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Amrit and Balbir
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Balbir Singh and Amrit Sethi are founders of the popular web portal, www.koramangala.com. Since its inception in December 1998, the website has received global media coverage and was also featured on "Sunday Morning 60 minutes", on the widely viewed CBS News channel.

Recently, the couple went on a 2-week trip to the United Kingdom - Balbir's second, but the first for Amrit, for whom this has been a fabulous experience.

Back to Oh! To be in England

Room 404

An evening in London
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London is expensive; no questions. And having said that, I'm not a believer in the theory that the deeper your pockets, the better you'll enjoy London. It helps, but not necessarily always true.

At 45 per night for a double room it's pretty steep by Indian standards; by all standards I guess. If that's scandalizing, better stay at home. I remember my boss's advice during my last trip. 'Avoid converting each and everything into Indian rupees; you'll enjoy your stay better.' He was right. I made it a point to implement that advice this time too. No conversions. Period!

One other thing I'd decided before coming here was that Indian food would be a strict no-no. We have it at home day in, day out. Besides, we were here for an experience of a different kind, so why not the food too? Being on a budget meant expensive restaurants were ruled out. But that didn't mean we'd count our pennies. We came here to have a great time and that's what we'd do.

Nothing like feeling relaxed
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We reached The Blakemore Hotel at about 8 that the evening. The weather was superb; not freezing but nonetheless, nippy. As we walked towards the reception desk, I liked what I saw. A clean, well-lit and spacious lobby, adjoined by what looked to be a pretty cozy bar, and straight ahead was Syed at the reception desk beaming a welcoming smile. This was no dump and I guess Nigel made the perfect choice. Ravi, the concierge - a Gujarati from Surat and a qualified fire engineer seeking greener pastures in England - took charge of our baggage and led us up four floors to Room 404.

The room was roomy enough. For the price we were paying we didn't expect luxury, but the basics were all in place. Central heating, comfortable twin beds, TV, wall to wall carpeting, a spacious cupboard, full length curtains, wash basin, hot and cold water shower, Dove hand-wash and bath dispensers, and a loo that was spic 'n' span. On the table was an electric kettle, a tray filled with tea bags, coffee packets, milk in tiny plastic containers and brown and white sugar in pouches. Great! No morning bed-tea room service delays to ruin my day.

Mona didn't like the idea of two separate beds. Not for any other reason, but because she wouldn't be able to kick me to stop my snoring, unless if she were to get out of her warm bed, and considering the climate, unlikely to happen.

Car Parking discipline -
something we ought to learn badly

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I drew the curtains, opened the window and looked out. Nothing spectacular by way of view but the street below was devoid of traffic, hence quiet. Though there were many cars neatly parked (and when I say neatly parked, I mean neatly parked) alongside the street, belonging mainly to residents who lived there and a few hotels nearby.

Room 404 was going to be our home for the next few days, so we unpacked; taking out some of the stuff we'd need especially the warm clothing. I'd purchased a bottle of Chivas Regal on the plane (what they call 'in-flight shopping') and poured myself a drink. After some time it got a bit boring. It was just about 9 pm, the night was still young and I was restless. Besides we felt as fresh as mint with no symptoms whatsoever of jet lag despite the long flight from India.

Suddenly, I got up and told Mona, "What the Dickens are we doing inside the room? Let's get out and explore Bayswater."

She couldn't have agreed with me more.

Next: Like Lost Cows

Back to Oh! To be in England

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