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Posted By Ritesh Chhajer on Friday, May 06, 2011
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I had been dreaming about Europe tour for quite some time and finally it came true. Spent first week at London with my wife's sister's family and had a great time together. Every day was such great fun. Sharing my experience of that week along with useful information on UK visa as well.

UK Visa:
I applied for UK visa onlineIt's a pretty long form and takes a while to complete it. Find a sample of completed form. At the end of completing the form, paid the visa fees 124$ online and booked appointment for BioMetrics at USCIS ASC San Jose Application Support Center 122 Charcot Ave San Jose CA 95131. After attending the appointment, sent passport and other supporting documents by post to British Consulate General, Los Angeles, 11766 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Documents Required:
  • Visa Application Form
  • Stamped and signed biometrics form
  • Original Passport
  • Copy of Passport
  • One 45mm * 35mm photograph
  • Last 3 months bank statement
  • Last 3 paychecks
  • Work authorization document like H1-B petition or Green Card(Original as well as Xerox)

The Visa issuing authorities responded with amazing alacrity and I got back my passport and visa in 5 days.

Note: Every individual in family needs to apply separately.

Day 1:
While boarding at San Francisco airport, an announcement was repeatedly made for a passenger - "Please come to Gate number 12". Unfortunately I was at Gate 96 and had to catch the flight ultimately with a heavy heart. *Sigh* - That passenger was Katrina Kaif:(. 

Thankfully I had a direct flight that reached London Heathrow airport in 10 hours. After arrival, I was prepared to face long queues at immigration and the general custom security hassles. But surprisingly it was very smooth and hardly took any time to get out. Vikas had already got Oyster cards for me and my wife. That's pretty useful for traveling. It's like a travel card that can be used while traveling on trains, bus. Also it's a good idea to get a tube map and keep it handy as you'll need it all the time. I used to check out TFL(Transport for London) daily before planning my travel. Also be prepared to flex your muscles and get all your energy drinks together as most of the travel in London would be on foot. 

Note: Most of the tube stations may not have elevators. So if you are traveling with kids, you'll need to carry your buggies/pushchairs(Yes, that's what they call strollers) yourself on stairs. Most of the times, some one will help you out though. Very busy stations and crowded feel like Mumbai indeed.

Desi Shop  Desi Shop

We took the first day easy and went out to Ilford town center in the evening. Well, the Indian feel to the shops and by lanes was abundant. Also forget the golden rule of US which says pedestrian has always got the right of way. If you don't have walk signal, don't even try to cross the road. Don' be surprised to get honked and vehicles zooming past you. 

At night, Bita had organized chat party that included bhel-puri, paani-puri, paav-bhaaji. Yummie-Yummie.

Day 2(Bath):

Prior Park
We all got up early at 5:30am to board the train for Bath. After getting down at station, Kavendra said let's go to Prior Park Garden. It's just walking distance from here. Well, Well, Well!!! I have never seen such a long walking distance. It seemed an eternal never ending walk. It was all up the hill walk and took everything out of us to reach there.

The Prior Park was stunningly beautiful though and we spent few hours over there and had our meal as well. After that, we kept roaming whole day in Bath and visited places like Bath Cricket Club, St John Church, Royal Crescent, Pulteney Bridge. It was a very tiring day as we did lot of walking.

Trivia: On public places like tube stations, roads, sometimes it's hard to find any dustbin to put your trash. Apparently as security measure to guard against possible terror attacks, UK government made the decision to use only transparent plastics that are mostly managed manually.

Day 3(Canary Wharf, Greenwich):
0 degree We went to Canary Wharf and Greenwich(pronounced as Grenich) and checked out National Maritime museum, Royal Observatory, Queen's House, London's only planetarium, Astronomy Centre, Cabot Square, Canada Square and Jubilee Park. 

Royal Observatory is like the home of GMT where you get a chance to stand on the famous prime meridian line at 0 degree longitude so technically you can have both your legs in different hemispheres. There was such a long queue just to take that picture. The admission tickets were pretty expensive as well. However the stroll through the park to reach Royal Observatory is just awesome. 

Canary Wharf is like one of the major business district of London with some of the tallest buildings and headquarters of famous firms like HSBC, Citigroup, Reuters et al. The jubilee park behind the mall is a treat to watch. I tried a new flavor of Gelato ice-cream in the mall but was bitterly disappointed. The mall however is pretty nice and has the famous Nando's restaurant as well which serves mouth watering pita bread with nice chutneys.

Jubilee Park  Reuters

Day 4(Lords, St Paul's Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Tower Bridge):
Lords How on earth could an avid cricket fan like me go to London and not visit the Mecca of Cricket - Lords? So I had to give a visit to famous cricket ground and take the stadium tour. It was a great feeling listening to the history of Ashes like how the name became famous based on a satirical obituary published in a British newspaper after England collapsed chasing 86 in Oval against Australia. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. The English media then dubbed the next English tour to Australia as the quest to regain The Ashes. Then there were some wonderful anecdotes about the legends of Cricket on how Viv Richards got a thundering applause and what it meant for cricketers on scoring a century in Lords or how Sreesanth cried out of joy(no one slapped him there though:)) after coming to the dressing room. The entire atmosphere of being there was just awesome. We also got to know about real tennis - the original indoor racquet sport. 

