Day Trippin’ around London

You know, I can’t get enough of London. I love, love, LOVE that city, and I dream of living there for a year or two if I ever have the opportunity. This year marked my second trip to London, and every other moment, I would feel a catch in my throat, thinking how beautiful this city is. I didn’t have the chance to spend that much time in London though, because we actually took quite a number of day trips out to explore the surrounding regions! And there is really so much that UK offers. It is such an amazing country with such diversity, and I love every bit of it. Though I was torn between staying in London and simply breathing in the whole atmosphere and venturing out to check out the other places, I’m glad I managed to do a bit of both on this trip! Road trips are always such fun ^^ (especially when I’m not the one driving…haha). Random fact – UK has tonnes of roundabouts, it’s pretty insane. I think we went through consecutive 20 roundabouts while heading to one of the outer regions from London, and I was totally dizzy by the time that was over. But anyway, here’s a bit more about the trips that we took:

1. Cambridge

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dsc_0951_zpswpvfdlanThese two pictures show the drastic weather we had in the UK. Taken just an hour apart, the skies poured one moment, while the sun came out and blazed in another. We visited the majestic town of Cambridge, and had the chance to learn more about the university through one of their guided tours. This is probably one of the most traditional, classic English towns, where our guide spoke with the Queen’s English and did not have a hair out of place despite the constant drizzle during the length of our tour. It was an informative tour, and it was fascinating that the town was literally the entire university campus, with colleges scattered all around.

Distance from London: ~1.5 hours drive

2. Stratford-upon-Avon

dsc_1088_zpsogapszdeWe visited the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and fell in love with this quaint little town with its charming Tudor architecture. I really enjoyed these trips where we learned so  much about the rich history of these towns. Never quite thought I would be the kind to be excited about history, but I was! We went on a guided walking tour around the city as well, and learned a great deal about Shakespeare’s background.

There is no need to pre-book a spot for the tour, just turn up by the Swan fountain on Waterside, near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Tours run once on Mon-Fri at 11am and twice on Sat-Sun 11am & 2pm. Each tour is approximately 2hrs, and costs £6 per adult.

Distance from London: ~2hrs drive

3. The Cotswolds

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dsc_1205_zpsiwb5zsqkOne of my favourite day trips had to be our visit to the Cotswolds :’) It’s one of the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is an area of countryside in England that has been designated for conservation because of its significant landscape value. And there’s a good reason why it is. I fell in love with the Cotswolds. It was simply, naturally breathtaking. Comprising of several towns/areas – Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and more , we only made it to the former two due to time constraints. We only visited for half a day, after we went to Stratford-upon-Avon in the morning, but I highly recommend that you spend a whole day at the Cotswolds because each destination has its own unique, beautiful landscape.

4. Harry Potter Studio 

dsc_1319_zpsnlo7wjweYou’ve probably had enough of me gushing over UK’s gorgeous scenery by now, so here’s something different. Any Potter fans out there?! :D It is an absolute MUST to visit the Warner Bros Studio where you can immerse in the entire experience of the Making of Harry Potter. Thronged by enthusiastic kids around us, we streamed into the Great Hall as if it was our first day at Hogwarts. And we couldn’t help but feel awed by the magnificence of the place.

Crazy fans of the Harry Potter series as we are, we were thrilled to see every part of Hogwarts come alive around us as we explored the studio. It was then I realised the amount of sweat and blood that went into making the 8 Harry Potter movies. The number of crew behind the scenes, the time they put in and the attention to detail rendered me at a loss for words. It was an epic amount of fun (we spent close to 6 hours in there) and yet a very humbling experience. It was magical.

dsc_1382_zpshspnfj6dTickets are priced at £35 per adult. You can check out the opening hours and purchase tickets online at their website.

Duration from London: ~1hr drive

Have you visited any other places outside of London? Do share them with me in the comments below!

