Friday, 21 September 2007
We have been in London now for three weeks, after 34 years! We were last here when my husband was a student in UMIST, Manchester, and we came to London to do the tour spots before flying back home. In all these years, I never expected to come back to England, so it was a kind of pleasant feeling that we were able to visit; because my first son Sankar is now working here.
On our last visit here we stayed with friends Vaidy and Usha, and spent a week in looking up the places tourists usually do.
Everyone we know asks us how different is London from then. How different can it get?
The buildings and historical landmarks, which are so fascinating to me, are the same ;and so are the parks and greens , which my husband loves to walk around. Home is pretty close to Kensington Gardens (in the picture above; Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana lived is in the background) and Hyde Park, and he enjoys the walks.
The cabs however are much more colourful and are as many as the black ones
The weather has been glorious since we came - no rains and pleasant sunshine. When we step out , it is a pleasure to walk on these streets.
People are different - since England is now part of the European Union, you see many non- English here - not that you can really tell them apart - until you hear the various languages spoken by them on the roads or on the tube. People living here have assured me that London is now a very multi racial and multi cultural city.
Around Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square the usual tourists throng - we were there las Saturday.
The double decker tourist buses with the open top floor are an attractive sight. I noticed that many of these bus drivers are women, as are the drivers on the London city buses. How they manouevre the buses on the narrow streets is a marvel.
We also visited the National Gallery, and the highlight of that was being able to see Van Gogh's Sunflowers, and Jan Eyck's The Marriage of Arnolfini- a print of which has been in our home in Chennai for so many years.
We have also visited two other museums, both of which are within walking distance from home - the Victoria and Albert and the Museum of Natural History. Little Arundati, all of three years, loves visiting these places - and Jaisri, her mother has taken her more than once to the museums. She loves the Natural Life museum and the models of extinct dinosaurs and other animals. She kept reassuring us, and asking us not to be scared , because "they are not real, only models."
The building is itself a beauty - Waterhouse Building, a London landmark, was designed by Alfred Waterhouse.
I enjoyed seeing the works of art in the other museum, - paintings, sculptures, models of historic relevance - especially the 'cartoon' woven by Raphael as a work-model for a tapestry to be woven, and the completed tapestry displayed opposite it .
Compared to Seattle, where Sankar used to live before he came here in June, and even New York, the city is grimy.
But who can not be captured by the sense of history that these roads and buildings convey to us.
Sankar lives in a flat, a part of a huge house in Kensington - he is just 5 minutes walk from his office. and Arundati who just started school last week, can comfortably walk to her Montessori school in 10 minutes. The houses here have elegant exteriors, and are possibly close to a 100 years old. From the outside one would not be able to guess that they have been divided into flats.
Walking round the area one can see interesting plaques outside buildings indicating the famous people who have lived here - I have spotted T S. Eliot, Terence Rattigan and W. M. Thackeray.
I am eagerly looking forward to spotting more of these.