Sunday, 26 November 2017

UK-Paris Day 2: Westminster, National Gallery, Tower Bridge & Natural History Museum

We woke up really early at 4am because we were still jetlagged and not used to London time. We had our breakfast the moment it was ready and were out of the hotel just after sunrise at 7.30am! Super early considering I'm totally not a morning person!

Left our hotel bright and early this Sunday morning while everyone else is still asleep!

We headed to Hammersmith Station to get our Oyster card for travelling on the public transport system in London. It's very easy to buy Oyster cards from the machines at the stations. Please read my tips on transport in London for more information.

We got our Oyster card from Hammersmith Station and were all ready to explore London!
Her first time in London Underground

It was a lot more comfortable travelling by trains during Winter as compared to Summer as there is no air-conditioning in the trains! It was such a torture during Summer but so much more bearable during winter! However, do note that data connectivity is terrible underground so if you need to Google for any information, you'd need to do it BEFORE entering the station.

We took the District Line (green) directly to Westminster Station, where we disembarked to see the Big BenLondon EyeRiver Thames and Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Station

Even though the mum and I had been here previously with my then 6-month old baby boy in 2014, we're visiting again because the Big Ben is one of my favourite landmarks in the world!

Unfortunately, the Big Ben clock tower was undergoing some upgrading so we weren't able to take nice pictures with it! So sad! 😫

The Palace of Westminster and the clock tower undergoing maintainance *sob*

We had to contend with taking pictures with the other famous sights instead.

Selfie of the River Thames

London Eye
Walked over to the park opposite of Westminster Abbey
Left: In front of Westminster Abbey, which was not opened to visitors (probably because there was a service going on?);
Right: Statues of famous people such as Winston Churchill stand tall nearby.

From Westminster Abbey, we walked along Whitehall Road to Trafalgar Square.

At the iconic red telephone booth along Whitehall Road
Trafalgar Square
Beautiful fountains and statues can be found here

We didn't have time to visit the National Gallery London when the mum and I visited Trafalgar Square in 2014, so I made it a priority to visit for this trip since it's FREE! Gotta love the UK for making their museums free for all visitors!

National Gallery London
With the painting that depicts Jesus' agony at the Garden of Gethsemane
With more paintings
One of the art galleries

The National Gallery houses 2,300 paintings including Van Gogh's very famous 'Sunflower'. We really enjoyed admiring each one of them! Definitely highly recommended to visit, especially if you love art like I do 😊

We proceded to our next stop by walking to the nearest station, Charing Cross Station. Here, we took the Bakerloo Line (brown) to Elephant & Castle Station and transferred to the Northern Line (black) to London Bridge Station.

We had wanted to visit Borough Market as we loved it so much when we visited it the last time! Sadly, the market was closed on Sunday even though I remembered checking their opening hours. I must have been confused with the opening hours of another attraction =(

Borough Market

In any case, we found a nice Italian eatery, Cafe Brood, that was one of the few restaurants that were open and decided to grab our lunch there.

Cafe Brood at Borough Market
German hotdog (£5.50)
Box 2 with chicken and saffron rice (£9.50)

We loved the chicken kebab in the Box 2 set so much that we got another box with just the chicken! So yummy!!

Just hot, tender and juicy chicken on an icy cold day! *yums*
The hubby also couldn't resist getting a cold beer to go with the food

After a fulfilling lunch, albeit in the freezing cold, we walked to London Bridge, which was just a short 2-3 minutes walk from Borough Market. As mentioned before, London Bridge has been rebuilt and modernised because the old one has fallen down; remember the famous childhood song "London Bridge is falling down..."?

The bridge that we are most acquainted with is actually Tower Bridge, just a short 10-minute walk from London Bridge.

View of the River Thames and Tower Bridge from London Bridge
Tower Bridge
Definitely my favourite bridge in the world! For now... *laughs*
Can't leave without taking a selfie, which would have been perfect if not for the kissing couple in the background... πŸ˜“
The Tower of London is on the opposite bank of the River Thames

Do also check out The Shard, which is also in the area and is the tallest building in London.

The Shard

During our previous trip, the mum and I had lunch and afternoon tea at Shangri-la's Ting Restaurant, which boasts amazing views of London from the 35th floor of The Shard! You can read about our awesome lunch experience here and our awesome afternoon tea experience here. I highly recommend it! πŸ˜‹

After we were done taking photos, we headed back to London Bridge Station to take the Jubilee Line (grey) to Westminster Station and transfer to the Circle Line (yellow) or District Line (green) to South Kensington Station.

