Day 104 – 31.8.2016

We drove from Folkstone to Hilton Hotel, Croydon and checked into the Hotel while Juliet joined us. We then took a cab and went to West Croydon for lunch and some window shopping.

Today we had also agreed to meet the Rotarians at their weekly meeting, as per communication with Mr. Tony Sharma of UK District 1130. Louis decided to drive down Central London for the meeting. It took us more than 2 hours to reach the restaurant where the meeting is held. We drove down over the London Bridge. Also, we had to wait on the bridge while it opened to let a ship pass through.

We finally reached the venue at half an hour late. It was nice to meet so many Rotarians doing a lot of good work and helping those in need.

We then had the Rotary flag exchange after which we left back for Croydon.

Day 105 – 1.9.2016

Today we had to visit the Kazakhstan Embassy near Trafalgar Square to apply for our transit visa for Kazakhstan. After a lot of persuasion etc, they agreed to accept our Passports and endorse Transit Visas enabling us transit through Kazakh to China.

We then strolled through Trafalgar Square and then went to Oxford Street until Juliet finished her work with the Hospital at which she worked earlier.

We had also agreed to meet up Jude, Sonia & the little baby Mia at their residence at Dagenham East an Underground station on the London District line, located in the suburb of Dagenham, in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. We also met Sonia’s parents who usually lived in Goa, but were there to look after Mia.

Day 106 – 2.9.2016

Today we were to drive down to Coventry to meet my cousin and his family. While on our way, we dropped in at Northampton to meet Aleyamma & Ramlingam. Northampton a county town of Northamptonshire in the East Midlands of England, lies on the River Nene, about 108 km north-west of London and 80 km south-east of Birmingham and one of the largest towns in the UK.

Our GPS instead of taking us through the Motorway drove us through Central London with hundreds of traffic lights, which delayed us by almost an hour. We reached only around 2.00 pm. Aleyamma had prepared a lovely Indian lunch for us which we enjoyed very much. After desserts, tea etc, we left at around 4.30 for Coventry.

Coventry a city of England, is located in the region of West Midlands , near Birmingham. It has long been one of the most important industrial centers of the country with a dynamic economy. For this reason, as part of its psychological war against England, the Nazi regime had decided to carry out one of the worst air raids suffered by the United Kingdom during the Second World War.

Coventry is renowned for its automobile industry. The first English car factory was founded in Coventry, the company Daimler. Since then, more than 130 automotive companies went through Coventry.

We had lovely home made Mangalorean food for dinner with the family.

Day 107 – 3.9.2016

Today afternoon, we were to meet Devika (our Facebook friend) & Simrat Gill. We drove down to Rugby based on Post code provided by Devika. It was a lovely drive through the countryside roads, about 13 miles east of Coventry on the eastern edge of Warwickshire, near the borders with Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.

Devika sent a message that they lived in a little village of 150 homes and 450 people, a nice little town where the game of Rugby originated. It was wonderful to meet all of them. We had lots of discussions on various topics and our experiences of the journey, with lots of snacks and masala chai.

Day 108 – 4.9.2016

Today being a Sunday, after breakfast we went for 9.30 mass. After mass we went to see the Ruins of the Coventry Cathedral and the Transport Museum with my cousin and his family.

Coventry Transport Museum is a motor museum, located in Coventry city centre, previously the centre of the British car industry. It houses a collection of British-made road transport with more than 240 cars and commercial vehicles, 100 motorcycles, 200 bicycles.

Not far from the Transport Museum was the Coventry Cathedral, also known as St Michael’s Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of Coventry and the Diocese of Coventry.

The city has had three cathedrals. The first was St Mary’s, a monastic building, only a few ruins of which remain. The second was St Michael’s, a 14th-century Gothic church later designated cathedral, that remains a ruined shell after its bombing during the Second World War. The third is the new St Michael’s Cathedral, built after the destruction of the former.

The Charred Cross which were created after the cathedral was bombed during the Coventry Blitz of the Second World War. The cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, saw two wooden beams lying in the shape of a cross and tied them together. A replica of the Charred Cross built in 1964 has replaced the original in the ruins of the old cathedral on an altar of rubble. The original is now kept on the stairs linking the cathedral with St Michael’s Hall below.

It was time to depart from Coventry. We took a few photographs before we left.

We then left for Manchester to meet Karan, my nephew who now works and lives at Manchester.

We took the non-toll Motorway and drove to Chester where we met Karan at his apartment. Had lunch and then we left for Macclesfield, where we were supposed to spend the night at a Barn. It was a lovely open place on the countryside where we also went for a drive. We then stopped over at an Indian restaurant by the name of Viceroy. Unfortunately they had only borrowed the name of our cuisine, but actually it was run by Bangladeshis.

Not a single Indian was at the restaurant besides us. All customers who came there were local whites who seemed to enjoy Indian food, without knowing the real taste of Indian food.

It was a nice evening spent with Karan.

After breakfast next morning left for London.

Day 111 – 7.9.2016

On 7th September, we met the Westminster West Rotarians at a luncheon meeting. The President of RIBI – Madam Eve Conway and her illustrious and eminent spouse, Past President Robert Ghazi, were present for the meeting. We also met other members of the Rotary Royalty, Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, President-elect Dr Josephine Ojiambo, RIBI 2017 Conference Chairman Clive Amos, Past Assistant District Governor and current Chairperson of District International – Francis Uwaechie, and Past Assistant Governor from New Delhi, R K Sinha.

From the Westminster West club, President Angela, Josephine, Musa, Dennis, Babu, Sanjeev, Girish, Nayan, Steve and Sree were present and gave us a very warm welcome. Also there were other overseas visiting Rotarians – Tory Struther and his wife from the USA., and Jane Mapondera from Zimbabwe. Other visitors present were Felicia Munjadi who manages the Zimbabwe Tourist Promotion function at the Zimbabwe Embassy, Alex Day from ‘BigGive’ – a charity set up by Sir Alec Reed which raises millions of pounds annually for worthy causes, and Natasha and Aadil Datta of ‘Big Hug Foundation’, and Hasnia Tapper, the spouse of Dennis Tapper. At the end of the programme, the Rotary flags were exchanged. Also Eva Conway exchanged her special flags besides gifted us with a Rotary Teddy Bear and thematic badges.

We enjoyed the sumptuous Rubens three course lunch while everyone exchanged experiences and details of their pet projects.

We met Estelle Vaz and her family for a delicious dinner prepared by her. Gretta, Louis’s cousin and John, her husband and our childhood friend joined us too. Felt nice to meet so many known people in London.

Ajay, Louis’s cousin had insisted that we visit Shilpa’s sister, Nayna and family in Croydon so we met them over for dinner. Ron her husband was travelling and was supposed to return back late that evening. They still agreed to meet us and we had a lovely Indian dinner, wine, drinks, etc. Had a good dinner and enjoyed it thoroughly. Really missing simple home food now.

Day 112 – 8.9.2016

On 8th September, we had to collect our passports from Kazakhstan embassy. Louis went to collect the passports and he observed that they have given Transit Visa only from 10th to the 15th November. We had to therefore get out of Kazakhstan in any condition on before the 15th of November while on our journey back to India.

Tomorrow we leave for Dover from where we take the Ferry to Calais and then drive down to Rouen. A hectic day ahead.

Thus ends our journey upto UK and we start with our return journey through South Europe, Central Asia, back to India.