Travelogue: London x Scotland x Manchester 2017 (Part 1 - Day 1, 2)

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

Travelling keeps me sane, keeps me in check. I've been travelling quite a fair bit this year honestly;
Jan/Feb - London, Scotland, Manchester
March - Brisbane, Cairns
May/June - Krabi

Every trip refreshes me and it keeps me going in life to work hard and achieve these holidays as a reward to myself. This past Chinese New Year, my family and I went for a slightly longer holiday than we usually would. We always wanted to explore other countries and see how they celebrate festive occasions as compared to our own, so we tend to travel on Chinese new year/Christmas, but the latter always proves to be the more expensive option. Since we didn't plan to travel over Christmas, we indulged in a longer holiday to UK! It's my first visit to UK, so naturally I was quite thrilled and determined to record my travel journey in my blog (which is quite a late post now. haha) Do read on my blog and see if there's any information that is useful to you in planning your own UK trip. If you require, I can even send you my itinerary for reference :)


Day 1 - 26 January
We actually booked our trip (for 7 pax) in August, flying with SQ which was having a promotion and our plane ticket costs $1300/pax return. Quite a good deal I reckon, plus we had A380 plane! We chose the 9am departure from Singapore bcos the night flights cost at least $200 more. Considering we have 7 pax, it wouldn't be ideal to fly out at night. 

 
Along the way, we flew past a snowy mountain range nearing Nepal, and boy was it gorgeous! 
p.s. it is still my wallpaper till today!

The entire flight took 13.5 hrs, and in the midst losing 7 hrs (due to time difference), we arrived in London at 3.30pm local time. The entire journey was comfortable, and we had no lack of entertainment/food/drinks. I definitely recommend flying with a good airline if you're travelling long hours as you get to stretch comfortably, and won't have to fret over an empty stomach. Snacks & drinks are readily available at any time on your flight. Good for those who likes to snack while watching movies. 

Airport Transfer
Upon arrival at Heathrow Airport, we went to purchase our Oyster card (£20 each) while waiting for our airport pickup. In London, transportation is super expensive, especially taxi! If you can, try to take the Tube or Underground as much as possible. Alternatively, Uber is a good choice too. We pre-booked our airport transfer via London Toolkit , a minivan which could take 7 of us plus 9 luggage only cost us £93 in total. Our place was about 24km away from airport, travelling time about 25-30min.  

Accommodation 
Since we are a big group, we decided to book Airbnb since there were tons of super pretty apartments in London. Hotel prices are generally okaaaaay, maybe slightly on the higher side. Airbnb is a good choice (since it's also getting very popular) if you like your own dainty little apartment. Fyi, we stayed in 2 airbnbs and 2 hotels during our entire trip, and everyone prefers Airbnb (especially the Scotland one, ITS SUPERB). Our apartment had 4 large bedrooms, 1 kitchen and an open plan living/dining room. 

We stayed a total of 3 nights in this apartment, and it cost us £723 in total, which works out to approx. £34/pax/night (equivalent to S$60/pax/night). I would think it's pretty reasonable price for that kind of size of house you're getting. Plus our apartment location was very centralized, walking distance to 2 train stations, Paddington and Lancaster Gate. If you're interested, you may refer to our apartment link here: London Airbnb - Sussex Square


Dinner
After settling down in our apartment, we took an Uber (£7.90 per car) to Oxford Street to have dinner. What's absolutely famous in London which you MUST HAVE?! *drumrolllllllls* BURGERS & LOBSTER! Do make it a point to visit this amazing joint to have fresh and succulent lobster!!! We were very lucky to have a big table available for us since the group who reserved the table were arriving later at night. (NTS: make a reservation before visiting Burgers & Lobster). We ordered a couple of combos to share among the 7 of us. 



My oh my, you are mineeeeeeeeeeee!



I would say Burgers & Lobster is not cheap at all (refer to menu above). But the servings are generous and food is really delicious! The restaurant isn't exactly fine-dining so don't bother going all suited up. We ordered a Lobster Croquette, 3 Bond St Combos and a Lobster Roll, amounting to £132.19 (they also charge 12.5% service charge)

Bond St Combo - 1 Mayfair Burger, 1 Pounder (Lobster), Chips






Shopping
Yum yum! Tummy filled, hole in pocket, all ready to conquer Oxford Street before it closes. I recall most of the shops are open till quite late, but maybe not like 9pm late. Sun sets quite early during our time there, maybe bcos its winter season. Oh yes, we're perpetually decked in our winter clothes although there's sun/it doesn't look so cold, but temperatures hover around 5 - 12 degrees there. Bring along a raincoat or umbrella if you're visiting in January/February; its rainy season.
Oxford Street is filled with tons of shopping boutiques! Topshop to Banana Republic, anything of any price range is available on the vibrant Oxford Street. Just like in Australia, there's K-mart and Target that sells cheap steals, London has their own brand too which is all too familiar; Primark! Primark has heaps of cheap goods, from food to clothing, bags etc etc. 3 stories worth of goodies! We spent a good amount of time here shopping for random stuff, and spent £38 here. My mom got herself a pair of comfy 3/4 tights which she wears to Zumba till today, and constantly asks me to buy more if we go Primark again. (yeah mum, buy me a plane ticket there, i'll gladly buy you more tights). 


