Sunday 13 July 2014

London Day 1: Hammersmith & Transport in London

I was going to bring my baby to Bangkok, which would only be a short 2 hour-plus flight, to test if he was ok with travelling on planes. But then I found out, after I had booked the air ticket to Bangkok, that my organisation wanted to send me to London to attend and present at an international conference.

My mum-in-law would not be able to handle two kids on her own so I was asked to bring one kid along with me on the trip. After convincing my mum to go along with me, I decided to bring Baby Boy instead of my girl.

I know it sounds crazy but here's my logic:
1) Infant fare is cheaper than child fare
2) My girl has gone/will be going overseas a lot this year
3) I'm tired of pumping and storing milk so that he is fed while I'm away
4) I'm tired of pumping and storing milk during the trip

I know that meant that we will be travelling with a 6 month old baby for the first time on a plane for 12 plus hours! The first time I travelled with a baby, i.e. my girl, was when she was at least 10 months old on a 4 hour flight. I really don't know what to expect but all I can do is pray. All things are possible to him who believes!

It wasn't easy packing for a long trip with a baby in tow and I didn't have a lot of time to do it. Thankfully, I managed to pack everything we need (even his rocker, without which he won't be able to sleep!) in the afternoon before our flight!

Packing his rocker into our largest luggage

So off we went to the airport, just me, Baby Boy and my mum for the first time. I was understandably excited and extremely nervous at the same time. It was a strange feeling.

We checked in at Changi International Airport, Terminal 1 and it was our first time flying by British Airways (BA). I've been very impressed so far by their service when I had to call to request for my mum to be seated next to me as we booked separately (they responded very quickly).

Using the baby push chairs provided by the airport

Our BA flight departed from Singapore (bound for London) at almost midnight and the journey was a grueling 12.5 hours! I prayed a silent prayer again that my baby will be good on his first ever flight overseas! :S

By the grace of God, other than looking somewhat surprised by the loud noise and sudden acceleration, Baby Boy did not cry during take-off and landing! He also slept really well on the flight, thanks in part I think to the special infant seat provided by British Airways that was very similar to his rocker.

Baby Boy waking from his nap
Infant seat attached to the large table in front of our seats

We arrived safely at London's Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5 at 5.30am (London time) the next morning. London is 7 hours behind Singapore so it was technically 12.30pm in Singapore.

We survived the journey!

Arrivals in Heathrow Airport

3 Possible AIRPORT TRANSFERS to the city:

1) Heathrow Express (GBP 30/person, return trip)
Great if you are travelling alone.

Buy your tickets and board the Heathrow Express, located conveniently at the Arrival Hall

2) Addison Lee (GBP 50, return trip)
3) BA Transfer (GBP 65, return trip)

I decided to go with the last option as it was the most convenient for families travelling with kids (especially since mine was a baby). All you need to do is pre-book a taxi online and input information such as your flight and destination details, the time and place to pick you up, etc. You are also able to book a car seat in advance so that it will be ready for your child/children when you arrive.

A driver greeted us punctually at 7.30am (the time that I set in the booking) at the Information section of the Arrival Hall with a piece of cardboard with my name written on it. and take us directly to the taxi.

Information section at London Heathrow Airport
The driver helping us with our luggage
The infant car seat that I had requested for Baby Boy so that he will be comfortable during the ride

It was only a short 20-minute journey to our hotel in Hammersmith, which is one of the most well-connected towns in London. Our hotel, Best Western Seraphine Hammersmith, was just a 5-minute walk to the Hammersmith Bus Station and Hammersmith Tube Station (4 lines go through this station!) and was conveniently located right next to departmental stores, supermarkets and restaurants! =)

Best Western Seraphine Hammersmith
Entrance to the hotel
Reception counter

As it was too early for us to check in, the hotel kindly allowed us to join the other guests for breakfast, which is usually provided for every hotel guest as part of their room package.

Simple English breakfast
Baby Boy was just super excited to be in London!

We were so happy to be able to rest, have tea and eat something after a long flight. Even though we tried to take our time, it was only 9am by the time we finished breakfast and our earliest check-in was 11am (the hotel kindly allowed us to check in earlier). Since we still had a lot of time to kill, we left our luggage at the reception before exploring the neighbourhood.

