My London Journal

Waterlow Park

Have you ever made plans with your friends and gushed about how very excited you are about them and then have them not happen ? It sucks doesn’t it ?

Something similar happened to my friends and me a few days ago. We had planned on visiting the Highgate Cemetery where, not only would we get to enjoy the change in landscape (since it is located in Zone 3 of London) but I would also get the chance to practice and improve my photography skills. Unfortunately upon arriving there, we realised we had to pay 4 pounds to enter. The only way to wander around and enjoy the cemetery was to pay for a private tour of it.

Luckily, right next to it was situated Waterlow Park and I am so glad it was because I had the best time taking pictures of my friends there. The park provided not just a wonderful excuse to relax by taking some time off studies but is also home to some beautiful sights.

The gates at the entrance itself were so ornate that I couldn’t help but take a picture of it. I know that there is nothing fancy about gates and there are prettier gates somewhere in the world but (call me weird) I found it pretty.

Having been extremely influenced and inspired by the amazing photography of Alessio Albi, I really wanted to try my hand at the kind of photography he is so skilled at. If any one of you are interested in his work, you can check out his Instagram account here. I intended to at least try capturing the beauty of human features against the background of nature with a contrast of light and colours influenced by seasons and elements of weather.

So, like a woman on a mission, I entered the park only to catch sight of a section of the wall dividing the cemetery and the park almost hidden by massive trees and a huge bark of wood lying on the grass like a crude bench. I looked towards Sarah who was one of my two muses for the day, and she got to work or well not, since it doesn’t take her much effort to look beautiful really.

As we walked further into the park, we came across patches off daffodils planted all round, gently swaying to the breeze that had started up. I loved the bright yellow of the flowers against the greenery and somehow I got transported back to third grade, when I helped my mum paint daffodils and cut them out to stick them in her classroom to make it more brighter and beautiful.

I know, I’ve been reminiscing quite a bit these past few blog posts.

As we were strolling around, Sarah found a spot that not only gave us an amazing view of the cemetery and some of the more intricately carved headstones but one that was surrounded by wild cherry shrubs and forsythias. Sarah very candidly pointed out that the flowers had no smell. Despite all efforts, the pictures of her smelling them weren’t that convincing and one could almost read her expression regarding the lack of fragrance except this one.

Right opposite the shrubs was a gigantic oak tree with a hollow bark and I knew I wanted to photograph it having seen countless pictures all over the web of people standing inside the trees. Unfortunately it was fenced off. That didn’t stop us though. After looking around and seeing no cops, Sarah jumped the fence and we got to work pronto ! Toothless did pull a prank on us though during this crazy stunt of ours. Just as we were letting our guard down, she screamed ‘cops’ and we nearly jumped out of our skin.

Not cool Toothless, not cool.

Just when we thought this park couldn’t get any prettier, we came across small ponds with ducks swimming around in them. It saddened me to see that some people had carelessly thrown their litter in these ponds which justified why the ponds were sealed and had fences all round them. The landscape though was so pretty with water pouring down rock terraces and flowers of various kinds growing all around.

Here are some of my absolute favourite views of the park greenery.

Toothless, who was hoping I had forgotten about my intention to photograph her, tried to camouflage with the flora but she didn’t quite succeed.

If I had to mention one thing I absolutely love about Toothless, it would have to be her smile. She has the most free and warm smile I have ever seen. One flash of it and you’ll be smiling yourself the rest of the day and no matter how bad your day was, one glimpse of that amazing smile and your day will definitely brighten up. Hopefully, I captured that amazing feature of this wonderful human being through my pictures.

I will admit, I can be picky sometimes when I want to take pictures which means I often ask my muses to do pretty weird or difficult stuff. Toothless had to suffer through this as well. Having found a very different Jungle Gym, I asked Toothless to climb on top of it so that I could have a different view. Mind you, this Jungle Gym was built out of barks of wood that were haphazardly nailed together. Climbing on top of it wasn’t the hard part. Not falling down from it was though. Toothless succeeded with flying colours. If only this was the only hard thing she had to do…

Right next to the Jungle Gym was a very unstable ‘bridge’ made out of slabs of stone. It was quite wobbly and I think the main intention of the bridge was to test your balancing skills. After a few failed attempts, Toothless crossed the bridge without stumbling or tripping. I was beaming at her like a proud momma by the end of it.