South Kensington Station

We were here to visit the Natural History Museum, just 3-minute walk from South Kensington Station. I love the Natural History Museum for its architecture and exhibits and best of all, it's FREE!

Ice skating and carnival activities happening just outside the Natural History Museum during the winter!

When we entered the Natural History Museum, I was expecting to see a huge skeleton of dinosaur bones hanging in the middle of the main hall just as we did the last time that we were here.

However, we were instead greeted by the skeleton of a whale, I'm guessing, instead. Don't get me wrong, it is still very cool, but definitely a lot more underwhelming as compared to the skeleton of Brachiosaurus! *sigh*

See what I mean?
Skeletons of various mammals and prehistoric creatures on display

It turns out that the dinosaurs have their very own exhibit! That was where we found good ole Brachiosaurus.

Left: A mechanical T-Rex roared at everyone;
Right: The head of the Brachiosaurus is found! 
Poor thing looks so suffocated in such a tiny gallery! Haha! 

We left after we explored the rest of the museum, which had other interesting exhibits.

Taking photos with the interior of the museum, which always reminded me of Harry Potter
Top view of the Natural History Museum =) 

We returned back to our hotel after our visit but if you've got more time, do check out the Victoria Albert Museum and Harris just down the road (read more about our experiences here)! They're so awesome too!

Continue to >> UK-Paris Day 3: Stamford Bridge Chelsea, Buckingham Palace & Oxford Street
<< Back to UK-Paris Day 1: London's Luma Concept Hotel Hammersmith


Download our London, Scotland & Paris Itinerary 2017 Printable 
(PDF to be added when this series has been completed)
Visit MADPSYCHMUM TRAVELS for the rest of my posts on UK and Paris, France
as well as other travel itineraries!

You can also follow my travel adventures on Instagram via the hashtag #madpsychmumtravels! =)

Saturday, 25 November 2017

UK-Paris Day 1: London's Luma Concept Hotel Hammersmith

After waiting 11 long months for the most anticipated trip of the year, we were finally on our way to Singapore Changi Airport, Terminal 1.

We'll be gone for 16 days and it will be the longest trip to date for the girl and I. It is also the furthest that the girl and I have ever travelled (i.e. Scotland). The mum and hubby have previously visited the USA separately.

Although we usually prefer to focus on at most 2 countries per visit  is the first time that we'll be visiting more than 2 countries in one trip. We so that we won't be spending most of our time travelling. However, as I've been to London in 2014, I was keen to explore other parts of the UK and Europe!

Now what's the difference between England, Great Britain and United Kingdom (UK)?
  • England: Country of the UK, capital is London
  • Scotland: Country of the UK, capital is Edinburg
  • Great Britain: The geographical island that comprised of England, Scotland and Wales
  • United Kingdom: Made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland is geographically located on the island of Ireland)
Many people tend to make the mistake of using the terms interchangeably. Do know the difference and use them correctly =)

We decided to fly by Emirates because they offered really irresistible promotional prices during the Emirates Global Sale in January this year. It cost us only S$961.10 per adult and S$864.10 per child for return flights to London/Paris (arrival at London, departure from Paris).

The downside, of course, was the hassle of transiting at Dubai. However, we all thought that the low price justified the extra travel time (18 hours 20 minutes versus 13 hours direct flight).

We arrived at Changi Airport at around 10.30pm because we wanted to take pictures with the decorations and let my girl have fun at the playground.

The 7.5 hours flight was supposed to depart Singapore at 1.20am but due to various delays, we didn't take off until 3am! As a result, we landed in Dubai International Airport later than we had anticipated. The good of it all was that our transit period was shortened from 3 hours to 1 hour but that meant that we had to rush from one gate to the other during transit!

Boarding our next flight at Dubai International Airport

We arrived safely at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 after 8 hours on the plane from Dubai. We were so exhausted after our almost 19 hours journey from Singapore to London! It also did not help that London is 8 hours behind Singapore (during winter), which meant that although it was only 12 noon in London, it was already night time in Singapore.

As with our previous London trip, we booked our airport transfer from BA Transfer (you can also consider other alternative airport transfers that I've listed in my London 2014 Itinerary). The cost of travelling from Heathrow to Hammersmith was £48.

The airport transfer comes with a booster seat for my girl that I requested on the website when booking
I had booked the Estate Car, which can seat 4 adults and at least 3 XL luggage

We quite liked the ride, which was spacious and had enough boot space for our luggage.

Our accommodation for our stay in London was Luma Concept Hotel Hammersmith, a newly renovated hotel located in our favourite town of Hammersmith.

