Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 1: London

**This is a series of post that I am putting up from notebook entries during my trip to England in the first 10 days of December

The moment I stepped on the Tube at London Heathrow, I was charmed. THe tube itself was tubular and compact and its passengers (once we left the airport and acquired some locals) had a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about them. Navigating the Tube, clacketing with the morning rush hour crowd through what seemed like wormholes, I was smiling all the way. And then surfacing at Chancery Lane, I was smitten. A European city with international panache, history oozing from its pores (but some high design smudged in too) and a populace who all seemed to have beautifully tailored coats (ALL of them seriously!).

After the fiasco with the door (who knew there was a THIRD keyhole at knee-level?), I managed to catch a small nap and regain composure. But I couldn't nap long because it was SUNNY (the forecast had called for rain the entire 10 days of my trip). So I walked and wandered, finding an elegant varied and confident city somewhere between Paris and NYC but in a league all its own. I also found the Tate Modern, whose entryhall gave me chills, and was transported by Polish artist Miroslaw Balka's work as well as by a room filled with Cy Twombly paintings.

Sun soon turned to rain and the brollies came out and the suited men in black-shiny shoes (London uniform?) were all running for cover. Running out of steam, I returned to my homebase to recalibrate before heading to St. Paul's Cathedral for EvenSong service. Walking into Christopher Wren's space was enough: majestic, ornate but simple. It moved me truly. Evensong took place in the quire of St. Paul's in the company of the beautiful melodic voices of a few members of the Church's choir. It was so very special: such an intimate privileged and powerful moment.

To round off the evening I went out to dinner and stepped onto the Tube, having to bend my neck down so not to be decapitated by the Tube's concave doors. I reached Oxford Circus and it was a mayhem of crowds and rain and puddles. But I made it to Masala Zone just in time for their dinner special. They do super authentic Indian food with a twist. Their thali plate was nothing special (although the Gujarati vegetarian curry featured sweet potato, banana, aubergine, snow peas and dal!) but I was floored by my appetizer: Bhes. I had scoffed at its funny little description (crunchy salad) but had asked the waiter to recommend something from the menu. And boy was I glad I did. It was so much more than a crunchy salad: a mixture of potato, popped rice, peanut, cucumber, chutney and tamarind sauce. It was like a samosa deconstructed, spicy, tangy and crunchy oh YES!

So I left happy to go home, write my tales of day 1 and plan the next day before crashing into some much needed sleep.

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