top of page


11th April 2017 to 15th April 2017

From my UK & Ireland diary

We got to visit London as a part of our 21 day tour to UK & Ireland.  The first 5 days of this trip was spent in this city of Royals, well known for its medieval & architectural buildings.  Just a group of 5, yes smaller this time, but happy travellers ranging from ages 11 to 63.  We got out a little before midnight from our homes in India to take our flight to THE CITY.

Screen Shot 2020-02-23 at 4.21.30 PM.png

11th April 2017 : (Day 1) We reached London airport around 3 pm. Our mode of travel for the next five days was local transport. It was already an exciting thought to travel in this city like a local.

We purchased our Oyster cards at the arrival hall, at one of the allocated counters. This card allowed unlimited utilisation of all modes of public transport in the city.

A 4 day pass (24hours x 4) costed us around 28EUR per head, i.e 

around INR2500/-. At the end of our journey EUR5 would be returned per card at the time of surrendering it.  Read in detail about the pass here.


London is rated as one of the more expensive cities in the world. But, with a little planning, it is easy to visit this city on an amazingly decent budget.  I would advise people to stay away from the city centre which is expensive.  Just choose to stay in a place where there is easy access to public transport that will reach you to the city centre in 30 to 40 minutes time. That would suffice.  Accommodation would normally cost anywhere from INR2500/- to INR2800/- per person, per night in places little away from the city centre.  So a typical 5 day stay will cost you around 15k plus local transport of 2.5k. Work out to book your flights early to get some offers or cheap fares and you are good to go. Trust me, there is no better way to get a real feel of London, than to travel by its well knit  public transport.

We zeroed in on a decent airbnb apartment in Wards Wharf approach, Pontoon dock. This area is just 20 minutes by metro or as they call it - the "DLR" line, to the city centre.  It took us an hour by taxi to get to this place, from the airport. We comfortably snuggled up and enjoyed the short visual tour of the city as our good driver, a kind Pakistani, rode us home safely, impressing us with his extremely smooth driving skills. He helped us a lot with our luggage in front of our our accommodation. Unfortunately, he forgot to collect his money for the ride.  It was a whooping GBP110. We tried reaching him when the "miss out" struck us, but couldn't get through to him despite several trials.  I remember him mentioning his personal travel plan outside London, immediately after our drop. We just let it be.

Wow! I just can't stop raving about this self-catering accommodation that was situated on the 6th floor of an apartment building, so safe and secure.  To top it all, it was situated right on top of river Thames and had a fantastic balcony view.  This home away from home, a beauty by itself, enhanced by the awesomeness of night & day views by the river, was our residence for the next 5 days.  

We settled down quickly.  The evening saw us stepping out for some cool breeze around the dock coupled with shopping for groceries at the nearby "NISA" stores. Cooking our own dinner amidst sharing life stories of each other, put us on a high that night, so much so that we almost set the kitchen on fire.  The fire alarm hooted, awakening us from our story telling and laughter session. After an episode of frantic fire fighting, we had to lay the "flamed up" pan in the balcony to cool it down & also bring peace to the alarm. The beautiful night views along the Thames River freshened up our minds. We called it a day. 

I somehow seemed to have lost the pictures taken, but luckily I still have my travel diary, of which I have made a short video of the relevant pages, to share what I have. Click on it to see larger images.


You can make your own handy, book sized, travel record using just like I did.

12th April 2017 : (Day 2)  We woke up to the morning alarm of the  "cackling" sea gulls. What more could one ask for! The silent waters of the Thames, sleeping towns on either sides of its banks, rugged rocks running for a short distance near our apartment. The rocks were being circled by the gulls who were on their morning round of exercise. The sight from the balcony was sheer bliss !

After a sumptuous home made breakfast, we packed our lunch boxes and left home at around 7:30 am. 

The Oyster card at work.  Understanding the London public transport system is very easy if you've done a little bit of homework. My DIY trips work like a clock, to make the most of time available and we never miss the chance to see what is planned earlier.  And so, with a punctual transportation system as this and a little planning ahead, it works like a killer-combo.


We took the DLR (Dock light railway) at the Pontoon Dock station, which was at a distance of 6 minute walk from our apartment. An episode of one of the participant forgetting his Oyster card at home, took some time to set right. But all was good soon.  


The DLR station was already busy with loads of people travelling on work.The station has 2 platforms and is easy to understand. We took the next train to reach the "Bank station" and further took the tube railway to reach the "Queensway" Station. The journey was fun as we got to see a little bit of the city from mid air. 

8:15 am  - We walked up to the Kensington Palace, surrounded with Lush green Kensington Gardens.  This house of Princess Diana was as elegant as her. The atmosphere was so Royal & enchanting. Public had free access to the garden land, running acres & acres around the Palace. We spotted people cycling around the garden, walking their dogs or just sitting around for fresh air, at that time of the day. However, access to the palace is restricted. After taking a stroll around the gardens, seeing many monuments and fountains around, we completed the entire stretch by walking up to the other end. (check photos from my diary, displayed with my story from day 1) .

9:15 am - We crossed the Royal Albert Memorial just outside the gate.  A few minutes for a short photo shoot here after which we walked up to the Royal Albert Hall, for a pre-booked, guided, tour.   It is a red coloured dome shaped Royal auditorium & mildly yellow bordered.    It was first time I had witnessed an auditorium of that size, originally having a seating capacity of 12000 and odd, but currently restricted to 5000, due to safety reasons.  Her Highness, the Queen, addresses the Royal audience in the main hall, here, whenever required, even today.  It is just at a 5 minute walking distance from the Kensington Gardens.


We flashed our tickets for the tour at the reception counter. There were many people joining the same tour as ours. We realised that there was more than one stage, meant for performances, inside this massive structure.  There were children, dressed in costumes, participating in some event being held there at the same time, on one of the many stages available there.  We stood around witnessing the happenings around the hall, before our tour guide arrived with her introduction.  


