Weekend Getaway: Reconnection x London

They say that crowns are reserved for kings.
That jewels are the realm for those who deserve them.
And in the blink of an eye.
In the changing of the wind, fortunes change.
Through every shipwreck comes the chance to begin again.
To rebuild anew atop the mistakes of the past.
Out of death comes life.

We come to you, the soul of a proud knight and the trash filled mind of a laser bathed socialite.
Let us begin the story now…

Why: Meet and Catch ups

So, many of my friends from Home, Exeter and even Surrey are graduating this year! As I’ve been on a one year placement, I’m a year shy from graduating compared to them. As I have no idea when or where I’ll be seeing these people again, I thought it would be nice to meet up with some of them to catch up (haven’t seen/talked to most in 1-2 years!) before they embark on the next chapter of their lives. I was initially planning to take a trip down to Exeter to meet my INTO Exeter mates… but most of them seem to not be in Exeter for the time being (travelling and all sorts). Still, I managed to meet one of the few I really wanted to catch up with in London. I spent a day and a half in London, followed by an afternoon-night in Guildford. Although my main reason of this weekend trip was to meet my friends, I was able to squeeze in checking out some other events and such while in London.

Bear with me, this is a long post… if you’re just here for some reviews, feel free to just jump to your point of interest!

*P/S: YES, this post is about a month late (this trip was in 27th June!), so… sorry for that! (I’ve been stalling on looking through my photos!) And APOLOGIES for this long post!

Some points/reviews of interest in this post (that you might wanna jump to, JUST CLICK):

1. My First Airbnb Experience

2. Institute of Making, UCL: Festival of Stuff

3. Serpentine Pavilion, Kensington Gardens

4. Kanada-Ya

5. Night at Tower Bridge, London Riveria

6. The Breakfast Club, Soho

 

1. My First Airbnb Experience: at North Acton

*Scroll to the end of this section if you just want my brief comments and review

What sucks most that I won’t have any more (close) friends in London, is not having a free place to bunk at while in London! My friend was already hosting up to 5 other friends and family at her house for the weekend, I ended up having to look for a place in spend the night as I didn’t want to impose.

It was two weeks before the trip that I started hunting for a place to spend the night. I was opting for a cheap hostel but most of them seem to be fully booked! The available ones were at a higher price than I’m willing to pay (really only needing a place to sleep and shower, I wanted to get the cheapest available option). So, I decided to give Airbnb a go. The website was relatively easy to navigate and search. My search results came up with mostly £25-£40 per night rooms in central London as available options (I guess cheaper options were snatched up much earlier especially for weekends), so I widened my search to zones 2 and beyond. After being turned down for two requests (well, one which was a couch in a studio did not reply, and the other rejected my request as her initial pricing was lower than she wanted it listed…), I thankfully found a place in Acton (Zone 2) which accepted my request.

The house was a 10-minute walk away from the North Acton tube station and relatively easy to find (via Google Maps). The host (Sam Mohe) was really flexible in meeting my plans. As he wasn’t home when I arrived in the morning, he left me with instructions regarding where he left the keys for me. As I took an early morning coach from Cambridge (cheapest! £5! #CheapAsian) and wasn’t meeting my friend until later in the day, I wanted to check out the place and leave some stuff there for my convenience. The house is kind of in the condition of a university students’ shared house (the host only occupies the one room), tidy enough, acceptable but a tad shabby and quite untidy (like I mentioned, just as you would expect from University Students’ house). Also, it was not a non-smoking house but hey, as I said, I was just there for a night so I really didn’t mind it as much. I felt like he should have also disclosed that he lives in THAT room as well (especially if some people prefer privacy).

As the room of interest has two single beds, I shared it with another fellow traveller (Polish girl) beside Mohe (who slept on the couch). It was interesting getting to meet another traveller (as you would by staying at a hostel). Although it was just a short while before we went to bed, I enjoyed the conversation we shared.

