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London Trip Report Day 9 “Harrods”

Today is my last day in London. My flight is in the late afternoon. I thought I should just take advantage of some time in the morning to get to some places I did not manage to visit. I went to Harrods in Knightsbridge.

Harrods is an upmarket department store with over 1 million square feet of retail space. In particular, their food hall has been famous for their variety and quality.

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There were a lot of tourists waiting to get in. I see many people taking pictures at the entrances. As in many places I’ve been to, photography is not allowed in the store.

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I went straight to the food hall since I got to get back to the hotel and then to the airport. The food was very impressive. The food displays were well laid out. There are actually a few side-by-side food halls in all, including a small Krispy Kreme instore.

I bought the Omelette Salmon Wrap for just under 4 GBP for lunch.

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It was a good sized piece.

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The omelette wrapped was a little greasy but nicely moist. The salmon inside the wrap was not bad.

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That’s all for the London Trip Report series. It was a great experience for me although it was also a tiring trip. I am just glad to get home and get on back with my life! I wish that we could afford to have Suanne and the boys along too for this trip. Well, one day, maybe we’ll get the chance to make this trip together.

Hope you enjoyed this series of London blog. Cheers!

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London Trip Report Day 8 “Pork Roast in Greenwich”

I asked Paul (a Londoner) what would be the one traditional English food that I should try while in London. He told me that would be the Sunday Roast. I expected the answer to be Fish and Chips and have never heard of the Sunday Roast before. So, I told myself I should try that before I return to Vancouver. I found one in Greenwich — on a Saturday.

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Day 8 is a Saturday. This is my last full day to do sightseeing before I leave for home the next day. There were so many places I wanted to visit, most of all the museums but I thought that it would take too much time. So, I decided on doing the river cruise to Greenwich, attend the Euro event in the Canary Wharf and visit the British Museum.

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I started the day by making my way to the Tower of London to catch the City Cruise.

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The City Cruise from the Tower of London to Greenwich costs only about 4 GBP. In all it took 30 minutes. It’s a double decked boat.

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The cruise was not packed even though it was a Saturday. Everyone obviously took seats on the upper deck. It gives a better view.

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Just as when the boat departed, the bridge on the Tower Bridge was raised for a small sailing boat to pass through. Good photo op!

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The cruise were narrated. It was very interesting as we were pointed various historical places of interests. If you ever get to London, I suggest you get on this cruise. In the background of the photo above is the Canary Wharf.

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At Greenwich, also home of the Cutty Sark, I visited the National Maritime Museum. Britain was a great maritime country. It spreads it’s influence around the globe when it conquered the oceans. It’s too bad that there’s no photography allowed. I saw the uniform that Admiral Nelson wore when he was fatally shot at the Battle of Trafalgar.

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The Royal Observatory was set on top of a rather steep hill in the middle of the Greenwich Park. That is where the Greenwich Meridian passes through.

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The Royal Observatory was first founded in the 1600s. Again there were no photography allowed inside the Observatory.

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Here I was … with one foot on the Western Hemisphere and the other on the Eastern Hemisphere. Zero degrees … and middle of the world! Now I can add this to my “been there, done that” list! :-)

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The view from the the Royal Observatory was spectacular. You don’t have many of such views in London because it is so flat. The building below is the Queens House.

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I only had a few crackers and coffee for breakfast and was hungry by late morning. I bought the hotdog below in a stand outside the Royal Observatory for 4 GBP.

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I then walked through the Greenwich town. I heard that there were a lot of nice eating places earlier. There were all kinds of restaurants and the prices were more reasonable compared to some of the places I’ve been to in London City Centre.

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This is the restaurant in Greenwich where I found Sunday Roast … on a Saturday!

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The Sunday Roast is a traditional British main meal served on Sundays and consists of roasted meat together with accompaniments. The tradition arose because the meat could be left in the oven to cook before church on a Sunday morning, and it would be ready when the family arrived home at lunchtime.

I chose the Pork Roast and costs about 9 GBP for the dish below and a can of soft drink.

