A lot has been written about England as the huge Indian diaspora has always held it in high regard. But we get you on a fast track on the things to do in London before we cover it in detail. This is for people who are short of time and would like to breeze through the capital before settling on other areas. With the new exchange rates coming into being, right now is the best time to travel to London with British Airways as we discovered the best of prices.
One of the most iconic places, the Trafalgar Square is owned by the Queen in Right of the Crown. The square contains a large central area with the Nelson’s column flanked with fountains. The National Gallery is in walking distance from the square. The beauty of this place lies in beautiful architecture and sculpture work all over the place. Trafalgar Square is also a major shopping attraction of London. With the GBP losing ground from INR 100 to INR 82, it is perfect for your Christmas and New Year shopping. British Airways customers get special offers for shopping this festive season.
The seat of one of the strongest monarchical powers that ruled large swathes of the world. Some of the older rooms of the Palace are done in bright colours and gilt. A plethora of functions are held over the palace including the large gardens for the Queen’s tea parties. The forecourt is used for the impressive Change of Guard which takes places every day during the three summer months and on alternate days in the other months.
The Elizabeth Tower or the Big Ben is one of the most recognizable locations of London. Every movie or feature shows the camera panning out to the famous clock tower. Located right next to the House of Commons or the lower house of the English Parliament, this iconic tower has been built in a neo-Gothic Style. The interiors of the tower aren’t usually open to the public although it does have a stairs of more than 300 limestone steps.
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames. Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, it offers a perfect view of the whole city of London. With slowly rotating chambers where you can stroll around or sit, the view over the Thames river and the metropolis of London is a sight to behold.
Another common depiction from the movies, the Tower Bridge is best seen from the Thames river cruise. One of the most interesting parts of this bridge is that it is a bascule bridge and a suspension bridge. The Bascule bridge is the central part of the bridge flanked by two towers which can be raised for river traffic to pass through. Although the bridge is raised enough for the ships to pass through, but the Bascules are raised to their full height when a monarch is on the vessel. But the best way to enjoy the London skyline is during the Christmas and New Year fireworks on river Thames.
We are heading to London this festive season with British Airways. How about you?
Pumpkins are something that are very much loved during the Navratras. It occupies a central position in many of North Indian dishes especially the vegetarian ones. But the types of pumpkin available in our country has always been limited. Pumpkins are especially famous in the Western World like America and Europe. On our recent trip to Lucerne in Switzerland, we were blown away by the amazing range of pumpkins that we were able to sample. They are used in a plethora of dishes and every part of the vegetable can be used. We’ll just tell you about the ones we liked the most.
Small Sugar or New England Pie
The classic pie pumpkin. The sweet taste and the rich orange colour is something that we enjoyed a lot.
The Cinderella pumpkin is a French pumpkin that derives it’s name from the Pumpkin that the fairy Godmother transformed into the carriage. This pumpkin has a fragrance that will make you fall in love with it.
It is a squash of the same family with a sweeter taste and a granular texture.
This big hulky type of pumpkin is perfect for the soups. With a bit of control on the sweetness and a hard rind, they are a perfect warhorse for your cooking.
This green coloured pumpkin with a yellow centre is the one which is also a lot in Indian cooking. With a slightly sweet flavour, this is another of the workhorses for cooking.
The Butternut squash has a typical buttery flavour which complements it’s nutty flavour. The sweetness also comes through and it leaves a delectable flavour in the mouth.
This was one part of the journey that we will never forget. The Jucker Farm in Zurich is a perfect place to enjoy pumpkins in Switzerland. Do tell us which pumpkin do you like the most?
The Kahlenberg Hill located in Vienna is our next stop on the Eurotrip itinerary. A small hill of the Eastern Alps, the Kahlenberg witnessed one of the most massive cavalry charges in the history of warfare. Medieval Europe was a hotbed of power tussle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Turks. The Battle of Vienna in September 1683 redefined the socio-political forces in the area for centuries to come.
With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, Vienna had become their next acquisition which would have allowed them immense control over Western Europe. A massive force of nearly 300,000 Turkish soldiers accumulated at the gates of Vienna and started pounding the hapless city for nearly two months. The Christian forces were under the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I but the Commander in Chief of the forces under the Polish-Lithuanian alliance of King of Poland John III Sobieski.
The Ottoman Turks
The Ottoman empire had been funding Anti-Catholic empires for a last few decades. The culmination of these conflicts led to the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa declaring war on the Viennese in March 1683 under the behest of Mehmet IV. The Main Ottoman Army started the siege of Vienna on 14th July 1683 and immediately set about trying to punch through it’s ramparts. For nearly two months, the hapless Viennese got pounded until the relief forces turned up.
The Imperial Army
John III Sobieski commanded one of the most cavalries in the world at that moment. The Winged Hussars charging in their full body armour and lancers at the ready were a fearful sight indeed for the enemy. Huge miscalculations by the Grand Vizier meant that he left the defence of the rear to the Tartars whose Khan refused to attack the gathering relief army. By the early morning of 12th September, the Imperial army had started winning skirmishes on the border towns. The Turks made their final fatal mistake of still trying to take the city instead of preparing for defences against the Imperial army. By the afternoon of 13th September, King John III Sobieski led the largest cavalry charge of nearly 18,000 horses down the slopes of Kahlenberg. This large force smashed against the main army of the Turkish army totally disintegrating it.
