Saturday, 31 March 2007

Poetry and Prose ... nostalgia or an overdose?

Both on the same day can sometimes be overbearing for most people except those literature geeks (do they get called that at all?). Having a childhood where your precious possessions were a copy of Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickelby and a Tale of Two Cities and having memorised 'Ode to a nightingale' for a poetry recital, does bring back pleasant memories. Never would I have imagined that some day I would actually get this close to the writer or the poet. I probably wouldn't have thought much about getting anywhere near it, if not for the influence of a literature nerd (ok... i'm sure this is allowed) in my life.

The Dickens-Keats saturday was on the 31st of March '07. ok theres no such official day, but I'm calling it that on my personal calendar. The initial build up to the planned visit of the dwellings of these two stalwarts of English Literature was that of a wary excitement. Unsure about what to expect, unsure if it will hold your attention... would I get bored? Can I pretend I'm thrilled and get away with it? but being the adventurous soul that I am for anything new, I was going to check it out anyway and lament about it later if I had to.

Was surely disappointed when we got to the Dickens' Residence and I heard that he'd only stayed there for 2 years... but it was the only surviving structure that he'd lived in. Made me fantasize about which apartment would be my surviving residence having changed atleast 10 different homes over my lifetime... and many more I'm sure to move into over the rest of my years. a blue plaque over the door would say... "R K Lived here" 1973 - 20xx and they'd charge ppl 10 quid to see the stuff I owned. Now i better go shopping and buy some cool stuff that ppl can identify with... Charles Dickens was smart that way. Most of the stuff he owned was engraved CD so you probably figure it belonged to him. a pen knife, a watch, a butter knife and all i have so far is just one key chain with my name engraved on it. From now on my personal belongings are going to have either RK or RGK engraved on it for sure.

But the visit brought to life his works and the background for his stories. Oliver Twist was one scary book that I'd read when growing up, but i assumed it was all fiction and such things never really happened. I'm now enlightened and have learned something new about those times. Dickens was a social activist for sure and his writings have helped bring to light the pathetic conditions that existed and the child exploitation that he loathed.

A passage from "The Tale of Two Cities" :

"In a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane-tree rustled its green leaves, church-organs claimed to be made, and silver to be chased, and likewise gold to be beaten by some mysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the wall of thefront hall--as if he had beaten himself precious, and menaced a similar conversion of all visitors. Very little of these trades, or of a lonely lodger rumoured to live up-stairs, or of a dim coach-trimming maker asserted to have a counting-house below, was ever heard or seen.Occasionally, a stray workman putting his coat on, traversed the hall, or a stranger peered about there, or a distant clink was heard across the courtyard, or a thump from the golden giant."

Never did I imagine this to be a golden arm with a hammer that in his time was in a shop in Soho. How do these writers do it? How do they associate these random occurences and bring them together in their work... I guess thats why i'm only relegating myself to writing this blog.

And here's some trivia:
Spot the difference in these two pictures:

To the discerning eye... you got it right... two versions of the same book. The one with the green print is a trial copy that Dickens had printed when he was experimenting with the color scheme for his Christmas Carol. Only about 15 were printed in Green. he eventually went with the one that was blue. So if you come across an early edition in your grandparent's attic, and its got the green color scheme... u own a valuable piece of history... a call to Sotheby's should be the next task on your to-do list.

A fascination for our ancestors?

As with most great men, their favorite mascot seems to be the monkey. Here's Dickens' favorite mascot ... a chinese porcelain monkey that he always had on his desk... so if you get famous or know you're gonna be famous at some point, get a monkey...

A writing instrument from those times... yes the one thing that lends a lot of credibility to the authenticity of those times... the Quill that Dickens used, to write his last unfinished work - The adventures of Edwin Drood.

I have to share my perspective on what I think the Dickens' living room would have looked like if there were digital cameras (with a setting for 'Sepia') in those days for that real authentic look

The story of Keats on the other hand was a tragic one for a promising romantic poet who was known to admire beauty and could be eloquent about it. As with every romance that has been eternalized in literature, this should have been seen as something that was coming. A beautiful romance with the girl next door until the gods looked down unfavorably on the couple. Having been consumed by the disease he went away to Italy so that the fresh air there might make him better, never to return... his fiancee mourning her loss well into her late twenties... but the works he churned out before he was 25 is comparable to that written by other poets in their lifetime. Interestingly on the road leading to Keats house was a pharmacy called Keats Pharmacy and a local surgery called the Keats Group Practice (I wonder if he was covered by by the NHS).... and did you know.. Keats was actually trained and certified to be a doctor?
Overall a great day out... mostly nostalgic... but talk about coincidences, turned on the TV when we got back and Oliver Twist was playing... Didn't watch it all though... for obvious reasons.... didn't want it to be an overdose!

