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DAYS 76 to 80 – 30 August to 3 September 2014; In London and back home – Part II

At the time of planning the road trip to London I had mailed the various Indian Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions en route. One of the first responses I had was from Ranjan Mathai, the Indian High Commissioner to London. He had expressed concern that he would be unavailable till 31 August – my original schedule was to return to Cochin on 30 August. However, with the slight change in schedule I was given an appointment to meet His Excellency on the morning of 2 September. Being a working day, Lal and I had to shell out nearly GBP 46 apiece for the return tickets as compared to just GBP 16 apiece just a few days before, which was a holiday. We had a most interesting time with the High Commissioner, who displayed a lot of enthusiasm to understand our journey. Aldwych House is a historic building in Central London. Vivek Thampy, Social Secretary to the High Commissioner, who coordinated our meeting with the High Commissioner explained a few important plaques in the building and a…

DAYS 76 to 80 – 30 August to 3 September 2014; In London and back home – Part I

At the start of the trip an overwhelming worry was that we would fall short on finances to complete the trip. When the trip was concluded in London on 29 August 2014 such thoughts were farthest from my mind, for we had been hosted by friends and family, including the Indian Railways, for a total of seven weeks – we stayed in paid accommodation only for 31 days of the 80. The wonderful hosts that looked after everything that we wanted from washing machines to shopping to home cooked food made sure that we were most comfortable. The journey would not have been as memorable but for their contribution. The Kingsleys in London exemplified that experience.
When we were on the journey Boby George, a Facebook friend, had got in touch to volunteer hospitality in London. After many discussions it was agreed that accommodation would be arranged in Hayward’s Heath, with the Kingsleys. Last evening we drove more than an hour in failing light to reach the warm confines of the home of Judie and Anil …

DAY 75 – 29 August 2014; Swansea to London

Google maps showed that the 300 odd kms to London from Swansea could be covered in under 4 hours. Give or take an hour, I had programmed the termination of the journey in Tavistock Square, London between noon and 1 pm. When I was a student in 1995-96 in London School of Economics I stayed at Passfield Hall in Endsleigh Place. Everyday I walked from the Hall of Residence to the LSE to attend classes, study in the Lionel Robbins Library and keep the body fit in the Sqaush Courts. The daily walk took me past the Tavistock Square and many times I have been inside to pay obeisance to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The statue was erected under the aegis of the India League and was unveiled in 1968 by the then PM of Britain. I never imagined that I would one day drive a car to the Square from India when I made those many trips past the Square. During the planning phase of the journey I decided on the start point of it as the MG statue in Kochi and the end point as the MG statue in Tavistock …

DAY 74 – 28 August 2014; Rosslare to Swansea

Last evening when we checked into the Rosslare Port Lodge the young Punjabi girl at the reception told me that it would be enough if we started for the port by 8 am since it was just a short drive from there. Breakfast was on board the ferry, Lal and I decided. I woke up early to complete the blog posts. The Lodge offered free WiFi; it was available only in the reception area, though. Moreover, I was under the impression that the lounge would be available to do my work without disturbing Lal and the thought that coffee would also be there send me downstairs by 4.30 am. The lounge was closed and coffee was not available. Hence, I sat down in the reception area and worked without any disturbance for a couple of hours – two of the three pending posts were completed and updated. Only Day 73 remained, which I would be able to complete on the ferry I knew, for the crossing would take about 4 hours.
After we had got ready and loaded the luggage I went to the lounge for a cup of tea where I …

DAY 73 – 27 August 2014; Dublin to Rosslare

It was time to move on from Dublin. 8 am departure was set. Baby would accompany us from Dublin to Cork via Limerick. Ireland has a large population of Keralites. There are over 2500 families in Dublin itself. Most of them are engaged in the medical field. The St. James Hospital in Dublin has 500 Keralite nurses on their rolls! Similarly Limerick and Cork too have substantial Keralite settlements. The boom in Irish recruitment in the medical profession happened in the early part of 2000. It has considerably slowed down since 2010. Baby had organised meetings with Keralite families in Limerick, Cork and Cobh and also with the priests Manoj and Jose in Dublin. The many that turned up have been huge fans of Lal’s films. The hospitality was overwhelming and straight from the heart. It was truly moving and inspirational. The kids were there in large numbers too. The enthusiastic ones in Cobh presented us with a signed postcard each, which I will cherish as one of the prized effects of the…

DAY 72 – 26 August 2014; In Dublin

Life in Dublin began as two separate settlements, “Atha Cliath” and “Dubh Linn”. The modern name of the City is derived from these two names – Dublin is the internationally recognised name while “Baile Atha Cliath” is the Irish translation. Research has established the fact that Vikings were the first settlers of the city around the 9th century. The city is steeped in history and has a turbulent past. Ireland was under British domination and rule for over 750 years; the Anglo-Irish treaty of 6th December 1921 ended that when 26 of the 32 counties gained independence and formed the Irish Free State, which is presently the Republic of Ireland. I wanted to flavour some part of the past in Dublin, weather and organised schedules permitting.
As it panned out, the weather held for most part of the day, even though it was overcast and threatened to rain any minute. Dale and his wife gave us excellent Dosa and Sambar to start the day. Weather had interfered and made a mess of their annual ho…