All photo credits to my sister <3

 

London’s Food Extravaganza

On our trip to London this year, we didn’t spend much time in the city. Half the time was spent travelling to the outer regions of England, and though I enjoyed that immensely, I really missed being in London too. It’s such a captivating city, with so many things to do, places to see, and of course, it’s a melting pot of cultures and cuisines that it’s a heaven for any foodie like me.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetWalking past any Ottolenghi bakery is a feast for the eyes, and I’m so glad that there was an outlet just walking distance from our Airbnb. It was a tiny outlet, with barely any seating space, but it was so convenient for us that we dropped by at least 3 times for breakfast throughout our trip. Asking me to choose from the plethora of pastries and treats on display was as if I had to choose a favourite child – it’s impossible!

img_7629_zps734djj4yWhile we were shopping on one of the days, it began pouring and we were so lucky that SAID was along the street, so we ducked in for some rich, velvety Italian hot chocolate. Ah, perfetto! I’ve really missed Italian hot chocolate, which always reminds me of melted 70% dark chocolate. It’s unparalleled around the world. The chocolate drizzle requires an additional top-up, and I’d say you can do without it, though it does look pretty, doesn’t it?

Address: 41 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 9QL
Open 10am-11pm (Mon-Sat), 11am-10pm (Sun & Holidays)

img_8003_zps1gwu7mocGuess what, though? Soon after we tried SAID, Dark Sugars stole my heart with their amazing version of hot chocolate. Walk into the store and you’ll be greeted by a massive variety of chocolates in all shapes and flavours. Sample some chocolate truffles, you might get an interesting one! But don’t forget to order their hot chocolate which comes with freshly shaved white, milk and dark chocolate on top. The chocolate is deliciously smooth and thick, with a deep cocoa flavour, characteristic of this store’s roots. The chocolate shavings melt into the drink, enhancing the flavour even further.

Address: 141 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB / 124-126 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU
Open daily 10am-10pm

img_7630_zpsa7so1vmoI’ve heard rave reviews about Patty & Bun, how it has one of the best burgers in London, and I couldn’t wait to try it! Their burgers are saucy, messy and you should be prepared to get your hands dirty, because that’s the best way to enjoy a burger. Definitely go for the ‘Smokey Robinson’ Burger (£8.75), which was a beef patty topped with mounds of caramelised onions, bacon and smokey P&B mayo. To be honest, I wasn’t wowed by the burger, perhaps because my expectations were raised too high. But those chips. Man, they were GOOD. I usually don’t quite like thick cut chips (I prefer the skinny shoestring kind because they’re crispier), but these chips (£2.95), just sprinkled with rosemary salt and served as it is, were so addictive! The flavour of the potato was brought out by the salt perhaps, and they were so crisp on the outside, yet fluffy on the inside. Yum!!!

Address: 22/23 Liverpool Street, London, EC2M 7PD
Open 11.30am-10pm (Mon-Tue), 11.30am-11.30pm (Wed-Fri), 11.30pm-9pm (Sat & Sun)
Other outlets

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetAnother place in London that I was dying to try was Hawksmoor. It’s such a London thing to have Sunday Roast, and it has been something that I’ve been really curious about. Finally managed to have a taste of it, at one of the best places for Sunday Roast too! Hawksmoor has the most incredible steaks. Served on a hot sizzling plate, the steak was thick and juicy, with a lovely red medium-rare interior. The vibe of Hawksmoor is part of what makes the experience such an enjoyable one too! Definitely a place that I would want to return to in future. They have several outlets to choose from, take your pick.

img_8012_zpsi4wour33It might seem ironic to visit a Chinese restaurant (of all cuisines!) while we are in London. But when Pearl Liang whips up Chinese dishes with such flair, that is unrivalled even in most places in Asia, we definitely had to give it some credit. It’s a fine dining establishment with an Asian touch, and thankfully without any arrogance. Their specialty is the Lobster noodles which is served with a generously portioned crustacean.

