Let’s face it, whether you have never been there or go there for every wedding-shopping — London is never out of fashion and is always in the top half of your next-holiday-list. And what can be better than to plan your trip around the India cricket team’s tour itinerary of England. And in between watching the gentlemen in whites battle it out on the hallowed turfs of the cricket-country, sneak out to take a glimpse of the many top tourist destinations in the vicinity.
India is on the field for the third Test here at The Rose Bowl (or the Ageas Bowl) from July 27-31. But you have a lot to see and do here, because you are in the Titanic-town. Known as the Gateway to the Empire, this port town had signalled off Titanic for its maiden voyage in 1912. The Titanic Engineers' Memorial bears the testimony of the heavy loss that the city had to bear on that ill-fated night of April 15, 1912 — every family in this harbour city lost someone or the other as one third of those who perished were from Southampton itself.
You will find more about Titanic at the Sea City Museum, apart from various other interesting things that show Southampton’s relation with the sea.
For art lovers, visit the internationally acclaimed Southampton City Art Gallery that houses works from the Renaissance period to the present day contemporary British art, sculptures and photography works.
Want to be in a battle field — quite literally? Head for the Ambush Paintball & LaserTag
Raglington Farm at the Botley Road, just a few miles away from the city, and have a great time at the hundreds of acres of natural woodland playing soldiers.
And if you want to push the fun a bit further, drive down to the Go Ape at the Itchen Valley Country Park, Allington Lane. Climb up to tree tops on the rope bridges, go swinging like Tarzan and zip down slides — this is fun in the woods at its best. You can also visit the Marwell Zoo a few miles away in Winchester and the New Forest Wildlife Centre.
Want to see the largest collection of official James Bond vehicles, apart from many others? Then head straight to the Beaulieu in Hampshire. The Solent Sky Museum is another great place with an envious display of 18 aircraft — among other things — of various types, including the Spitfire and Supermarine S6b (N248).
Where to eat:
The White Star Tavern Restaurant: A recipient of many awards, this place serves an exciting selection of modern British classics.
Antico: This is your value-for-money place.
ChariTeas Tearooms: This Edwardian tea lounge serving freshly baked scones is good combination of pleasure and charity.
Coriander Lounge: Satiate your Indian food craving at this High Street joint.
The ‘other Old Trafford’ is where MS Dhoni’s boys start the fourth Test from August 7. Yes, we know that you needn’t be told that the ‘official’ dress code here is red and your trip should start (and end) with a ‘pilgrimage’ of the ‘real Old Trafford’ — the home of Manchester United FC. And even if your loyalty lies with Chelsea or Arsenal, undeniably, there can be few experiences that can match watching the Reds play as Old Trafford reverberate with the chants of ‘Glory, Glory…’ But Manchester United returns home only after August 12, so do the museum and stadium tour in the meantime. You can even dine at the Red Café.
Visit the Coronation Street — the set of the longest ever tele-serial on old Quay Street. UK’s most popular TV show ever, it had a massive following internationally right from its start in 1960. The show, about the lives of people on that particular street, finally came to an end in 2010 but the tour of the Coronation Street-set is still a huge draw.
For the nature lovers there are as many as six natural reserves — Chorlton Water Park, Blackley Forest, Clayton Vale and Chorlton Ees, Ivy Green, Boggart Hole Clough and Highfield Country Park — to explore.
Manchester also throws up a unique mix — while the Town Hall, the Manchester Victoria Station or the Piccadilly Station still regale in Victorian architecture, the Beetham Tower (tallest building outside London) and the Green Building shows contemporary styles.
The historical Manchester is a great place to go back in time. Step inside the Stockport Air Raid Shelters and experience of daily life in 1940s war-torn Britain in the tunnel through audio guides. The Manchester City Library, Working Class Movement Library or the John Raylands Library — that houses the oldest known piece of the New Testament, the St John Fragment — are worth visiting.
The Manchester countryside is beautiful and numerous walks the Moorland Waters, Tatton park, among others, are wonderful options.
Where to eat:
Albion Farm Shop café: In Delph, for fresh organic produce.
Ambiente - Meson de Tapas: A great tapas bar and café at the pituresque village of Worsley.
Café Ark: An all-vegetarian option, this small-but-great place is also dog-fiendly.
Manchester House: For a more luxurious dinner, head to place run by Aiden Byrne, the youngest British chef ever to win a Michelin star.
There are many other budget and fine-dining options in Manchester.
There are many famed cricket rivalries, but India locking horns with England on its Independence Day, is high on emotional quotient. And what better place than Kennington Oval — the birthplace of Test cricket in 1880 — in London to stage it. It was one such August day that Sunil Gavaskar had scored a double-century here, and expect a boisterous atmosphere when MS Dhoni and Alastair Cook walk out on August 15 for the last Test. Our advice: Watch this Test undisturbed — you aren’t going anywhere soon, you are in London now.