48 Doughty Street

Who is she?

Today we woke up early, so we could change two trains, follow several signs, and reach her modest home tucked away in Doughty street. This is Catherine Hogarth, more popularly, Mrs Charles Dickens.

Home to Charles Dickens for two years, this building now bears the remnants of his once glorious life.
We were buzzed in as soon as we rang the bell. We bought our tickets, and began exploring. We started with the dining room, where Dickens did a lot of his entertaining. Displayed in the room were the cutlery he once used and some of his personal belongings (like an ancient perfume bottle and a walking stick.) As you entered, you were faced with a painting of the great writer himself.
Inside, you also got to see his spanish mahogany sideboard and an exquisite grandfather clock.
Beside the dining room is the morning room that now contains portraits of the Dickens family. In addition to pictures of his children, there are some portraits of Catherine Hogarth Dickens in this room. The turquoise in gold engagement ring (that Dickens gave her) and a lace hanky are displayed beneath her portrait. In addition to two lounge chairs, and a cupboard filled with Dickens masterpieces, a huge family tree is displayed on the wall. (I managed to find an all time favorite Monica Dickens on the tree).

Then we moved upstairs. The two rooms on the first floor were his tacky (check out the color schemes) living room and his study (my favorite room in the house).
Dickens, we were told, loved mirrors, which is why his house had quite a few of them. His living room had two, and his favorite plum colored chair. He even posed in it, for a painting by Cruikshank.
His study was more interesting for me, because it was here that he finished The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist. Most of his novels were serialized at that time, and only later were they put together as books. A lot of those journals filled the room, and on one corner lay his desk, where he spent many hours churning out his masterpieces.

Also displayed in the room, were some of his manuscripts, in his own handwriting.

As he often didn't have the time to rewrite fresh copies, these manuscripts had the changes he made. So you got to see his thought process while writing Oliver Twist, or Nicholas Nickleby.

Outside this study is displayed the little wooden midshipman, that was immortalized in his Dombey and Son.

This image, was a trade sign of Messrs Norie and Wilson, the nautical instrument makers in Leadenhall Street. In the Dickens novel, the wooden shipman virtually became a significant character.

Barely noticing the creaking floors, we then moved to the second floor. Here we got to see the reading desk, that Dickens used during the latter years of his life. His books were so popular, he used to read them out and make a lot of money. Given his humble beginings, he'd become considerably wealthy, and yet he believed he deserved a lot more. On this floor was his bedroom (now transformed into a gallery with news clippings and pictures). The room had pictures of Nelly, an actress with whom he had an affair, causing a huge scandal at that time.

Beside his bedroom is the bedroom that belonged to Mary Hogarth, Catherine's sister. She lived with the family and once, after a picnic, she came back, got very ill and died. Charles who was very fond of her was affected by her death immensely. He even wore her ring for the rest of his life, and said he wanted to be buried beside her eventually.

In this room we also saw the Dickens's Court suit (fancy dress as he called it), one that he wore at Royal functions.

After some more exploring, we went downstairs to the kitchen and washing area, and also got a peek at his wine cellar. In the kitchen area we finished off the tour with a film of the life of Dickens. Luckily, we got back with a few pictures of the house. We were happy, and we thought we were satisfied. However, it was too late by the time we realized we'd missed photographing the Dickens loo! Well..maybe another time.

Visiting Keats

Fairly close to the hustle and bustle of designer labels, quaint coffee shops, and comfortable strollers, you'll find this spacious building with inviting lawns, and wooden benches. At first it looked like any other house we'd tirelessly walked past in Hampstead. On closer scrutiny....

Having studied Keats and the romantic poets in the distant past, I was interested. We took the lane to the back entrance of the house, where we could buy tickets for a tour.

Though Keats never owned this house, this building was specially significant because he penned some of his popular poems (the Odes) right here. It was here that he also met the love of his life, Fanny Brawne, who was also his neighbour.

