My sister, Sultana, visited London in the summer holidays and kindly chose to contribute by writing up about her time there. It’s always refreshing to hear stories from others and what they got up to whilst away on their trips. Read below to find out more about her week there.
Written by Sultana Ahmed | Friday 6th September 2019
Friday 2nd August
We arrived in London just past midnight. All three of my children were fast asleep, giving me plenty of opportunity to take in the surroundings. There were pedestrians in all directions, cheerfully going about their business as though sleep was unheard of to them. A deliveroo cycle caught my eye, so I followed it for a while.
The traffic was astonishing; New York City is not the only city that never sleeps.
Soon we reached East London. We would be staying at a good old friend’s flat. She had gone away herself to visit relatives with her husband and children. So when she found out I was planning to visit London, she entreated us to stay at her flat. This kind gesture meant we would be able to spend more days in London as we didn’t have to worry about the hefty cost of booking hotels.
On the Friday morning, I cooked lunch while my husband and son went to the East London Mosque for the Jumuah prayers. Then, I sat out on the balcony, looking out onto the busy city.
That evening, we all went for a walk around Brick Lane. The stories this place could tell! I myself was born in Luton and lived there until I was 14, so I did visit London sometimes, although I have little recollection of it. But to actually walk these streets and find ourselves amidst the country’s capital felt profound. If you want to see a true display of diversity, you need to visit London.
Waiters stood outside restaurants, coaxing and cajoling passers by to come in and dine. None of them seemed to approach my husband though. I took a look at my husband in his long white robe, coupled with his intensely black beard and clean shaven head, which stood sternly on his shoulders.
Saturday 3rd July
Now that we had soaked in the London environment, we were ready to venture. Our first stop was Edgeware Road. We walked until we reached the Marble Arch and then Hyde Park. The first thing I noticed was runners. You can’t blame me, can you?!
There were tourists from every corner of the globe, all here to marvel at England’s capital and the home of the monarchy. Hyde Park has something for everyone, whether you are coming with family, a newly married couple, or perhaps even if you are travelling solo.
Kensington Gardens was our next stop. We walked past dozens of families, relaxing on the grass, nibbling from their picnic hampers, as children played around them.
A group of ballerinas dressed in bright red posed for a photo shoot. We walked around the fountain areas and my four year old daughter observed some lily pads.
We had all worked up an appetite by then so we headed back to Edgeware Road. A prudent looking waiter emerged from a Lebanese restaurant called Shishawi and handed us a leaflet. We entered the restaurant.
I must admit, I am quite fussy when it comes to dining out, and I do not like meat much. But this restaurant did not disappoint my palate. Perfection is the only word I can use to describe the food, the service and the ambience.
Buckingham Palace was our next stop. One could almost feel the presence of the monarch herself. Keen photographers glued themselves to the gates, trying to get the best shot as they possibly could. A lone soldier marched a few metres to the left, and then a few metres to the right.
The Prudential Ride London was also taking place on that day. We watched as the female riders rode past Buckingham Palace, and cheered them on.
We decided to go to Westminster Abbey too, and then to see the London Eye. My son reluctantly posed with an unsteady looking Winston Churchill.
Everywhere I looked, I saw rickshaws being driven by both the English and the Asian. Like I said, if you want to see a true display of diversity, you must visit London.
Once our legs had had enough of all the walking, we headed back to my friend’s flat.
Sunday 5th August
Today morning, we went to see the market places in Brick Lane. There were cuisine from various parts of the world including Singapore, Thailand and Lebanon. My mouth watered at the sight of various cooked vegetables. I tasted a Singaporean brussel sprout and it was delicious.
Some other food stall holders held out chicken pieces on cocktail sticks for me to taste. I politely declined.
On the streets, there were stalls selling almost anything and everything. My son bought a wooden model making kit. I decided to buy the book called Brick Lane by Monica Ali.
Later that afternoon, We visited the London Museum. We are used to thinking of London as the nation’s capital and one of the greatest cities. It is difficult to imagine a time when it was otherwise. Yet the city was founded on the north bank of the Thames less than 200 years ago. For almost half a million years before this, the Thames valley was home to close knit communities of hunters and eventually farmers and herders.
The land was rich in meanings and memories for those to whom it was home.
Monday 6th August
We went to Stratford Shopping Centre and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Our time in London was coming to an end and how better to spend it than by going on a shopping spree.
Later that afternoon, we went to High Barnett where my sister lives with her husband and baby daughter. I spent some time cuddling my niece while my sister prepared a feast, after which we all headed out for a walk. As my sister and I sat on a bench chatting away like little old ladies with a lifetime of stories, our husbands pushed swings and turned roundabouts, their cheeks slowly turning pink from exertion.
Tuesday 7th August
Today evening, we went to meet my friend’s (at whose flat we were staying) mum and family. They did not live too far from the flat. We were warmly welcomed and enjoyed an evening of great company and superb hospitality. I met my friend’s grandmother too, an extraordinary lady whose conversations often rerouted into the world of beautiful Bangla poetry. She was an embodiment of the finest Bangla literature.
Wednesday 8th August
Our last day was spent in High Wycombe, Buckingham-shire for a family wedding. It was lovely to see my grandmother, aunties and uncles. This family reunion brought my stay in London to a delightful end. After a week of adventure, a protruding belly full of food and a back at breaking point, we headed back home in time for the sunset prayer, as a red haze gently took over the horizon.
Exhausted but happy