Exploring London can be condensed into two words—the London Underground and walking. All one has to do to experience the city is hop onto a train, walk around and get onto another train to their next destination. For someone accustomed to chaotic roads and crowded transport, the organisation of the various route lines and their peaceful functioning managed to leave me awestruck.
With London Euston as our starting point each morning, we would set off to different parts of the city. To find the appropriate line given by names such as Victoria and Piccadilly, and represented by different colours on the tube map was a ‘tourist thrill’ my sister and I enjoyed thoroughly. The noisy platforms would never give a hint to what was present just outside the station, and the surprise never left us disappointed.
I remember my first viewing of Big Ben. Exiting straight out of the Westminister Underground, on a relatively warm afternoon, the clock tower was the first thing to catch my eye. Standing tall, the bell chimed as the hour began. With a short walk on the Westminister Bridge, one can quickly cover a few of London’s iconic sites including the London Eye, the Westminister Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. These sites, along with the Thames form some of the postcard images we have always seen of the city.
While Big Ben and London Eye are sites one might have heard of, no one can miss the familiarity that comes with Trafalgar Square—Amrish Puri feeding pigeons in the opening scene of the iconic DDLJ. The only similarity our day shared with that scene was the rain. Contrary to what is shown, Trafalgar Square is quite a happening place with performing artistes and talented painters scattered across. Note to Aditya Chopra—signs prohibiting the feeding of pigeons were just as present as the many, many tourists.
There are two train stations which will always remain in my heart.
Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. For any Potterhead, this is a must on their bucket list. King’s Cross, as a station, has the charm of the days gone by. Complete with red bricks and spiral staircases, no place could seem more perfect to lead to Hogwarts. As I stood in line to get my photograph taken with a trolley half entering the platform, an excitement like none other filled me. Harry Potter has been such an integral part of my childhood. To be this close to what anyone like me would call home was surreal. At the platform, there is a store which sells everything Harry Potter related. The joy of getting my Slytherin scarf, or discussing with a Ravenclaw which merchandise to buy made this place all the more special
The station at Baker Street—home of Sherlock Holmes—is another place which will always stay with me. The old, dimly lit station was precisely the kind of the place I would imagine Sherlock Holmes in. The fact that it was not rush hour and the station was comparatively empty only added to a mysterious vibe I had built up for myself. As you come out of the station, a large statue of the man himself greets you. Sherlock Holmes, here, as everything you could imagine the detective to have—including his coat and hat he is recognized for.
Right from Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven to BBC’s Doctor Who, I have grown up imaging places in the UK, especially London. Every sight was an experience of its own—be it to see the Buckingham Palace, or to walk in Reagent’s Park
On our final day here, we were to go to Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street. At an extremely crowded station, I missed a train my family managed to get on. As I waited for my father to return, I sat on a bench listening to music. As Arctic Monkeys, Florence+ the Machine, and the occasional Beatles tracks took over, all I could feel was a rush. I looked at people coming in and going out, and it was bewildering to know that I got to see a lot of what inspired these artistes, these inspirations of mine.
London is multidimensional. The beauty of the city, to me, is not just that it has people from all parts of the world. It is a city which has captured the old and the new. Piccadilly Circus, with its bright lights and high-end stores, showed me another side to this wonderful city. Harry Styles’ had released his first single that week. ‘Sign of the Times’ is reminiscent of the cheer I felt that evening. There is inspiration in every mile of the city, be it through ancient architecture or helpful strangers. The essence, the very heart of a place is what we get to take back, and that is what we must always treasure.
–Aarohi Sarma for MTTN
Featured Image: Yashovardhan Parekh