The tour lasted for an hour and half. The historical facts were mind blowing.  This hall was the single most structure having an unsupported dome shaped roof, at the time it was built.  We were stunned to hear that the roof area alone was 20000 square feet. Tonnes of Iron were used to restructure the dome roof. I suggest you read more about the hall here. Go ahead & be amazed ! 


As we gaped at the interiors in awe, we were even more thrilled at being allowed to be seated in the auditorium, to get a feel of it.  It was very informative, listening to the entire history behind its making and maintenance till date. The hall held a high dome shaped roofing. What we could see is an array of ivory coloured, huge discs suspended from the roof.  The spherical shaped hall displayed seating arrangements that were split into various tiers on either side of the centre stage. The second and third tiers had seating boxes arranged. The other tiers had normal seating arrangement. There was separate seating always allocated for members of the Royal family, on one of the tiers, each time the queen addressed the crowd.


Fun fact 1 :- These seating boxes even get auctioned at times. Recently, a rate of 3 million pounds was quoted for a 12 seat box, situated right next to the queen's seating. The costliest ever bid in real estate in the UK , just to have the queen as your neighbour, while seated in the auditorium. 


The queen's seating box has a head of a woman carved on top of it, for easy identification.The red & ivory coloured decorated interiors, the massive central stage that could be spotted from any corner of the hall, all this & more stories kept us astonished. It was totally worth taking the tour with so much information being shared with us.


Fun fact 2 :-The Grand Organ- which is a big bunch of musical pipes, situated in the Royal Albert Hall in London is said to be the second largest pipe organ in the whole United Kingdom. This is displayed right behind the centre stage. 


People going to London should definitely not miss this tour. It is totally worth the money.  After our tour we were offered free coffee and pastries as a part of the ticket , which we had chosen at the time of booking.  It was a yummy treat.


Once again, I am able to share pictures from the relevant pages of my travel diary. Check out the Grandeur !

A short video of the interiors of the Royal Albert Hall

By 11 am we were through and were out on the streets.  A 5 minute walk from the hall lead us to the NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM.  We were intimidated by its sheer size.  We had about an hour allocated for this, but knew instantly that it was injustice to the countless collections.  We tried to make our best in the little time we had, which otherwise could easily have lasted an entire day.

There are plenty of museums on that road and we had to choose just one, due to our short stay in this capital city.  Honestly, the entire list of museum could easily last for about 4-5 days to explore.  So all you "Museum Lovers" please bear that in mind. 

The museum had a huge central hall, and was split into many sections and department. From ancient animal & human bones to detailed information on development and evolution of all forms of life, the museum has all this and much more to offer. It his highly organised and easy to follow.  Each section gave so many details, I really felt great injustice in just hovering around the halls.  I loved the huge board exhibiting an array of human skulls, varying in shapes & sizes, as per the era they had existed in, in human form.  That is one collection that said so much about the evolution of man, that could be easily grasped, even by a layman, without reading further.  - " Tracing our origin" it read.  There was another section where the bones of dinosaurs were displayed in a huge hall.  It was like a movie setting, highly unimaginable that some creature of a massive size as that even existed.   A big clap to all those archeologists and people who worked hard to collect a plethora of information and help us understand life as it exists today. 

It was 12:30 noon at the blink of an eye.  There was still so much to discover at the museum, but sadly we had to leave. We walked up to the South Kensington station, grabbed a quick bite at that railway station and headed towards Earl's Court, to reach South Fields station.  We then took a bus to SOMERSET road. Can you take a good guess as to where we were heading ?......

WIMBLEDON it was !.  By 2:00 pm we reached this world famous tennis courts. Our excitement knew no bounds. We had scheduled our participation in a comprehensive tour of the courts. To set foot on the land where this much loved game is played by world class participants & enjoyed by millions, was literally a dream come true.  

As we arrived slightly early, we visited the museum.  We felt elated as we moved from displays of one shining trophy to another in the museum hall. We were happy posing next to each of them. It really felt prestigious.  The museum had displays of "old" to recently used accessories of this game, by various players, ever since the game evolved.


The tour soon began. It lasted for 2 hours. On every wall we laid our eyes, there were massive green coloured boards providing various statistics of the game. For eg. the list of winners in each category, every year, till date. The guide showed us around the courts and explained as to when each of these courts were used.  The area was vast.  The outdoor courts looked green and were well maintained.  The pain behind maintaining the green grass as per the design mandate & at the required height, was explained to us. The robust lawn mower, specifically made for this job,  stood outside the courts waiting to be used, when required.  People worked round the clock to maintain standards.  There was renovation happening in one of the courts.


We were then led to the stadium area where the main court lay - it is referred to as the "Centre Court". This is where the Wimbledon Championship takes place.  We walked through a few corridors and swished down elevators to reach a cemented ground at the basement level. This level had about 2-3 outlets running upward, to enter the courts.  The guide led us through one particular outlet,  up a few stairs, to reach the main stadium.  I had goose bumps when she explained that this was the stairs, using which the players entered the arena.  Imagine Serena or Djokovic climbing their way up, to enter the centre court, amidst resounding cheer. Yes, that's the one I am talking of.

The stadium seats approximately 15000 people.  Did you know that the procedure to bag one of those chairs to witness THE game is vide a Ballot process.  Until then I thought that seats were available only to members or by invitation.  I was amazed at the fact that any one, around the world, could apply for a seat, to watch the game. The existing Ballot process selects audience, vide a computerised system. Such selection also randomly allots one such game to be watched by that selected person.  Not much choice on that. You can read more about the entire process here. It is such good information.


We had the opportunity to sit on those glossy, deep bottle green chairs in the stadium, while the explanations were on.   The court has a retractable roof, to ensure that rain does not stop the game.  The entire court could be covered in matter of seconds, at the press of a button. That's what I call technology in place.

