It wasn’t my first trip to London. Last I visited, it was in December and bitterly cold, dark and wet. This time round, I was hoping for a warmer and brighter London. No such luck till our last day when we were about to fly home. London looks glorious when accompanied by blue skies, fluffy white clouds and sunlight.
Here are my thoughts about the city:
London’s weather is indeed unpredictable. You would have read by now that it was below 5 degrees when we were there. In fact, it snowed on the day we arrived! Glad I packed my winter wear and stayed suitably warm. I’m terrified of the cold! We stayed at Citadine Prestige Trafalgar Square which is a 5-minutes walk from Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross tube station. There’s a small 24-hour Tesco outlet close to the hotel so it makes it convenient to pick up bottled water, snacks, etc. Oh, and did I mention that the hotel has a WMF machine that churns out hot drinks at the lobby, FREE OF CHARGE? We gladly helped ourselves to a hot cup of chocolate (for me) and cappucino (for the boy) every morning as we headed out. A really nice touch by the hotel. It also offers its guests free wifi which is very much appreciated.
The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are situated right at Trafalgar Square. Thankfully, throughout our stay in London, we were not caught in any rain. Phew. It was just….freezing! My cheeks and fingers were frozen pretty much all the time whenever we were outdoors.
We stayed 5 nights in London and visited the British Museum and the Natural History Museum (NHM). Another good to visit museum, the Victoria & Albert Musem, is right beside NHM but we didn’t have time to visit it. Perhaps next time! I love that these world-class museums are free of charge! There were usually long queues to enter it on a daily basis (loads of school groups too) so the trick is to be early. We were at both places at opening time 🙂
The most fascinating bit of The British Museum for me was the section on Egyptian Mummies. There were sooooo many mummies on display! Tourists were happily snapping pictures of the dead but I found it a tad odd, hence these are the only pictures I have. Coincidentally, the ArtScience Museum in Singapore will be having a related exhibition titled Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb.
Tip: We are not huge museum fans so our plan for each day was to visit a museum in the morning after breakfast, have lunch, then spend the afternoon doing something else
like shopping. We are not the sort to spend the whole day at one museum although having said that, the museums are HUGE so if you’re into history and stuff, definitely devote an entire day to one museum at a time.
The Natural History Museum was on my to-do list because I really wanted to check out the Dinosaurs gallery. And we weren’t disappointed. The building itself was really beautiful so we took a million pictures while standing in line to enter. Reminded me of Harry Potter!
I was like a child in a candy store when I spotted the replica skeleton of the Diplodocus dinosaur, fondly nicknamed “Dippy” by the British. Apparently the longest land animal ever to live, we stood in awe and stared at this amazing creature. Oh and of course, snapped a million pictures.
Besides the museums, we did a spot of sightseeing too since it was the boy’s first visit to Europe. We took the Tube everywhere and many tourist spots were easily reachable by walking from the stations.
Tip: Purchase an Oyster card when you arrive into London. It works like our EZ-Link card. You pay £5 as deposit and top up any amount that you wish. This deposit is refundable when you return the card. Do note that not all Tube stations have escalators/lifts so we had to lug our luggages up/down stairs at some places.
Generally, we felt safe walking around London. There must have been more tourists than true-blue Londoners in London! It is an easy city to get around because everyone speaks English and the signs are in English. On weekends, we also noted that there were staff at the train ticket machines to help hapless tourists like us. Food places don’t open early so if you need food at 7am, Pret A Manger or McDonald’s is probably your best bet. Pret was at every corner and that was helpful. Also, you can easily get non-Western food (Chinese, Indian, etc) which was something I appreciated. Can’t eat fish and chips everyday, yo.
Tip: I was jet lagged when we arrived so was awake at 4am the first 2 days. I was soooo hungry and there was no food within reach! I wish I heeded my friends’ suggestions to bring along Nissin Laksa cup noodles. Do not underestimate the joy of slurping hot spicy noodles in the comfort your hotel room on a cold London morning. I was also hungry very easily, probably due to the massive amount of walking we did, as well as trying to keep warm, so it’s a good idea to carry some snacks to nibble on.
It’s been said to death but I will say it again. London’s weather is very unpredictable (and everyone talks about the weather) so always bring along a hat, scarf or an extra pullover/cardigan in your bag. A small umbrella is helpful too in case of random showers/snow. I was glad to have my faux-fur-lined leather boots and wool socks to keep my feet snug and warm. Very important!
I also bought a pair of ear muffs to keep my poor frozen ears warm. Also, bring along heat packs (you can get them from Winter Time). They were my lifesavers in freezing London/Paris as I kept one each in my coat pockets. Each pack lasts for a day so bring enough! Heattec from Uniqlo and thermal tights (from Winter Time) helped keep me warm too.
Tip: Ladies, bring along a good lip balm, body moisturiser and moisturising sheet masks (I forgot these!). The wind is strong/chilly and I had to use my night moisturiser in the day. My lips were also on the verge of cracking all the time. I used Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 which was a lifesaver. I even forced it on the boy. Hur hur. For my poor dry skin, I used Kiehl’s Creme de Corps which is very hydrating (and not oily) and perfect for dry skin. By the way, I’m not being paid to say nice things about Kiehl’s (I wish!).
That’s all for London! Food entries will come in another entry. Watch this space!