Ready or not? Here comes part two of Postcards from London!
Continuing from the last post, on the fourth day of our adventure, the morning began with a tour at the Shakespeare’s Globe.
I grew up studying English literature and of course, that included Shakespeare’s many poems and plays. My teacher would always tell us that if we ever got a chance to visit London, we’d have to go see the Globe. Even though it’s a reconstruction of the original theater, it was still spectacular. The theater also continues to put on plays and I had really wanted to see one, but our schedule simply didn’t work out.
London, like Vancouver, is infamous for its rain. There just wasn’t a day that didn’t rain, but that didn’t stop the changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace.
Before we headed for the palace, we took a detour through Hyde Park.
Yes, we visited the palace a second time just so we could see this! It was so grand and majestic and empowering? I’m not sure how else to describe that feeling. The movements of the soldiers were all in sync and the tempo matched so seamlessly that they just emitted such a strong patriotic atmosphere.
Our next place of interest was the Covent Garden Market.
We had come here for Jamie Oliver’s Union Jacks restaurant.
I had the Heritage Tomato Soup and Hampshire Roast Pork Belly while Jessica had the 12oz Bone-In Rib-Eye Steak. The soup was rich and creamy and the pork belly was roasted to perfection with the skin crisp to the touch and the meat so tender it melted like butter in my mouth.
The food was superb, but the service was terrible, or should I say shit (excuse my language as I cannot find any better word to describe this awful experience). The waitress took forever to get us our waters and we actually had to ask her twice because she kept forgetting. My soup also did not come for almost half an hour and that was just the appetizer portion only. And yeah, I get it, the restaurant was busy, I get it, I really do. But what was really unacceptable was the fact that four or five tables around us had already switched in and out. People who came later than us, ordered after us, all got their food before we did. Some of them even ordered the same dishes! We were outraged. We called the waitress over, asked to speak to the manager, and she came back with a menu. A fucking menu. We called her over again and clarified that we had wanted to see the manager, not the “menu”. She then gave us the shocked face and asked us why. We complained to her about what had happened and when the manager came out, the first thing he told us was, “We have 200 customers in the restaurant, we do not have the time to please each and every one of you.” We explained the situation again and demonstrated our dissatisfaction with their slow service as to why we had to wait longer than those who came after us. The manager explicitly responded “I do not like your language.” and something about how if our food arrived within 30 minutes or 45 minutes that it was still appropriate timing. He then went back to check their computer system, which apparently tracked the time of when we arrived, when we ordered, when our food was served, etc. He came back and said that the food was delivered within 30 minutes (the soup) and that he was “in a good mood” so he’d “let it slide this one time”. What. the. fucking. fuck. The tables around us were all Caucasians and although I did not want to think of this as a racial discrimination, it was true that we were pretty much the only Asian faces in the restaurant. And the fact that he said he did not like our language… what? We were speaking English. Perfectly fluent and polite English. Even though we do not have that fancy British accent, we spoke fucking English. What the fuck do you mean you do not like our language!? And the fact that he was in a good mood so he’d let things slide? I’m sorry but just because your food is great and just because you’re the restaurant created by some famous chef, Jamie Oliver, does not mean you can discriminate your customers like this. The service was just utterly shit. Fucking awful.
In the end, they took off the cost of the soup from the total, but there was no sign of apology. I was just so agitated after hearing the manager’s speech that I told a few friends about this and they actually advised me to send a complaint e-mail to the upper management of the restaurant. I really did not want to waste any more time with them, but I figured that Jamie Oliver had his reputation and so maybe him and his upper management team would like to hear about this and improve their services. But nope, no reply at all. Goes to show what kind of culture the restaurant fosters eh? So save yourself the time and frustration because there are so many other better restaurants worth your time and money.
We passed by the Somerset House to check out the architecture and just to see see. The weather continued to worsen and the building was under construction so we ended up just taking a look from the outside. (Not sure if it was open anyways seeing how there were no events taking place that day.)
Before heading back to the hotel, we dropped by a convenient store and oh my gosh, they were selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts!!!!!!!!! These are so hard to find in Canada and they just sell them in the UK in convenient stores. What!?
I’ve actually never had them, but heard all my friends raving about how good they are. To lighten up my mood, I decided that I needed to try these babies so I got the Original Glazed, Chocolate Sprinkles, and Chocolate Custard Filling. Mmmmm!