Susan, a student of literature who has been visiting this house for over thirty years, played guide, as she walked us through all of the rooms, breathing life into the man who was John Keats. She began with her favorite room, the dining area, that houses a beautiful table that once belonged to Keats' friend and mentor, Leigh Hunt. It was through him, that Keats built his literary circle that included Shelley and Byron. A little over 5 feet tall, this sensitive young man was one who never avoided a good fight, added Susan.

From the dining area, we were led to his study, where we learned that he revered Shakespeare. In addition to a poster in his room, his ink pot with the Shakespeare bust was proof of how highly he thought of the playwright. His study also bears pictures of his family; brother Tom who also died of TB (his mother died of consumption as well), brother George who moved to America, and sister Fanny who eventually moved to Spain. A painting of Keats by his friend Severn (who accompanied him to Italy) is the focus of this room!

From across his sitting room, is Charles Brown's office, with a couch on which Keats often lay to look at the greenery outside.

Then came the Chester room. After Keats left London for Italy (where he died), his friends sold this house to a well-known actress of the time Eliza Chester. She remodelled portion of the house, by adding an additional room where she could entertain. Chester's room now proudly holds some of her portraits and one of Keats himself.

We were then led upstairs to Keats' bedroom, a tiny claustrophobic room that wasn't one of his favorite places. It was here that Fanny and her mother nursed him, after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Beside his four poster bed are letters he wrote to Fanny, the woman he was engaged to. As a general practioner who never practised, he tragically knew his chances of recovering were slim.

Next door is Charles Brown's (a talented artist as well) bedroom, with a ancient box with his perfume bottles. This room leads to another tiny sitting area that now hosts Keats memorabilia. The engagement ring he gave Fanny, a jewelled broach, a lock of Fanny's hair, and a locket in the form of a lyre, that uses strands of Keats' hair as its strings.

Eventually, we were led to the last bedroom, which was then part of another house (where Fanny lived). We were in Fanny's bedroom, where she wrote Keats numerous letters that he never once read.

The tour was over, and after thanking Susan for a peek into history, we walked out. There it was.....

The plum tree that replaced the one beneath which Keats wrote "Ode to a nightingale" I had to take a picture!

Now maybe I'll be inspired enough to write that book?

Friday, 30 March 2007


Phish Food: Chocolate icecream with gooey marshmallow, a caramel swirl, and fudge fish!

Life just got better after Ben & Jerry's!

After months of gyming and watching what went in, London proved to be my testing ground! I lost. One minute we were buying vegetables to begin my culinary experiments, and before we knew it, we were staring ahead at big jars of icecream, packets of toffee, lemon, and cherry tarts, chocolate brownies with chocolate chunks, orange and blueberry cup cakes, marble cakes...........! The memory of sweating it out on the treadmill for an hour everyday, before cycling, rowing, carrying weights and willing myself not to cheat during those strenuous tummy exercises, gradually faded away into oblivion. I had finally given into temptation.

Despite assuring myself that I deserved these goodies, I took only one packet of brownies, and a chocolate cake laced with chocolate icing. I fooled myself into thinking I had self restraint. After all I was only going to indulge in a slice (or two) once every few days. When I didn't live up to these foolish promises, I decided I'd simply avoid going to the super market.

When we came here initially, the supermarkets were just as interesting as some of the popular tourist haunts. Bigger than any I'd ever seen, they housed everything you needed for a house; groceries, wine, movies, books, phones, computers, linen, creams, crockery, furniture, and bread! Shopping had been easy till then, because we didn't have as many options in India. Here, I had to walk an entire stretch before deciding on the kind of bread i wanted; whole meal, whole grain, multiple grain, wheat, white, crust-less, weightwatchers, nimble...! Then when it was time to get vinegar, we stared at another shelf filled with different kinds of vinegar, in different colors, before picking one that seemed closest to the one back home. Setting up home was therefore a lot of fun. We picked pans, crockery, cutlery, groceries, and treats (for all the effort), and we were out!

This initial excitement faded away gradually, as I got more and more used to the supermarket. I learned the art of manoeuvering my cart through all that space, to reach my destination. I even managed to avoid shelves that screamed out for my attention. However, the risk of picking up something I didn't really need was still ever present! So I was going to be careful.

However, as luck would have it, temptation followed me home. R who by then had taken on all marketing chores, came home with a pint of Phish Food. I dived into the jar of caramel and marshmallows in icecream, with frequently appearing chunks of fish fudge, right away. And then it struck me! Why try and avoid these goodies, when i can go for long walks allover London? Wasn't that exercise enough?

