Before I start writing this post, I’d first like to say that my thoughts are with those affected by the London Bridge attack over the weekend, and the Manchester suicide bombing that happened two weeks back. Extremism should not be a way of life.
I love London.
I was there for two weeks (in fact, when the Manchester attack happened), mostly to visit my brother, while also to holiday on my own.
I initially wanted to spend a day trip to St Albans and Cotswolds (and stay overnight in a bed & breakfast…), but that didn’t happen in the end. I got lazy, admittedly, just taking in London.
There’s just something about London that I know I’ll come back again and again.
I’ve been to London three times: once when I was a kid (was too young to remember much then), my other bro Ken’s graduation (just for a few days in Dec 2009 and it was COLD) and Shaun’s grad (July 2016 and while it was summer we spent only one to two days there).
So this trip marked my first in seeping-in just enough of the city.
It’s so easy to fall in love with London. The old colonial buildings, vibrant streets, structured transport system and convenience of it, the huge, laid-back parks, vast choices of food (even yummy, affordable, takeaway ones) etc…
Well, until it rains, that is… coupled with the erratic and cold weather, it could get a little messy if you aren’t prepared. I experienced that twice this trip — I was scrambling my way around (I’m always lost), while carrying my shopping (Primark) bags. I looked and felt like a mad woman, walking under the rain, under-dressed (no scarf and outer coat). I never learn after having studied three years in Melbourne, Australia.
Next time, I will remember to bring along an umbrella, find out and know the way to my final destination, and to always keep warm.
It was nice of my brother Shaun and his flatmates (Bianca and Jish) to allow me to stay with them throughout my time there. It’s such a lovely place! The few minutes walk to the bus stop, taking bus 207 or 607 (where we’ll always head right to the upper deck) to Shepherd Bush station, which gets me on the Central Line of the tube.
It’s so fun, I get to choose if I want to get off at Tottenham Court Road (Primark is just right in front of it… bad… Marble Arch station too), or Bond Street; to get onto another line and head to… wherever 🙂
Accommodation aside, it was quite a nicely budgeted trip, as I did not go on a spending spree, neither did I indulge in any fancy food. And by fancy I meant Michelin starred restaurants (it didn’t even cross my mind until a friend brought this up! I mean, I’m in London technically!? But you’ll see why below). Then again, fancy or not, is all relative.
One of my best meals in London has got to be… duck rice at Gold Mine. It was so good I had it two straight days. Didn’t even know I liked duck so much until I took a bite of this juicy piece of meat. I tried the duck at Four Seasons but nope, Gold Mine still kicked ass.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the pizza at Homeslice.
We tried two combos: mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seed & chilli// caramelised onions, kalamata olives & anchony. The former one was just ooh-lala in my mouth… party in my mouth, is that what you call it?
Best pizza I’ve had, hands down. 20 pounds for a huge-ass pizza that can be shared among three girls!
Another truly memorable meal, or tea-time, is the scones at The Muffin Man cafe in Kensington.
I love scones but I haven’t had scones this crunchy-yet-soft, with the most delicious and moist-enough clotted cream. I went back twice, heee.
Of course, not forgetting these little, quick eateries like Itsu and Wasabi where you can find almost anywhere in the city…
My highschool friend Keat and I tapao-ed Assenheims56, a South American takeaway, once and ate it by a church on Liverpool Street.
How good does its grilled marinated chicken look? Served with rice and grilled vegetables, and its homemade green sauce made from coriander, spices and cold-pressed rapeseed oil. It was about 8 pounds. Value for money, okay!
Once, Shaun and I also tapao-ed Leon (naturally fast food, they call it) and ate it along the steps of a building facing River Thames. It was so nice.
The river is so long, and you can just about be anywhere near or facing it… it was also one of my favourite spots to read (see the bench below?).
I finished reading ‘China Rich Girlfriend’ by Kevin Kwan (loved it!) and started on Peter Lynch’s ‘One Up Wall Street’ right here.
Another favourite spot of mine to read is at Regent’s Park:
Sigh, days like these…. IF the weather is good :p
Not forgetting the takeaway coffee I’ve been having from Cafe Nero and Pret; it was almost a daily staple for me as I wander around the city with a cup in hand.
So thankful for my friends from all over who have reached out, and were willing to come out to meet me for a meal.
I did spend, though: on musicals and plays, something I enjoy and believe it’s worth my money spent.
