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Old 26th April 2013, 22:45   #1
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Default Summer 2012, Spent in England

Hey guys this is my first travelogue and my writing skills aren't that good so please excuse if there are any mistakes. I'm very lazy and I'm writing this after 1 whole year since the vacations but I promise I'll write atleast 1 post everyday. We visited many cities here and I'll write about each one in a separate post along with many pics. Hope you'll enjoy this!

Decision Making and Planning -

We had gone to UAE in 2007 summer and after that hadn't gone abroad anytime. We have few relatives in the UK so we decided to go there this time.
This was in March 2012 when we started calling travel agents to inquire about the visa procedures and flight availability. Some googling revealed that we can apply for the UK visa on our own.

I looked up the UK Border Agency website and downloaded the required visa application forms. There are different forms for different types of visa like study visa, tourist visa, work permit visa etc etc.
We were three of us so I had to fill the form thrice and each form was 13 pages! You need to fill each and everything like whether you have visited UK or any other country before, have you ever been arrested in India, have been booked for some crime etc. You also need to fill in all your financial details, the amount that you have set aside for this trip and are willing to spend, I guess even IT returns for the past couple of years.
Also the usual stuff like address, occupation, who's going to sponsor you there and why do you want to visit the UK.

Once the form is filled you need to open the UK Border agency website and take an appointment at a suitable time and centre which is close to your place. I think there are 2 centers in Mumbai - one at Grant Road and one at Vile Parle. I chose the Vile Parle centre.
Two days before the appointment I took printouts of the 3 forms, figured out what documents are required, took the necessary photocopies and kept everything ready in a file.

Now came the day of the appointment. I had a 3pm slot. Left from home by 2pm. Now the address was mentioned on the website but it was too short and I couldn't figured out where exactly is the office. They had mentioned Sahar Road near Airport and while coming down from WEH I took a left towards airport and started searching. It was 2:45pm now. No sight of the office. Asked many people on the road and also some airport staff who were on their way home but no one knew.
Reached the Western Express Highway again and this time I went to the opposite side and guess what! The office was right there in a corner around 100 metres from the highway.
I knew I was late so quickly took the token and paid for the visa first. It was Rs. 6100 per visa for 6 months duration each.
Then sat in the waiting area and my turn came after about 20 minutes.

The guy checked the application forms and verified all the documents. They kept the documents and passports and said we'll get them by courier.
Then we were called to another cabin one by one. The guys asked me to spell my surname and say my date of birth.
Then fingerprints and photographs were taken and we were told to leave.

It was a veryyyyy long wait for the visa. After a little bit more than 2 weeks got a courier in the morning which had 2 BIG envelopes.
They had sent all the documents and our passports. I quickly flipped through the pages of the passport and saw that the visa was granted!

Looked up various airlines' websites and searched for the best fares. Decided to go with Emirates. The fare was around 51,000 per ticket and the flight would be via Dubai where there was a 6 hour halt.

The tickets were confirmed for 1st May and the packing started. We had just 1 big trolley and 1 medium sized. That's it.

The Day Has Arrived -

Woke up on 1st May all excited. Completed some last minute work and checked and re-checked whether everything was in place. Had booked a Tab Cab the previous evening and told him to reach my building by 3pm. They had confirmed that they'll be sending a cab.
Got all the stuff ready and was waiting for the cab when I got a text at 2:45pm that there is no cab in my area at the moment and hence no cab will arrive.
Went down and managed to get a normal black and yellow taxi after some time. It was 3:30pm now.
We had decided to convert the currency at the airport itself, and trust me that was a really bad decision.
The forex rate was Rs 82 = 1 GBP but all the currency counters at the airport weren't budging below Rs. 91 per GBP.

Reached the airport, went inside and first got the currency converted. After that stood in line to check in the luggage.
Then we were told that we might have to go for some customs check and that it is conducted on random people.
An Emirates guy escorted us to the Customs area and there the Customs guy asked questions like how much cash are you carrying, for what purpose are you going to UK. He seemed satisfied by the answers.

Got the immigration done and went down to the waiting area. Had a small pizza there which was not at all good.
The flight was scheduled for 7pm. Would reach Dubai by 9:30pm IST and 8pm Dubai time.
Got off the flight, quickly completed all the checks and decided to roam around in the duty-free for sometime.
Oh, we also got 3 meal vouchers from the desk. Apparently they give these vouchers to everyone who has a halt of over 4/6 hours in Dubai. Had food from McDonalds, Burger King and 1 more restaurant whose name I forgot. Some Thai name but they had Pizza too, and it was awesome!
Started hanging around in duty-free and picked up some m&m's and pringles to munch on.
Now we just sat for a couple of hours and waited for the next flight. Scheduled to take off at 2:30am Dubai time.