The guide also explained how the massive score board that is fitted on one corner, right behind the court, is still handled manually during a game.  Interesting.  Wish I could witness one such game, in my life time, sitting there.  

We were led past the lawn area next. Right in the centre, there was a tree planted under which, the grass as seen from an aerial angle,  was shaped in the form of a tennis ball. After meandering around various practice courts and other courts, which we were told totalled upto 18 in number, we reached the lawn area beyond the "Centre Court".  One could be seated in this lawn outside the court relishing the life size video display of the game. People watching from the lawn, seemingly had more fun, out in the open.  It was beautiful out there.  

We walked back indoors, towards a building on the other side, where we were led to a room allocated for BBC.  The view of the court from the windows here, was crystal clear.  It was the highlight of our tour to stand on its floor.  There are two rooms. One small one where , BBC conducts interviews with players one on one, and,  a bigger one, where the game, when in progress, is discussed in detail. I mean, the one which we get to watch on TV, during a game.  Awesomeness !

The two hours passed so quickly, as we heard with keen concentration and learnt many things that we never knew or had heard of. 

At around 5 pm, we took a return bus from Somerset stop to reach the  Wimbledon train station.  A half hour train ride to reach Victoria station in the city centre. The next destination was the WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL.  

Taking the immediate right from the Victoria station & heading straight on that road road, we got to the Cathedral which was about a 5 minute walk.   The  "Red Bricked & White striped"  Cathedral stole my heart. The red bricks so used, are said to be hand moulded & made to order.  On our way we did stop at the "Little Ben".  I even spotted my favourite - the HSBC building  (which has been my one & only work place, in my home country.  I, therefore, am always thrilled to find this wonderful building,  in every place I visit).  

The entrance to this Cathedral is free.  We are always pleased to visit churches and cathedrals.  We sat in silence, observed the interiors for a while, offered our prayers and made our way out.


Bus stop outside Victoria station


Little Ben


Interiors of the Cathedral


Westminster Cathedral


It was 5:45 pm when boarded a bus just outside the Cathedral square to reach the WESTMINSTER ABBEY . This is the Royal church where Prince William and Kate Middleton got married.  The tour of this church is possible with an entrance fee.  The services here, however, can be attended for free.  We chose to look at the exteriors as we still had more to come that evening. Next to this church is "St. Margaret's Church". The area is also surrounded by the Big Ben standing tall & proud, attached to the Parliament house building.


Westminster Abbey


Lee Bolton Monier Williams law firm


St. Margaret's Church

The first picture that shoots out of one's mind when talking of London is this very area. Seeing it alive in front of my eyes was just unbelievable. The vibes experienced here are really Royal. One must feel it to believe it.   

We were in front of the Parliament square.  It was just a month or two since the "Stabbing of a police officer" incident had occurred, in that very place. We could spot increased security all around.  It also had got us worried about our tour at that time, as we had booked our flights already.  But all was well and under control by the time we got to the city. 


This place is the starting point of the western end of the Westminster bridge that connects the Big Ben to the eastern side of the city.  River Thames right under the bridge, curves its way like a boneless reptile, across the entire city. To the left of the eastern end of the bridge,  lies the London Eye. It was 6:30 pm and a lovely cool walk across the bridge.   We climbed down a few stairs, at the eastern end, on the right side, just to catch the glory of the Parliament House from there.  After enjoying the cool breeze there, in total seclusion, we climbed up again to cross the road & reach the London eye, on the other side.  

While crossing the road we spotted the sculpted stone lion placed on a high pedestal, against a visually appealing back ground. It is commonly referred to as the "South Bank Lion" or "Red lion". As we reached the other side and climbed down the stairs, the surrounding was just electrifying. It seemed like a carnival.  The first stair I took downward, I sighted this longish, off-white floored pathway, open to the sky, called "the Queen's walk" filled with tons of people. They were just whiling away their time or busy with their own thing. A few boats ferried people up and down the river seen on the left of the "Queen's walk".  Lights were just about coming up in the city, making the scene even more attractive.   "The London Eye"- the giant wheel,  as we could see, was slowly churning around its centre. It was at a walkable distance and lay  in the same line as the Sea Aquarium and Shrek's adventure 

We pushed through the throng and got to the Big Ben. What looked like a comparatively roomy place from a distance, proved us wrong as we approached the ticketing office. The queue for the tickets was unimaginable,  We thanked our stars as ours was booked much in advance. We got to join another queue to directly get on to the ride. That queue was not any better.  There were plenty of fellow Indians waiting already. The cacophony in Hindi  (an Indian language), suddenly gave us a feel of our home country, in a foreign land.  The fast approaching dark skies, the slow lighting up of the city,   the mammoth wheel in front of us with glass capsules placed at regular intervals, shining red coloured lights passing through the white pipes that formed the spokes & the support system of each of the capsules, all  this and more came to fill our vision.  


At a time, a single capsule carried around 20-25 people with plenty of room for more. Sequentially, a capsule stopped right in front of the the queue the riders got out and the "checking officer" let  20 people in,  after emptying the earlier lot. The process was moving quite fast.  When it was our turn, it took less than 30 seconds for us to get into our capsule and be locked in, before it moved upward in a circle.


Fabulous is an understatement of the views we experienced from inside of the Capsule.  Luckily, the closed capsule, did not oscillate. It is just the Giant Wheel that moved at such a slow pace that one entire circular ride lasted 30 minutes.  We never felt the movement while we were inside. This gave room for plenty of photos from an aerial angle.  We captured the most ravishing night views of the city.  The city was indeed offering us what it had promised.  No doubts on that.  The eye catching "London Eye".

After one ride, a few of us were lucky enough to get a second chance.  We had a few extra tickets, of people who sadly could not make it for this tour at the very last moment, due to reasons beyond control.  We put those tickets to good use.  This time the views were even better as the sky was completely dark, by the time we reached the top yet again.

