April 21, 2016

#OMGB Great Value Travel to London – Day 2

Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Hache Burgers Camden, Camden Market, Bill’s Restaurant, Lyric Theatre

Day 2 Summary
  • Breakfast at Premier Inn County Hall
  • Visit Big Ben, Parliament House, Westminster Abbey
  • Visit Buckingham Palace – Changing of the Guards
  • Santander Bicycle Ride
  • Lunch at Hache Burgers Camden
  • Visit Camden Market
  • Dinner at Bill’s Restaurant
  • Lyric Theatre for Thriller

Woke up bright and early this morning at the sound of my alarm. For a few minutes, I was a bit groggy and then I realized that I wasn’t home but I was actually in London! I quickly ran to the window to peek out and saw that the sky had started to lighten up. I had such a good slumber that I actually felt really good despite the time difference.

A quick shower and warmed up, I headed down to Thyme Restaurant for breakfast and to meet up with the rest of the gang. Thyme Restaurant was decent and fairly large in space. There were plenty of tables spread out comfortably and the buffet counters were set at the end of the room.

Expecting a simple breakfast, I was indeed surprised when I saw that they were very generous with their breakfast buffet. It was a delicious sight of the Full Monty English breakfast filled with loads of goodies!

I was hungry and happily load up my plate with all the typical must-have English breakfast of Cumberland sausages, bacon, hash browns, egg, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, sautéed potatoes, toast and juice. There were also a British classic of black pudding too if one is game to try this. Besides the hot breakfast, there’s plenty of fruits, yoghurt, pancakes, muesli, pastries, muffins, bread, sourdough crumpets and more. Breakfast is served from 6.30am to 10.30am.

What an awesome breakfast spread…

Met up with the rest and everyone was well-rested and happy to start our day. After breakfast, we took a leisure walk from our hotel through York Road across the Westminster Bridge to check out some of the famous landmarks of London.

Met this fella dressed in one of the Queen’s guard and couldn’t resist a picture of him on stilts….

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey

There was some traffic on the Westminster Bridge as it was a peak hour for work and so we strolled past lots of London double decker buses, trucks and other vehicles on the bridge. It was such a gorgeous sight despite the weather being a bit grey. Though the sun did not shine through, I was still captivated at the sight of London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament at sight.

London was charming. The air was cool and there were people walking everywhere. The sight of Thames River and all its city buildings and skyscrapers painted what London city is all about. I couldn’t help but to really hope to capture as much as I can behind my lens for memories.

Did you know that Big Ben’s official name was Elizabeth Tower? Previously known as just Clock Tower, Big Ben was renamed to Elizabeth Tower to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012. Holding the title as the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world, the architecture of this building and clock tower is majestic with a Gothic charm. One can only admire Big Ben from the outside as it is not open for public viewing inside.

The Palace of Westminster or more commonly known as Houses of Parliament stood in grandeur as Big Ben. The iconic landmark of London and United Kingdom is always a major sight for everyone and has appeared countless times in many movies. It has also been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.


We walked further and halted at another famous landmark of London – Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is where many coronations of royalty were held since 1066. This Gothic abbey church is one of the most notable religious buildings in UK and is also a place for many royal nuptials, memorials and burials. We were at their North entrance and couldn’t help but to admire the amazing façade of the building.

There was already a long queue of visitors waiting to go into the Westminster Abbey that morning. Visit their website to find out more on the visiting hours as well as all other information.

We can’t resist takings lots of pictures at this amazing architecture. The Gothic style architecture is so impressive at sight that I could stare at this for hours. We didn’t manage to go in as we were trying to make it to Buckingham Palace to catch the Changing of the Guards.

One can also visit St.Margaret’s Church that stands between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament too if you have time because that is another beautiful building to admire.

20 Dean’s Yard

Santander Cycles
While heading towards the Buckingham Palace, we saw Santander Cycles. There are many places with London’s self-service, bike-sharing scheme and one will see these Santander Cycle docking station everywhere. These are really easy to use for short travels. I tested one and paid a minimum of only £2 for one.