Here's a teaser pic:
(I'll upload only low-res pics because uploading high-res pics take a really long time, do PM me if you need a high res version of any pic).
Attached Thumbnails
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Last edited by StrangeWizard : 27th April 2013 at 14:43.
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Old 27th April 2013, 12:03   #2
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Low temperature, jet lag, sleep!

It was a 9 hour flight from Dubai to London. I slept most of the time and only woke up for some food.
The flight was scheduled to land at 7am at London Heathrow Airport and I opened my eyes at around 6am.
As the flight started to descend I could see the beautiful city from above. Ah, those clean and empty streets, beautiful houses of all sizes etc.
Finally the flight landed. There was a long queue for the immigration, obviously.

After 1 hour picked up the luggage and started looking for my relatives who were going to come to pick us up. No sight of them. Found a public telephone but I didn't know what area code to punch in before the phone number. Sigh.
Waited for 5-10 mins and they finally came. Got out of the airport and the first thing I said was, "Oh it is chilling here!!"
The temperature was around 7-8 degree Celsius. Saw the beautiful London Cab which I had seen earlier only in Midtown Madness 2 (a computer game).

Headed towards the parking lot and loaded the bags in the 2003 Honda Accord 6 speed MT. It was the European edition and looked quite different from the Japanese/Asian edition which we have in India.

It was 8:30am and we had to go to Leicester where these relatives stay and that is a cool 2 hour drive from London.
So, we first decided to go to the nearby Brentcross Mall to grab a bite.
Most malls in the UK are open by 8am and they shut by 5pm.
Ate some food and left for Leicester.

Reached there and straight went to sleep. Woke up after 6-7 hours and went for a short drive around town with my cousin in his Ford Focus.
Wow the roads were really empty and it was only 8pm!

Leicester is a very beautiful city. There are 2/3 storey houses everywhere.
We were staying in an area called Hamilton. There are very few Indians in this area. There are a couple of small shopping centres and some supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys.

There's another area here called Melton Road, which feels just like India. Only Indians stay here, there are saree shops, branches of Indian banks like PNB, BOI etc.

Here in the summer the Sun rises as early as 3am and sets after 9pm. The climate was really really cold and there was the need to where a thick jacket when going out even for a short while. People don't keep fans or air conditioners here but every room in the house has 1 electric heater.
People wake up early by 6 am and leave for work and come back home by 5pm latest. Then most of the day is spent in watching tv, movies etc.
Usually people here have dinner by 7pm.

Came back home and went to sleep. Was feeling really tired after the long flight and was jet-lagged.
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Last edited by StrangeWizard : 27th April 2013 at 13:00.
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Old 27th April 2013, 12:35   #3
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Part 1 - Exploring Leicester.

The next day we decided to go to Leicester City Centre. It is a really good place where there are shops of all brands. You need to park your car outside at one of the various parking lots and walk everywhere inside. The city centre is not a mall, but just 3-4 streets which have all the shops.

There was also a Market Place there where you get all sorts of stuff for real cheap. Obviously it's the unbranded stuff. Something similar to Mumbai's Crawford Market.

We explored everything and also did some shopping from Sportsdirect.

Went to Pizza Hut in the evening. Damn it was too expensive there compared to our Pizza Hut. Actually, everywhere in the UK restaurants are more expensive compared to India.
Here almost everyone has their own vehicle and very rarely people travel by taxi. If they don't have a car then they use public transport like buses.

These pictures are of Hamilton area in Leicester. Isn't it beautiful?
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Last edited by StrangeWizard : 27th April 2013 at 13:02.
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Old 29th April 2013, 10:51   #4
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Part 2 - London bridge is falling down!

I had seen London in many Bollywood movies. I thought wow! This looks like a great place! Should visit sometime.

Andddd that day finally came.
We have some relatives in London's Mill Hill area too and so they invited us over the weekend so that we can explore London city.
So Friday morning we set for London from Leicester.

It was going to be a 2 hour drive. Going for long drives in the UK is really boring. No one cuts you off dangerously, no one crosses the road out of nowhere, no one tailgates you and no one flashes their hi-beams to tell you to get out of the way. Long drives in India are very eventful.
In UK everyone drives very calmly. A minimum distance of at least 2-3 car lengths HAS to be kept between 2 cars. Right lane is strictly for overtaking and most of the people drive in the middle or left lanes.
However, these things aren't possible in India where the number of cars are much higher and peoples' patience are much lower than what they have in UK.

Once we reached the motorway/highway, we saw that there was a lot of traffic for some reason. My cousin loaded the sat-nav and found a nice country road nearby which goes towards London.
So off we took a left and started going through the country road. I think it passed through Nottingham but I'm really not sure on this.
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Once the country road got over, we merged into the motorway and stopped at the Services for a quick break.

