If you haven’t already, read my introductory post to everything you need to know from driving around the UK to claiming VAT tax refunds. It’s quite a long but useful one, and pretty worth the read, in my opinion. :p
So.. London. It’s beautiful, vibrant, lively and always surprising. I love it there and I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t. There’s always something to explore in every corner, and I know I have only touched like 1% of this amazing city during my visit. There’s still so much more to see, so much to do so I told myself that I would be coming back again.
We were very lucky in the sense that my cousin, has a friend whose parents bought an apartment in the cushy high-rise zones of Canary Wharf. 24-hour concierge and a stunning view of the city of London form the 33rd floor, it’s pretty sweet. Probably one of the reasons why our London stay was über pleasant. 🙂
*VERY VERY LONG POST AHEAD! Please take the time to read in between the images as I provide some insights into some of the places we’ve been.
So, we started off with all the usual touristy haunts like Big Ben, the London Eye, Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Big Ben was impressive, and its chime is unlike any other. After so many years of looking at my tin Big Ben money box (a gift from my childhood days), I am finally looking at the real thing. We didn’t really explore the London Eye because, well.. it’s only a ferris wheel, isn’t it? We have a similar one in Malaysia, and I saw two others in Perth and Brisbane.
|That’s my uncle in the phone booth, not some crazy homeless guy, FYI.|
Buckingham Palace was gorgeous, and so was the roundabout in front of it – but to my disappointment, I only caught the blue uniformed guards! Where are the red royal guards with the tall, black, furry hats?? Maybe it was out timing or just bad luck, but I didn’t get to see the one thing I wanted to see. I’ll get you next time, royal guards! Close by, there’s St James’s Park, which is full of squirrels and various species of birds (pigeons mostly). The park is lovely, and really huge. We managed to spot a few squirrels and even tempted a few of them to take biscuits from us. They were so tame, and came close enough for us to snap a few photos. There were pigeon feeders giving seeds out to the birds as well, but the amount of dust, feather and who-knows-what that stirred in the air from their flapping was terrible!
|Christopher managed to entice this little guy with some yogurt-flavoured granola bars.|
The Tower Bridge of London was pretty nice to look at too. It was really windy when we got onto the bridge, and we walked to the halfway point where the bridge used to lift open, back in the day. From our vantage point, we could see the golden tip of St Paul’s Cathedral, which we then decided to visit.
It was a quick train’s ride to get there and paid £18 per person to enter the cathedral. My only issue with this place started when I took a photo of the gold-gilded ceilings of the cathedral. Apparently, even after paying for a ticket, you aren’t allowed to take photos inside! It’s a real waste, because there was so much beauty in its ceilings, marble statues, and a rich history lies beneath the cathedral. Audio guides were complimentary, so we took one and after a round aboveground, we went underground to visit the crypt that lies under the cathedral. Here you find tombs of the founders and forefathers related to St Paul’s Cathedral. It was quite a lot to take in.
|With mom on Knightsbridge. The wind was crazy up there!|
|The façade of St Paul’s Catherdral.|
It is in this cathedral where you can also climb to the very top and get a view of the city. Just a word of caution, one way up means 500+ stairs to climb, which also gets narrower at the top. Then you get the same amount of stairs to climb back down – no slides here, unfortunately. The first 250 stairs lead us to the Whispering Tower. From this point you can actually look down and watch the worshippers praying during their times of worship. There is also a myth about why it’s called the Whispering Tower – they say if you put your ears against the walls, you can hear the whispering of the founders and those found in the crypt. Creepy.. I did exactly that but did not hear anything. Maybe also because the Portuguese tourists nearby were so loud.
The remaining stairs were narrow, metal, spiral staircases which gave me a wicked headache. We came up to the domed top of the cathedral and true enough, you can see quite a vast view of London. It was quite windy too, I couldn’t take a proper photo without my hair covering my face. My mom is a trooper. She rested three times on the way up, but going down, she just powered on all the way. She also got massive dizziness and headaches from the spiral staircase. That’s our 1,000 steps stairmaster workout for the day! It wasn’t as bad as climbing up the Scots Monument in Edinburgh though.
