airport at 11 pm in the night on Friday 25th Sept and our good friend Mr Sule is kind enough to drop us to the airport. Don't know what had got into him, but the man was driving like a maniac that night, the driving did not help him much as it took us a good one hour to reach the airport. After our check-in and winding up with all other formalities we settle in the airport and take a quick nap as we had to board the flight at 05.10 am. The flight is on time and will land at Doha, Qatar for about 3 hours on our way to London.

It was quiet a decent travel from Mumbai to London via Doha. I was sleeping throughout both our flights, wifey was enjoying her movies and was taking on/off naps. During our halt in Doha, we went around the duty free shop and did some window shopping and freezed on the stuff we have to carry back to Mumbai, on our way back, as we again had a 5 hour halt in Doha on our way back to Mumbai from London.

Download a London underground map from the internet and carry a print out with you for your comfort. We reach the station and at the station ask for the Oyster card, it's basically a prepaid card which is used for travelling in London underground trains. Just fill the card with a certain amount of money and flash it at the entry/exit in all stations. The money will get deducted from your card depending on the distance travelled by you.

You can also use this card to travel in buses in and within London. We filled the card for 20 pounds each. This saves you the time and also money of buying tickets, every time you travel in train or bus. Do not take the taxis, unless you have lot of money to spend, as taxi travel is quiet expensive especially when you are holidaying on a shoe string budget.

Moving on, we enter the station platform and are ready to board the train to go to Leicester Sq. With 2 big bags and 2 hand bags, it was a cakewalk to board the train; moreover it was afternoon so it wasn't rush hour. The train journey was quiet comfortable and smooth and we reached our destination in exactly 1 hour 10 minutes, at around 3 pm. We called up Sugandha after reaching the station, our friend in London and the person we are supposed to stay with for the 4 days we are in London. She came to pick us up; her office was walking distance from the station.

We dropped our bags in her office and went for some coffee. Over coffee, Sugandha suggested us places we can visit over the next 3 hours in and around Leicester Sq, since after 3 hours Sugandha was supposed to get off from work and we were supposed to go to her place in Lime house (DLR Line).

She told us to visit Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Sq, Green Park and Big Ben. All these places were close to her office and walking distance. We paid for the coffee and were on our way to Trafalgar Sq, walked ahead a little bit and reached the Buckingham palace & Green Park. Through our walk there was a regular photo session going on and it was a pleasant experience walking the streets of london.

Since it was a day before the weekend, people were all out on the streets, getting into the weekend groove. There were families and children with their dogs playing in the park, couples coochy cooing and sipping on chilled beer (its legal to drink on streets in London), a old gentleman feeding squirrels, a lady feeding the ducks, tourists clicking pictures and office goers crowded outside English pubs drinking beer and wine. It was party mood all around.

We walked back to Sugandha's office and called her, she told us to come to a pub were she and Daniel (her English boyfriend) had already started partying. We joined them, ordered our beers and it was 1, 2 and 3 beers for me, the last glass being bottoms up. The pub (I forget the name) was totally crowded with people partying after office hours.

Next we decided to go and drink in a different pub, but I realised we had our luggage to carry home, so it will be quiet a pain to carry the luggage all around after getting a little drunk (which I wanted to). So we chucked our plan to drink more in a pub and picked our luggage and moved towards charring cross station, from here we were supposed to board the train to Tower Gate, walk to tower hill station and board the train to Lime house (final destination). Daniel bought some booze from a local grocery, wine and beers are cheaper to buy from a local store and we continued the party at Sugandha's house. Their house was walking distance from the station.

We dropped our luggage, ordered for some Bengali food and Daniel suggested he will show us the place around his house, which is supposedly very beautiful. We got quite excited and went out for a walk and the first surprise was Thames river flowing right behind their house. Next surprise was a beautiful view of tall office buildings of HSBC, Citigroup over the river, all lit up these buildings are located at canary Warf, which is a 15 minutes walking distance from Daniels house.

The walk through the lanes was quite & romantic, Daniel took all the efforts to show us everything beautiful that is in and around their house. We came back to the house after about an hour of walking and sat down for dinner and drinks. After all the flight travel, train travel, walks, drinking and carrying our luggage around , we were quite exhausted for the day and the moment we hit the bed the next moment I relaised it was 10am, Saturday morning.

