London Travels: Grand Museums & Friends

The past couple of days were still tumultuous, but have been really fun.

On Tuesday during the daytime, things did not go according to plan… to say the least. I won’t go into detail, but at least the evening made up for it. I got to meet my friend Matt, who lives in the UK and who I’ve known for 3.5 years now. The blogging community back in the day blessed me with a few long-standing good friends, and he was one of them. So it was really cool to meet up in person.

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My friend Matt and I!

We met up at Westfield, the nearby sprawling complex of a mall. We walked around for ages, chatting and deciding where to eat. I was really craving Asian food after days of burgers and pizzas, so finally we settled for Penang.

They had a good selection of Malaysian appies and entrees for decent prices, but drinks were on the steeper side. I ordered the Char Kway Teow, which cost £8.25, and a Banana smoothie that was nearly £4.00.

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I don’t have a photo of my actual meal, but the drink was presented very nicely!

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Derp friends

Afterwards, we walked all around Westfield again, buying candy from Waitrose, laughing at silly cards at Paperchase, and (obviously) strutting our stuff at H&M.

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I bought this skirt that I ended up wearing all of the next day

We had a lot of fun and it was really cool to have someone to hang out with halfway across the world. We spoke as if no time had passed at all. It was especially cool because he had a pretty strong British accent, but sounded just like me the moment he spoke Cantonese. Wish I could have that.

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Thanks for hanging with me, Matt! 🙂

Observation #4 (may be a bit TMI): London toilets are really, really difficult to flush for some reason. Takes 3-4 tries at times. And my brother tells me that men’s urinals all do not have flushing capabilities, which makes the men’s room always reek.

The next day, my family and I headed to the world-famous British Museum. It was really beautiful, but didn’t feel much like a museum because it was unusually packed with people. PACKED. It felt like a shopping mall on Boxing Day. Why?

Because admission was free.

I don’t really understand why it’s free when they could charge a small price and solve the evident problem of overcrowding, while still making a profit. This seems to be the case with most museums here in London.

But despite that, it was a very cultured day. I got to see the Rosetta Stone and Cleopatra’s mummy in real life. They had an excellent Egypt exhibit, and the architecture of the building was breathtaking.

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Cleopatra’s mummy

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The Rosetta Stone!

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For lunch, I got to have Korean food. Real, authentic Korean food in London. As I said before, I was really sick of Western food (I live off of Asian food and I miss it every time I leave Vancouver) so I was overjoyed. I ordered a Bibimbap with sides of Kimchi, Bean Sprouts, and Miso Soup, and it was the most delicious thing I ever had.

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And for dinner, we ate a cozy restaurant near our hotel for the second time, called Giraffe. I had the Parmesan Chicken Schnitzel Kiev, which was Parmesan crumbed chicken breast with garlic and herb butter, served with mash, a side salad, and roasted lemon.

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And to top it off, I got my photo with an iconic red telephone booth!

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(I should really get another that is less blurry before I leave.)

And that concludes my adventures for now! I can really only post two days at a time, or it’ll be too much to read in one sitting. More to come soon!

London Travels: Beginnings

I don’t usually blog about my personal life, but I felt it would be a good thing for me to write about my first time traveling in Europe. So far, it’s been quite tumultuous and I thought I’d share my experiences and thoughts with the world.

So a lot of things have been happening lately: I finished up my summer internship at Energy Aware, I’ve started to get paid for my writing (!!!), and currently I’m blogging from my hotel in London. LONDON. Life is a little crazy.

I departed on August 17th, and I first flew to Toronto, rushed really hard to catch my connecting flight to London, which ended up being delayed anyways. Weary and exhausted having already traveled a good 13-14 hours, my family and I were eager to grab our belongings and head to the hotel to crash upon landing in London.

HOWEVER, Air Canada most disappointingly lost my luggage. I have never had my luggage lost in transit before, and I was dismayed that I couldn’t have my belongings when I needed them most. They told us they’d most likely ship it within the day, so we begrudgingly headed to the hotel.

Observation #1: Everything in London is REALLY EXPENSIVE.

Proof: A burger and fries cost 18 pounds, which is around $30 CAD. What. Also, my cab fare from the airport to the hotel cost 55 pounds +tax, which equals $91 CAD. That is mind-blowingly expensive. That’s more than a day’s work at my part time job…

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The cabs here look so old-school, I love it.

Observation #2: Drivers drive on the right side (so the passenger side in North America), and they keep to the left lane instead of the right (which you can see in the photo below). Reminds me immensely of Hong Kong, which would make sense since HK was a British Colony.

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When we arrived at the hotel, it was around 10:30am, and we were told that we wouldn’t be able to get a room until 2:30pm. We were thoroughly exhausted almost to the point of delusion and we were not pleased… we basically stayed up all night until 8am in Vancouver time. Didn’t sleep for a full 24 hours.

I hadn’t pulled an all-nighter since 11th grade and needless to say, the sleepiness combined with the exhaustion from traveling, and annoyance from losing my luggage really turned things sour. We struggled to keep it together until 2:30, where then we passed out for 5 hours.

Later that night, we called it an night at 11pm, but it sort of backfired as it resulted in my brother and I waking up at 4am and not being able to go back to sleep. Since the luggage did NOT arrive within the day, I was forced to wear the clothes I had spent the entire day before traveling in, I had no toiletries at all, and I couldn’t even borrow anything from my mother as only the men in the family received the luggage. BUT, despite everything, after sleeping my mood improved and I felt better, especially after I came downstairs to this:

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This, my friends, is a gourmet English breakfast buffet that I’ll get to enjoy every single morning for the next 9 days. How can one not cheer up upon discovering this? I’ve never seen such a full-service hotel breakfast before. Everything was so posh and fancy, I loved it.

We decided to go to the Kensington Palace for the day (today), and took public transit to get there. The public transit system is so much better here in London! We purchased our Oyster cards, depicted below, and I was excited because I love the Octopus cards in HK.

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Kensington Palace is the home of Will and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The surrounding park was enormous, and really beautiful.

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And of course the inside was gorgeous as well:

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We ended off our day with a trip to Westfield, which is the most gigantic mall I have ever seen in my life. Seriously. We got through maybe 1/5th and we were tired already. Full of posh, designer shops and hot new restaurants.

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Air Canada had told us that our luggage would be delivered by 1pm, but of course, it wasn’t. We waited till 6pm when FINALLY I spotted my luggage being rolled in and squealed in delight (no shame). It could have easily been the happiest moment of my trip thus far.

3rd and final observation of the day: Brits refer to the washroom as the “toilet”. It’s kind of awkward to say, “I’m going to the toilet!” in North America, but it’s very commonplace here. Also: “crisps” = chips, “chips” = fries, “macchiato” = a shot of espresso with a tiny drop of steamed milk, “cuppa” = cup of tea, “bollocks” (pretty self explanatory).