Category Archives: Personal

Exploring Europe (Part I): London, United Kingdom (Day 4)

Waking up late, we walked over to Beck’s Cafe for breakfast.  I found the cafe through recommendations online.  We arrived slightly after ten o’clock – perfect for some hot food.  The atmosphere is quite nice – slow and peaceful – so it was a confortable way to start the day off.  The portions are very generous and the English Breakfast seems to be the favourite among patrons there.  We had a ham and onion omelette with lemon tea.  Omelettes were fresh and had that homemade taste, and the salad was very fresh. It got busier as we ate and the cafe was practically full by the time we took our leave.

Omelettes at Beck's Cafe

Omelettes at Beck’s Cafe

We took the bus so we could enjoy the scenery.  The buildings and monuments made me feel like I walked straight into those classic novels based in London – very detailed architecture and lovely roundabouts.  The view from the second level is definitely hard to beat especially as you move quickly through the city.  It is nothing like Canada where everything is like a grid – the design is more complex and feels circular.  A few stops later and we arrived outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

For the curious, no pictures are allowed inside the cathedral so please respect that.  They have an excellent audioguide for those who are interested in learning the basics of the layout and history behind some of the monuments.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

If you have time, I would recommend visiting the crypt and the Whispering Gallery.  For those thinking of the climb, please note the stairs are a bit narrow and the passage is dimly lit.  If you are fearful of heights but brave enough to try, I do suggest making the short climb.  I am fearful of heights myself but the gallery gives off a unique mysterious feeling you do not quite feel on the main floor or in the crypt.  The crypt focuses mainly on the history of the church – it dates from 600 AD! -with displays of old monuments surviving the great fires and a small chapel.  The tomb of Lord Nelson and the church’s architect, Wren, are also displayed in the crypt.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Outside St. Paul's Cathedral

Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral

Outside St. Paul's Cathedral

Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral

 

Outside St. Paul's Cathedral

Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral

Hungry from our long visit – we spent almost four hours at St. Paul’s – we went to search for the bus that would take us back to the hotel.  I had originally planned to visit the Old Royal Naval College but we had tickets to Les Miserables that night and were short on time.  Walking to the bus stop, we had a strange feeling – it seemed none of the traffic in the area was moving.  Confused, we decided to take the Tube after seeing many bus passengers getting off in the middle of the road.  Thankfully, the Tube was operating fine and we managed to get to our station without any delays.

We hopped over to Pret-A-Manger to pick up soups and salads.  I had been eyeballing the franchise for a while now – this chain is everywhere in London – so we decided to give it a try.  The meals were not inexpensive but I liked the fact our salad tasted decently fresh and the soup was not overloaded with sodium – at least not as much as Tim Hortons.  We relaxed most of the afternoon before heading to Chinatown for a quick dinner before the theatre.  Queen’s Theatre was literally right outside of the restaurant we walked into!

Queen's Theatre

Queen’s Theatre

Queen's Theatre

Les Mis

Les Miserables is absolutely breathtaking.  I have no words to describe the amazing night I had.  We sat in the upper circle in row C near the middle with a decent view.  If you are in London, I would highly recommend this play.

 

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Exploring Europe (Part I): London, United Kingdom (Day 3)

We were following the weather forecast and expected a rain storm so we decided to go shopping early.  The sun was out and the skies were clear when we arrived at Marble Arch.  In fact, the weather was perfect for a day full of outdoor activities!  We went on a tangent and visited Hyde Park – not a good idea for those who do not have comfortable shoes on.  The park was amazing in size and you could probably benefit from a morning job here.  We came across a lot of joggers especially on the paths away from the pond area.

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They have a bunch of chairs surrounding The Serpentine, all in pale green.  Beware if you were thinking of taking a rest there – you must pay to sit.  They do have benches spread out around the park.  Swans, canards and geese swim gleefully in The Serpentine and we came across a whole cluster of swans near the banks.  We even caught a mischievous goose bite another’s tail and held on as the other frantically flapped around.  The other geese quickly put an end to it with their scolding.  We had quite the laugh following this.

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We eventually wandered back to Oxford Street to do some of the shopping at Selfridges before heading to Harrods.  On our way, I found this graffiti by Banksy.  It was a little ways off from Hanover Street so I found the location to be quite a statement.

Falling Shopper

Both Selfridges and Harrods were packed with tourists so I suppose we got the full experience.  Harrods wasn’t as bad as some of the posts online make it seem.  It is much larger than Selfridges and had a larger selection.  If I were to nitpick, I would say I was underwhelmed by their gift and souvenir section – unless you are itching for a Harrods branded pencil case.  Both department stores have a section dedicated to handling tax refunds for purchases made in the store so if you are a non-EU resident and spent over 50 GBP, make sure to stop by!

Later in the evening, the promised storm arrived and we made a dash for the nearest subway station.  As we were exhausted from our shopping, we dropped by Pret-A-Manger close to our station for some soup and sandwiches.  Earlier in the day we bought a salad from this establishment and we quite liked it.  It was a nice place to pick up some fast food.  It continued to rain overnight so we were thankful it did not rain during the day.

