Tuesday, September 10, 2013


2231hrs BST

We arrived in London last week and have managed to cover a fair chunk of our 'to-see' list. Considering the ultra max information dump we've had in the last few days, I think it's a good time to pause and pen down my thoughts and observations about things we've seen in this amazing city.

The Underground

a. So far we've never had to wait for a train for any more than 2 mins on any line, any time of the day. Ever! I found that amazing as efficient public transport is not one of the strong suite of any cities I've lived so far. 

b. For a first-time visitor, a rail network of such complexity can be confusing without proper signs/markings or helpful staff. All tube stations have clear directions, the tube map is perfect and we've never felt lost.

c. The railway line that connects Heathrow Airport is the Piccadilly line. Some overground railway stations on Piccadilly line do not have elevators. It's a fair bet that this railway line will carry visitors, like us, with heavy luggage, and they'd surely appreciate an elevator rather than lugging a 25+kg suitcases over flights of stairs.

d. Life goes at a quick pace in London. The Underground, however, seems to have life of its own. St. Undergroundeswarar, the Lord of the Underground, presses the 'Breakneck Pace' button every time a Londoner enters a Tube station. That explains why people zoom past down the escalator, rush to the platform, get off in a hurry, rush back up the escalator and return to the normal pace once out of the Tube station. Why this avasaram da? Relax, no?

e. I work in the area of real-time power system operations. I understand the challenges involved in operating complex, interconnected networks like the Underground. To operate an essential service like this in a safe, reliable and efficient manner must have some highly skilled engineers and field crew.

We bought the 7-day Zone 1-2 TravelCard. The TravelCard makes us eligible to use the 2 for 1 vouchers at participating London attractions. Its given us good deals so far.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral
We visited St. Paul's Cathedral through a walking tour by a company called London Walks. Judy, our guide, gave us an informative and engaging tour of St. Paul's. She gave us a gripping account of how this iconic cathedral survived the bombings of WWII and the efforts made by Londoners to protect the Cathedral. The interiors of the dome were jaw-dropingly awesome. Since this is a working church, we had to stop and remain still once every hour for a prayer.

We went up the Dome which involves climbing 500 odd steps through spiral staircases and narrow passages. Sindhu felt mildly claustrophobic when going up the spiral staircases. She made it to the top though. It was worth the effort as the views from the dome were breathtaking.

View from the Dome a.k.a Golden Gallery
London Walks charges GBP 9 per person for their services. You have to pay entrance fee at St. Paul's. We availed the 2 for 1 offer. Highly recommend!

Lord's Cricket Ground

Visiting Lord's, the very home of the great game, is one of the highlights of our stay in London. It was a clear sunny day and I was buzzing with excitement as I entered the ground through Grace Gate for the ground and museum tour. I've done ground tours of WACA, Melbourne Cricket Ground and Eden Park. I have also watched Test cricket at 'Gabba, Chepauk and SCG. None of those Test venues exude the aura of class and the quiet charm as Lord's. It is a special place.
Lord's. Can you see the famous Lord's tilt?
We ambled around the Cricket Museum first. We saw the real Ashes 'urn' and read the history behind it. India's first world cup trophy, the Prudential cup, was on display. The crystal Ashes replica looked meh. 

We were then taken to the famous Long Room. Its walls were adorned with paintings of cricket legends - Don Bradman, Keith Miller, Jarvis, to name a few. Then, off to team dressing rooms. The rooms were not as big as I thought it would be. It would be fairly crowded place on match days. It felt surreal to stand on the Lord's balcony admiring the view of the ground *goosebumps*. I stood at the exact same spot where Ganguly famously twirled his shirt in that Natwest final.

In the famous Honours board, there was no Tendulkar, no Lara, no Ponting, but one A Agarkar was present…that too in the batting list. #facepalm to Cricket God and his sense of humour.

I envy Cricinfo dudes who get to do live commentary from JP Morgan Press box. What a view!

Easily the second best view of the Ground
Ground and museum tour costs GBP 15 per person. We made use of the 2 for 1 offer. Win!

Westminster Abbey

I didn't know much about Westminster Abbey apart from it being Will and Kate's kalyana mandapam. When I did shrug my ignorance and read about it, I realized its immense significance and importance to British history. We reached the Abbey on an warm, cloudy afternoon with a plan to attend the 5PM Evensong. When we reached the Abbey we were greeted by the incredible carvings on the Northern entrance and a very long queue. We ditched the Evensong plan and checked out St. Margaret Church which is next to the Abbey. I learnt that Winston Churchill got married there. The stained glass at the Altar was beautiful.

The following morning we arrived early to this beautiful soaring architectural wonder. Its true majesty lies inside. As you walk in, the beautiful chandeliers, stunning architecture, the staggering detail on the dome just takes your breath away. We spent a few hours walking around the Abbey with a Audio guide. Its impressive the Brits have managed to preserve and display couple of thousand years of history. But frankly, I found the history of King Edward/Henry/Queen Elizabeth I, II, III etc a bit dry. I am a science student who likes poetry. What interested me were the final resting place of Newton, Dickens, Kipling, Charles Darwin, Wordsworth etc. All important figures buried under one roof. Phew!

Entrance fee costs GBP 16 per person.

Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

We 'straddled' the Prime meridian. There were neat exhibits on the history of astronomy and maritime navigation. 'Camera Obscura' was cool.

Entrance fee was GBP 7 per person.

Sir John Ritblat Gallery, British Library.

It was a brief stop. This gallery is aptly called 'The Treasures'. The highlights were:

a. The Beatles Corner: Handwritten lyrics of one of my fav song 'Yesterday' on a scrap of paper.
b. Original manuscripts of Mozart.
c. Handwritten letter by Isaac Newton from his final days.
d. Different versions of Bible and Koran.
e. Magna Carta room.

Madame Tussaud's

It was our first time to a wax museum and we loved it. The museum was well laid out and the waxworks were obviously quite impressive. My favorite bit was the 4D Marvel show. It was as good as Shrek 4D show at Movie World in Gold Coast.

So. Waxworks of all important celebs in Hollywood - check. Waxwork of Sachin Tendulkar - check. Wife takes a pic with her beloved SRK - check. Bollywood section has a waxwork of Salman Khan - *puke*. After all this, the Thamizhan in me had a burning question, "ALLLLL this is okay, where is Rajnikanth?".

GBP 30 per person. We used the 2 for 1 voucher.

'World famous in Thamizh Nadu' Saravana Bhavan, East Ham, London.

Items ordered:
Paper Roast
Idly Vadai Sambhar (immersed)
Filter Kaapi

Whether it is London or Mylapore, the Sambhar tastes only one way: Heavenly! And that's Saravana Bhavan.

So what's remaining in the list?

The Shard.
Pint at Westminster Arms.
Buckingham Palace
Churchill's Underground War rooms
Wimbledon Museum tour.
Tower of London.


  1. OOO that was extensive and had a virtual tour....enjoy your rest of trip & looking for more rights, this is fascinating two,too,tour

  2. St. Undergroundeswarar -> hahah ! :-)
    Rajnikanth -> If they bring his status there, UK will have a bigger visa issue (they are struggling even without 'His holiness' Rajnikanth's statue.)