Category: Travel

My time in the UK – Part 3


Spring turned to summer soon after we moved into our rented flat in North London. If memory serves me right, it was, by and large, a warm, sunny summer. We decided to see some of the sights around London on a short road-trip.

I hired a car from close to our flat in North Finchley. Our first destination was Stonehenge. We reached Stonehenge in the late afternoon and were able to enjoy the place in the late afternoon sunshine, with hardly any tourists around. We did not spend too much time there, but there was something special about the place. We also visited Avebury, site of the largest megalithic stone circle in the world.

I do not recollect where we stayed that first night, but I do remember that it was the night that Amy Winehouse sadly died. The place was a lovely English cottage bed and breakfast. We enjoyed a relaxing stay at this place before making our way to Bath.

Roman baths, Bath

Bath was the highlight of our trip. The Roman ruins were stunning and atmospheric. In addition, the small size of the town and it’s architecture made it a beautiful town to just walk around in. We would have loved to spend an additional day there, but unfortunately, we had already made reservations at our next halt.

We then headed to the Cotswolds region where we halted at the charming village of Chipping Campden. The place was quiet and relaxed, but we were missing Bath, which took away some of the charm of the stay.

We were headed back to London the next day. The drive took us through Oxford, but we did not stop to see the place. I always thought I would be back to visit it one day, but that has not happened (so far!).

My time in the UK – Part 2

We moved into our rented flat in North Finchley in May of 2011. The flat was a medium-sized two-bedroom unit within a low-rise brick unit of flats. It was located on the ground floor and had a separate entrance through the kitchen. The place was tastefully done and perfect for a small family.

The place was about a 7 minute walk from the local high street which had pretty much all the shops one would need to frequent. The public bus terminus was a 12 minute walk while the metro stop was about 15 minutes away (it was on the other side of the high street from where we were located). It was a bit of a commute to my office (around 45 minutes) but that was an improvement over my previous commutes in Sydney and Mumbai, so I was not complaining!

May was a great time of the year to begin our new innings in London. The trees were by now all green, the weather was steadily getting warmer and the days longer. Work was also very busy, and after a couple of months, we decided to take a small road trip which I will write about later.

Finally, a note on the shops that we used to visit. For groceries and other essentials, our primary port of call was Sainsbury’s. We also had options at either end nearby – Aldi when we wanted to be more budget conscious and Waitrose for the occasional splurge! A special note for the ready-to-eat pizzas and other items we found at Waitrose – these were delicious, and far better than any we had seen elsewhere. There was a fashion store with good quality reasonably prized clothes for the entire family, Argos for domestic products as well as charity shops from where I added to my CD collection. There was an Indian store manned by people of Indian (Gujarati) origin where we could find delicious Indian and Gujarati food items. With a few cafes and restaurants nearby, the place was pretty much self-sufficient.

My time in the UK – Part 1

I was recently talking with some people in the UK, and it suddenly struck me that it was almost exactly a decade ago when we (my wife and I) had moved to the UK. It was an interesting phase of our lives. I had never written about my time in the UK before, so I thought of jotting down some of my thoughts from our time there before they become an even more distant memory.

We had been living in Sydney, Australia for over 2 years before we decided to make the move to the UK. I was keen to live and work in Europe (and UK was very much part of Europe then, before Brexit). As it happened, my application for a work-visa was approved and we decided to move. After leaving Australia, we took a 3 week driving holiday in New Zealand and then spent a few weeks in our hometown of Mumbai. So it was quite a shock to the system when we finally arrived in grey, cold and wet England towards the end of winter.

We were met at the airport by a close friend of my wife with whom we were to spend the first few weeks of our time in the UK while I found a job and we found a place to stay. Their place was in Essex, near Southend-on-Sea. It was great staying with friends as it definitely eased the transition into a new country.

Some of the memories from our time at Essex included visiting Southend-on-Sea as well as visiting some of the parks in the area and seeing the first shoots of daffodil poke out from the earth, heralding spring. Soon, the days started getting longer, brighter and warmer; it was fascinating to see the seasons change.