Museums, libraries, historical buildings, amusement parks, riverside promenades, shopping paradises, great night life — there is nothing that London doesn’t have, or perhaps the world doesn’t know about. But still, there’s always something new and interesting to do. Starting with the Warner Bros: Studio Tour, muggles can enter the magical world of Harry, Hermione and Ron by embarking on the many organised Harry Potter Tours. Similarly, there’s a well-structured Sherlock Holmes’ London Itinerary too. In fact, this is one tour that will almost cover entire London. This ‘pilgrimage’, of course, starts from the Baker Street. Do remember to take a quick selfie with the nine-foot bronze statue of the master detective. Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Dr Watson’s lab at 2 Devonshire Place and then head for the Madame Tussauds to see, well, Robert Downey Jr’s waxed as Holmes.
Going for a cruise on the Thames, and yes, being on the London Eye should also be on your agenda.
No, we aren’t leaving London without being at the Lord’s — the Mecca of cricket. Just before the ODI series begins, India will play Middlesex at the Lord’s on August 22 for a warm-up 50 over game. For cricket aficionados it’s must to visit the MCC Cricket Museum — one of the oldest sports museum in the world. From cricket’s most precious artefact —the 1882/83 Ashes urn to things used by Don Bradman to Shane Warne, everything that you see here is a treasure in itself.
Where to eat:
Gordon Ramsay, Michel Roux Jr, Jamie Oliver… you name just anyone, and that celebrity chef will be serving you dinner somewhere in London. Indian, Oriental, Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean, Continental — it’s a melting pot of world cuisine. Many think London is a pricey place to dine, but there are quite a few famous street food options.
Camden Lock: The creative heart of London, this place has amazing shops and stalls of designer/makers. But this place is also a haven for street food with options from around the world.
OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie: Located on the eighth floor of the OXO Tower, this place offers some great innovative cuisine.
Bateaux London: Breakfast, lunch or dinner -- this is clubbing food with sightseeing as you eat while cruising on the Thames.
The One Day Internationals start here from August 25. This county ground may not have an illustrious cricketing history, but it’s very special for India with the two top scores of 140* and 113 being Sachin Tendulkar’s — the first one being during the 1999 World Cup against Kenya, the very next day he returned after performing the last rites of his father.
In Bristol, just hop on the City Sightseeing Bus — The Bristol Tour for a comprehensive city tour. Board The Mathew — the stunning replica of Joahn Cabbot’s ship in which he sailed to Newfoundland in 1497 —at the Bristol harbour. The best way to witness the historic harbour life of Bristol is to board a ferry on the river. The Blue Reef Aquarium is a great place to witness underwater life.
For a funfilled day, go to the Jump — a 22,000sq feet and the largest dedicated indoor soft play centre in England.
See the famous 150-year-old Clifton Suspension Bridge on the cliffs of Avon Gorge.
The suburb of Clifton also has the award winning Bristol Zoo Gardens — the 5th oldest zoo in the world.
Visit the Bristol Cathedral and St Mary Redcliffe Church to witness fine Gothic architecture.
Bristol is wonderful place to explore on your cycle, so pick up one cover the city at your own pace.
Where to eat:
Harbourside: No, that’s not the name of a restaurant — it’s the location! Once you are there, you have a host of great options, particularly for those with families.
Watershed Café Bar: A great place to be in with family and kids.
Las Iguanas - Harbourside: This Latin-themed place is known for its world cuisine and entertainment for children.
The Milk Thistle: Head to this Central Bristol place for the ‘best‘cocktails in the town.
Not even an hour’s drive from Bristol across the river, the Sofia Gardens stadium hosts the second ODI on August 27. Another happy hunting ground for Indians as both Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli has a century each here.
But you are the city of Doctor Who now, and for fans of the television series it is a delight. Go on the Doctor Who tour at the Discovery Quay, Cardiff Bay and rescue the saviour. But hurry, Doctor Who tours will have some changes starting September 1.
If you have time on hand, enroll for the rafting and canoeing course at the Cardiff International White Water. Cardiff is again a great place to ride, and you can go cycling to the Taff Trail, the Cwmcarn Forest or explore the Cardiff Bay Barrage circular route.
See the 2000-year old Cardiff Castle or visit the Norwegian Church where children author Roald Dahl was christened.
St Fagans National History Museum in the outskirts of Cardiffis one of the best open-air museums and a must visit.
Where to eat:
The Corner House: This new place on the Caroline Street is getting good reviews.
Juboraj: Meaning the ‘prince’ in Bengali, this place is known for quality Indian and Bangladeshi — read great fish items — cuisine.
Mermaid Quay: Head to the Mermaid Quay on the Cardiff Bay area for a host of restaurants serving cuisines from all over the globe.
Go to the Penarth town just 15 minutes from Cardiff to be by the sea and dine in one of the many options out here.
