It was a lovely evening when our closed family friend Mrs. and Mr. A. K. Agarwal came to our home over a cup of tea. During the friendly gossip we were procuring some possibility to draft a tour to Singapore, Thailand , Hongkong etc. Suddenly Mrs. Agarwal disagreed and said, “it would be better if we make a plan for Europe which must include Switzerland”. The proposal was immediately and strongly seconded by my wife Mrs. Sudha Saxena. Now there was no way, and the proposal had to be accepted by menfolk by all means. The very next day the tour was finalized with the internationally famous Thomas Cook Company. Hearing about our tour programme, one more friend-couple of ours, Mr. and Mrs. Dewan and a cousin of Mr. Agarwal, along with his wife also consented for it. Thus a close team of eight persons was ready.
As each and every one had their passports ready, visas were achieved in minimum possible time. Finally a tour programme named as “Dilkash Europe” of 11 days and 10 nights, starting from 11th June 2016, that would cover the U.K., Paris, Switzerland and Italy, was finalised. We made all necessary preparations for the tour. As all the arrangements of boarding, lodging and sightseeing were to be arranged and borne by the company, we started our tour on 11th of June in a very carefree mood.
On 11th June 2016 at 5.15, I along with my family and friends started for London by Air India flight from I.G.I. Airport and landed at Heathrow Airport at 9.30a.m. (Local time) after travelling a distance of about 8000 Km. Luggage, clearance and Immigration took about two hours. Our representative of Thomas Cook received us outside the airport and took us to Hotel Premier Inn, a nearby place, by a luxury coach at about 12.30. After settling in our rooms and taking some rest and snacks, we came out to see the London Eye, the famous tourist attraction, by our bus.
Our hotel is in the suburb of London so it was 35 Km. away. We took about 45 minutes to reach the giant wheel. We travelled along the north –south bank of the longest river of Britain the Thames river, 346 Km. long, flowing from Cotswold in the west through Oxford to the coast at South end-on-sea in London. It took about one hour to reach the giant wheel. During this period our tour manager described much about the London City, river Thames and its history. He also told us that the London Eye, also known as “the Millennium Wheel”, was erected in 1999 is 443 feet tall. It was world’s tallest Ferris wheel then and is now surpassed by High Roller (Las Vegas) in 2014. It is just opposite the Big Ben and the House of Parliament. Some time was needed to buy tickets so we used this time to see a 7 D show of 15 minutes. After that we reached London Eye that has 32 glass pods, each having a capacity to accommodate about 45 persons at a time. It was moving at such a slow speed that it seemed almost immobile, while it was moving constantly. When it started moving upwards the beautiful scenery of London was before our eyes. When it reached on the top, the whole city was before us and its beauty was marvelous. It was a 30 minutes ride, after seeing it and moving again along River Thames and London, we returned to our hotel and had much needed dinner in a restaurant.
It would be worthwhile to mention that when our plane was about to land it took about 15 to 20 minutes in the air. From the window of the plane whole city along with its greenery, roads, Thames River… it looked like a beautiful painting. It looked like a very well planned city. It was later proved when we went through the roads and streets. The cleanliness, civic and traffic sense of the people was admirable. Early sunrise and late sunset of Europe was amazing, while taking dinner at 9.00 p.m. we were feeling as if it is our teatime, 5.00 p.m. in India. It also happened to be the birthday of the Queen Elizabeth that day. Live broadcasting of the function was shown on all the channels of T.V. It was a very important day for all the people of London who were celebrating it with great enthusiasm.
