A bridge with a life of its own..

The Tower Bridge of London is one of the most well known images associated with London. One which a lot of people mistakenly assume to be the London Bridge.  The first time I saw the London Bridge, I was quite disappointed, but as I read more about London,  the history behind the bridge enthralled me. The simple, normal looking bridge is one of the most well known bridges in the world, and has a fascinating history, right from the time when London was a Roman Settlement. It is the latest of in a series of Bridges to be called the London Bridge.

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The iconic Tower Bridge (Courtesy: Google Image Search)

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The unspectacular London Bridge.(Courtesy: Google Image Search)

Funnily, when I was searching for images of the London Bridge, I got loads of the Tower Bridge, mislabeled as London Bridge.

For such a nondescript bridge, it does have an amazing history. A bridge has existed at this place right from the time of Roman settlement, over 2000 years ago. One of the first bridges to be built over the River Thames.

As per the Wikipedia,’ The bridge fell into disrepair after the Romans left. As Londinium was also abandoned, there was little need for a bridge at this point, and in the Saxon period the river was a political boundary between the hostile kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. With the impact of the Viking invasions, the reconquest of the Roman city by the kings of Wessex and its re-occupation by Alfred the Great, the political conditions arose for a Saxon bridge crossing to be placed here. However, there is no archaeological evidence for a bridge before Aethelred‘s reign and his attempts to stem the Sweinian invasions of the 990s. In 1014, according to a much later skaldic tradition, the bridge was pulled down by the Norwegian prince Olaf, as he was aiding King Aethelred in what, if true, was a successful bid to divide the defending forces of the Danes who held the walled City of London plus Southwark, thereby regaining London for the Anglo-Saxon king. This episode has been thought to have inspired the well-known nursery rhymeLondon Bridge is Falling Down

After the 1136 destruction of the bridge, a new replacement was commissioned – an inhabited bridge. It took 33 years to complete. The bridge itself was about 26 feet (8 m) wide, the buildings on the bridge took up about 7 feet (2 m) on each side of the street. Some of these buildings projected another seven feet out over the river. The road for traffic was thereby reduced to just 12 feet (4 m) wide. This meant that horses, carts, wagons, and pedestrians all shared a passageway just six feet wide, one lane going north and one south. There were a few places where houses and shops were not built, which allowed people to get out of the traffic and enjoy a glimpse of the river and the shorelines of London. It was completed in 1209 and was also the first stone bridge in the world. Most of the shop owners lived in the houses above the shops. Apparently, it had 20 arches, and none of them similar. It would last for 600 years and was demolished because it had become very congested and because of the detrimental effect the bridge was having on the river, thanks to its narrow arches.

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An artist’s impression of how the medieval London Bridge must have looked like. (Courtesy: Google Image Search)

In 1831, a new bridge, Rennie’s Bridge was opened a few yards upstream and that became known as the new London Bridge. This bridge, however, had a flawed design and could not take the load, so was soon replaced by the current London Bridge.  The Rennie’s London Bridge was dismantled and re-constructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

londonbridge- Lake Havasu CityThe Old London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona((Courtesy: Google Image Search)

The most fascinating avatar, if I may call it so, for me, of the Bridge that I found myself captivated by, was the inhabited bridge. I found it fascinating that people actually lived on the bridge.  I read loads about it and was lucky enough to be able to see an existing inhabited bridge in Florence. It is the oldest Bridge in Florence, and is still inhabited and was spared damage in the World War II – apparently by Hitler himself. Here are a couple of photographs that we took when we were there. It was a smaller scale(and much less grand – at least in my imagination) version of what the medieval London Bridge must have been like..

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There were lots of shops inside the bridge and most of them – jewellery shops!

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I just wanted to add, that one of the books that totally captured my fascination was Edward Rutherfurd’s London. It has the London Bridge as a main protagonist, while he sketches the history of London through 2 millenia.The first time I read it, we were living in London, I used to work at Southwark and used to pass the London Bridge station everyday. One of our favourite walks by the River Thames used to be from the Tower Bridge to Waterloo and we used to cross most of the historical places mentioned in the book. I used to feel the history behind those places.. Yes, I am a hopeless romantic!  I am now re-reading it and it now makes me all nostalgic and thankful that so much of the history is preserved, with plaques commemorating important events and through these wonderful books which give you a flavour of the time…

Most of the information is from Wikipedia and from some random reading that I had done earlier. There are so many more interesting pieces of information in connection to the Bridges, that I had a tough time deciding what to include and what to leave out.

