Having gotten visas to the UK, it had become imperative that we must travel… I mean what’s the use of a visa on your passport if you are not going to use it. And so..we packed our bags and left on a 3 day whirlwind tour of London. The most entertaining way is to take the Emirates flight out of Kuwait via Dubai. They have the best entertainment system onboard (called ICE…hot by all standards though). Their service leaves nothing to complain about. But be warned that if you miss your connecting flight you could be stranded and that might very well put a spanner in the works as we were to learn on our trip back. The Emirates Holidays package consisted of bed and breakfast at the Thistle Marble Arch. The Thistle is a group of 4 star hotels all over the UK. The room was clean and had everything in it..though the view was nothing to write home about. Being near the Marble Arch gave us quick access to public transport and some of the best shopping streets in London.
We didn’t waste much time after we reached the hotel at 0830 hrs. Had a quick breakfast and took a ride to Buckingham palace, where the changing of the guard is scheduled to happen every 2 days. Being clear, there were huge crowds outside the palace, some even climbing on to the Victoria memorial in front of the palace gates to get a good view.
The Trooping of the colors or Changing of the guards is a sight to be seen. The ceremonial marching, uniforms, the music played by the band all add to the pomp and show of the ceremony.
After jostling among the crowds and elbowing them out of the way to get to the fence and get a few pictures, we moved on to Madam Tussaud’s.
The first thing you realize when you reach the wax museum is, they mean it when they say buy tickets online. The queue extended all the way to the pavement and it was a good one and a half hours before we reached the counter. Now, there are these strategically placed vending machines which charge a Pound 50 for a small bottle of coke, which works out to 750 fils or close to its weight in coke. For those waiting with a little kids or a sweet tooth, keep a few coins ready. The wax museum though is a treat in itself, where you marvel the creativity of the wax models, the perfection and intricacies.
The Big Bus company, is a great way to see London. They offer 24 hour tickets on their routes, which go through most of the popular sites. You can hop off at a point, enjoy the site and then hop on to the next bus that passes through their station and so on. The open top, top deck is great and if it rains, the bus usually has a stock of plastic ponchos, which should keep at least your head dry.
We got off at Westminister and headed off to the Millenium Eye. Being a little wet and drizzly, there wasn’t much of a queue but the capsules were full and we were able to get a sight of the lights and London by night. Too tired to do anything else, we caught the bus back to the Marble Arch, explored the subways and were back at the hotel. There’s a whole lot of Fast food places around…so dinner or choice wasn’t a problem.
The driver of the taxi cab had a smirk on his face when he responded with 75 pounds, and the concierge offered a discount of a further 20 pounds for the cab. It made us cautious. A concierge at the desk, who sounded more knowledgeable, advised us to take the tube to Waterloo station and then board the train from there to Windsor and Eaton River side. It turned out to be an experience in itself.
We caught a cab to Waterloo…just to save on time and then bought tickets at the Waterloo Station. What amazed me was the integrated use of technology. The clerk was able to sell me tickets for the train journey, bus tickets from the station to Legoland and back, and entry tickets to Legoland, which was our final destination.
The trains were spotlessly clean and had the route map as well as boards displaying the name of the next station and announcements of the next stations. The journey took a little more than an hour and took us for some part of the journey, through the country side. Being unexpectedly bright and sunny, it was all what we expected and more. Little houses, green fields, a lake or two…
The bus from Windsor station to Legoland took us past Windsor castle and the lovely narrow streets of Windsor, which we have decided is a place we are going to spend more time exploring – next time.
A 20 minute bus ride and viola…you’re at the Mecca of toy lovers…
It was very windy and one of the entry tickets they printed in exchange for the tickets issued at the railway station blew off into Legoland. But the staff there, know you are here for fun and a duplicate was printed immediately…no fuss – They knew why they are there and why we were there.
Legoland is built on an area of at least ‘as far as the eye can see’ acres. No points for guessing that I’m a huge fan. The rides for toddlers are designed so that an adult has to accompany them and this means that everyone has fun at Legoland. Don’t miss rides include, the fire fighting ride, where you have to move a little fire truck all the way to a house put the fire out and come back and the digger ride, where you operate a real (??) JCB digger. You cant miss Miniland where they have cities build from Lego blocks with actual moving trucks and little Lego people doing stuff. A visit to the Brick Brothers souvenir shop is a must.
As we were packing in too much in just 3 days we stopped for Fish & Chips at the in house sea food restaurant which is one among the many you will find in this amusement park. You can see the whole thing in a day…but you need more than that if you plan to get on every ride.
Just when we were about to quit…the clouds started gathering and I mean dark clouds really dark…in a matter of minutes it was raining and raining hard…we were ready to take that…after all we had fulfilled our agenda..we stopped by at the sweet shoppe just before the entrance to stay away from the rain…and once it had come down to a drizzle we moved to the bus stop.
We got on to a bus which wasn’t stopping in front of the railway station, so we had to walk for 10 minutes from that stop to the railway station..which was when we fell in love with Windsor. Narrow streets, low buildings, nice people, quaint pubs…we are coming back.
An hour and so later, the train reached Waterloo, and we decided to take the tube. It was only on the second day that I had figured out how to use the tube. Once you get the hang of it, you just cant go wrong. The pay one price ticket just gives you the freedom to hop off and on without a worry and finally gets you to where you want.
Having reached back in good time, we were able to take a walk down Oxford Street, taking in the shops, which were less crowded as most of the shops were closing down.
Having accomplished most of what we had really come for and having figured out how to use the tube, it was now time to roam the city of London. We brought tickets at Marble Arch station and off we went to Trafalgar square. All the marble and stone makes it this Sexy Gothic place…or that’s the impression it had on me. An hour or so at the National Gallery and some breath taking paintings. We moved on to Westminister by bus. Westminister Abbey, Big Ben, the banks of the Thames…
Then we decided we didn’t want to miss Harrods so we caught the tube to Kensington and then decided to take a detour to the Science Museum and the nearby Natural History Museum. Now the crowds at these places are really huge. Entry is free, and these places are worth a visit and this probably leads to the huge crowds. Being the Easter weekend was helping either. These places can really tire you down so you’ll need to sit down once in a while.
Inside the underground and on some streets, we noticed these performers, playing music or juggling. These performers are a welcome break and add to the charm of the City.
A bus ride to Picadilly and Leicester Square in the evening completed our trip. The crowds, the lights and sounds, have to be enjoyed at night. We even encountered a bunch of Hare Krishnas, banging their drums and hymning away.
The following day we flew out of Heathrow T3..only to miss our connecting flight from DXB back to KWI, due to the delayed flight from LHR to DXB. Being stuck at DXB for 5 hours is no fun..but that wasn’t even close to dampening our spirits, spirits elevated by a wonderful visit to London.