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After the lunch, I stopped by the Canary Wharf to take more pictures. There’s an Euro Pride event on that weekend. Nope, it’s not a gay event … not that there’s anything wrong with that! I did not hang around for long because I wanted to spend more time at the British Museum.

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The British Museum looked very grey and drab from the outside.

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But once you’re in it, it’s a different place all together.

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The museum was huge. The collection was extensive. It is one of the world’s largest museum of human history and culture. It would take at least a day to go over completely the many collections. I had a great time.

There was a special exhibition of Michealangelo’s writings but the tickets were sold out. Before I ended the long day, I made my way to Hyde Park. I was not particularly impressed with the park because it appears to be inadequately maintained.

Anyway, this report is the last full day in London. The next day, I will be taking the long flight home and was particularly looking forward to being home again.

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London Trip Report “Dinners”

Well, the fun ended and it’s back to work and training for a week in London. It was not easy at all.

The 4-day training was a serious, no-nonsense affair. Considering the time difference between Vancouver and London, I had my training starting at 12 midnight! It was pretty tough staying awake.

By the time the training ended at 5pm, that’s when the people in Vancouver and Atlanta starts their working hours. The emails keep pouring in — there’s no way that I can take it easy at all. So, dinners for those days were quickies around where I stay.

DAY 3 — ROOM SERVICE

I was dead tired on this day and was really hungry. I couldn’t bring myself out for dinner and instead called for room service. I wanted meat but the selection on the menu had only one real meat item. I can’t believe it.

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I can’t recall what this is called. It’s half a chicken with roasted chilli paste on it. Although the serving was not huge but I did not finish it at all. I guess I was not really in the mood to eat. I hardly touched the fries at all.

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This costs 16 GBP.

DAY 4 — DELIVERY FROM SIPSON TANDOORI RESTAURANT

For this night, again I did not feel like going out for dinner. Instead, I ordered delivery from a nearby Indian Restaurant called the Sipson Tandoori Restaurant (www.sipsontandoori.co.uk). The delivery came in paper bags which I thought was pretty dumb. It was because the greasy curry were spilling all over the insides and very seeping out — it was a mess.

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I ordered three different items. I had the Balti Chicken (7.95 GBP). The Balti is cooked with light ginger and garlic, tomatoes, peppers and onions with freshly ground spices and herbs. It was thick, rich and flavourful.

I also ordered the Mixed Vegetable Curry for 2.80 GBP and Pilaw Rice for 2.10 GBP. The Pilaw rice was great because it has been a few days since I had rice! The pilaw rice is basmati rice cooked in ghee.

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On the side, I ordered the Garlic Naan for 1.95 GBP. Naan is leavened bread baked in clay oven. It goes well with the curry.

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The papadum was free. Should be crunchy but it was quite soggy.

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It was a good dinner.

Sipson Tandoori on Urbanspoon

DAY 5 — BEST ENGLISH LIVER AND BACON FROM THE PHEASANT PUB

Having eaten in the room for the past two days, I decided to walk to the nearby pub for dinner. I have never been inside a real English Pub before. It was an experience. Apparently food is sold in the pub at the back. The menu was extensive and the serving were huge.

I decided on the Best English Liver and Bacon because (1) it says that it’s Best, (2) it’s English, and (3) it’s liver! There were two big pieces of liver which was quite tasty, I must admit. The bacon was different from what I am used to in Canada. Here the bacon was a piece, not in strips.

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Pheasant Restaurant and Public House on Urbanspoon

DAY 6 — IL BASILICO ITALIAN RESTAURANT

On the second last day of the training, the company paid for a dinner in a nice Italian restaurant for all the attendees. We went to the Il Basilico on Sipson Rd.

For starters, we had mozarella, kalamari and mushrooms.

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For the main I ordered chicken with fusilli (can’t remember the real name).

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Here’s the attendees of the project management course. Most of the attendees are from all over Europe and are PMs in airport systems. There are only two attendees from North America.

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For dessert, I had ice-cream. Oh yeah, I also had for the first time in my life a half glass of the Italian Grappa. Whew! It was strong … 50% alcohol content!

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We had a great time and had a lot of learnings from each other over the week.

