The land of Big Ben & Scottish whiskies – London, United Kingdom

I visited London in the month of June in 2011 and tell you it’s one of the ideal months to visit this country. United Kingdom, as you hear the name itself you get a feeling, that you are in a kingdom of your dreams which is ruled by a King and a Queen and you have palaces around with beautiful gardens stretching over kilometers away. Even the surrounding villages (referred as Counties) has those story book kind of image. Huge cottages with lush green gardens in the front, long and narrow pathways connecting to each of the cottages to the main lane, streams flowing aside and I guess I am running short of words now. Nevertheless the beauty is beyond everything.
I landed at the Heathrow airport in London along with mom. We had to reach East Hampstead station by picking a metro from the airport subway till the middle way and then change the line and get into another metro. Now I was clearly instructed by my good friend to pick a map which is available anywhere in the airport and tell you it was definitely a savior for us during our entire trip. We were though two of us but the amount of luggage was equal to 6 items and just imagine how we managed it. We reached the middle way and then from there in order to change the line we had to cross the platform and wait for the metro which comes from the opposite direction. Now anywhere in abroad, the subway stations are always empty and you would see the crowd coming in and going out only 5 seconds before and after the train arrives. People 2 and luggage 6, so I told mom that we would do it one by one as to cross the platform the only option with us was stairs. As soon as I lifted my suitcase and kept on the first step, to my horror the front handle just came off. I couldn’t blame the suitcase as it was a 15 year old purchase. It gave its fullest and we just couldn’t expect anything more of it but you know the whole timing for all this was so bad. We both looked at each other as to lift the suitcase (which weighed around 23kgs) all from the side handle where you have the provision of the trolley was a bit more uncomfortable but then had to do it step by step. But then something happened which made us realize that God has employed his angels around. All of a sudden this tall black guy comes in saying, “Can I help you ma’am?” and I not wasting a single sec just acknowledged him with a “YES”. He made sure that we both are on the other side of the platform with all our belongings and we thanked him whole heartedly. We got into the next metro for our destination and by 1pm we were at the PG where we intended to stay for the next one week. The owners hailed from Andhra Pradesh and we were more than happy to be served with Dosa’s with variety of chutneys for our lunch. We then relaxed for the day and in the evening, my friend came and gave us the tickets for Scotland. I was quite quizzed when he gave me 3 tickets for each of us for which I asked him the reason also, but then he himself didn’t know for what. So I just decided to keep it safely.

The next day, we had to travel to Scotland for our 3 days stay and my train timing was at 10.30am from a local station there. Now I thought if we leave at 9-9.15 types from our PG, we would have sufficient time to catch the 10.30am train. My theory went wrong a bit as by the time we reached the local station, it was already 10.05 and then also I was pretty confident of boarding the train. But then when we proceeded further to figure out the platform we realized that how big is the local station there and more than big it was rather confusing as we asked so many people around and climbed n number of steps to finally reach the platform at 10.31am. We did see our train just moving from the platform. And all thanks to the Bollywood movie DDLJ in making the scene of allowing the heroine getting inside the train with the help of the hero, look so easy and manageable. In reality it does not work that way 😛 . Have to mention here about the fact that the doors gets closed before the train starts moving 🙂 . So me and mom ran a few steps along with the train hoping that the driver see’s this and will stop…Lol but then that happens only in the movies and if it happens in real then I guess definitely not with trains at least…Rolf. Now we were left with 3 tickets each in our hands and an empty platform with our luggage. I guess it’s time for the mystery behind 3 tickets to get unveiled…haha. We walked into a security personnel on the platform and told him about our situation and wanted to get his advice on this. He then asked us about the other tickets which we had and told us that we can utilize the 2nd ticket which was scheduled for the next train to Scotland at 11am. Now then we understood the reason behind 3 tickets getting issued to each of us. If we miss the train for the first time, we can utilize the 2nd ticket and in case if we even miss the 2nd time we utilize the 3rd one. Awesome right!!! The only point is that we do not get to sit on already reserved seats in these trains. But then the amount of people are so less in the trains that we still can sit anywhere we wish.

We reached Scotland at around 1.30pm and then by the time we checked in our hotel it was 2pm and all thanks to Vishwanath (my good old engg mate and Sapna’s hubby) for virtually providing me with directions which helped us to reach so fast 😉 . We finished our lunch in the hotel and relaxed for a while before heading towards the local market in the evening. Scotland is famous for its whiskies, the amount of which it manufactures and exports it to all over the world. So I had to visit this Scotch Whisky Experience which was just in front of the Edinburgh Castle and decided to visit it the other day. If you see the buildings, churches and houses in Scotland you feel it’s highly influenced by the Roman architecture. The roads all over the place are cobbled ones and gives you a medieval era look. We did a bit of shopping that evening and headed back towards our hotel.

We had planned the next day visit to The Scottish Highlands where you find the Lochness Monster. Now it’s an age old story which tells you about the Lochness being the alleged home to the monster. Lochness is basically a large, deep and freshwater lake. We tried our best to find the monster but all in vain. We still managed to site few swans for sure in the lake 😉 . We did spend our quality time sitting near the lake side and hearing to the Scottish pipers around. You can also go in a cruise ride which extends a bit more than an hour and also gives you some more angles to witness the beauty of this place. The captain of the cruise keeps reminding you about the monster and people do tend to look out for it every now and then. The drive back to Edinburgh is so mesmerizing just like in Wuthering Heights.

The next day we visited the Scotch whisky experience. In the beginning, it takes you into a replica distillery thru a barrel ride and makes you a part of the whisky making process. The expert tour guides and whisky advisors make sure you enjoy every sip of whisky (as they do offer one that flavors your palate) along with the information. They also help us in discovering the aromas and flavors’ being produced from different areas in and around Scotland. They have this huge whisky shop displaying the largest collection of Scotch whisky bottles (well over 3000 different bottles….absolutely stunning!!!).

We had to leave back to London as our train was scheduled at 2.30pm and this time we didn’t wanted to take any chance. We were at the station by 2pm and boarded the train correctly and by 6pm we were back in London. The next few days were in London itself. We visited the famous London Eye, took a ride on it and as soon as you reach the middle on top, the view of Thames River with the Big Ben ticking right ahead is so wonderful. You get enough time on this to view the entire London from top. Then we visited the Madame Tussauds Wax museum.

the Wax Museum

The highlight for mom here was to stand next to Big B and get a pic. And so I was like “Your wish is my command, ma’am”. We did glance through all the wax statues and yeah few of them were really good. We did visit the famous Tower Bridge which crosses the Thames River. It’s basically a suspension bridge which splits up in the middle when large ships move across and is considered one of the iconic landmarks of London. I am sure as a kid everyone would have read the “London Bridge is falling down” rhyme and this is one of the mistaken identity of Tower Bridge. People mistake Tower Bridge with the London Bridge (includes me too), where as the London Bridge is the next bridge that comes upstream. When you go on the cruise ride which starts at the Tower Bridge you get along to see the actual London Bridge too. The view of the Tower Bridge splitting up and raising to some angle is breath taking.

You have these special Red double decker buses only for sightseeing called as Hop-on/Hop-off buses and you can travel the whole day around London at affordable rates. And before leaving London I made sure that I buy a suitcase 🙂 .

My special mention here goes to Vishwa and Sapna for making the entire trip even more memorable because they say when you are with close friends especially outside your own country, there is no other match able thing to it. We did visit to Swindon also and had a good stay at their place. Thank you guys for everything.

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