Saturday, January 26, 2019

5 Historic Royal Palaces in London

One of the few things I do during my free in London especially on weekends was making short trips to small cities, town and sightseeing places. Since my university offer us entrance to all the royal places around London, I decided to put into good use for it.

There are a total of 6 Historic Royal Palaces where 5 is located in the UK and 1 in Northern Ireland. I learnt so much about the London royal history visiting these palaces. Each of the palace has it's own unique story and history. I been to the five palaces around UK except Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland.

The historic royal palace is an independent charity that take cares of the maintenance of all the royal palaces around London. Hence, they would ask for donations apart from the entrance ticket to help with the maintenance of these places. The places are owned by The Queen 'in Right of Crown' which meant that Her Majesty holds the palaces in Trust for the next monarch and by law cannot sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any interest in the palaces. If you are member of the Historic Royal Palaces, all entrance fee would be free. 

In the 18th century, these palaces were ceased to be used for royal court purposes and open to the public for 19th century. Tower of London was already open to the public before that but to selective visitors. Being able to visit these castle allows you to experience how it was like living in the castle and see what its like in the castle. 

Tower of London

1,000 year-old castle that houses the Crown Jewel, which also a fortress and prison. A castle full of history and stories, so much to tell and experience in this ancient stone castle. I spend almost a full day visiting the tower. There is three (3) part to this place labelled Fortress, Palace and Prison. I definitely recommend you to get the map and plan your visit to ensure you get to see everything. 

Legend has it 'If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall...' There are six ravens but now, they have a spare one. Try spotting the ravens when you are visiting the tower. 

The building with the longest queue would be the fortress housing the crown jewels. We visited there slightly later in the evening to miss the peak hour of the line. Right at the entrance, there would be a free guided tour called 'Yeoman Warder Guided Tour' to help you understand the place even more and a brief overview of the important events that happen in this historic place. 

Online prices are cheaper by 15% so why not get it online and skip the queue!
Adult (+22) : £22.70
Senior, full time student, disabled visitors : £17.70
Child : £10.75
There's also the family saver package which you can look up here

Opening Times : 
Tuesday-Saturday: 09:00-16:30
Sunday-Monday: 10:00-16:30
Last admission: 16:00

Hampton Court Palace

The home of Henry VIII, located in the borough of Richmond on Thames. A 35 minute journey from Waterloo Station and you find yourself in the home of Henry VIII. Walking through the palace of Henry VIII and his families life along the great hall and beautiful art piece. 

I've also visited the Privy Kitchen Cafe and the Wine Cellar which I thought was pretty insightful. The olden ways of cooking in the palace and the way the wine were kept was exactly the way you see it in movies. Being there at the actual place is quite amusing and I was just fascinated by the pots and equipment tools they used previously. 

The apartments would walk you through the lives of the royalties from Henry VIII to his wives and children through an audio guide. The apartments were all well maintain and you can see their rooms they used to live in, place they eat, reading room and the meeting room. My favourite part was the garden, created by William III and Mary II. The Great Fountain Garden was created to complement the baroque style of the palace. You'll get a beautiful view of the garden from the William's apartment. 

You won't have to spend a whole day there and there's many other sightseeing places around the palaces that you can visit. There you go, one day at Hampton! 

Buy it online here too to save money. I did not see the queue when I was there but during holiday seasons, you definitely get the queue over there. 
Adult (+22) : £11.35
Senior, full time student, disabled visitors : £9.05
Child : £5.65

Monday-Sunday: 10:00-16:30
Last admission: 15:30
Last entry to Maze: 15:45

Banqueting House 

The sole survivor of the Whitehall fire in 1698, another historic landmark where important events occurred at this particular building. The tickets to this hall was really cheap and it was close to Westminster Abbey and other historic landmark. A good stop for more history lesson! 

Adult (+22) : £5.50
Senior, full time student, disabled visitors : £4.60
Child : Free

Monday-Sunday: 10:00-17:00
Last admission: 16:30

One of the significant event was the execution of Charles I's after he lost the civil wall and his enemies convicted of high treason. The painting of Charles I is hung very close to the window where he walk through and was beheaded. Up till today, the executioners are still unknown. 