The great thing is that it’s very easy to rent one as there is no booking required. Basically you hire one, ride it to where you like and dock it back at the closest Santander Cycle docking station. Love cycling this in London because the air was cool and seeing the streets of London is easy and less taxing than by feet.

Find out more on Santander Cycles at their website: www.tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles

Buckingham Palace – Changing of the Guards

The last time I was in London, I had missed the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace because we had arrived a little too late. This time, I was early. Despite it being a regular week day, there was quite a crowd already at the palace.

Many were eager to witness this royal tradition carried out by soldiers on active duty from the Foot Guards who have guarded the Sovereign and the Royal Palaces since 1660. We picked out what we hope to be the best spot and waited excitedly among the thousands of spectators that morning. Despite the grey sky, it was still a lovely moment to be able to experience this.

During spring and summer, the Guards would be clad in their famous red tunic and bearskin hats but during the cold months, they have their cool grey long tunics and their usual bearskin hats.

Here’s a video of them marching into the Buckingham Palace while belting out a selection of music ranging from traditional marches to songs from musicals and familiar pop songs. It’s a truly unique experience that one won’t be able to experience anywhere else in the world…

A top-on-list-to-do in London, the grand Changing of the Guard ceremony, or ‘Guard Mounting’, exhibits the moment where one regiment of Guards takes over from another. The grand British pageantry ceremony lasts about 45 minutes and takes place at about 11.30am when we were there.

The schedule might change slightly during certain months during the season so it’s best to visit the website below to find out more before you plan your day.

London SW1A 1AA,
United Kingdom

Website: www.royal.uk
Website for Changing of the Guards Schedule: www.royal.uk/changing-guard

From Buckingham Palace, we head towards Camden Town. One can continue the Big Bus Tour to catch more sightseeing before heading to Camden. Another option would be to take the Metro to Victoria stop. From Victoria, take the Underground Line to Euston Station where you would change to the Northern Line to Camden Town station.

Hache Burgers Camden

The moment we arrived at Camden, we headed straight for Hache Burgers Camden. Hache Burgers is one of the best burgers in London as claimed by many. Unlike the usual burger bars, Hache Burger echoed an urbane modern restaurant dressed with chandeliers, lots of fairy lights and casual woodwork. Hache Burgers started at this Camden outlet in 2004 and has now expanded to over five outlets in London.

Obviously burgers are their signatures and Hache serves premium quality 100% scotch beef steak burgers. Taking burgers to new heights, Hache bumps up their burgers with their signature Brioche and Ciabatta buns and quality ingredients. Expect simple but solid burgers made really well and to your order.

Top left to right: Grand Avocat (£10.95), Hot N’ Spicy Chicken Wings (£8.95), Steak Reblochon (£10.95), Middle left to right: Goat’s Cheese Burger (£8.50), Steak Reblochon (£10.95), Nachos (£4.50)
Bottom left to right: Steak Canadian £9.50, Grilled Halloumi (£5.95), Sweet Potato Fries (£3.95)

I had their Grilled Halloumi (£5.95) to start off and enjoyed the simple chargrilled halloumi cheese on a bed of mixed greens. Lightly dressed with a honey and lemon dressing, it was tasty and light.

I love cheese and so when I saw the Steak Reblochon (£10.95) on the menu which was served with Reblochon cheese, I made my decision to try this. Happy to say, the moment I saw my burger, I knew I had made the right choice. The two generous ooey-gooey looking Reblochon cheese was so tempting at sight. The patty was cooked really well and to my order of medium. Juicy at every bite, the burger was an explosion of salty and creamy rich cheese well balanced with the tasty beef burger, sweet brioche bun and tangy caramelized onion chutney. Must order the Sweet Potato Fries as it is superb!