DAY 71 – 25 August 2014; Belfast to Dublin

It had rained heavily overnight. And it was cold, though not blustery. When I came down with the luggage Sijo John was waiting for me. The previous day he had contacted me to know when we would be leaving Belfast. He lived almost next door to the B&B we were in and hence, could easily make it to the place before 8 am. Over breakfast he told us how he came to UK and landed up in Belfast for his management studies, where he has been for the past 4 years. He now works as an in executive in the Delhi Lounge and looks forward to residency soon. He shared his ambitions and future plans in UK. Andre, owner of the Botanic Rest Queens Quarter B&B on Cromwell Road, had been a guide in Asia and Africa prior to coming to Northern Ireland to do business. He has done fairly well in the hospitality business. I got Andre to attest the log sheets and put his message on the Campaign Poster. Andre said that he has never had customers who had travelled thus far to stay at his facility. Breakfast…

DAY 70 – 24 August 2014; Edinburgh to Belfast

A few days back when I Googled the route between Edinburgh and Belfast I mistook it to be 133 miles. I had attempted to book online for the ferry from Toorn to Larne and was completely unsuccessful. Knowing that there are just two services a day – one at 11 am and the other at 7 pm – I was keen to get on to the morning ferry so that we would get some time to move around the city of Belfast. With the distance of 133 miles and the ferry remaining unbooked I confirmed with Lal that we would move out of the Hotel immediately after breakfast at 7.15 am. Prior to reaching the restaurant we loaded the luggage into the car and checked out. As soon as the doors opened for breakfast we were among the first to be inside. There was a fairly wide selection of hot and cold foods. I stuck to the standard scrambled eggs, baked beans, bacon and bread combination. A large cup of coffee was the chaser. I saw a large number of young boys in the restaurant with Delhi University track suits on. I joined a…

DAY 69 – 23 August 2014; York to Edinburgh

The Holiday Inn Express, where we stayed, is a budget hotel of the IHG Group, which has within its fold brands such as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn. The Express properties normally do not have restaurants attached to them. They are set up in close association with a restaurant chain. So it was in York.  The Toby Carvery is a large franchise in the UK and in many locations both the facilities goes hand in hand. When we walked to the restaurant last night it was almost near closing time. The Carvery had run out of the carved meats and hence, we settled for less exotic stuff. During the checkout in the morning I had a long chat with Elizabeth and David, two youngsters who were on reception duty. They mentioned to me that if there is one thing that is “Yorkshire” it has to be Yorkshire pudding. Elizabeth explained how it is made and why it is so typically Yorkshire – she said that one could get Yorkshire pudding in the rest of UK, but it would not be as good as it is in Yorkshire! It is …

DAY 68 – 22 August 2014; Calais to York

Even if I have nothing slated for the early morning I get out of bed by habit. When I did this morning I wanted cause as little disturbance to Lal as was possible. I picked up my laptop and tiptoed out of the room with the intention of working on the blog in the reception area. When I got there I found that all the chairs and tables had been moved to the restaurant and locked. When I was pondering the next step I found an elderly gentleman standing outside cursing the afterhours check in machine. It was raining and I saw there were more people in a van. I opened the door for him and disappointed him, I think, when I told him that I do not work at the hotel. He got on the phone and woke up the receptionist, who came out and checked the group of 8 in and handed over the room keys. She refused me a chair till the reception was officially opened by 6 am. I sat on the steps of the stairway and completed my work, reflecting on the journey thus far across 25 countries spanning nearly 22,650…

DAY 67 – 21 August 2014; Antwerp to Calais

There wasn’t much of a distance to be done this day and very little scheduled in Calais. Hence, a late start was decided upon with nothing to be hurried with. I did get up early to finish the blog post and some documentation. Apart from that I had to make sure that the Navigator was ready for guidance out of the city. By 8 am we went down to the street to look for suitable breakfast. The first shop to the left of the hotel advertised “All Day Long Breakfast”, and that caught my eye. It was an interesting enterprise of two shops – one sold breakfast and the other beverages. Together they offered breakfast on tables placed outside their shops. It was a bit windy and we chose to sit inside the cosy restaurant that served the beverages. Moreover, the young lady serving in the shop was extremely friendly and welcoming. The coffee we ordered there was served with a biscuit, cream and sugar. The breakfast ordered next door arrived soon. A plate full of sliced cucumber, cabbage, grated carro…

DAY 66 – 20 August 2014; Den Hague to Antwerp

Musthafa had scheduled a visit to FloraHolland in Naaldwijk to experience the flower auction. Accordingly we were to be at his residence by a quarter past seven in the morning. A combination of factors delayed us. While checking out there was some confusion with the charges to be paid. Finally when the amount was decided the net connection went on the blink and delayed the card transaction. All was well when we hit the street. However, a wrong turn almost cost us in dents and fines. I turned into a one way street with vehicles rushing head on. I managed to find an exit just at the right time before the traffic police could arrive. High beams and gestures from the drivers of the vehicles told their side of the story!
Holland was the crucible of floriculture development and trade, where it became an industry over the past century and more. While floriculture is being increasingly internationalised and spread across the globe Holland retains its primacy. Acres and acres of green houses …