Address: 8 Sheldon Square, Paddington Central, London W2 6EZ
Open daily 12pm-11pm

img_8264_zpssefvjrfdOkay, this one is kind of a tease amongst the rest. We stumbled upon Wahaca while shopping at Westfield. We were hungry and searching for a dinner spot, and while walking along the row of eateries, Wahaca was giving out tacos with a dollop of guacamole. Took a sample, and we were immediately sold. Their guacamole was so delicious!!!! It was unbelievable. I seriously don’t know how they could make a normal avocado taste so good, but we fell in love with it. Their Mexican street food is executed with aplomb and it was a random find which we relished. They have outlets all over UK, so you know where to get an easy Mexican fix.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetFor cocktails with a view, and a better way to enjoy the cityscape of London, grab a drink at Hutong / Aqua Bar at The Shard. To go up to the viewing gallery at The Shard, entrance tickets start from £25.95. A better way to spend that money is to head up to one of the bars and order a drink instead. Isn’t that a better way to take in those spectacular views, while sipping on a cocktail?

Address: The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY
Open 9am-1am (Sun-Thu), 9am-2am (Fri-Sat)

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetLondon has so many amazing fine-dining establishments, but you don’t always have to break the bank to visit one of them. There are many restaurants offering set meals from £20/pax, and Avenue was one of them. We chanced upon this restaurant while searching online for a place to eat, and decided to check it out. It was one of the BEST meals we had in London. A three-course meal with a glass of sparkling wine set us back a very reasonable £25/pax, and it was money well spent with the perfect, all-rounded experience. From the moment we were welcomed at the doors, to the service at our table and the exquisite quality of each dish, we revelled in the meal and it was the best ending to our 2 week trip. Thank you, London, for the memories.

Address: 7-9 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1EE
Open 10am-10.30pm (Mon-Sat), 11am-4pm (Sun)

img_8299_zpsz7wvir44Cheers! <3

Glasgow day trippin’ – Edinburgh

hiiii i’m totally supposed to be sleeping now after a complete lack of sleep last night but here i am blogging about Edinburgh! haha.
anyway, Edinburgh is quite a small city that can be explored in….one day! (: i took a day trip there from Glasgow and pretty much managed to cover everything. i’ve gotta admit though, that i skipped some of the really hardcore parts of it, such as *points below* :p oops! 
What to see in Edinburgh
climb Arthur’s Seat which is the hilliest part of Edinburgh and when you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent 360 degree views of the whole city! :)) haha it doesn’t look very steep, but it’s honestly no joke climbing this :p we climbed about halfway, and the view was pretty good already and so we gave up then haha! but i definitely encourage you to go all the way up to Arthur’s Seat itself (:
the Royal Mile is a succession of streets where the business of the Old Town of Edinburgh flourished in the past! just walk down the street and you’ll see stores selling all sorts of knick-knacks that are pretty cool! we also went to this museum (free entry) where we explored how Edinburgh developed from its history till now! pretty cool ;)
i just think this photo of the Royal Mile is superrrr pretty :) it was such a bright sunny day when we were in Edinburgh! feel super lucky to have good weather ;)
and you’ll see load of bagpipers and street performers throughout the entire stretch of road! one of the street performers could seriously win an award for the longest performance EVER. i think we stood there for more than an hour before finally giving up and going off because he never seemed like he was going to do whatever trick he was saying he would do haha. but he was definitely very entertaining and charismatic ;) (at least up to an hour or so…haha)
right at the end of the Royal Mile is the Edinburgh Castle! the view from up there is pretty amazing too, but that’s about it :) i heard lots of advice that it isn’t worth paying to go into the castle and so i skipped that ;) 
and this pretty much rounds up the main attractions to see in Edinburgh! (: of course there are streets to explore and stuff if you want to. but instead, i chose to spend the rest of my time pigging out :p hehe!
My foodie recommendations for Edinburgh
wondering what this is? it’s another exotic Scottish dish that i had! the other was the black pudding in Glasgow. this is haggis (£8.50), which is a savoury pudding that is made of…(guess what) sheep’s intestines :O omg. can you even believe that i ate this?! haha like neither sheep nor intestines and yet we ordered this haha! but we really just wanted to try it, and it turned out to be not thaaat bad ;) i wouldn’t order seconds, but the taste of the sheep was pretty minimal thanks to the generous serving of whiskey sauce.
we also had the handmade 100% scottish beef burger (£9.50) which was humongous! i didn’t take a picture of the Scottish mussels we had, but please order it!! ^^ it’s definitely worth it ;) fat, juicy and succulent, just like those i had in glasgow! (: 
i also had a glass of pear cider which was super yummy!! and it came in a 500ml size :O haha so shiok ;) 
Whiski Bar & Restaurant
119 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SG 
Tel.: +44 131 556 3095 
we were pretty full after lunch, but we weren’t done with the food yet ;) this pork bun may look simple, but it sure packs a punch! hog roasts seem to be really popular in UK! i saw it in quite a number of places, and it’s sooooo delicious :D the hog roast roll was a freshly carved hog roast – smokey, piping hot, and super juicy – served in a bread roll with a choice of sage & onion, apple sauce, chili relish or haggis (omg. haha).we opted for apple sauce and it was amazing!!! the light sweetness of the sauce went perfectly well with the pork, and the flavours exploded in our mouths with the juice dripping all over the place as we devoured the bun amongst the three of us. there are three sizes to choose from – the piglet (£2.80) for the small eater, the oink (£3.80) which is the standard size and the grunter (£4.80) is for the hungry ones ;) MUST TRY!!!! no matter how full you are ;)
Oink Hog Roast
4 Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH1 2JW 
Tel.: +44 7771 968 233
and girls always have a separate stomach for dessert! ;) i’m always amazed at the amount i can eat. :p we trekked for like…half an hour before we finally found Patisserie Madeleine, which was said to have the BEST macarons, as claimed by my friend who’s stayed in edinburgh for quite a few years. it’s a really small shop and we totally walked right past it initially! unfortunately, they didn’t have the flavour that we wanted to order!!!!! :'( imagine our disappointment! :( the worst part was the thought of having to drag ourselves for another half an hour walk to get back to the train station…imagine that haha. anyway, we ordered other flavours, and they were really quite nice! :) some of them were a bit too sweet for my liking though! anyway, if you are there, you HAVE to try saffron pistachio flavour which is supposed to be the awesome flavour we didn’t get to try! 
Patisserie Madeleine
27b Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, EH4 1HU
Tel.: +44 131 332 8455
walked through this gorgeous park on the way back, and i totally fell in love ^^ hehe. i’m always just so fascinated at how the Europeans have such an amazing way of relaxing on a nice sunny day :) if only we do this in singapore too! 

