There is something about London

Saturday, 4th September, some year

After planning to run away from London on day 1 itself, it was a miracle that today was the 4th day of our stay in London. There was something about London, you don't like it, but yet a certain familiarity of the place, people draws you. The shared history, architecture, so many Asians, the food, the crowded places, the ease, the tension, and so on makes you wonder. Maybe that is why most Indians like London than any other place.

We wanted to leave UK and move on with our trip and today seemed to be our last day here. The options were either to take a ferry or the Eurostar (chunnel) to Belgium or to France. Since we had already done Holland previously, we zeroed in on France.

For today we had plans to go to Tower of London, Tate Modern and an evening at South hall. Pretty packed it seemed, but as luck would have it, we would eventually cram a bit more

Dominic wanted his room to be painted and wanted our help. We emptied his room of chairs, desk and the bed. Then Dominic and I cleaned and painted his room in a nice brown color. G darted between the kitchen making tea and the room helping us with colors, holding the ladder and a coat of paint too. It sure was a new experience and definitely fun. While the paint dried, G and I got ready to leave and Dominic promised us to meet later at the Paddington station, from where he would also take a trip to South hall.

We walked towards the train station and crossed the same set of shops. One shop which was always closed, was today open. It was an equivalent of a One dollar store. G bought a pair of trousers with chinese/japanese/korean inscriptions and I picked up a hardcover book of short stories. After which our first stop was at Waterloo Station. We finally made our reservations on the Eurostar. The one way fare was really expensive and we were contemplating taking the ferry. It would save us money but loose out on time. We were wondering when the lady at the counter mentioned that since we had bought our Eurail pass, we are eligible for a discount and what a sizeable discount it was. We were happy and we booked ourselves out of London on the 1st train next day.

We then proceeded to Tower of London. We took the train from Waterloo, and after about 10 minutes or so reached the London Bridge. The day was really nice, windy, pleasant and sunshine smiled on our shoulders!. We hung around the Tower were history was written, prisoners tortured, the crown jewels kept the ravens and the beefeaters who guarded the place.

We gazed idly at the Thames and the London Bridge. As we walked towards the station, we crossed an interesting eatery right next to the Tower, called Hung, Drawn and Quartered (well that's how the prisoners were treated during their time).

We reached Paddington and combed through the huge station for the platform from which the train to South hall would leave. We passed through sushi stalls, book stalls, trinket sellers to reach the platform. We could not find Dominic anywhere, it seemed he would join us directly there. The platform was lined with North Indians mostly and a few locals. The train came in a few moments and we boarded. On route G went partially blind because the contacts fell. We looked carefully in the eye and in the clothes and I finally discovered the lens, resting peacefully in the fold of clothes.

As we reached the station, we knew that we had reached the biggest Asiatic settlement outside India. There was beetle nut stains on the walls. The staircase leading up to the street was dirty and strewn with junk. There was a Gurdwara near the station and few meters away were rows of shops with goods displayed like in Indian markets. Even the mannequins hanging from hangars were like back home. The fruits were being sold openly on pavements. Everyone spoke in Hindi, and the elder gentry spoke about good times years ago in loud tones. The sounds were all so familiar and that we were in London, surprised us. We met Dominic and walked past shops selling pirated Hindi movies, and the smells from the kitchens wafted around us. We finally chose a nice restaurant and ordered Dosa, Keema mutton, Naan, and Chole Bhature.

We finished of the meal with hot jalebis from a road side vendor and a paan, which was also being old from a roadside shop, just like home. Post our happy lunch we went to Trafalgar Square and parted ways with Dominic. He had some other work to attend.

We loitered around The Globe (the shows of Lion King and all were all sold), walked past Royal Albert Hall and kept loitering till we found ourselves in the famous Soho district. This once upon a time sex street has now become an upmarket place with restaurants and fashion shops, but still the remnants of earlier days remain. We had read in Lonely Planet guide (Europe in a shoestring) how you would find Pounds on the roads of Soho and if you picked it up you will be mugged and all your belongings will go. Well true to those horrible stories we did find a few pounds lying idly on the cobbled streets. We didn't dare pick up any.

Of the last pounds remaining we shopped for cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, bread, ham and other essentials that we would require for our onward journey. With our loot we proceeded back home to pack our rucksacks and prepare for the next day.

When we told Dominic that we would leave early tomorrow for our Eurostar, he surprised us by saying that the local trains did not leave that early and we would have to catch the only bus at 5 am to reach Waterloo on time.

Now that was a super task to do!!! Off to sleep .

There is certainly something about London.

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