Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mom's Visit - London, Munich and Paris

After months of hinting, asking and downright nagging, my mom finally agreed to come visit me in London. My mom had never been to Europe before, so she was really excited to see the old city architecture, houses and traditions of the land. I was honestly ecstatic to see her. No one has been able to make it to visit me so far since I've been here, so I was really glad that she could come.

Here are some tips in case you dare to make a visit

1. Bring your own maps and learn how to navigate before your come: I will warn any of you who may dare to make the visit, I am a terrible orienteerer as witnessed by my poor mom who was drug onto busses going in the wrong direction, tubes stations that didn't seem to have exits, the wrong terminals in airports, down streets that probably should end up at the boat port etc etc. And you must remember, that I don't really know where things are on a map. I just look at the bus sign and it says it's going to the airport, I don't question it, I just assume it's going to the airport be that north south east or west...I hope the driver knows where he's going.

2. Bring your walking shoes: Mostly due to my poor navigation skills. Be prepared to walk around in circles for miles everyday. Up and down stairs, in alleyways, through parks, through tube stations etc. My mom and I must have walked a good 1-2 miles on our slow days and up to 8 on our tiring ones.

3. Bring your own food: In case you didn't already know. I've become vegetarian, and while to most people that would mean that I would have fresh veggies and food choices galore...beware, I have a shockingly small amount of food to choose from. So if you prefer something outside the realm of eggs, pita bread, peanut butter and feta cheese, please bring your own food, or just tell me what you like and I'll get it for you. :) I really do want you to visit

4. Read your history of the region: I am good at a lot of things and really enjoy London as a city. But one thing I would put on my needs improvement list is knowing history. Sadly when we walk down the streets, I will likely be unable to identify the architectural style, who built it, who lived in it or even the name of the building. So if you're interested in History, bring a book or go on a tour. By the way, we went on a walking tour (see tip 2) of London and Paris and they had amazing tour guides that helped us through that part.

5. Bring some sleeping pills: I live in a happening section of town...I like to call it little Arabia, with little shops on every corner. I love it, but it is noisy at night and my bed isn't the most comfortable, so a few tylenol pm or something of the sort, will probably do you wonders. Not to mention the jet lag.

Mom, I love you! Thanks for coming to visit me! And everyone else, please come and visit me, I'll make your visit memorable if nothing else :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

3 Peaks Challenge

This is the inn at the beginning and end of the Ben Nevis climb

To the right we had just crossed a little waterfall.

While usually I'm fairly active, working out 2-3 times a week, I wouldn't call myself a fitness fanatic, but every once in a while, I like to push my body to its limits. For example this summer I took part in the 3 peaks challenge in the UK, where you climb the 3 highest peaks in Scottland Wales and England. Now granted, we aren't talking about Mt. Everest; or even the peaks in the Swiss Alps, but Ben Nevis (Scottland) Scafell Pike (England) and Snowdon (Wales)are a good distance up there at 1344m, 978m and 1,085m respectively. The other part of the challenge is to climb them all within 24 hours including travel time.

The plane was to leave the airport at 7am on Friday the 16th of June, not even 1 week after I returned from the states. My alarm clock went off at 4am and I was off to the bus stop at 4:30 in the morning. The early morning was so peaceful with a deep blue hue. I wish I was more of a morning person, because this stillness in the morning is a real joy.
Arriving at the airport I met with the other trekkers who signed up for the trip and headed off to Scottland. I've never been to Scottland before, but at the beginning of the challenge, there was a little tavern where we had some soup and got ready to start the expedition. It was lovely. The sun was shining and I got to chat with some native Scottish people (with accents like scottie from star trek).

Ben Nevis was the biggest of the three mountains and it was rainy. It took a good 5-6 hours to go all the way up and down. The beginning of the trek was nice and pretty, but soon it was rainy and wet. Near the top of the peak, there were 7 zig zags of pure broken rock. It was freezing cold and the wind nearly pushed me over several times! I was so cold and tired, one of my colleagues and I rested near the top and in order to keep us going, pretended we were sunbathing in southern france with fancy cocktails in our hands.