Day 2

Sugandha and Daniel had a day off from work, but they had classes to attend that they were taking to enter the best B-School in UK (all the best to them). They had left their spare house keys for us and by the time we got all ready, made some breakfast and left the house for the day it was 12 in the afternoon. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and today we decided we will go to see the London Eye and from there walk to all the places we can in and around central London. We board a train for Embankment station, which is closer to London eye. We got out of the station crossed a bridge and on the other side was London eye. The streets below London eye was packed with people enjoying a good sunny day, there were tourist, children cycling around, babies in their baby carts, doggies and oldies just taking a stroll. It was like a huge street party kind of scenario.

There were entertainers on the streets entertaining people and earning their livelihood. There was a huge queue for the London eye, so didn't want to go on it. Rather we decided to sit in a nice quite place overlooking the river and sip on some beer.

After a the short break, we walked further towards the west minister road leading to green park and Hyde park. We had to cross a bridge and on the bridge i saw this guy who was asking people to gamble, here we had to find a ball from 3 boxes, I bet 10 pounds first and than 20 pounds again and lost all my money:(. That's 30 pounds gone down the drain for me. I was quite upset and wifey too was quite upset with me, I fell for something silly like that. Idiot Me!! (Gambling is addictive, never fall for it). Anyways, didn't want to spoil my holiday, so we walked further clicking pictures enjoying the sun on a cold breezy windy day.

We reached Hyde Park, wifey was quite hungry and i was thirsty. So picked up some sandwiches and coke and settled in the garden to eat. In the meanwhile, Alim & Suprita - our friend from Mumbai, now settled in London, called us to meet them.

We decided to meet outside Covent Garden station at around 7 pm. After our meal we decided to walk the lane which had the best designer shops of the world, this was in Knightsbridge.

Then from there we went to Harrods, one of the biggest shopping mall in the world. It seems it takes about 2-3 days if you want to see the entire Harrods mall. Behind Harrods, I don't know the reason i saw some of the most expensive cars parked i.e. Bugatti, Rolls, Ferrari's, Bentley's and more, but for me the London taxis were more attractive to click pictures of. After Harrods we walked toward Knights bridge station to catch a train to Covent garden. Since it was Saturday night, Covent Garden station was crowded with people ready to party the night away, i didn't know this place was a party hub. We met Alim and Supritha and decided we will pick some beer from Tesco (grocery store) and walk around enjoying our beers. Walking, we reached china town and like all china town streets across the world, even this had a typical setting of red lanterns, Chinese restaurants and all flashy and glowing.

It was total fun clicking pictures here with Alim and Supritha. From china town the next stop was a toy store which sells all kind of soft toys, we spent a little moment going around the store, the store had quite a interesting jungle set up. Just 500 meters outside the store was Piccadilly Circus, the place which has the TDK, Sanyo advertisement signage.

You must have seen it in many of the movies. There was also, the Ripley's Believe it or not building for which you had to buy tickets in case you wanted to see around. We preferred hanging around Piccadilly Circus clicking pictures and just enjoying the evening. The place was packed with people of all colour, caste and race. It was chaos, but in a good enjoyable way, not like the one we see outside VT station. We are done with our beers and hungry for food, so Alim suggested we eat in china town. We walked towards china town and were looking for a nice place to eat, we entered a restaurant and wifey was hungry for dim-sums.

Unlucky that she was, the restaurant didn't serve dim-sums, so we went to a restaurant next door which did serve dim-sums, but what attracted me was the delicious buffet set up (mind it, it was delicious to the eyes, not to your stomach). After we were done with our dinner, i was fuming enough to break few glasses of the restaurant. The guys were serving tap water for 30 cents, there was a service charge on food, even though it was self service and every food item in the buffet was full of grease and soda. So even before you start eating anything, you feel full. So, bottom line "What you see, is not what you get always".

Alim and supritha had to rush back home, as the next day they were shifting houses, so they had a lot of packing to do. We parted ways and we walked towards charring cross station. Every lane we walked through, every road, every pub and restaurant was buzzing with people and party goers. It was literally a scene of people partying on the streets. We lost our way to the station, but after some 30 minutes of walking we did find it.

We finally reached lime house at around 11pm and were exhausted. Daniel and Sugandha had already hit the bed after dinner. Even we decided to go off to sleep. All in all it was a nice fun day.