The Banqueting Hall had paintings on the ceiling which was painted by Ruben. These canvases was painted in Antwerp and brought over to the hall after it was finished. The hall is huge with the tall ceiling and every corner of the building has a story to tell. The hall provided moving mirrors which allow you to look out at the reflection of the ceiling instead of holding your head up high all the time. 

I found it really relaxing. Although it was just a hall, they provided bean bag which I sat there for two hours hearing all the audio guide. Sitting on the bean bag and admiring the painting on the ceiling while hearing the audio guide explaining what each painting meant. As it wasn't very crowded, I felt more comfortable there. 

Also, they allow costume fitting and the staff there was really helpful in helping out and guiding you around as well. 

Apart from costume fitting, the staff has a pop up stand at the side to explain certain historic artifact that were during the olden days. She explained to me carefully and also, gave me more facts about the hall. 

Kew Palace / Kew Gardens

Kew Palace, another royal palace located in Kew Gardens and summer home of King George III. It was constructed in 1631 which was leased by Queen Caroline and subsequently bought by King George. Kew Palace is not as big as the other palaces but definitely another royal history to gain. After you've been to a few palace and hearing the history, you would be able to kind of put the story up together. 

The entrance fee includes not just the Kew Palace but the gardens as well and a lot of places that you can visit. The Royal Botanical Garden is beautiful. 
Adult (+22) : £12.50
Concession : £11.00
Child : £5.75

I would say that you definitely need the whole day to spend in Kews. The garden is just beautiful and there's a big map which you will find it really interesting to walk around as well! There was so much to see and I was only there half day. Other things to see there would be :- 
  • Princess of Wale Conservatory
  • Duke's Garden
  • Pagoda
  • Japanese Gateway
  • Queen Charlotte's Cottage
  • Palm House Parterre
These are just some of the place to visit all around the garden. If you love botany and plants, you definitely enjoy this place here. 

The Hive - this is actually pretty interesting because you are allowed to hear what is it like to be in the bee hive sound. An manbuild hive. 

Kensington Palace

The birth place and childhood home of Queen Victoria, located in Hyde Park, stand the royal building open to the public for visit. The home to Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection and Royal collection, also the magnificent showcase of Princess Diana. 

Ticket Prices 
The ticket price are different for peak (P) and offpeak (OP) hours. Peak is before 2pm. 
Adult (+22) : £19.50 (P), £16.00 (OP)
Concession : £15.50 (P), £12.70 (OP)
Child : £9.70 (P), £8.00 (OP)

Opening Hours: 
Summer (01 March - 31 October)
Monday-Sunday: 10:00-18:00
Last admission: 17:00

Winter (01 November - 28 February)
Monday-Sunday: 10:00-16:00
Last admission: 15:00

A brief history of this palace which was originally known as the Nottingham House : 
  • William III bought the Jacobean mansion in 1689
  • Favourite residence of successuve sovereigns
  • Birth place of Queen Mary in 1867
  • Residence place for Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 

The Kensington Palace has four routes which you can visit and can be done in about 2-3 hours:
  • King's State Apartment - era of music, fashion and arts
  • Queen's State Apartment - Queen Mary II 
  • Victoria Reveal -  journey through Queen Victoria life through the different rooms in the palace
  • Diana - The Fashion Story
My favourite was Princess Diana Fashion exhibition, showcasing all the pretty and beautiful dresses she once wore to each of the occasion. I felt like after visiting so many places, this was one that I was really fascinated by. 

Every palace would definitely have a majestic garden. Kensington Palace has one which named was 'The Sunken Pond'. I was here in 2014 and it was my favourite garden back then. Flash forward to 2019, I am still find it a very elegant and pretty garden. It's not as big as the others but I love the way it's structured and decorated.