"Voila, I'll walk", I decided happily, still enjoying my icecream. "From tomorrow."

The next morning, i woke up to some snow. Now, that's another story.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

The National Gallery

One of my favorite places in London, the National Gallery houses the largest collection of European paintings (from 1250) and photographs by various artists. We wandered in one weekend to see pictures of the Pet Shop Boys, and ended up seeing photographs of celebrities, and a series of paintings.
Be it Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers, Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks, the simple portrait of a man, or modern day nudes, we walked around in awe of what we were seeing.
For a peek into what to expect, check out

Make sure you visit the gallery store if you ever come here. In the store you'll find knick knacks, paintings, posters, fridge magnets, pencils, bookmarks, scales marking major events in the UK, books, and chocolates. So if you want souvenirs, that is where you will look. More so if your mother has a fascination for royal family!

Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square

Despite being packed like sardines in the tube, the crowd outside came as a shock. We moved (didn't walk) with the sea of excited faces (chinese and non chinese). Stalls on either side sold lanterns, ballooned pigs and chinese food. People took pictures with them, or walked the streets with them. Surprisingly, while a majority of the crowd was tucking in on chinese food, the chinese were biting into Mc Donald burgers.
We crawled with the crowd, desperately seeking a chinese stall we could get to! After an hour of walking and feeling clastrophobic, we managed to enter an italian eatery (so much for chinese new year). We sat by the window, glad we weren't part of the sea of faces outside.
The celebrations ended that day with the fireworks that had everyone glued to Trafalgar Square.

Little Miss Sunshine

Parents at war due to possible bankruptcy, an angry brother who has taken the vow of silence till he gets into the airforce, a gay uncle recovering from a suicide attempt, and an heroin snorting grandpa, make up Olive's world. Not completely oblivious to the chaos around her, Olive is a seven year old beauty-queen-wannabe, who has just been chosen to take part in the Little Miss Sunshine contest. Putting aside their differences, the family journeys into California, in a yellow broken down van, so Olive can take part in the contest.
Their tragic yet funny experiences through that journey, that lead to their awakening, is what completes this heart warming, film about people and relationships. Despite the initial decadence, you realize eventually that you relate to these characters. You might not approve of Grandpa's grandparenting skills, due to his heroin addiction, or the advice he gives his silent grandson.
"F*** as many women as you can."
Yet, you love the relationship he shares with his granddaughter. He coaches her for her contest, and assures her that she is indeed the most beautiful girl in the world, and definitely not a loser for trying to achieve her dreams. You empathize with the anger in Nietzsche crazy Dwayne (Olive's brother), who has dreams that he might never fulfil. You love and root for uncle Frank, who has been cheated out of his work. You even love daddy Richard, despite his annoying views on losers and winners.
During the course of their journey, the characters grow, and soon you realize they are no different from a family you know. Alan Arkin as grandpa is a treat. However, since i haven't seen the other oscar nominees, i can't comment on whether he deserved his Oscar. Abigail Breslin was wonderful as Olive. Her innocence and conviction is what makes Olive such a lovable character. However I was most surprised at Steve Carell, who plays uncle Frank! He is everyone that he isn't in the Office! You don't quite expect this funny man to play a depressed professor.
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine is a must see for anyone who is awaiting a refreshing, simple-yet-memorable film!

Food, Drink, and Flowers

Over the weekend, we got as close to Chennai as possible. We took the tube to Hammersmith, and then took another one to Eastham. After over an hour in the train, we got to what is mostly the south-indian area in London. We found Chennai Dosa with little difficulty, and the minute we got past the door, it felt like home. The familiar faces (all south indian), the noise (loud chatter), waiters in whilte uniforms carrying containers of chutneys and sambhar, and tamil film music in the background. Luckily, unlike the saravana bhavans, this place also served non vegetarian food.

Then we hogged. Even the fact that we were seated right in front of the camera didn't stop us. I had a paper roast, followed by a vadai sambhar. R had his mutton masala dosa and a channa batura. Then it gets worse (better for Chennai dosa)! We packed mutton rolls and crab masala for dinner! It was perfect. I guess we need to indulge once in a way, when you are away from home.

