Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our English Summer: Around Central London

Day 2 of our London trip was jam-packed with loads  of  walking and sightseeing. You definitely need an Oyster card to travel around, children under 11 trvel for free though. We woke up to gloomy skies and weather so frigid that I saw many Londoners clothed in leather jackets and scarves.

"You sure this is summer?" I kept asking Hubs every few minutes as I clutched my long, wool cardigan closer around me. "Where's the heat wave that the media kept talking about?"

We stopped by Notting Hill for a short walk. This was the fresh bloom bedecked Churchill Arms.

Then a bus to the Royal Albert Hall.

Stopped at the Albert Memorial across the road to rest our legs a little.

Then onward to the Musuem of Natural History where we initially thought that we wanted to spend only an hour but ended up staying for quite a while. Entry to the musuem is free and there was at least a 30 minute wait outside that stretched all the way out to the road due to security/bag checks. We took the time to admire the ornate Victorian architecture with gargoyles all over the facade.

They allow food inside with a designated indoor picnic area so we packed some sandwiches for lunch.

For some reason, the inside of the musuem reminded me of Hogwarts :)

The dinosaurs were the most popular exhibit and Bubs went out of his mind here. It took a lot of persuading to get him to move on to other areas.

Everywhere you looked, there was bound to be something exciting to discover. At that point, I was envious over how Londoners get to access the musuem anytime they want!

Don't miss out the amazing escalator ride up to the Earth Hall that makes you feel as though you're travelling right into the center of the earth. Ooh-ing and aah-ing from little ones are guaranteed. One of the coolest exhibitions there is the earthquake simulator inside a mock Japanese supermarket' Cynical Hubs, on the other hand, shrugged and said it was minor compared to the one he experienced back in 2011.

After we left the musuem, that was when we went on one of the most intense walks we ever did together, plus the skies turned a dark shade of grey and fat drops of rain started spilling out.

We took the tube to Big Ben where Hubs went into a photo-shooting frenzy. I'm pretty sure that we have a photo of Westminster Abbey somewhere - Bubs and I were too cold and wet to care. We were half contemplating abandoning the rest of the schedule and head back to the hotel when the rain started pouring down.

I grabbed Hubs and Bub's arms and started looking for the closest shelter - which happened to be a tiny, very cramped Tesco Express - to weigh our options. After grabbing a few tubs of yoghurts and sandwiches, the rain tapered off into a steady, fine drizzle. We joined a few other families on the small, grassy patch in front of St. Margaret's for our afternoon snack.

We continued our loooong walk again.

Bubs, at one point, pleaded for us to carry him - weighing 21kg, it wasn't an easy task.

While researching for our trip, I read online that if you're travelling with kids, skip the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and go instead to the Horse Guards, Whitehall. Although we missed the changing of the Queen's Life Guards, we found it more interesting as the crowds were far smaller and there are no barricades separating you from the horse guards. Bubs was very impressed with their striking red uniforms and their long, shiny swords. If you cut through the building, you can enter St. James Park directly.

We then cut across St. James Park for yet, another long, chilly walk in the rain. Hubs ignored my mutters of "how can this be summer?"

The only indication I had that it was summer were the glorious flower beds in all colours of the rainbow.

We'd read that there were pelicans in the park and kept a watchful eye out for them.

"Look, pelican!" I shouted, waving excitedly  at a huge bird.

"It's a duck ..." Hubs closed his eyes with disbelief at my (lack of) general knowledge.

Bubs, on the other hand, had a new found interest in scaring our feathered friends away each time they flew over the fence and directly in front of us. He'd sneak up to the pigeon and then yell and hop close to it. #definitelydoesntgetthatfromme

After what seemed like forever, we finally reached Buckingham Palace, woots! At this point, the rain started pouring again and the crowds gradually increased. Wearied, Bubs and I waited at one of the side gates for Hubs to take photos.

We'd really high hopes for dinner at Jamie's Italian, Westfield Sheppards Bush. We reached around 6pm and it wasn't packed so thankfully, no reservations were required. It was quiet, laid back and had a nice, retro feel

Given the amount of power walking we did, we replenished lost calories easily with: the Italian steak and fries that came with a very generous helping of fresh rocket, baby organic beef burgers and baked spuds from the kid's menu, the "shake me" jar contained fresh salad which was good in theory - but the raw veg were a little too chunky to be palatable to Bubs, spicy sausage penne and the truffle tagliatelle.

The steak was pleasant, done nicely though not very remarkable. The baby beef burgers were cute but for some reason, tasted more like beef meatballs; we ended up dipping them in the lemon yoghurt for extra flavour. The spicy sausage pasta was zesty and the highlight was the truffle pasta with its gorgeous, smoky scent, though when it was served to our table, the pasta was slightly congealed.

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