Luma Concept Hotel Hammersmith
(Address: 28 - 36 Glenthorne Road, Hammersmith, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom W6 0LS)
Exterior of Luma Concept Hotel

We had stayed at Hammersmith in another hotel previously and really loved it so we decided to stay at Hammersmith again. We chose Luma Concept Hotel as it was newer and cheaper than the previous hotel.

Front desk
Decorated with bright lights to fit its name

We booked the Family Room via Agoda as the website stated that it can accommodate 4 adults. We had expected one big room but it turned out to be TWO connecting regular rooms! At just S$284 for both rooms per night, it was really value-for-money!

Left: Modern corridors with cool quotes on the wall;
Right: You'll see the table when you walk in, with the bed hidden behind it. 
Sliding doors with mirrors on the side of the room hide the shower, cupboards and toilet!
It is a pretty smart way of making a tiny room look bigger and more spacious.
The hidden shower and closet space was really tiny but usable. I managed to store my medium-sized luggage in there. 
The 'open kitchen' design and hidden toilet, which is separated from the shower
Twin beds for the mum and girl, with plenty of electrical plugs on each side of the bed to charge your electronic devices
Left: A pretty large sofa at the back of the room next to the door;
Right: The connecting door next to the sofa and table opens up to the room next door. 
Our room is exactly the same except that it has a double bed instead of twin beds
The view outside of our window
Each room comes equipped with a Handy, which is phone you can use to make local calls and surf the Internet for useful touristy information
The hubby and mum were most excited by the Nespresso machine in the room! They both drink at least 3 cups of coffee a day!

Do note that although our room comes with breakfast, it is the Grab and Go type because the hotel does not have a restaurant for sit-down buffet breakfast that we're used to.

Bags of breakfast lined up at the table in the lobby for guests to pick up
Each bag consists of a croissant (plain, chocolate or apricot), a fruit (apple or banana) and a drink (orange juice or apple juice)

I'm a mega fan of croissants and can eat them every morning so that's ok with me. What's not so ok is the drink and fruits, which I got sick of after a while. Enough of orange or apple juice, I'll have my Teh-C Peng please, thankyouverymuch!

After we have settled in, we went to do our shopping at the shops nearby. Even though we were exhausted, it seems that we can never be too tired to shop! *grin*

King's Mall houses many of our favourite shops such as Primark, Sainsbury, Wilko, Tiger and Pound land.
Primark in Hammersmith, my favourite shop in UK!!
Primark recently released a whole Harry Potter range which ignited the fan in me! I bought so much Harry Potter merchandise for dirt cheap prices!! Woohoo!!
The hubby's version of Harry Potter merch *laughs*

Don't forget to ask for tax refund on certain goods (do ask the shop on which items are considered). You can get tax refund at any EU international airports, if you spend a minimum of £30 in the UK.


Overseas Data

Before I end this post, I would also like to share my elaborate calculation of our overseas data plans for this trip. I considered 2 plans, as shown below:

1) Changi Recommends 
  • S$12 per day, total cost = S$12 x 15 days = S$180 (S$90 per person)
  • 400MB per day (see Europe's Fair Usage Policy), total data = 400MB x 14 days = 5.6GB
  • Connectivity dependent on proximity to the device, i.e. both phones must be near device to connect to internet
2) Singtel ReadyRoam 1GB 30 Days (31 Destinations)
  • S$35 per month, total cost = S$35 x 2 persons = S$70
  • 1GB per person, total data = 1GB x 2 = 2GB
  • Connectivity on two handphones, both can be used independently. Allows for WhatsApp calls between one phone and the other. 
After much thought, the hubby and I both decided that it was more worth it to go with the Singtel plan. Although the data is not unlimited, it was enough for us to navigate Europe for the 2 weeks that we are here 😊


We slept at 7pm London time (3am Singapore time), after being awake for more than 24 hours! The bed was so comfortable that we didn't wake up until 4am London time (12pm Singapore time) the next morning! I think we all became morning people here in London πŸ˜‚

Looking forward to more fun tomorrow!

Continue to >> UK-Paris Day 2: Westminster, National Gallery, Tower Bridge & Natural History Museum


Download our London, Scotland & Paris Itinerary 2017 Printable 
(PDF to be added when this series has been completed)
Visit MADPSYCHMUM TRAVELS for the rest of my posts on UK and Paris, France
as well as other travel itineraries!

You can also follow my travel adventures on Instagram before I blog about them via the hashtag #madpsychmumtravels! =)
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