Well, these marks the end of my list and experience at the Historic Royal Places. First time tourist who only have a few days in London, would normally visit the main tourist attraction sites first before exploring these palaces. I found it very interesting as I was learning a lot of the UK royal history. As I am already residing here and will be here for awhile, this was really useful to know and understand the place more. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Afternoon Tea in London : Hotel Café Royal

A luxurious afternoon tea in an unique historic setting. A small, unique space where many events has taken place. The Oscar Wilde Lounge is definitely eye catching and where you want to be surrounded by the unique paintings. When I first walked into the lounge, I was captivated by the grand environment of the room.

Given that I am a big fan of afternoon tea, a good setting is very important for be to indulge in all these sweet treats. It gives you a sense of satisfaction and the feels. Setting is very important for a theme afternoon tea. Well, Hotel Café Royal definitely live up to its name on the ambience of the place.

This place reminds me of the Louvre and Vatican museum with all the painting on the ceiling. Well, of course, the beauty in the museum and the history behind those painting is more beautiful and so much stories to one painting. It just brings back to my travel memories to those places. Also, it doesn't feel like you are in London.

Next up, the afternoon tea delicacy and sweet treats on the Festive Afternoon Tea

First up, are the selection of sandwiches :

  • English cucumber, rose pepper, cinnamon 
  • Keen’s cheddar cheese, sweet and sour pickle 
  • H.Forman smoked salmon, wild fennel pollen 
  • Bronze turkey, pickled cranberry 
  • Atlantic prawn cocktail in a brioche bun 
This is a setting for two people. 

My favourite was the atlantic prawn cocktail in a brioche bun. Like most afternoon tea, the sandwiches are bottomless refillable section. I had to order one more for it. Quick tip on afternoon tea, although it is refillable, I would suggest you only do it after you had everything because the entire menu is way too full for one person. If you fill your stomach all with sandwiches, you will not enjoy the next two as you are on full tank. 

As for the scones and delicacies:
  • Traditional raisin and plain scones with Clotted cream and Strawberry jam

  • Yuzu and mandarin choux 
  • Spiced plum tart, orange cream 
  • Tonka bean, cherry, chocolate bar 
  • Blackcurrant financier, chestnut cream

And yes, the delicacies has the festive decorations on top of it which was really cute. 

I always start with the scones and I really love the scones here. I know that having both scones means you will be too full to have the delicacies but I just had too. Warm, fluffy and the crispyness on the outside. 

The delicacies is are very rich in flavour especially the Tonka bean, cherry chocolate bar. Very rich in chocolate, if you are big fan of chocolate, you are going to love it. As for me, I was already very full at that moment and I thought the delicacies was 

I love plum and when I saw the plum tart, I went straight for it. I find it just a normal plum tart but it blended quite well with the orange cream. 

The yuzu and mandarin choux was fluffy cream on the inside which was really taste and melts in your mouth. It was the delicacies with the lightness flavour and I had it last so it was a good finishing treat for me. 

Lastly, the blackcurrant financier and chestnut cream was one I felt quite special as I never thought blending both blackcurrent and chestnut cream into one. The texture of the treat was smooth and the flavour blended quite well. 

My selection of tea :
  • Lychee & Rose Noir - aromatic rose and scented lychee, perfect to start of the afternoon tea
  • Red Berry & Hibicus - strong berry taste and ever so refreshing, smooth as it is definitely goes with all the treat
  • Silver Needle - a light tea, which was does not overpower the taste of the sandwiches but goes with it, cleaning you palette, ready for the next sandwich that you are about to take.

Overall, I love the entire experience there. It was pleasant as we were catching with friends. The service was amazing as well. Gotta say, the waiters there are well trained with the camera. Took a really great group photo for us, symmetrically balance and capture the entire ambience and setting for the lounge. 

The waiters there gives you good recommendation and like all our tea, will explain what each treat are and the preference and orders that you should go for to get the best out of it. Rating this place a 9/10. A royal setting, with delicious treat and amazing service. What more can you ask for! 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Boston Traventures in Spring

11th - 13th May 2018
Last stop, Boston. Took an early flight off to Boston and head over to my friend's place. As I had friends in Boston, one of them kindly offer me his accommodation which saved me a lot of money. He studied in Boston University so you would all expect, I had a tour around the university campus as my first stop.