Our Lake District experience

Alert :Long and possibly boring post!

The place which was the inspiration behind William Wordsworth’s poetry and Beatrix Potter’s lovely stories – Lake District. England’s Lake district also boasts of  Scafell Pike – its highest mountain, Wastwater – its deepest lake apart from one of the most scenic locales in the country. Lake District is also the birth place of Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy and it has the only Laurel and Hardy Museum in the world!

We had been planning to visit the Lake District since May 2005 but for one reason or the other – it just never worked out. So one day before the last long weekend in May, when we were deciding on where to go, Lake District was easily the first choice 🙂 Husband was keen on taking a risk, driving up there and finding a B&B or a hotel there or just driving back in case we could not find one. Though extremely tempting  – it was far too risky a strategy especially with a 3 yr old 🙂

So to cut a long story short, we were really lucky to find a B&B which thankfully had a cancellation and packed our bags and started off at around 11:00 in the morning on Saturday. A friend had recommended that we take a scenic route through the Yorkshire Dales, instead of the shortest route. Given what they say about the journey being as important as the destination, we decided to have fun on the journey as well, instead of going through the boring  motorways 🙂 Needless to say, it took us 5 hours to reach our destination – a journey which should have taken not more than a couple of hours on the regular route 🙂

Yorkshire Dales is a designated National Park , which is now a favourite destination for walkers, cyclists, horse-riders alike and for those who want to explore the lovely villages. There are lots of farm shows and duck races happenning.. We did not see any – but saw lots of hand painted signs with directions:)

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We drove on roads like these – much narrower in some places, passing people walking, cycling and even fishing 🙂 Notice the fence – almost all the fences we saw in the Dales and Lake Distirct was made of stones – and from what I could make out – it did not have any binding element like cement …

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The roads start narrowing to the point where if another car came by, it was near impossible to get by.. But we hardly saw many cars as this route was primarily used by the residents and not by tourists.

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We travelled up hills and down again – almost like a roller coaster ride 🙂 And here are some tired cyclists pushing their bikes up the hill..

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We stopped on the way, to see some sheep 🙂 or rather so that daughter could see some sheep, and as you can see it was extremely windy 🙂

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And finally, our first glimpse of Lake Windermere. We had arrived at our destination announced our Sat Nav 🙂 Apparently ‘mere’ is the name given to lakes

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We went straight to Bowness on Windermere, which is quaint little town with some very cute, very English buildings.. There were lots of swans near the lake and they were so extremely friendly – they would actually reach into people’s pockets 🙂

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And we then loitered around the lake soaking in the feel of the place..

 

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We ended the day with a bunch of brochures to read up and decide what to do the next day 🙂

The next morning was bright and beautiful. Sunny and totally welcoming 🙂 We decided to do the Cross Lakes Tour. We were just in the nick of time before the cruise took off. So we ran to the boat and jumped in. The cruise was wonderful, across the Windermere to Ferryside – only we were mistaken – we actually got on the wrong boat and it took us to Lakeside instead 😦 Thankfully, the boat was going right back to Bowness so we hopped back on and had another cruise – which was totally worth it – even though we lost 2 precious hours.. But as the weather was gorgeous and daughter was having the time of her life – we enjoyed it too 🙂

As soon as we reached Bowness, we realised that we had just about 15 mins before the boat to Ferryside took off and this time, we wanted to make no mistakes! So we grabbed sandwiches and ice-creams in record time and reached the pier – totally in time 🙂 I felt a little like something out of an Enid Blyton book – sunny weather, sandwiches, ice creams and all set for an ‘adventure’  🙂

 

 

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The Cross lakes tour that we took.

 

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This time thankfully, we set off in the correct boat to Ferryside. The Cross Lakes tour was supposed to take us by boat to Ferry Side, and then we had the option to walk or take a Mountain Goat(name of a bus 🙂  ) to Hill Top. Hill Top is where Beattrix Potter had a farm and where she is supposed to have written a lot of her stories, including some of her best loved works. I wish I could post some of the pics from here – but all of them have us in them 😦 What was I thinking????