The entire affair was over by 8:30 pm.  We were hungry.  We dined at a nearby Indian Restaurant. Nothing much to describe about the food there. It was a little sad. The environment was still sizzling at that time of the night, which made up for the sad food.

By 8:50 pm we jumped on to a train from the Waterloo station which was at about 5 minutes walking distance from the restaurant. We took the Jubilee line towards Stratford.  Changing trains to DLR at Canning town Station, we reached Pontoon Dock, headed home to hit the bed.

It was quite a day !     Pictures and Video below ....

13th April 2017 :  (Day 3)  Yet another amazing morning ! Our Apartment in Pontoon Dock was in a "skyscraper" building.  We felt like lilliput,  posing next to it.

We were by now so comfortable with the Public transportation system.  We set out on our journey for the day.

It was around 8:10 am when we boarded our DLR to reach the Green Park Station.  From there we took the Piccadilly line to reach Leicester Square station.

By 9:00 am, we were out of Leicester Square Station and walked down the road.  We reached the square, that had a water fountain in the centre. It squirted water from holes that were drilled all around in a circle, at intervals.  This circular pathway was nearly at a  5 metre radius from the monument placed at the centre.  The water squirted from each hole at a time, to a height of about 12 feet from the ground and completed the whole circle, in a loop. Some photos and videos below:

 Click to move or double click to  enlarge

Short video of Leicester square fountain

(Click to play)

After a brief photo session, by around 9:30 am, we walked to the Piccadilly Circus, which is another square (and not any circus). It is well know for being so colourful and a busy. It is a delightful shopping place.  The night views are said to be second to none here,  with neon boards inviting one's vision.  We, however, settled for the morning views, bought a few souvenirs & spent a while assimilating the surrounding vibes. The centre of this junction has the "Shaftesbury memorial fountain" popularly known as the "Eros" installed, on the foot of which hundreds of people crowd around or just sit on its steps.  There are plenty of tourist attractions around this place, but we chose to move on to our next stop - the Trafalgar Square - from here.

We found our bus stop & took a bus to the Trafalgar stop. The bus just takes 3 minutes for this journey, but it is always a pleasure to look around the city using public transport.  We took advantage of our unlimited transport using the "Oyster" card.  A walk from Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar takes around 8 to 10 minutes. 


The Trafalgar Square is the biggest public square in the UK.  It is so pleasing to the eye. This 13th Century square has all modern looks to match the current day. It has so much history behind it. A lot of information is also displayed around the square.   The Central pillar called the Nelson's column, the four lions sculpted on its four corners,  the Embassy office situated as the backdrop,  fountains, roads on either sides adjacent to the square and also in front of it, is what one can witness in this place.

For a little bit of History behind the lions in the square, you can click here

At about a 2 minute walking distance from the square lies the ADMIRALTY ARCH.  This Arch forms the gateway from the Trafalgar Square, right up to the Buckingham palace. The Royal Processions pass this way.  Its truly an architectural wonder.   Today it is of modern usage and houses clubs, cafes, hotels and more.  We cannot single out one prominent building in London, each one is unique in its own way and holds its own story to tell.  What impressed me more is the beautiful website of this particular building.  You can see it for yourself here.

Piccadilly Circus

Click to enlarge & view full sized pictures. 

Trafalgar Square


The Square


The Nelson Monument


The Lions around the monument


The National Gallery


The National Gallery flanked by various embassies

At around 10:15 am we boarded a bus from Trafalgar square to reach a stop on the "PALL MALL" street.  This street runs parallel to "The Mall" street that stretches an entire length upto the Buckingham Palace. St.James Palace is located on the  Marlborough road, perpendicular to both "Pall Mall" & "The Mall".  The Brownish- red bricked Palace was built during the life time of King Henry VIII and to this date is used for various royal meetings and sometimes even houses the members of the Royal family. We couldn't find enough time to tour this palace, we walked down Marlborough road, posed in front of this Palace for a few pictures and turned right on to "THE MALL".  The length & width of this street is bigger than the normal.  The "Horse Procession" had just begun, from one side of this street, towards the BUCKINGHAM PALACE.  The roads were being cleared.


Our Bus to Pall Mall


Pall Mall Junction


St. James Palace as seen from Pall Mall


Marlborough Road


St. James Palace as seen from Marlborough road


"The Mall" street

We were allowed to walk all along "The Mall" to reach the Buckingham Palace. You can spot the Palace at the far end, in the picture to the left. The roads laid here, leave you smitten by their "spotlessly clean" look.  As we got closer to the palace, the views grew spectacular. A small garden filled with yellow & red tulips in front of the palace, adds to the beauty of the building. There are various monuments placed strategically, in front of the Palace, around which millions flock.  As you can see in the auto-slide show below, the Palace is secured  by Black painted fencing, running all around, with its top edges shaped like a flowery spear, painted golden & pointing upward. The Royal gates, carry the "Coat of Arms" on them. This is the Symbol of UK depicting valour & strength.  There is great history behind this symbol alone which  can run into pages. You can read about it, if you wish to, right here

We were a part of the whole gathering there to witness the CHANGING OF THE GUARDS ceremony.  We saw a procession of Horses laden with soldiers in their royal attire. One set of soldiers were in black and the other in Red & Golden, parading through the entire "Pall Mall", on their horse backs. This Horse procession precedes the guard

changing process.   All this was happening in quick succession.  During the "Changing of Guards", the existing guards who stand by the Palace gates, guarding various entry points, are relieved by new guards.  This procedure takes place every 8 hours of the day. A main guard marches in with the new guards behind him, checks the boxed enclosure of the existing guards & some papers maintained in such enclosure, signs them off with a royal march, after which, the new guards take positions.  It is astonishing to watch the guards stand put in their places, continuously for many hours, without moving an inch. What is more surprising is that this process has been in place for hundreds of years and is still followed under the same strict rules. I googled up to find out that the process began in 1689. Could I have been one of the Royal members in my previous birth I wonder :). 

