Wednesday, February 19, 2020

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.
 
Traffic near Trafalgar Square (which is to the left)
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.

Nelson's Column - in memory of General Nelson who led the British to victory at Trafalgar
Trafalgar Square is also home to the National Gallery, which contains about 2500 paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

National Gallery - forms the backdrop of Trafalgar Square

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.

London Eye - we decided to pick up where we left off yesterday
Next stop before lunch was London Eye, because we already had tickets! It was the tallest ferris wheel in the world when it was constructed twenty years ago. Today, it is surpassed by the ones in China, Singapore and Las Vegas.

A view from the Eye - a few buildings decided to show off more color
A view from the Eye - barges on river Thames
The ride in the London Eye was smooth and comfortable. The car had enough space and seats for everyone. Covered by glass, it offered a 360° view of Greater London. Thames looked clean, but muddy.

As an indicator to the early river valley civilizations, many of the cities in the world are situated on river banks; Washington DC on Potomac, New York on Hudson, Rome on Tiber, Paris on Seine, New Delhi on Yamuna, and Kolkatta on the banks of river Bhagirathi.

On the way to the Waterloo station (the closest to London Eye), we picked up sandwiches for lunch. We hopped on to the Jubilee line, and before we could assess the quality of the sandwich, we arrived at the Westminister station, our next destination.

Before joining the line at the church entrance, we decided to pay a quick visit to Mohandas, who was waiting for us at the Parliament Square garden nearby.

Mohandas!


Westminister Abbey
Westminister Abbey is a gothic church that was built in the 13th century. It still baffles me that a church can be a location of worship, marriages, coronations and burials. The last coronation was of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the latest royal wedding was of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and Stephen Hawking are among the 3000+ people buried in the church.

Westminister Abbey - the more photographed entrance
After appreciating the now familiar architecture of massive arches and tinted glass windows, we took a short rest at the gift shop, to formulate the plan for the rest of the day.

We took the Jubilee line to Green Park station. My son decided to go back to the hotel, because he thought their wifi was underutilized. Rest of us decided to take the train to Piccadilly Circus. The place was crowded, with big digital bill boards and blaring music. Jostling in the crowd reminded me of Ranganathan Street, Mambalam, in Chennai, India. I'm sure the residents of Chennai can empathize with me.

My wife and daughter wanted to spend more time exploring the famous Soho district, especially the shops in Regent and Oxford streets. I knew that Lush was on their itinerary.

I took the train back to Green Park station and walked to the Buckingham Palace. After parting with £27, I was let in to the waiting area. Prince Charles was on the TV talking about an art program he was patronizing. He looked tired and uninspiring. Have you watched the Lion King movie? Remember Simbha singing with his friends at the beginning? I wonder why this song Can't wait to be King came to my mind. I digress!

The State Rooms were stately, with huge chandeliers, polished and unused dining furniture decorated with ornate plates and tea cups, and everything flanked by large murals on the walls. But I did get the feeling that an old house will always remain an old house. I noticed the dusty corners and chipped paint at a few places, and thought to myself that the place could have been maintained better.

Sorry folks, photography was not allowed inside the palace. Here is a view of the palace grounds!
On the way back to the station, I popped in to Hyde Park, and strolled through the speaker's corner, a place designated for public speaking. Anyone can supposedly talk on any topic. This concept was borrowed as the opening scene in the Tamil movie "Ratha Kanneer" (loosely translates to Tears of Blood), where the protagonist will be speaking in a park.

One of the entrances to Hyde Park
I called up my wife and daughter and arranged to meet outside Harrods, claimed to be the world's largest departmental store.

Harrods - covers an entire city block
The store was so big that it did not fit in to my 10mm wide angle lens. It was owned by Al-Fayed until 2010. If you think the name sounds familiar, yes, he is the father of Dodi Fayed, who had romantic relationship with Princess Diana.

The goods in the store were highly expensive, I'm guessing, even for the top 1%. Did anyone actually buy anything there? It did make me wonder about the real purpose of the store. See the price tag of a rug below.

130 sq. ft. of hand-woven carpet - only £77,000
That was the last photo we took in London, next day we were heading to Paris!



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