We went from Hill Top to Hawkshead where again there is a Beattrix Potter Gallery. It was again a quaint little village. Again no pics 😦 The one thing I wanted to do was do the walking trail – but with my daughter and the time constraint- it just was not a feasible option, so we decided to use the bus transport instead – which was a wee bit embarrassing as everybody else on the bus was old and frail 😦 But we had our excuse of a daughter 🙂

Off from Hawkshead, we went toConiston , which is another village and lake by the same name. By that point in time, daughter was all sleepy dopey and tired. And we decided to head back to Bowness.

Then we entered the magical world of Beatrix Potter!! The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction has all the 23 stories by Beatrix Potter re-created! Its absolutely a magical experience. You could see Peter Rabbit being chased by Mr McGregor, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, being obedient little rabbits – doing what their mother told them to.

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And here’s Jemima Puddle-Duck 🙂

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It was such a magical experience seeing all the characters brought to life(almost)!  My daughter loved it and both of us loved it just as much! We cane off with souvenier photographs and a Peter Rabbit Book for daughter – which I have to admit I enjoy just as much 🙂

We spent the rest of the evening, exploring the little lanes of Bowness.. with it’s quaint old fashioned tearooms and pubs full of people enjoying the gloriously sunny day and ended the day watching the sunset and eating more ice creams 🙂 Next time, I want to go there for 5 days – at the least, do some walking trails and if possible stay in a caravan 🙂

The next day, we went to a Wild Animal Park..and returned home after that. But I am too bored of uploading pics(and I am sure you must be too – with this post).. so will do that another time – when I feel less lazy 🙂

A trip that was not meant to be…

Till last Friday, we had no plans for the long weekend(last weekend).. We had been thinking of going for a couple of day trips at the most and had planned to relax at home on Monday.. Then somewhere mid, Friday morning, it struck us that it was the last long weekend until the end of August!

So then started the holiday planning in earnest! We settled on Lake District as we had been planning to go there for the last 4 years – with no luck.. So I started checking out hotel rooms or B&Bs only to find out that every single one of them was completely booked for the long weekend! Talk about popular destinations, eh?

After calling some 20 hotels/B&Bs – finally a nice man gave me the number of the tourist information – who apparently have the latest list of vacancies. Finally, late in the afternoon, after calling some more B&Bs – I found one which had just had a cancellation!

We still were not sure about it as the weather was supposed to be ‘partly sunny’ on Saturday.. We were not sure if it was worth thr trouble.. Finally, we decided to go for it and from that point on – it was a mad, mad rush, to get everything ready.

Thankfully for us, the ‘weather god’ was in a good mood.. We did not get any rains.. We travelled through some of the most beautiful landscapes that we have seen so far – more of it in the next post.

What I really wanted to talk about was the weather.. It’s no wonder that sunny days are so welcomed here in Britain.. Every person in the country must have been out, thanks to the brilliant weather.. Every patch of grass had people having impromptu picnics! We even passed a petrol station where people were sitting in a really small patch of green, sunning themselves! Pubs were full of people drinking beer, outside.. People fishing in every little stream.. Watching the sunset at 9:00 in the night.. Feeding swans and ducks.. Ice cream vans everywhere! We ate a lot of ice cream too! Daughter has finally mastered the fine art of eating ice-cream from a cone – without it dripping all over the place – she’s been having a lot of practise these days 🙂

We finally got back last evening, exhausted, but totally satisfied with our last May holiday.. That was one fantastic trip – especially for one that was so last minute!

of long summer days…

I love the long summer days here in the UK.. Last evening was gorgeous, bright and full of sunlight at 7:30 in the evening.. and it reminded me of my introduction to the ‘long summer days’ ..

It was my very first trip abroad – to a tiny village in the US – even my HR had trouble locating it – to figure out what my allowance would be 🙂 This was in those long ago days when even IT companies were not completely automated , so she had to hunt around for it  🙂  Well, lets just say that it was literally out of nowhere and my company had just one person stationed there for one client. Now, I worked for an organisation which had people everywhere – whole flights to the US would be full of us 🙂 NY airport at that point used to feel like a lost and found place where we would inevitably meet old colleagues from old base branches – out on deputation 🙂 So just one person in the whole place was extremely unusual – to say the least.

I reached there via a little seven seater aircraft whose safety instructions included – ‘Mind your head as you pass by the propellors’ . Never before and never since have I have travelled in such an aircraft at such low levels – it was beautiful and terrifying at the same time.. I was actually worried that we might hit one of the trees or something.. But it was gorgeous – all lush green and hardly any civilisation visible..

