If I have to talk about my first solo travel experience, it would be about this one, even though it wasn’t actually ‘solo’. However, it was EPIC because I was going to fulfill my lifelong wish of getting to watch my favourite band, Westlife, live. And it was AMAZING because I went with my bestest friend, my sister, Trisha.
My family had been planning a trip to England for ages. When things finally started falling into place in early 2012, Trisha and I went nearly delirious with joy. It was going to be me, her, our parents, uncle, aunt and our grandparents. A big group, with an abundance of love and fun!
Some time before that, I had discovered that my favourite band since forever (yes, yes, Westlife!) was splitting up (my heart can never be un-broken again). A few days before we were going to leave (yes, days!!) in the first week of June 2012, I had a lightbulb moment. Westlife was going to be touring as a band for the last time just around then. In fact, their final farewell concert was going to be the day we were flying back to India… SO… WHY DON’T I TRY TO ATTEND A CONCERT???
Once this idea struck me, I went almost mad. I frantically checked concert dates and locations, and ticket prices. Of course, I had no idea how England was laid out, so I obsessively mapped every location on Google Maps and tried to figure out which one would work best.
Since I don’t want to end up reliving the hyper-ness (is that even a word?), let me just cut the details short and get to the point. I bought our tickets to a concert in Cardiff, Wales for the 11th of June, 2012. The last minute tickets were crazy expensive, but I really didn’t care. So, with concert tickets, bus tickets and hotel reservation checked and rechecked multiple times, we set off for London from Delhi on the 8th.
On the morning of the 11th, we were dropped off at the Tonbridge train station from where we had to go to Victoria Coach station in London (which would take about an hour), and then take a bus to Cardiff. Of course, we grossly underestimated the time it would take to go from the Victoria TRAIN station to the COACH station, and 15 minutes before the bus was scheduled to depart, we were running madly through the streets of London (of course going the wrong way several times), overpacked backpacks completely destroying our balance (it was a 30 hour trip, but we had 5-7kgs on our backs EACH… I still wonder how and why), tears streaming down my face as I had pretty much given up hope, while Trish kept chanting ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, we’ll make it, we’ll make it’ (I still don’t know if she was reassuring me or herself as well).
I don’t know which God or star to thank, but as we slid into the coach station at the nick of time, we learned that the bus had been delayed by a good half an hour or so. Deep breaths. Phew. And we whiled away our time doing what we do best… Eating 😀
About 3 hours later, we were in a different country… Wales. This is where we got off the bus…
With a little help from the locals, we managed to find our hotel, which was a short 10 minute walk away (though it took us about 30, because, well, we went round and round), which was RIGHT across the street from the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. We were staying at the Radisson, which was, obviously, wonderful. We dropped our bags, freshened up a little, and set out to see the pretty little city.
Priority number 1 was, of course, lunch! The shrimp cocktail was mine, and Trish ordered the pasta. Both were delicious, and inexpensive enough to have been REAL value for money.
We walked around the city centre, which was small and charming and very lively…
The concert was to start at 7.30, so we decided to make our way back to the hotel at 6, which would give us plenty of time to shower and get prettied-up.
But…!! As we crossed the arena, I saw a long queue had already started forming, and some of them told us that the crowd gets crazy so it’s better we hurry up. Of course, I freaked out. Within 20 minutes, we were back out (shower long forgotten), and standing in the queue which had grown atleast four times as long in the few minutes that we were gone.
So anyway, we were in by 6.45 and OF COURSE there was no crazy crowd and everything was super organized, so I felt a little silly (In my defence, I had never been to an international concert before, so I had no clue!). We had planned to carry a banner with a message saying something like ‘You never came to India, so we came to say Goodbye’, but obviously couldn’t manage because of the last minute change in plans.
The extra 45 minutes gave us plenty of time to blow all the money we had on official merchandise. Two T-shirts and a program later, we settled down in our £100 seats (yes, I love Westlife THAT much).
After opening acts by Lilygreen and Maguire (who were AMAZING!! I recommend checking them out) and another guy (whose name I JUST can’t remember because I was too busy buying paninis and hot dogs and slushies)… My childhood dream manifested in front of my eyes…
It was unreal, surreal, and every other magical feeling I can ever hope to feel or express. Everything was going wonderful… Until…
Nicky Byrne apparently reads out banners in the middle of concerts. Remember when I said I didn’t have time to make a banner because I had to go to the arena earlier than planned? Yeah…
Since we were in the sixth row (yes, sixth!)… EVERY banner around us was read. There weren’t many, and if we had held ours up, ours would most definitely have been read. And come on… I’m sure they would have called us up on stage and given us a couple of puchis, right (To anyone wondering, Puchi is a colloquial Hindi word for a kiss on the cheek)? No? You think not? Well… There was a girl whose banner said, ‘Trade these Krispy Kremes for a kiss’ and she had a box of donuts in her hand. And well whaddayaknoww… SHANE FILAN CALLED HER TO THE FRONT, TOOK A DONUT AND GAVE HER A PUCHI!!!!!
My sister and I facepalmed.
And that’s how we spent the rest of the evening (and the week, and the trip, and the month… Everytime we think about it, we still facepalm. In fact, I’m facepalming right now!).
Well, anyway… Let’s get to happier things.
The concert ended in about an hour and a half (and, really, the entire time I was sure they’d see our eager brown faces shining among a sea of white and talk to us… But, well, life just isn’t that wonderful) and I walked back with the biggest smile on my face.
The entire audience had been in tears (Who me? Nooo… *sniffle*boohooooo*) when they finished. But those were happy tears, you know? Like a long fulfilling day had come to an end. In those few moments, all the 7000 or so people were part of one big family. They made a false end at first, came back for another song (where I literally bawled my eyes out), and then finally…
Ah, it was the dream. My longest dream. And it came true. Westlife said it themselves… DREAMS COME TRUE!
And, well, this had started out as a post on Cardiff, and turned into a post on Westlife 🙂 Maybe I’ll just keep it this way. They deserve a tribute.
I need to go cry a little bit now :’)