We then went to St Paul's cathedral. However by the time we reached there, it was closed so could not see it from inside. From there we went to Millennium Bridge. It's one of the most beautiful walk and visitor's delight to see River Thames and then see all the bridges like London Bridge, Tower Bridge one by one followed by Mayor's office, Hay's galleria and Queen's walk. That place also boasts some of the finest Indian, Italian, Japanese and Thai restaurants.

Tower Bridge

This was easily one of the best days I had in London. One can spend the whole night around Tower of London.

Day 5(Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Royal Opera House):
Royal Guard One of the biggest attraction at Buckingham Palace was to see the Royal Guards March which starts at 11:30am. However I had absolutely no idea that there would be not just tourists but locals as well queuing up from early morning to see the Royal Guards. I had a pretty torrid time to get through the mind boggling crowd along with kids. Vikas had booked the tickets in advance for Royal Mews and Queen's Gallery but I was extremely disappointed after visiting those. I reckon it was too much hyped up and absolutely not worth the expensive tickets.

From there, we walked along side St James park, crossed Trafalgar Square and reached Royal Opera House. After seeing the Opera House, all the disappointment of Buckingham Palace quickly vanished. It was such a grand place. We took a guided tour. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside. Again here, there were some very interesting stories told by our guide which were quite amusing about the Royal Family.

Day 6(British Museum, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Big Ben, London Eye):
We started the day early with British museum. It's so huge that it's next to impossible to cover it even in 1 full day. So we had to leave it in the middle and head towards Covent Garden and Oxford Street which is like shopping paradise. Primark was one such shop where everything was priced dirt cheap and most of the stuff available was decent quality. One could spend an entire day shopping. 

British Musuem Roman Portaits   British Musuem

Big Ben

We saved our night time for London Eye. From there one gets such a beautiful view of Big Ben and London in general. Before the ride in the giant wheel starts, they show you a 5 minute 4D show that's equally exciting. 

Day 7(Rest...really?):
It had to be a day of rest as the body started aching after so much of walking through out the week and carrying push chairs on stairs during tube transit. Packing had to be done as well for the 9 day Europe tour covering Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Despite being a day of rest, we slept at 3am only to get up at 5am.

All in all, it was a great week and I was able to cover all major London attractions only because of immaculate planning by Vikas. Though he is younger than me, he took care of my family like a big brother. I owe him big time once he comes to US. In my next blog, shall continue to talk about my Europe tour experience which only got bigger and better.


Rants & Raves Minimize

  • Gravatar
    Daulat Sunday, May 08, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    It was nice to meet you with family in London.
    Good photography I must say.
    You have seen more London than me happy your blog gives me idea for my next week roaming plan winking
    btw, thanks for the laptop!

    • Gravatar
      Ritzy Monday, May 09, 2011 at 8:22 AM

      Anytime Daulat Bhai. By the way, kal teri hi baat chal rahi thi and Subodh was all praise for you and had asked me to convey his regards to you. After my next blog, you'll surely change your plans from London to Switzerlandhappy

  • Gravatar
    amrish Sunday, May 08, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    kya baat hai hero ! teri kahani "Who Saat din" ek dham mast hai ji. Is story mein Romance hai, Location hai, Drama hai, "Khaana, Gaana aur Thakna bhi hai". Main kehtha hun "Hit hai Ji, Ekdham Hit hai". "Sunaoo Aur Sunaoo" "Who Nau Din ki Kahani" kab release ho rahi hai.

    We are waiting !

    Maaza aa gaaya !

    • Gravatar
      Ritzy Monday, May 09, 2011 at 8:20 AM

      "Woh Saat Din" ke baad "Naya Din Nayi Raat" jis mein Sanjeev Kumar ne 9 roles kiye the. Is kahani mein har din nayi location aur naya drama. Script is all done and shooting is over. Just post production work and should be released by next weekend.

  • Gravatar
    PRITY JOHARI Monday, May 09, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    wow, what a perfect description of a week visit to london. i cud imagine u people really gasping while going for that long walk up hill or palace guards march salam karte hue rinku seth ko! i personally feel and that too strongly, YOU SHOULD BE A WRITER.

    • Gravatar
      Ritzy Monday, May 09, 2011 at 8:17 AM

      Thank you for your nice words and encouragement. However after reading this one, my friend Subodh yesterday was telling me that I am losing my touch in writing which is very true. Anyways, stay tuned for my next one on the 9 day Europe tour.

  • Gravatar
    shreyansh Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    nic tript bahiya....gr8

  • Gravatar
    kida Sunday, July 22, 2012 at 11:20 PM
    hello i like your blog.. very nice

  • Sunday, June 05, 2011 at 6:14 PM
    via pingback
    Treasures of Europe | Ritesh blogs

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