We were 3 newcomers there – all of us the same age, and one project leader – who was a real sweetheart – to be able to handle the three of us.. He used to brief us all the time about life in the US, we knew practically nothing .. but that could be another post altogether. We started work the very day we arrived – and given the fact that we were also learning on the job at that point in time, it was no easy task and we used to work till 10:00 in the night, go back home for dinner and come back to work after dinner – till around 2 or 3 in the morning, including weekends. We had an account manager who used to call us at the middle of the night to check whether we were working!

This continued for about a month and then once the deadlines were through – life suddenly was much more relaxed. So the first day, that I was home early, I started reading a book, planning on starting dinner around 7-7:30.. I kept an eye out to see if it’s 7:30 – going by my ‘Indian definition’ of 7:30 and finally when dusk fell and I started cooking – I was stunned to realise that it was actually 9:30 not 7:30 😦  That was actually shocking for me, so used to seeing pitch dark at 9:30 at night!

Its been a long time since then, have lived through several long summers – but I somehow will never forget that one time, when I was so unaware of the ‘long summer days’…

Driving Theory Test – UK ishtyle

I had my theory part of my driving test today – as I already announced to the whole world a couple of days ago – and then had panic attacks of, what would I do, if I flunked it!! Then, thought of the bright side – I could always make a post of it 🙂

The theory tests here in the UK, have 2 parts – a multiple choice test, and a hazard perception test. Now, the multiple choice is pretty straighforward and simple and easy to clear.. Hazard perception, was a different ball game altogether.. Now, the way it works is, that they will show you 14 clips, each of which contains atleast one ‘developing hazard'(One of them will contain 2) and you have to identify it correctly – within the scoring window.. The earlier you spot it – the more points you get and if you click before the window starts or after it ends – no points.. The first time I tried, the concept of developing hazard itself was vague to me.. So had to practise a fair bit until yesterday afternoon, when I realised that I knew all the 72 clips so well, that I was aceing all tests – simply out of too much practise!! I knew by heart, where every hazard in the clips were! And it would have helped if I actually got one of those clips, but knowing my luck…

After I had given up practsing, decided to chill out and re-read Midnight’s Children, instead 🙂

This morning, I woke up promptly at 5:00 – without even an alarm, and reached the exam centre nice and early 🙂 Only to realise that quite a few of my fellow exam takers were equally prompt.. And the exam centre had a huge notice saying – Centre will Open at 7:45 ONLY’ And there were still people pressing the bell a bunch of times! Reminded me of drivers in India, honking when the signal is red!!!

A man came down on the dot at 7:45, opened the door and handed instruction leaflets to everybody who had not been there before.. There was a bunch of people who had been there earlier – would that mean that they were here for second or third attempts? The thought just did not cheer me up 😦

We all stood in a file, like children in school and all of us were asked to show our provisional license, which was scanned and our details just ‘popped up’, I presume..and were asked just one question – Could I give you the exam in English – Can you read English’? Wow!!! How many languages do they offer the test in??? Well, I checked it when I got back – and apparently they offer it in 20 languages(Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Dari, Farsi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kurdish, Mirpuri, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Pushto, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu and Welsh.)!!! Now I know why I come across so many cab drivers who don’t understand English!!!

Well anyways, we were told to lock away our valuables in a locker, with the centre taking ‘no responsibility’ for any losses… and I was finally given a terminal to take the test,.. The multiple choice  seemed alright. I needed to get 86% – 43 out of 50 questions right.. And then started my nightmare – the hazard perception… They had a tutorial – and I took it just to get a little oriented.. And in the very first question, managed to click ‘in an unacceptable manner’ and was give ‘zero marks for this clip’. So the next 13 clips, I was extra, extra careful, so I definitely did not invalidate any more clips but was not sure if I missed the window in being ‘extra careful’. After the exam was over, I was told to ‘wait ‘ till they finished ‘evaluation’ and in a second, a lady came over and told me that the results were waiting for me at the reception..

I almost raced over, only to be told that I needed to clear my locker before they gave me the results. Why? Have I failed it? Are they scared that if I got the results I would not clear my locker? Anyways, I did as bid and got back to the reception in record time! Finally, I was out of misery – I had cleared it!!!!

Yippee!!! I do have the practical test – which would be a couple of months from now – but one step down!!!!