Photo of Travel....and everything will balance out. by Vinith
Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of Travel....and everything will balance out. by Vinith
Photo of Greenwich, London, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of Greenwich, London, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of Greenwich, London, United Kingdom by Vinith
Day 3

It was a beautiful and sunny Sunday morning, kind of rare in London. A sunny day is like a picnic and outing day for people in London, specially if its a Sunday. Today, we decided to go to Greenwich (Pronounced-Grenich). Its a district in south-east London, England, on the south bank of the river Thames. It is best known for its maritime history and as giving its name to the Greenwich Mean Time.

From Sugandha's house we did a small walk till Canary Wharf Pier. Pier is basically a boat station from where you can get into a boat to go from one place to another in London. These boats are quiet fast, cheap, comfortable and scenic. We spontaneously decided to do a boat ride to Greenwich, instead of the train or bus. And the boat ride was all worth it.

Places to see in Greenwich and its a must see are the Royal Observatory, Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich park and the town center. It took us about half a day to see all places. At about 2pm we decided to head towards London town from Greenwich and walk around in the city. We decided to take the boat trip again; Sugandha decided to head back home, myself and wifey took the boat trip to London eye pier. We were really hungry for the afternoon, so decided to look for a nice English restaurant and we did find one. We had some chilled English beer and fish and chips (must eat in this part of Europe). There was nice music, a lovely ambience and perfect feel of a good English pub.

After a good meal, we decided to walk around the city, visited places like Piccadilly, Park Lane, St James Park, Hyde park. Today it was kind of little tiring for us, so we headed back home early, around 8 pm. We picked up some beer from the grocery for home. Back home myself, wifey Daniel and Sugandha had a wine and beer party with some cigars. It was a beautiful evening spent with them, just relieved us from all our tiredness of the day. Finally, bed time as we had a early morning the next day and catch a train to go to windermere.

Photo of Saint James Park, London, United Kingdom by Vinith
Day 4

Woke up at 5 am and travelled to Euston station as we had a train to catch to Windermere and also validate our Brit Rail pass. First let me tell you more about a britrail pass. BritRail passes are the most comfortable way to travel in and around UK, if you are on a bag packing trip. You can just hop on and off from any train depending on the pass you have bought. We had bought a 4 day consecutive pass valid in England, Wales, Scotland & cities just close to London. It excluded Ireland. We bought the pass from a travel agent in Mumbai before leaving for London, as this pass is not sold in UK, its only for people holding a non UK residence passport and the passes have to be validated in a train station from which you will be doing you first day travel.

This pass is not valid on the london underground. Although, its not required to book a seat in any train for short distance journey, but if its a overnight journey, its suggestible to book seats in advance. The pass will be valid from the first day of validation for the next 4 continuous days, on any train travel and during your exit or entry at stations, the pass will be checked by the ticket collectors. The pass cost us Rs 25,000 for 2 people, and it was all worth it, hands down.

We took the Virgin Atlantic train from Euston to Preston, were we had to change train to reach Windermere. Train travelling experience is heavenly in UK, information at train stations are easy to get, the comfort inside the train is wonderful, the scenic view during the journey, is unlike anything anywhere in the world. We reached Windermere at around 11am, picked up the city map from the station and were back on foot to take the tour of this city.

Windermere is the largest natural lake in England and it has been one of the country's most popular places for holidays and summer homes since 1847. The climate was perfect for a good walk, we just ventured not knowing where we were supposed to reach. But, believe me it was one of the most amazing and romantic walk of our existence till date, through woods, through these huge farms with sheep's grazing, by the lake side with small waterfalls on either side, nothing less than like in HEAVEN. The long walk made us hungry and again we didn't want to settle for anything else but a good English pub, which we found in the main market. Again it was the similar ambience, set up and good food and beer pints like in all English pubs.

After lunch we were back to walking around the city, the market, lake and places just outside the market which was full of summer homes and beautiful scenic views all around. Finally, at around 5 pm we were kind of done with exploring Windermere and decided to travel to Preston and explore another city close to Preston i.e. Lancaster, as we had a 11 pm train from Preston to Inverness (our next holiday destination). We hopped on into a train from Windermere station and reached Lancaster by 6 pm.

