Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mind the Gap

Posted by Varun | Wednesday, August 8, 2007 | Category: , , | 5 comments

23rd July 2007

These are the 3 words that almost every person in London would be familiar of. These are the words that are heard / announced in each and every tube station. It is used to caution the passengers about the gap between the train and platform.

London’s divided into 6 circular or I can say hexagonal zones. Almost 12 different lines run through the entire city. The tubes here or so called underground trains run underground as well as above the ground level. It goes underground as we enter the Central London Zone or the Zone One. Until then, it runs above the ground level. There’s a tube map that’s available at every station which is highly informative. Looking at the map and after few consultations I knew I had to change two lines to reach my destination ‘St Paul’s’ The station is called St. Paul’s because the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral is right outside the station. But there’s one more building outside the station that’s quite famous. That’s my office. British Telecom Centre (BTC).

I left my place at around 8.15 am, had to reach BTC by 9.30 am. There’s no fixed time to reach the office but since it was my first day, I wanted to be there right on time. Boarded my first tube at the Wembley Central Station. Tube trains normally have 8 to 12 bogies with 3 doors each. The door looks as though it opens and closes automatically but it’s manually controlled by the driver of the train. Wembley Central falls on the Bakerloo Line but St. Paul’s on Central Line. I had to change my train at the Oxford Circus Station. There are huge sign boards displayed whenever a station hosts more than one line. Some stations boast of servicing more than 4 lines. These are some of the busiest stations. The tubes got me to my destination well in time. I reached by 9.15 without breaking a single sweat. The trains are quite comfortable. The first day at office was quite comfortable too… Since I had no communicating device with me I had no work to do. This gave me time to plan for the first real sight seeing. Got hold of a laptop for some time and planned my first outing in London, ‘The Tower Bridge’. The first thing I wanted to see here in London was the River Thames. And if I could see River Thames standing on the world famous Tower Bridge there was nothing like it. Tower Bridge is quite close to my office but it’s on a different line. I had to change 2 trains before I could get to the Tower Bridge. It was drizzling quite steadily that day with the cool breeze blowing. This did not stop me from visiting the Bridge as I was quite equipped for it. Unlike my office, Tower Bridge is quite far from the railway station. It’s at least 0.5 km from the station.

Thames was flowing in its full glory due to the recent rain falls and the bridge over the over-flowing Thames looked quite stunning. I had seen that bridge some ‘n’ number of times in snaps, movies, wallpapers but it felt so very good to be standing on it. Yet another engineering marvel. There was a Chinese family that clicked my snap with the tower bridge. I wanted to see the tower bridge illuminated but it did not happen because they are automatic lights that turn on when it gets dark. It gets dark quite late here and I could not wait that long all alone in the rain. There’s Tower of London right next to the Tower Bridge where rests the famous ‘Kohinoor Diamond’ and the crown jewels. I could not get into the castle as it was closed for the day.

By the time I returned from my rainy adventure it was 9.30 pm. I wanted to inform the whole world about my first day, my adventure, share snaps etc as soon as I returned home but all I could do was to have my dinner and curl up under the blanket :)
Prince’s first day in London came to an end with three words ringing in his ears. Yes… You guessed it right … ‘Mind the Gap’

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Prince's Diary Continues.... First Bus Ride

Posted by Varun | Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Category: , | 3 comments

Keeping in mind the length of the post I’ll be writing a new post everyday instead of adding to the previous post.

22nd July 2007

The early sun rise and the very uncomfortable spring bed had absolutely no effect on me as I slept like a log till 7.00 am. Since I was in a hurry to see London, I got ready at 7.15 and ventured out into the unknown. Every street, every lamp post on the street was new to me. Started clicking snaps like there was no tomorrow. A person (Sri Lankan) nearby noticed the mad man and asked whether I was new to this place. I affirmed and asked whether there were any places nearby that were worth visiting. He told me about a Sunday market that’s put up temporarily every Sunday next to the famous Wembley Stadium and the best part was he told me that he’ll be taking me there if I wanted him to. Shopping and a famous stadium… This was too good an offer to resist. This meant that it would be my first bus ride here in London. The most expensive city bus ride in my life. It cost me 2 pounds one way. The person I met at the bus stop got me down at the right bus stop. The Sunday Market is a big market with lots and lots of Indians selling cheap smuggled goods. You just about get anything here. It is as good or as bad as a Heera Panna (Mumbai) or a National Market (Bangalore). It’s a very good place to buy toiletries it seems. The market’s setup temporarily every Sunday right next to the lovely Wembley stadium. The stadium has a huge arch that’s visible from quite a long distance. It’s a little engineering marvel. Since I had no idea that they allow people to get into the stadium I just clicked few snaps of the stadium and one with me in the frame. By the time I returned home my friend Ankur had left a message with the land lord asking me to call him back.

I called him and fixed a time when we could meet. Since I had already ventured out I knew the exact bus stop where I had to get down to meet him. I reached that place at 10.30 only to find out that my friend still followed Indian standard time. He reached the place at 10.45. The place was Wembley Central. It’s a tube (Underground metro or local train in London is called a tube) station. We were supposed to go to Greenwich that day. But due to some stupid reasons we could not. We roamed in and around Wembley that day. Had lunch at a restaurant called ‘Chennai Dosa’. It was not bad. But again very expensive or is that what I felt due to the currency conversion that I quickly did in my mind :). Did nothing more that day… Informed everyone through mails and telephone calls that I had reached UK safely and there was nothing to worry. It was 8.30 pm by the time I came back home. The best part was that the Sun was still shining when I returned home. I had heard about this phenomenon of early rise and late setting of sun but never really believed anyone completely. It was wonderful to witness it first hand. Had dinner, selected the dress I had to wear the next day and went to bed a little un-satisfied that I couldn’t visit any one of the major attraction in London. Little did I know that the Wembley Stadium is in that list too :)

PS: Next Post – Mind the Gap