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London Trip Report “The Tube”

“Mind the gap, please” … “Mind the gap, please”.

These words rings in my head everytime I took the tube in London. I have heard of this phrase being used before but not until I really see what the “gap” is like on the London Underground. I mean, it should not be too tough making sure that the train floor aligns to the platform but no, most station does not align at all.

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This gap above was not too bad. I have seen worse. There is a station where there is a six inch gap between the train and the platform. Anyone know why it is like that in the London Underground?

The London Underground is the oldest underground system in the world. It is also the longest in route length. It is amazing to learn that the first line was built way back in 1863 (not 1963!!). Below is the map of the London Underground. There are currently 275 stations in the entire network. It took a while for me to get used to it but once I get myself familiar, it was not too difficult.

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Despite its name, about 55% of the network is above ground. Popular local names include the Underground and, more familiarly, the Tube, in reference to the cylindrical shape of the system’s deep-bore tunnels. That is why you see that the top of the train were rounded.

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Unlike modern subway trains and the narrowness of the train, the seating configuration is not optimum for standing passengers. The aisle between the two rows of facing seats were so close I see that many people don’t even want to move it to make room for others coming on board.

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When taking the tube, you should pay attention to the service updates. It’s because not every line is in operation all the time. So, you need to pay attention on which line is open and then plan your route accordingly. The service updates below are electronically displayed while older stations had them handwritten on whiteboards.

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Find the stations is easy. You just need to look for the familiar red circle with blue band logo — it is called a roundel. You could get to a station in the city centre within not more than 10 minutes walk. It is that convenient.

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Many of the stations were unbelievably deep underground. Some of the busy interchanges were four levels deep. There is also one that was so deep that they had built lifts that shuttles passengers to the surface. The trains and most of the stations were not air-conditioned and you actually can feel the high humidity while in the station and the trains.

I took the tube to the city centre using a 6-zone TravelCard. The card costs 6.30GBP and allows me unlimited rides on the tube and buses for the whole day. I stayed near Heathrow and getting down to the city centre takes about 1 hour.

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There is an alternative way to get from Heathrow to the City Centre in just 15 minutes. It’s called the Heathrow Express. It’s pretty expensive — one way ticket costs 19 GBP!!

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Now, this train is more modern and definitely more comfortable. I took the Heathrow Express just once.

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The Heathrow Express station in Paddington was also much cleaner and nicer.

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London Trip Report Day 2 “Fish and Chips”

Towards the end of Day 2, I was really dead tired after all the walking. The jet lag is beginning to hit me. It’s feeling like I’ve been up the whole night. As tired as I was, I wanted so much to make my way to Covent Garden for Fish and Chips — not just any Fish and Chips but the original one.

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The Rock and Sole Plaice was established in 1871 and is possibly London’s Oldest fish and chips shop. This shop does a steady stream of business at its takeaway and restaurant. Although it did not take me long to locate this place, it was not exactly easy to find. It’s on a rather quiet street away from the Covent Gardens Market.

Despite the reputation, I must say service was awful! The blokes were busy watching football and I had to ask for service. Sheez!

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I took the seats outside the restaurant — low tables and bench for seats, kind of neat. Especially when my feet is so tired from all the walking, I felt so much like putting my feet up on the chair like a true-blue chinaman.

The menu was simple enough but I couldn’t make out one type of fish from another. So, I guess that I won’t go wrong is I ordered the most expensive one on the menu — must have been the Halibut, I can’t remember. Well, it just so happen that they don’t have the Large one and offered me the regular one. I declined because I wanted something LARGE because I was very hungry. I ordered something else, can’t remember what now.

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On every table is the condiments … tartar sauce, ketchup. and malt vinegar. I tried every one of them. I like the tartar sauce particularly.

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The large plate was indeed large. I was so glad it was that big. And the fries were thick.

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The meat was flaky between the crispy batter. I really enjoyed it and worth going out of the way for this. So, can you tell what fish I ordered? Was it cod?

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Enough about food.

I was at the Tower of London before I made my way to this fish and chips shop. I had a great time there. I waited at the entrance to join one of the Beefeater tour guides.

