It is very different when you visit a city and when you move to a new city. I honestly don’t remember discovering every nook and corner of Mumbai in a week. I dont know how many years it took me to know just exactly what to do, where to eat and drink and so on. When I left Mumbai, I was very much a local. London bound Local.
Its just been about 10 days in London and everything is one big mess in my mind. I know 2 streets in my neighbourhood, the supermarkets and the tube station. I know how to get around the city using public transport. I know the geography, somewhat. I have a very rough idea what is where and what all I am yet to see. But, its an awful lot. I could spend another two years here and not seen enough. People keep asking me how I feel about the move. Exciting. Nervous. Blah blah….. In reality, I feel worried. I am in this gigantic city and I don’t know where to begin. A good friend told me that it is very normal that I know the route to Ikea and not to the city centre. I’m still worried.
I haven’t done any of the touristy things yet. Buckingham palace. Tower of London. Museums. etc. etc. I guess it will happen when someone comes to visit us and we have to show them around. I guess that’s the best way of discovering your own city.
Anyway, it was a very interesting first weekend. We went and caught the legendary Oxford Cambridge Boat Race, a tradition. The idea for a rowing race between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge came from two friends – Charles Merivale, a student at Cambridge, and his Harrow school friend Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth), who was at Oxford. On 12 March 1829, Cambridge sent a challenge to Oxford and thus the tradition was born which has continued to the present day, where the loser of the previous year’s race challenges the opposition to a re-match. The Modern Boat Race still runs along the same lines (Putney to Mortlake) but has now become a major international sporting occasion drawing millions of viewers from around the world. The race happens on the 26th of March every year. It lasts about an hour. There are many viewing points in London and the most famous ones are Putney, Hammersmith and Chiswick bridges. Oxford supporters in Blue and Cambridge supporters in Orange. Apparently, 250,000 people watch the boat race live from the banks.
Reaching the Hammersmith bridge, we walked around for half an hour to find a spot. The crowds were all over – perched on the walls lining the bank, the bridge, the balconies of the river side apartments. It was such a festive atmosphere at 3 pm. We had no idea that the race was only at 5. It didn’t matter. We bought some Pimms, a local Sangria like mix (fruits and some alcohol). As we waited, we saw the tides rise and the crowds grow.
The studio apartments with balconies had private parties and you could see the champagne flowing. What a contrast to the people on the banks walking around with Tesco and Sainsbury bags, all filled with cans of beer. The locals had all the beer. The tourists had equally big bags, with SLR lenses. I didn’t know where I fit in. Somewhere in between I guess.
All that waiting and to be honest, we barely caught the race itself for a minute or so. They rowed so fast, it was like watching only one lap of an F1 race. 2 teams under the bridge and disappearing behind the curve. Orange and blue and super fast. Crowds kept cheering ‘Come on Oxford’ and ‘Come on Cambridge’.
We just sipped the Pimms and soaked in the atmosphere – Londoners sure know how to make a party out of everything. And, this truly was just the beginning for us.