So I finally made my way to that part of the world after 26 years. The journey there seemed like forever; travel time itself was 29 hours from Sydney and it took another 6 hours before i could settle in to Portsmouth (where i spent a week). I managed to get a business class upgrade on the flight from Dubai to London (i flew Emirates) and my gosh, the liberation my knees felt when i had so much leg room. And the flat bed, oh the flat bed! Complete with an extra layer of mattress and the fluffiest airplane pillow i have ever encountered. I was constantly being fed until i couldn’t even finish my main meal and had to pass up on dessert.
Fastest 8 hour flight of my life.
Another business class perk was having an express exit card, which turned out to be a really good thing because the immigration checkpoint in Heathrow Airport is madness! The queue was so damn long that if i had been in that lane, i think i would’ve only gotten out at least 2 hours later. The immigration officers are pretty tough and bombard you with a lot of questions, and the baggage pickup area is just a mess of people. I was waiting for my bags but one bag never turned up. I got a little uneasy and overheard another passenger mention that her bags were still in Dubai so i started freaking out. I went to the assistance counter and after checking, the guy told me my bag has been scanned so in a hurry, i followed him. Apparently, someone took it off the conveyor belt and left it with a group of bags. I was so relieved and about to exit when i looked in my handbag and realized my passport and travel documents were missing. By now i was already flustered as heck. I hastily maneuvred my heavy bags, pushed past the crowds and THANK GOD i found my passport still on the assistance counter.
In short, the most stressful start to a holiday. Ever.
What We Did
Day 1: Shoreditch
We arrived London from Portsmouth late afternoon and had plans that night, so we wandered around Shoreditch to familiarize ourselves with the area. It was a Saturday and the bars and eateries were bustling with people; the whole suburb was alive and so hipster haha. The first thing on my list was to try Soft Serve Society which i have been seeing on my Instagram, though i should have just opted for a single cup rather than a sundae (the multiple toppings just overpowered the soft serve in my opinion).
We went back home to freshen up before looking for a place for dinner. We wanted to try a couple places recommended by a friend but being a Saturday night and with no reservations, the wait was far too long. So we decided to rock up to a restaurant across the road and after sitting down and being served, discovered the menu was really basic but a tad overpriced. We couldn’t bring ourselves to leave as we didn’t want to seem rude so we reluctantly ordered something. Probably would’ve been better off having pub food haha.
I haven’t seen Daniel since foundation/first year which was like 8 years ago(?!) and he invited us to join him and his friends in this interesting ping pong bar called Bounce (it’s funny how i’ve been meeting up my old friends in other cities recently). Think ping pong tables instead of the cliché pool tables, a DJ, and black lights that make everything else glow. And even though i was only observing the ping pong matches, i still ended up losing when we had a quick few drinking games at the end lol. We went to a second location for another round of drinks and catching up and ended up only going home around 2am (i haven’t been out this late in a very, very long time haha #toooldforthis).
We were still out when we found out about the London Bridge attack, and it felt a little unreal. Thank goodness though that we weren’t around the area, but it is a shame that Europe has had to endure such horrific incidents time and time again.
Day 2: Shoreditch, Westminster, Knightsbridge & Soho
I love morning/weekend markets and one of the reasons i chose to stay in Shoreditch was because of all the different markets in the area. We began the day by playing romantics at the Columbia Road Flower Market, followed by making our tummies rumble at the Brick Lane Market and then admiring the handmade items at the Old Spitalfields Market. There were a few hidden markets along the way – some vintage market underground, a hall of food vendors serving different cuisines – which made the adventure all the more charming.
We caught the train to Buckingham Palace, getting off at Green Park station and cutting through the park. Unfortunately, the palace was being guarded by armed forces instead of the iconic footguards in red that we were expecting to see. We took a couple of photos then walked to Knightsbridge for window shopping and a little retail therapy. I was so tempted to get the pastries in the food section of Harrods, but i was already a blob during that trip so i convinced myself to walk away. Now i’m wishing that i could have at least a bite out of that cronut.
The boyf brought me to Soho next, where we spent a considerable amount of time inside the Lego store, attempting to build something out of the blocks provided. Needless to say, i failed miserably while the boyf succeeded in making a spaceship (i think it must be some engineering DNA cause my brother was really good in making choppers, trucks and spaceships without a manual when we were young).
Westminster SW1A 1AA
Day 3: Day Trip to Paris
We were catching the 8am Eurostar to Paris so we were out of the house by 5am. We got back around 10pm and the walk home felt slightly uncomfortable as the weekend crowds were gone and there seemed to be more shady people around. While walking back, these two older men were walking behind us and i overheard them referring to us and saying things like, “They’re not even homeless. Something something my parole officer something something”. No shit i was freaking out when i heard that and started speed walking. Thankfully nothing happened and we got home safe, devouring our macarons and watching a movie before bed.
Day 4: Soho
It was pouring like crazy that morning, but luckily it let up by noon. We were both flying out at around 10pm so after checking-out, we stored our luggages at Paddington station and went back to Soho. I was planning to get a new strap for my watch and have it personalized in gold foil but sadly, they said i needed at least a day to get it done. So we just wandered around until we eventually ended up in Trafalgar Square. We were also looking for a place for lunch and stumbled across Itsu, an upscale Asian fast-food store but more on the healthier side. It was so good that we ended up sharing another bowl of noodles, even after we had one bowl each and gyoza dumplings. Yes, i have a monster appetite hurhur #sorrynotsorry.
Where We Stayed
We rented a room in Shoreditch and it was less than 10mins to the Shoreditch High St station. We mainly took the Underground from the Liverpool St station though, which was 15-20mins away as there are more direct lines to the city. The trains in England are pretty loud and being so close to the station, we could hear it running all the way until midnight. It made sleeping a bit harder for me since i’m a light sleeper, but the boyf slept right through haha.
The flat itself was pretty cozy and very well decorated. They even provided fresh bagels, an assortment of spreads, coffee and tea, along with the use of their kitchen and fridge. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet our hosts much as we were mostly out during our time there. They were rather thoughtful throughout our stay and even contacted me to see if we were okay when the London Bridge attack occurred.
How We Got Around
The London Underground is fairly easy, though we were stuck waiting once when they had a delay of some sort. The travel card in London is called an Oyster card, and getting around is easy with it – simply tap on/off and top up where necessary. There is also the Heathrow Express which runs between all terminals of the Heathrow Airport and Paddington station in 15mins, but keep in mind that the walk to the actual terminal might take a while. This isn’t covered by the Oyster card though and requires a separate ticket.