Account of travels across the world. This blog provides descriptions of travels in different parts of the world. Pictures related to many of the blogs can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7330879@N05/ and for more information I can be e-mailed at email@example.com
July 14, 2006
Got up without the alarm since the time difference was helping. Got packed and went down to the restaurant for the complimentary breakfast. Had a dosa, and puri and bhaji. It was a good breakfast and really enjoyed it. Got back to the room and got the bell man to get the bags down and loaded into the car. Checked out and headed out to the airport. The Virgin upper class check in was smooth but immigration took a while. Settled into the club and I went to the Internet kiosk (Reliance has one with the duty free shops, it is Rs. 100 for thirty minutes which is a really good deal and they accept Indian currency, many of the shops in duty free do not) and cancelled the hotel in London since we would be staying with Kaju Mama. He is my distant uncle from my mother’s side. A bachelor, he has lived in England for nearly 30 years. He was very close to a gentleman called Colin and when Colin passed away about 10 year ago, he left his entire estate to Kaju Mama. So my uncle now lives in London and had many friends among whom Lenny is a close friend. We had never stayed with Kaju Mama before and decided to take him up on his offer this time. The boarding of the flight was smooth and we were off right on time. Being upper class we were very comfortable and I was able to watch a movie on my computer as well as get caught up with work. It was a clear day and got excellent views of Afghanistan. Was hoping to show Bebo Tehran, but because of the ongoing conflict the flight went over Southern Russia and avoided most of the mid-East. We still got to London on time and were out through immigration and customs by about 6:30 in the evening, UK time. We had to wait a while before Kaju Mama arrived at the airport. I took a cab with our 4 bags and Bebo and Mikku rode with Kaju Mama. The cab driver made the mistake of taking M25 at 7:00 pm on a Friday evening and I was too tired to give directions. Eventually he got on M4/A4 and that was a disaster going into London on a Friday night. He missed the Hammersmith bridge exit and we ended up having to cut through the traffic in South Kensington and we were stuck all the way through. If I had known this is what he would do I would have rented a car driven myself. Kaju lives in Wandsworth which is close to Putney. His place is off Garrot Lane and obviously they had gotten there before I did in the taxi. At his place we met Lenny. About 65 years old, Lenny is a divorcee. An artist by profession he was a doting friend and they had really prepared for our stay. Kaju’s house (which he inherited from Colin) has four bedrooms up stairs and one bathroom there too. Downstairs is the kitchen and the living room, small wash room and a quaint little garden with a lily pond and eight cats that regularly visit. Lenny has decorated the house and does most the garden work. Although Lenny has his own place, he spends the weekends with Kaju. We were also informed that there was an Irish gentleman who would come late in the night and would be in one of the bedrooms. So, Mikku and I were in the other and Bebo in the third and Kaju and Lenny in the fourth master bedroom. Kaju is also an excellent cook and a perfect host. He had prepared a many-course meal for us and we really enjoyed the evening, eating, talking and generally getting to know each other better. Bebo enjoyed the attention he got from Lenny and Kaju and eventually we called it a day. I stayed up a little and repacked our bags since the plan was to leave all but one bag in Kaju’s house as we headed out to Ireland the next day.
July 15, 2007
We had a relaxed start of the day. Got up and went downstairs and fixed myself a cup of coffee in Kaju Mama’s well appointed kitchen. Hooked up the computer and got some work done for the conference. Soon Lenny was up and I fixed him some coffee and we sat and chatted a bit. As the others got up I made some tea for all and then Kaju Mama declared that he was going to cook a full English breakfast. As we started to get ready, he was there preparing a grand breakfast. By that time George, the Irish guest who now lives in Spain, had gotten up too and had come downstairs. George is about 70 and has lived in England and Australia for most of his life. Once he developed problems with breathing he was advised to move to a warmer and drier place so he sold all his stuff in London and moved down to Spain. Now he comes and visits London occasionally and stays with Kaju Mama. He was an interesting person and after the hearty breakfast we all sat in the garden and chatted. The conversation turned to memories of the War and both Lenny and George remembered the bombs and the shelters. George also told us stories about his life in Belfast the height of the IRA activities and how his restaurant was bombed and the way in which the different parties tried to extort money from business men like him. Srijoy was thrilled to hear these stories. We eventually left around 11:30 in the morning and Kaju Mama drove us to Terminal 1 at Heathrow, we had to circle around once but we were there in plenty of time. Got checked in and then hung around trying to resolve the problem with my Amex card. Eventually the Aer Lingus flight left about 40 minutes late for the 50 minute flight to Dublin. The immigration was simple and went to rent the car from Thrifty. Discovered the problem with Mikku’s Amex as well. Eventually got the car and headed out West towards Enfield for the hotel. Was lost once, but eventually got to the Marriot Johnstown Hotel and Spa at Enfield. It was an old mansion and it has been made into a hotel with additions. The room was very nice and we got settled in and eventually ate at the bar and called it a day.
