“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
I believe that travelling is not only a narration of the do’s and don’ts regarding a specific place but to take the audience on the journey of the place with me. It is no fun to describe the feelings of the different places that I had visited without building a mood to those places. That is precisely why I want to take you on a journey with me to London . . . . from the beginning.
Preparations for visiting the place had begun a month earlier than the actual departure date. From hunting down budget hotels and guest houses to stay to having a look at the places which were an absolute visit and their entrance fees, took many nights of prior planning.
It is often said that the best trips are taken when you let the roads take the better of you; but in some places it is of utmost importance that prior planning is done. London is considered as the business capital of the world. From business meetings to academic conferences, from movie shootings to touristy trips; everything finds its hotspot in London. It is a city which is very busy and thus, one needs to make sure that there is availability of space to accommodate them in the whirlwind of activity that comprise London.
After a lot of research and discussion, we planned for a mid-morning train from the Piccadilly to London Euston. We (a group of four) were to stay in two different places. While my parents chose Holiday Inn, my friend and I preferred to live in the YMCA Youth Hostel London. Both the places were at a walking distance from each other.
For touring purposes, we settled for Oyester cards which allowed us to ride on any bus or tubes; and for touring the city we opted for the Hop On /Hop off buses which toured the main attractions of the city. We had decided not to miss Madame Tussaud’s, Trafalgar Square , Westminster Abbey, Tower of London and Big Ben at any cost.
Thus, we set out enthusiastically on a bright Tuesday morning to catch our train to the city of Dreams. The train made three stops before terminating in London -Stockport, Macclesfield and Stoke-on-Trent. It was then that I remembered that I had boarded a similar train last year when I had travelled to Macclesfield with my friends. The train stopped at Stockport first.
Every time I sit in the train and take out my camera, a thousand thoughts create a whirlpool in my mind. Most of the time the primary thought is of the glasses which reflect the light on the windows and destroy my photographs and how I should try to look for some Reflective Filters in Jessops when I go back. But then, I remember that I hardly have time to do that before the next trip comes along. Stockport is very near to Manchester. It takes around ten minutes by train. In fact regular buses leave for Stockport from the Piccadilly Bus Station. If my memory does not fail me it is the bus 42.
It becomes difficult, most of the time , almost impossible to be honest to capture good shots from inside the train. Primarily because the objects move very fast. Further, there is always a huge distance between the object you want to capture and your position. Due to this, I mostly get frames where the sky occupies three -fourths of the frame and the land is almost overshadowed by the amount of sky captured in the frame.
Passing through Stockport reminded me of my plans to visit this place soon. I remember seeing pictures of the beautiful surroundings of this place on the profile of a friend. Since then I have made a plan to visit this place soon. Only the ‘soon’ never came till date.
Passing through Macclesfield reminded me of the great time I had with my friends here last year. It was a day trip that we embarked upon. Macclesfield, to me would be described as a small and cosy city. It almost resembles one of those settlements where the permanent residents knew each other. The best part of the city was the 108 steps to the Macclesfield Church, which BTW we climbed down to the station. But the view , at night, from those steps was mesmerizing.
I had heard about Stoke-on-Trent but never really thought of it as a place in my bucketlist. Although, let me be honest I am not opposed to going there, but it does not feature in my immediate bucketlist. Stoke-on-Trent was like those typical countryside landscape where there were open fields and sheeps grazing all over.
The beautiful canopies of trees were interrupted by long stretches of open fields separated by short rows of bushes and plants. It was a pleasing sight to see sheeps grazing under the bright glowing sun and (imagining) the cold wind blowing outside. Sunny days are a rarity in the UK. It is something that I have told in almost all my posts and will repeat it over and over again. Thus, while back in India I used to curse the sun, here I pray for the sun . But on the bright side, London is not as cold as Manchester and thus the temperature was supposed to be pleasant during our stay according to the weather site I had consulted.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
At times I felt like those tiny little sheeps grazing in the open fields. In reality, I am nothing but a tiny speck in this entire world. There are so many places to see and visit. So many different cultures to be experienced. So many people to meet. So many photographs to take. The hunger for travel and the thirst for exploring the world is a never-ending one. I realised that no matter how many places – big or small I have been to, as a traveller I remain ever dissatisfied. Is it good or is it bad? This is a question I often ask myself, but have no answer. I did not want to find an answer to this question as well, not while I was on the way to one of the world’s greatest cities. Such philosophical questions can be answered later .
As we were on the outskirts of Stoke-on- Trent, I started listening to some music on my phone, until I saw this (photo above). This must be familiar to many people but it resembled the mustard fields in India. Well, you can debate about sunflower fields too but, sunflowers are taller in height than the height of this field. It reminded me of the famous scene from the Hindi movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge where Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol were running amongst such fields expressing their love for each other.
We were not far away from London when I saw this industry outside the city. It was like the business capital of the world was welcoming me through this industry, a global symbol of business. Industries always remind me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As I was not very sure what factory this was, I imagined it to be my Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
This was taken right outside the Euston Station, London. As we entered the station, I only started calculating the time it would take me to reach my hostel, freshen up, have food and set out exploring the city. Numerous times, images of the London Eye, Tower of London, London Bridge flashed in my mind’s eye and evoked in me a feeling , a curiosity to set my eyes on them as fast as possible. I realised that “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
I had no idea that all the traditional imageries of London was to be broken . I was to discover London through my eyes and put in them my emotions. It is said that “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley; and I discovered that this was true.
A very interesting adventure lay ahead of me. And ahead of you as we embark on a written journey of London in my next posts. . . . . .