Glasgow day trippin’ – Scottish Highlands

hi!! :) this post is actually going to be more of a spam of pictures of my day trip out to the Scottish Highlands from Glasgow ^^ pictures speak a thousand words, and i have 5 or 6? haha so imagine that in words :P 
i never knew that Scotland was so beautiful, and it really has so much to offer with its AMAZING scenery :’) i took the tour from http://www.highlandtours.com/ but you can really just google and you’ll find many similar tours. i would think the quality, prices and tour options are about the same, so it’s really your personal preference! i really enjoyed how the tours here are much cosier and personalized than all other tours i’ve taken so far though! the only downside was probably the transport, where a group of around 15-20 of us were in a mini-van. there was sufficient space for each person, but no extra space to move around much. but this made for a more intimate experience i guess, where our driver was the tour guide and he literally gave us the entire tour while driving, telling us about the history of the place, what are the various sights etc. and he was a huge camwhore haha, and so we had numerous stops along the way for photo ops and to just take in the scenery and fresh air ^^ 
i went for the Loch Ness, Glencoe and Highland tour for £39. there are actually more tour options from Edinburgh if you are staying there too btw! anyway this tour brought us through the hills and mountains, the lakes (i didn’t get to see the Loch Ness monster, boo!) and castles. some options entail additional costs though! such as visiting the castle or taking a cruise on the lake.
okay, enough words! take a look for yourself ^^
Scotch whiskey! take the whiskey tour if you like it ;)
breathtaking loch ness :’) 

