Category Archives: Holidays

~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Brisbane, Australia – Once More In The Land Down Under

This is probably my last post in the yearningforlove Series as I intend to go for an extended hiatus from writing. Work has been stressful, but fulfilling and rewarding at the same time, especially when my efforts result in a marked improvement in standards or when I receive compliments from my clients. That said, the hours I’ve dedicated to the job has really taken a lot out of me and this “mini-vacation” (of sorts) is truly a welcome break for me.

Work is Stressful!

Work is Stressful!

This trip to Brisbane is largely unplanned, with most of my arrangements done just days before my departure. The main purpose of the trip was actually to help settle Priscilla (my sis) down in Brisbane, as her school term starts this coming August, after she was accepted into University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Agriculture and Food Sciences. Dad and Mum had done the necessary prep and the original plan was for them to fly over with Priscilla to aid her in setting up what would probably be her home for the next 4 years, whilst helping her assimilate into a new culture and environment. I was a last minute inclusion, after I had managed to make the necessary arrangements from work to squeeze out the five days where I will be able to spend with my dear sis as she embarks on a new journey in her life.

UQ - One of Australia's oldest and selective universities

UQ – One of Australia’s oldest and selective universities

If you’ve been reading my series, I am not much of a stranger to Australia, having been there four times before; Brisbane in 2000, Sydney and Melbourne in 2013 & Perth in the years 2002 and 2014. This is however the first time I’ll be staying in Brisbane City as the previous trip in 2000, we had opted to stay along Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast instead. This time round, in order to be closer to the campus grounds, we decided to forgo the fun of the sand and surf, and decided to stay within Brisbane city centre for easier access and facilitation. That’s not to say I didn’t get to have fun or enjoy myself as Brisbane also offers its own unique sights and views. Here’s a day by day account of my mini break in Brisbane as I head once more to the land down under!

Slice Of The Past – Surfers Paradise circa. 2000

Slice Of The Past – Surfers Paradise circa. 2000

Day 1 – 8 Jul – Goodbye Singapore, Hello Australia

As my plans for the trip were quite last minute, I chose not to fly SQ with my family as the fares were almost twice of what I had budgeted for the trip. As such, the most economical and convenient option for me was to fly Scoot to OOL (Gold Coast Airport), where I will then hop onto an airport shuttle to transfer to Brisbane city. The flight departed on time at 2225hrs, and it was my first flight on a 787 Dreamliner. It is also the first time I’m flying since I began working at SATS, and it was pretty weird to be flying on a flight whereby my staff were in charge of the departure handling just minutes before. Anyways, the flight was pretty routine. With Scoot being a low cost carrier, there wasn’t much to do on board, and with my phone (mandatorily) switched off, I had one of the best undisturbed sleep ever since my days in Lost and Found.

The cheaper option was to fly Scoot to OOL instead of BNE

The cheaper option was to fly Scoot to OOL instead of BNE

Day 2 – 9 Jul – Brisbane Awaits

I touched down at Gold Coast Airport at about 07:30am, just slightly ahead of schedule. As I had tagged my belongings on my parents’ flight on SQ, I had no checked-in baggage except for a small cabin bag and my laptop. As such, I did not have to wait for any luggage at the baggage carousel and could spare some minutes to grab a quick coffee before my pickup to Brisbane. The drive from Gold Coast to Brisbane took approximately an hour, and I got in to the city a couple of hours before the rest of the family arrived. Our residence (Evolution Apartments) was just off the city centre, along Tank Street, which provided a very stunning backdrop of the city and the Brisbane River.

Touching Down in OOL

Touching Down in OOL

The View from Evolution

The View from Evolution

After a quick shower and freshening up, we decided to go explore the Fortitude Valley area where Brisbane’s Chinatown lies. With my sister’s extended stay in Brisbane, my parents were interested in seeing the accessibility (and prices) of Chinese food and supplies over there. It was comforting to know that we could still find things like Essence of Chicken from Brands, Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, and fresh Chinese greens around, but the prices were pretty astronomical as compared to Singapore. That said, being alone in a foreign land, when you are feeling homesick or craving for something familiar from home, I’ll gladly pay the premium pricing.