What are Services? Most of the motorways in the UK have services which is kinda a medium sized foodcourt comprised of McD, Burger King, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme Donuts (ah lovely) and maybe a small supermarket. Parking is usually free for 2 hours.

So we stopped there and had some quick bites at Burger King. The cheese chilly poppers were awesome!

After the break we were back on the motorway. Now there was hardly any traffic so we reached London fairly quickly.

London city is pretty huge. There are many suburbs, where most of the population lives. These suburbs are connected by the Underground network which is really punctual and damn good.

What you see in Bollywood movies are only few parts of Central London like Oxford and Regent streets, Knightsbridge, Piccadilly Circus etc.
Central London is a bit far from the suburbs and finding parking there is difficult. So most people go there by the Undergound and travel within central London by those double-decker buses.

Once we reached our relative's place, had some quick snacks, chilled out and then had dinner in the evening.
After dinner we headed out to central London by car.
We didn't have any intention of parking the car and roaming around today.

Reached central London. Wow, there were a lot of people and cars!
Usually in UK you can rarely see people out after 6pm and hardly any traffic but this was different.

We explored most of the popular areas here and saw some sexy cars out at night.
Saw the Buckingham Palace from outside, Westminster Abbey, the Prime Minister's house, London Bridge, London Eye, the famous Tower Clock.
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Next up - Exploring Central London on foot!

Last edited by StrangeWizard : 29th April 2013 at 10:53.
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Old 30th April 2013, 17:24   #5
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Default Re: Summer 2012, Spent in England

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 2nd May 2013, 12:19   #6
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Default Re: Summer 2012, Spent in England

So nice to see a different country than ours with not much people, less traffic, beautiful small buildings, nice roads, calm atmosphere. These things will ease our mind and take you to dreamland.
Thanks very much for showing heaven like places do exist on Earth. And waiting for more of the updates from you.

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Old 3rd May 2013, 17:47   #7
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Default Re: Summer 2012, Spent in England

A nice journey so far. The roads empty and neat and clean environment
, very unlike India. Do, did you try your hand at the wheel?

Originally Posted by StrangeWizard View Post
I'm very lazy and I'm writing this after 1 whole year since the vacations but I promise I'll write atleast 1 post everyday.
Promises are made to be broken, but so early!
Keep it coming buddy!
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Old 3rd May 2013, 18:16   #8
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Exploring Central London on foot!

Woke up on Saturday morning at 7am.
Got ready and had some delicious breakfast of gathiyas and jalebis (oh yeah they are available in London).

Once everyone was ready we headed towards Mill Hill bus stop.
We had to take a bus from there and go to Golders Green underground station to catch a train.
It was really really cold this day and everyone had to wear atleast 2 layers of clothing. I was even wearing gloves for some time!

The bus arrived after a 10 min wait and headed to the station, which is also a bus depot.
Note that we were travelling in the regular red double-decker bus this time.
There are also National Express coaches which are used for long distances. More on that later.
During peak hours their trains are as crowded as our Mumbai's local trains. Only difference is that no one even touches you, forget pushing and abusing!
There are escalators to exit from the station and people are expected to stand in a line towards the right side of the escalator and leaving the left side free of any obstruction for those who are getting late and need to go quickly. Wow.

Reached Golders Green station and bought those Travel Cards. Now there are two kinds of travel cards.
1) Daily Pass - Here you punch in your approximate route details and top up with some amount, say 5/10 GBP and you get the card printed. Valid for only 1 day.

2)There's also this other travel card called Oyster Card. This is a plastic card of the same size as a credit card. You just have to top it up and use it anywhere in London. If you haven't used the balance money you can use it at a later time. This card can be used in underground trains as well as double-decker buses. Not valid for National Express coaches.

We got ourselves Oyster cards with a top up of 10 GBP each which should be enough for the weekend.

Caught a train and reached Oxford Street after a while. Just as I got out of the station I said to myself, "oh this is the same place that I have seen in movies! Its awesome."
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Old 3rd May 2013, 18:55   #9
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Part 3 continued...

Oxford street is a huge street where there are stores of almost all major brands. A complete shoppers paradise.
There are big 2-3 storey shops of many big brands as well as small shops selling stuff like UK merchandise, candies and icecreams, pizzas and other food items, maps of London, etc etc.
Also visited the Ferrari store there.

There is also a Regent street adjacent to Oxford street and both of them are quite similar. If you like shopping or even visiting most of the stores, a weekend is certainly not enough.

There are also some cafeterias on the ground floors of some beautiful buildings and there are high chances you might find supercars parked outside.