Shopped till most of the shops were closed and we took the Tube back to our apartment. Got some groceries for next day's breakfast and headed to bed early.




Day 2- 27 January 
If you're an avid Harry Potter fan, you wouldn't want to miss this part of London. True enough, Harry Potter was filmed in the Warner Bros Studio in London, with some scenes of passageways or outside venues are located all around UK (even in Scotland). We booked the Harry Potter Studio tour for £69/pax (approx S$127) via Golden Tours, which includes a return bus ride from a selection of pick up points to the Studio. The nearest bus pickup point for us was at Dorset Square, near to Baker Street Station, so we had to travel on the Tube from our place to Baker Street Station. 


Descendant of the Sun inspired



There are actually several entrance timings for the Harry Potter studio tour (generally every hour starting from 8am- depending on season) and your bus pickup will reflect accordingly. We chose the 10am entrance, so our bus pickup was scheduled at 8.10am at Baker Street. You can clearly spot the bus stop for Harry Potter Studio pickup! Plus lots of sleepy faced people waiting with confirmation papers in their hands too. hahaha!



Bright skies at 8am calls for more photos! The pick up is quite on time, everyone was punctual too. Don't be the asian that turns up late.... The bus ride to the studio took quite some time, almost an hour? But we were all kept entertained on the bus by watching series of Harry Potter movies that was screening on the TV. I only got to watch half of the Sorcerer's Stone and we arrived.



Before you enter, there's a security bag check. No food, drinks allowed - they have their own cafeteria inside. Below entry is quite heavy in photo content, but most of my photos are on my Facebook if you want to see more of the Studio! Only chose some to upload here, or it would flood my entire post.
 In my opinion, this studio tour is quite dry and self explanatory - no need for guides or whatsoever. If you are a super Harry Potter fan, this will be eye-opening for you, but if you're just meh, then it'll be quite boring for you. Expect lots of kids running around, schoolies as well and lots of people in your photos. LOL. 










Headmaster Table

Yule Ball






Your Favourite Potion Teacher


Quidditch is ............ fake..


The Burrow - House of Weasley












As mentioned earlier, there is a cafeteria inside the studio, and it is located at the halfway mark of the tour. Food is quite pricey yet simple. One hot seller item, a must try, is the BUTTER BEER!!! We spent £46 on some sandwiches, 4 butter beers (2 of them are in souvenir cups). A normal butter beer costs £3.95, but if you want to bring home the souvenir butter beer cup, it costs £6.95 (pictured below). So what is butter beer? It is definitely NOT beer, i don't quite actually know what exactly it is, but i reckon its some carbonated drink, with caramelized cream froth on top. Quite refreshing!














Lots of fantastic models to see along the way. You'll be amazed by how much work that goes in to make a single set of the film. Kudos to the art directors/producers/production crew etc!

Dinner 
We ended our tour at 2pm, took the return bus back to London city by 3pm. We alighted at Buckingham Palace Road, went to the London Pass Redemption Office to collect our London Pass. Took the tube from Victoria to Leicester Square for dinner. We read online that Angus Steakhouse was quite a popular choice for steak throughout the city so decided to give it a try.




Verdict: Not worth it to visit!!!!
It cost £22 for 12oz Ribeye, and it doesn't even come with any sides or sauce. We each had to pay extra £2.50 for sauce, which is served on the side. The beef was dry and tasteless, so much different from a regular steak place in Singapore. In fact, Angus Steakhouse felt like a fast-food diner. :/ I'd rather spend the money on another meal at Burgers & Lobster. 


Musical/Shopping
After dinner, we went for a quick shop around Chinatown vicinity while waiting for our musical to begin at 7.30pm. Spotted a huge M&N store and spent most of our time there.   






these mugs came home with us... currently sitting at my bro's place and being used every morning...


Since this day was coincidentally first day of Chinese New Year, we had to take a mandatory family photo at Chinatown! Very different chinese new year spent this year indeed. The festive season was alright, pretty much contained within Chinatown. You wouldn't see much of these celebration any where outside of this area. Lots of chinese steamboat restaurants around, which was heavily patronized by the chinese (especially since it symbolizes tuan yuan fan- reunion dinner).

Happy CNY - By the Chye Family

When in London, one should watch a musical, at least.... London is filled with rich history of plays, theaters etc, and their halls are pretty amazing.  My bro researched for a nice comedy musical and we settled for The Bank Robbery. Prices vary for the seats that you purchase. We paid some £16 for side view front row seats, some £25 for middle view front row, so if you average it out, probably cost you £21 (approx S$37) for the comedy musical. 


Check out the insides of the theater. Although it isn't like a super fancy and popular musical theater, it still looked nice! This is the Criterion Theatre, located at Piccadilly Circus. I love how cosy it feels and the play was good!




Highly recommend everyone to catch a play/musical when you're here! It was hilarious, although we couldn't catch some parts due to their accents, but it was still very entertaining overall. Worth it!
After the play, we all headed back home, bought some craft beer from the convenience store and ended the night wishing we had gotten more beers.

London has been great so far, stay tuned for more updates of my trip!


xoxo,
Chye


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