July 16, 2007
Left early in the morning. Took M4/N4 into city center of Dublin. Being a Sunday morning everything was completely deserted. It was not difficult finding Trinity University and there was plenty of parking that early in the morning. Went off to the conference and spent most of the day there. Later in the afternoon picked up Mikku and Bebo and came back to town. By then it was getting crowded but was able to find parking by the river. Walked on to Temple Bar and then on to Dublin castle. The city is nice but not quite as picturesque as many other European cities. Kept walking along Dame Street by the theaters and eventually went on to Temple square. This was an interesting mix of old and new and we picked a small Italian bistro for lunch. Had a nice leisurely meal and then walked on to Trinity University. Took some pictures around there and bought a ticket for the bus and took it to the other end of Dame Street to the Christ Church. Could not enter the church but walked on to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and spent a little time at the Cathedral gardens. Took another bus back to the Parliament house area of Dame Street and stopped at a café for drinks. This is the great thing about Europe with all its little cafes and the pubs. We then started walking back towards the car and stopped at a convenience store for supplies. The clerk was from India and he suggested that we go to the larger market for stuff. We walked quite a bit and eventually reached the Jarvis shopping center. It was a pretty standard mall, and Mikku went around it some as Bebo and I rested. Eventually we walked back towards the car. I had the two of them wait by the river and I went and got the car and we headed back to the hotel. Traffic was not too bad and we were eventually back in time for a drink at the hotel.
July 17, 2006
Took off in the morning after some conferencing and traveled along M4/N4 going east towards Dublin. Took the Naas exit and veered off to the South East towards County Wicklow. Ireland is divided into specific counties and they are all distinct in their own ways. This particular county is to the South of Dublin and is well known for its valleys, hills and ultimately its beaches. We drove through Naas and stopped on the way at a small town and I got myself a couple of shirts given that I was running out of clean clothes! Had tea there too. The road gets tricky after Naas and one goes through hilly roads through rather barren hills and valleys and then through Wicklow pass to get into Glendalough. This is a tourist stop and we spent just a few minutes there, looked at the upper and lower lake and then moved on towards Wicklow. The town of Wicklow was medium sized. We headed towards the beach and had a pub lunch and then Srijoy spent some time at the beach. This is a different kind of a beach given it is mostly made up of pebbles with hardly any sand at all. It was quite nice and the water was really calm and serene. After some time there we moved back to the town center and Mikku looked at the shops and stuff and we eventually headed out going back North along the coast road. Although it is called the coast road, it really does not get too close to the coast. I tried a side street and ended up in some one’s barn. Had to get out fast before they caught us for trespassing! We then went through Newcastle and eventually stopped at Bray. Had a drink there and then headed down to the esplanade by the ocean at Bray with a view of Bray Head which is a hill that overlooks the sea. It was hot but sunny and clear and we strolled by the sea and back to the car. It was getting a little late and so we headed out of Bray. Was able to find N11 fairly easily and we went off on M50 and then on M4 to get back to Enfield. Dropped Mikku and Bebo at the hotel and went to the city and found a Centra grocery store. Got some sandwiches and snacks from there. Spent the evening relaxing in the room and finally called it a day.
