Nov 11, 2005

Day [-1] : The intreprid travel planner

Diwali eve and the next morning we were off to London! We were as ready as we could be; we had clean clothes and even jackets.

It hadn’t been a good week but things were improving slightly. We had had heavy rains in the last few days causing train services to be disrupted. Bombs had gone off in terrorist attacks in Delhi. But I could hear the crackers going off outside for Diwali.

By way of preparation, I had asked a few friends for their recommendation.

JW (UK): If you are going to Bath you could also go to Cirencester. Roman ruins. Oh and York – Viking center. Wales there are a few great places to visit.

NT( UK): Hampton Court, Kensington Palace, Tower of London – don’t try to repatriate the crown jewels. Chatsworth – place similar to that of Mr.Darcy’s.

CV( India): Don't go to this place called Stonehenge. Waste of time.

SRP(India): You got to see Stonehenge.

Me: Perhaps I could do a Kipling tour, with his connections to India. Oh, how about Constable country? And perhaps Wales too? Shouldn’t I be seeing Southampton, after all that’s where the East India company ships docked?

CL(UK): Lake district. York. Try the gingerbread shop in Grasmere.

The itinerary had some basic outline but I had concluded that we should keep things flexible, create a backpacking quality to things. So I wasn't going to book any hotels, it was going to be a road trip. SR agreed cheerfully enough to drive, so I didn't have to plan ahead about trains and buses. My sprain after troubling me for three days, after multiple pain balms, had subsided into a dull throb whenever I turned sideways. At least it looked like I could turn and see the countryside pass by.

I took my much-perused map and vague randomly scribbled notes, stuffed them into the bag and decided to settle for the night. The crackers were still going off, punctuated by boisterous drunken laughter.

CL had suggested I read Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a small island’. I had dutifully picked it up the previous day. This I opened now. It was nearing one and I had to leave around 3:30 in the morning. It looked like they weren’t going to stop any time soon, I might as well read.

Despite my map full of yellow lines, I had managed to not touch most of the places he refers to in the book. That put the first damper. I started reading. He says right in the second paragraph – ‘If you mention in the pub that you intend to drive from, say, Surrey to Cornwall, a distance that most Americans would happily go to get a taco, your companions will puff their cheeks look knowingly at each other as if to say, “Well now, that’s a bit of a tall order”‘.

Uh-oh. Could it be they were right?

November 11, 2005