The tower is manned by the Yeoman Warders (known as Beefeaters), who act as tour guides, provide discreet security, and are something of a tourist attraction in their own right. Every evening, the warders participate in the Ceremony of the Keys ,as the Tower is secured for the night.

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The Tower of London is a complex of forts built over time. The foundation of the tower were first built over a thousand years ago by William the Conqueror. I can see the remnants of the older walls and newer ones.

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The centre of the Tower of London is dominated by the White Tower which is the highest structure in the entire complex. It looks pretty bland from the outside but once I got into it, it was a treasure stove of learnings of how life were in those days.

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The building on the far side is the Jewel House. That is where the Crown Jewels were kept. I love to take pictures of the jewels but security was tight and they were very serious about no photography. This must be the most popular display in the Tower of London. The lines were long and we snake our way inside the building watching videos of the biggest diamonds in the world that adorn the crowns.

When we got to the main display room, it was a no-waiting display. Everyone had to get on a moving walkway which will make sure you just get a fair bit of time gwalking (is there such a word?) at the jewels. Fascinating. OK, I am being cynical now … the official story is that the diamonds were the gift to the queen from India — yeah, right.

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Here is where the people poop in those days. No flush … just a hole that leads down the wall. That figures — no wonder I have never seen photos or movies of people leaning against castle walls before. Them poop drips down the walls.

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Henry VIII in his armour. I can’t help but notice that big blob between his legs. Gotta protect the family jewels right?

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I had a difficult time looking for the way up the North Wall. This gave a good view of not only the grounds in the Tower of London but it also overlooks the Thames.

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The Tower of London used to be surrounded by a moat about 50 feet wide and filled with water from the Thames. There is no longer any water in that moat.

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I decided to take the Routemaster bus to get to Covent Gardens. The Routemasters were iconic to London but few remaining ones are still running along a heritage route. I waited for one that came along with no one at the top deck, front seat! When that one came along, I ran and shoved my way up so that I get that seat!

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It was really nothing getting that one seat but I like the idea of being able to say I’ve been there, done that. He he he …

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I don’t know why the heck I took this picture.

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Hope you enjoyed this blog entry today. Cheers!

Rock & Sole Plaice on Urbanspoon

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London Trip Report Day 2 “South Bank”

OK, this blog entry is not about food. It’s about more of my Sunday walking tour of the south bank of the Thames. I started the morning hoping to visit the Westminster Abbey and the Parliament. It appears that I chose a wrong day to that because Westminster Abbey is closed to tourist because of worship services.

So, the best I could do was to walk around the compound.

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I found a small entrance at the back of the Westminster Abbey and got into the courtyard. It was really quite because not many people ventured to that back entrance.

The corridor was amazing and mesmerizing reading the plaques on the walls and on the floor. Many of them are hundreds of years old. I had a good time reading some of them. The floor of the corridor seems like grave slabs. I am not sure really if people are really buried right under it but the writings appears do say so.

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The Parliament building’s public area was under renovation. So, I did not get the chance to see how the insides were.

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A day earlier, I had booked a flight on the London Eye. The London Eye flight takes about 30 minutes for one revolution. It costs about 12 GBP. People are divided over whether this is an ugly eyesore or if it gives a different character to the city centre. What do you think?

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That being a weekend, it was a good thing I had a pre-booked ticket. The crowd were growing very fast and we can see the lines getting longer.

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The view were spectacular from up high. I could pick out some of the famous buildings around and it does give a different perspective of the beauty of London from up high.

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I next took the Underground to the St Paul’s Cathedral. Bad move — it’s because again, it’s closed to tourists on Sunday because of church services. We get to see the insides from the back of the church but could not get any nearer. Also photography is prohibited in the cathedral.

I badly wanted to get up to the top of the dome to take pictures — dashed!

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From St Pauls, it’s just a 5 minute walk to the new and famous Millennium Bridge. It’s a pedestrian only bridge. When it first opened, I heard that it closed for some time when the bridge wobbled. It seems very stable when I crossed it. Across the bridge is the Tate Modern. I was not interested in the Tate Modern and gave that a miss.

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The view of the Millennium Bridge spanning the Thames and having St Paul’s imposing facade on the other end makes a great shot.