A great lunch indeed… Hache Burgers are super scrumptious and got many good praise among all of us. Ambiance is charming indeed and it’s a place where one can certainly hang out in comfort. Service was good too as our server was efficient and friendly.

24 Inverness St,
Camden Town NW1 7HJ,
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 20 7485 9100

Camden Town

After our delicious lunch, we went exploring at Camden Town, which is located at the inner Northern district of London. This is certainly part of London that I didn’t really expect. The whole township has such an amazing labyrinth of everything from its culture, people, food, shops, art and more.

Built around canals, Camden was only more renowned after the development of the railways. Filled with lots of open-air markets as well as enclosed ones, Camden is where one comes to hunt for treasures. It’s definitely another must visit when one is in London. Before I had arrive, I had actually done a little research on Camden and found that Camden is sectioned into the following markets and areas.

  • Camden Lock Market – crafts, books, clothing, jewelry and fast food
  • Camden Lock Village – clothing and accessories, as well as a range of unusual items.
  • Camden Market – fashion and accessories
  • Inverness Street Market – fruit and vegetable, cheap clothing, footwear and souvenir stalls.
  • Stables Market – household items, vintage clothes, antiques and food
  • Electric Ballroom – indoor market during weekends only with lots of fashion, unique and unusual items 

Most of these markets are open 7 days a week except for Christmas Day and those listed for weekends only. Though it was dark and grey with light drizzle while we were heading towards the markets, it was still nevertheless a sight to take in for this was an unexpected side of London that I never knew.

Camden Lock Market and Village was situated next to the Regent Canal and one can see all the waterbus on the canal. An interesting site indeed as we proceed to head into the market, the first thing that hit our senses was an aroma of deliciousness wafting through the air.

Food stalls, and gloriously plenty of it, are gathered at the open-air market. For a moment, I had really wish that I had stomach space for these stalls. Rows of street food stalls from all over the world is here. Needless to say, my eyes and lens went overdrive as I try to capture all the delicious moments. It is really a haven for foodies like me and the hardest part of this was not being able to try them all.

From the corners of the world, there are Italian fresh pasta, pizzas and calzones, Middle East falafels, kebabs and doners, Polish sausages and pierogis, Colombian rice, beans, potatoes and meat, Spanish Paellas, jazzed up Mac and Cheeses, Indian roti and curries, Filipino beef pares and chicken asado, French crepes, Thai noodles and rice, Tibetan Momo dumplings, Venezuelan Arepa filled with beef and pork, Dutch baby pancakes with Nutella, Peruvian grilled meats and potatoes, desserts and so much more.

We even spotted our very own Malaysian stall run by a Malay lady and her son selling various Malaysian curries. Of course we couldn’t help but to chat with them happily…

We also found a local brewery, Half Hitch that makes their own handcrafted gin.

More shopping continues as we went inside some of the market buildings and found lots of fashion clothing, warm shawls, special unique handcrafted jewelry, art paintings and lots of other trinkets and souvenirs. I couldn’t resist and even bought this cool one-of-a-kind cufflink made from recycled watches!

As we were about to leave Camden, I spotted Poppies! My sister had told me that I should definitely try Poppies Fish & Chips if I ever see one and I did. Though they are famous for the fish and chips, Poppies also serves pies, chicken and sausages. Since this one is not a restaurant but rather a takeaway stall, I bought my Cod & Chips (£8.50) to-go. Had this with plenty of malt vinegar and loved how thick and moist the crispy fish was as well as the thick cut chips.

Camden Town has so much to offer that one can spend a whole day here and still not cover all their stalls. Do plan more time if you wish to do some shopping and food hunting here…

Camden Town
London NW1, UK

After Camden Town, we decided to head back to Premier Inn County Hall and freshen up because we all got a little wet from the rain. Head towards Chalk Farm Road and take the Underground Northern Line (Southbound) to Waterloo Station to head back to the hotel.

