Thursday, June 5, 2014

Waxworks, 30,000 roses and a dollop of tartar sauce

Day 2 (Tues, 3 June 2014)

Due to jet lag, we were up bright and early. Luckily, it's summer and sunrise is 4.50am in London! So the sun was already up when woke. Kenneth and Andre went out to check out the area and get breakfast. King's Cross is truly a fabulously convenient area to stay in. Since it's a mega rail and underground station, it has so much to offer in terms of food, shops and connectivity.

This is the interior of the rail station. It's gorgeous..

One of the many little shops in rail station is the West Cornwall Pasty Co. If you don't know what a pasty is, it's a traditional English pastry that looks like a giant curry puff. It's usually filled with minced beef, potato and onions. The boys bought a few back to the hotel for breakfast - traditional, chicken and mushroom, and bacon and cheese. Each cost from £3.80 to £4.80 and they're HUGE (more than two times the size of an Old Chang Kee curry puff) so three can easily feed four of us for brekkie.

And they turned out to be pretty good! warm, very moist and flavourful. We enjoyed them a lot. It beats eating cold sandwiches.

After breakfast, we were ready to head to our first attraction! But first, a note on public transport. London was recently rated most expensive city in world and when I first saw the cost of taking the Tube, my eyes nearly popped out of my eye sockets. A single ticket in Zone 1 (central London) can cost £4.40! That's more than S$9, by the way. Multiply that by four and I was ready to hyperventilate. However, there are many ways of saving money on the Tube, if you do some homework. Eg. buying the Oyster card (equivalent of our EZ-link card) is definitely the way to go as that cuts the cost of each trip by half and there's an upper limit per day. Children above age 10 are trickier though as a Child Oyster card requires photo ID and a £10 admin fee so it's cheaper to buy them a one-day Travelcard. London transport can be complicated so do read up first and do your calculations. This is a great site I used for information. Also, I recommend checking the London transport website before travelling. Besides planned works which can see specific stations or lines closed, there are also last minute breakdowns and closures.

Here's another tip: The National Rail has a 2-for-1 promotion to get visitors to use the rail and you can save a ton of money with it. Basically, you buy rail tickets for the day and you only pay for two tickets to get entry for four to major attractions. I won't go into detail, you can read a very good explanation here.

Our first stop was the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street. We didn't pay to go in though, since we're not big Sherlock Holmes' fans. Just wanted to take a look at the shop.

There's also a Beatles store two houses away.

Around the corner from Baker Street was our main attraction of the morning was Madame Tussauds - the world's most famous waxwork museum. Here, we utilised our 2-for-1 coupon with our one-day Rail Travelcards and paid entry for only two adults. Our two kids got in free. That's a saving of more than £40!

Madame Tussauds is crowded, rather commercial but undeniably fun. One of those places you have to visit once in your life and hang out with the stars.

Even Danger Dan got in on the action! Here he is, way back into the past, hamming it up with King Henry VIII.

There's also a Marvel Super Heroes 4D ride which is relatively new.

Summer in London tends to be wet and it was drizzly when we left Madame Tussauds but thankfully, the skies cleared up by the time we'd walked to Regent Park. This is one of the national parks and to say it's gorgeous would be an understatement. We were greeted by lush greenery and the song of birds. It was picture perfect at every turn and Lesley-Anne went crazy with the camera.

Here's Andre attempting to walk backwards to take a selfie with the ducks. The ducks are not having any of that.

The highlight of Regent Park is Queen Mary's Gardens which contains more than 30,000 roses of 400 varieties. Since it had just drizzled, the rose were doused with a delicate blanket of raindrops. Breath-takingly romantic.


After our sojourn in the park, we strolled down Marylebone High Street, passing by Daunt Books.  I made it a point to stop here because of the beautiful pictures I'd seen of it online. Completed in 1912, this is an Edwardian bookstore with long oak galleries and skylights.

Then time for a late lunch! A little further down the road at Marylebone Lane was the Golden Hind, a fish and chip restaurant that celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014. When we entered the restaurant, who should welcome us and show us to our table but the owner himself, Mr Christou. A very warm and friendly chap, he was constantly coming to our table to see if we needed anything.

We ordered cod, haddock, fries and a side of mushy peas. The fish was extremely fresh with crisp batter and the portions were generous. I thought the fish was under seasoned but since there's salt, pepper and malt vinegar on the table, I guess they prefer to let the customers season the fish to their own liking. Mushy peas is one of Kenneth's favourite and he loved the ones here. 

Then it was back to the hotel for a rest. Only Andre seemed to have escaped the effects of jet lag but the rest of us were feeling pretty lethargic by 3pm. That's the great part about travelling free and easy - we plan our own time.

For dinner, we tried this Japanese fast food outlet at King's Cross station called Wasabi. We ordered a tempura rice bowl and a katsu noodle bowl. They're ginormous - twice the size of a regular bowl, so very affordable at about £5 each. The place was packed with people buying takeaway or having a quick meal after work.

A quick trip to M&S Foods (also at King's Cross station) scored us a large tub of plump and juicy strawberries for £3. They were very sweet. Wimbledon season - strawberries and champagne!

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