Sunday, March 24, 2019

Best Eats in Lisbon, Portugal

Most recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal was amazing. Beautiful city, amazing hospitality, and the food was delicious. This was a family trip and rarely my dad likes the food because of his pickiness. After our second day there, he told me he love the food here.

It was hard to pace myself as well as I am trying to stop overeating but the food was hard to resist. We weren’t even worry about trying to find a place to eat as we tried two random place and it was delicious! I am going to narrowed down to the top five restaurant we loved most! One of the restaurant is located in Sintra when we were on a day trip tour. 

Pasties de Belém

Address : R. de Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Price : $

Portugal is famous for their egg tarts. Every corner of the city you would definitely see a pastry shop selling it. My brother had this goal of trying out egg tarts of every area in town or a different city. Wherever we went, he definitely get one on this hand. 

Hands down to the best egg tart *drumroll* Pasties de Belém! I’ve had so many but this was definitely the best. The crust of the tart was crispy and thickness was just fine. The egg custard was perfect and it wasn’t too sweet. I notice the different between the egg tarts Portugal and else where is that the crust is a little salty. This one here definitely achieve the perfection of the balance between the egg custard and salty crust which makes it so tasty. Every bite makes you wanna have more. Needless to say, I had to takeaway one back to London for my boyf to taste.

Also, we were there at about 11am and we manage to grab a seat without waiting really long. It look misleading outside with the line for takeaway but please do check inside as its really huge and has a lot of table in the shop as well!

Cataplana da Gina

Address : R. Ferreira Borges 193A, 1350-131 Lisboa, Portugal
Price : $$

We were looking for the best cataplana in town and the first one we had, my brother was convince there was a better one. The first cataplana stew was addictive but he insisted that we tried Cataplana da Gina. We did and say no more, we were impressed by the freshness of the seafood. The Bacalau (Cod fish) we had was so fresh, the meat was smooth and easy to eat. Grilled with olive oil, the fish was well flavoured. 

We had the Monkfish Cataplana with pasta and the bowl was gone before we knew it. The stew was also full with flavours and with the freshness of the fish, the dish couldn’t get any better. It set our expectations so high for all other cataplana.

The other dish that we really enjoyed was the Lamb ribs. The tenderness of the meat and flavour will definitely on point. I do not usually like lamb ribs but this was really good that I had a few myself.

Casa da India 

Address : Rua do Loreto 45, 1200-086 Lisboa, Portugal
Price : $

Fun fact : Nando originated from Portugal so don’t be surprised to see the chicken logo everywhere on the sourveneir walls. We did have have Nando of course but what we had was the peri peri chicken as the flavour originated there. Google it up and head to this little restaurant here. 

The peri peri chicken did not disappoint. The meat was tender and well grilled and flavoured. It came with rice and fries. We ordered the shellfish soup and Aletenja, a traditional Portuguese soup. The Aletenja was definitely too salty for our taste. It was bread soak in their traditionally cook broth with poached egg. We also ordered a grilled octopus which was okay but the highlight was definitely the chicken and the shellfish soup for us.

Amazing bursting flavour of Shellfish Soup

This was the traditional portugese soup which was way way to salty for me. 

Grilled Octopus

Natraj Tandoori

Address : R. dos Sapateiros 171, 1100-044 Lisboa, Portugal
Price : $$

It was raining really heavily and we were already back at the apartment. We decided to head downstairs to the tandoori restaurant nearby. As we were still quite full from lunch, we all agree to just order less portions. 

Clearly that didn’t go as plan. As we walked it, the fragrance of the food instantly got us all hungry and when we open the menu we were ordering 2-3 dishes already. We had the butter chicken, fish curry, prawn Briyani and the garlic naan. It was definitely better than Dishoom for me in London. I haven’t had such good Indian food in a long time and I enjoyed it so much. 

The spice and flavour of each dish was perfect and mixed with the garlic naan, it tasted even better. We did not regret that meal despite overeating again. But hey, we are on holiday.. as long as we enjoyed it, don’t really think anything else matter. 

Catinho da Vila

Address : R. Arco do Teixeira 15, 2710-533 Sintra, Portugal
Price : $$

This dining restaurant is not exactly in Lisbon but located in Sintra. We did a day trip there and stop by to explore the city and have lunch. We didn't really know what to eat but we stumble onto this restaurant that located inside an alley. It looks pretty legit compare to the rest so we thought let's take this risk and head over here.

To our surprise, we were amazed by the dishes, delicious and the freshness of the seafood. It was so flavourful. I got to say this was the best octopus dish I've had. It was just simply grilled octopus but the flavour that came with it was just satisfying. 

However, my favourite dish was definitely the Seafood risotto. Not sure if its called a risotto but I loved it! The seafood was fresh and the natural sweet flavour from it was pass onto the sauce / soup base of the dish. The blend within the dish was perfect and it keeps you wanting from it. 

We ordered a pork chop which my brother enjoyed it a lot. It's the typical pork chop you order but the meat was tender and perfectly cook.. 

Here's how the restaurant look from the outside. The deco inside makes you feel like home. It's not extremely fancy but definitely homely and comfortable!

These were definitely my favourite top eats in Portugal. Hit me up or comment below if you have better suggestions of food there. I absolutely enjoy Portugal and will definitely make a trip there soon! There's still so many city to explore like Porto and Lagos. 

My full itinerary of Portugal will be up soon! So keep an eye for it ! :) 

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.

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