We decided on retracing our steps since we wanted to go see the ducks one more time. Only this time, we came across a different pond next to which was nestling a beautiful Weeping Willow. Toothless’s hair and the branches of the Weeping Willow made quite the contrast I feel.

As luck would have it, as we were looking for a spot where Sarah could sneakily pull her tights back on, we bumped into the most adorable puppy. He was out for an afternoon walk and he was so tired, he couldn’t stop yawning !! It didn’t help his situation when all of us couldn’t stop petting and cuddling him.

He also led us to a part of the park where small land slides had occurred and the trees that had grown there, cast extremely dark shadows. I ordered Toothless to run up one of these slides and pose for me and one of my favourite pictures of her came out from it.

Soon though it was time to leave. We trudged back towards our bus stop which let me tell wasn’t fun. The journey back was a steep trek uphill and by the end of it all of us were panting with me complaining incessantly about my back. In my defence, I was carrying a bag full of camera equipment and I had a cold.

What made the trek worth it was the view we came across just as we were exiting the alley.

It was one of the entrances to the cemetery. Despite the fact that the gates were sealed shut, we had an amazing view of it. Somehow, as I looked on, the voices all around me subdued and for a moment, I felt as though I were one with the spirits of the cemetery. I left the place with a sad smile on my face, a part of my soul mourning and praying for the souls that had left the earth and had found peace in the afterlife, even though I didn’t know them.

If someday, you plan on visiting Highgate Cemetery, take my suggestion into account. Go visit Waterlow Park as well. I bet you, you won’t be disappointed.

Till then Mavericks…

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Winter Wonderland

I know this comes very late, but having been bogged down by essays, deadlines and the usual procrastination, I couldn’t find the time to pen down my experience at Winter Wonderland. Almost a month and a half later and here it is. Do excuse the delay.

Having crossed the beautifully lit place one too many times on my way to college, my friends and I finally decided on a date when we were all free and could go and enjoy all that Winter Wonderland had to offer.

Upon entering, my senses were overpowered by the smell of food wafting around, the innumerable joy rides and the people on it screaming in joy or terror and the brightly lit arena itself. With a goofy smile on my face, my friends set out to explore it.
Since my friends weren’t the most excited humans when it came to rides including the Ferris Wheel, we opted for strolling around and window shopping so to speak.

We came across numerous candy shops and each time, I found myself gaping at the assortment of candy on display until one of my friends realised I wasn’t walking alongside them and had to come drag me away. My sweet tooth was practically wailing, but since I had already decided on what I wanted to gorge on, I had to walk away. I was honestly quite impressed with my will power. Can’t say the same for my uncontrollable drooling though.

While my friends shopped for trinkets, I wondered around by myself and stumbled across some adorable sights. Some had me reminiscing about my favourite childhood stories, while others had me feeling all warm and tingly inside.

Santa Claus is coming to town !

The Nutcracker !

Angels adorning one of the Christmas trees on display.

We then headed down the lane that was surrounded on both sides by eating joints. Ranging from ales to waffles, there was no scarcity when it came to the variety.

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Found this fella trying to sell us some beer.

While Esperanza went for Nutella crepes, Esra and I decided to treat ourselves to massive chicken burgers that were too big for my mouth, stuffed with cheddar cheese, lettuce, onions, mozzarella, ketchup and a whole bunch of other ingredients that I can’t remember but my tummy does, since it started grumbling the moment I started describing it. We decided to sit down next to one of the most beautiful Christmas trees I’ve set eyes on. It was huge and decorated in nothing but silver. Seated next to it, conversations flowing, my soul was happy.

Such a beauty.

We then decided to head back since it was getting late and we had dinner plans. On our way back, we encountered the Spooky House that was being guarded by some very interesting creatures.

With the children’s shrieks in the background, our tour of the entertainment park almost finished, we came across the Ice Land. A bit too chilly for my taste, we hastened forward, but before that I couldn’t help but capture these adorable snow beings.