The cricket caravan returns here on August 30. But you should be on your toes — Nottingham is a beautiful old city with great Victorian architecture, and it will take some time to explore.
The Nottingham University is one of the best in world and students from all over vie to be there.
But more than that, the name that’s synonymous with Nottingham is Robin Hood and you’ll find things related to the legend almost everywhere. Nottingham Castle, now a museum of fine art, was the legendary home of the Sheriff — Robin’s main enemy. Join the Madame Parboiled Tour on an interactive look at some of Nottingham Castle Caves as she beheads, hangs, draws and quarters her way through history.
You can also download the official countywide audio trail in MP3 format and discover 12 locations across Nottinghamshire linked to the legendary outlaw in the 'In the footsteps of Robin Hood' audio trail. There’s another Robin Hood Trail that is a city based walking trail aided with booklets about Robin, the medieval city and its turbulent and colourful history.
The St Mary’s Church, Gallery of Justice and the red brick lined street marks the area near Lace Market.
The Screen Room in Hockley Village is supposed to be world’s smallest cinema hall with just 21 seats.
Visit the world famous Albert Hall that has witnessed the very best of music from all over the world. The city is also dotted with a number of museums. Get on the Ferris Wheel to get a view of the city from above.
Where to eat:
Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem: Or ‘The Trip’, is tipped to be the oldest pub in England and is partially built into the cave system beneath Nottingham Castle.
Old Market Square: It holds the annual Nottingham Food and Drink Festival, but you can find a number of food options throughout the year.
Govinda’s Vegetarian Restaurant: Great Indian lunch buffets at a great price too.
There are many beer festivals that keep happening around the place, so keep an eye.
Presentthem with the finest of Swiss or the boldest of Peruvian varieties, for an Indian the world of chocolates begins and ends with the good ol’ Cadbury Dairy Milk! And because Birmingham is the host for the fourth ODI (September 2) and the tour-ender T20, the India team management should be extra vigilant — what if some of our players run away for a ‘chocolate rain’ experience than taking to nets at the Edgbaston! You don’t have those headaches, so head for the Cadbury World and experience ‘Free The Joy’ yourself. You can also opt for the Cadbury World 4D Chocolate Adventures. Complete with motion seats, you’ll join Freddo and a whole host of Cadbury characters as they whisk you away on an adventurous journey.
Visit the National Sea Life Centre to experience a spectacular undersea voyage. Enormous one million-litre ocean tank with giant green sea turtles, black tip reef sharks, tropical reef fish… it’s a wonder world.
See the historical Warwick Castle to go back in time and visit the Ikon Gallery for some of the most contemporary and thought-provoking artwork.
A tour of the Twycross Zoo – The World Primate Centre should be a unique experience. Spend a day boating at the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park or just laze around the Sutton Park — the largest urban park in Europe.
Where to eat:
Digbeth Dining Club: No frills, fresh ingredients cooked in front and a theatre alongside — need we say more.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s rooftop: A restaurant and bar along with a stunning panoramic view of the River Avon.
The Vaults: In the historical Jewellery Quarter you can dine underground in what was a Victorian cellar.
Brindleyplace and Away2dine: Bored of being on the land, so hop into one of these for a great culinary experience while you float down the canal.
Asha’s: Yes, you are right. Enjoy the multi award-winning Indian fare in the restaurant of legendary singer Asha Bhosle.
Headingley hosts the last of the ODIs on September 5 — the only ground in the history of cricket to witness a batsman hit over 300 runs in a single day. The genius who did this was, of course, Sir Don Bradman in 1930.
And even if you don’t have to score runs, there’s much to do otherwise around this bustling Yorkshire suburb. Experience a rainforest in England as you see exotic creatures like meerkats, crocodiles, butterflies and bats at Tropical World.
Take a leisurely cruise on the River Aire and Calder, see the unique Cistercian monastery of Kirkstall Abbey or head for the Pugneys Country Park.
Shop from the Leeds Kirkgate Market. Built in 1904, it is the largest covered market in Europe.
Where to eat:
The Orbit; The Mint; Club Mission: Leeds, courtesy some of the best educational institutes, has a huge student population. And that means a great nightlife. These clubs are very popular among the young.
Tiled Hall Café: For arguably the best Yorkshire cream tea.
The Midnight Bell: Leeds Brewery's flagship gastro pub is known for its beer battered fish and chips.
The Bridge Innand TheNew Penny: These two are known for being the best gay night spots.
Indian food: The Bengal Brasserie, My Lahore, Raja’s Restaurant, Tharavadu… the list of desi food joints is quite a long one in Leeds.
All destinations are connected to London by the impressive rail and road network. So it shouldn’t be a problem if you are based out of Britain’s capital. Just pick up a map and train time table — usually available for free at airports, stations, bus stands and underground subways — and plan accordingly.
Carry your umbrella and raincoats, you are in England!