After we got back to the hotel, we changed then set out for dinner at The Shard.
The Shard offers several dining options, but we chose Aqua Shard on the 31st floor.
I had made a reservation in advance and requested for a window seat. The night view overlooking the Tower Bridge was incredibly spectacular. The lights on the bridge were lit as were the city lights and their reflections mirrored in the River Thames, adding mystery to the beauty of this scene, from which I simply could not turn my eyes away from.
The dim lights in the restaurant also created a romantic atmosphere. Great spot for date nights or simply just a fantastic place to catch up with friends and enjoy a few sips.
Jessica had the Roasted Halibut and I had the Crispy Duck Breast. And as per usual, no meal would be complete without dessert.
Don’t quite remember the name of this dish, but it was a meringue sphere with custard and sorbet hidden in the center. There were so many different layers, different textures, but they all complimented one another wonderfully. Absolutely mouthwatering!
By the time we finished dinner and returned to the hotel, it was midnight already. And on our way, we caught another glimpse of the London Eye sparkling at night, this time, even more vividly.
On the fifth day, before Jessica departed for her flight, we visited Westminster Abbey and strolled along the Westminster Bridge where we viewed both Palace of Westminster and Big Ben.
Lady you camera ready for my shot.
After Jessica left, with my handy dandy Google Maps app, I ventured out to Greenwich Park to pay a visit to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich for the prime meridian.
Tickets were £9.50 for adults. I originally found this to be a bit expensive because I imagined there to be one or two telescope facilities and the meridian, nothing else. Didn’t know there was so much to see at the observatory! And since I had nothing much planned for the rest of the day, I definitely took the leisure to enjoy each and every detail. That being said, I certainly learnt a lot and loved the experience. Plus I’ve always been interested in astronomy so this was probably one of the best things I’ve spent money on during this trip.
Lunch occured at Rock & Sole Plaice, one of the oldest chippies in town. And by chippies, I mean you know, that place where you get fish and chips. Can’t leave London without trying some authentic fish and chips!
I tried their regular size cod and boy was the portion huge! I was so shocked to see the waitress place the plate on my table. More shockingly, I finished pretty much all of it (also because it was hella expensive; yup, another example of sit in fee! – refer to the the second last photo above). It was, without a doubt, the BEST fish and chips I had. But then again I don’t go around sampling fish and chips, searching for the most perfect recipe, and this was the only time I had fish and chips in London so this is just my personal opinion.
I gotta say though, their wall tiles reminded me soooo much of the ones used in bathrooms in Asia.
Having ate, I strolled around the neighborhood and just took my time exploring the city.
I happened to pass by Amorino and having visited its branch in Lyon, I just had to go another time.
I also passed by the National Gallery, but this time, I saw the front/main entrance instead.
Also finally got to see the Tower of London. But it was just closing when I arrived. What awful luck. Probably should’ve checked their hours beforehand.
Caught a view of the Tower Bridge and The Shard from a different angle.
Since I was soaking wet from being splashed on by passing cars on the street, I decided to head back to the hotel early and rest up for the night to prepare for my early flight the following day.
One thing I really liked about Tune Hotel was its location. With Costa right next door, I grabbed a quick hot chocolate to warm myself up. Just around the corner, there was also Tesco. It’s a local grocery store and I’d bought my dinner here. ₤2.20 for a chicken, bacon, and lettuce sandwich?? Cheapest meal I’ve had this whole trip!
The next morning, I arrived at the airport way early. I had a lot of time to kill so decided to go for breakfast at The Perfectionist’ Cafe at Terminal 2.
I’m not a big breakfast person so this was probably one of the best and most relaxing breakfasts I’ve ever had.
And with a suitcase full of memories, I said goodbye to my adventures in Europe and headed back home to Vancouver.
After these couple days of journey, I’d say people in London really know how to enjoy themselves. Broadways, theatrical plays, oh did I mention we passed by a ball? It was held at a fancy hotel and everyone inside was either dressed in sparkling evening gowns or jet black tuxedos.
Anyways, that’s a wrap! This concludes part two of Postcards from London. For more on how to explore London like a local, head on over to Tim’s blog!
Until next time, London.