Got back a few hours ago from London and it went by in a whirl. This was my third trip to London in the last 8 months so I didn't feel any particular excitement while going. The only thing I was looking forward to was the Eurostar train. Each time I've visited London, it's been on my way to or from Boston or Delhi. That basically means a tiring flight, a long wait at customs and immigration and then a long tube ride all the way to wherever I was staying. The last few times I've been staying with G, a friend from undergrad, and he lived on the other end of the tube line from Heathrow airport. Getting to his house was a huge task after such a long flight.
He recently moved to Canary Wharf, which is 10 mins from the London Eurostar station and I live about 10 mins from the Paris end. Door to door, it took me about 4 hours - including picking up my ticket and clearing customs and immigration. The train is incredibly fast, very comfortable, cheap (50 quid for a roundtrip) and going from the heart of London to Paris in less than 3 hours makes it fast and easier than a flight. I'll probably be back a couple of times next month and with the Eurostar it's a breeze.
My advisor moved to London last year and by some coincidence all three of my academic referees are based in London (interestingly enough one Jew, one Christian and one Muslim wrote letters for a Hindu). As a result a couple of students who were across the hall from my office in Brandeis are now in London, as are some other friends from undergrad days. Coming to London this time basically meant catching up with most of them (not the referees, this wasn't a math trip). 3 days in London became quite busy as a result. But sitting in a pub and being able to order beer and talk without any language problems was refreshing.
Getting a CARICOM visa turned out to be very easy. Since British nationals don't need a visa, the consulate was empty. There's one simple form, along with a fee and one photo required. That's it. No return ticket, hotel bookings, bank statements, etc. The consular officer was a bit confused with my application seeing the multiple addresses - a Boston address for my credit card, G's London address as my mailing address and the Paris address for employer's address. The passport was issued in Delhi, so he just stared at it, asked me "Where do you live, maan?". I just smiled and said "Wherever I can find a bed or an office". He didn't care and was nice enough to return my passport, so that I could head back to Paris.
Will have to go back in about 2 weeks to get it stamped on my passport, but in the meantime I have to get an additional booklet and hopefully finally open a bank account in Paris. After that, a Venezuelan visa and then I should be all set to move off to South America for 3-4 months.