Nearing the end, I came across a carousel and couldn’t help but spend a few moments gazing at it. Carousel’s for me are the biggest reminders of childhood and they always get me smiling. The lights, the massive smiles on children’s faces, the soft tune that plays as it goes around, all of it fills me with a kind of peace that isn’t quite easy to explain. It provides me with a comfort that I never realise I seek until I feel it flooding me.

I left Winter Wonderland, an excited 21 year old who felt like she had gone back in time. I love amusement and theme parks and to experience this, brought back a lot of happy memories for me. The wonderful company, delicious food and the all round merriment and anticipation for Christmas made this trip all the more joyous. As we headed out of Winter Wonderland, these were my last views of it.

All of you who have had the pleasure of visiting it, I hope you had a great time and for those who couldn’t or decided not to, there’s aways next time !

Tower of London

As is well known, the Tower of London had been surrounded by more than eight hundred thousand red ceramic poppies to commemorate the First World War and all the lives that were lost in it. Titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, these poppies had been placed with utmost care all around the moat of the Tower to give the visual effect of blood pooling around the Tower and spilling from it as well.

Despite the fact that the Tower of London was one of the first places I wished to go visit when I arrived in London, I didn’t get around to doing this till about three months later. Nevertheless, on a cold grey day, my friend and I found ourselves headed there to kickstart her birthday. Unfortunately for us, the poppies that made the Tower of London all the more majestic and historic in my eyes, were slowly being removed. There were very few places where the poppies still remained. I was determined to witness at least one area of this and capture it.

My first glimpse of the Tower of London. In my eyes, the cold winter weather only added more effects to this historic place, made this monument more cold and somehow more intimidating. It never let me forget that this monument had seen the shedding of copious amounts of blood and the soil on which it was built was soaked in the dead blood of innumerable humans.

My friend and I decided to take a stroll around the Tower of London to witness it from all angles and read all the fascinating stories and facts that were inscribed into stones all around the tower.

We came across (what seemed like stone) carvings of animals very close to the entrance of the Tower marking the area where the King preferred to house his wild beasts.

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My heart was a little heavy as walked around since I could not see a single area where the poppies had once been placed. It was when we were walking across the Tower Bridge to get to the other side of the Tower of London that I saw the red poppies glinting. They were, with slow and careful precision being uprooted and placed into trolleys. Without thinking twice, I climbed onto the side of the bridge and almost hanging from the bridge while my friend held on to my legs for dear life, did I witness the soft yet powerful message of the poppies.

We continued our stroll, enjoying the slightly chilly wind that had started up. Just as we were nearing the end of our walk, we came across an entire area that was surrounded by the red poppies. Facing the Thames river, the poppies glistened in all their glory. Extremely happy and excited, my friend and I simply sat there taking it all in.

Shoreditching

After having decided on visiting Shoreditch ages ago, my absolutely gorgeous friend Sarah and I finally made a plan to head there and stroll around. My fingers had been itching to capture the street art there and Sarah wished to waltz around the vintage stores that we had heard about.
Despite sleeping extremely late and having a pseudo hangover, Sarah and I were out and about on the cold Saturday morning. Once we landed in Shoreditch, we had absolutely no idea where to head. Between discussing what we intended to do and fiddling around on Google Maps, we stumbled across the first of many brilliant street art pieces and graffiti.

Chapel not Chanel

rEVOLution.
Influenced By Russell Brand.

We rounded the alleyway we were walking through to find walls upon walls graffitied. Unfortunately there was a fence that locked us out and despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to capture much.

By this time, we had come across quite a few vintage stores. Being the absolutely horrible shopping partner that I am, I simply sat whenever and wherever I could, while Sarah found gorgeous clothes that she absolutely nailed when she tried them on. The perks of walking in and out of these stores was that we would find ourselves in new alleyways and streets each time which meant more opportunities to capture the creativity of the people of London.

After a long search, I finally found this building. Since I saw it on Google Images, I had been planning on finding this place. Oh the joy when I came across it.

I swear to God I have no idea what I was thinking when I decided to do this.

Look at this absolutely beautiful angel.

Look at this absolutely beautiful angel.

It was evening when we decided to find ourselves a quick bite. Deciding on chocolate, we found ourselves in front of London’s very own Love Lock Fence.

