London highlights

Earlier this year Mr.A and I moved to London, believing we were making a long term shift, but as it turns out it wasn’t meant to be, at least not for the time being. Long story short, we’ve happily returned home to Stockholm after living in London for four months. It’s been a helluva ride, but in all the chaos we’ve had some good days in this bustling, spirited city. Let me share some high points from our short-lived adventure ūüôā

Sky Garden atop the Walkie-Talkie

One of the best vantage points for great views of the city of London is the Sky Garden. The top three stories viz. 34th-37th floors of the skyscaper at 20 Fenchurch Street, nicknamed Walkie-Talkie for its typical shape, have been transformed into landscaped gardens open to the public for free. You do have to book an entry slot but that’s quite easy with their online booking system. You can even make a special occasion by reserving a table at one of the restaurants, or keep it casual by snacking at the cafes. Obviously, the highlight is the 360¬į views of the city, combined with the greenery indoors. Mr.A and I enjoyed the perspective. The garden complete with full-grown palms is quite a delight to stroll in, too.

Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum

Once Saturday we rode the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) that winds through the towering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf before coming out the other side of Thames to the Greenwich station. A short, but rather steep, walk uphill through the Greenwich Park brought us to the Royal Observatory. To tick off places from my Geography lessons has always given me a certain thrill, so this was no different. Taking a picture with our feet in two hemispheres, straddling the Prime Meridian was cool, of course. The real treat on the hot day was the cool breeze on the hill accompanied by splendid views of the skyline. We also went into the National Maritime Museum, which has free entry to its permanent exhibitions, to examine ship models and read up on Britain’s naval history. Since a lot of it was associated with the East India Company and it’s influence in our own history, the days ended up with much reflection and thought. Happy Weekend, I say!

St. Paul’s Cathedral

A trip to the city of London would be incomplete without a visit to¬†St. Paul’s Cathedral, architect Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. A magnificent structure, both from the outside and inside. The ticket price includes either an audio guide or a guided tour. We opted for the latter and were so happy following our learned guide, a charming octogenarian who made such a pleasant impression that Mr.A & I decided we would do something like he was doing when we grew old ourselves! Totally worth the slightly pricey ticket. Note however, you can save a little if you prebook online. We loved our culture trip around this 300+ year old building which has seen eons pass by and has so many stories to tell.

A walk around Hyde Park

This giant park despite being in the heart of the city, surely takes one away from its madness into an oasis of calm. Even though there were hundreds of other people, it did feel like a different world within. People seemed so much at ease walking their dogs, enjoying their ice creams, feeding ducks and even parrots (it’s true!), strolling by the Serpentine, playing a casual game of football, and what not. Mr.A and I went to the Park just before sundown and had a lovely time watching all this pass by us in a beautiful golden glow.

Brick Lane & Shoreditch

Brick Lane surely teleported us into another world. Once a settlement for immigrants from Bangladesh trying to make a new home in a new country, today it is a hep center buzzing with student activity, fashion and art. There is a considerable number of restaurants all boasting the best food from the Indian sub-continent, but make sure to research where you want to eat since our experience with the food was not one of our high points here. Graffiti-watching along Shoreditch and Brick Lanes was totally rewarding though. Some amazing street art can be found in small nooks as well as huge walls. Once can surely spend a lot of time being fascinated, especially one like me that has a thing for street art ūüėČ The pictures warrant their own blog post, so I’ll write more about them soon.

Barbican Conservatory

The Barbican Conservatory was a surprise find that I chanced upon in some toplist about London, and decided to drag Mr.A to check it out. It did not disappoint at all. The Barbican Complex with its brutalist architecture captured our imagination, how stark and severe it looked, somewhat reminding us of the buildings in central Delhi, perhaps one influencing the other, who knows. In the middle of the austere lines, sits the cosy world of green in the form of the conservatory, housing London’s second largest conservatory. Amongst 2000+ varieties of plants, also live some turtles and fish in sparkling ponds. There is an impressive array of chillis and a gorgeous desert garden housing cactii of all shapes and sharpness. Entry is free on Sunday afternoons, a refreshing activity before the start of a new week.

What are your favorite spots in London?

Travel checklist : 2016

2016 was a year of adventures, big and small. Early last year, Mr.A and I prepared a 2016 Travel Wishlist. And we went though quite a bit of it, of course, missing some here & there, but adding a few more in the end. By the end of it, I had ticked off 9 totally new countries! Whoa, I’m so lucky!! So, continuing on the tradition set down by my Travel checklist: 2015, here’s the¬†lineup from 2016…

#1 Germany : Around my birthday in February, we visited Berlin, a city rife with such poignant history, yet so contemporary at the same time. It was an eye-opener, trying to imagine what the city might have gone through during those war-torn years.

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#2 Czech Republic : In spring, it was time for beautiful Prague, together with our friends N&G. The city of a hundred spires was as intriguing as we had expected. Like Berlin, here too, we experienced some heartrending snippets of history.

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#3 Croatia : May brought in a terrific week of road-trips, when we travelled through the length of Croatia, from Dubrovnik to Zagreb. We visited several cities and witnessed amazing geography, enjoyed traditional food and met some really nice people along the way.

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#4 Estonia : Around midsummer, we took an overnight cruise to Tallinn,¬†to see its charming old town and relax at a spa hotel. Mr.A’s little sis joined us on this fun trip.

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#5 Latvia : A mere 4-hour bus ride from Tallinn brought us to Riga, another really winsome town with its many spires, squares, parks and cafes.

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#6 Iceland : In fall came our epic road-trip around Iceland with our friends S&S, one of our most awe-inspiring trips ever. To say that the landscape is stunning, is a gross understatement. Every step of the way was a revelation in beauty and wonder.

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#7 Switzerland :  In September, Mr.A and I took my parents on a trip to Switzerland, the enchanting land of endless green fields, glorious mountains and postcard villages.

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#8 United Kingdom : And then there was a bonus office trip to London. Though it was short & snappy, I got a chance to see a couple of prime spots and became even more excited about returning to this groovy city.

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#9 Hungary : ¬†In November, keeping up with an unsaid tradition of ours, we celebrated Mr.A’s birthday in Budapest. We were charmed by this city of bridges, and felt knowledgable¬†while comparing it to its almost-twin, Prague.

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#10 India : And finally in December¬†we spent time in¬†India to connect with our beloved¬†friends and family. I know this is cheating, ’cause I am from India, so this is not a new visit, but I just couldn’t resist the fun of getting¬†down to a¬†square¬†ten-pointer ūüėČ

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How was your year in travel? Keep going!!