London has its own charm, Paris its own & then there is Rome. They are all cradles of great civilizations & are today very powerful modern cities. There is a story at every corner & every street. But you need to find the story for yourself. If you ever go to these beautiful places, it is not just enough to see the impressive monuments, you need to know why they were built. But, again you will really know only when you are there & breathe in the moments.
My words will tell you only what my eyes see.
My first trip to a different country was the United Kingdom. Work bound me to this beautiful land and saw me settling there for a couple of years. The travel bug really hit me there, but I suspect it had always been in my genes.
What is it that has been driving me to London? The first visit ever mesmerized me and drew me back for innumerable times.
No; the busy streets, the impeccable public transport did impress me beyond words, there can be no other underground system to beat the London tube, or the red bus, but it was not that. The open roof top tourist bus that the world copies excited the tourist in me. Blimey!! What a wonderful idea!
The magnificent stores across the Oxford Street or Knightsbridge? No, I am a very basic shopper. The shops are alluring, but shopping has never been my cup of tea, it hits my pockets too hard!
Not even the Piccadilly Circus with its statue of Eros standing right there looking amusingly at the revelers of sorts, enjoying a quiet chat on the benches or a small snack from one of the restaurants, or admiring the flashy neon light advertisements, which is quite unlike the real London.
Nor do my memories of watching the Lion King at the Lyceum draw me back. The spectacular show of Limousines lining up outside the innumerable impressive theatres in the Theatreland at the Westend leave a lasting impression, but not the same as my fascination.
Or the Trafalgar Square, just round the corner from the Circus? No, definitely not and not now. I still cannot get over the fact that there are no pigeons there anymore! The square has lost its charm for me; though I love the mood of the place and the happenings there and of course the Nelson’s Column or very simply the four lions and the cool fountains.
Finally the ever so beautiful Royal Parks across the heart of London. The Hyde Park, the Kensington Gardens or the even the Regent Park with meticulously planned landscapes and fountains. No luck there as well. Buckingham palace? No chance. Palaces either make me jealous or really worried about the owners and how they manage the logistics of the huge set up. Reminds me of my small little house, which gives me perpetual nightmares to keep it going.
The Big Ben, the innumerable museums are all very very vintage and intriguing. Climbing up inside the Big Ben would be safely one of the most exciting adventures I have ever done in or out of London. The St Paul’s Cathedral is so peaceful and serene. But then there are a quite a few places of worship that have struck a chord and I would prefer the connect I have at the Ghats of Haridwar or the Sagrada Familia or Sacre Cour to any other place of worship ever.
Being the confirmed atheist that I am by the normal standards, this long story is better kept for some other day!
So here it is.
It has to be the Thames. It is this beautiful river cutting through the heart of London that draws me. Every time that I have de-boarded the train at Euston, I find myself immediately heading for this beautiful sight.
The Thames soothes me. It flows from everywhere that I want to be in and around London. An impressive view beginning from the Palace of Westminster and flowing under every beautiful bridge in London, including the Tower Bridge which still wonderfully opens up for the world to behold! The Millennium walk besides the Thames, the cafes, the galleries, the fountains, Shakespeare’s Globe and the spirit of London. They are all there.
And the river ride takes me to Greenwich as well, almost every time. The sleepy little village, so important in setting the geography of the world in place. Reminisces of the past where England rose above all and got her bearings right for trading.
When I saw the Thames the first time, it caught me quite unaware. I kind of expected a huge, mighty river, like the Ganga or the Yamuna that I identify more with. Or even the Krishna, whose flowing black waters had made a lasting impression years ago. The Thames is nothing like the rivers in India. It is not majestic and wide, but is more tamed and docile. Just as tranquil as the Ganga in the plains, but with an elegance that struck me forever.
Her flowing waters bind my memories together, hold me together in an unknown land, in my long visits which made me homesick and even the shorter ones as a tourist. She soothes me and makes me feel loved. She nurtures my happiness and inner peace.
The Thames is certainly magical. I have frankly lost count of how many times, I have walked besides her and how many times she has been my solace. It is a place that make my thoughts flow along with her waters, washing away what was not meant to be, reflecting everything beautiful around her, including me…………..