This trip to the UK is dedicated to my father … we were planning to visit London in 2008 and we couldn’t because he had his cerebral haemorrhage in Aug of 2008 and passed away in Dec, the same year. For the next ten years we didn’t think about a visit as we were busy vacationing elsewhere. So this trip is really special. Even as we have logged out of all the social media platforms as always, during our vacation, I will continue to blog as that brings me a lot of happiness. Writing about our travels is even more fun…. Here goes !
Day 1, Aug 16 2018 – Landing in London
We started from Sharmila’s house by 6 am in an Uber taxi and reached the airport under 40 minutes. The driver was from Nepal and had just spent four months in Mumbai, but knew the roads very well. The Mumbai airport is stunning !! I saw on one of the digital billboards that the building is energy balanced and that is evident in the way you feel inside the airport. You feel a lot more balanced.
The Emirates check-in counters opened only by 7 and we were amongst the first people to check-in. We were wondering if we had to write those embarkation forms etc but they were not visible anywhere so we just proceeded towards security check and immigration. We breezed through both in a matter of 5 minutes. The immigration counter was precisely 60 seconds for each person, a photo clicked and you are through. Super impressed and for all the HMVs in India… this is ease of living in a country and unfortunately only the Modi Govt is thinking of it :).
We walked around a bit trying to window shop and then went to one of the food stores to eat breakfast. There is a shift change that happens around 7.30 am and all the stores were refusing to take orders. Finally around 8 we got some food and sat down to eat. Then the long walk to our gate started. It was a nice morning walk and we got to our gate in time. Easy peasy boarding process and we were off on our vacation.
There was wifi on the plane and I tried logging in but couldn’t. We watched the insipid Liam Neeson movie “Commuter” just for Liam Neeson. He did as well as any his other movies but the whole plot felt bizarre and it was far fetched to imagine the lengths that someone would go to, in order to silence a witness !!. Anyway, Dubai came soon enough and the food on the plane was good. I still cannot understand why airlines offer kidney beans and potato in the meal – stuff difficult to digest. They should learn to make easy to digest food… OPOS to the rescue??
Well, we had just a couple of hours at the Dubai airport before taking the connecting flight to London. The walk towards the arrival hall is really long, so don’t waffle around if you have a connecting flight, but just keep walking towards your departure gate. There is also a security check as you enter the terminal and move towards your connecting flight’s gate, so there is little time to do anything else. As we started to walk towards our departure gate, I saw a familiar figure, my ex-CEO Arjun Singh walking in the opposite direction. I immediately went across and over the next 15 minutes we managed to get caught up on each other’s lives and updated our contact information as well. It was so nice to meet Arjun after so many years and we will hopefully stay in touch going forward.
The flight to London got announced sooner than was mentioned in the boarding pass. Note : The Dubai airport wifi is really good so feel free to use it but Dubai being a silent airport, don’t get lost in whatsapp or any other social media updates and miss your flight !. We boarded the Emirates flight EK 003 to London and were happy that Krishnan had booked us on good seats, right upfront. The happiness was shortlived though because first the airconditioning was not working for nearly an hour and things got a little stuffy. Then, we didn’t even get water to drink for almost 90 minutes into the flight and I finally had to ring for the air hostesses and ask for water. The food also came late and we had missed ordering vegetarian food so just ate some salad and the bread that was on offer. We watched the political thriller “Backstabbing for Beginners” which is based on real events that happened with the “Oil for Food” program in Iraq. Corruption in high places seems like a common theme across the world :(.
We slept for some time and read some books and then tried getting on to wifi on the plane just for the kicks. We managed to get online and send a whatsapp message to Dhanush from 40000 ft above MSL. Felt thrilled that we could be online inside a plane. Also saw the news that our former Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away. A great man, a great poet and an outstanding orator is gone and it’s a vacuum that can’t be filled easily. We chatted about him for some time and remembered some of his famous speeches.
We watched yet another movie “All the money in the world” based loosely on the true story of Paul Getty, the first billionaire in the history of mankind and the kidnapping of his grandson, Paul Getty III. It was a fascinating movie and while I watched it fully, Krishnan missed the last few scenes. Its sad that the first billionaire in the world didn’t care as much for his grandson’s life as he did for the ransom amount. Sad.
The flying time between Dubai and London is about seven hours so we ensured that we walked and stood around for a few minutes as sitting for a long time doesn’t help. There was a delay in our departure by about 15 minutes and we landed in London twenty minutes late. The long walk at the Heathrow terminal from the plane to the immigration counter was worth every minute of it as we got a really pleasant immigration officer who greeted us with a “Namaste” and when he realized we are Tamilians, he said “nandri” instead of thank you. He apparently has many friends who are Indians and he has learnt these few words to make Indian tourists feel at home. What a lovely gesture !! We didn’t know if we could take a picture of his so we didn’t but would have loved to post a picture of his.
We used the airport wifi to inform Vidya that we had landed. Our India phones are not working here, probably because we didn’t initiate international roaming before we left. We actually don’t need them as we can get a local number here and just use that. After all we are on a vacation !!
Reached Vidya and Anand’s pretty house around 8.30 pm and then we kept chatting till late in the night. Meeting friends is a great way to start a vacation and this one has started really well with meeting Sharmila and Neeraj in Mumbai and Vidya and Anand in London.