I’m going to India!

People who know me know that I have been dreaming of going to India for a very long time. For years, I’ve been saving money for a trip. Originally the plan was to arrange everything myself, and travel by myself, but as things are now, I don’t feel safe enough to do so. While I still will be travelling without anyone I know, I will be travelling with others – on an arrange trip by Vilja Reiser, a travel agency that do organised tours for women.

We’ll be leaving Norway 17 October 2024, and arrive in New Delhi the next day. The plan is to rest before lunch, and then head to see India Gate, the parliament building, and Rashtrapati Bhawan. On the 19th we head to Jaipur, and then on the 21st we are to visit the Ranthambore national park. We head to Agra on the 23rd, one of the most visited cities in India, and home to Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Taj Mahal is our stop the next morning, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it! On 25 October we will be in Varanasi, where we will attend a Ganga Aarti ceremony by the river Ganges at night. In the morning the next day there will be a boat trip on the river to watch the sunrise. Then on the 27th we head back to Norway.

I have taken three weeks off work for this trip, so that I have time to prepare, as well as get over the jet lag. Needless to say, I’m very excited to go!

Have you ever been to India? When did you go, and what did you see?

Photo of Taj Mahal, with a row of trees and a pool in front.

Taj Mahal
Image by يسرا توكل from Pixabay

London, April 2022: Friday the 15th – the journey home

Friday was to be another sunny day in London, but it was also my last day and the day I went home. I thought I would make the best of it, but I can say it as it was: It did not at all go as planned!

I decided I wanted a really nice breakfast, and headed to Mildreds again. As it was a public holiday, they had the Weekend Bunch Menu, with several yummy options. Unfortunately, many of them included the scrambled tofu. “But you love scrambled tofu?” you might think, and the answer to that is yes. I absolutely love scrambled tofu. But I’m also very intolerant/allergic to bell peppers, and Midreds’ scrambled tofu contains lots of bell peppers. I don’t know why they don’t make their food from scratch, or if there’s some sort of prep that makes it impossible for them to make scrambled tofu without the bell peppers, but it is what it is. So instead I went for the gunpowder toastie, with pea spinach & potato, green chilli, smoked cheez, and mango pickle yoghurt. It was very hot, but very yummy and filling. I also had a glass for fresh juice (pineapple, apple, ginger, and turmeric) and a cup of oat latte. Indulging myself before going back to the hotel to relax, just felt like the right thing to do!

A white plate with a toasted sandwich with some green spread, and a mango pickle yoghurt. Behind it a glass of yellow pinapple, apple, tumeric, and ginger juice with a green and white striped straw.
Brunch at Mildreds
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

A cup of coffee with oat milk. A heart is formed in the oat milk as latte art.
Coffee at Mildreds
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

Before I left for London, and also while I was there, the British news told us that the airports were all chaos with huge queues. With that in mind, I checked Heathrow’s webpage, to see what information there was on fast track at the airport. The webpage was a bit weird, and from what I could tell, they didn’t have any, due to Covid-19. Having lived in the UK, and been to the UK many, many times, I knew that this information might actually be outdated. They had lifted all restrictions in England not long before, so I thought that maybe they hadn’t gotten around to update the information on the webpage. (They tend to be rather slow at such things in England). I contacted SAS customer service, and asked if London Heathrow had fast track. They told me they would need to check with colleagues, so I just assumed that meant they had to get in touch with employees at Heathrow (especially when they made me wait for over 30 minutes). When they finally came back to me, they confirmed that no, no fast track at Heathrow. In addition to this, there was work on the Piccadilly Line, which is the tube line that takes you from the centre of London to Heathrow.

After checking out of the hotel, I decided to take the tube to Paddington, and then a train from Paddington to Heathrow. The train wasn’t the Heathrow Express, but a regular train, and it didn’t take as a much time as I thought it would. To my surprise, there wasn’t a lot of people on the train, and hardly any queue at the checking (though travelling SAS Plus helps). When i checked in, I was told “the lounge is after fast track security”. I was surprised, to say the leased, and replied “There’s a fast track?” to which they replied “of course!” Turns out Star Alliance have their own fast track. Needless to say, going through fast track took no time at all, and then all of a sudden I had six hours to kill at the airport. No queueing, no waiting, just everything going very smoothly.

Having so much time at the airport meant I could go to the lounge that is pretty far from my gate. Singapore Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, and since I had lounge access, I headed to their lounge at Heathrow. That was the right choice! Often Asian airlines are better at vegan food, and I picked up a poké bowl with veggies and edamame beans, as well as some egg free noodles. There were plenty of snacks and drinks as well. The hummus tasted great, so I must admit I had plenty of it. It was nice to just relax and read while waiting for my plane’s departure.

A white bowl with vegetables, noodles, and soy beans. A glass of orange juice and a can of Pepsi behind it.
Lounge lunch
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

A woman with purple hair and blue eyes, and a faint smile. She's wearing a black sweater. She seems to be relaxing in a chair.
Relaxing in the lounge
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

A bowl with hummus,flatbread, and carrot sticks on a table. Behind it a glass of water and a glass of bubbly wine.
Lounge snack and Prossecco
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

After spending a few hours in the lounge, I headed back to “my” part of the terminal. It was kind of walking in the wrong direction, so it took quite a while to walk there. And then it was time to board the plane and head back to Norway. I spent most my flight reading and drinking white wine.

