It had only been three weeks since I left Singapore but that didn’t stop me from craving dim sum. To satisfy my craving, Gladys and I headed to Chinatown to meet up with her friend Michelle at Harbor City for lunch. Pretty decent food there and much better than dim sum I had in San Francisco. Three cheers for Cantonese chefs!
After lunch, we walked along Shaftesbury Avenue towards Piccadilly and then I honestly cannot remember what we did for the rest of that day. I think we had dinner at Belgo, a Belgian pub near Covent Garden that has a Beat the Clock special. You pay according to the time you enter, between 5 and 6.30pm, and the food is really good there. Either that or we had fish and chips at Rock and Sole Plaice on Endell Street.
Trafalgar Square and Les Miserables
The next day however was pretty eventful. We made our way to Leicester Square and bought tickets for Les Miserables. It was a chilly morning and we took refuge at Pret and had breakfast there. I prefer the hot chocolate there to Paul’s because it is not too thick. And the jalapeno chicken wrap from Pret is fantastic. We were waiting to meet up with my friends, Dylan and Nat, and they eventually made it to Leicester Square and were in the TKTS line when we found them.
Next up was a walk to Trafalgar Square and into the National Gallery for a quick walk-through. I think I’m now officially immune to art galleries, museums and such. The reason for that being I get overwhelmed and my head goes into a spin. I find it’s also hard to truly appreciate the exhibits unless you have a sufficient knowledge of art history, or history in general, in order to understand the context of the exhibit. And that doesn’t really tickle my fancy, to be honest.
That evening, the four of us had dinner at Belgo at Covent Garden. Some of the must-tries there are the Mussels and Frites of course, the Wild Mushroom Bouchee and the Beef Carbonnade. It’s a great idea to have an early dinner here. Like I mentioned earlier, they have a Beat the Clock special from 5 to 6.30pm, which is perfect if you are heading to a musical after. Gladys and I soon split from Dylan and Nat. We were going to watch Les Miserables and they were off to another show. If you only have time to catch one musical in London and you have never watched Les Miserables, I highly recommend it. The music is excellent, the story is even better and you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat and be enthralled, while laughing or crying along with the actors.
The next morning, Gladys and I were having breakfast at Paul’s while waiting for Yuanting and Kenny to arrive from San Francisco. They arrived at the Gloucester tube station just as we ordered our brekkie so I went to get them and walked with them to the hostel.
Gladys had the afternoon to walk around before getting to the airport in the evening. And it was her birthday on the following day so she chose to celebrate it over duck rice at Four Season’s in Chinatown. That done, the afternoon included braving the drizzle and winds at Trafalgar Square and the Westminster area.
We contemplated checking out 10 Downing Street and also perhaps getting to Oxford Street for a bit of shopping. Eventually though we headed back to the hostel so Gladys could get ready to leave for the airport. I accompanied her to the airport and said our goodbyes while she was at the tax rebate queue and went back to Gloucester for dinner with Yuanting and Kenny at Nando’s.
After hearing the rave reviews I had given to Borough Market, Yuanting and Kenny decided to pay it a visit and of course, I was going to join them. I was mildly disappointed though because there were less shops on a weekday and the atmosphere just wasn’t the same as on a Saturday but the main shops were there nonetheless.
The three of us then made our way along the south bank of the river towards Tower Bridge and the Tower of London but by the time we got to the Tower of London, it was not far from the last entrance so we thought why rush it and decided to come back the next day and not go to Buckingham Palace as originally planned.
The Tower of London
May 29th was the day Yuanting and Kenny were flying back to Singapore and I would be alone in London for one night before leaving for Madrid the following day. We had originally decided to do Buckingham Palace but had to choose between that or Tower of London and it was the latter that won.
There were little tents set up in the lawn and guides dressed in medieval costumes like there was a fair going on. It was entertaining to watch them re-enact and talk about the old days but we were really there to join the tour given by the yeomen who protect the tower.
So the funny thing is everyone on the little tour seemed more interested in Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn than anything else. I guess people always love a little scandal. Plus their story is currently making the rounds in movies and TV shows (The Other Boleyn Sister and The Tudors, etc).
I was more fascinated by the prospect of getting to see the crown jewels. Before that though, was an explanation of the ravens that live in the courtyard and how legend has it that if the ravens leave, the monarchy will tumble. I wonder how the Queen really feels about that. Well, if I was a raven and I was getting fed chunks of meat from the royal kitchen, of course I wouldn’t leave.
Inside the White Tower, we got to see an exhibition about Henry VIII and his costumes, battle gear and all that, and even the royal latrine. And in the tower that houses the crown jewels, we were treated to footage of the jewels being used during ceremonies. Oh, of course we got to see the jewels too. And we were truly awestruck by the splendor and beauty of those jewels. No photos were allowed though. But the size of some of those diamonds… Wow.
OK, so for me, the Tower of London was one of the city’s top highlights. Incredible and definitely a must-do in London. That afternoon, we squeezed in a spot of shopping at Oxford Circus before Kenny and Yuanting packed up and left for the airport. I had been worrying about my suitcase all week because I wanted to leave it in London while I brought my backpack with me to Madrid. It finally worked out – I left it in the hostel and managed to find a kind couple (cousin’s friend’s in-laws) to pick it up and store it in their house for three months.
I spent the night at an airport hotel at London Gatwick, from where I would catch my flight to Madrid in the morning.