Aug 12, 2011

London Diaries (1) : Of Jetlag, Michelin star restaurants and Musicals

Cold, that was the first word that came to my mind when I got off at Heathrow. Yes, I was naive enough to expect the British summer to be actually warm! In the coming few days I was to learn a lot about the treacherous London weather! Cold also applied to the rather stern faced immigration officer who scrutinized my visa for what seemed like an eternity and asked me innumerable questions till he was satisfied that I was not going to add to the number of illegal immigrants in his country.

London was hidden behind a sleet of rain as I looked out bleary eyed from my cousin’s car window. Then in classic English weather fashion, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had begun. A very feeble sun peeped out from behind the clouds and I had my first glimpse of the city that was to be my home for the next two and a half weeks. The first thing that struck me about London was the architecture. All major cities in the world are usually characterized by modern buildings and sky scrapers but not London. London is a paradise for architecture and history lovers. This city has managed to keep its history alive by simply preserving its different architecture styles and by still using them. I am sure there must be high rises and apartment blocks in London but frankly I hardly saw any. We mostly passed residential areas and I simply loved the way the houses were constructed in different architecture styles – Elizabethan to Tudor to Georgian. They were a pleasure to look at, especially with the little neat pocket handkerchief size gardens in front and the colorful flower boxes in each window. Being summer, the gardens were a riot of colors.
The pictures here don’t do much justice to the houses because they were taken from a moving car.Honestly I don’t think the stiff upper lipped Londoners would take kindly to a stranger getting out of a car to click random pictures of their beloved gardens! The next few posts are going to have a lot of pictures though!

The one instruction my cousin had given me was that I better sleep on the plane since we were to go out to lunch and then to a musical later. Now I am a notoriously light sleeper who will wake up if I hear water dripping somewhere in the neighbors’ house so you can imagine how well I would have slept in a flight packed with paranoid flyers as well as small kids all trying to outdo each other in crying and screaming matches. (I am sure the poor kids couldn’t help themselves but the paranoid flyer definitely needs a separate post) Any ways,I straggled out of the plane half dead, bleary eyed and looking like something the cat just dragged in.On top of that the restaurant we were going to was Chapter One; a Michelin star Restaurant where one is expected to dress very properly and formally. Any how,some strong coffee and a cold shower managed to restore my equilibrium and we headed out to lunch.

Chapter One definitely deserves its Michelin star. The food was positively ambrosial.The menu had enticing items like “Poached & Roasted Loin of Rabbit Wrapped With Pancetta”, “Compression Of Pig's Head”, “Treacle Cured Loch Duart Salmon With Leeks” “Pressed Terrine of Foie Gras & Smoked Duck Breast” etc etc. I tried the rabbit and wild mushroom pie with parsnip puree and it was so succulent that the meat simply melted in my mouth. For dessert I had the Hot Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream and honest to god it was one of the most delicious deserts I’ve ever had in my life. It was positively sinful. I dream about it at times.

I suppose this is where I am supposed to insert mouth watering pictures of the food we ate, but honestly I was too busy enjoying the food to click any snaps !

That afternoon at my cousins’ I was also introduced to a popular English summer drink– Pimm's. It is cool, tangy drink made from liqueurs and fruit extracts. A few glasses of that on top of the heavy lunch and I was drowsing away in my chair hardly paying attention to the conversation! (No snap again – sorry! Heres one from Google just to show you what Pimm's looks like!)

In the evening we went to West End to see a musical called "The Blood Brothers". Now if you are a theater lover London’s West End is the place to be! Most of London"s well known theaters are there and its vibrant and lively at all times, especially in the evenings.The cafes and sidewalks were choc -a-block with theater goers. I passed theaters showing famed musicals that I had only heard about till now such as Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Priscilla the Dessert Queen, Mama Mia etc.The Londoners love their theater and the adverts for the Musicals are everywhere – as you can see!

The Blood Brothers is a play about twin brothers who get separated in childhood but their paths keep crossing in life. Finally their story meets a tragic end. (A bit like our Manmohan Desai films – except that Manmohan Desai always showed us happy endings!). Musicals are always a delight to watch and I was really really excited because this would be my first Musical at the famed West End. But the jetlag finally caught up with me and to the horror of my cousins I slept through the entire second half. I am sure half of the crowd must be looking dagger eyed at the lady who had the nerve to fall asleep in the midst of a famed musical. (Such bad form I say, what have things come to?)

I don’t really remember the return journey except that my cousin kept trying to explain the London underground network to me while we were on the train but I was too fuddled by the lack of sleep to really understand. I fell asleep the moment we reached home and resurfaced only the next afternoon as brisk and bright as a squirrel and ready to begin my rendezvous with London!
More to follow …….


  1. Ahh the first of the travelogues! :)
    The "pocket handkerchief size gardens in front and the colorful flower boxes in each window" somehow recalls Wodehouse to me. He has spoken of them quite a few times in his books.
    Now I am all curious like the proverbial cat to hear about the Paranoid Traveler! :O
    I can imagine how you dropped off to sleep due to jet lag. But in the midst of a musical? What bad form girl! ;) And what a loss too that you missed it.
    Ahh but all is well. You became a bright squirrel by the next morning! :D

  2. Wonderful write-up. Gave me itchy feet (not like I need much for that though :P).

  3. And finally the intrepid traveller's tales. Waiting for more

  4. A delightful account. Even we managed to sneak in a musical in New York and strangely the same musicals were showing in the theatre district!

    Btw Poached & Roasted Loin of Rabbit “Compression Of Pig's Head”...damn I just lost my appetite.

  5. @ Shail – I remembered Wodehouse every step of the way in London ! I especially went to Picadilly square because he mentions it in almost all his books  Ah what a Wodehouse fan you have turned me into !
    @Aashish – Itchy feet are the best thing to have ! welcome to my blog !
    @PhoenixRitu – Yeah and more tales to follow !
    @Purba – Musicals are a delight to watch ! Yeah compression of Pigs head was a bit much 

  6. I so love the architectural style that they have kept alive too :) Lovely houses and gardens!
    The dessert sounds mouth-watering :)

  7. I hope to visit a Michelin star restaurant some day...

  8. While I was clearing my 500 unread posts, I noticed one of yours, and eventually came to the first travelougue! Simply loved reading them! Can imagine how awful the weather is in UK,and especially for us....
    Looks like the whole animal planet has been added in the menu ;)



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