Next day on 12th June 2016, we started at 8.30 a.m. from our hotel to see the guided tour of London after a heavy English breakfast. It was Sunday, so no traffic jam. We were moving towards London city again seeing the river Thames and reached Albert Square, which is spherical in shape and very famous for its sculpture and grandeur. It is known for its musical concerts presented by world famous musicians. It was 9.00 a.m., so the hall was not open yet, so we enjoyed the beauty and artistic designs carved on it. The name of the hall Albert square was given on the name of the husband of the Queen of that time. In England, the wife of King is designated as Queen but the husband of Queen in not designated as King, he is considered only as husband of the Queen. But Albert, the husband of the Queen took active interest in managing the things and helped Queen in many ways. He also fought many battles successfully for the kingdom so Queen had a high regard and affection for him. Albert died before the Queen, so she constructed Albert Hall in his memory. She also put his statue on a very high dais in a very big park just in front of the Royal Albert Hall. The park is decorated with the sculptures of lion, camel, elephant and giraffe put on a very high platform on all the four corners of a beautiful lush green park.
From here onwards we had a local guide who luckily hailed from Gujarat (India). She gave us a pretty long time and spoke about London its description, other details and its history in Hindi and made our conversation easily understandable and lovely. Moving forward, we came across the palace of the Queen surrounded by a dense forest and high walls with barbed wires for safety purpose, although she hardly visits this palace. By now going through streets, roads and buildings of London we reached the famous London Bridge over Thames River just facing the Tower Bridge. London Bridge is the oldest bridge over river Thames. People mistakenly take Tower Bridge as London Bridge. The opening of Tower Bridge has been closed for last six months due to some technical problem, therefore passing of big ships could not be seen. There was a bit drizzling but we saw a number of big ships sailing through it keeping ourselves under umbrellas. Its importance has been the subject of popular culture through the ages such as in the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down” and its inclusion within art and literature.
Now going through the city we saw the great buildings of the city like St. Paul’s Church, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament House, House of Commons, House of Lord, Supreme Court, London Stock Exchange, Trafalgar Square. Westminster Abbey is the Royal Church where Royal weddings of Kings are performed. We also went to the Birmingham Palace but we could not get in as it was closed for public, because some celebrations were still going on due to the Queen’s birthday being celebrated the previous day. We were bit disappointed, but a silver lining was also seen in it. All the people of London celebrate the birthday of the Queen with great zeal and warmth. As all the people of the city cannot be accommodated in the palace, so they collectively come to big gardens and wish for the good health of their queen. They celebrate the birthday of queen with food, music and dance like a picnic. While passing through Birmingham palace it was drizzling and we saw that a number of ladies and gents wearing raincoats were moving quietly towards a particular place in a queue on footpath. There were a large number of old people too who were laughing, making merry and enjoying the occasion. After some time, we could see the place where all the people were approaching. It was a very big park where thousands of people were already present making merry on the tune of different musical instruments and in very light mood without any buzz.
Seeing all the scintillating scenes of London, we passed through The Central Bank of U.K. and famous Lombard Street where Royal families come for their hairdressing and shoe shopping. In their shoe store named as Lobb Shoe store, shoes are made only to the order. So you will not find any single pair of shoe on display, only moulds are seen there. By the time it was 1.30 p.m. and we took our lunch in a restaurant and reached Madam Tussaud’s Wax museum, that has wax statues of the famous personalities of the world. Here we took a number of pictures along with these statues. There was a car- belt which took us along a circular path moving along 3600 and showing a number of hilarious, horrible but entertaining stories with clay moulds and colorful statues. We also enjoyed another different type of 7D show here. After that we saw the whole process of making wax model from the time of Madam Tussaud’s to new technique of modern time. The museum incidentally was founded by Wax sculptor Marie Tussauds in 1935 and has branches in many cities now. It will be interesting to note that Madam Tussauds would open a museum in Delhi too. From here we went to a big mall for a bit of shopping – after all we had to take care of the women folk too – and enjoying Pizza and Coffee in a coffee shop to relax ourselves to some extent. At the end of the day we saw a couple of shows, had our dinner and returned to our hotel. I shall share more with the next part of this tour where we go to Paris and more. Thank you for being with me on this marvellous tour.