Glasgow

every time i get down to writing a post on exchange, it just seems so crazy long ago. ahhh. i miss those days. especially my last month of travelling. perhaps because it was nearing the end, perhaps because i was meeting people i haven’t seen in months, i enjoyed that last month especially so :’) and looking at these photos again just brings back so many memories from those times ^^
i was very happy to be hosted by dearest linwei while i was in glasgow! (: i totally didn’t have to plan anything at all (perks of visiting people woohoo!) and so i can’t remember for sure exactly where were the places we visited haha, but i will try my best! :p the area i visited in glasgow was pretty small, but it was a lovely place to be. my first city in the united kingdom! and i fell in love with the country :’) the people, the atmosphere, the language. goshhh. especially london!!!! hee ^^
What to see in Glasgow
a rather unconventional place to be considered an attraction, but nonetheless outstanding, was the University of Glasgow campus! haha. apparently this place was the inspiration for JK Rowling’s entire Harry Potter series! 
the Glasgow Botanic Gardens is the perfect place for an evening stroll after dinner and that is exactly what we did! it’s a pretty huge park and therefore pretty much empty and spacious.

the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum is a magnificent building that is located right behind the university if i remember correctly! i didn’t manage to visit because i didn’t make it there during their opening hours, but it’s free for entry and is apparently among the most visited attractions in the UK outside of london!

in terms of touring, i didn’t really spend thaaat much time exploring glasgow. i was shopping for the most part hehe :P visit primark!!!! i actually preferred this outlet to london’s oxford street one, even though it was about half the size. it is much less crowded here, and i probably went in and out of the changing room 10 times and the salesperson didn’t even blink. no queues at all! ;)

on the other hand, my dear tummy had the most amazing gastronomic tour while i was here though ^^ just three days? and i had the most amazing food (especially seafooooood) since the start of my exchange :D

My foodie recommendations in Glasgow

there is this little street in Glasgow, called Ashton Lane, if i’m not wrong, where there are tonnes of bars/pubs, and is the hip street where all the youngsters hangout! plenty of options for good food & drinks here, so do check it out ^^

i particularly liked this restaurant with the most tongue-in-cheek name ever! – Ubiquitous Chip (: i love how restaurants in UK all have pre and post-theatre menus which offer value-for-money set meals that are more than enough to feed your belly ;) i swear i had a FEAST even with a two-course menu :D and i think the set menus change pretty frequently, which makes for a wide variety whenever you visit.

we started with an amuse bouche by the chef. aww so nice! ^^ i can’t really remember what it was, so my description might be a lil’ faulty, but i think it was the most adorable, tiniest pancake ever, topped with a piece of salmon and mayonnaise with a sprig of herb. i can’t rmb what the black cube was, i think it was something i didn’t like haha.

it was HILARIOUS how linwei and i had the EXACT same tastes for all of the dishes! hehe!!! we are so telepathic <3 and so it made for the perfect sharing experience ;) for starters, we had the grilled bream and confit chicken and black olive terrine. the grilled bream was done to perfection with its crisp skin and fluffy soft underside, and it came with a lovely smoked crab and apple consomme which tasted vaguely chinese!

the terrine was really interesting, and pretty tasty and i thought the anchovy aioli was a nice touch.

for the main, i had the pumpkin and almond pastilla, which was a deliciously interesting dish. kind of like a spring roll filled with a yummilicious filling! and i loved how the quinoa added a crunch to the dish, while the orange vinaigrette lent a tangy essence to finish off the whole dish. this dish had a middle-eastern taste to it, which was pretty exotic!

linwei had the pan fried orkeny organic salmon which was seared beautifully. looooved the crisp skin ^^ haha. and it sat atop a bed of lemon and parsley pearl barley which was super interesting! guess this is how westerners eat barley, unlike us who drink it in soup! so cool! it gave a toothsome bite to this dish, and was complemented by a pickled beetroot gel.

an extremely satisfying first meal in glasgow that i’ll never forget! also loved the decor of this restaurant, which was chic, yet cosy! (: pre-theatre menu is priced at £15.95 for 2 courses and £19.95 for 3 courses and is from 5pm-6.30pm.