Unfortunately, (the story of all our treks) it was so cloudy up top, that we couldn't really see anything at the top of the peak. You could have missed it except for the fact that there was a big monument and you would start going downhill again.

After our trek up the first peak, we climbed down enjoyed a meal and then drove overnight (trying to sleep) to the lake district in England to climb Scafell pike. Everything was drenching wet, so we had to dry out our boots with newspapers (they never got fully dry) and change all of our clothes from head to toe.

Scafell peak started off pleasant enough, but very soon started raining again. It is a very steep climb with lots of loose rock, which in the rain is quite slippery. It actually didn't take too long since it was such a steep asent but it was very taxing and I definately fell a couple of times. Here I am drenching wet at the end of the climb:

Another 5-6 hour bus ride and change of clothes followed this great expedition. I tell you, after climbing 2 different mountains, and barely getting any sleep, the last thing you want to do is go on a 5-6 hour bus ride in soaking wet clothing, but it's all part of the challenge. This time we drove to Whales in Snowdonia to climb mount Snowdon. Unfortunately, our bus got a flat tire about 15 minutes away from the base of the peak. This set us back about 20 minutes thanks to the super fast tire swap of our expedition wise peak guides and we were on our way up another peak. This was by far my favorite mountain. I'm not sure if it was the fact that it was sunny, or that there was some scrambling, or the fact that I had gotten to know my fellow climbers better, or if it was just that I knew that it was over after this one, but it was very beautiful and it was unlike any other experience I've ever had. By the end of the trek, I was running down the hill to make it to the van. Here are a couple of pics from Snowden:
On the Peak of the mountain:

Other Pics:

I would like to say thank you to everyone who donated to the charities on my behalf. we raised nearly £500 for Afrikids and the Marine Conservation Society. Please consider donating if you have not had the chance:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moving, Welcoming and Saying Goodbye

Last week marked the week of changes here in London. The summer turned to rainy fall, my august interns left for the states, the new interns moved in and I moved to the west side of town with new roommates, Nishita, Ziva and Rachel.

Good Bye old roommies and August 2009 interns! I think that it still hasn't hit me that all these people that I have come to know and enjoy have moved away. It was like a whirlwind because it wasn't just 1 or 2 people moving across town, it was 100 people moving across the ocean.

This is my halfway marker and I'd like to take a moment to show my appreciation:

Thank you to my family and friends at home who deal with my constant calls in the middle of the day which uses up all their cell phone minutes. Thank you for still writing to me on facebook and keeping me up to date about the things that are going on in your lives.

Thank you to my new Mountbatten friends: Thanks for being there when it's been rough even though we haven't known each other that long. It's been exciting to meet everyone who each has such differenct circumstances and it's been fun to enjoy traveling and London together.

Thanks to mountbatten, for putting together this program. It's probably the only chance I would have had to work in London with so many great people and for such a prestigious company.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Typically Southampton isn't the first spot you would choose to visit when you think of England, but when I was invited to a wedding anniversary party from one of my Indian friends from the mountbatten program Krutika, I couldn't resist.

When I arrived at Southampton, I noticed a large bay with huge cruise ships and a large shopping center. I called my friends and they were going to be a while to pick me up. So instead of going to the bay sight seeing. I took the opportunity to shop at the massive Ikea. It was fun to walk through the large halls of furniture, accessories and goodies. I bought some coffee and some sweets to give to the party hosts.

My friend Abhi arrived and called me to pick me up. Four of us squeezed into the back of the hired car and set off where to? Ikea...The hosts had postponed the party for the rain. So here I was walking into Ikea again. Luckily a few of my friends decided to get something small to eat to tide them over. I walked with Prashanth and his wife Reshmi over to McDonalds. This was a cultural experience for sure! We had a hearty MickeyD's meal and walked back to Ikea, picked up our friends and made our way to the party.