Aside from that, Mohe was a really friendly and accommodating host – I was back late from Central London and he was still awake to greet me and even offered me food/drinks. It was not the best place (as I said, shabby, a bit untidy) but his warm hospitality along with the low £15 a night made it reasonable for anyone who is happy with a bed and shower.  However, fair warning, the not so clean and proper ambience might be off putting to some.

As for North Acton, I was on quite the tight schedule to my several meet ups and it did not seem like it had much to offer anyways. It did seem like a decent town, with traffic lights, pedestrian crossing, well lit roads and walking paths which made me feel safe when I was returning late at night.

TL;DR BREAK-DOWN:

Communication 4/5

=Pretty clear instructions and planning on the host’s side to meet my plans and expectations before my stay via texting.

Check-In 3.5/5

=Host arranges according to your plans. Although, the place he hid the key for me was a little high (and dirty!), it was a relatively smooth check-in.

Location 4/5

=Relatively easy to find with Google Maps, decent and safe looking neighbourhood.

Cleanliness 3/5

=It is acceptable but could be better. Definite no if you hate cigarette smell.

Hospitality 4.5/5

=Flexible, accommodating, friendly and polite. The host (Mohe) definitely does his best in his power to please and meet your expectations.

Value 3.5/10

=I suppose for £15 a night, it is fair. However, I am sure you could find better ones for the same price if you did plan much earlier (I only booked mine 1-2 weeks before).

TOTAL: 80%

= A pretty good Airbnb experience. I would definitely be using it again especially if I were planning to travel one place for a longer period!

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2. Institute of Making, UCL: Festival of Stuff

Being London, there was a great list of events and such happening on the weekend. Aside from the pride parade, UCL’s Institute of Making: Festival of Stuff caught my interest and fit perfectly into the time frame of which I was free for that day.

         

Institute of Making, UCL: Festival of Stuff

@ Institute of Making, UCL

27th June 2015

1pm – 5pm

           

Half of the exhibits seemed like elementary level science projects to me, but that’s not to say they weren’t interesting! What I truly appreciate was how interactive the stalls were. It would have been much better if they had descriptions and more next to the stalls though as when the crowd thickened, it made it harder to get your chance to talk/ask questions to the person at the stall.

There were much more impressive showings such as:

Smart Exoskeleton Material:

Using chain-link mesh material to create an exoskeleton glove that can protect hands from knives and such (useful for butchers and all). They are also looking at it’s potential to help strengthen weakened/injured hands and arms.

Light. Touch. Matter: 

A material that is sensitive to touch, responses to the touch with light! Those bright materials, yes! It is much like say… the dance-dance revolution arcade game where the mat lights up as you step on the tile.

Sugar Glass: 

This one is really interesting. Using the glass blowing technique, they blow SUGAR! So, they create these glass-looking containers which are actually edible, being made entirely of sugar. They were serving some cucumber mocktail concoction which was really enhanced by the sugar of the container. Although it is edible… I did not finish my “glass” as well… wary on how much sugar did it take to make one of them.

    

Moreover, there were some arts and crafts kind of stalls such as wire sculpting, willow weaving which got your into the spirit of making. Not short of materials and making, the copper bowl making and copper spoon making was as lot of noisy fun of encouraging you to use the force and a feel of copper material. As well as the LED blinking electronic badges and spectacle making (of various colors), that also introduced scientific principals and such into the process.

                               

Unfortunately, as I was only there for an hour+ to kill time before heading to meet my London friend, I didn’t partake in the activities as much as I would’ve liked to.

Aside of seeing, absorbing, understanding and making, there were also things to test and touch:

Toothpaste that is organic/natural that really whitens your teeth! (Yes! I tested them on the spot! They had toothbrushes, cups and a water dispenser on stand by)

If they were to hold such a festival again, I would definitely recommend going just to tingle your creative, innovative and scientific senses all at once! And if you do have any kids, do bring them along! Because this is how kids should learn science – in practice and have fun doing it. It sure would beat them spending their afternoon playing computer games or such.

