Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DISCOVERING GREAT VALUE BRITAIN (Day 2)


#OMGB...imagine staying next to the iconic London Eye
 

After a fitful night’s sleep at Premier Inn London County Hall, we started the day bright and deliciously thanks to the Full Premier Inn Breakfast (6.30am – 10.30am) served at the hotel’s cosy Thyme restaurant.


Trust me, it’s a challenge just to sample everything in the lavish spread. Notable picks we recommend include back bacon rashers, premium British sausages, eggs (scrambled, poached, fried, boiled or made into omelette), grilled tomatoes, buttermilk pancakes, sourdough crumpets, croissants and breads: white, malten or gluten-free.


Healthier options range from cereals and yoghurts to assorted fresh and dried fruits. Baked goods such as cinnamon and raisin bagels, pain aux chocolate and mini muffins are also served. Then wash your breakfast down with unlimited cups of Costa coffee, Twinings tea, fruit juices and smoothies. For families with kids in tow, the little ones get to eat for free (up to 2 children below 16 years old for every paying adult who opts for the Full Premier Inn Breakfast).



THRILLERS OF THE DAY

 

Since the weather was fair and cool, we strolled across Westminster Bridge and headed towards the imposing Parliament House. It was slow going mainly because we stopped ever so often to take endless photographs and to gape in awe at all the famous landmarks.



After rounding the corner, we stopped briefly at Westminster Abbey for a brief filming session and more photography. Frankly, it felt surreal to be standing in front of the ornate and historical St Margaret’s Church as excerpts from Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Wolf Hall novel came to mind.

 
Bicycle sharing scheme is available throughout London...look out for Santander bicycle docks and credit card payment machine
 For greater mobility, London's public bicycle scheme is a nifty way to travel around the city. Look out for Santander Cycles – a public bike sharing scheme which has more than 750 docking stations and 11,000 bikes in circulation across London. Available 24/7, 365 days a year, you can hire a Boris bike (nicknamed after London's Mayor Boris Johnson) for £2 for 24-hour access.

London is pedestrian and cyclist-friendly so there's plenty of time to admire the city's architectural heritage

The first 30 minute session is free so you can saddle up anywhere from Shepherds Bush to Canary Wharf. Look for a Santander Cycles docking station terminal and follow the instructions on its touchscreen on how to hire a bike.



Big Bus Tour customers can still make full use of their 48-hour tickets and board the ‘hop on, hop off’ Big Bus to catch the Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.



The regal Changing of the Guard ceremony marks the moment when the soldiers currently on duty, the Old Guard, exchange places with the New Guard. The pomp and pageantry is a ‘must see’ and major crowd-puller so be an early bird in order to snag a good spot before the scheduled time of 11.30 am.


From Buckingham Palace, you can either hop back onto the Big Bus or take the Metro. On arrival at the Victoria stop, take the Victoria Underground Line to Euston Station. Change here for Northern line to Camden Town Station.


We stopped at Haché Burgers (24 Inverness St, Camden Town NW1 7HJ, tel: +44 20 7485 9100) for lunch. Voted the Best Burger restaurant in London less than a year after opening, Haché was established in 2004 as the original 'gourmet burger with service’ concept.




The rustic and homey vibes drew a capacity crowd and we soon discovered why. Every Haché burger is a work of culinary art: a choice of fresh ciabatta or brioche bun comes served with rocket leaves, beef tomato and sliced sweet red onion as the base.



My Steak Bavarian (£9.95) burger with smoked Bavarian cheese and caramelised onions were out of this world. Juicy, hearty and chockful of big, bold flavours. I also enjoyed sampling mouthfuls of the Grilled Halloumi (£5.95) with mixed leaves, honey and lemon dressing with a hint of chilli. Equally superb was the Nachos (£4.50) which came smothered in melted mature Cheddar cheese and jalapeños, served with sour cream, salsa and guacamole on the side.


After that indulgent lunch, we had to walk it off and made our way to Camden Market.  Home to hundreds of stalls, boutiques, cafés, bars and canal boats, it is London’s largest and most popular market where you’d find unique creations by talented craftsmen for young and old, guys and gals.


The downpour didn’t stop us from wandering around for a splendidly eclectic shopping experience. We joined a snaking queue to devour piping hot baby Dutch pancakes drenched with Nutella and fresh strawberry wedges. There was even a Malaysian cuisine stall manned by a Malay lady with her son among the mind-boggling number of food stalls.


Besides snapping up two lovely shawls, my other memorable buy was a pair of cuff links fashioned from watch mechanism parts. Due to time constraints, we could only admire the goods (think hand-made jewellery and soaps, vintage clothing, quirky accessories and bags, etc) displayed and sold at The Stables and The Lock sections.


Fans of Amy Winehouse would be interested to know a statue dedicated to her can be found at Chalk Farm Road (Camden was where she lived). From Chalk Farm, we took the Northern Line (Southbound) to Waterloo Station for a short break back at the hotel.


We were eager beavers as we set off for an early dinner at Bill’s (36-44 Brewer Street, London W1F 9TB, tel: 0207 287 8712); a bid to ensure we were on time to catch Thriller, a West End musical tribute to the King of Pop at the Lyric Theatre.


Too excited to eat much, I chose Bill’s fish pie (£12.95) which was a sizeable casserole of cod, salmon, smoked haddock, prawns, peas and roasted baby onions with mustard and cheddar mashed potato. It was creamy without being cloying and chockful of seafood.


Our jaws dropped at the sight of Jennifer’s slow cooked barbeque-style pork ribs (£14.95) accompanied by sweet potato mash, smoky barbeque beans and creamy coleslaw. We swapped tasting portions and couldn’t stop raving over our dishes.


Part of the Lyceum Theatre building in Covent Garden, Bill’s is a hot spot with theatre goers. The restaurant owner Bill Collinson started out as a green grocer in East Sussex which segued into a café. A meeting place for good food, good friends and good time, Bill’s soon grew into a popular restaurant chain. The ambiance is rustically homey; kind of a well-furnished mom-and-pop shop filled with vintage bits and bobs, aged wood accents and cushy corners for dining and drinks.

 

From Bill’s, it was a mere short walk to the Lyric Theatre (29 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES)  for our show. Having opened in December 1888, it is the oldest theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue but as with most buildings in London, everything on premise was lovingly maintained and in top working order.


The two-hour long performance was comparable to a concert, a musical throwback on Michael Jackson’s legendary 45-year music career; from his Jackson Five days to the epic Thriller phase and beyond.


Here’s a Great Value Britain tip: Visitors can buy discounted theatre tickets for current shows, some with as much as 25%-70% discount off regular prices. Just go to Leicester Square and look for a small booth which sells those discounted tixs.


No visit to London is complete without catching one of the many musicals or plays in the West End so make sure you don’t miss out on such a notable #OMGB experience.

http://www.visitbritain.com/malaysia


Travelling from Malaysia to the UK on a budget? Book now via http://www.visitbritain.com/malaysia or visit CIT Malaysia http://cit.travel/europe/united-kingdom to plan your VisitBritain itinerary.

COMING SOON! DISCOVERING OXFORD IN GREAT VALUE BRITAIN (Day 3)

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