Today, Kahlenberg stands as a beautiful day trip from Vienna. The whole of the city of Vienna sits in a majestic panoramic view. Do remember the people who charged down those hills to save the city.
Fun Fact: There are more than 30 bridges that cross over the Thames river in London. But two bridges, the London and the Tower bridges are the ones that are known by everyone. Today, we are going to go through these two famous bridges and understand what makes them so special.
Let’s start with the namesake London Bridge. First built during the Roman era in the first century, the Bridge used to connect Londinium and Southwark at that time. The medieval ages saw the bridge being destroyed and rebuilt many times. The Bridge built by King Henry II in the early 13th century had houses, shops and latrines over the bridge. The London Bridge has endured many a natural disasters including the Great London Fire of 1666. By 1722, Lane driving was instituted leading to the British laws of driving on the left. The Modern London Bridge was constructed from 1967-1972. Made with pre-stressed concrete, the bridge has huge arches under which river traffic can pass.
A common depiction from the movies, the Tower Bridge is best seen from the Thames river cruise. One of the bridges standing from the Victorian Era, this bridge was constructed in the late 19th century. One of the most interesting parts of this bridge is that it is a bascule bridge and a suspension bridge. The Bascule bridge is the central part of the bridge flanked by two towers which can be raised for river traffic to pass through. Although the bridge is raised enough for the ships to pass through, but the Bascules are raised to their full height when a monarch is on the vessel.
Although the London Bridge gets it’s name from the city, but it’s the Tower Bridge which draws quite a large audience thanks to it’s impressive architecture. The Tower Bridge named after the London Tower situated nearby. The medieval towers on the bridges give them an even older look thus making people think that this is the older London Tower. The towers also host the Bascule pivots and operating machinery. A popular urban legend states that Robert P McCulloch mistakenly bought the old London Bridge thinking it to be the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge Experience is a beautiful way to experience the bridge along with it’s open air walkway. Tell us which is your favourite of the two?
As we move along further in our Eurotrip, next on the plate is the majestic Leeds castle. A stronghold of English Monarchy, the castle has seen many a kings and dynasties go. The foreboding castle whose history traces back as early as the 9th century as changed hands multiple times during the tumultuous medieval ages of the Great Britain. The final remodelling of the castle in Tudor Style was finished in the early 19th century. The palace has since then hosted various heads of state and remains richly seeped in history.
The Leeds Castle provides entertainment or everyone. History buffs can start with The Gatehouse Exhibition which takes you through the Norman and Tudor dynasties along with other smaller ones through artefacts and facts. The audio tours will provide you with a continuous source of information about the major influences on the castle. One of their most fascinating exhibits is the Dog Collar Museum. Hosting five centuries of collars, the museum is one of it’s kind. A 15th century iron one which used to protect against wildlife to the fancy ones of silver along with beads and plastic.
There is something for action buffs too. The Battle of Agincourt was one of the major fights during the 100 year war between the British and the French. Henry V won an unlikely victory against a massive French army, thanks to his expert Longbowmen. It is said that the skies of Agincourt grew dark as his archers rained down arrow upon arrow on the French army. That battle is re-enacted every day.
Kids will especially enjoy the grounds with a plethora of options. The Knight’s Realm Playground is a full scale model of the Leeds castle. It offers you a one in a lifetime opportunity to dress up as a knight and charge into a castle, jump over ramparts and navigate obstacles. Although this is for children aged 7 years and more, the younger ones can enjoy the Squires Court Playground. The maze and the grotto are one of their kinds in the world providing a perfect adventure for the whole family to figure.
Nature and Animal Lovers
The castle also hosts massive gardens for nature lovers. The Culpeper Garden named after the family which owned the castle in the 17th century is built on the kitchen garden of the original. The Wood Garden along the river Len just at the approach is a riot of colours through the year. The Lady Baille Mediterranean Garden Terrace at the site of the original aviary offers the guests a Mediterranean feel. A plethora of birds and wildlife also adorn the 500 acre grounds. Displays and walks with Owls, Hawks and other birds of prey are something that wildlife lovers will truly rejoice. Like boating or fishing, opportunities of those are also available.
Where to stay
The Leeds Castle provides accommodation on grounds with the Keeper’s House, Guard’s House and Wier Cottage turning the older out houses of the castle into modern resplendent properties. The Stable Courtyard and the Maiden’s Tower have been converted into B&B’s. But it’s the Knight’s Glamping that will give you the authentic medieval feel. Eight tents set out in a village like setting with modern amenities. The Glamping takes you back to the days of war when the Knights used to sleep in such tents. Leed’s Castle is one of the most complete entertainment packages in itself. A must visit if you’re visiting England.
Image Credits: Purak Misra
Read our fellow blogger Durham’s Love, Life and Travel as they tell you about 18 must see attractions in York, England.