Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Cruising the Canals with GoBoat London | Aditi's Pen

The longer I live in London, the more off beat and fun experiences I find to explore this vibrant city. The city and its sights change with its changing seasons. So come summer, you'll see Londoners sprawling in the green parks, soaking in the sun, a packed picnic of prosecco and treats in hand.

But this summer, it won't just be the parks that'll see picnickers. It will also be the lovely canals of London. Picture this: cruising through the peaceful blue green waters on a lovely boat, wildlife spotting, people watching, and all the while laughing and merry-making under the summer sky, a drink in hand. Oh! And you are your own captain too!

GoBoat London, the only self-driven, powered boating experience in central London, makes this dreamy picture come alive!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Open House London | The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Building

For one weekend every year, the Open House London celebrates the city, its great architecture, the histories of old buildings and the virtues of new ones. Last September was my first visit to the Open House and I was lucky enough to explore few buildings over the weekend, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Building on Whitehall being one of them.

Although the Foreign Office dates back to 1782 when the first Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Charles James Fox was appointed; the glorious building which we see today houses The Foreign and India Office quarters which were started in 1861 and took 7 years to complete, opening in 1868. And The Colonial and Home Office sections were then started and completed in 1875. 

The architectural style of this building revels in the juxtaposition of the work of  two great architects - George Gilbert Scott, a leading architect of the Gothic Revival style whose famous works include The St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel and The Albert Memorial, and Matthew Digby Wyatt who was the Surveyor of the East India Company in 1855 and subsequently became Architect to the Council of India.

We first enter into the richly decorated Durbar Court. 'Durbar' was the term used in Mughal India where Indian Kings and other rulers had their formal and informal meetings and was adopted by the British to refer to a ceremonial gathering to demonstrate loyalty to the crown. Wyatt sure did bring the grandiose to this courtyard - it was the old India office from where the subcontinent was governed for almost a century. Around the three floored Durbar court are statues of men from British India. A reminder of our histories, both different narratives, right? I was not very comfortable seeing the imperial rulers on a pedestal, but there they were - Robert Clive, Commander-in-Chief of British India, infamous for the Battle of Plassey, for his atrocities committed on Indian peasants, high taxes and for facing trial in England because of the enormous personal fortune he earned in India; Warren Hastings, the first de facto Governor-General of India from 1773 to 1785; and Minto (Gilbert John Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound) of the Minto-Morley Reforms.

But let's get back to the stunning architecture. Here are some pictures I took that day.