My last long term visit to India was in February-March 2012 for my wedding. Since then, Ashwina and I have travelled to Scotland, Dunwich Heath, Cornwall and Paris. To make a trip to India I really need a perfect timing of decent air fares, long holidays and good weather. Post Christmas 2013 gave us this opportunity. So, we booked our tickets on British Airways, which is pretty much the main airline I use to travel and made our way to Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 on a stormy Friday after a Christmas characterised by strong winds and a small storm.
I usually prefer the day flights vs. the red eye because I can sleep comfortably in my bed after I land. This time we decided to try the red-eye anyway, being well aware of a nearly 10 hour sitting flight in economy. Thanks to my recent trips, I’ve finally reached Silver on BA and that meant lounge access! So, we got past an extra vigilant security at T5 and quickly completed our duty free shopping to find our way to the South Lounges at Terminal 5. After spending an hour there we made our way to Terminal B to the gate from which our flight was to depart.
After reaching the gate and having spent some time there, we soon realised that there was a problem with the flight when they didn’t call us for boarding well past the “gate close” time of 9.15pm. Sure enough, they announced that there was a problem with the aircraft and were only able to get a smaller aircraft, i.e. the 747 instead of the 777. This meant some people needing to wait back for the next flight. The price for this was a hotel stay and €600. Little wonder, they found more volunteers than willing passengers! We chose to find our way to the lounges in Terminal B, as did many other travellers on our flight. The new departure time was 00.30. (Side note: Am impressed by the BA app. I knew the updated time well before it was announced to everyone). If it weren’t for the lounge access, I must admit that Ashwina and I would have had a very rotten time waiting for the flight!
As we patiently waited in the lounge which remained open just for passengers of BA199, I decided to check out the status of our new seats. Imagine my surprise and Ashwina’s excitement when we found out that we were upgraded to Club World. So, we decided that instead of complaining about the delayed flight, we would appreciate that this trip was actually shaping up to be a decent one.
So, a little before Cinderella time, we boarded our flight and made our way across the world to Mumbai International Airport…
In spite of being in London for nearly 3 years now, I applied for a Schengen visa a few months back. To open the visa you’re required to visit the country your applying from and what better place to visit than France and isn’t Paris the romantic capital of the world!
So, Ashwina and me planned a three day trip to visit Paris the week before Christmas. Paris is a little over two hours from London with the Eurostar and it is a comfortable trip from St. Pancras International to Gare du Nord.
We stayed at Hotel Le Petit Paris, which is just close to the Panthéon. We reached there late in the afternoon and being December, it was also starting to get dark. We went off to Montparnasse Tower and went up to the 59th floor to get a glimpse of the whole of Paris including a beautifully lit up Eiffel Tower!
After we had sunk in the Paris lights, since we weren’t ready to call it a night, Ashwina and me took a walk down the beautifully lit Champs-Élysées past the Christmas markets to finally reach the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a long long walk and if you’re as unfit as I am, then it feels even longer…
Post this we headed back to the hotel, grabbed some dinner at an Italian restaurant close to the hotel and then called it a night.
When we had visited Scotland back in September, we used to get up early in the morning. This time we decided to take it a bit easy and actually got out only at lunch time.
Remembering names of restaurants in Paris is definitely not my strong point, but we did manage to get a good lunch at one just opposite the Panthéon, which was our first museum visit. Ashwina tried her French skills to order the food while I nodded my head and pointed fingers at the menu
I look forward to Christmas every single year. It’s the time of cheer and happiness with the place all lit up and decorated. I usually spend Christmas in Mumbai with an exception being last year, when I was stuck in London waiting for my visa.
This year, I booked my tickets in early August to take advantage of prices when booking early. I must admit that I am sceptical of this so called price advantage! Come December, as expected the pressures at work go through the roof as everyone tries to complete 31 days work in 15 before Europe and the UK starts to slow down for the holiday period. In my line of work, the word slow down is a mirage and this year was no exception.
Anyway, I flew BA to Mumbai on 15 December. The flight was rather uneventful, though severely delayed due to strong winds at London Heathrow. We reached around 40 minutes late at Mumbai airport. Ever since the privatisation of Mumbai airport, we have seen drastic improvements in the infrastructure and going through immigrations is usually a breeze. This time I had to wait a while since quite a few flights seemed to have landed at the same time.
One major issue at Mumbai airport is the terrible state of the baggage handling facilities. I have had to wait for at least 15-20 minutes for my baggage and this time it was a lot worse. After a rather long wait, that seemed like eternity in a terminal that seemed like a furnace my lone yellow bag rambled down the conveyor belt towards me. I managed to fish out the bag and slowly made my way through a sea of people all waiting for their luggage. With no trolleys available on a seemingly busy night, the wheels of my bags were put in motion as I spent another 20 minutes for the pre-paid taxis. By now, you would have expected that somebody would have realised that the biggest delays at the airport are the baggage handling facilities and the pre-paid taxis!
My stay in Mumbai was a lot more pleasant, which saw me visit several restaurants, few shops, a mall and a hospital. And, of course try to get some work done during my supposed “core leave”. Though, this time it was very limited since I wasn’t at home most of the time.
I made my way back to London on 2 Jan, taking advantage of the long weekend. It was back to work after I landed and back to grind for little over a month.
Finished off my FSA paper on 23rd and awoke early Saturday morning for some last minute preparations for the SAP-BIW paper.
This turned out to be a very comfortable paper to write in 90 minutes. Had a quick breakfast and got down to packing for my journey to Mumbai. I love travelling light and infact that is what I did. Picked up my laptop and a few essentials and caught an extremely crowded 11.15am bus from college to Aundh.
Was fortunate enough to get a Metrolink volvo to Dadar immediately. Ticket prices were hiked considering that everyone is rushing to Mumbai for their Diwali vacations.
The bus was quick and we got little traffic on the way back and was at Sion in about three hours. Caught a rick from there to Bandra to my Grandma’s place.
Met up with some friends and went to 5 Spice in Bandra. The prices have been jacked up there as well and it’s definitely more expensive than the one in town. We did eat and drink well, paid well and got back home. Was so zonked that I crashed almost immediately.
Awoke early morning (well not that early) to go for mass at 10am. Mass has become a lot shorter with shorter sermons
The next few days are packed well. I really hope to get some studies done, but vacation can be a real big hurdle to cross when you want to study!
Have plans to go to Big Bazaar tomorrow to shop for anything I can lay my hands on. Got to redeem my Rs. 1400 in gift vouchers. So, what should I buy?