A flight seat table flipped open, on it a book to the left, and a plastic cup with white wine to the right. Between them a small, plastic white wine bootle.
Reading and wine on the plane
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

It was fairly late when we landed, and I picked up my bags and got the train back to Oslo. London was lovely, and I’m already looking forward to my next trip.

London, April 2022: Thursday the 14th

Thursday turned out to be a very sunny and warm day in London, and I decided to have breakfast at O’Neill’s King’s Cross. The main reason for heading here, was because it was close to the hotel. Though the pub claims to be “The original Irish Bar in Kings Cross”, it came across as an American Irish pub rather than a proper Irish one to me. The only vegan option on the menu was the Plant Life Breakfast (toasted muffin with vegan sausages, spinach hash, guacamole, flat mushroom, Heinz® baked beans and cherry tomatoes), so that’s what I went for, along with some sparkling soda water on tap (basically free fizzy water). They didn’t have any plant milks, so for me tea or coffee were out of the question (I’ll drink my coffee black at a place with good coffee, but not at a place like this).

When the breakfast arrived, I was a bit disappointed, but not really surprised. The spinach was dry, the mushrooms were dry, the bap wasn’t great, and the whole thing was rather sad. Fortunately, it did its job, and filled me up, so that I was ready to meet the day. I would not recommend this as a breakfast place, though, there are far better places to eat, and thinking back, I kind of wish I’d gone to a supermarket and just bought a sandwich and a bottle of sparkling water there.

A plate with vegan sausages, half of a bap with mushed avocado, half a bap with cherry tomatoes, hash browns, spinach, baked beans, and mushrooms. A glass with fizzy water behind it, and an e-reader with an open page to the right.
Plant Life Breakfast @ O’Neill’s
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

After breakfast, I decided to go back to the hotel. On my way I stopped by one of the many food stalls outside King’s Cross station: Crosstown. Crosstown makes handcrafted fresh doughnuts, and you can get vegan doughnuts from them all over London. I bought the Vegan Coconut & Lime doughnut, and it was really really nice! I brought the doughnut back to my hotel room, and enjoyed it there, in peace and quiet.

A food stall with wooden food displays with glass doors. On the front "Crosstown" is written.
Crosstown London, at King’s Cross station
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

Relaxing in my room with a nice tread did wonders, and I decided to take the tube to Tower Hill. This meant that I arrived at the Tower of London, where I started my walk. I then walked along the River Thames, and passed a few bridges, Tower Bridge being one of them. When I first visited London in 1988 (the year I turned 14), I remember staying at a hotel where we could see Tower Bridge from our hotel room.

As it was a very sunny day, I wasn’t the only one out for a walk. Not only were there lots of people walking along the river, but the benches along the foot path were filled with people relaxing and smiling. Every time you passed by a pub or an outdoor restaurant, they were filled with people. I’m certain the lovely weather and the fact that the next day was a bank holiday were the reasons everywhere were filled with happy people.

A caste of bricks with towers.
Tower of London
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

A caste of bricks, with towers.
Towers of London
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

A river with a large bridge with towers on each side.
Tower Bridge
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

There was one thing I wanted to do before going to the bookcrossing meetup I was going to attend at 4 pm: I wanted to visit Daunt Books. I have visited Daunt Books previously, but it’s always worth a visit if you love books and have the time. I think it’s one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world! I didn’t buy anything, but just being there, browsing the shelves, was nice. They have a really good non-fiction selection, for being such a small bookshop. Because it really isn’t all that big, once you get into it.

A bookshop entrance, with "Daunt Books" on the sign over the door.
Daunt Books
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

A room with walls covered with books. At the end of the room is a window with painted glass art. Flowerlike green lamps are hanging from the ceiling. There are also tables filled with books in the room.
Daunt Books
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

On my way to Allsop Arms, where I was supposed to meet up with the bookcrossers, I pretty much stumbled over a small coffee shop called Hagen. Hagen is a Danish espresso bar concept born out of Copenhagen and founded in London. They serve specialty coffee, and to my delight their pour over was absolutely top notch! As far as I can tell from their homepage, they have five branches across London. A perfect place for a break, if you have the time and need a nice cup of coffee.

A marble counter with a carafe and a glass of coffee. To the left behind the counter you can see coffee grinders, espresso machines, and other coffee making equipment. You can also see two baristas working.
At Hagen Espresso Bar
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

Ha hand holding a carafe of coffee, pouring it into a glass.
Coffee at Hagen Espresso Bar
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

At the bookcrossing meetup, we ended up being a total of three people. I think it probably was because a lot of people left the city due to Easter. It ended up being a really nice meetup, though, and it was lovely to see people I hadn’t seen in real life in a few years. I think last time I met Poodlesister was at the convention in Oxford in 2015.

It was pretty much dinner time for me, so I had pie and chips, and I also had a couple of ciders in the pub. One of the ciders I’d had before, the other one not. It’s always fun to try new beers and ciders, especially if I’m in the UK. Though I do with the IPA trend would soon be over!

A table with books spread across it. On the table there's also a glass of red cider.
Bookcrossing meetup at Allsop Arms
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2022

After the meetup I went back to the hotel, where I had a lovely bath. Having a bath tub in the hotel room always feels like luxury, and I try to use it if I can. It was so nice and relaxing, having a bath and reading. I decided to stay in the hotel room for the rest of the evening, and was honestly pretty exhausted. It was nice to creep under the duvet after a long, but nice, day.