Then the next day we watched Amazing Grace, thanks to the free tickets we got. Based on the true life events of how slavery was abolished in England, Amazing Grace proved to be an interesting watch, though we'd never have seen it if not for the free tickets. We finished off our evening with Indonesian-Malay dinner! Yeah, we like to eat!:D

Sunday was Mother's day, and it wasn't just advertisements and shopping malls that screamed "Buy your mother something." Even in Church, everyone seemed excited about the day. You could buy your mother cake, and help yourself to some posies. The children were asked to give their mothers flowers, and then come back to give some to other adult women. I came back pleased, because I got flowers from not one, but two kids. The flowers now proudly inhabit the kitchen counter, next to the bottles of Baileys and Vodka.

Now for some housework. We get our first house guest this weekend, and I'm getting reaaaallly busy!

March 1st - Feeling Social

A month in London, and I'm still getting used to its ways. As much as I enjoy the order, i do at times miss the chaos in India. What I wouldn't do, to see an indifferent cow crossing the road, or a hurried cyclist cutting across the road when he shouldn't. I also miss how friendly (okay..maybe inquisitive or nosey) we Indians get back home.

However, it isn't uncommon when a fellow Indian gives you a friendly smile on the tube, or when a curious Sri Lankan walks across to ask you where you are from. Some even go out of their way to help; like the store keeper who walked a mile to get us directions to an art gallery, or the teen who got us help with my mobile number, by asking several other store keepers on the same lane. Many of these people have lived in London all their lives. Some speak with accents that come naturally, while others nurse carefully put on accents (despite the incorrect English). "Where from you are ey?"Some others are happier just speaking in a common language, like the friendly taxi driver (a sardar) who said, "Beta, you know Hindi?" What followed was a detailed account of prices and life in the UK, in Hindi. In the background he played bhangra music that seems to be a hot favorite. Enough of those Juggy Ds and Jay Seans. Where are Lucky Ali, the Strings, and Shaan?No discount on the taxi though!:)

However, not everyone is as friendly. The next door neighbour (also Indian) is almost non existent. I noticed her peering through her window when we shifted, and never saw her again. Her husband was friendlier, when we had trouble with a blocked drain that needed fixing. He and my husband came up with possible solutions over a smoke, before he pulled out a pipe, causing all the water in the sink to drain out. Thank God. He even lent us a drain pump, which he forgot about. So when we went to return it, he seemed surprise. He face displayed no signs of familiarity. "Oh. Thank you" was all he said, to my surprise."Were you expecting him to invite us over for tea?" asked an amused R.

On Sunday, we went to Church. The one close to home has a small congregation, which mean everyone knows everyone else. We got a warm welcome, with people wanting us to sit with them. The friendly pastor shook hands, while another told us about his arthritis (after service ofcourse). Service was short and sweet, and during peace, everyone walked around shaking hands with everyone else. After service, when we were trying to sneak off, we were stopped again for coffee and biscuits, followed by a lunch invitation on Wednesday (bread, cheese and soup). If i don't get a job soon enough, I might just end up going to all of these lunches, just so i get to meet more people. Otherwise life is good. I'm turning into quite the chef. Vegetarians are invited to my kitchen, now that i've begun cooking more than just chicken, and beef. I might even try enticing you with the best dal:)The library is just across the road, so I can hop across and return with 10 books. In addition to reading, I also have a mantlepiece that doesn't look as empty. With broadband and cable (Lost season 3 is on in Sky 1), I'm also on the net more often now. So off to my busy schedule.

Feb 9th - Let's Have Some Curry

We've only been here two weeks, and we already miss Indian food from time to time. I'm hoping moving into the apartment (this Sunday) will take care of that. However, since we are both big foodies, we explore and try different kinds of cuisine; most of which aren't even that expensive.

Strangely Indian food is! Yesterday we decided to explore the area around our apartment, and were quite thrilled when we found a desi restaurant. The tiny, well-lit room with indo-brit interiors exuded the aromas of India, and I could hear the rumble in my tummy. "I'll have a kulcha, or maybe a biriyani,"I thought to myself, while we were being led to our table. Thanks to all the woollens; coat, sweater, pretty black shawl with mirror work, and gloves, i took a while getting out of them. The snooty waiter (Indian ofcourse) waited with irritable patience. Then we got the menu card that read, "we charge one pound per person, for the papad and pickles that we serve." That got us laughing, while the waiter threw us disapproving looks. He excused himself, while we checked out the menu. Everything was over priced, and we hoped the food would be worth it. Another Indian waiter with a fake brit accent brought us the papads with some pickle. Around us we only saw firangs. Sipping wine, they cut into tandoori chicken, and chatted comfortably .