Ubiquitous Chip
12 Ashton Lane, Glasgow, Lanarkshire G12 8SJ
Tel.: +44 0141 334 5007

another place where i had the most amazing food was at Two Fat Ladies. haha the name is hilarious!! and everything in the shop is branded with a logo of two fat ladies lol. i think it was because the unit number of the shop is ’88’, hence the resemblance to two fat ladies.

i had the FATTEST, JUICIEST, YUMMIEST mussels while i was in scotland!! they were absolutely unbeatable :O i didn’t even know mussels existed in this size till i ordered them here!!!!
look at how fat and bouncy they were!! and oh-so-fresh :DDD we had this for our appetizer, and it came with a delicious white wine, bacon and cream sauce which we slurped up every bit of.
for our first main, we had the bacon wrapped chicken supreme stuffed with tomato and cream cheese in  a red wine reduction. it was sooooo good! :)) it was wonderfully delectable, the creamy flavours of the stuffing exploding in our mouths as we dug into the tender chicken. and the sweet-savoury red wine reduction was a delicious dressing for this dish ^^
the pan fried fillet of sea bass was a contrast to our previous main dish. simple, with a light pesto sauce and sweet potato mash on the side. it helped to balance out our other heavier main just nicely :)
we were so stuffed by then already, but we still had dessert!! here’s a tip for you all, especially if it’s a bunch of girls dining together – go for the two course meal, which is really filling enough, and order either an appetizer/dessert with your main and share! we had the most amazing dessert ever!! the chocolate and hazelnut pot. it came in the tiniest espresso cup ever, and i was a tad disappointed when it first arrived at our table. but gosh. it was like a bottomless pit!!! haha. kept eating and eating and it never seemed to end. and it was so yummy!!! luscious, mousse-y, creamy, rich chocolate, and topped with two tart raspberries on top which helped to cleanse our palate. such a scrumptious way to end the meal! (:
the two course pre-theatre set goes for £14.50 and the three course £16.50.
Two Fat Ladies
88 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G11 6NX
Tel.: +44 0141 339 1944 
i had the most exotic breakfast ever in glasgow. haha. totally took a plunge here and tried something i would never ever eat otherwise!! – black pudding. see that black round thing on my plate? that’s a BLOOD sausage. haha it sounded absolutely ghastly! and i was really quite hesitant about putting it in my mouth. but linwei assured me that it tasted nothing like blood, and since YOLO, i went for it! and guess what! it really wasn’t too bad after all! it tasted nothing like a sausage, maybe somewhat like a liver patty or something like that. not something that i would eat again anytime soon, but i was really proud of myself for finishing it (Y). 
anyway, that was part of my Scottish breakfast (£3.19) at Wetherspoon. i love how UK is so health-friendly that they even have the number of calories of each dish written on the menu! makes it real easy for those who are following a strict caloric diet ;) no help for me who totally busted my limit with a 812cal breakfast though :P hahaha. but it was a really good hearty breakfast consisting of the black pudding, fried egg, Ramsay of Carluke Lorne sausage (kind of like a hash brown actually), baked beans, tomato and potato bread (loved this!!). and omg it was so affordable!!!! :O where on earth in singapore can you get a full breakfast for less than SGD$10?! you can’t even get an eggs benedict with that. hehe happy! (Y)
we also ordered the eggs benedict (£3.49 – okay haha so it’s more expensive than my big breakfast :p) which was done perfectly with tasty hollandaise sauce and a flowy yolk ^^
Weatherspoon
The Camperdown Place, 4/5 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1DR 

CHINESE FOOD!!!!!!! :”) i was so damn freaking happy to find caifan in glasgow!!!!! omgggg. you have no idea how much i missed this after 4 months on exchange. i was literally gonna drool once i stepped into the restaurant and breathed in the smell of the food. there is a very good lunch deal for students where you get rice + any 3 dishes and free flow soup for just £5!!! how good is that! ^^ you can choose three meats even, and the price is still the same (haha whoops auntie-syndrome here). and the pile of rice is humongous (good for guys i suppose). omgosh the taste was sooooo good. it really did taste quite authentic! and the whole restaurant is filled with chinese, so you can be quite assured of its quality ;)

Crazy Wok
173 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G11 6AA
Tel.: +44 0141 334 1888

so this wraps up my glasgow trip! ^^ but that’s not all! this was just in glasgow itself and i took day trips to the scottish highlands and edinburgh too (: more posts coming right up!