Day 6 – London

The weather was nicer in London today. It even rained a bit. Our plan today was to see London in a very random fashion. We picked the brown Bakerloo line again, it appeared to be the line that hit many of the famous points of interest. Anil agreed I should lead the way today.

So I decided to start at Trafalgar Square. We alighted at the Charing Cross station. Anil, who unlike most men who get cursed for never asking for directions, can’t resist asking. He stopped at a newsstand and asked the lady where Trafalgar Square was. She pointed and said, “Right there!” In a way it was like Anil trying to find his wallet or watch or socks which are usually right in front of his nose but lost to him.

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It was raining now and we didn’t sport a raincoat or fancy galoshes like most Londoners around us, we didn’t have umbrellas either, so it was a good thing that The National Gallery of Art was right there. We headed straight in. It was free, or rather, asked only for donations. It was quite an impressive museum displaying the art of Rubens, Rembrandt, Seurat, Van Dyck. I could have spent several hours admiring the works, the colors, the different effects that ‘Oil on Oak’ achieved from ‘Oil on Canvas’, I wanted to read each description and write things down, but a museum is quite a passive place for a child, perhaps even for husbands. The only thing that held Anoushka rapt for several minutes was an artist who was trying to reproduce one of the Rembrandts. She watched with great interest as he looked at the original from various perspectives, placing a small ruler in front of his eyes as a visual aid, as he replicated the exact angles and placements of objects. There were many artists with their easels parked in front of various paintings, trying their hand at some famous original work.

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After ‘shopping and exiting’ we headed next to Regent’s Street. Anoushka had heard the tour guide on the first day talk about the largest toy store here – Hamley’s. So she had been asking us when she would be taken to the biggest toy store. So we were looking for Hamley’s on Regent’s Street and finally found it after a pleasant walk admiring all the ritzy stores and businesses that pay rent to the queen. Finally found Hamley’s and Anoushka went crazy right away, even though it wasn’t much different from our very own Toys ‘R’ Us.

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It was large enough that I experienced several panic stricken moments there after Anil and Anoushka got separated from me. I couldn’t find them for several minutes. And I am not silly enough to panic about being lost but my fears stemmed from not knowing whether Anil and Anoushka were together and thinking what if she was wandering around in the store lost, would she hear and understand what she was being asked to do if she was paged, what if she walked out of the store looking for us, I was breaking out in a cold sweat when I heard myself being paged and asked to report to the customer service desk. Amazingly they didn’t even mangle my name. I was on the same floor as the customer service desk when I heard the page and was greeted by cheers not just from Anil and Anoushka and the staff at the desk but the other customers who had been told, “My wife is lost!”

After that little bit of excitement we decided to stop for lunch somewhere. There was a guy holding a sign for a Thai Buffet £4.40 only. So we headed in that direction. It was a small place that offered rice + four toppings for the very low price. The plate was heaped up, the food was good. This was better food, in a larger quantity than the meager offerings at the Indian restaurant on the first day that cost us £80.

Our feet were quite sore by now and after lunch we decided to head back to the hotel to rest for a couple of hours. We decided to do the rest of our rambling in the evening. I pored over the maps to plan our next move as we rested. I wanted to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre so that was where we were going to start the night.

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We took the Circle Line train to Cannon Street; on the map I had it looked like all we’d have to do is cross the Southwark Bridge and we’d be right there. However, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Cannon Street station was also closing even though it was only 9:00 PM. This alarmed Anil and he started getting very anxious as the guy closing the gates kept trying to tell him that it wasn’t the end of the world and that there were several other stations nearby, “Not to worry, sir.” We walked on Cannon Street toward Upper Thames Street. It seemed to dead end at a famous looking restaurant – The Banker. There was a side alley that got us out of the dead end and we saw the London Bridge ahead. However, we didn’t see any steps that would take us up to the bridge. We asked someone again and they helpfully pointed to stairs that were once again, “Right there!” We were then on our way, headed toward City of London.

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It was a beautiful evening, a very slight but welcome chill in the air after the unbearable heat of the last few days. The sun was setting and the occasion was quite memorable. The silver dragon at the end of the bridge marked the city limits. We were now in the City of London. I guess this would be like Old London if they called it that, but they don’t. There were some gruesome things to see this side of the bridge – the Dungeons of London, the Clink Prison but this is where we started feeling the real flavor of London. We walked to the right of the London Bridge Underground, following the signs for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The path took us to impressive Southwark Cathedral, Clink Prison (1151-1780 – the most notorious medieval prison) and an infinite number of pubs and drinkers lined up outside waiting for tables, several beers already consumed. There was an interesting place called the Vinopolis Wine Wharf, a large wine mall, I suppose, and we kept asking about the Globe Theatre and walking. We finally saw it – Shakespeare’s Globe, built where the first Globe theatre once stood. The shows these days are booked well in advance and the Thakurs being such spur of the moment travelers are never able to enjoy anything that requires advance booking and elaborate planning. But it was interesting to see the inside of the theatre. There was a miniature model of the original displayed inside and the new theatre was an exact modern replica of the first one. I picked up as many pamphlets and brochures as I could and shopped for some Shakespearean merchandise.

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This part of London was exciting. We felt we could have spent several hours here if we had found a babysitter for Anoushka. There was a ritzy looking Pizza restaurant there – Pizza Express. I would have preferred another restaurant but Anoushka loves pizza, so does Anil, so we were Pizza Express bound. The name does sound like a fast food place but it was a rather nice restaurant, people were more dressed up than they would be at a pizza joint in the US. Anoushka closed her eyes as she relished her pizza, declaring it the best pizza she had ever had. Then she rubbed her tummy and said, “Ummmmmmmmm, that was yummy in my tummy!” Anil enjoyed his Pizza Diavolo as well. I had ordered Tortellini which was also quite delicious. Our drinks were the most interesting – Sicilian Blood Orange Juice and Sicilian Lemonade for Anoushka.

By the time the check got paid it was 11:15 PM. Anil was convinced that the last train to Paddington was at 11:53 PM. So we rushed out and walked to the London Bridge Station. We took the Jubilee Line to Waterloo, changed to the Bakerloo Line there and were at Paddington by midnight, before our coach turned into a pumpkin again.

I feel like a local here now and it’s a shame that pumpkin hour will hit for sure day after tomorrow when we head back to New Jersey. But we still have tomorrow, let’s see what tomorrow brings!

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1 Comment

  1. I love following your trip, its so real, like I am there myself…and cheers for when thye found you,,,

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