When I came out from Stansted Airport, near London, on the night of 21 September 2010, my smiling daughter Syazana was already there to greet me. From there, we boarded a train to Liverpool Station and then took a bus to Notting Hill Gate, reaching her apartment at Cheniston Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, close to 1:00 a.m.
Our travel movement was easy as her apartment was located just about 2-minute walking distance to High Street Kensington underground station. Londoners called it ‘the tube’ whereby the main stop station is the Paddington station. Other than the tube, we also took the double-decker red-colored bus which always arrived on time. As practiced by other seasoned Londoners, we too bought the Oyster card which could be used when traveling by tube or by bus.
For purpose of communicating with family and friends back home, I changed the sim card of my mobile phone to a local one, called Orange.
While in London, my daughter brought me to several Malaysian food restaurants, other than the usual fast food outlets. We had our lunch twice at the Malaysia Hall London cafeteria located at Queensborough Terrace in Bayswater area. The cafeteria was located in the same building as that of Malaysian High Commission. We also ate at other restaurants in the Bayswater and Paddington areas, such as Bonda Café, Tuk Din Restaurant, Delima Restaurant, C&R Malaysian Cuisine and Khan’s. When we did some shopping at Westfield, we had our lunch at Jom Makan Restaurant.
While I was there, Malaysian Food Festival was held at Trafalgar Square on 24 September 2010. As it was a Friday, my daughter and I were only able to visit the festival and taste the varieties of Malaysian food after my Friday prayer at London Central Mosque located at Park Road, Regent’s Park. It was a joyful affair except that the evening was chilly and windy.
Since my holiday was for about two weeks, my daughter had planned for us to visit several popular spots. One evening, we went to stroll on the Westminster Bridge, above River Thames. Tourists all the world were seen taking photographs of the Big Ben or Westminster Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament. I used to read in a travel magazine stating that this clock tower (now known as Elizabeth Tower) is the most photographed structure in the world.
Another favorite spot for tourists as well as Londoners is the Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II. It was advisable to be there on Wednesday morning, around 11:00 a.m. as there will a colorful parade called “Changing of the Guard”. The guards, in red coats, performed their rehearsal at their barracks first before marching smartly to the Palace. When I was there, the guards’ band was playing a familiar instrumental theme, a nostalgic “Mission Impossible”. Spectators clapped loudly and happily after they had finished it.
On 27 September, we had our breakfast at a famous restaurant in front of our apartment, called The Muffin Man Tea Shop. Situated at the corner of Wright’s Lane and Cheniston Gardens, this restaurant is famous for its sandwich and muffin. Our plan for the day was to go and visit a famous landmark in Greenwich. It was about thirty minutes travel by train from central London.
Greenwich is also popular as a university town. Normally tourists came to Greenwich to visit the world’s Prime Meridian in the Courtyard of the Royal Observatory. The Royal Observatory is the home of the Prime Meridian of the world, and of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). We can print our own certificate, pre-signed by Director of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, stating the date and time of our visit and standing at the Prime Meridian.
We also took the opportunity to visit a nearby city, Manchester. The journey by Virgin Train started from Euston station. The two-hour travel took us to Manchester Piccadilly station, after stopping at Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield and Stockport stations. We stayed at Ramada Hotel, just a walking distance from the station. During the day, we went to Salford Quays by tram and had lunch at Harbour City. At night, we enjoyed having Malay food at Ning Restaurant, located at Oldham Street.
After we came back from Manchester, we took Amira for lunch at Satay House situated at Sale Place, near Sussex Gardens. In fact, her mother Juliana Bahari is a close friend as well as my former office mate.
It is popularly known worldwide that London is a shopping heaven. Most people go to Oxford Street and nearby places, including Knightsbridge area where the Harrods is located. For souvenirs, I prefer to go to Bayswater area to buy them. Items such as postcards, key chains, fridge magnets, t-shirts, mufflers, London street signage, mufflers and other items are reasonably priced. For quality second-hand goods and paintings, we can buy them at Portobello Market.
A day before leaving London, we took a 20-minute train ride from Paddington station to Reading Central in order to have dinner at our family friend’s house – Raja Iskandar and his wife Erna (now a Dr). In fact in the previous week they came over to take us for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant at Edgware Road in Bayswater area. We felt very delighted to be able to see them again.
I tried to recall on my first holiday in London in March 1986. Actually at that time I was attending a 2-month course in lubrication at Agip Petroli in Rome, Italy. When the classes were cancelled on a Friday and the following Monday due to public holidays, we took the opportunity to go to London. I went there with my office mate, Salahuddin who was also attending the course. Based on experience during his studentship, we put the nights at Bed & Breakfast (B&B) at Norfolk Place, Sussex Gardens. The nearest tube was Lancaster Station.
During the short stay, we managed to visit Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street, Buckingham Palace, Soho and Little Venice. I do remember seeing a poster which was on sale at the sidewalk with the words: “If You Are Tired With London, You Are Tired With Life”. Surely enough, I never feel tired with London!
My 2010 London holiday came to an end on 8 October. We took a train from Liverpool station heading for Stansted Airport. After saying goodbye to my daughter, I entered the terminal for my journey home. The plane took off at about 9:00 p.m. for LCC Terminal in Sepang, Malaysia, thus ending my truly memorable 18-day stay in London ( and Manchester ) with my loving daughter, Syazana.