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Paris, Paris - Day 5

Day 5 was travel day, to Paris! We packed our bags, had an early breakfast, took an Uber and reached St. Pancras International promptly at 10 o'clock.

What did we miss to see in London? I wanted to see the Oxford and Cambridge universities, simply because they were centers of learning. Of course, I wanted to see the Srinivasa Ramanujan memorial plaque at the Trinity College Chapel. We couldn't make it to the British Museum either, their loot collection of 8 million items is one of the largest in the world. The National Gallery (at Trafalgar Square), home to some of the world famous artwork, also didn't make the cut. Shakespeare lovers can visit Stratford-upon-Avon, his birth and burial place. I had asked one of my colleagues about Stratford, and he told me that the people of the town wear a goofy 16th century costume. When I informed my family of this fact, it was instantly tossed out of the list, which also happened to be the only unanimous decision we made in this entir…
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Dear Old London - Day 4

The next day was a "free day", meaning we had nothing planned. In the words of my kids, we just wanted to "meme" around. We had a leisurely breakfast and headed out to Trafalgar Square.

As the name indicates, the monuments in Trafalgar Square were erected to commemorate the victory of Britain over the French and Spanish forces at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Trafalgar Square is also home to the National Gallery, which contains about 2500 paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

Sadly, this was another place that we didn't have time to visit. I do think that visiting a gallery (or a museum) requires study and preparation, especially if we want to fully appreciate a foreign culture and their history. As you had guessed by now, we were woefully unprepared! The gallery's french counterpart across the channel, The Louvre, by contrast, is the world's largest art museum having more than 35,000 objects on display.

Next stop before lunch was London Ey…

Dear Old London - Day 3

Next day was the tour of London, a city that is estimated to be at least two thousand years old. No wonder the locals call it "the City". Our first stop was St Paul's Cathedral.

The church was originally built in the early part of 7th century, and then rebuilt in the late 17th century after it was destroyed in the the great fire of London. This was my first time stepping in to a christian church, and I was appalled to find that it is a burial ground for eighty people, almost all of them English aristocrats, including its own architect Christopher Wren. This is in complete contrast to our Hindu culture, where places of worship are considered divine and holy. I was looking down at the names and dates engraved on the stone beneath my feet worried that trampling on the dead bodies might be considered a mark of disrespect, but the rest of the visitors appeared blissfully unaware; they were looking up and admiring the massive arches and the multicolored tinted glass windows. …

Dear Old London - Day 2

We woke up, had dinner at the hotel restaurant. They had a surprise waiting for us, brought out a cake with dessert, to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary! Apparently our travel agent had mentioned it to them. Very sweet!

Day 2 was our first pre-booked tour, and stop uno was Windsor Castle, the residence of the British Monarch!  It was about an hour's ride from London. We arrived at the castle 30 minutes early (they open only at 10:00 AM), only to find a long line snaking thru' the outside roads already. It was cloudy, and a slight drizzle had started. We joined the line a little disappointed. In one of the street corners we saw another well-known symbol of England, the red telephone box.

We were admiring the outsides of the castle, and before long, it was ten o' clock.

We went through the State apartments, Semi-State rooms, moat room, and Queen Mary's doll house. The doll house was designed by one Edwin Lutyens, who, incidentally, was also the architect of India's…

Dear Old London - Day 1

Our long and much-awaited trip to Europe finally happened this year. We were nervous about the short layover in Amsterdam, but much to our surprise, we arrived at the London City Airport (LCY) a full fifteen minutes ahead of schedule! Our tour operator, who, more often than not, must have been used to delayed flights, came in late to pick us up.
The first thing we noticed in London is that everything is, at least one size, smaller (when compared to America); narrower lanes, smaller cars, and densely packed apartments. Sometimes cars were parked on both sides of an already-narrow street, and our chauffeur skillfully maneuvered the mini-van between them. Our adventure had already begun!

Before reading further, watch a few clips of the namesake travelogue, a documentary made in 1934!
The really narrow streets, the hidden side lanes connecting busy thoroughfares, and the zig-zag roads indicated that this city has been around for sometime, and has grown organically without much…