Thanks to the legendary fog of Delhi, and courtesy British Airways, I find myself in Londin today. This was totally unanticipated and hence all the more welcome. I feel incredibly lucky to roam in the UK without a visa! Oh well, the immigration officer gave me a 24 hour permit to do whatever I can.
My flight to Heathrow was delayed by the fog and I have missed the connecting flight to San Francisco. The next one leaves tomorrow and all other connections are heavily overbooked. BA puts me up at the Renaissance . The going rate for tonight is 209 pounds and I feel better. I check in and am given a Dinner and a breakfast voucher together worth 30 pounds. As I move to my room, I am immediately struck by the lack of services:
1. Poor TV channel selection, not to mention an utter lack of interactive TV. There are 3 Arabic channels, another 6 European ones, 2 from BBC, 1 ITV and CNN each, and of course there is the Zee TV from India.
2. No free Wi-fi access. An unthinkable proposition in the US, the Wi-Fi sets me back by 25 quid for the day.
Not to waste any time during my serendipitous sojourn through London, I call a friend and we decide to meet in Hounslow, a short underground ride from Heathrow. After the hotel ATM rejects my debit card, I decide to get some cash from a gas station. This Texaco is owned and operated by an Indian. He refuses to give me cash back unless I but 5 quid worth of stuff. I buy some chocolates and give him my debit card He still refuses to give me cash back. Apparently, he thinks it is a credit card, inspite of the fact that there is Debit printed on the card.
I take a free bus to Heathrow and am relieved to find out that the ticket machine accepts my cards. I meet up with a friend in Hounslow. Inspite of the general opinion, the place seems civilized. The parking spots are numbered and a board tells you how many are available so that you don’t circle around looking for a space that does not really exist. How convenient.
I pick up a Kronenbourg 1664 and drink it up while walking the streets. I am beginning to love London. I am feeling hungry and we venture into Nando’s a South African chicken chain with a Portuguese flavor! The chicken is the same but the Peri-Peri sauce makes a big difference. Highly recommended with another Kronenburg!
It is the Chinese New Year and we decide to head to London central to be a part of the celebrations. I take a train to Waterloo and then walk across the Thames towards the festivities. The big ben and the giant ferris wheel are visible. Having seen them so many times on the screen, the images are not striking. The buildings have been preserved, and the outer facade is what still inspires budding architects. We walk across the Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and the Covent Garden, with another Kronenburg – this time it is a white beer, and it takes a few sips to getting used to the taste. Its a Wednesday night and the pubs are a bit slow, but I am told it will pick up tomorrow, long after I am gone. But I will be back for a gala time soon! So long, London!