Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Last of London and Travel Tips



Phewf! I've finally arrived at my last London travel post, really didn't expect a 7 day-trip to span over 3 entries.

As promised, here go the last few days of my trip, as well as some final travel tips if you're planning a trip to London!



Marylebone High Street

After the bus and day tours, we decided that we had enough of looking at pretty stuff and that it was time to BUY some pretty stuff. So we took a cab to Marylebone High Street (it's pronounced kind of like mar-luh-bone) and just went window shopping and cafe hopping. 

Honestly, I'm not big on cafe hopping. It's expensive, and how much caffeine can one actually consume before crashing? However, it suddenly dawned on me that my mother is the biggest cafe hopper I know of, she's been cafe hopping even before cafe hopping was a thing. I'm not sure if she's ever admitted it but she loves cafes, and now that I think about it, I have memories of cafes of almost every country we've holidayed in. There was that cafe on the Blue Mountains in Sydney that supposedly served amazing but overpriced coffee, the one next to our hotel in Bangkok that made the  most scrumptious prawn toasts... I could go on. 

Cafes are a dime-a-dozen in London (though not as extreme as Seoul), and the city has a good mix of franchised cafes like Starbucks and Nero Coffee, and other independent cafes. The independent cafes are a tad more picturesque, so you may consider visiting one just for instagram's sake. They are both equally expensive, and since I don't drink coffee I usually got juice or tea at every one. I did get a really good lemon poppy seed muffin at Nero though!  

Marylebone High Street is near the famous Baker Street, and is home to lots of high-end local boutiques. Don't expect to get anything affordable here, that's not the point of this place. You can also find Diptyque and Aesop here, if you want to get any of their items. My mum and her friend enjoyed Marylebone Street - the weather was lovely and sunny, great for getting good shots. It's quite unlike the rest of London, less hustle and bustle and almost movie-like. Such a pleasant place, but skip it if you're looking for affordable food and shopping. 





Ripley's Believe it or Not

When we were driving into London from Heathrow on our first day, our cab passed Picadilly and I saw the Ripley's museum and begged my mum if we could go. I've always been a fan of bizarro shit - I like scaring myself by reading about human oddities, I've written fiction about psychos, I've written a whole research paper on why Edgar Allen Poe (who also writes fiction about psychos), is not a psycho. I really like things that are out of the ordinary. 

My mum obliged, and we walked to Picadilly Circus after dinner at Chinatown on one of our last days. The prices of tickets for Ripley's vary throughout the day, and are actually cheaper if you buy them online before hand. Because I only decided to go when we were already in London, we could only buy them at the door. Standard tickets cost about £25 per person (a dollar cheaper when you present your student card), but I remembered that the website had evening saver tickets going for £16.95 so we requested if that rate was available. The guy at the counter said he could work something out for us, so we bought tickets at evening saver prices in the end! Moral of the story: do your research and don't be afraid to ask.

Ripley's is a 4-story interactive museum with real and replicated artefacts of human and animal oddities. I had fun and it made me feel like a wide-eyed kid all over again. The coolest thing had to be Laserace, it's this room with green lasers zig-zagging across the room, and you have to get from the entrance to the exit without touching any of them. You're timed and the number of lasers you bump into is recorded and you can check it out at the end. My mum didn't want to go with me so I looked like a loser pretending to be Lara croft, writhing on the floor and contorting my body to avoid the lasers. Oh by the way, although you're alone in the laser room, everything's recorded so people queueing outside can see you in real time HAHA. The Singaporean family in front of me bumped into almost every laser... I'm not sure the parents were even trying?




Matilda

I love musicals so much, my whole family does. My parents used to wax lyrical about watching Phantom, Cats and Le Mis, and I suppose their love for musicals rubbed off on the bro and I. It was hard choosing a musical to watch in London because my mum and I had already watched so many musicals between us. We wanted to watch a musical in a theatre near our hotel, so it ended up being Matilda at cambridge theatre. I really wanted to watch Billy Elliot though SOBS. This former ballet girl likes watching ballet boys.

We bought our tickets online (and they ended up being pretty expensive), but you can queue up before 10am for tickets at the theatre itself and get them for £5 if you're aged 16-25. Only 16 tickets are available per day.

PRO TIP: If you're not so keen on queueing, get your tickets at discounted rates from ticket counters near the theatres or at Picadilly Circus. They have "HALF PRICED TICKETS" splashed on their storefront, so you really can't miss them. They look like those carts selling newspapers and snacks. As a rough guide, musical tickets in London are priced £20 and up. A musical that has just started showing will cost more (at the moment it's Miss Saigon), while a musical that's been showing for awhile costs less.

Matilda totally lived up to my expectations, and that's saying quite a lot. I adore Roald Dahl's works, both his adult and children's fiction. Matilda, along with The Twits, are two of my favourites. (as you can see I really enjoy stories where antagonists get their just desserts) The set was simple, yet modern and textured. Even though Matilda is a modern children's classic, the musical managed to surprise at some points. The choreography was creative and wonderfully executed. The singing was stellar, but that's to be expected from any west end production. I don't think you can ever get too old for Matilda.





Before I end the post, here's a summary of my travel tips and must-do activities for London!

Travel Tips

1. Before your trip: check the weather forecast before packing, and bring a variety of clothes. My paranoid dad told me my clothes were too thin for London weather, but when I got there everything I brought was far too warm. Pack based on your own tolerance to cold, despite parents' well-intentioned advice.

2. After you land: Get a SIM card from a handphone shop. Download the Citymapper app and plan your routes before hand. Check TFL for possible road blocks or strikes that may affect your route.

3. Get an oyster card at underground stations or ask a student in London to get one for you (students get concession) If you're not in a rush, take the bus. Less packed + more comfortable + more sights to see!

4. Bring your student card everywhere. Students get discounted entry to attractions and 10% discount at high street stores like Topshop and River Island, no matter which country you're from. Score.

5. Don't buy souvenirs in official shops at attractions. You can get far better prices and variety at the Camden markets.

6. Meet up with friends living in London! They'll bring you to cool (and cheap) places and you get to spend time with someone you miss, there's absolutely nothing to lose.

Must Dos

1. Primark. 'Nuff said.

2. Shopping at Oxford Street (especially Topshop)

3. Take a walk down south bank, then pose in front of Big Ben and the London Eye so that you can prove that you've been to London. Explore that whole area, Westminster Abbey is beautiful too.

4. Spend an entire day at Camden if you can afford the time, and if shopping's your thing.

5. Book a day trip out of London if you want to see more of England (stonehenge! castles!! oxford!!!)

6. Have a meal at one of London's markets.

7. If you're a Harry Potter / Sherlock Holmes / Doctor Who fan, visit filming sites and exhibitions.

And this marks the end of my 3-part London adventure! It's been wonderful blogging about it and reliving the experience while I was at it.

However, this humble blog of mine isn't just a travel blog, it's a beauty blog too! Keep a look out for my London makeup haul post that's coming up next ;)

London pt 1
London pt 2

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