The weather change really quickly from warm to cold. It was 25 degrees one day before and in Boston, it drop 11 degrees. And for Boston, I didn't have enough time to plan for it so I got the Boston City Pass which was much cheaper that the NY Pass. We got it for £45 and it included:

  • New England Aquarium
  • Museum of Science
  • Skywalk Observatory
  • Boston Harbor Cruise OR Harvard Museum of Natural History
Since we had the pass, we did all four places and definitely walking around Boston city as well. And Boston is famous for their lobster. There were so many recommendation given to us and we just had to try it for ourselves. 

I definitely gotta say I had the best lobster roll in my life. As we've been travelling for about a good 7-8 days now, we were taking it a notch down. Instead of going all intense exploring the city, we did the main tourist sites and had my friend brought us around. Here's a list of the things I did: 

Boston University

The campus was huge and this was the first American university campus I've visited. My friend brought us around and explain to us the buildings and it was very insightful for me. I've never studied in an American university so I kind of got a glimpse of what it would have been like. 

I was planning to visit Harvard on the other side of the river but we didn't have the time at last. But I really enjoy the walk around Boston Uni. And I totally love the neighbourhood around the university and it's so pretty during spring. 

There were trees everywhere and the houses design are just what you've seen in the movies! They have the open concept without gates as well. I guess their security and area must be pretty safe. The day I arrive, the weather was pretty good and hence, I've got a good a really good view around the neighbourhood. Also, you can get a pretty good view of the skyline if you head over to the Boston University Bridge!

New England Aquarium 

With over 1.3million visitor a year, this aquarium here make a good visit place especially when it's raining! There was definitely a lot of kids visiting this aquarium but as for me, I like visiting aquarium, especially the dolphin, seals and penguins! The one thing that I enjoyed most during the aquarium was getting up close with the stringray. I spend close to 30-40 mins at that particular area just touching them and it was so fun. 

They would wiggle a little bit but they back is so smooth to touch and you just keep coming back for more. 

And these cute little penguins, greedy little thing but so cute when they are munching on little fish. They can be really noisy but you'll forgive them for their cuteness.

Skywalk Observatory

As usual, if there's a skyscraper, I will definitely be visiting it. I really love getting the high views of a city and for some reason, it gives me a very bliss feeling. You'll get a beautiful 360 degree of Boston city, audio guide to explain the landmarks. We spend about 2-3 hours there as we waited for the sunset. It was beautiful. We killed time by going for the projector shows of Boston such as the immigration history, and history moments.

Boston Harbour Cruise

What better way to explore the city by water? Of course taking a cruise with a tour guide to bring you around and explains to you everything! We were a bit worried that we weren't going to see anything due to the rain and it would get really misty sometimes. Lucky for us, we still had a good time and enjoyed the tour with a gloomy view. That's better that getting a misty view! There was an upper deck for you to go up for some breeze on a good weather.

Well, we had a good sunny city view on the day before, so I just tell myself take this view and imagine blue skies! On a sunny day, it's really nice strolling along the city without having to carry an umbrella everywhere. 

Quincy Market

After the cruise, it was only walking distance to Quincy Market, located near Faneuil Market. Time for some food! We were already hungry and drenched! When we found the market, we got so excited and there were so many stalls and food all around us.

Museum of Science

This was definitely a family to-go-place. Going back to the museum brings me back to the time where I was a kid visiting PetroScience in KLCC back home. This museum was definitely bigger and better. There was so much to do and a lot of things to learn as well. It was quite fun playing with all the inventions and also my favourite part was the Tesla show. 

It was definitely a place for family but we had quite a lot of fun. We were actually deciding if we should actually visit it. It was raining so heavily that we decided to head over to the museum. Time pass so fast when we were in there because we ended up going for the shows, playing with a lot the interactive machine and learning about areas we've never covered in schools. 

We spend two full days doing these things in Boston. It wasn't much as we were already really tired and decided to take it really slow. I would definitely go back there as I didn't visit the freedom trail and quite a lot of other attraction places. 