And hey, let’s not pretend – FREE ICE CREAM doesn’t sweeten it. Along with some sweet jams…

      

For more Photos from this trip, check out my Flickr Album here

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3. Serpentine Pavilion, Kensington Gardens

If you’re feeling blue in London, definitely find you way to the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion. It is this cheerful structure, kind of like a modern take on stain glass. The structure is really interesting and interactive, with several entrances. Photography worthy indeed! And don’t forget to enjoy it! The combination of light with the colorful plastic ribbons and panels simply brightened my mood =) And the playfulness with the ribbons and panels and various entrances… it’s my happy place. Can’t they keep it? It’s could be very much a “playground” for adults.

            

They also house a little cafe with snacks, sweets, coffee and tea for you to chill in this wonder.

Did I mention you can enter for free? Just like a playground? If you haven’t checked it out, you should! It’ll only be there until October (the end of summer and long days with sunlight). Take an after work stroll or make it a day at the Park, it will make your day!

Where is it: Serpentine Gallery at Kensington Gardens

         

        

Check out their website too HERE, where they share how this lovely structure was built and the designer’s intentions behind it.

For more Photos of the Serpentine Pavilion, check out my Flickr Album here

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4. Kanada-Ya

*Scroll to the end of this section if you just want my brief comments and review

I have been watching a bunch of Korean dramas again recently. (Remember the day I said Korean dramas were all the same love story plots, sappy and over the top? Oh how wrong I was…) It really was because of my newest celebrity obsession – Kim Woo Bin, who widened my K-drama horizons and perspective on them.

One thing I think is never missed from Korean dramas? How there is always FOOD SCENCES in their dramas. I swear, like easily 50% of the entire drama features Korean food… whether it’s the proper Korean meal with ban chan, cheap street food or the humble but slurptastic Ramyun with kimchi… it just makes watching Kdrama unbearable on an empty stomach! And increases my Asian Korean food craving!

YES. I AM AWARE THAT KANADA-YA serves JAPANESE RAMEN which is very different than the Korean Ramyun. Soup noodles? Ramen? Japanese? When I thought about it, I don’t think I’ve ever had PROPER Japanese Ramen ever! Sure, there are Japanese Ramen places back home in Penang, but I do not think they are quite authentic (heck, even if they aren’t, they really are just average in taste nor are they fresh). After reading up reviews and several articles (yes, I take my food THAT seriously… especially if it is going to cost me £10 for one bowl), it seems that Kanada-Ya does not disappoint for authentic Japanese Ramen. And oh, it sure did NOT!

I was not aware of the time, but I am pretty certain that I and my friend got there around 7pm and there was a queue! It was a relatively short queue (about 8 people) which we felt fine with waiting. There is also a bench right by the door while you wait… I’m afraid I was really _ my conversation with my friend that I forgotten to take a picture of the place! And before we knew it, we were being seated! (We were probably waited for about 30 minutes). One thing I think is worth noting that while the shop is a corner lot, it is pretty small and can only fit about 20-30 people at once… and the tables are mostly for parties of 2-4 people. I would suggest going with not more than a party of 4 if you plan to go unless you do not mind splitting up the group for seating.

Being it my first bowl of proper Japanese Ramen, I may not be the best judge for its authenticity or such… For me, it met my expectations. I had the Original which cost £10.50. Everything in the bowl was fresh and clear in flavour, from the thick and flavourful broth which was not salty or artificial tasting; thinly sliced pork with good ratio of fat to meat and perfect thickness (not too thin) that makes for a satisfying gnaw of meat; noodles with a great bite (I had mine ‘Hard’. This would have to be of personal preference) which is great texture along with the pork and broth. What I regret was not adding the egg which is another big part of Japanese Ramen! I had no idea it was not included, you have to order it as an extra apparently.

