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Rainy London in April
If you're curious, London's an amazing place. - David Bailey
I was curious about London. I got the chance to visit it in early 2016. For those frequent flyers who traverse the globe many times a month, this may not be such a big deal. For me it was. It would be my first visit to the land of Shakespeare, Dryden, Milton and so many others.
The visit did not happen by chance but by clear intention. I had been wanting to see the place where many of my favorite authors were born. This was a direct outcome of a lifetime's consumption of colonial literature and being affected by it.
I included the stop in London in our itinerary, and chalked out the details from hotel bookings, to train trips, cruise on the Thames, city tours, and underground routes.
With so much history behind the city, by 2016, it was late to visit it. I should have planned it long ago. But even this wasn't too late considering that one has only so many years in a lifetime and has to accommodate so many activities, work, trips and visits.
The first thing that caught my eye as soon as we entered London, were the buildings. Yes, the 'Victorian'. They are everywhere. Tall, with high ceilings, generally off-white in color, they are uniform columns for large sections of a block.
I love them. The thick concrete gives a feeling of security that drywall cannot. Because London has less space, it makes up for space in height. While I lay in a small hotel room bed, my eyes move to the ceiling and the chandelier, and makes me feel I am in a much larger space. That is the positive of the 'Victorian'. It gives grandeur, expansiveness. The world comes to surround you while you are in a tiny room.
It was the beginning of April, and the rain was perpetually there every day, during some part of it or the other. I should have expected that, but I didn't. Coming from sunny and dry California, it escaped my mind that rain could be troublesome when one has lots of places to see and be around town.
I didn't pack an umbrella, and there we were, crossing the Thames near the Big Ben, drenched in light showers. Most of the people around were tourists like us. They were asking about for restrooms and eating places. We were hunting for an ATM so that we could buy umbrellas for use during our stay.
No wonder we were rain-soaked for a while before we could spot the shops where we could pick up two umbrellas, our first purchase in historical London. It was a significant act, as it would forever remind us of the gloomy skies and the showers while we were there.
Wherever I looked, I saw history. Hundreds of years of the past existed side by side with the present. The old has always fascinated me. So it was a feast for my eyes. There was depth in every wall, beyond what was obvious. Stories everywhere, because years had left their trace.
There is a comfort in history, knowing that generations have been there before us. This also brought the hope that there would be generations following us, and the world would continue in the future, like it has, since thousands and thousands of years before.
Have you visited the Buckingham Palace on a rainy evening, walking all the way up there with newly-bought umbrellas and shoes rain-splashed? Not too many of you, I guess. It was still cold, and the rain dampened the spirits further.
We were exploring the area on foot. There is a charm in discovering places on foot, that you don't feel when you are inside a car or a bus. You can feel the air, look at the sky, be part of the surroundings, which engulf you as you try to place yourself in that location.
The positive for me that evening was that I could get some good quality photographs of the palace that evening. The palace guards marched at intervals, one after the other. They were guarding the royals who resided inside, who represented the empire where 'the sun never sets'.
Visitor poll: only for people who visit London, not for residents
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The short Thames cruise was almost full. People from all over the world were there to experience the lifeline of London, that flowed through the city, with the London Bridge connecting the banks.
As you can see in the accompanying picture, it was cloudy that day. It felt amazing to pass bridge after bridge, in the city connected by so many bridges. It is all about connection, how life existed due to these connections the British made over water. They were experts in navigating. No wonder the colonies were captured and lands and people were colonized.
I may not get a chance to visit London soon, but this one was a great experience. I would never forget it as long as my memory thrives. Memories are all we need. They are the real photographs that make life livable.