Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
You know you feel really lucky when everything goes smoothly like a cakewalk upon reaching a foreign land. I felt extremely lucky – the immigration officer at the Heathrow was a kind, wonderful middle aged man who had only two questions – what do you plan to do in London? Answer: We are here to go to the Hard Rock Calling, Bruce Springsteen is playing, there are close to 60 other bands playing at the three day concert. Question two: who is your favourite? Answer: Lady Antebellum! I love them, an American band.
Immigration Officer: “Well, you are going to a Bruce Springsteen concert, you better like him the most” – followed by a sweet ‘welcome to London’ smile.
Clueless about how the Tube works, we still followed the signs that said ‘Underground’ reached a ticket counter and said we need to get to Hyde Park – two tickets, one Tube, one way. We get off at Hyde Park Corner only because we know our hotel, Hotel Intercontinental is close to Hyde Park – and we thought only God knows how much walking and asking for directions we will need to do to get to the hotel. We get out of the Tube station and see London around us, this big bright beautiful city on a clear day but with chilly wind. As we looked around the skyline we spotted two golden words on a big building right next to us – Hotel Intercontinental. That was easy.
Upon reaching we met the people I have been corresponding with for sometime – sweet Angelina and generous Julie. I love the excitement of meeting people you have only corresponded with. Apart from the lovely smiles of Angelina and Julie and the neat, gelled hair of the friendly concierge, the chic perfume of the Intercontinental got imprinted on my mind and they will remain there for long.
As I write this, I imagine the efforts that must have gone into the choosing of the perfume – it’s the first thing that comes to you when you reach a place, the smell. Whoever’s choice the perfume at Intercontinental is – thank you!
Of course we couldn’t wait to freshen up and get out! Outside was a dream, a city of great history, a little piece of my heart and I had to go hug it at the earliest possibility and I chose to do it with a walk. The weather didn’t seem quite like summer for there was no trace of sun, where he had gone no one knew and there was a drizzle, accompanied with cold wind. I had no umbrella, no proper clothes – I thought it was summer! And none of it was a problem, at this moment, everything seems like a special gift. Everything.
With a joyful heart, I walked down the street from the Intercontinental, after beautiful doors with flower pots hanging by them, regal lamp posts, bright, cosy boutiques, some really fancy offices, old buildings and a beautiful church I found myself on Shepherd Street.
The London street I had imagined was right in front of me – an interesting looking pub, a stationery shop, though unfortunately closed, impeccably dressed men and women, taxis (!) and warm coffee shops.
Of course no local would stand on a street corner and look all around a random street in London in great amazement and with a fixed smile – and I was no local. As I stood there a friendly voice said I should stand under shelter, ‘the rain will ruin your hair’ (!!)
What do you call security people at the entrance to pubs? So this kind stranger was that – too friendly for a security guy in high visibility clothing. Fayiss is from America, lives in London, has a few friends from Gujarat, has never been to India but is fascinated, likes London and said he was happy to meet me. He also suggested I have a drink at the pub to which I replied with – ‘I will come tomorrow with a friend, for sure.’ I didn’t quite think ‘I will be expecting you’ will be his last words to me for I really was sure of seeing him before London, I couldn’t and I feel disappointed in myself about it.
I didn’t go to a pub for I wanted hot chocolate. Hot chocolate seems to be emerging as my all time, all place favourite drink for nothing can go wrong with it anywhere – I can’t be sure of coffee and tea being perfect but hot chocolate’s got to be perfect no matter where you have it!
Caffe Inn has large green windows and wooden chairs, no doubt I was sure of going in, taking a table and celebrate my first evening in London.