Also in Boston, we had our personal two favourite meals! Of course we had to try the Boston lobster. We were recommended to go to Neptune Oyster but we didn't make it there. The first day we went there, they said to wait for 3 hours. So we decided to wake up early the next day and queue before they open. We arrived 30 mins before the opening time but the queue was already super long and it look like it was more than 3 hour wait. 

James Hook & Co

We were disappointed but not discouraged. Our second choice was James Hook & Co! And it was definitely the bomb. Best lobster roll I've had! I love lobster and this was my first time having a roll. I always have it grilled or steam because I felt like it was more value for money. However, this roll was huge. For $24, it was definitely more than enough for the both of us as we ordered other food as well. We had the Lobster Bisque and Coleslaw as well. It was an early breakfast and probably that's why it was enough for the two of us. 

This might seem small but it was definitely filling. It was pure lobster meat and the dressing was amazing! Despite the dressing, the bread was not soggy. 
When you order lobster roll, it's always less meat but this one was definitely loaded with lobster meat and it was so fresh. The restaurant look like a small family restaurant, small and we definitely didn't have to queue for it. The turnaround was fast and it was spacious despite only having a few tables. Definitely this will be the first meal stop for me the next time I visit Boston. 

Raising Cane's Chicken Finger

Well, if you think all fast food and more or less the same, I was proven wrong when I tried Cane's chicken finger. The highlight of the meal was definitely the special sauce which was goes perfectly as a dipping for the chicken finger. I had this twice. One time right before I flew back to London. Finishing my trip with a finger licking good chicken meal!

Every bite you take of the chicken, the crispness and tender meat will keep you coming back for more. Every now and then, when I have KFC or McD, I will think for Cane Chicken Finger, wishing that they would opened up a store in London. Definitely be my go-to place once every two weeks. Every week would be a red flag on the health. When my friend first told me that this place had the best chicken finger dipping, I decided to give it a try and then realise this was the real deal for fried chicken! Felt like my highlight for the entire Boston city was the food as we had also a real good Italian meal on one of the nights.

I definitely need to go back there again, but this time to explore more of the city and discover the hidden gems that it has to offer. Till next time, Boston!

Definitely had a good trip in New York and Washington. It was a good trip before heading back to London to officially commence our third and final term.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Rewind 2018

31 December 2018 marks the end of another year. This year was definitely a year of big changes for me. I am glad to say I made it all the way. This is the first year being away from home for so long and missing so many important festivals. Definitely missing family and friends a whole lot. Felt like there's a need for me to do a recap on 2018 since it's the craziest year so far in my entire life.

Settling Down in London

Settling down in a foreign country and getting use to the weather and culture here in London. There are days I wish to just pack my bags and head home, somewhere I am more familiar and things were much easier. However, I constantly told myself to persist because life's no fun when you give up easily. Working is definitely much more different than being a student. I could always just go home twice to thrice a year. With work, there's more responsibility and it was harder to get away.

Good news is I am actually finding it bearable and that everyday doesn't feel so hard to get by anymore. I have a home which I actually have a calendar and clock! Work becomes routine and I am getting along really well with my colleagues and the grads of my class.

Only thing bad now is the outflow monthly for rent, bills and council tax! I am definitely feeling this adult life now. Working back home definitely didn't felt this way.

Completing My Master's Degree

Yes, another achievement in life, conquering MSc in Finance and making it to the top 10% of the class (at least that's what the email said)! Good news! I absolutely love my journey. I met an amazing group of friends and it was such a practical degree, not just textbook-based which make the experience different. We were also allow to do international modules which gave me the opportunity to head over to New York, visiting JP Morgan office and another module of microeconomics in Paris. 

CASS definitely took my money and make it worth the time. When we are send off to compulsory international modules, they pay for our transport and accommodation there! All set and ready to go !
Graduating on the 21st January 2019! And this time with a mortar.  

Surviving the Investment Banking Life

ft New York Stock Exchange
I always thought "long hours...meh.. easy and doable. Little did I know it was super draining, the lack of sleep and non-stop drilling and churning. Don't get me wrong, I am not hating it as this was the path I chose. I got to admit at the start, it was hard to get use to whole new environment and the way things work around considering this was my second job. 