The crowd kept building up around the palace, in the meantime. We managed to shove our shoulders through the highly compressed crowd and find ourselves a place to get a good view of the entire ceremony, though the fencing. The long wait got us a bit impatient, but we still managed to stay put. Finally, at the end of almost an hour,  a  resounding drum beat woke up the crowd.  Extremely fair, doll like, red dressed guards, wearing pitch black Velvet hats, as seen in the pictures, marched into the Palace verandah like robots.  The exchanged places with the current guards in an orderly manner. I managed to take some "vibrating" video shots through the railings, which I have shared below.   It reminded me a little of my school days where we used to conduct ourselves to a "March Past", exchanging our group house flags, during a sports event.   But, was the Long sweaty wait in this cold country worth it? No comments :))

By around 12:30pm, we walked by the Palace gates to its eastern end, took a road running next to it called the "Constitution Hill".  We had the opportunity to ride  the world famous "London Black Taxi" from here. It was a short ride upto HYDE PARK . We just wanted to experience the much prestigious ride, which lasted less than 5 minutes.   The taxi driver dropped us off past the "Wellington Arch", near the Hyde Park corner.

We entered the park to a scene of well maintained green carpet.  The park is huge and is used by public regularly.  It was slightly drizzling by then, talk of European natural showers.  We thanked our stars that it didn't rain while at the Palace. We treated ourselves to a hot cup of coffee at the park.  We settled at a few  tables provided in the open to relish our home cooked lunch.  We also got ourselves some warm eats from the shop.  Later, we spent a while at the park, sitting on the grass and chilling out.   The rain didn't make things very pleasant for us, but we managed to stay , even though a little wet.

It was almost 2 pm when we walked down to the other end of the park, to reach the "MARBLE ARCH" .  We stopped for a photo shoot, made our way through the arch, crossed the road to get to Mc'Donalds for a loo break.

We were now on Oxford street.  This is a shopping haven for shopaholics.  It stretches upto almost 2 kms, from Marble Arch till the Tottenham court station.  Almost all brands and even affordable unbranded shops are found in and around this area.  Clothes, accessories, stationery, groceries, kitchenware you name it, can be found here.  

It took us almost an hour to decide which way to go, after a brief window shopping session. Everything looked attractive.  We decide to split and go our own ways and meet up by 6 pm at a particular point.  This worked.  Each one got in and out of the shop they preferred.  The purchases were heavy.  Mostly gift shopping for family & fiends back home.  The size of the H&M store, blew us away.  Hey ! the quality differs from those available in our home country.  May be its the fabric.  May be its the dressing style . May be its the cold weather almost all times of the year there,  that resulted in this difference.  Whatever !! We shopped like crazy.  3 hours just flew past and we still had covered only around 2 -3 shops.  Seemed like we needed the entire week to complete the road.  By 6 pm, we hadn't covered even half of the road.  We all met up and took a short bus ride to the end of the road - the Tottenham station. When we got off there, the shopping opportunity seemed even better on both sides of the road.  It was getting dark, we decided to stay a bit longer.  Finally on consensus of all, we got into more shops.  Our hands were getting heavier. At the end of it we still hadn't shopped to our heart's content.  What a day !

We took the Central line from Tottenham court to reach Bank Station and thereafter took the DLR to Pontoon Dock.  By now, we were almost locals.

8:00 pm : Back home, some yummy hot food, a long chat filled with laughter is how I can recall it now.  We called it a day, to start another one with a bang !.The balcony views seemed more beautiful.  We spotted few colourful crackers bursting in the dark skies on the other end of the town.  It was refreshing to stand in the open there, on the 6th floor before we hit our beds.

14th April 2017 :  (Day 4)  : We celebrated our TAMIL NEW YEAR (VISHU) in London. We arranged a small "Vishu Kani" set up with all fruits, cereals, currency notes and coins possible.  A little mirror was placed in the Centre. (It is believed that on this auspicious day, God showers each one, throughout the year,  with all what they cast their eyes on, as soon as they wake up on this day).

Yet another long and interesting day ahead of us. 

By 8:30 am, after our breakfast and some payasam (sweet dish usually prepared on auspicious days & festivals), we took the DLR to Canning town, to reach the "Tower Gateway" stop.

At about a distance of a 10 minute walk from this station lies the "Tower of London".  It is not a tower , but a fort. It is a beautiful castle in London, that worked as a prison from the ancient times.  It is known for its "torturous" methods of treating prisoners.  It today serves more as a museum and is visited by millions of people all year round.  We also were aware that the famous "KOHINOOR" diamond,from India, is preserved here on one of the crowns, that this tower maintains.  We were eager to cast a glance on that.

We could spot the Fortress from a distance.  It occupied a huge mass of land.


The moment we got there, we made it quickly to the queue with our pre-booked voucher, which were exchanged for tickets at the venue.  The wait outside for a while, was worth it as it gave us some time for photo shoots. 

Soon the queue began to move and within no time we were inside the fortress.  We were each provided an audio guide at the entrance. The numbers of each room along with the collections they maintained was displayed at a common place.  People could choose what they wanted to see. We primarily chose the "Prison" and the "Crown Jewels".


Entering the Prison area,  ghastly stories of executions were narrated and recorded shadow play demonstrations of how prisoners were punished here, was displayed.  We were totally shocked by its beastly history. The prison was indeed notorious. The prisoners were obviously severely tortured and most remained scarred till death.  The fortress is said to have been used as a prison till mid 1900's.  You can read one such torture method in the photograph right here.   (click on the pic, zoom & read in full size)

We couldn't shrug the experience of our minds for a while.  We were soon out in the open and followed a long queue running upward, towards the "Crown Jewels" room.