We spent quite a few hours visiting the huge 3-floor Nike store, Selfridges, Hamleys and many others. Had lunch at Subway and another local restaurant which served pizzas and rolls.

As I had said earlier Central London had many places like Piccadilly circus, Leicester square, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park etc. However we couldn't visit these places during this weekend due to some time shortage and so we went there after a couple of weeks. I'll try to cover these places in more detail along with pics after some posts. There is still a LOT left.

Anyways, reached my relatives' home by 7:30pm and had dinner. Everyone did some chit-chatting and went to sleep.
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Woke up the next day and set out by 10am. Same routine again. Go to Mill Hill bus stop --> bus --> station --> train --> this time we got down at Westminster Abbey station.

Crossed the road and went towards London Eye. We had booked a slot for 12 noon.

London Eye is a giant wheel where there are around 25 compartments with a capacity of 10-12 people each. It keeps rotating slowly and you can see the entire (ok not entire but most of) London from there. Trust me the view is really beautiful.
It rotates very slowly and takes about 45-50 mins for one complete rotation. It doesn't stop for anyone to climb, the doors open automatically and you need to step in it while its moving.
Here are the pics:
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Once we were done with the ride, had some quick lunch and then set out for Leicester where we were staying at my aunt's place. Everyone was tired and needed some rest.

Last edited by StrangeWizard : 3rd May 2013 at 18:58.
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Old 3rd May 2013, 19:29   #10
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Default Re: Summer 2012, Spent in England

Fabulous pictures. I liked the ones taken from London Eye the most. Don't you have a few more that were taken from there? The last one shows the Buckingham Palace, but it is too tiny to notice.
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Old 3rd May 2013, 20:05   #11
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Originally Posted by carzone View Post
Do, did you try your hand at the wheel?

Promises are made to be broken, but so early!
I drove an Accord and a Ford Focus but only in the parking lot. Also drove an Honda Civic Type-R for a couple of miles. So, nothing great.
I wanted to go to the Silverstone circuit where they let you drive cars like Ferrari, Porsche, AM etc but I think that was only for people above the age of 21 and I was only 19 at that time.

Originally Posted by vnabhi View Post
Fabulous pictures. I liked the ones taken from London Eye the most. Don't you have a few more that were taken from there? The last one shows the Buckingham Palace, but it is too tiny to notice.
Here are some pics taken from my cousin's camera. I visited Buckingham Palace during the Queen's silver jubilee and took some pics which I'll upload in later posts.
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Old 3rd May 2013, 21:57   #12
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Thanks, I do see it now!

Those shots towards your side of the river bank were also great---I can spot Waterloo station platforms in some of them. But I did not see that circular building with that green dome on top of it when I visited that area---I am referring to your last but one picture.
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Old 4th May 2013, 22:00   #13
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Part 4 - Bicestor Shopping Village.

The next day was spent resting and then we made a plan to go to Bicester Village (pronounced Bistor) and then Oxford City if we get time.
Left from Leicester in the afternoon and reached there in an hour or so. It started raining slightly by then.

Bicestor Village is a big shopping village designed in a very classy way. There are shops made in shapes of houses. Only premium brands are available here. Don't know what else to write about this place. Oh and if you visit this place sometime don't forget to taste the crepes here. There is a stall at one corner where you get these. Loved the cheese flavored and hazelnut flavored ones the most.

Some pics:
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We had actually planned to go to Oxford City also but due to lack of time we went there the next day.
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Old 4th May 2013, 22:50   #14
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Part 5 - Oxford City.

We set for Oxford from Leicester. Takes about 2.5-3 hours to reach there.
There is a paid parking lot just outside the city where you need to park your car and take a double-decker bus to go inside the city.

We kept the car and quickly bought the bus tickets. Buses arrive after every 15 mins or so. Missed one bus due to the long queue but got the 2nd one.
The bus dropped us off at the city centre from where we need to get down and walk everywhere.

There are many many old structures here. Most of these have small shops on the ground floors and the remaining floors have residents living. Hardly any buildings here.

There's also the famous Oxford University. A boat ride is also available here at a small river.
There are a couple of churches too. You also get a paid sight seeing service in an open double decker bus but we didn't opt for it here.

So we just walked and explored the city and then went for lunch and some drinks at a nice place, sorry forgot the name. They had some awesome nachos with beans, sandwiches, fries etc.

Once we were done we headed back to the bus stop from where we got into the bus which took us to the parking lot on the outskirts of the city.
Off to Leicester again.

Pics :
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Old 4th May 2013, 23:41   #15
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Default Re: Summer 2012, Spent in England

Oxford pics continued. I guess only 30 are allowed in a single post
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