I constantly find myself comparing my current job with my previous job which is not a good thing to do. Of course, back home, it was much easier to adapt as it was your home and you share a lot of common interest with your colleagues. Here, it was so diverse but I kind of like the diversity now. As long as I am learning something new and improving my skills, I am totally all in to keep pushing on.

Pursuing Other Hobbies

During my free time, I tend to just binge watch dramas, tv series and movies for the past few years. The only other thing I'll do is play board games. However, this year, I definitely deviate from the computer screen and started cross stitch and 1k puzzle. Got to say, it's not easy at all as its time consuming and require a lot of patience.

These activity definitely taught me to be more patience in life. One day you'll get there and complete that set of puzzle or the picture that you are currently stitching! Although these are solo activities but i really enjoyed doing them. Don't get me wrong but I still socialise instead of just staying home.

Most recent masterpiece of mine. Yes, I am a Disney Fan!

Travel Bucket List

This is also the year where I ticked off most of the places that I want to visit on my bucket list.  Travel to a couple of places within the first 5 months this year before I started work. Finally got to tick off Italy, New York and Paris off the list. New York and Paris was a university module but I extended my trip to spend more time in these cities. I've been to about 7 countries (incl Malaysia) this year. Also, did day trip all around London and visiting all the main tourist sites. 

Slovenia (January)

This trip was pretty spontaneous as I bought my ticket 5 days before flying off in January. There were no plans since I was having my finals. It was definitely a good destress trip after one month of burning the midnight oil. Although it was winter, the weather there wasn't too cold. Discover my interest for cave right here! And of course, the beautiful Lake Bled.

Belgium (April)

Typical cities that people visit would be Brussels and if there's time, they would go Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. That was my first trip for the Easter break before Italy. Bruges was my absolute favourite as the gave a fairytale/romantic village feels. They have the colourful houses and it was nothing like Brussels. 

Italy (April)

After gazallion years, finally I made a trip here and visited Rome, Florence, Pisa and Milan. Rome was definitely the excitement. Made it to my bucket list when I watch Lizzie Mcguire the movie and first destination for me was Trevi Fountain to flip my coin into it.  

If you are in Rome, Vatican City is usually one of main attraction point you'll head over. Found out that it was a country, the smallest country in the world! Main attractions sites were the museum and St Peter Basilica. And a 20-30 minutes walk across the bridge and you are back in Rome!

United States of America (May)

Finally made it to New York! I was there for an international module and I thought 'hey, why not extend my stay and visit other parts of the US as well. As we were 1+ week away for our second term, I only extended for the week as I didn't want to miss any classes. Gotta say, words can't explain my excitement to finally be able to visit NY. I visited Washington and Boston after NY and I had a pretty good time there as well.

NYC view from the Empire State Building

Another amazing city view in Boston 

Paris, France (May)

All expenses paid trip by the university, sending us to Paris for 4 days. We were allow 1 day to explore the city. Classes end about 4pm ish so we had time to go around the city after. We weren't restricted to one day. First trip, the PUBG squad travel together. By the squad, I mean the closest friends to me in my degree. Can't ask for a better company than them. 

Malaysia (February & July)

Home sweet home! Made it home twice but it was less than 10 days. I just had to go home. Once for Chinese New Year and my grandfather 1 year prayers in July. This is the shortest amount time in a year I stayed in Malaysia. When I was in Melbourne, we always had the 1 month winter break and 2.5 months summer break where I would always be home. Definitely get more home sickness here in London. Missing my parent's birthday and new year celebrate for two years in a row. 2019 will be the first year I miss CNY. :( 

So much happened in 2018 and I've also done so many different things. I attended by first EDM party by Alan Walker and watch Anna Marie sing live 2002 (fav songs) along with other superstar in the Halloween KISS party. Eventful and meaningful year.

If you ask me what are my new year resolution, I am just going to go with the flow this time round and see what the year has for me.

I do have a 2019 travel bucket list and they are:

  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Barcelona & Madrid, Spain
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Iceland
  • Vietnam
  • Taiwan
Hit me up if anyone is in London or wants to join me in on my travelssss. 
And that's all from me. Signing off from 2018...... 

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