It was worth the long wait. The queue took us to a basement area soon.  Around 20000 jewels were displayed. What is commendable, is the way they have been maintained till date. Crowns of Royals, used for coronation, from  1600 are stored and displayed here.  It is inspiring to see how the crowns have each been crafted, using various precious stones, in different styles and combinations, differently on each crown. Apart from the crowns,  the robes & other items of ceremonial importance to the Royals, have been stored at the Tower of London for over 600 years.  Finally we saw the KOHINOOR sparkling on one of the crowns. This precious stone is said to have been gifted by the predecessors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to East India company, as a token or rather, compensation,  towards British help in the Sikh wars.

A walk around the fortress brought us to open air "road play"by people dressed up in Royal attire.  We took a few pictures with  the "Yeoman Warders" walking around the premises. These are the Royal guards, in their black & red attire,  and serving the Royalty since times immemorial. Today, men dressed in the same attire, run hourly tours inside the Fortress and will be happy to narrate a thousand year history, if you wish to listen by taking their tours.  Apart from this we spotted the Royal Canons and hit the souvenir shop.  The shop had a mirror reflecting the queen's Royal crown on the head of any person who stood in front it.  This was unique. We all posed in front of the mirror to capture our "Royal looks"

If you wish to read more about the history of this Fortress, you can do so here.

Click & slide to stop and read

It was 11:45 am when we walked through the rear gates of the "Tower Of London" to get to the "Tower Bridge" ( which people sometimes mistakingly refer to as the "London Bridge"). 


The very icon of London, is this "Tower Bridge". It is a suspension bridge.  I was staring at it from the Fortress. It immediately brought the scene of Shah Rukh Khan walking on it swaying himself to Sonu Nigam's playback of  the most meaningful & melodious song "Kal ho na ho". Bollywood admirers will definitely know what am referring to.  For others who have no clue, it is an all time favourite  Bollywood movie song, pictured on a favourite actor, sung by a favourite singer, on this very bridge.


We couldn't wait to get there. A short pathway from the back entrance of the fortress and a few steps leading upward, got us on the bridge.


The Bridge, consists of two vertical towers separated by a part of the  bridge exactly foldable into half, at its centre.  The folding process happens whenever high raised ships/ vessels need to pass through the river, right below the bridge area. These towers are also connected higher up, at a distance of almost 140 ft from the water,  by two pathways, that can be used by people, for a fee.  The towers are connected on their foot, by downwardly arched, rope like supporting suspensions, coloured in blue and white, giving the entire bridge its unique look. The fencing of this bridge and the railings of all stairs connected to it are also coloured blue &. white. This is just one of the 5 bridges in London that runs over river Thames.


Stepping on to the bridge, we were up for some fun activity - "The Tower Bridge Experience".  I mentioned earlier, about the pathways at a higher altitude. But did I say their floors are made of glass!!  We took the elevator at the foot of one of the pillars to get to level of the pathways. On our way, we were led to a little museum on the lower floor of the tower.  We quickly looked around and made our way to the top floor.


The clear glass floored path runs across for about 12  metres & is now a tourist attraction. It gave us the jitters. I realised for the first time that, there are so many people round the earth, really scared of heights.  The heavily built security guard there, was enjoying the plight of participants in distress. He pumped up our spirits by demonstrating his own jumps on the glass, assuring  all the participants, of the weight this glass could bear. People were screaming and displaying their best of nervousness and fear over their walk. There were very few who were acting normal.  We could see the  water, boats, moving vehicles on the bridge very very clearly, all of them right below our shaky feet. Most of us literally took baby steps, some closing our eyes, some led by the guard clasping his hand tight, others crawling on the glass.  The worse was, the roof had a mirror installed, so when people looked up, they could see the moving vehicles and water below. This made matters worse.  There was no time limit.  We kept going back and forth on the glass and in a short we got comfortable. The challenge was to walk fearlessly on this glass floor. Now, that did take a lot more time that we expected.  Overall, it was a fun thing to do and I would suggest it to anyone travelling to London.


The Tower Bridge

Glass floor

We were done by 1pm here.  We took the elevator down and walked up to the garden area, beside this bridge.  It is a large green area, where people sat up to their hearts content.  Our main agenda was "Lunch".  We dug into the yummy vegetarian rolls, which we had carried. It was a mini picnic. We lazed around for a while. 

The sound of a big white steamer, suddenly caught our attention.  Wow ! we were about to witness the opening of this bridge, to let the steamer past.  It was something that I never expected to see.  People gathered in large numbers around the cemented fencing, to catch a glimpse of the whole process.

Firstly, the people on the bridge were signalled to stop movement.  When the central portion of the bridge that lay in-between both the towers was clear traffic, the bridge slowly split into two, folding itself upward.  The steamer then moved past the waters, from under the bridge.  Once it moved past , the bridge was lowered down to position, before the traffic could get to move normally, once again.  It was delightful to watch something that we never get to see that often.  Lunch by the "Tower Bridge, London" was paying off more than we expected.


Opening and closing of the Tower Bridge , London.

The fruitful lunch break made us happy.  A four minute walk took us to the Tower Bridge City hall bus stop.  We boarded a bus to reach Bricklayers Arms stop and exchanged buses to reach "Greenwich Park" Stop.  

Here, this stop lies bang opposite to the main campus gate leading to the ROYAL OBSERVATORY. We passed the gate and the acres of beautiful flowering gardens, to reach the observatory area. Further, the open areas around the Observatory gave access to the PRIME MERIDIAN. It is the zero degree longitude, an imaginary line that passes from the North Pole to the South Pole, right here at GREENWICH ( pronounced greenitch). There were many tourists already present and posing around the Meridian line. We got our opportunity too.  We leapt and sprang from one side to another.  After prancing in excitement around the middle of the earth, we entered the Observatory.


