Horse guard

London


I stopped by in London for three days, as part of my first trip to Europe, (which, incidentally, also included Spain). My college friend Ritesh had maintained residence there for a few months, and this was the perfect time to impose myself upon him. Ritesh is a big financial sort of person with UBS. Exactly what he does eludes me -- I want to say he is a currency trader, but he will probably send me a nasty email for maligning him. Anyhow, he does important things that involve other people's money. Liverpool street station

Conveniently, another college friend, Anupam, was also going to be there that weekend. Anupam has more-or-less stayed in Computer Science -- he works with PointInfo Tech, where he explains to people how complicated software works. He owns more suits than I own shirts. He also has uses a cell phone. He is probably an important man. With such luminaries, the weekend promised to be fun.

Taxi and bus 2 I took the tube from Heathrow, and arrived at Ritesh's swank mid-London bachelor pad at about 9am on Saturday morning. Ritesh lives in the heart of London, and so pays about as much rent per week as I do for my apartment in Manhattan per month. (Reminder to self: Change career path to finance ASAP). When we had settled down and chit-chatted for a while, it emerged that he has to be in at work at 7am every morning. (Reminder to self: Cancel previous reminder.)

We decided that since it was early morning, we would make the most of the day by starting early. Ritesh offered to give us the walking tour of London.

Our walking tour started right at the heart of London, and soon came to Bond street. I took a picture of this girl against a bus, and the original slide looks pretty good, but after scanning, I like it better black-and-white, leaving just a little bit of color here and there. This kind of thing is what gimp is good for. Girl and bus


We then walked past Oxford circus, where the hustle-bustle caught my eye enough that I decided to come back the next night and take some more pictures. Once again, I think making them black-and-white, leaving just a little bit of color here and there, gives them a little more flair.

Car lights at Oxford Circus Double decker bus lights at Oxford Circus


Millennium wheel We seemed to walk on and on (stopping by to have lunch in Ritesh's favorite restaurant, where he admittedly comes mainly because he likes to ogle at the pretty girls who serve out the food). When we finally came up on the Thames, we were granted with a view of the famous millennium wheel, which was then in the process of being raised.

And we also walked past a little horse-guard changing ceremony, where I took too long to take this picture, and the horse got really mad at me. Deciding that being kicked by a horse was not my idea of a perfect vacation, I sidled along at a high rate of speed.

Soldier horse


Here's how I described my vacation to a friend: "I was out for six weeks, had lots of fun, took a huge number of photos, but really came back with just one picture worth remembering." When we came to Trafalgar square, I was a little disappointed because I didn't see the hundreds of pigeons that one always sees in movies, but I did see this little girl whose parents had decided that she would get braided right there on the street. She didn't seem to be particularly up for it, but she went along. The resigned expression of her pose very nicely captures the feeling of the moment.

Braiding



The next stop on our walk was the tower bridge. So of course, I have my token pictures of that as well.

Tower bridge 1 Tower bridge 2

Tower bridge guard


Leicester square 1 We continued our walk down to Leicester square, where it was a typical Saturday night, and everyone was out to party. It is very striking how many people are there just to have a good time, with no clear idea of how that good time is to be achieved.

We, of course, had a very clear idea: we were by going to a bar.

Leicester square 2

Horses statue So we sat down in one such establishment, and proceeded to have a scintillating conversation which for the longest time hovered around the opinion that we had of all of our classmates in college. I am sworn to secrecy to not tell what those opinions were, but they were definitely very revealing.

By the time we got done talking and having dinner, it was about 2am, and there seemed to be no clear means of getting home. The Underground stops running at midnight (or somewhere around that), which is completely ridiculous. The taxis are all full, and the buses are infrequent and also very crowded. London is very lively at night, and I realized that part of the reason is because everyone has to walk because there is no other means of getting anywhere. So we walked most of the way home, catching a bus for some part, but legging most of it on our own.



The next morning, we began by going to Madame Tussauds. The famed wax museum is quite remarkable, although I have to say I felt a little let down after all the hype, more so with some of the statues than others. What was amazing, though were the number of people that were in the line to get in. Madame Tussauds
Torture Despite what I say above, there are many amazing wax figurines in Madame Tussauds, I was also very impressed by a video showing exactly how these statues get made. The amount of care they take to make sure that the replica is exactly like the original is incredible. What is surprising is that still, some of the replicas turn out to be, not to put too fine a point on it, fairly crappy :-)

On Baker Street, right outside Tussauds, is a statue of the quintessential detective.

Sherlock Holmes
Ritesh in an Underground station After Tussauds, we took the tube to see another London tourist attraction, Harrods. It was closed. Harrods, the most famous shopping center in the world, is closed on Sundays. I guess people don't like to shop on Sundays. Live and learn.

Not being the type to get disappointed by aborted shopping sprees, we continued our walking tour.

Potted plant

Ritz 50

Ritz 800

People who are seriously into photography often run the risk of annoying their friends. This is because they take way more photographs than normal people do, sometimes purely as experiment.

Here, for example, I took two photographs of the exact same scene, with two different speeds of film. The one above with Velvia (50 ASA) and the one below with 800 ASA film, which gathers 16 times as much light. The effect is obvious.

Throughout the three days, I was quite pleasantly surprised by how well both Ritesh and Anupam took my photographic idiosyncrasies.

Taxi and bus 1 The evening again brought us again to Leicester square, where conversation was once again lively, although the place itself was a lot calmer than the previous night.

That night, on Anupam's suggestions, we went to eat at an Indian restaurant called Gaylord. The original Gaylord is in Delhi, and now there are several branches around the world. We were there for about four hours, and I have to say, it may have been the atmosphere, but that was one of the best meals I have ever had.

Leicester square 3


The next morning, I proceeded to witness another London landmark: the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. There were throngs of tourists, and the ceremony itself was just like I had thought it would be like -- full of regalia and pomp. Changing guards
Liverpool street station The last photo in my London travelogue is one of my favorites. I took it in Liverpool Street Station, while going to visit my cousin on Monday night. I have shown it to many people now, several of whom have remarked: "Wow, that's a very nice picture; you must have a very expensive camera." I just smile -- they don't know that all I have is a $30 all-manual rangefinder camera from the 70s. What one needs to take a picture like this is a tripod, and a lot of patience.