Exploring Europe (Part I): London, United Kingdom (Day 2)

We woke up early the next day so we could get a head start!  Cafe Nero was nearby so we made a brief stop to get something to eat – cake for breakfast! I had an almond tart with a capuccino.  A few other tourists decided to stop by the cafe so I did not feel out of place when I had to pull out our map.
Almond Cake

Capuccino

 

Our first stop was Tower Bridge.  It was a bit humid but the sun was out so I can’t complain.  We were gifted with a sight of the Tower of London on our way to the bridge.  As we made our way towards the bridge, we posed for a few pictures while admiring the surroundings on Thames.  I even managed to get a decent look at the HMS Belfast!

HMS Belfast

The bridge was closed when we arrived due to a fire alarm early in the morning; however, the line wasn’t long and we didn’t have to wait much before the bridge reopened.  Up on the bridge, we got a good view of both sides of the Thames River.  Along each side there were information cards about different bridges around the world and a timeline highlighting events ranging from the world cup to The Beatles.  The best part of the tour was the visit to the engine room near the end – the water pump was my favourite.  
Tower Bridge
We headed towards Borough Market for lunch.  I thought the market would be a lot more crowded but I suspect we visited too early – or perhaps on an off day?  There were only a few stalls open so I was a little let down.  I was expecting a bustling market where one would have to elbow and push their way through.  We did our groceries here!  The oranges here are very good.  I had originally set my heart on trying the fish and chips but got distracted by an ever-growing line at a place called Applebee’s across the street.  We decided to line up and try the wrap that everyone was getting.  We both walked away with a mix of cajun chicken and prawn!  I found the wrap to be a little over-seasoned but do not note I tend to like my food a bit blander than the average person.  We picked up some fresh fruit juice at another stall before walking over to Tate Modern.


Borough Market

Applebee's

A short walk later and we were at Tate Modern.  I thought it was rather nice to be in a museum with a smaller crowd.  Regretably, we wandered around only for a short while.  My favourite floor must have been the dream and poetry floor – I believe it is the second level.  As a fan of Dali and Picasso, I was extremely excited when I saw their artwork – in the same room too!  I won’t post any pictures of art in the museum as the pictures do not do any of them justice.  We also visited the floor with the theme of energy which had a lot of interesting sculptures.  I wish I could have spent a few more hours at this museum and will visit again given the chance.

Exploring Europe (Part I): London, United Kingdom (Day 1)

It has been close to a year since I have graduated from university and six months since I started to plan my trip to London and Paris.  I had given a lot of thought as to where I wanted to go on my first trip to Europe.  To be honest, London and Paris were not at the top of my list of cities to visit.  It wasn’t that London and Paris were not interesting, but I had always dreamed of visiting Germany, Italy, and Spain for my post-graduation trip.  I chose London and Paris after reading some travel blogs on the internet and discussing the topic with my parents – they have both backpacked through Europe.  The more I looked into London and Paris, the more I found them to be charming places.  After a little contemplation, I settled on heading to London first.

I was a little nervous when we first landed but it was dispelled rather quickly after hopping onto our train towards Paddington station.  The subway system was extremely similar to Canada and Hong Kong so we got to our hotel without a hitch.  The signage underground is amazing.  We came across this amusing warning sign at Russell Square Station while waiting for the lift.

175 steps

175 steps

After arriving at our hotel, we then set out for the British Museum.  On our way, I came across the red telephone booths and just had to take a picture.  There were so many telephone booths across London!

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Red Telephone Booth

The British Museum had amassed quite a lot of visitors that afternoon.  We ate a quick lunch outside while enjoying the view.  I had been itching to visit the reading room at this museum and was disappointed when the information desk gently broke the news that the library had not been open to the public for over six years ago.  It was a place my parents had spoken fondly of and also a place where many great minds had once studied so I was disappointed.  We didn’t manage to see everything though but I thought the lion hunts were very interesting.  If we stayed in London for an extra day, I might have come back to see the rest of the museum.  They offer free admission although it would be a nice to give a donation to help the museum out.

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British Museum

I had made a reservation at The Wolseley after reading the numerous positive reviews of the restaurant.  We headed back to the hotel to change before heading off to dinner.  I had the plat du jour, roast rib of beef and yorkshire pudding, while my mother had the rib eye steak.  The interior of the restaurant was very nice.  The place was humming with quiet conversation so the atmosphere was rather comfortable.  We shared a vanilla millefeuille before retiring for the night.  Overall, the food was decent although you could probably find the same in a better price bracket.

roast rib of beef and yorkshire pudding

vanilla millefeuille

 

Blog Update

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to leave a post here about my lack of updates this year.  Most likely, I will not be updating this blog until the end of December.  I am currently studying for a big exam in December while working full time so I do not have much time to write or try out fun recipes during the weekends.

I will try to post something before the end of the year – no guarantees though.

Thanks! 🙂