"I don't think this restaurant targets Indians", said the husband, still amused about the pound for the papads. "Kadai Palace" (another indian restaurant) gives it for free", I replied, after finishing a papad and a glass of cold water. "Hope we aren't charged for all the water you are drinking", joked the husband. Just last week, we were generously given "complimentary water" at an italian restaurant at Oxford Circus.

The food arrived. We'd asked for keema paratha, a vegetable curry, and a green chicken curry. Tasty and sufficiently spicy (a luxury in bland-land), the food was wiped clean in no time. "The food here is better than in Kadai palace".
"But at the Kadai Palace, they can see us", I added, while we tried to get the waiter's attention. When he finally saw us, "we mouthed dessert". Then we waited again, till the snooty waiter said, "ready?"! "A Tiramisu please." "Will they give us a finger bowl?" "Doubt it." In response, the snooty waiter brought us hot, wet towels. "The check please?" The bill came with orange and milk chocolates, vaguely reminiscent of the good old Amul (orange and milk) chocolates that i remember eating in the past. Happy, we left in two minds about whether we'd come there again. Maybe the friendly-looking chinese joint across the road, we thought. But atleast the food had been good, unlike mallu food we tried over the weekend.

We were excited when we found it, and we invited a cousin to lunch and took him there. I wish we'd checked the menu before sitting down. "Erachi Biriyani served with sambhar." Now i think we'll just stick to Kadai Palace, when we have a craving for Indian food..or just My experimental kitchen, post Sunday!:)

Landed in London

After numerous dinner invitations (read increasing waist line), a few fun family visits, and meagre attempts to shed the kilos (the morning walks that lasted three days), we finally got to London on January 28th.

We came via Sri Lanka, where I wish we had a longer halt. But we spent the three hours exploring the rather impressive Bandaranaike International Airport. I tried on the testers at the perfume section in the duty free store, and stared longingly at the alchohol section. We eventually tore ourselves away, and got back on the plane that brought us to Heathrow.

London was cold, though bearable. However, wrapped up in sweaters and coats, we began exploring immediately. We got there a few days before Shilpa Shetty's victory at the Big Brother house. Even today, everyone is raving about how gracious and beautiful she is. She was at the celebrated Richard and Judy show, where she modestly agreed to being the biggest Bollywood star in India. Jade Goody meanwhile has been labelled bully and racist. Magazines carry tearful stories of her existence. "I finished up the Chicken Tikka Masala, even though i was full, coz i was scared." Magazines with Shilpa in them screamed "Shilpa's heartbreak of her ex's two timing." So Akshay Kumar is getting some publicity as well!

In addition to finding the Shilpa-racism story amusing, i've become a huge fan of the underground tube. I'm amazed at just how easy it is to get around. We often take the tube to central london and walk. We walked through Covent Garden and watched the street performers (statues that change position every time you throw a coin) and musicians, before eating a the Rock and Soul Plaice that is the oldest Fish and Chips restaurant. In addition to all the walking that gets done here, i also like the fact that you can do your own thing and not be stared at. I ofcourse try not to stare, when an oldish Brit lunching with his young, beautiful black friend, tells the waitress, "The food is great, but we need to kiss and the plates are getting in the way." Then we went to Leicester Square that houses several theatres (movies and plays/musicals). Some of these tickets are very expensive, and yet you can buy half priced tickets for them. We then walked via the National Gallery (gotta check the exhibition of paintings from Manet to Picasso) to Trafalger Square. It was beautiful. Then it was Big Ben, 10 Downing, and Westminster Abbey (where we attended an organ recital). For any literature student, London sure does come to life! Finally we settled down by the Thames for coffee.

On Sunday, we went to St Paul's Cathedral and later Westminster Abbey for service. I was so taken in by the grandeur of the place. And the acoustics are so great, you are quite sure that you're in heaven once the choir begins Latin! And after years of drinking grape juice during communion, actual wine here was a welcome surprise. There is still so much more to see and do!

Meanwhile we just got the keys to our new home. So i'm looking forward to moving in and cooking some normal food (minus the cheese and plus the spices that i smuggled in from India). I also came with a few jars of fish and beef pickle that should keep us happy while the husband endures my culinary experiments. Luckily for me, he is quite the chef himself.