London Travels: Wimbledon, Ladurée, & Reflections

After flying for 10 hours and sleeping for 13, I’m back safe and sound in Canada! I thought I might take this time to blog about my last couple of days in beautiful London.

August 24: My mom is a big tennis fan, and so we paid a visit to Wimbledon as per her request. There was an outdoor tour of the park and a museum, and (of course) we opted for both. Most unfortunately for us, it was raining really hard, which soon turned into a full out thunderstorm. Our tour group was quite large, and everyone was soaked. One guy didn’t have an umbrella or raincoat and each time after we went outdoors, he would take his shirt off and wring it out. It was that bad.

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But despite the torrential rain, it was completely worth it because I got to visit the press interview room, where I got the chance to sit in the chairs where tennis greats such as Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, among others all sit to give their post-match interviews. We learned a lot of about the whole process at Wimbledon, from the checking in to after the match interview requirements to reimbursements to leaving.

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Fun fact: ALL players are required to present their I.D. at the front desk upon checking in. It doesn’t matter who you are, you must do so or you will not be permitted entry. The tour guide (who was a total champ and who I really liked) told us a story about how Federer was scrambling to find his I.D. upon getting to the front of the line and Andy Murray was behind him, laughing.

Afterwards, we dried off at the cafe with hot soup, and toured the museum.

The next day, we visited the London Museum. I haven’t got much to say about it, because at this point I was really sick of museums (my family is really big on them), but it was free like most others, and it was decently engaging even for a jaded ol’ soul like me.

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I found this cute tin at the gift shop. So it’s not just a stereotype after all 🙂

Afterwards, we left the museum around 4:15pm and I really, REALLY wanted to go to Ladurée, home of the world’s most famous macarons, but it closed at 5:00pm on Sundays. I had been yearning to the entire vacation and this was the day to do it, as the next day (and coincidentally our last day) was Bank Holiday in London, and I had no doubt the streets and tube would be packed full of people. More on that later.

We rushed and rushed, and Google maps took me through a much longer than necessary walking route, but I finally found it at Burlington Gardens.

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They were very pricey, at £1.70 each, or almost $3.00 CAD. I ended up buying a box of 8, but in retrospect that was probably a mistake because I only had 2 on the day of, 3 the day after, and the last 2 when I got home- which by then just weren’t as fresh and tasty as the ones I ate right away. A word of caution to anyone who plans to bring them home: they have a 3-day quality decay, so buy it on the last day(s) of your stay.

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It was a very tiny store, and according to Yelp, typically has a long wait time because you can fit max 3-4 people in the store at once. But since I went at almost closing, I didn’t have to wait at all.

The very last day, we visited the Science Museum, which is located very close to the famous Natural History Museum. This is probably the most engaging museum I’ve been to, containing 5 floors of interactive exhibits and displays (I like science a lot more than history), and a lovely sit-down restaurant called Deep Blue Café with a dark electric-blue ambiance and brightly-lit tables.

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For our last dinner in London, we went to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Westfield, or gbk. I was overjoyed because some of my friends had recommended this place to me. I ordered the Cheese & Bacon burger, along with a side of Skinny Fries to share.

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The burger is made with 100% Angus Beef and I had mine done medium-well. It was very rich and I could barely finish mine. And let’s just say, I won’t be sharing the skinny fries next time- they’re delicious!

On our way back to the hotel (and honestly throughout the day), we were stunned by the amount of shenanigans that occurred on Bank Holiday (Monday August 26). Every street corner was littered with glass alcohol bottles, wrappers, and other garbage, and the air reeked of cigarette smoke.

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This is what my neighbourhood (Kensington/Chelsea) normally looks like: now imagine it trashed.

People were loud, drunk, and barely clothed on the streets and on transit (I almost witnessed a fight on the tube when a drunk guy tried to steal another guy’s keys out of his jeans pocket).  The amount of litter: it looked like a tornado had ripped through the streets of London. It was so different from the idyllic, calm (well only in Kensington/Chelsea), pleasant London that I had gotten so accustomed to. My brother and I both said, “Stop! This is ruining our image of London!”

It went on all throughout the day and into the night, the air filled with sounds of sirens and shouting. As we returned to the hotel after a long day, my brother and I were stopped by a large security guard at the door, asking us whether we lived there. After we answered both yes and with our room number, he continued to press us further. I was surprised because a) clearly I am a tourist- I have a North American accent, b) my face doesn’t exactly look intimidating, I wasn’t under the influence of anything, and I was wearing proper clothing, c) I am not used to security not believing me. After he saw our parents walk in through the revolving door, he gave us a sheepish smile and let us go.

Our guess was that Hilton hired extra security on that day in case people came in to cause trouble, use the restroom extensively, etc. It was eye-opening to see another side of London, but by the next day, people had to go to work and things were restored to normal.

We woke up at 6am the next morning, ate our last English breakfast at the hotel, and left for the airport.

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My favourite thing about my trip was visiting the River Thames/Westminster Bridge/Big Ben. It was just so breathtakingly beautiful, despite the hordes of people, peddlers, and birds. And developing an unhealthy obsession with red telephone boxes and red double-decker buses.

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London, you were a really good time. I can’t imagine living here for the long-term as I’d miss delicious Asian food, quality tap water, and driving on the right side too much, but I am most definitely in love with you and would like to return someday.

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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!