After a quick freshen up, we head over to get an early dinner as we have our West End musical show to catch. Take the Northern line (Northbound) from Waterloo station to Leicester Square station.

In Leicester Square, there is a small booth that sells discounted theatre tickets for shows that evening. This is a great way to catch a musical show in London with at least 25% off!

Bill’s Restaurant

Since Bill’s Restaurant was close by our theatre district, we opted to dine at the contemporary European chain serving breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch and dinner menus. Despite being early for dinner, there was already a solid crowd at the restaurant, denoting that food must obviously be pretty good.

The ambiance was warm and cozy, with lots of shabby chic injected with modern touches. The restaurant is quite tight in space but we managed to get a cozy corner with banquette seating to ourselves. Menu looked good and there are plenty of dishes I would order from it. Since time was something we didn’t have, we all decided to go straight for a main course each.

I opted for the divine sounding dish of Slow Cooked Barbeque-style Pork Ribs (£14.95) served with sweet potato mash, smoky barbeque beans and creamy coleslaw. I loved it when I make a delicious decision. When the dish was placed in front of me, the others were also ogling it as it looked really gorgeous. Generous as well, I was glad to share this pork rib with the others. Definitely lip-smacking good because the ribs were so tender and moist. The balance of the BBQ sauce was spot on and it had just the right sweetness as well as savory notes. Not a fan of beans but I do enjoy the creamy sweet potato mash and purple cabbage coleslaw.

Alice was very generous and offered me a taste of her Bill’s Fish Pie (£12.95). The pie was also pure comfort food made really well. There were generous chunks of cod, salmon, smoked haddock, prawns, peas and roasted baby onions and topped cheddar mashed potato. Superb!

Others had the Green Curried Chicken (£11.95) and Avocado, Bacon and Spinach Salad (£5.50)

I would to go back to Bill’s one day since there are many more dishes I want to try in their menu. Service was brisk and solid and we were out of the restaurant in time for our show, thanks to the awesome servers there.

Bill’s Restaurant
36-44 Brewer St,
London W1F 9TB,
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 20 7287 8712

Lyric Theatre - Thriller

The last time when I caught the musical Charlie and Chocolate Factory, I was really impressed by the show. This time, I was even more excited because we were going to catch the King of Pop at the musical Thriller at Lyric Theatre. 45 years of glory, the late Michael Jackson is truly a legend of the music industry.

Opened in December 1888, Lyric Theatre is the oldest theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. Like many other buildings in London, the theatre is well-maintained and looked very regal in its interior.

Thriller Live, a 2-hour performances of the very best of Michael Jackson’s singing list from the early Jackson Five days to the very last one at the end of his life, is worthy of a visit. The artistes certainly did the King of Pop’s music justice as they belted out pop to rock and soul to disco together with the dancers on stage. One of the artiste almost replicated the legend’s moon walk!

Talk about going all out, the gravity-defying leaning move that Michael Jackson stunned and wowed his fans in his song ‘Smooth Criminal’ was also carried out by the performers…

An unforgettable musical experience that one should try to catch!

Lyric Theatre
29 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 7ES
United Kingdom

Performance Time:
Tuesday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sat 4pm & 8pm, Sun 3:30pm

After the musical performances, we took a London cab back to our hotel as there was a drizzle. If you are traveling in a group of 4 or 5, it might be worth it to take a cab together to share the cost.

We had another sound night at Premier Inn County Hall and turned in early because we were going to start our day earlier to depart to Oxford the next morning.

*Stay tune for Day 3 - Pret A Manger, Oxford, Jaime’s Italian, Ashmolean Museum, Portabello Restaurant, Marlborough House Hotel

For more information and to plan your Great Value Travel to London, check out Visit Britain at www.visitbritain.com/malaysia or CIT Malaysia at www.cit.travel/europe/united-kingdom

This trip was made possible by Visit Britain. All stories and comments in my posts are purely derived from my own experiences through the trip.

Great Value Travel to London Stories