Friday, June 6, 2014

From markets to musicals

Day 3 (Wed, 4 June 2014)

After a quick breakfast in our hotel room, we set out for the British Library, which is just down the street from King's Cross station. Some may wonder why we're making a stop here as it's not a common tourist attraction.

What many don't know is that the British Library is a treasure chest for bibliophiles. The Sir John Ritblat Gallery has a FREE exhibition of rare books and manuscripts. Some of the manuscripts we saw included Beowulf, a Gutenberg Bible, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Jane Austen's The History of England, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and a room devoted solely to the Magna Carta.

It was fascinating to see some of the original manuscripts. Alice's Adventures Under Ground was especially interesting - it was beautifully handwritten and illustrated. As a Beatles fan, it was also interesting to see the lyrics to Paul Cartney's Yesterday scrawled on a notebook.

Photographs are not allowed in the gallery though so we just took pictures of other sections of the library.

I think that's how Andre feels most of the time when made to read a book, lol.

Next, we headed to Borough Market, one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. It became a very fashionable place after British chefs, including Jamie Oliver raved about it. It was also the set for some famous movies, eg. Bridget Jones' Diary and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

This place truly lives up to its hype. We've been to many food markets, especially in Australia, and none of them can match this one. We're bombarded by vibrant hues at every turn, and the food all looked incredibly fresh and smelled wonderful. We tried all kinds of samples - cheese, sausages, paella, pasta, bread with olive oil, fig cakes, cookies.

Here's a sample of Lesley-Anne's photos at Borough Market. I had a hard time picking!

We bought some tortelloni pumpkin chestnut pasta (served hot, from shop pictured above), a belly pork sandwich, comte cheese and sat down to have a bite. There are some seats and tables provided in the market but it gets pretty crowded by lunch time. The pasta was incredibly fresh and tasty, and the pork in the sandwich came with the crisp crackling. If you love roast pork, you'll like this!

We also bought a couple of peaches for £1 which turned out to be uber sweet. Andre said it tasted like the can variety.

Our plan was to walk to Shakespeare's Globe after Borough Market. Unfortunately when we reached there, we were told the tours had stopped for the day as there was a performance that afternoon. So we changed plans and decided to take the Tube to the Tower of London instead.

Founded by William the Conqueror in 1066, this is one of the world's most famous fortresses built on bank of Thames. At various times in history, served as a royal residence, a prison, an armoury, treasury. Home to Crown Jewels since Henry III. Again, we used the 2-for-1 coupons with our rail cards and paid entry only for two adults.

This is where the crown jewels are kept. If you watched the comedy Johnny English, starring Rowan Atkinson, this is where he supposedly lost the Queen's jewels.

We also walked up the White Tower which is where the armoury is kept.

Outside, we got a fantastic view of Tower Bridge and the River Thames.

After that historical excursion, we went back to the hotel for a short rest before coming out again for a much anticipated show - Les Miserables! Well, for our kids at least. The thing is, Kenneth and I had already seen Les Miz twice, so we just bought two tickets for our kids.

It's difficult to find discounted tickets for Les Miz since it's still immensely popular, but we found a site where you get a free two-course dinner with a top price ticket. Pretty good deal.

Dinner at Leon de Bruxelles, a Belgian restaurant specialising in mussels.

There were hits and misses. We didn't try the mussels but the calamari was good.

So was the Fleming beef stew - very tasty and tender. The risotto was nothing spectacular and the creme brulee top was burnt. Although I have to give them props for service because they served us two creme brulees instead of one, for serving dessert slightly late.

We dropped Lesley-Anne and Andre to Queen's Theatre, and came back to the hotel for a rest. When Kenneth returned to pick the kids up after the show, they were all starry-eyed. Lesley-Anne declared it the best musical ever. I've seen many musicals and I have to agree. There's just no musical that has as good a story with depth of character and plot. Even though the movie version was good, it still can't hold a candle to the musical. I guess there a reason why it's the longest running musical in the world. If you ever have a chance, you have to catch it before it ends.


NYMacMom w 3 said... no longer a kid...he's suddenly grown to be a young lad! My goodness! I looove London, love love love, my mom gors there fr 3mos at a time (we have family there) but I want to go back there sans toddler...LOL! Have fun fun fun! xo

monlim said...

Sarah: Yeah, Andre is growing lots physically! We love London too, even though it's an expensive city. So many iconic places and the people are nicer this time than I remembered :)

Rachel Tan said...

Was Borough market unbearably crowded? That's on my to-visit list :p. Decided to skip the musicals until the kids are older and able to appreciate them.

monlim said...

You MUST go to Borough market! It gets more crowded during lunch time but not uncomfortably so. If we could, we would have made a return visit. That's how much we loved it!

Rachel Tan said...

I'm gonna keep tempting you to make another trip to London......muahahahahahhaha

monlim said...

Lol, not gonna work! We used up our holiday budget liao!

Rachel Tan said...

Tempt Attempt 1 - Oh Monica, there is so much more to see in and around London. There's Windsor Castle, and Royal Hampton Court Palace, and the beautiful and historic city of Cambridge. Within London, the Imperial War Museum (isn't Andre a history buff? I thought all boys like WW) reopens in Jul 2014.

What's more, Nespresso pods are cheaper.

Ladeedee :)

monlim said...

Hahaha, you're citing all the wrong things :P I think I've seen enough of palaces and museums for a bit, And Nespresso pods are not cheaper if you have to pay airfare to get them!