We strolled along Oxford Street to get a good look at all the beautiful designer shops along the way. There were sales everywhere and I found a nice pair of Nike Air Force 1’s going for less than £40! The rest of them found refuge in the Pull & Bear sales. Speaking of sales, the one place where “sales or no sales things are still awesomely cheap” is Primark. I think I went into 5 different Primark stores and spent about £200 altogether (my VAT return was at least £19) – quality wise, they’re alright, and designs are decently nice. Where else can you find decent tops for £3 – £8? And jeans for £7! So there you have it, my weakness when it comes to good-value shopping.
Other than that we also stopped by Harrod’s and did some shopping there, before heading off to Piccadilly Circus to look at all the bright lights. London is breathtaking at night, just so you know. The buildings are all lit up and there’s just so many elements that makes London so lovely. Not to mention, that huge Magic Mike XXL poster against the double decker buses. *ahem*
One of the highlights of our visit were the museums. We visited the British Museum, Museum of Natural History and the Victoria & Albert Museum. I’m leaving all three museums to a separate post, because I want to point out the three eateries that were the highlight of my London trip. In my opinion, these are the places not to be missed when prowling in London for good food.
Coincidentally, my top picks are all a perfect breakfast, lunch and dinner recommendation, in that order.
THE BREAKFAST CLUB
Serves big-hearted breakfasts that is ever generous with the bacon. Though I believe we sort of over-ordered, but the massive portions are so, so good. Be warned, long queues are common and we waited 20 minutes to get in. The restaurant is a little small, so they could only seat about 10 tables at a time. Everything from beautiful poached eggs dressed in Hollandaise sauce to gigantic bacon waffles – they have them. The only thing I don’t really fancy were their black puddings. The restaurant’s fame also gave itself a wall-of-fame for visitors from all over the world to pin notes and photos. The most popular notes are written on different currencies, so we added a note to our MYR1 and pinned it up. So if you’re up for a hearty start to your day, come early and be in for a treat!
Price range: £13 – £30, pretty affordable depending on what you choose
Address: 33 D’Arblay St, London W1F 8EU (This was the one we chose since it’s close to Primark, but there are about more than 6 branches all over London, so take your pick!)
|Unrelated, but this amazing shop was right opposite and it reminds me of Sweeney Todd.|
DUCK & WAFFLE
For lunch, I can think of no better place than here. This restaurant operates 24-hours though, but bookings can be really hard to get, so book in advance. The thing about their online booking system is that once you have confirmed your slot, any cancellation on your behalf will automatically get you charged £20 per pax. I found that a little too arrogant to stomach – but speaking of stomachs, their food is absolutely delicious. We ordered their signature duck & waffle each, which is a wedge of waffle topped with a crispy duck and maple syrup. Delicious! We also tried the beef tartare with marmite egg yolk which is my favourite, and crispy fried pigs ears. Overall service was great and the food is really top notch. The ambience, well let’s just say on the 33rd floor, you see almost all of London and I’m very sure it’ll be even more beautiful by night.
Price range: £17 for the duck & waffle, similar pricing for the other dishes.
Address: Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY, United Kingdom
|The magic is in this maple-based sauce.|
|I never knew pig ears could taste this good!!|
|My favourite out of the lot, I absolutely love raw meat!! Love that mermite-yolk, which really brought the dish together.|
|Heron Tower is located nearby the iconic Gherkin, which is shaped like a bullet.|
BURGER & LOBSTER
This is the dinner of all dinners! The restaurant serves only three things – a beef burger with fries, a lobster roll with fries or a whole lobster with fries. Predictably, each of us chose to have a whole lobster to ourselves. The wait to get into the restaurant was crazy – I starved like a refugee during that 1.5 hour wait, so beware of long queues and be there early. It was all worth it though. The lobsters were decently big, and comes with a side of fries, salad and buttery sauce. This has got to be my all-time favourite meal, seeing how I love my seafood, and it definitely does not disappoint! The lobster meat was well-cooked and very tender, the butter sauce was absolutely delish! I wish they had given more sauce, I could eat it with anything! The waiters are really nice too, the bill came with a free card holder which we all liked, and the waiter obligingly bought us more.
Price range: £17 for the set, which is definitely a very good deal.
Address: 5th Floor, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ (other branches can be found in London too!)
Right, so these were the highlights of my stay in London, but don’t forget, we were in many, many other places around England too, as well as Scotland and Paris. Stay tuned for more travel posts to come, and be sure to refer to the main post for all the links to other adventures!