Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Losing it in London

To say that the 5-day work trip to London was action packed and full of surprises is to say the least. The first surprise came in the form of a crashed computer system on the eve of the event. The grace came when we managed to salvage the situation, phew !! Murphy’s law in motion.
Anyways…post a successful and a rocking finale to the event; me and Rajesh decided we so wanted to go for a trip to the Windsor Castle and also to Stonehenge…and Sanjeev readily and willingly took charge. Since he was the one holding an international driving license he decided it will be economical and better if we rent a car with a GPS and get going. And thats what we did.
The “aunty on the GPS” as Sanjeev liked to call that shrill guiding voice on the GPS weirdly called Tom Tom started to guide us. Rajesh smirked and said, “cool now we don't have to use our brains, just go with the aunty.” Proved to be ominous later. The ride till Windsor Castle was smooth and on the way only got honked at for 4 times. Jeez and coming from the land of “Horn OK Please” we don't take no offence even if the Londoners were trying to give it to us. Parking the car and then paying the parking fee was a challenge too---what no parking wala bhaiya to who we could toss the keys---gosh we are spoilt. The machine chomped off 2 GBPs before we manually deposited the fee to the sweet lady sitting at the counter. Machines can make life as tough as it can make it easy. Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle was a beauty. Awe inspiring structure, the oldest living castle, abode of the Queen, landscaped lawns, now manicured moats, moat now well landscaped royally dressed to intimidate security and the never moving or blinking soldier (aside: what do they do if they get an itch to scratch or if a fly sits on their upturned noses…for this Sanjeev said “there are no makhis (flies) here Anubha” Ok boss, Yes sir whatever you say.  London ka jawan
Another kick was that they give an audio tour player free….yay atleast something in the land of “no free lunches” was free. Happily wearing those big fat ear phones that also protected them poor ears in the cold,windy and chilly weather we embarked on to the tour of the Windsor Castle. The trip inside was filled with oohs and wows, and then we came to the section where many treasures of different shapes and sizes were displayed; some were gifted to the State and others were taken…..well. The art of laying the table all at a studied angle cutlery included was a revelation. After strolling around and happily posing with the guards, the structure, the this and the that; we decided to move back to the car parking.
Destination Next: the StonehengeStonehenge --me and Rajesh highly anticipative and excited whereas Sanjeev thinking chalo kuch to acha hi hoga after all Rajesh and Anubha are soooo excited. So off we tried to go. Tried? Yeah…because just then the TomTom aunty decided to play truant and a lady the men couldn’t woo to wake up from the grave. Yes the TomTom died…..but well not our hopes. Rajesh pulled out all the Google maps and the road maps that we were armed with; in the meantime i kept trying to wake up the dead. The maps were not useful; by the time we used to figure out the turning we would have already missed it 2 miles ago…unfortunately there weren't any bhaiya jis on the highway to guide us.
Rajesh figured we will have to cross Ascot and Bracknell. We also figured our redemption will only be another TomTom that we must buy if we were to ever set eyes on Stonehenge. We stopped by the sleepy town of Ascot; passing by the royal racecourse and feeling great about it. The little shop by the gas station did not have the TomTom and we were left well…tomtoming about the idea of whether to go further or not…..Ok let’s go….so off we went and finally found an uncle ji near Bracknell, who guided us to a small mall where we could buy a GPS. After losing way a couple of more times and circling the town thrice we hit upon the mall…and bought one. phew!! the dreams of Stonehenge looked a little more real and a tad more closer.
I asked Rajesh what if we reach late and it is closed….well the optimist in him said “arrey bhai agar Qutab Minar band ho jaye to kya dikhti nahin hai.” Lets get going…Sanjeev punched in the required address and now the voice of aunty ji was nothing less than manna from heaven. A stop over for lunch- for the now famished us and growling tummies- later we finally left for yes the Stonehenge!
By this time Sanjeev had visions of grandeur, majestic, prehistoric monument. The rolling countryside, the green manicured farms, and hefty sheep with awesome fluffy fur grazing by them, lovely clean and crisp air…baa baa white one wow the countryside of London is definitely not overrated and very much what you envision of it.
Finally we reached Stonehenge….and while me and Rajesh exulted…..Sanjeev was like “what?!!!!??? is this it” he just could not get over the feeling that this is what we were trying to reach after thousands of hurdles and mini fiascos. And lo! it was closed…the charms on the security guard and the offer to pay more just did not work….another thing that works awfully well in my country :) Any way Sanjeev gamely posed for a couple of pics and clicked a few too. Though i could not shake the feeling of “is this it” off i dare not confess. And man was it cold…it was freezing…the wind chill factored in. After a couple of minutes we all snuck up in the warm and cozy car and having ticked off Stonehenge off the list went back to Wembley Plaza.
Besides Sanjeev having discovered the Stonehenge….on this discovery filled trip we discovered the totally superb countryside, Ascot’s royal racecourse …and the art of losing and then finding it all only with the TomTom.
The Tomtom was dead. Long live the Tomtom !

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