A Fleeting Encounter with London

Before I tell you about my time in London, I think my story about how I got to go to London is definitely worth sharing. After having not received my passport back in time from the UK consulate in New York to speak at a conference in Bangalore, I was sure that I would not like London since its consulate in the US was a very poor representation of the country. In a desperate attempt to see if I could get my passport back in time to join the rest of my team in London, I wrote an email to a random email address I found in a Yelp review expressing my frustration with the UK consulates process. I didn’t expect it to work considering many had written but never heard back from them. Yes, applying for a UK visa in the US is the worst possible experience I have ever had. But, hey! the 500 words email which I wrote as an advocate to all those in my shoes, received this reply on December 3rd. 

My flight was scheduled to leave on December 5th. My passport had less than a day to make its way back to me in California from New York after having been dispatched from there on the evening of December 4th. With a race against the clock, my passport carrier didn’t deliver my passport in time to make the flight in the afternoon. But a call to the carrier’s call center who got in touch with the driver of the truck allowed me to catch a flight leaving a few hours later. At that point, I didn’t know how I felt. Was everything going wrong a sign that I shouldn’t be going to London? Have you ever felt like sometimes things aren’t meant to be?

But I boarded my flight in SFO at 7:35PM with an entire row to myself. I did a little mini celebration dance in my head, at last something was going my way!

My flight to London happened to be one of the best long haul journeys. I slept more than an hour (6 hours to be precise)  But, because I slept so much, I missed the breakfast they served. So when we landed I was refreshed but so hungry! 

After making it to the hotel and checking in, the rest of my team were already exploring London. But, I had my priorities right and wanted to go looking for food. I ended up with a friend at a Gastropub called The Eagle . Inside this gastropub were the widest assortment of chairs and tables. Each one different from one another but together they looked perfectly in place. The next day after a couple of work meetings we went on a pub crawl! London has such a great pub culture.

Of course I had to giggle a little at the name of this pub XD But on the walk from this pub to the next I spotted Humpty Dumpty in a store window.

This is exactly why walking in a city is so great, there are nuances which are so much a part of the city’s identity that you would probably miss on a tour bus. Also, with all the globalization going on and every big store being present everywhere I think details like this are even more meaningful! Oh, also found this joke on another store window! Who else finds this hilarious?

Every time I think of London, I associate it with two things – Harry Potter and Red Telephone booths. Although people don’t use these telephone booths anymore, they have been marked as Historical Property as an attempt to protect them. Notice the LEGO looking face next to one of them.

After retiring for the day, I woke up the next morning really excited because I planned on visiting King’s Cross. Being a Potterhead, I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity to visit Platform 9 3/4. In an effort to beat the crowd I tried to get there as early as possible but there was already such a huge line of people who wanted to take a picture of themselves running into a wall. If you think of it, it sounds so ridiculous but the fascinating world which was created by JK Rowling has left everyone so devoted to the wizarding world. I was kind of disappointed when I got there because Platform 9 3/4 isn’t actually between platforms 9 and 10 but is just a wall next to the Harry Potter store with a sign board saying “Platform 9 3/4”. The store itself is amazing! This is one of the rare stores which sold actual scarfs and ties which the cast of Harry Potter wore in the movies. Here’s a picture of me, as a muggle would say – acting like I’m running into a wall.

In order to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first two books being released, Bloomsbury re-released the books in the beautiful editions you see on the right.

After having fed my Harry Potter craze, I visited the Twinings Store in Convent Garden. London during December is beautiful! The whole city is decorated in a splendid way and the atmosphere itself is amazing. Every Christmas tree was beautifully decorated and I loved the color schemes which they followed.

The same day I went on an afternoon tea bus tour and it was one of the best experiences I had in London. What is it you may ask? Well, you hop onto a double decker bus with seats being replaced by diner styled tables and you enjoy tea and pastries as the bus drives through some of the main landmarks in London for an hour and a half. Although you don’t get to see a lot since you are in a moving bus and you don’t stop at locations, the idea of having afternoon tea and pastries while being surrounded by the London rain and buildings seemed like a great way to experience the city. If you’re ever in London, you must do this tour bus by B Bakery. Here are some pictures from my time on the bus.

Not to forget one of my favorite experiences in London was using the red double decker buses. Of course, it reminded me of Harry’s bus ride in his 3rd year.

So was all the hassle with my visa worth the trip? I guess it was! Next time I’ll try to spend more time in this city!

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