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London - A Short Visit-III

When A Man Is Tired Of London He Is Tired of Life


On the third day of our stay in London, in the morning we took a bus and went to see Trafalgar Square.We got down at Piccadilly Circus and after strolling round Leicester Square, we went down Hay market and Pall Mall, and walked all the way to Trafalgar Square. The day was clear and a shy Sun had come out, many young people were sitting in the Square and on the steps of National Gallery. I think the Square has become a symbol of people's freedom, from here mass protests are organized or they end here, political and social leaders lecture here to the audience of thousands. The Parliament and No. 10 Downing Street are nearby and although nowadays this street is many times closed to general public, in the old days you could enter the street and reach No.10 and have your photograph taken.

Trafalgar square is surrounded by many famous monuments. On its left hand side is the famous st. Martin's Church and the National Gallery. This is also one of my favorite places to visit when I am in London. When I lived there, I used to go often and look at the paintings of Botticelli, Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Von Gogh. Gainsborough and so many others. When we went there, there was an exhibition of works of Velázquez. You could easily spend one whole day there. If you like to visit art Galleries of course. Then you have the famous Charing Cross station, and further down you will come to St.Paul's Cathedral. On the other side you have Soho, the strand and can go back to Shafts bury Avenue. If you go up the Charing cross Road you will see Foyles, the famous Book store.

It was getting late and we were tired, but we wanted to go to st. Paul's Cathedral. Our son instead wanted to see Buckingham Palace. So we retreated back to Piccadilly Circus and had some food and then walked down all the way to the Buck House. A long and tiring walk and by the time we reached there, it was totally dark and raining and few tourists outside the gates. We lingered there, took some obligatory photos and went walking (again) to Victoria Station. Now it was raining hard and we were cold, so we decided to go back to the hotel.

Posted by The Islander 08:16 Archived in England Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

London - A Short Visit-II

If a Man is Tired of London, He is .......

rain 5 °C

If it is your first time in London, you have arrived at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted (City) airport, travel to central London is easy. From Heathrow you can either travel by underground or by Airport bus Al & A2 which will bring you to Victoria Station or Paddington station. Both are in the heart of London. Around Victoria there are many budget hostels and hotels and you can also inquire and acquire a place at Hotel Reservation desk inside the station. At Paddington you have a whole row of hotels at Sussex Gardens, the street is lined with hotels on both sides. You can travel by underground and by bus to Marble Arch, Piccadilly, oxford street and Oxford Circus and even can go to Petticoat Lane Market near Liverpool street station. Number 15 bus will take you there from Paddington Station.

On our second day in rainy London, we bought a one day travel ticket (useful for both train & bus) and went to Covent Garden. Covent Garden is one of London's most popular tourist attractions. It has a very fascinating history. Much of its existence (it was created by Queen Henrietta, the troublesome wife of Charles I, who was beheaded by Cromwell. I mean the king and not the queen. She went in exile in France until her son Charles II was restored to the throne of England), first as pasture land in 1600 was subsequently converted as fruit & vegetable market in 1700. However, the gentle folk who resided there, with the expanding of the area as a market, moved out and London's seedy society of gamblers, prostitutes, public bathhouses, gin places and pubs, moved in. But even from these early times, the whole area has been associated with Theaters. Its narrow intertwining streets are full of history. It is worth strolling in some of these places. In mid 1960s the GLC (Greater London Council) took over the whole area and in order to avoid mass development by individual promoters, build about two hundred buildings.

The main garden area is now full of pubs and restaurants, small shops selling ethnic products. It has a wonderful laid- back atmosphere, street musicians playing instruments, people thronging the whole area. The first street to develop with small businesses was Neal Street in 1973, and I used to go there quiet often to absorb the atmosphere of Herbal products, copper ware, leather goods and handicrafts and hand made chocolates. When we went there this time, there were new shops selling clothes and shoes and take away food. Nothing remains the same in today's world. There are 15-20 street markets around central London, notable are Church street Market near Piccadilly, Camden market (which has largely been destroyed by fire recently). This was my favorite market, I would go and spend a whole day looking at art & crafts, antique jewelry, paintings and even out of print second hand books. Then there is the famous Portobello Market and Shepherd's Bush Market which has, since many years now, gained popularity for selling clothing and ethnic food. Worth a visit. Last but not least is Petticoat Lane market. In 1960s and 70s, it was only a weekend market, I used to go with a friend to sell second hand articles, clocks and wrist watches. We had to pay One Pound sterling to get a table and in order to get one in the centre of the market, it was necessary to be there by five O'clock in the morning. Most mornings in winter or summer it rained and it was miserable. But so were the wages and one had to work on weekends to make the ends meet.

Posted by The Islander 18:44 Archived in England Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

London - A Short Visit

If A Man Is Tired Of London...........

rain 5 °C

In December 2006 my wife, my son and myself went to London for three days. A buss man's holiday really. My son was at that time working in Basel (Switzerland) and he bought cheap last minute tickets with EasyJet. He also arranged hotel accommodation there, in a ***hotel in Queen's Way (Bayswater). He flew from Basel and we two from Dortmund (Germany). We flew in to the London City (Stansted) airport and took a bus from there to central London. The bus fare was BP8.00 per person and took a longer time than the train to Liverpool Street station(BP27.00 one way) which was more than the plane fare. The bus dropped us in Baker Street, it was raining hard and instead of waiting for a bus to take us to Bayswater Road, we took a taxi (fare BP8.00). I write these details to show how expensive London had become over the past five years or so.