As we went through the multitude of locks attached to the fence, we noticed a small break in the fence which meant someone had decided to take their lock out. Somehow in that moment, my heart yearned to reach out and comfort that person who did it. After a few moments of moping around, we turned around to find this absolutely breathtaking wall painting.

This was followed by more visually appealing creations.

It was late evening when we finally came across Blitz, the ultimate vintage shop. With amazing music and a lovely customer service, Sarah and I spent our time finding clothes and accessories that we preferred. I ended up buying three novels at a very cheap cost and Sarah after mulling about it, decided not to go for the jeans she had picked. Anyone planning on visiting this store, make sure you ask for a student discount if you are one. By the time we left, darkness had settled and we decided it was time to head home. Unfortunately, we had no idea where to head because of the many twists and turns we had taken. This in a way was beneficial because we came across some amazing art that had very strong messages.

‘What you believe doesn’t have to be true.’

Don't shoot. With the nike logo, 'Just don't do it.'

Don’t shoot.
With the nike logo, ‘Don’t do it.’

As Sarah and I wondered around looking for the right bus stop, the cold had gotten to us. With our hands jammed into the pockets of our jackets, we hurriedly headed towards the bus that would take us back home. It was because of the cold that I didn’t find it in me to take my camera out of the bag and click the street art that I came across. I used my phone instead. Do excuse the difference in resolution and clarity.

All in all, I had a lovely day made all the more enjoyable thanks to Sarah who is not just a dear dear friend but also one of my favourite muses with her ever giving heart and brilliantly photogenic face.

Gothic Experiences…

Recently, after much insistence on my part, my friends and I decided to head to Camden. I had seen quite a few video blogs regarding it and wished quite desperately to experience it personally.
From the moment we got off the bus, I was all giddy steps and excited gasps. We began by heading off to the small stalls that were selling a wide range of clothes with captions that one could relate to and share a laugh over to stereotyped ’emo’ attires. Although the sellers were willing to bargain and sell them at reasonable rates, our unplanned trip and budget had us walking away with plans to come back again and raid the stores.
We then headed off to Camden Lock where we fell short of words seeing the outrageous at the same time very intricate artwork representing the stores or eating joints.

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Strolling in and out of stores, each one of us with an agenda (Meenakshi looking for wrist bands, Nupur searching for gifts for friends and family, Kriti hunting down pretty little dainty accessories and me, the perfect pair of boots) we had built up quite an appetite. Embarrassingly enough, a few bystanders did hear our stomachs grumble which hastened our desire to stuff ourselves with food.
On our way to Camden Lock Village Market, we got to witness the sun setting over the small lake that was silently flowing under the bridge that we were crossing. It looked picturesque, almost like a small portion of Venice (My idea of Venice rather) had been brought to this dark yet colourfully decorated village.

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With narrow cobbled streets winding downwards and buskers entertaining crowds, we weaved in and out of street food stalls looking for something that would satiate all of our taste buds and at the same time trying desperately to shrug off the cold that had stealthily slipped into our bones. That did not stop us from taking a group picture though. Oh narcissism how we hate to love you !

Hello random photobomber.

Hey Mum Dad, look I’m alive and kicking, hale and hearty.

We finally decided on a Chinese food stall.The man behind the counter was quite the enthusiastic lad (British enough ?) and his happy spirit was infectious enough for us to give it a go. The great thing was that we could munch on whatever we wanted and as much of it as we wanted for just three pounds. While I munched on Bean Sprout Fried Noodles with Chicken in Black Bean Sauce, Meenakshi chose to treat herself to Fried Noodles with Sweet and Sour Satay Chicken.

DSC_0623Nupur bailed on the gorging and Kriti opted for quite a large slice of Jalapeño Pizza. To give us company was a gigantic statue of an African warrior.

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By the time we were belly full, it was well into the evening and darkness had started to settle, so we decided to head back home. On our way back though, fairy lights had been lit and the pseudo neon lights adorned the town in hues of pink, blue and green. We couldn’t help but stopover every few minutes to squeal over some store or the other that otherwise looked quite morbid but had now transformed into some pretty little cafe or shop.