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Further down the South Bank was the reconstructed Globe Theatre — Shakespeare’s theatre. I did not have time for this and also gave this a miss. London had so much to offer tourists and all within a short walking distance one from another.

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This is the London Bridge … well, it clearly says so at the underside of the bridge. Some bloke from the US bought the London Bridge and took it apart brick by brick … had it shipped to the US and reconstructed it. Many people thinks that he mistaken the Tower Bridge for the London Bridge!

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Near to the Tower Bridge was the unique City Hall building. It was really beautiful.

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I walked over the Tower Bridge across the Thames to get to the Tower of London. This bridge is so beautiful and is perhaps the one symbolic structure that defines London. Who doesn’t know the song “London Bridge is Falling Down”?

You can into the top of the tower if you want. Entrance is about 6 GBP.

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This is where I spend most of my afternoon — The Tower of London. Entrance in costs 15 GBP. The Tower of London is a complex of successive forts, armories, palaces built over hundreds of years. I’ll blog more about the Tower of London tomorrow. Enjoy.

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London Trip Report Day 2 “Breakfast”

It was a long trip to London — exhausting, tiring but exciting at the same time. You see, I was in the historic city of London for a four-day company training and at the same time I had some work too which urgently require my attention. I did not have any time at all while in London updating the blog. However, Suanne did a marvelous job continuing to blog with a borrowed camera. I am going to catch up on the London Trip report over the next few days.

One thing that really hit me hard in London was the sticker shock. I mean, although people did warned me how expensive London is, it really did not hit me until I actually had to pull the credit card out of the wallet.

A buffet breakfast in the hotel I stayed in was 17 GBP! At the exchange rate of CAD$2.13, that breakfast costs a whopping CAD$35. It’s Sunday today and I could not rightfully expense breakfast to the company. So, I decided to just go to the city centre and try to get something cheaper.

I travelled via the tube to the city centre (somehow, Londoners don’t call it downtown) and found a Tesco Express outlet. It’s very much like a 7-Eleven except that you see a lot of grab-and-go meals. I grabbed the Cheese and Tomato Pasta Snack for 98p.

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The snack included a folded fork on the lid.

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I know, it’s not much of a “breakfast” but it does fill the stomach for the morning.

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I sat on the steps across from Big Ben and just took my time eating, absorbing the environment teeming with people and cars on the street. I can see that the tourists are beginning to come out from the Underground station. You know they are tourists when you see (1) they are carrying a guide book, (2) a bottle of water in their hands, (3) a digital camera on their belt. Every other person in this part of the city appears to be a tourist.

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I wanted to do the South Bank walk for today. Some of the highlights I planned on was the London Eye.

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… the Tower Bridge, and …

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… the Tower of London.

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I will take the next couple of days chronicling the day … stay tuned.

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London Trip Report Day 1

I left Vancouver for London on an Air Canada flight in late afternoon on Friday. Time wise, the flight was not too bad — it took about 9 hours in all and I did had a chance to sleep quite well.

Grant told me I should have booked on British Airways. Grant was right, the Air Canada plane was a really old plane. The inflight movie was on a CRT TV. The seats although comfortable, has seen many. many years of service.

Right after the flight took off, dinner were served. I was not given a choice at all unless you had special dietary requirements. The meal was chicken with potatoes and some vegetables. The chicken breast was pretty good.

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The meal also came with salad and Balsamic Vinegar for dressing. There were also a small tub of vanilla ice-cream. The meals were passable but I remember many years back, airline meals were a bigger deal.

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I choose red wine. It knocked me out right after — I wanted to sleep throughout the flight and it did the trick.

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About 1 1/2/ hour before landing, I was woken up by the announcement about breakfast. Breakfast was served in a simple box. The box contained a muffin, peach, orange juice, yogurt and dried raisins. I also had coffee.

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I have never been to London before. Right after I checked into the hotel, I quickly made my way to the City on my own. I actually had a great time and seriously wished Suanne were here. I know she would have loved it here too.

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I have tons of pictures I took this afternoon. Check out the link below if you care to read about them …

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