Shaun and I decided on the Book of Mormon, and boy did we enjoy ourselves!
It was funny, vulgar, witty; and while it touched on religion (which can be a sensitive topic to some) and spreading the gospel of it, the play made it light-heartedly entertaining.
On my own, I also got to catch the play of ‘The Curious Dog Incident in-the Night Time’, upon the suggestion of a friend, Alexandra.
The acting was world-class. I have not watched many plays, admittedly, but I gotta say, this was good. Great. I did not even read the book.
And why are theatres in London all so pretty?
I watched the play at Gielgud Theatre very near Piccadilly Circus and the vibe on the whole street was just amazing!
Speaking of experiences, how can I not mention Harry Potter. AM A HUGE FAN. I remember having read each of the book three times, at the very least, growing up.
I brought the first book, Philosopher’s Stone, along with me so I can re-read and refresh my memory before entering the studio.
The making of the movie, the whole production of it… was amazing. The originally designed props, costumes, make-up, etc.
I told Shaun I wanted to revisit Oxford (fell in love with the town the last time I went), and he of course jumped and said yes. He spent four years doing his undergrad studies there and I can see how it holds a special place in his heart.
I was clearly under-dressed (in a skirt) as the weather was cold that day! And because of that, partially, we left the town a tad bit early.
Comfort over fashion next time, Wei Lynn.
Also got to try Malaysian food at Zheng restaurant, Oxford (after seeing DS Nazir’s instagram posts). The food was good :p
And speaking of spending, after thinking hard, I did also pop by Bicester Village in Oxford (on another day) and got myself two bags. Yes, bags, my weak point… admittedly…
So happy I got my train ticket at a good rate for non-peak hours, at 12 pounds return! Though it came at the expense (or in this case, maybe not!) of just a 3-hour trip in the village. And guess what, I arrived the station early to miss my train (as it was delayed and I wasn’t at the platform when it came and go just like that).
That set me back by 40 minutes (thank goodness the manager allowed me to still use my ticket for the next ride), which means I only had 2 and a half hours to shop (including lunch). Thankfully, I had the 5 more-affordable brands in my mind, and so I went in, looked around, and zoomed out.
London is gorgeous when the weather is good.
Over the two Sundays I was in London, I spent the first waking up to exercising at Hyde Park…
And the second Sunday to a nice Sunday Roast… Shaun introduced me to this idea. We had it at a neighbourhood pub.
It was lovely. The concept, the get-together, the food… I had the pork loin option with a half-pint of local beer, I think.
Thereafter, I dropped by Portobello Road Market at Notting Hill. It was SO pretty!
I got a card holder for my dad, an inspirational book (with illustrations and sayings) for our home (I’m a sucker for things like that!), and a nice long grey skirt from a boutique store for myself.
Alas, I can’t end this post without dedicating a para (okay maybe two) to Primark.
The first time I stepped foot into this shop last year… I knew it was hell (or heaven?) for me. Because I have an eye for value. We’re talking about things we wear that cost far cheaper than anywhere else. I got staples such as spaghetti tops for 1.80 pounds, a bunch of hairbands (20 of them) for 1 pound, a set of earrings (9 pairs) for 2 pounds, sandals for 3 pounds, dresses for 6 pounds, and the list goes on…
I thought I was done after the first trip… I mean, I was, but while waiting to meet a friend one day, I stepped inside again. And did you they allowed you to exchange and refund, for cash? At one point I had to scold myself for not to step inside anymore, and in fact, I couldn’t wait to just get out of the store. When things are cheap, you sometimes tend to just buy things you do not really need. And when you change your mind and head back to change, it wastes time and effort.
Plus, I have too much clothes. But diving deeper, how much of them are actually quality, classic, ones that can last me a lifetime? It made me recall my time in Australia where I just bought and bought and now I don’t even wear any of them anymore. Cumulatively, a waste of money.
Overall, I had a great time in London. It was all so easy – traveling via tube, bus (whether you’re old or young). The app CityMapper is the coolest.
I walked, a lot… I loved wandering around on my own.
Though I’m not sure if dining along at the top of Heron Tower is the best idea.
I made the online booking just three days before, for a table of one, and I got it.
I mean, I have no qualms dining alone and in fact enjoy that, at times (more so especially if I don’t enjoy the company). But… this could do with a company. Haha. The Duck & Waffle I had was delicious though!