The hotel (I am afraid have forgotten its name)was tucked between a newspaper/souvenir shop and a coffee shop with an Italian name, Cafe Bello or something. A narrow door barely visible from the street, led us to the first floor. Even the taxi driver could not find the number of the house. A small room on the second floor with three bunk beds and a small bathroom cost BP72.00 per night, including breakfast. Next morning we went down to the restaurant well within the breakfast serving hours but found the room full. So we waited for a table to vacate. Fifteen minutes before the closing time, the kitchen was closed and the staff refused to serve any more breakfasts to the waiting guests. This happened on the day after too. A surly and arrogant girl behind the reception desk dismissed our complaint and told us that we must have gone in late, after the kitchen was closed. She got into a heated argument with a Dutch (couple who wanted to talk to the manager but were told that he was not available in the hotel. "You can complain by e-mail if you want" they were told.

London has changed a great deal in the last ten years. Even Queen'sway had changed, Tesco supermarket, Chinese and Indonesian food shops, displaying ready cooked food, Pizza Hut and other eateries have sprung up, filling the street with the smell of frying fat. Even a Ann Summers erotic lingerie shop. In the old days there were three Greek restaurants, one Yugoslav and three reputable Chinese restaurants. Only one had remained, next to the Pizza Hut and which has been there since the 1960s. We went in the Pizza Hut and found the place untidy. The pizzas were soggy and cold. We did not finish them. We saw that some other people had also found the food unappetizing and had left it uneaten. We were given two glasses of complimentary soft drinks, although we were three. I don't remember if that was the offer of the day or it was because we had left the food untouched.

The influx of tourists has changed the eating habits of the Londoners, in fact that of whole U.K. In 1950s and 60s, it was fish and chips and soggy sausages. Only the Pub Grub was good. Then came Wimpy hamburger chain which folded because Brits were not ready for change. Then came Pizza and Spaghetti restaurants, but with the introduction of Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, people's eating habits changed. When the pubs closed, the hungry drunks rushed to KFC shops. And with MacDonald, then Burger King and Wendy, people were hooked on junk food. But by 1980s, more and more Indian restaurants opened in Central London and in suburbs and today Chicken Tikka Massala is the British National dish. In england, Wales and Scotland the most popular National dish is Chicken Tikka. If you go down in Queensway towards West borne Park road and turn left, you will find Khan's Indian restaurant. The food is delicious, it has a seating arrangement for over hundred people and is always full. A few meters further is another popular Indian restaurant called Standard, which has always received favorable views from food critics.

The weather was cold and it rained all the time for the three days we were there. I have lived in London for two years (1970-72) although I went there for the first time in 1964 and have been there umpteen times. My wife also has been to London many times. But in December 2006 I went there after a lapse of eight years and my son too had not been there for ten years or so and he always wanted to go there, specially for Christmas shopping. But Oxford street has always seen old established shops closed and new ones opened. The street has always had a high turnover of establishments. Oxford street, despite rain and cold was full of shoppers, people lined up in front of food stands, buying sandwiches and bread rolls, streaming in and out of famous shops like Marks & Spencer, Selfridge's, D.H. Evans etc. Selfridge's has always the most elegant and attractive Christmas window decorations. So has Liberty's and Hamley's Toy Shop in lower Regent street.

We went walking down from Cumberland Hotel (Marble arch) to Regent street, turned right to go down to Piccadilly Circus. At the left hand corner of Regent street, there used to be a Wedgwood shop, selling fine china and porcelain, it was gone. So were many other decades old established shops. We came to Piccadilly Circus and went in to a pub next to Regent Park hotel, which I used to frequent, and had a point of stout beer(BP 2.50). The whole area was full of mini-markets, shops selling soft drinks, bottled water and sweets.

We progressed towards Shaft bury Avenue and turned into Soho. It was as lively as ever, many new restaurants with new names but many old ones too. This part has always been my favorite place for eating Chinese food. I have, at one time or another, eaten in many of the Chinese restaurants there. In 1970 a family called Poons opened a small restaurant in (I think) George street. Old mother Poons cooked in a corner with three or four tables, they were fixing up an upstairs room to turn it into a dinning room for more tables. The food was superb and the place got rave reviews from food critics. Naturally some time later, you had to wait for a table. By then they had opened a few more restaurants in Soho. They had become popular.

In the opinion of Samuel Johnson, the 18th Century author, critic and literary figure, if you are tired of London, you are tired of life. This is true. In London there is always something new, be it Victoria & Albert Hall, The National Art gallery,Tate or Museum of Modern art, History Museum. Even Madam Tussuad's remove and put new figures from time to time. There are always exhibitions and shows going on. And if you are tired of visiting The Buck House or Big Ben, Parliament and Trafalgar square, you can always go into Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly and have their famous Cucumber sandwiches and Earl Grey Tea.

Posted by The Islander 09:21 Archived in England Tagged air_travel Comments (4)

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