What more can a book lover possibly want?
The quaint town that is packed full of book shops. Even the pubs & the cafes have books stacked in them. It is also famous for its literary festival, when readers & writers from all over the world, descend upon it to discuss books.
My favorite bookshop has to be the ‘Murder & Mayhem’ which was stacked full of books on crime. So tiny from the outside but containing several ghoulish delights inside.
The ‘Rose’s bookshop of children’s & illustrated books’ contains some books that are really old, from the time that cloth was used to make books. This shop is a delight to walk through. Signed editions, first editions – you name it and they have it, as long as the book is aimed at children. The following photo shows the first edition Enid Blyton books at Rose’s bookshop.
Everything in this town screams books:
A cinema that has been converted to a bookshop:
Hay-on-Wye, my kind of a town.
It is nice to see such thriving independent bookshops instead of the usual charmless book-chains.
The Camden Lock market in London transports you directly into an exotic place existing in the tales of the Arabian nights. The market runs along the canals and was packed to the brim with people. It has an EXCELLENT street food market serving food from all over the world. I saw food from Malaysia, Peru, India, France, Middle East, China, Ethiopia and the Caribbeans. There were also stalls dedicated to chocolates, cakes and even the octopus, where they had a huge octopus displayed in the centre of a table and were cutting off parts to serve to gleeful customers. You do not walk here but move forward automatically due to the crowds. Wandering through the market, I realised that I was too timid when it comes to food – it is time to be more adventurous.
The Victoria and Albert museum in London is an Art and Design museum and is one of the prettiest that I have ever seen. I discovered it quite by chance and have been returning to it ever since. Even so, I have not spent as much time as I wanted to here. I look forward to the day when I can come here on my own and explore whatever I want and as much as I want.
Wandered into the Italian room and found this flawless piece. Trust the Italians to come up with something so beautiful.
The courtyard has, what can only be termed as a huge splash-pool, free for children to splash in, in summer.
Isn’t this just beautiful? This is the reception area of the museum containing and the first time that I saw it, I fell in love.
Young people sitting on the floor and sketching the sculptures.
The famed Maratha ruler Shivaji’s wagh nakha – tiger claws – or as the museum calls them – wagnucks. No one knows whether these are the original ones.
An example of one of the themes used in Mughal architecture.
And because I was feeling a little masochistic, I wandered into the Nehru gallery, displaying the treaures of India (read looted during the Raj). That is the ring of Shah Jahan that you can see in the middle and a crystal bowl used during the Shah Jahan period.
A Scarecrow trail in the neighbourhood! A lot of creativity displayed by most residents. Personally I prefer the traditional scarecrows made of straw and so no new-fangled minions for me! Residents vote for their favourite scarecrow. My favourite was the one titled ‘War Horse’ and another one called George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ (which came complete with seven commandments) and another one called ‘Chariots of Fire’. It took a good hour to walk the entire route.
Sometime around 2001-2002, while returning from the Isle of Wight and because we had time on our hands, we decided to follow the brown sign boards to the Living Rainforest in West Berkshire. The decision turned out to be a very good one. Two things have stuck to my mind about the place. They had a display of live Piranhas- the medium sized, deadly fish, which I had never seen before. Another display that I found exciting was that of ants. It was held in a glass display case. One corner held some grass, which the ants could be seen meticulously breaking into pieces. The ants were then transporting these broken pieces in a straight line to the other side of the display case where they had built an ant hill of considerable height. The ants were painstakingly depositing the grass pieces in the precise locations on the ant hill, after which they went back to the starting post. It was a fascinating display to watch and one can only wonder at the efforts required to put it all together.
The Living Rainforest is a small indoor greenhouse tropical rainforest run by the Trust for Sustainable Living. Because our first visit had been so successful, we decided to visit it again after a gap of nearly fourteen long years. The Piranhas and the ants were missing this time but the attraction remained as fascinating as ever. It is a small place but it does manage to give you the rainforest experience the minute you step in. The heat, humidity and the exotic greenery really do transport you into a tropical rainforest, if only for a short period of time.
Exotic, impossibly colourful butterflies fly around and birds sometimes get in your way as they walk around. The plants and trees are intriguing and complete with all the relevant information. Another unusual display was one which displayed the various stages of a butterfly, with the pupa and larva et al. It is disappointing that the attraction is so small. A larger attraction for the same price would have given a better value for the pounds.
Mumbai – We used to visit it, in order to experience it – understand what a big city was all about, marvel at the skyscrapers and of course, the sea. We were the typical small-towners who would travel all the way from Pune, simply to ogle Mumbai. I was fascinated by Mumbai then and that fascination remains to this day. The Mumbai taxi wallahs (“chor to woh dilli walleh hote hai*, humare paas ghuma ghumake lene ke liye time nahi hai”), the street vendors who assess your bargaining skills with one withering glance (“poona se aaye ho?”), the havaldars and the immigration officers at the airport who are delighted to be spoken to in Marathi and establish an immediate rapport, the impossibly good-looking girls, the celebrities, that ‘glint’ in everyone’s eye – a great place to people watch.
And then there is London. The history oozing through each and every corner – this is the place where Charlie Chaplin used to dine, this is the place where Princess Diana used to get her gowns designed, this is the place where beheadings took place, this is the place where Charles Dickens lived and other fascinating details on every street. The beauty is
And just like we used to visit Mumbai to look at the skyscrapers, we now visit London to look at the Christmas lights. Small towners travelling to the big city to gawk
*[apologies to all dilli wallahs, the taxi-wallah’s words not mine]
A witch lived in Burley not long ago. The locals were not very happy to have a witch living in their village and finally she decided to settle in the US. Since then the village came to be associated with witches. There are rumours of a witch coven still holding meetings in the forest. Even the shops here have a similar theme. Some of them even sell spells.
After dining in one of the two village pubs, the first night that we were there, we set off to find our way back to our lodging. There were no street lights and it was pitch dark. Taxis stopped their service at 18:00 itself. Thankfully our lodge had given us a torch and along with the light from our mobile phones, we somehow managed to find our way back through the woods. And no, we did not hear the witches whispering in the woods. They seemed to be taking the night off. And no, not once did I feel unsafe. There is something comfortingly assuring about pretty English villages.
Along with the Lake District, the New Forest is one place in England that I can never get enough of. There is always something new to discover on every visit.
The American War Cemetery located in Cambridge was established in 1956 on a 30.5 acre site donated by the University of Cambridge. The cemetery has a total of 3812 burials and 5127 names have been recorded on the tablet of the missing. This is the only American World War 2 cemetery in the United Kingdom and one of the 24 administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.