The party was a fabulous barbeque, complete with little kids running around and corn on the cob(with indian spices of course). The women were all dressed in colorful traditional outfits and some of the men as well. We sat and chatted about all sorts of things. I met some lovely people, ate rice and curry with my hands and would not be let out the door without a bowl of icecream to share.

Overall it was a fun experience. I was able to spend some more time with these friends, meet some new people and roam the walls of ikea which is always a treat.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate

After speaking with my youngest sister Michele last night about my struggles with religion and faith, I decided to finally check out the church service at St. Botolph-without Bishopsgate today. It is a historic church which originally housed one of the historic gates of London. It's a beautiful albeit small chuch right across the street from my work with a gorgeous garden that I often sit eat lunch in and read a book.

It was a 12:10 service which is described as "a service of words and silence." It lasted about 15 minutes. The priest came out, prayed did some litergy, prayed some more, served communion and the service was over.

It was strange being in such an old beautiful place with 5 others in the pews (all older men) and the priest in front as I stuggled to make out the strong British accent of the priest. I followed respectully sitting down and standing up in unison with the other church goers, but I stayed back while the others took communion. In the end the priest gave me a friendly handshake.

There is something about the sanctitude of the place, the smells of the old wood and cold walls. The colorful stain glass windows with pictures of the christ child that always gives me the willies when I go into any old house of worship. I'm not sure I got much out of that service, but maybe I'll try the one next wednesday that is characterized as "a service with song and preaching."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rainy day and Pilates

Rainy London
Yesterday, marked one of the heavier rains that I have seen in England. Granted, I haven't seen much for rain storms, just lots of drizzle. But yesterdays' rain was pretty fun to watch. I still walked the 25 minutes to work. I just carried my umbrella with me. One cool thing about the rain is the reflection you get on the black tar when it's wet. Here I was walking down the path with my bright yellow umbrella and it almost felt like there was a big sun above my head when I looked at my reflection on the ground.

After work, I went home grabbed a few items for the gym and met my friend Nishita for a pilates class. I had never done pilates before, but I had been practicing yoga with a recording for the last several weeks, so I felt up to the task. unfortunately we got into the class late, had to grab our mats and try to keep up with this intermediate/advanced class. The instructor asked at least 3 times who had let us into the class, but she made a point to give us easier movements when necessary. She was very helpful. When doing the movements at home, it's hard to know if your body is positioned correctly. It was really nice to have an instructor there to help. I think I'll sign up for the next class and hopefully make it there before the class begins.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trip to Oxford

Oxford is college city defined. The streets are lined with shops and bars for college students. Nearly everyone you meet is in their late teens or early twenties and there are pizza shops and late night food spots at every corner. However unlike many US college towns, the college buildings have a castle like quality to them, the buildings are spread out around the entire town instead of being nestled into a mall area within a community and the multi million dollar stadiums are nowhere to be found.

Wow...Oxford. One of the most prestigious names in Academia and then one of the college lads, whistles and it feels just like any other college campus.

We spent the day wandering through the town, looking at beautiful churches, school buildings and the bookstore. I spent the evening in a local pub, reading, talking with some locals and enjoying a pear cider. By the time my friends and I went to catch the last train back to London at 11:45, the train station was closed. We had missed the last train, so went to grab some pizza and make our way to the bus stop, which would take us another hour to get home.

We catch the 12:20 bus, give our £10 for the ride home, pick a comfortable seat and get ready for the long journey back. After about 20 minutes, the bus stops and the lights go off. The driver turns the engine over again, but it stops again. A couple of people on the bus ask what's going on, no answer. The bus driver walkies over to the head office. The engine turns over again, nothing. The bus driver announces that the technician is coming. We wait in the stalled bus for another 15 minutes before another bus comes up behind us. We gather our belongings and load up in the new bus. We finally made it back to London at a quarter passed 2am, catch a 40 minute night bus back to our part of town and then walk another 5-10 minutes home. I was exhausted. Good thing I didn't have class or work the next morning.