July 18, 2006
Left the hotel around 10:00 after a good breakfast. Our first stop was Malahide castle. This was reached by M4/N4 towards Dublin and then taking M50 Northbound to Malahide Road and then to the town of Malahide. Parked the car and waked over to the castle. It was a long walk but it was pleasant. The castle proved to the ancestral home of a family and we took the brief tour of the castle. It was mildly interesting. We then took a taxi back to Malahide station. Both the round trip ticket to Dublin and took the train to Connoly station. It took about 30 mins to get to Connoly. There had lunch at a pub and walked back to Connoly and took the Luas tram all the way to Jone’s street – the home of the Guinness brewery. We bought the round trip/unlimited bus ticket and tool the Luas to visit the Guinness brewery. The ride was fine, and there was a little walk to get to the storehouse. Got the tickets, went to the gift shop and then walked around the brewery. Finally on the 7th floor got the free drinks and spent some time there. Left from Guinness and took the horse carriage (about 30 Euro). From Temple Bar walked by Trinity and took a bus to St. Stephen’s Green. Sat around there for a while and then walked down Grafton Street back to the bus stop. Here took a bus back to Connoly and then the train at 6:35 pm going to Malahide. Picked up the car there and drove back home. The drive back was OK and dropped Mikku and Bebo at the hotel and I went to Enfield to get sandwiches. Got two of them made up at the Deli and was back in the room by about 8:30. Did some packing and arranging and called it a day.
July 19, 2006
We left from the hotel after a good breakfast. It took about an hour to get to the airport. The car return process was simple. It was a good thing that I had filled up the car before leaving (Gas was Euro1.21 per liter making it about $6.00 per gallon). The check in went smoothly enough and we were at the gate in time. Got some duty free stuff as leaving. The flight was uneventful. Got to Heathrow Terminal 1 and the baggage collection was smooth and got out to the terminal. Left 3 bags in left luggage (it is now 6 sterling per bag per day) and went down to the underground. Bought the all day train and bus pass and took the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus. It was the hottest day of the season in London (33 C) and since nothing is air conditioned things were quite miserable in the train where if felt like a sauna. We got off at Piccadilly, it was a glorious day and we took a few pictures and walked over to Glasshouse Street and our Garfunkels. Lunch was a little late and I also went down to the subway and got some money out. We then walked over to Shaftsbury Avenue and took a taxi to Foyle’s bookstore on Tottenham Court Road. Walked around there and discovered some of the old bookstores that sell used books and stuff. That was quite nice. Bebo also enjoyed visiting the stores. Returned to Foyle’s and met up with Mikku and we then walked over to the Oxford Street corner and took a bus to John Lewis on Oxford Street. Browsed around. Bebo was getting tired and so went to the Café Nero in the House of Fraser, had a cup of tea and then walked over to the Bond Street underground and took the trains to Hammersmith. It was really hot and crowded in the subway given it was rush hour. We got on the number 220 from Hammersmith to Wandsworth. It was a long, hot and somewhat uncomfortable journey. Eventually got off in front of Southside shopping center, walked down Garret Lane but decided to take a taxi to Kaju Mamu’s house. Bebo was excited to ride the black cab. Kaju Mamu was home already. I had a quick beer and then headed out for Heathrow at about 7:00 pm to get the suitcases. It was a long journey, the bus took a while to come, the train I was in cancelled near South Ealing and so had to wait for another train. Eventually picked up the bags and was back on a train by 8:45 and was back in Hammersmith about 9:30. Was picked up by Kaju Mama from the Hammersmith. Home by 10:00, had a sumptuous dinner sitting outside in Kaju Mama’s lawn. Eventually called it a day after doing the necessary repacking. Chatted with Kaju Mama some and went to bed around midnight.
Got up early. Was ready with breakfast of coffee and crackers and as the others got up I moved the suitcases out. The car with the driver (Sam, from Sri Lanka) showed up at 7:15. We loaded our bags and headed out for Gatwick. Sam knew the area well and we took all the right roads and got to the correct terminal about 8:30. Checking in with US Air was smooth. Did a little shopping at duty free and were eventually on our way on time. US Air coach service was average to bad. The food was hot but tasteless, the electric outlet could not power up my inverter and so was unable to use the computer too much. The entertainment system was good but being a cheap shit American carrier they charge $5.00 for the headsets (BTW, alcoholic drinks are also $5.00 per piece). I decided to stick to my DVD player and watched a Hindi movie. To note, US Air does not offer the sky map so you are clueless as to where you are when you are flying. This is standard for most airlines, but not US Air. Bad airlines. Got to Charlotte on time though. Immigration and customs was good. Best thing is that the “re-checking” of bags is no longer the case in Charlotte. So we were out quickly. Got the rental van and headed back home. Picked up Snowy on the way and we were home by about 6:30 pm.