Travel Shot: The floating church

On that beautiful summer’s evening in 2009, after a day spent exploring London’s Docklands, I came across this near the West India Quay DLR station.

London, Floating Church

St. Peter’s Barge or London’s Floating Church

St. Peter’s Barge claims to be London’s only floating church, but for me it could have been the world’s only as far as I was concerned. For till then I had not seen or come across anything like this and have not till date. :-)

The fine print revealed that the floating church had a crèche for children, personalised prayer service as well as the terms and conditions for hiring the barge for ‘Christian occasions’. I was really disappointed to find no one around as I would have loved to know see more of this church.

Have you ever come across something like this? If yes, please do share your memories and experience in the comments section.

PS: The photograph does not really convey the floating nature of the barge and I apologise for that. When I took the photograph, I had no idea that I would be blogging about it in the future. ;-)

Discovering Roman Britain

I was introduced to Roman Britain quite unexpectedly on a cold, windy day in October 2008 in London. I had been in London for about 3 weeks then and was already head over heels in love with this beautiful city. Each day was a new day of exploration and between settling into a new city and classes at the university, there was always something wonderful to discover and delight over.

That afternoon, I took a path leading off from Tower Bridge Tube station, a path that led me past a hotel and then, quite suddenly into a walled dead-end. I was about to turn back, when I saw an information board there and walked over to read it. Good thing I did that as this turned out to be the most interesting dead-end !

Part of the original wall surrounding the Roman city of Londinium or London

Part of the original wall surrounding the Roman city of Londinium or London

The information board announced that this was no ordinary wall, but a slice of London’s history. Built by the Romans in 190–220 AD, this wall used to run around the city of Londinium, the Roman name for London. About 9 ft thick at the base and about 20 ft. in height, it was one of the most important and expensive developments in the city at that time. (By medieval times, the height of the wall was increased and though it is not evident in the photograph, the colour of the mortar distinguishes the two sections of the wall.)

My first reaction was, “Wow! So Asterix and Obelix wasn’t an exaggeration; the Romans were really here. Dear old Julius Caesar was really here !” For the rest of the day, I walked around in a kind of daze as the Roman fever took hold. It was a fever that refused to go away and one that I had great pleasure in indulging when I visited erstwhile Roman cities in the UK and explored a part of history that I thought only existed in comic books ! :-)

So join me on my journey of discovering Roman Britain through visits to Camulodunum (present day Colchester), Aquae Sulis (present day Bath), and Verulamium (present day St. Albans) in England. (Strangely, the wall remained my only encounter with Roman Britain in London.) It was a journey that left me breathless, awestruck, and delighted in turn, but always richer in having gained knowledge of something new, and of having discovered a whole new world.

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Travel Shot: 50 shades of grey

I don’t like grey as a colour to wear.

But grey as a colour elsewhere is a different story altogether. I love using grey while doing a page layout for a report or a book or even a cover design. I love the greys that one can see in a cloud covered, rain-soaked monsoon sea in Mumbai. I love it if I can bring in a touch of grey into the frame while photographing.

One day, I managed to capture not a touch of grey but a whole range of greys from a dark stormy grey to a light wispy grey, with about 50 shades of grey separating these two.

Canary Wharf, London

This photograph was taken almost at the end of a great day spent exploring the Docklands of London and travelling by the DLR. This was at Canary Wharf the heart of London’s financial district and also its central business district. The steel and glass and the moody grey skies put up a great show for photo-ops. I took quite a few, but this one remains my favourite. I find it interesting how the grey dominates the frame, but does not overwhelm or depress. And I love that little touch of red and glassy green from the windows, which adds that something special to the picture. It’s almost like poetry !

Don’t you think these different shades of grey convey power, business, purpose and beauty all at the same time?

A special boat ride

Today morning, I woke up with an overwhelming desire to go on a boat ride. I don’t know why, but there was this yearning to be on water and allow for its soothing motion and rhythm to take over. But today was also a Wednesday, a weekday and a working day. It didn’t feel right to give in to the temptation to take leave from work and go to the Gateway of India for the nearest boat ride I could take.

Instead, I went to work. But thoughts of the boat ride kept intruding between editing documents and meetings, and during lunch and and coffee breaks. Well, if only thoughts were boat rides, I would have gone on a real one … So, I did the next best thing — photograph therapy.

Once I reached home, I raided my digital photo library to look at all the trips that I have taken on water. One of the trips stood out for sheer novelty and beauty — a boat trip on the River Thames from Richmond (in Southwest London) to Hampton Court in July 2009. The novelty lay in the fact that this the first time I got the opportunity to observe how boats navigated river locks. This boat ride was part of an explorer day organised by London Walks to first explore Richmond, then take a boat trip along the Thames to Hampton Court Palace, for the second part of that day’s activities. It is a journey that took about an hour-and-a-half through a very picturesque route and in typical English weather It — sunny, cloudy, and rainy at the same time.

Come on, join me, as I take that boat ride from Richmond to Hampton Court once again with some photographs and a video. :-)

The Thames riverfront at Richmond

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Museum Treasure: The gold helmet

Helmets, chain mail, daggers, guns, arms, ammunition and other macho stuff are not really my kind of thing and it is this section in a museum that I breeze through or prefer to give a miss. So that day at the British Museum in London, should actually have seen me ignoring Meskalamdug’s helmet, but for two things—it was made of gold, and it had the cutest ears I had ever seen. :-)

The gold helmet of Meskalamdug

This helmet, dates back to about 2600-2400 BC and was found in the tomb of Meskalamdug, a Sumerian prince, in the ancient city of Ur (now in present day Iraq). The top of the helmet has a wavy design (probably to mirror hair) and at the back is a little hollow bump, perhaps to accommodate Meskalamdug’s hair bun. And yes, the helmet also has these really cute and life-like ears and ear holes carved on them. Though the helmet is designed to look like a battle helmet, it was reportedly worn by Meskalamdug for only ceremonial purposes. Gold symbolises strength and power, and Prince Meskalamdug had both.

Meskalamdug’s helmet at the British Museum London is an electrotype of the original which is or rather was at Iraq Museum in Baghdad. In the pillaging and sacking of the city that followed the fall of the Saddam Hussein government, the gold helmet was one of the many artefacts looted from the Iraq Museum.

When I saw this artefact in London, the enormity of the fact that the original had been lost, perhaps for ever, did not sink in. It’s only as I write this post that I realise that the electrotype at the British Museum may be the only piece available for the world to view and admire.

A very sobering thought indeed !

The Museum Treasure Series is all about artifacts found in museums with an interesting history and story attached to them. You can read more from this series here.

Travel Shot: A view of Greenwich from the river Thames

Sometimes, it takes a larger view for things to fall into perspective. Literally. Viewing the former Royal Naval College in Greenwich (pronounced Gren-itch) from across the Thames was one such experience.

I had spent a lovely day spent at Greenwich as part of a guided walk through Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of particular interest to me were the two buildings of the former Royal Naval College, which was designed by Christopher Wren, and captured by the famous Italian painter, Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto. Throughout my explorations there, I kept searching for that one view that captured the beauty, simplicity and symmetry of Wren’s design, but in vain.

It wasn’t till I crossed the river Thames to the opposite bank to take the DLR back to London that I realised that I had been searching for Canaletto’s view from the wrong side. When I emerged from the underground foot tunnel, this was the beautiful sight that greeted me.

A view of the former Royal Naval College, Greenwich, from the River Thames

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