It was getting dark and we could see the town during night. But it was worth walking the streets and exploring it during the night too. It was a beautiful cold evening; there were some beautiful castle structures in the city, pubs bustling with youngsters. After some shopping we were back to Lancaster station and reached Preston by 10pm. The train for Inverness was on time and we had already booked our seats, which had the comfort of a business class seat like in an airplane. The moment we entered the train and settled ourselves we were off to sleep.

Photo of Windermere Lake, United Kingdom by Vinith
Day 5

We reach Inverness in Scotland at 6am in the morning and our first priority was to look for a B&B (Bed & Breakfast) as we had decided to stay overnight in Inverness. B&B is basically a house were you get a room to stay overnight with breakfast. The charges may range between 30-50 Pounds depending on the facilities available; bargaining is not really a possibility as these places go full round the year. After checking out some 5-6 places we settled for a place very close to the train station as we had a train next day morning at 7.30 am to Glasgow. The place we stayed was owned by a lady, who had a huge dog;). She offered us a nice cozy room for 50 pounds a night. The overnight train journey was very relaxing and we had a good sleep to, so we were all fresh and ready for our day ahead in Inverness. The lady of the house offered us our morning breakfast; we had a nice hot water bath and were out to explore the city by 9 am.

Inverness is a city in northern Scotland and it's the northern most city in United Kingdom. It was a beautiful day and again we decided to walk around the city instead of taking the bus tour. Our first stop was a castle just 5 mins away from our B&B, it was a short uphill climb to the castle and we could see the cityscape from here. After a small photo shoot around the castle, we walked to the main Inverness city. The city is very well planned around the river Lochness. We walk around the main city market, doing a lot of window shopping and a little bit of grocery shopping i.e. for water, beer, chips & chocolates.

Finally, we reach a road which is the main highway and connects Inverness to Glasgow and Edinburgh. We didn't know if we should walk further on this road, but just out of curiosity and to explore more we kept walking and reached a place were there was a small river flowing, here people could do rafting, a old man was fishing, people were walking their dogs and some were out for their jog. It was like a garden built around the river and a place for people to have some quiet moment. We decided to sit on a bench by the river and were enjoying the weather and decided to sip on some beer. After our beer and hogging on some chips we walked around the place and decided to walk further on the main highway. We realised that walking further we would reach nowhere and there was nothing ahead, so we decided to walk back to the main city. by around 2.30pm we reached the main city and very very hungry for food. But there was a small problem in hand, our phones dried out of battery and we couldn't contact anybody in case of urgency. So we decided to go around the city looking for a phone charger. After visting few shops, we decided not to buy a phone charger, as it was pathetically expensive. So we decided to walk into a shop and request them to charge our phone for a while. We found a shop and the lady attending to us was really helpful and she told us we can come after 2-3 hours and collect the phone from her. In the meanwhile, we decided to find a good restaurant for food. We found one after a 10 mins walk and we wasted no time in ordering our beers and food. After spending about 1.5 hours in the restaurant we went back to the phone shop and collected our fully charged phone.

Close by was a marks and spencer shop, so we decided to do some shopping for ourselves and also my office colleagues who had given me a list of things to buy. It was 7pm and after our shopping we decided to go back to our house for the night, but i wasn't done yet for the night, so we walked around the river side in the city and after a while decided to walk into a cafe for some coffee.

We found this hustling bustling place and decided to sit there for the evening. Well, the beer freak i am and with different kind of beers being served at this place, i didnt want to settle for a coffee. So i decided to get a wheat beer for myself and coffee for wifey. The place also had a steak festival going on, but we had our last meal just 3 hours ago, so had no option but avoid eating anymore:(. After our coffee we had a beautiful walk back to the house, changed and were on bed by 10pm.

Photo of Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Vinith
Day 6

We are up and ready to catch our train to Glasgow at 6.45am. It's about 4 hours journey from Inverness to Glasgow, the train was on time and we reach Glasgow around 11am. Glasgow is one of the biggest industrial town of Britain, it's got the characteristic of any other city, so i would not say there is anything special about Glasgow. There are some monuments and heritage structures which can be explored and as always we preferred to walk around the city to explore these sites.

We reached a open garden and it started raining here, it wasn't surprising, as in Britain it can rain anytime round the year, so it is suggested to carry windsheaters with you, for us this was the only time it rained. We took shelter under a big tree and me and Wifey took out our beer cans and started sipping on some beer. When it stopped drizzling, we walked ahead and reached a beautiful museum, which showcased the absolute history of Glasgow. It was quite a good experience knowing the city so well.

