KPR's Blog

UK Experience – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by K P Ramachandran on December 14, 2020

Another memorable experience during our tour was visiting the National Museum of Scotland. It showcases the bequests of Scottish history and features the diversity of world cultures. It is one of the largest and oldest (having opened in 1857) of Museums. The present building after a major refurbishment was opened in 2011. There is the taxidermy of Dolly, the first cloned sheep. She was created by Keith Campbell and his colleagues at Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh.

Visiting the Isle of Skye was the kernel of my Scottish experience. Skye is a faraway world, an island fifty miles long and twenty-five miles wide – the largest island in the Hebrides region, connected to mainland by a bridge. A three-day trip to this exotic getaway was planned and a bus was chartered. It was a long drive passing through Stirling castle, Wallace monument and Doune castle. We were cutting through mostly rugged landscape and occasionally sighting a Medieval castle shrouded in a mist of eerie silence. They are the leftovers of a history of feuds and fights. You may also see a traditional fishing village in the distant skyline. We were in the very heart of the Highlands. And temperatures never touched the double digit. The town of Portree is the only urban centre in the whole of Skye. The harbour side features pubs and boutiques. Portree is the base camp of those who come to explore the chilly wilderness of the Hebrides. History remembers it also as the embarkation point for the Scots who migrated to the US to escape poverty till a century ago. The driver and guide of our bus gave detailed accounts of the monuments, castles, and the history of Scotland. He took us to a Scottish distillery on our way back to Edinburgh and we tasted some of the best Scotch Whiskies.

We rounded off this leg of our journey with a visit to the University of Edinburgh, Hema’s Alma mater. We walked around the venerable institution appreciating its magnificence, it’s library, classrooms, and auditoriums. We traced in memory, the footprints of Edinburgh legends like Charles Darwin the pioneer evolutionist, David Hume the philosopher, Peter Higgs the inventor of God particle, Conan Doyle the creator of immortal Sherlock Holmes, and of course, Joseph Lister the founder of modern surgery. Through the portals of this prestigious university, have come many laureates 9 of whom became heads of state, 3 occupied 10 Downing street as British PMs, and 19 were Nobel Laureates. We felt proud of Hema who chose to join this institution and live in its sacred precincts for more than one year.

After winding up our memorable tour of Scotland we all travelled to London by Virgin East Coast Trains on the morning of 10th November. Salil (my nephew) was waiting for us at Kings Cross station. We drove straight to Salil’s Apartment at Ealing in West London. We enjoyed traditional and homemade food after a gap of nearly two weeks. After spending the afternoon with Salil’s wife Neetu and their young boy Madhav, we left for watching a famous musical play – ‘Les Misérables (musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s famous novel). The show was at Queens theatre, Shaftesbury avenue. The musical was fantastic, and we enjoyed the performance and drama intensely.  It far surpassed our expectations. Its English translation has been running in London since October 1985, making it one of the longest running musicals in the world.

Salil had organized a Big Bus London tour for all of us for the next two days (weekend). First day we visited the grand Buckingham Palace in the city of Westminster. Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of UK. We walked around Westminster and Trafalgar square. We also visited Harrods, one of the most famous departmental stores in the world. Next day we started from Marble Arch near Oxford street and went for a boat ride on Thames river. At the houses of Parliament, by the river Thames, the Big Ben bell rings out from its iconic clock tower. The Tower of London, London Eye (the world’s largest cantilevered Observation wheel), and the Tower bridge are some of the London landmarks we saw/observed. After three days of memorable stay in London enjoying the warm and loving hospitality of Salil, Neetu and Madhav we left London on 13th Nov by British Airways flight back to Chennai and Hema left for Edinburgh. Even though we have visited several places abroad on business and personal trips over the years, we never felt at home like this UK trip.

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