London was my favorite city in the entire 2-week Europe trip. Where do I start? How can I do my beloved London justice? I will try my best.
We arrived late at night and made our way to our Airbnb, then headed out early next morning. Let’s start with the first thing we see in the London tube:
My sister and I chuckled quite awhile at this ad. Ads in London are highly entertaining. Must be part of the British charm.
I made the last-minute decision to visit the British Library on our way to the Tower of London. This ultimately led to sacrificing visiting the Camden Town Market, or Hampstead Heath, but it was so worth it. I’ll leave the others for next time.
Click here for my feature of the British Library. I highly recommend stopping by if you have time, are a culture buff, or a bookworm. Many impressive, awe-inspiring historical works are on display here, like original handwritten notes of Leonardo da Vinci, Darwin, and Beethoven.
Tower of London
This famous tourist attraction is famous for a reason. The site of many executions, imprisonments, and torture, the Tower of London carries fascinating stories from London’s past.
We bought tickets from the Trader’s Gate gift shop located down the steps from the Tower Hill tube stop (I used Google Maps) as Rick Steves had said it would be cheaper. He was right – you can skip a mandatory donation by purchasing tickets here. After that we entered the Tower of London and waited in a little grassy courtyard for the Beefeater’s Tour (departs every 30 minutes, included with admission.)
The Beefeater Tour is organized by the Beefeaters, aka. guards of the tower. Traditionally, Beefeaters guard the Tower and get free lodging and a job in exchange. Today they guard the tower, organize tours, and get roomy 3 bed 2 bath homes – a luxury in London! Our tour guide explained these positions are quite in demand, and you must have been in the military, won an award, and met a few other requirements before you can apply for a position.
The Beefeater Tours are extremely entertaining – a wonderful mix of gory stories and humor. You also get a ton of insight, and the guide takes you inside the chapel at the end of the tour.
A more detailed post about the Tower of London is to come.
Then it was off to the British Museum we went. There we marvelled over the Rosetta Stone – the key to the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphs, other Egyptian antiquities, Japanese art, and as much of the museum’s amazing collection that we could cram in before closing time.
I adored the Museum Store and dropped a few pounds on the little pocket Encyclopedia of British History book you see on the second shelf on the left!
There’s SO much to cover here, so I’ll leave the other pictures for a separate post!
Teased by the Harry Potter play
I got my hopes up when I saw this building.
I thought: “OMG maybe they’re not sold out!” I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Obviously they were. Naturally. I was well aware that the Harry Potter plays sold out in minutes and you had to buy tickets way beforehand. Thought I’d try. Oh well, next time!!
We wandered into Chinatown completely by accident. While the first half of our Europe trip was meticulously planned by my sister, I chose to take the wing-it, spontaneity-is-more-enjoyable approach when planning the UK portion. After dropping by a three store to buy a SIM card for my sister, we came upon this Chinatown gate:
And then this sign caught our eye:
Us: “Woah! Chilli crab in London!!”
It’s a quintessential Singaporean delicacy, so we were surprised to find it in the UK. I hadn’t been back to Singapore in 4 years, so naturally I was very tempted to sink a pretty sum for this dish. But we didn’t.
Instead, we settled for dinner at one of the many buffet places in Chinatown. So! Many! Buffets! And they were cheap compared to London prices. We chose to do takeaway as it was cheaper, and more than enough food.
Yes, it was super Asian of us to eat at a chinese buffet in London. Asians gotta Asian. After our stint in Italy/Switzerland/Paris we kind of missed Asian food. 😀
Queen’s Street? Les Miserables!
Yup, stumbled upon this one as well.
We got lucky and happened upon the Les Miserables theater on our way to the Westminister Bridge.
Me: Hey, want to watch a musical??
Sister: (Surprised) Sure if you buy the tickets.
Me: We’re watching a musical!!
There were no more low-cost tickets that night, so we bought tickets for the following night instead. Excited!! It turned out to be amazing, of course. The acting, singing, music, and sets were impeccable. Truly a world-class performance.
Our Day Tours London guide, Rosie, explained that every musical gets an annual budget, and since the famous musicals like Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and CATS were already so established, they used their budgets to further _ their sets, props, costumes, etc, hence making it even better!
Next on my list: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child***, Phantom of the Opera and CATS.
Leicester Square/ Quaint London Pubs
We passed quaint London buildings and pubs and shops and this one really caught my eye:
And that name! Waxy’s Little Sister! What does that mean? Is there another pub named Waxy somewhere in London, and this is his little sister? I don’t know, but I love it!
We had no idea our route was going to take us through the famous Trafalgar Square. On hindsight, I probably could’ve planned this day better, but everything worked out.
We lingered for a bit and enjoyed a street musicians/rock band, which was really quite good!
Westminster Bridge/ Big Ben/ River Thames
We arrived at our destination! We’d been hoping to catch the sunset but no matter. Big Ben looked glorious lit in colorful lighting.
There was also a memorial.
End of Day
By now it was late late late, so we made our way home, where our darling Airbnb host has done our laundry for us (she literally washed them with like colors and hung them up to dry), and we got some much-needed rest before another big day in London.
I’ve truly never felt so much at ease in a European city. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Singapore, and Singapore is pretty much an Asian London. Singapore students flock to the UK to further their studies (lucky ducks), and British influence is everywhere. Also, I’m an English Literature graduate. I think that automatically qualifies me as an Anglophile.
I felt quite at home in London, and I can’t wait to go back.
Next, I will review Day Tours London and its amazing Stonehenge and Bath tour!