After the museum we walked through the market of Glasgow and finally we decided to reach the train station as we had a train to catch to go to the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. Trains leave at an interval of every 15 minutes from Glasgow to Edinburgh. We reached Edinburgh at around 2.30 in the afternoon, we were not really very hungry so we decided to pick up some sandwiches to eat. It was suggested by friends to explore Edinburgh, so we decided to take this special city tour bus. We paid 20 Pounds per person for this double-decker city tour bus which had open roof tops and it takes you on a 1 hour city tour with a recorded voice talking to you about the monument or place you are passing through.

The city tour starts from Waverley bridge right next to the train station and after 1 hour it drops you back at the same spot. I would have loved to explore this city by walk, but due to limited time in hand we had to settle for the bus ride. After a brief walk around the station area, we reach the station at 8pm and wait for our train back to London which is scheduled for 10pm. It was again an overnight journey for us and we reach London at 6am the next morning.

Photo of Waverley Bridge, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Vinith
Day 7

Since we had a comfortable overnight journey, today we were all fresh and ready to have an exciting day ahead. Today, we are supposed to go to Oxford city in south east of London. It is a 2 hour train journey from London and we reach Oxford by 10 am. There was a city bus tour here again, but since we had the entire day to spend in Oxford our preferred choice of exploring the place was by walking around. We took a map of the city from the train station and we labeled the route we had to take, it was a circular walk around the city.

The buildings in Oxford demonstrate an example of every English architectural period and its known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined in reference to the harmonious architecture of Oxford's university buildings. The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English speaking world. Our walk leads us through the heart of the historic city centre illustrating in itself the history of Oxford and its university and the map in our hand gave us the description of the architecture and traditions of its most famous buildings and institutions. Even though I was not a good student myself or much of a book reader, I felt it was a prolific day spent in Oxford, a city also prominent for its medieval university. Our day ended with some good coffee and we reached back home in London at around 8 in the evening.

Photo of Oxford, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of Oxford, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of Oxford, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of Oxford, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of Oxford, United Kingdom by Vinith
Photo of Oxford, United Kingdom by Vinith
Day 8

Till date, all our days of the vacation were planned as to what we had to do or where we had to go, but today was an off day for us. There was no plan, we were just in a mood to chill and relax and do some shopping. So, we decided to spend the morning lazing around at home, enjoying a hot cup of coffee sitting in the balcony of Sugandha & Daniels beautiful house with a view of the gorgeous Thames river flowing across.

At noon we head to a flea market to do some cheap shopping, so we land up in Camden market and just across the road is Inverness street market where you can shop for about anything at a reasonable price. Biwi shops for some tops & dress and i get a good riding jacket for myself and we buy some souvenirs and posters. After our shopping, we stop for some light sandwich & coke lunch and since it is such a beautiful experience to walk around the city of London, we did not want to go back home early and decided to do some exploration of our own.

The more we see of this city, the more we fall in love with it. But finally, we decide to end our day early as we had to do our packing for the flight next day back home. It was a one hour journey from the house to the airport so we decide to leave for the airport at 3 am in the morning since our flight was departing at 7 am. Daniel suggested the best way to travel at this time of the day was by bus, as there are direct buses every 30 mins from just below their house to Heathrow airport.

The flight departs on time, we have a halt at Doha and here we do our shopping for gifts we wanted to take back for family and friends. With my fixation for scotch, i do my shopping for some chivas and JW's and we are headed back to the place where i belong and i must say after an amazing and adventurous backpacking trip we are happy to be home.

Finally, I would like to end this blog on a thanking note: Biwi - Thank you for planning and executing this entire trip in the perfect manner possible. Love You!!! Megh's & TJ - For helping us plan with places to see around London & Scotland. Daniel & Sughanda - A big thank you and hugs to you for your hospitalility in London and guiding us with the travel and all the beautiful place to see around London & Scotland. Without you this whole trip would not have been as enjoyable and easy as it turned out to be. The B&B Owner & All the people of England & Scotland we met and came across - Without doubt its one of the most beautiful countries we have been to, but its the people that makes it all the more beautiful. Thank you for all your help, support, warmth and kindness.

Photo of Travel....and everything will balance out. by Vinith