I would recommend it if you’re craving a good hearty yet light bowl of noodle soup. To me, the rich broth with the noodles make for a great meal without leaving you feeling over-stuffed (as the broth is rich in flavour but light at the same time).  For £10.50, I think it is quite a good deal as Japanese restaurants in Cambridge sell their midi-yorker ramen (which does not comes CLOSE to this, it is mostly not so proper ramen noodles in Miso soup or Shroyu which is actually cheap!) at £7 average.

TL;DR BREAK-DOWN:

Quality of Food 4.5/5

=My bowl of ramen impressed me with its rich and flavorful broth, simple pork with great bite and fresh ramen noodles. I’ve read that you should the egg is worth adding to this simple but satisfying bowl; also that the Onigiri is quite disappointing.

Ambience 4/5

=It is not a swanky restaurant but more like a noodle bar, so do not expect otherwise (compared to Ippudo situated opposite). We were seated outside by the pavement which was fine by me as there was not a lot of traffic by that road. On the inside, it is bright and clean. Although it is a small place, the seating was well spaced, did not seem cramped. Felt like a quaint Japanese noodle bars you see in Japan.

* The tables there are mostly for parties of 2-4 people. I would suggest going with not more than a party of 4 if you plan to go unless you do not mind splitting up the group for seating.

Service 4.5/5

= As I mentioned, do expect to wait as the shop is small! Service was not fast but reasonable, 10-15 minutes from ordering till we got our food. The servers are attentive and friendly. Table side condiments (pickled vegetable of sorts) are available along with chopsticks and spoons.

Value 4 /5

= With fresh ingredients which were each great and all meld to form a quality bowl of ramen. I did feel like the egg should be inclusive of the £10.50 instead of having to pay an extra £1.80.

RATING: 85%

= I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great tasting bowl of authentic Japanese Ramen.

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5. London Riveria and Bridge

It was 8:30pm after we were done with dinner. I wanted to check out the pop-up at London Riveria. Even though I probably would not be having any food, a cocktail and a stroll by the river at a vibrant atmosphere sounded like a good idea, even solo.

I blame my drained brain (having only 2 hours of sleep last night), I went to the wrong place! The address said QUEENS WALK, which according to Google Maps is close to Westminister underground… I got off, all I see is the bridge and Big Ben… a pop-up bar not in sight! I checked again online, and it is actually situated near the HMS Belfast (adjacent to Tower Bridge)!

               

By the time I got off London Bridge underground, it was quarter to ten… and the pop-up bar was closing. As it was getting late and I did not want to impose on my host OR be late for the tube, I left after about half an hour – I really didn’t want to! I would definitely like to come here again if I were ever in London, to just unwind – There were colorful beach deck chairs set around the stall, overlooking the city lights of London and Tower Bridge, something different about the combination of the skyscrapers against the river and walkway which I loved.

I ended up just strolling by the walk, with songs of my choosing that set me in a freeing mood that made me wonder about wandering thoughts in a happier light. It was great to just be in bliss from the sights that surround me there. Needless to say, I snapped some photos of this beautiful sight:

I have been to the Tower Bridge but I don’t think I’ve been here at night or to this side of the river Thames. It certainly seems like London has much more to explore, with every sight that differs at different times of the day… that I wish to stay in London till I have been thoroughly awed and by the many things and places it has to offer. London does seem perfect for the not-so-weary young souls who want a bit of it all – energetic city life, arts and culture, diversity, adventures…

For more Photos of London at Night of London Riveria, check out my Flickr Album here

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6. The Breakfast Club

*Scroll to the end of this section if you just want my brief comments and review

Time for another meet up! I met up with this other friend pretty early, at 9am at Victoria Station and made our way to the famous Breakfast Club in Soho.