Most shops in London open late (around 11am) and close early (at 5pm) on Sunday so we couldn't do much except explore the neighbouring Kings Mall and other shops.

There was a 2-storey H&M at Kings Mall, and the Summer Sale is ON! Woohoo!
Hammersmith Station: District (green) and Piccadilly (blue) lines

When we were too tired to drag our ass down the street any more, we returned to the hotel and waited at the lounge until a room was ready for us (at around 11.30am).

Left: Small room on the 3rd floor with a nice roof window instead of a window overlooking the street
 Right: Standard queen size bed with a beautiful wall paper
Desk, hair dryer, TV, cupboard, safe and extra beds
Clockwise from left: Comfortable size bathroom with the usual amenities;
Complimentary water, coffee, tea and biscuits everyday; iPhone player/radio

We were prepared that the room would be small as I was told that most hotel rooms in London were small but we didn't realise that it was going to be that small! There was hardly any space for our luggage although with a bit of creativity, we managed to make it work. The bathroom was bigger than expected though and we loved how clean and modern it was (bathrooms are very important to women!) =)

The bed was calling out to our tired bodies so we crashed for a nap right after we explored our room! We were just too tired! :S

When we woke up later that afternoon, we headed to Primark Hammersmith, which was conveniently located just opposite our hotel!

Primark at Hammersmith
(Opening hours: Mon to Fri, 9am-8.30pm; Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 12-6pm)

Mum and I love Primark! They sold everything from clothes to household items at very affordable prices and you'd get to enjoy tax-free shopping if you spend at least GPB 35 (except for children's clothes).

After spending at least 2 hours in Primark (and almost buying the whole store), we went to Sainsbury’s Supermarket located within King’s Mall for my daily dose of Diet Coke.

Cool personalised Coke bottles (none with my name though unfortunately) seen at Sainsbury's
(Opening hours: Mon to Sat, 8am-8pm; Sun 11am-5pm)

We then bought sushi from Wasabi (a Japanese restaurant scattered all over London) and had it for dinner at our room. After a long day, we were just happy to sleep early as I had a long day of conference the next day.


Before I end this post, I would like to share some tips on getting around London economically (because cabs are not cheap!).


1) Bus

The iconic red London bus!

Travelling by bus is strongly advised by my colleague, who also suggested downloading a transport app to your phone or check Google Maps for the buses to take. I did the latter (more on my experience with taking the bus tomorrow).

2) Tube / Underground

The symbol for the London Underground Tube system
(look out for it when you're trying to find out where the entrance to the stations are)

We took the tube almost everywhere we went so it is definitely one of the most convenient modes of transport in London.

Please note though that most of the tube stations do not have an escalator so we had to carry our stroller up a lot of stairs (my mum was really irritated by that though)! Some of the stations have wheelchair access (as shown on the Tube Map) so check before you travel. In addition, there are no air-conditioning in the tubes and stations so it might get really stuffy in the trains especially during peak hours. Make sure that you dress light and always bring a bottle of water with you when you travel.

(The next time one of us complain about our nicely air-conditioned and fully accessible MRT trains and stations, please be grateful.)

3) National Rail

National Railway train

Trains on the National Rail arrive at stipulated times (generally 20 minute intervals) so you may have to wait if you missed the last train. We were advised to travel by national rail only if we are travelling out of London.

Most importantly, ensure that you are armed with the Tube Map and National Rail Map as well as an Oyster card, which is like our Ez-link.

Oyster card

If you are going to be travelling a lot in London like we did, buy the 1-day and/or 7-day unlimited pass to travel on the bus, tube and trains (within Zone 1 and 2) for just GBP 7 and 31.50 respectively! We really enjoyed using it as it was definitely cheaper and hassle-free (no need to constantly top up the card).

However, I forgot that we didn't need to travel at all on the first day when we bought the card so we actually forfeited one day of travel (lesson learnt, buy the pass on the day that you actually travel and not before)!

I will be sharing more of our experiences on each mode of transport so stay tuned =)

Continue to >> London Day 2-4: The 9th ICCAP at the University of Roehampton


Download our London Itinerary 2014 Printable
Read my London Train Travel Tips if it's your first time travelling by train in London,
Visit MADPSYCHMUM TRAVELS for the rest of my posts on London, UK 
as well as other travel itinerariesMany thanks to my friends, who had contributed many of the recommendations included in our London Itinerary 2014.

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