My visit to London

I am back, after the travel sabbatical with bag full of stories from Europe :-)

London: 1, 2, 3 May 2009

My first international travel began with hiccups from Bangalore with finishing work till 11 pm on the night I was to fly out and loads of hungama with the travel to the airport. But I shall concentrate on the trip itself, because the focus of this trip was ME. This back packing trip across 7 countries in Europe was my long planned dream vacation with myself (and a few others too). The UK visa took 3 weeks to be processed for the 3 days I was to spend in London. Emirates definitely gives the best retun ticket deals for shoe string travelers. Nonetheless, I needed to be with myself, think, talk to me and pamper me. So here I go...

Dubai airport is a shopping mall and looks like one too. There is everything you can ask for. Well, I didn't find those camera lens I wanted, so... And I found London airport significantly cheaper for perfumes, so....

London was bright and sunny when I landed at 3 in the afternoon. 4 girls met at the airport with some local friends and headed to YMCA where we had our reservations for the night. Bought Oyster Card, a pre loaded travel card which is apparently the cheapest way to travel London by tube. The card can be sold back for 3 pounds and they also refund your balance, so great! But I still think for upto 3 stops tube is super expensive.
Dumped our bags, freshened up and headed out in the London tube to check out the Queen's land.
Went to Leicester Square , the hip place for shopping and pubbing. Vivek , the local host treated us Hagen Daas ice creams, the best ever toffee cream flavour I have eaten till date. We walked up to Trafalgar square from there. That is the spot where Amrish Puri in DDLJ starts off with "yeh London hai..."
It has some lovely sights and the 4 lions which we could never propel ourselves to sit on.



Then we crossed the road and walked up to the banks of Thames and saw the Big Ben and London Eye, that huge wheel. It costs a whopping 16 pounds to sit on that wheel and God knows do what! A super slow giant wheel ride or something!

We walked along the South banks of Thames and then over Millennium bridge, which is held by only 2 suspensions; Tower bridge, the London bridge which is "falling down". I distinctly remember singing "jinke marina" and dancing over the London bridges, oh yeah! Su and I salsa'd as well :-)

On May 2, we went to Westminister Abbey and spent a good 2 hours checking out the English Architecture. I feel the Abbey is over stuffed with all kinds of people's graves and we couldn't recognize most of them.
Walked along St. James park to the Buckingham palace. The Saturday morning sunshine was too tempting to not take a lazy roll on the green carpets with daises. Sure we did.
Buckingham palace was very ordinary in terms of looks and feel. Infact, I think the architecture is noway comparable to Mysore palace or any other palace I have seen. The grandeur I expected was somehow missing.

We took the train to Hyde Park, where we had a picnic lunch packed from Tesco's. Super market lunches are the best way to have a local meal and still save money :-)
We did hang around in Hyde park for a while, walked around the lake, used the Gent's toilet like many other girls did, had a coffee on the banks of the lake..

Headed to Imli for dinner with "Bangaloreans in London". Dont ask me why we went to an Indian restaurant on the 2 day out of India. But it was indeed a special dinner for me because after dinner I got a surprise ice cream cake with a candle and 16 people singing me Happy Birthday, in London, 4 days after my birthday. I just loved it.



Went to Ministry of Sound to party that night away. I didn't get drunk but partied like crazy. And I shall say no more.

3 May, the sunday, we just lazed around in North Acton at the friend's place where we crashed after the party. Did our Eurail night train/coach bookings for the next trip and then I fled to the Sin City :D

You might be interested in these if you are planning a visit:

Visa : UK multiple entry visitor's visa. It costs Rs. 4900 or 65 pounds
From South India, mail for appointment: appointmentsouth@vfs-uk-in.com
Read more details on http://www.vfs-uk-in.com/

Places to Stay: Youth Hostels are always a good option. They are safe, clean and frugal. Don't forget to research (Google search) on Trip Advisor, etc for the reviews before you book your hostel online. Usually Google suggested hostels are decent enough!
Internal transport : You can use the tube service, which is London's under ground meter. It is the best deal for longer routes (ex: from the airport to the hostel, or to suburbs). For horter distances, use the bus service. Buy the Oyster card for the best deals. See below for more info on Oyster cards.
Climate: Very pleasant during the months of May, June, July., which is the onset of summer.
Food: English food. Fish and chips, baked beans. For cheaper food, see below.
Language: English
Souvenirs: Harrods goodies, Cadbury's chocolates. London is the house of Carbury, so it is the cheapest and you get the best of flavors.

Some info for low budget travelers:
-Return tickets from India cost me ~Rs.27k booking just 45 days before departure. Look out for those good deals but dont enter the perpetual search loop. And just book from the airline website.
- Youth hostels are a very safe and clean stay for budget travelers. YMCA in London is among those decent Indian stays with Pongal as breakfast. We booked online http://www.indianymca.org/ and had to pay a 10% deposit. 25 pounds is a very good deal for a place like central London which is well connected by public transport.
- Buy Oyster card for London local transport from any tube station underground. They give the best deals for bus and tube services and the maximum you spend on a day's travel is 7 pounds. What more do you want?
- To have local food and still save money, try the super markets (we got some really cool chocolate donuts and super fresh salads in Tesco) or the side walk cafe takeaways. In London, sitting in Hyde park and eating is a cool thing!

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