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As we were exiting the village, we stumbled across some crazy street art. Some of it we found while we were walking on the footpath, some on vehicles and quite a few on garbage cans and garages. People’s talent and imagination never fails to amaze me.

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Camden is the kind of place that takes time and energy to enjoy and visit. I intend to go back again with a much better itinerary and also much earlier in the day so that I not only get to enjoy the market but also get to cherish the revelries in the evening time. Anyone contemplating about visiting this place, I would urge you to go for sure. Its a sight to be seen !

First Footprints on British Soil !

It’s been a week since I left India and landed on a whole other continent.

It’s been a week of confusion, getting lost and discovery.

It’s been a week but already I am in love. In love with this city.

London has not failed me. It is exactly what I expected and hoped it would be.  Be it the people who are so polite in their mannerisms or the moody weather, the Big Ben and its cracked bell or  the red telephone booths, everything is magic to me. I feel as though I have stepped into one of my favourite novels and I wish so dearly that this never ends.
So here I am documenting my first few days here, my observations and experiences.
Despite the fact that I have yet to learn how to read a map, I have become quite the professional at commuting via tube and bus. The rumble of the train entering the platform, the ground shaking under me as it comes to a stop has become a comfort of sorts.
The women here have pushed me into eating healthy (I now enjoy yoghurt, something I used to detest earlier) and I also walk. A lot. People at all times of the day can be seen jogging and it is enough to see the women in their way too skinny jeans and figure hugging clothes to give me the well needed kick and push to start working out and become more understanding of my body and make some well deserved changes in my lifestyle. Having made some really good friends (one who has given me competition in regards to OCD, one who buys fruit loops and cereals and munches on them as though they were snacks and one who is a pro at all things tax and calculations), they have ensured that the lovely relationship I shared with my bed does no longer exist. With a new plan devised every day, I am out visiting and wondering across a different street, square and monument almost every day.
During my three day orientation, I have come across people from different nationalities some of whom have been warm and welcoming and the others not so much. I have found myself lost in my own campus, the infamous Strand which I have dubbed The Hogwarts Staircase since the building has way too many flights of stairs and they all LOOK ALIKE. No wonder I got lost and almost didn’t make it to my session.
I have been on a walking tour where I learnt just how much the monarchy loved sex and I have also been on a cruise during which the sun was so unbearably hot, I wondered if I was indeed in London, or back in Delhi. I have also found myself wandering famous squares, the likes of Trafalgar and Piccadilly. I have participated in and thoroughly hated the British disco night life and have also embarrassed myself by cackling loudly on hearing the British crack their very dry jokes.
I have commuted in a tube for over forty minutes oblivious to the fact that I was sporting very bright blue teeth and an even brighter blue tongue thanks to the candy I am consistently chewing on (which sort of negates my healthy eating) and discovered the very yummy Burger King which makes for quite a sumptuous dinner seeing as I missed mine quite a few times.
I have successfully opened a bank account although I skirt topics which include terms like ‘loans, credit, debit, interest’ and have failed abysmally to do my laundry which has put me in a VERY sticky situation. I AM RUNNING OUT OF CLOTHES TO WEAR.
I also, didn’t spare any time and successfully picked a fight with my parents.
Through all this, the one thing that has remained constant is the fact that each day, when I wake after somehow shutting off the alarm clock, I find myself smiling and eagerly looking forward to the day to come. I am not grumpy or cranky. I do not wish to go back to sleep neither do I wish I could cancel plans.
I find comfort in this land that is sunny one minute and chilly the next, this land where leaves crunch under my shoes as autumn and winter get ready to brush shoulders, people smile and wish good morning and good evening genuinely and also sincerely apologise and wish people a good day.

I have found a missing piece of me. I feel more complete.

Seven days down and I am already bewitched. I can’t wait to experience more.

Ending this with a few pictures, the first of many :)

My college, it's insignia.

My college, it’s insignia.

The view from my campus, the Thames and the London Eye.

The view from my campus, the Thames and the London Eye.

A corner of Waterloo Bridge.

A corner of Waterloo Bridge.

Deserted boats on the Thames.

Deserted boats on the Thames.

Street art at Trafalgar Square.

Street art at Trafalgar Square.