Thursday 17 July 2014

London Day 5: Westminster, Shangri-La at The Shard & Tower Bridge

Excited to take on the city today, we took the tube on the District line (green) to Westminster Station to see the attractions that London is famous for!

Westminster Station

I really like the clock tower of the UK Houses of Parliament, so I was jumping for joy to see it in person (I know I'm easily excitable).

Although the sun was scorching, that meant that we were able to get really good photos of clear blue skies and white fluffy clouds in the background! =)

One of the most iconic structures in the world!
Clock tower and the Big Ben!
Selfies with my Olympus OMD
(The skies were so beautiful that the background looks like it was photoshopped!)

Do you know that the Big Ben is not the clock but the bell inside the clock? And you will get to hear the bell every 15 minutes like my dad's grandfather clock that I grew up with.

We strolled along the Westminster Bridge to enjoy some of the best views of the Houses of Parliament, River Thames and The London Eye.

Houses of Parliament
Along the River Thames
London Eye
With the famous London Eye in the background
The boarding area is above the water!
Instead of taking the tube, you may consider taking the River Cruises along the Thames 
(there's a discount if you have an Oyster card)

Mum and I didn't ride the London Eye as we felt it's likely similar to the Singapore Flyer, which I've been on more than once.

Instead we took the tube on the Jubilee line from Westminster Station to London Bridge Station.

London Bridge Station

London Bridge Tube Station is linked to the London Bridge Railway Station so we decided to buy our train tickets to Windsor and Cambridge Stations from the ticketing counters there. As Windsor and Cambridge are outside of the City of London, you would have to purchase the train tickets as it is not included in the 7-day unlimited pass.

London Bridge Railway Station

After purchasing our train tickets, we walked conveniently next door to The Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe!

Totally covered in glass panels from top to bottom, The Shard was designed to look like broken shards of glass pointing to the sky (hence its name). The building completely reflects its surroundings, especially the neighbouring clouds, which gives it the illusion of disappearing into the sky!

The Shard
Selfies at the base of The Shard

Wanting to provide luxurious accommodation for their visitors, the owners of The Shard decided to collaborate with world renown Shangri-La to give guests an experience of a lifetime.

Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard

We met up with Ania, the AD of Communications, who took us on a tour of the newly opened Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard.

The hotel begins at the 34th floor (the first 33 floors are dedicated to offices) but the lifts take you to the 35th floor where the lobby and reception counters are located. Housed in the tallest building in the area, you can definitely expect some of the best views in London.

A bird's eye view of the City of London
View of the commercial district, the River Thames & Tower Bridge

Ania showed us the banquet halls, where events such as company functions and even weddings are held. With such a nice view, I'm quite sure that there will be a lot of couples trying to book the venue for their wedding reception!

Clockwise from top left: Banquet halls or private dining rooms;
Bar top area at GONG; Comfortable seating with traditional Chinese design elements;
The seating area at GONG

We also visited the GŎNG bar at the 52nd floor, which was inspired by Chinese temples. Guests can relax and have a cocktail there while admiring the city sky. The infinity pool at the 52nd floor was still in construction though so we were not able to visit.

We visited the rooms next, and the view was equally spectacular!

One of the rooms in the Shangri-la at The Shard
Clockwise from left: Taking luxurious bubble baths with London as a backdrop;
There's a TV in the mirror! Seriously, you can watch TV while shaving;
The range of toiletries
Clockwise from left: iPads are provided for guests of the Suites, each of which has an app that allows them to take pictures of the surroundings and find out what they are looking at;
The Suite's bedroom; There's a pair of binoculars in every room that allows guests to see further than their eye can see.

After exploring the hotel, we were invited for lunch at the TĪNG Restaurant (35th floor). TĪNG in Chinese means living room, which is exactly how Shangri-la wants their guests to feel - like they are at home in their living room.

Baby Boy is happy to be at the TING!
I'm not quite sure why Baby Boy is so happy to be here.
I think even a baby can appreciate the loveliness of this restaurant =)
Tables at the windows are not reserved but first come, first served (i.e. entirely by luck!).
A bit different from some of such restaurants in Singapore

I was looking forward to the food and ordered the Rib-Eye Steak (GBP34) and John Dory (GBP26) as they came highly recommended by Ania and the restaurant staff.

Bread and juice for starters (left), the butter was lovely!
Salad and colourful seasonal vegetables (right)
Grilled John Dory cooked to perfection!
Medium-well Rib-Eye Steak, just the way that I like it =)
The steak comes with an incredible truffle sauce that goes really well with the steak *yum*

Even though mum and I were almost full, I couldn't resist ordering a Curry Laksa (GBP18) as Ania also raved about the Asian dishes cooked by a well-known chef from Penang. Obviously we had to try some!

Curry Laksa with a lot of ingredients! Tasty!

Have to say that while my mum did not like it (she preferred the traditional Singaporean style laksa), I quite liked it. The ingredients were fresh and generous, definitely will recommend it =)

Of course no meal would be complete without dessert!

The Panna Cotta (GBP8) with fresh strawberries and meringues
Dark Chocolate (GBP8) with cherries, pistachios and vanilla ice-cream. Simply delicious!

After eating the last dish, we were officially full till we couldn't walk! We had to make a trip to the ladies before we left and we discovered that one of the cubicles was next to the glass walls. Cool =)

Nothing like a nice and clean toilet to make your day
Last photos before we left =)

We took a slow 10-minute walk from The Shard to our next attraction, the famous Tower Bridge.

With the beautiful Tower Bridge in the background

If you thought that this was the London Bridge, well, you are not alone! Many people, including me, have also mistaken the Tower Bridge for London Bridge too. It's not. Remember, London Bridge had h fallen down!

Tower Bridge

The long history of the Tower Bridge is displayed in an exhibition held within the Tower Bridge itself so do spend some time there if you can (we couldn't as we had a baby with us and my mum is not a history fan). There are stairs to bring you to the top of the bridge but do take the lifts like we did if you have a stroller with you.

The Tower Bridge is very wheelchair accessible
Lovely photo of me with one of the bridge's towers =)
Control Cabin
The Towers are really huge in real life, even though they look really small in pictures
Blue lamp posts with the badge of the City of London to complement the Bridge

We continued our walk to the Tower of London (where Anne Boleyn’s head was chopped off with an axe) after crossing the Tower Bridge.

Students gathering outside the Tower of London
Tower of London, as taken from across the river
(Opening hours: Tues-Sat, 9am-5.30pm; Sun-Mon, 10am-5.30pm)

We didn't go inside as there wasn't enough time but if you would like to see the crown jewels and other exhibitions, pay the admission ticket of GBP 22 (adults) and GBP 11 (children 5-15 years old).

After a long day, we were just happy to take the tube on the District line (green) from Tower Hill Station back to Hammersmith.

It was a long but super happy day for me as I got to see the The Clock Tower and Tower Bridge in person! A dream come true! *grin*

Continue to >> London Day 6: Windsor Castle & Buckingham Palace
<< Back to London Day 4: British Museum & Oxford Street


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! =)


Disclosure: Complimentary lunch at the TING Restaurant was received from Shangri-La International Hotel Management Ltd. for the purposes of this blog feature. No monetary compensation was received; all opinions are my own.
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