Shortly after landing in the UK, I landed a job in Central London. It was a long commute from Essex, but a pleasant one. By then, we had started looking for our own place to stay, and we found a place that we liked in North Finchley, London and moved in a few days later.

Memories of a memorable meal

How good must a meal be if you still remember it longingly over 33 years later? Very good? Well, this was certainly the case for one of the best meals I have had in my life so far.

When we think of memorable meals, many a times we tend to think of Michelin starred restaurants, glamour, celebrity chefs, etc. But this one was none of those sorts. It was a plain, simple meal, but one that me and my family still remember fondly!

The trigger for this post was my dad asking me if I remembered this particular meal we had. I responded immediately, “Of course” and remarked to my wife that Dad was referring to the meal that I often mention as the best meal I have had.

Before we get to the meal proper, let me outline the setting. It was autumn of 1987 (I remember the year because that was the year that India hosted the Cricket World Cup for the first time). We were on a trip to Srinagar in the Kashmir valley. Our trip had started a few days earlier when we left Mumbai by, I think, the August Kranti express to reach Delhi. After a few days of sight-seeing in Delhi, we took the overnight train to Jammu and immediately took a cab for the drive to Srinagar.

The drive itself was incredibly scenic. It was the first time that I was seeing Alpine scenery and the scene at every curve was simply mesmerising. After a while, it was time for lunch. And the driver of the cab stopped in front of this nondescript wooden cabin on the side of the road. The back of the cabin overlooked a valley with a stream flowing swiftly below. The setting was beautiful, more than making up for the otherwise plain interiors of the place. But all of that was forgotten as soon as I had my first bite of the food. I don’t think I had ever eaten anything with as much relish as I had that meal, before and after.

I know I have not mentioned anything yet of the meal. What was it, you ask? Well, let me not keep you in surprise any longer. It was….. the humble Rajma chawal (rice with kidney bean curry). Served with a healthy dollop of ghee, each and every bite of that Rajma chawal was heavenly. Forget Rajma chawal, that meal set the standard for every subsequent meal I have had, and nothing so far has beaten that for the pure emotions and memories it generated.

I was only 12 when I had that meal, so maybe I was a bit impressionable. But hearing my father also speak about it so many years later only reinforced what a superlative meal it actually was. I do not remember much more of that particular journey or the meal, but my dad mentioned that he had been asking the driver for a suitable halt for lunch for some time before we reached this place, but the driver kept insisting that we wait till we reach this place. Boy, am I glad that we listened to him!

I do not recollect the name of the place we halted at. Curiosity prompted me to do a search online. And the internet pointed me to a place called Peerah which is very famous for its Rajma chawal. Maybe this is where we had the meal…

Bird-watching at Kaikondrahalli Lake

Kaikondrahalli Lake – evening

We went bird-watching to Kaikondrahalli Lake over the weekend. I usually go bird-watching in the mornings, but for a change, this was an evening outing. And it turned out richly rewarding, with two ‘lifers’ for me. Here is the complete list of bird spotted:

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Cormorant
  3. Little Cormorant
  4. Darter
  5. Spot-billed Pelican
  6. Grey Heron
  7. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  8. Indian Pond-Heron
  9. Cattle Egret
  10. Median Egret
  11. Little Egret
  12. Painted Stork
  13. Oriental White (Black-headed) Ibis
  14. Glossy Ibis
  15. Spot-billed Duck
  16. Northern Shoveller
  17. Black Kite
  18. Brahminy Kite
  19. White-breasted Waterhen
  20. Common Moorhen
  21. Purple Moorhen (Grey-headed Swamphen)
  22. Common Coot
  23. Red-wattled Lapwing
  24. Wood Sandpiper
  25. Common Sandpiper
  26. Spotted Dove
  27. Asian Koel
  28. White-breasted (throated) Kingfisher
  29. White-cheeked Barbet
  30. Black-naped Oriole
  31. Ashy Drongo
  32. Rosy Starling
  33. Common Myna
  34. Jungle Myna
  35. Jungle (Large-billed) Crow
  36. Red-whiskered Bulbul
  37. Syke’s Warbler
  38. Tickell’s (Pale-billed) Flowerpecker