YES. 9AM and there was a QUEUE. (Not surprised, most of the people in the queue were Asians, HAAH. We just love our food) Again, a relatively small shop like Kanada-Ya which probably fits about 30 people in one seating? It did feel a bit more cramped than Kanada-Ya…

The wait is definitely longer than Kanada-Ya because it definitely takes longer to eat a big breakfast compared to a bowl of ramen. SORRY! I was yet again too engaged with my conversation that I didn’t take any interior photos! The interior is pretty much like any hipster cafe – bright coloured walls, rustic table and chairs (cramped with barely any space to the next table), little trinkets and such… just a busy but cosy atmosphere.

The menu is not that big (which is great!). We went for the obvious choices – The Full Monty and Pancakes with Bacon topped with Maple Syrup.

       

They were not kidding with the Full Monty… it had everything of an English Breakfast.. portion was HUGE! I’d  say if it’s just two of you, share this and be done with it! For £10, sharing this sure makes it value for money. It was alright but not the best. What I liked about it is although most of the stuff were fried and all, it was surprisingly not as greasy! The sausage was crazy tasty, great black pudding. What disappointed me was their absolute failure of the poached eggs… no runny yolks here.

      

As for the pancakes. Maaaan, The Full Monty would’ve been enough for two of us. Along with the maple syrup and bacon, it taste great of course (can’t go wrong with bacon). The maple syrup was absolutely lush and lovely, not too sweet. However, the pancakes were more cakey than fluffy. I generally didn’t mind such a texture… it tastes alright at first but you eventually feel weighed down by how heavy and dense it is. So, I would say nothing spectacular, I probably will not be paying that much again for this. Just look at how thick they are!

TL;DR BREAK-DOWN:

The Fully-Monty 3.5/5

=A solid plate of all things that make an English Breakfast, great quality, poached eggs were too well done.

Pancakes with Bacon topped with Maple Syrup 2.5/5

=Nothing wrong with Bacon, lovely Maple Syrup, but the pancakes were cakey (not fluffy) and really dense which I did not care for after being stuffed silly by half of the Full Monty. (There may be some inconsistency in the quality of their food… some reviewers rave about their fluffy pancakes?)

Quality of Food 6/10

=It is definitely fresh and tasty, I would not mind going back to try the other things they offer. They serve good coffee and tea too.

Ambience 3.5/10

=Hipster decor (great for all you instagrammers and all), a bit cramped but makes for an overall cosy cafe experience

Service 3.5/10

=Pretty standard service I would say. Our server did check whether we were happy with our food and all.

Value 2/5

=I would say the Full Monty was worth it for the portion; as for the Pancakes, £9 seems unreasonable. It really depends what you order I suppose.

RATING: 75%

=They know how to make tasty breakfast food and have a range of food for the health conscious to sinners. I would not mind going back to try their other offerings (which looks great from other reviews!) but I do think TBC is overhyped and not worth me waiting an hour for (unless I was going there just to catch up with a friend as I was).

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Getaway Takeaway

I don’t think I’ve explored London this much before (esp on my own!). My previous London visits were usually for events, concerts or tourist/food focused. This trip, I was able to see great happenings, new sights, try new food… which made me appreciate more on how much London actually has to offer. Culture, Arts, Science, Food… for someone like me who loves endless variety, London is looking pretty good and I am kicking myself for overlooking this fact for the past 2 years!!!

London may not be a city that doesn’t sleep, but it still has a tedious amount of things to offer. I am already dreaming of my next trip there!

Surprisingly, this trip kind of recharged something in me (hence, the re-connection). Perhaps it was having my heart pumping more from the thrill and excitement from adventure and exploring new things.

What are your thoughts/memories of London? Share yours and possibly introduce me to more things to explore on my next London trip!

What do you think about my review and ratings on Kanada-Ya and The Breakfast Club? Do you have any tips or recommendations? Sharing is caring! Apologies again for the long (and long overdue) post! Thanks if you did read it 😉

For more Photos from this trip, please check out my Flickr Album here

London Called,
Sum.

 

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