I first visited London on my way home from Africa in 1973. I didn’t see a lot of the sights because I was staying in Kent at the home of the mother of an English friend I’d met in Khartoum, Sudan. I did go into the city a couple of times, but after almost three years in Africa I was unaccustomed to the cold and the damp and spent a lot of my time wrapped in a blanket in front of a coal fire in the sitting room.
My second visit occurred three years later in 1977, and this time I was travelling with Anil. When we made plans to marry in May 1974, we talked about a trip to East Africa together but it had to wait until we saved enough money. We had borrowed funds to travel to India to meet Anil’s family and have a Hindu wedding there.
We stopped briefly in London on our way to Kenya, hoping to stop longer on our way back. While we were in East Africa I discovered much to our surprise that our first child, Adia, was on her way. I suffered so terribly from morning sickness that I saw little if anything of London. I didn’t wander far afield from our friend’s flat on Queensway Road, venturing occasionally into Hyde Park at the end of the street.
Many years later, I made a very much, unplanned visit to London. We were about to make our first visit to India as a family. It was 1991 and my best friend Cathy was living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with her family. I was only working part-time from home and thought this would be a great opportunity to visit her there.
There’s no use going into the long story about how the process of trying to get a Saudi visa disrupted our plans to travel together, but the fact that I didn’t have my passport in my hands when it was time to depart for India meant that I had to miss my flight and purchase a separate ticket to India once my passport arrived from Ottawa.
It was impossible to use the ticket I had booked because we were travelling just before Christmas and there wasn’t a single seat available to India through Hong Kong. I had to purchase a one-way ticket through London to Mumbai, and it entailed a 12-hour stopover in London. Fortunately, our dear friends Riel and Mark were living there and they were able to offer me a bed to sleep away some of those hours.
Once again, I saw nothing of London but I do remember they dropped me off at an Underground station and I was able to take the tube all the way to Heathrow station. It seemed to take forever, but it was efficient and economical.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Now here we were in London 36 years after our first trip together, and though there are many, many changes to the city, it seemed strangely familiar at the same time. We decided to rent an apartment for a week, to give us a chance to adjust to the time difference and to see more of London than we’d seen in the past. Anil was keen to visit the Lord’s cricket grounds and when we found a flat on Edgeware Road in the Little Venice area, we booked it through AirBnB.
We hadn’t realized what an incredibly ethnically diverse district we had chosen, but at the same time, were very pleased at the selection of international restaurants we had close at hand. Our first meal was lunch at a terrific Korean restaurant directly opposite our flat. We’ve never eaten better Korean food anywhere, other than dishes prepared by our Korean family members at home in Edmonton.
We set off to explore London on foot despite the fact that we had purchased a one-week pass on the underground and buses. We walked all the way south on Edgeware Road, all the way to Marble Arch, and then turned east along Oxford Street. This area has long been a major shopping district, but I have to say I was surprised to see how it has been updated with so many international stores along its length.
As it drew dark, we stopped into a cozy pub near Tottenham Court Road for a refreshing glass of wine for me, and a draught beer for Anil. We overheard a couple of young local students sitting beside us discussing Syria and joined in the conversation. It was interesting and enlightening at the same time. When we left they asked us where we were headed, and when we told them we thought we would walk across the new Millennium Bridge, they heartily approved of our plan.
The following day, we set off for Waterloo Station in order to walk along the South Bank towards the Tate Modern. Everyone we had talked to about London had insisted we pay a visit to this artfully converted former power plant sitting next to the Thames. We had a great stroll through the Southbank Centre ‘Festival of Neighbourhoods’ and dashed out of a sudden cloudburst and into the Tate Modern. We hadn’t imagined we would spend much time there, but emerged an hour and a half later to find the storm had blown over and the lowering sun had set St. Paul’s Cathedral aglow.
We made our way across the Millennium Bridge for a second time, this one in daylight, and stood in awe of St. Paul’s. However, instead of going inside for a peek, we skirted the cathedral and headed for Postman’s Park. I wanted to pay a visit there ever since watching the movie ‘Closer’, staring Clive Owen and Natalie Portman. I didn’t tell Anil where we were headed, I wanted to see if he remembered the place from the film.
He didn’t really, not until I explained the significance of the monument in the little park. Under a covered roof, there are dozens of ceramic plaques honouring the sacrifice made by people from all walks of live. Theses are adults and children who gave their lives trying to save the lives of others. There was a gap of almost 76 years until the most recent plaque was placed here. The attempted rescue was unsuccessful, occurring on 07/07/07. And I always thought that ‘7’ was a lucky number.