Greenwich Meridian


The Royal Observatory

This observatory provided the entire history of various Royal astronomers, their works and how they built various telescopes to discover the magic of space and universe. We witnessed some of the world's biggest and most powerful telescopes here.  Some of these occupied an entire room, both in width and height. A lot of information on how the various visible stars were plotted in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres by the Royal astronomers, who spent their entire lives working here, was available. It was in this place that some of the accurate time keeping devices and clocks were developed. It was too much of astronomical information and data. By the end of it, we felt a few stars circling around our own heads.

Next, in our list was the PETER HARRISON's Planetarium, in the same campus.  We had pre-booked tickets for the 4:30 pm show here.  It was the most fantastic experience to sit on seats in the auditorium, arranged in a spherical fashion and experience the entire universe right above our heads.  The show about our universe lasted for around 45 minutes.  The chairs were so comfortable and the light music with almost nil lighting was so soothing, that in-between I suddenly fell asleep for about 5-10 minutes, lost in my own dreams of the universe.  The group enjoyed the entire show.  Planetariums are always so informative. 

A down hill stroll from the back gates of the campus to the "Trafalgar estate " bus stop, took us around 15 minutes. We passed a vast green estate land consisting of a well maintained government garden to get to the "National Maritime Museum" and the "Queens House".  We decided to give both these buildings a skip.  The "ship in a bottle" monument, got us posing in front of it for a while.  Adjacent to the Queens House, was the gate, through which we got to the main road to get to our bus stop. 


Queen's house

National Maritime Museum

It was around 5:45 pm when we boarded a bus at the "Trafalgar estate" stop to reach "North Greenwich".  Our next destination was the world famous "O2" Arena.  It was at a walkable distance from our stop. 

Soon the Arena soon was visible to us.  It was a flat, white coloured, massive structure, with a short domed roof, which we were told housed hundreds of shops and restaurants including plenty of theatres too. The entrance replicates a Big sized Bubble, similar to a molecule of "Oxygen".  


The Internal auditorium has a capacity of 20000 people.  On days of a rock show or any other international show, the place is said to be jam-packed.  In fact, it was already crowded when we were there, we can just imagine what the crowd size could turn out to be on a day of any concert.  Some of the best live music shows are hosted here. The internal auditorium is not open to tourists, but we can still access the shopping area and eat & drink to our hearts content. The in house theatres play movies, which are open to public.  Can you imagine, there is a tour offered for a hike up the dome, right up to the peak of the O2. A long line of such enthusiasts were spotted by us on the roof of this Arena.   

The inside of the arena never ceased to amaze us.  It was the size of 5 big shopping malls put together.  The quality of the restaurants and other shops were high. The sheer number of shops and eateries around left us with confused choices.  All seemed good.  We didn't shop much, but we did try more than one eatery.  The area outside the arena is also vast.  There is plenty of seating arrangement outside as well.  People just seemed to be spending their relaxed evenings around this place.   


O2 Arena


People Hiking up the Dome of the O2


The finger chips with mayo at the O2 was so filling and kept us warm. It was almost 7:00 pm when we walked across the arena to reac the EMIRATES AIRLINES CABLE CAR.  This forms a part of the public transport, that air transports people across River Thames in less than 10 minutes. All we had to do is swipe our Oyster cards for this experience.  It was not as high as the LONDON EYE, but still offered pretty good views of the city on the Wards Wharf side.  It was more of a thrill ride for us. One of the group member preferred to take the train line instead.  The train station is right behind the O2 and is of great convenience to people who wish to get in and out of here.   

After swiping our cards we got into a cable car cabin.  There were just a couple more people in our cabin, other than us.  One of them was a senior from Germany that gave us a lot of input about the place and kept us engaged on our entire journey that lasted 7 minutes. We got off soon and after a photo break, walked up to the Royal Victoria DLR Station, where our other member was waiting after his train journey from the O2.  We took a DLR from here to Pontoon Dock.

By 8:00 pm we were back home, after a long day. Sharing the entire day's memories, cooking dinner together amidst laughter, gazing at the row of lights on either side of the river banks from our balcony, is how our day ended.

15th April 2017 :  (Day 5).  Our last day in London City.  We wanted to keep it as short as possible.  As we stepped out to begin our new day, breathing the fresh morning air, we promised ourselves a different kind of day.  

It was 8:30 am when we took the DLR from Pontoon Dock to finally reach the "London Bridge" underground station, via the Canning town stop.  We walked up to THE SHARD, the tallest building in UK known for its unique engineering, standing proudly above River Thames, lying right behind the doors of the said train station. 


This almost tetrahedron shaped building is built with tons of glass on the outside. It obviously gets its name due to that. It has around 95 floors and easily about 300 odd metres high. It has the tip of the spire looking like broken pieces of glass, neatly bound together" .   It has viewing decks open to public on its 72nd floor.  There are loads of facts about this building, in which if you are interested, you can click here. You may also find good set of pictures of the structure in there.


All we did was click pictures against the building. Nearby, is the beautiful SOUTH WARK cathedral.  We restricted our visit to its exteriors and offered our prayers from outside.  European Churches & cathedrals never cease to impress me. We had a reason for not visiting the interiors. We had a bigger one coming up our way.


The Southwark Cathedral


The Shard

Next in line was the "LONDON BRIDGE". Finally, we saw what this bridge reallylooked like, instead of confusing it for the "Tower bridge" .  Its a very simple bridge, which is wider than most bridges on Thames. The "Tower Bridge" lies to its east.  One can get good pictures of the Tower Bridge from here.  The top portion of THE SHARD can also be viewed  from here, closely. 


On the London Bridge


A straight walk on the London bridge (towards its north) and a right turn, brought us right in front of the "MONUMENT TO THE FIRE OF LONDON".  We walked around the place and stood in awe for a while at this tall structure.  There were people walking up through its door, right upto its top. We were told that the entry fee to climb up was GBP5 for adults.


We already had a lot more coming up, so gave the climb a skip.  The inscription on the foot of the monument (as in the photo below) is clear about why and when it was built .

What I loved is the beautiful sculptures on it. I have seen many sculptures while visiting European countries. Though, in the first instance, this didn't seem rare, it still   poured out some story & attracted my attention. I took many pictures of it and even tried to figure out its significance.  The "what could be unique about this?" question kept ringing in my head.  It got me curious to find out what all those live looking characters meant. This is exactly why I loved it. You'll be amazed too when you read more about it here.


The monument is on a narrow street.  The first left turn after the monument lead us to a small but aesthetic cafe.  We had some coffee and tried some snacks that seemed unique to the cafe. Once we were done, we took a walk to the Monument bus stop which is just at a walkable distance of 5 minutes from the cafe.  


A bus from there, dropped us right beside the St. Paul's CATHEDRAL.


It was around 10:45 am by then.  A few pictures outside the Cathedral before we made our way inside.  The structure was like a mini Palace.  


We had our pre-booked tickets for a self-guided audio tour of this Cathedral. Sadly photography inside was prohibited.  We were handed over ear plugs that were attachable to a "recorded" gadget that came along with it. We were instructed to clip the gadget on to our jackets, for ease. On the press of a button, began our interesting tour.  The recorded messages were easy to follow. The entire cathedral was broken down into various divisions and we were free to listen to explanations related to any portion we visited or were interested in. The interiors of the cathedral were simply divine. Ivory and gold were the major colours that we could spot all around. Each time we moved forward our eyes caught something more visually appealing than the previous, while our ears heard every detail of it, be it the ceiling, structures, pillars, interiors, the Altar or the frescoes. Our eyes moved in accordance to the descriptions we heard. The exquisite bas-reliefs brought to life several episodes from the Bible and also many other stories. 

The main hall took a lot more time to explore than we imagined.  The regular service was also on. People seated on the benches, were praying amidst all action by tourists around them. We sat down in silence for a long time.  We then moved slowly from chamber to chamber, as instructions poured into our ears detailing every bit of the cathedral history.  The chambers seemed unending. There were also many floors to cover.  The basement level was very exciting to explore.  


Next came the climb up to the dome area, from the inside of the cathedral.  We managed to get up 400 steps to reach the top. The stairs were not so steep, but as we stepped higher, the walls on either side of us narrowed in to allow only a single person at a time. Since the queue fell in control, we got to the top without any rush or push.  The security at the foot of the stairs ensured that in every single batch only a fixed number of people were allowed to  climb.

We soon got to the foot of the dome. We were so awe struck by the engineering. A small door, just to fit one person, greeted us inside. Stepping in, we found a circular balcony, the pathway of which ran close to the walls of the dome. This pathway is just around 2 feet and is fenced with steel railings. Getting a view of this balcony from the floor of the Cathedral's main hall, is impossible. It just seems like a design from there. But to stand here, in the balcony and see the floor of the main hall was heavenly


The cemented seating, kissing the walls, encircled the entire circumference, at that height. Overall there is just one feet of the seating and one feet of space, enough for a single person to stand holding the railings. Casting our vision on details of the entire dome curving above us coupled with an aerial view of the main hall right below our feet, got us dizzy.  We preferred to sit and ogle , like many others did. People continuously poured in through that little door, kept surging ahead on the balcony to find a seat and in the bargain literally picked our noses and stepped on our feet. We had to glue ourselves to the walls even while sitting, to avoid collisions. But the view was just once in a life-time chance.

We stealthily managed to get one picture of the fascinating inner portion of the dome and also of the central hall.


The Balcony railings


It took around 2 hours to complete the entire tour and step out after that,  all enlightened.  The sheer grandeur of the inner walls left us enthralled.

Once we were out, we walked down the streets.  We crossed this massive beautiful building - It was the ROYAL COURT OF JUSTICE . One of those beautiful medieval building, just like a castle. The stone and glass work was really impressive.

(are you able to faintly spot people standing there ?)


By 12:30 afternoon, we boarded a bus from St. Paul's stop and got off at the Country Hall stop.  We once again found ourselves in front of the London Eye.  Never too tired of it , eh!

It was around 1 pm when we made ourselves comfortable in a park in front of the London Eye.  It is called the JUBILEE SQUARE GARDENS.  We had our "packed lunch" there and lazed around.  It was bright and sunny day with views of the "London eye" standing tall behind us. It was lot of fun on the grass too.

Our tour at the SEA LIFE aquarium would begin at 3:30 pm.  The Jubilee gardens is at just a hop-skip-jump distance from there.  After a good amount of relaxation and frolic, we walked to queue up in front of the aquarium.  The pre-booked tickets, ensured that we got in without much difficulty, even though our wait was long.  Personally, It was not my favourite.  I have visited other aquariums earlier, but somehow, I was not so impressed with this one.  Nevertheless, I should say that it did have variety in various species of marine life, quite well explained.  I would consider it a good time pass.  If you are running short of time, you can give this a skip.

By 5 pm we hopped next door, to the SHREK'S ADVENTURE. We had booked in advance for this as well.  We wanted to ensure visiting every attraction on that street, due to proximity. The show was entertaining, the kids in the tour enjoyed it thoroughly.


Definitely worth a visit if you have kids, though may not be listed under "Must do's in London" by me.  You can give it a skip, if you are running short of time.

By 7 pm, we took a train from Waterloo station, same way as day 1, to get back home. It took us a hour.  It was 8 pm when we gathered for a chat , during cooking our dinner. Suddenly, we were treated to some excellent fire works displayed high in the sky, as seen from our balcony.  It was our last night of the tour in London.  We were off to Edinburgh, Scotland, the next day.  You can read about our Scottish adventure under the relevant head of my travel stories.  For now you can take a look at a video made using pages of my travel diary.  I seem to have lost the images once again.

bottom of page