Brisbane Chinatown

Brisbane Chinatown

After surveying Chinatown, we headed to Queen Street Mall, which is Brisbane’s version of Orchard Road. Australia has a culture of early closing hours, so we had to rush quite a little before the shutters of the shops came down. The first thing we had to do was to sign up for a mobile plan for my sis. I had assisted with a project when I was doing my rotation in Marketing as part of the GAP Program where we were looking into the sales of SIM cards onboard flights in and out of Australia. As such, I was a little familiar with the various offerings from the major telcos over there; mainly Telstra, Vodafone, Lebara and Optus. We settled with Optus as they were currently having a promo, with additional 1GB free data and unlimited outgoing overseas call to Singapore, which suits my sister’s needs just fine.

The Shrine of Remembrance, ANZAC Square, which is located around Queen, Ann and Adelaide Street

The Shrine of Remembrance, ANZAC Square, which is located around Queen, Ann and Adelaide Street

The day was rounded up with a simple dinner consisting of pies paired with a bottle of watermelon flavoured wine before we all retired for the night.

Delicious Pies from Australian Chain Pie Face

Delicious Pies from Australian Chain Pie Face

Day 3 – 10 Jul – Eat Street Markets, South Bank and Making New Friends

We headed to one of Brisbane’s many weekend markets on the morning of our 3rd day in Brisbane. Eat Street Markets, which is located at Macarthur Ave in the suburb of Hamilton, is one of the best in the city based on recommendations from my JC classmate Sharon and it did not disappoint. Billed as the ultimate foodie extravaganza, Eat Street Markets offers a selection of international cuisines and handcrafted boutique beers.

With Sis at Eat Street Markets

With Sis at Eat Street Markets

We tasted a smorgasbord of different food from all around the world; beginning with some Fresh Seafood from Phunky Dory, to Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Greek Honey Puffs, followed by Mexican Chipotle Wings and Italian Wood Fired Pizzas; all of which are washed down with Homemade Ginger Beer and freshly brewed Chai Latte. I highly recommend the Moreton Bay Bug (aka crayfish) from Phunky Dory, which are BBQ’d with a delicious garlic butter concoction and served with either Beer Battered Chips or Sweet Potato Fries. Catch them before they sell out!

Seafood Platter from Phunky Dory

Seafood Platter from Phunky Dory

After satisfying our taste buds, we took a bus back into the city where we explored South Bank. South Bank is Brisbane’s premier cultural and recreational destination and is home to the Queensland Cultural Centre and the Wheel of Brisbane. As the name suggests, South Bank is located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, and it regularly holds delightful events all year round celebrating the Arts and Culture. The Le Festival (Brisbane French Festival) was being held at the parkland grounds while we were there. It does cost you a little to enter the event grounds, but if the festival theme interests you, why not enjoy the sights, food and the entertainment that it offers?

The Wheel of Brisbane

The Wheel of Brisbane

The View of the CBD from South Bank

The View of the CBD from South Bank

Le Festival - Brisbane French Festival

Le Festival – Brisbane French Festival

After covering South Brisbane, we headed back to the apartment where we freshen ourselves up for dinner. We were invited to Auntie Ee Leng’s home (Dad’s acquaintance from work) whose kids were also students from UQ and my parents thought it would be good for sis to gather some advice and information for her stint over there. The Yeos were very hospitable and we quickly clicked despite not having met each other before. It wasn’t long before we natter away whilst dining on the delicious dinner spread that Auntie Ee Leng and her daughter Kat had prepared for us. We spoke about life in UQ, working at the airport (given my position at SATS and that both Dad and Auntie Ee Leng are SQ luminaries) and the differences between Australia and Singapore. It was almost midnight when we bid each other goodbye and it was very nice of the Yeos to offer to drive us back to our apartment and for Auntie Ee Leng and Kat to offer their assistance to my sis should my sis require anything during her stay in Brisbane.

Making new friends with the Yeos

Making new friends with the Yeos

Nothing beats having a familiar face in a foreign country and it is nice making new friends and contacts.

Day 4 – 11 Jul – Moving into UQ

UQ awaits us today as we helped sis transport her belongings into her student house in Cromwell College. Founded in 1909, UQ is one of Australia’s oldest and selective universities, and is consistently ranked among the top in university rankings worldwide. Universities nowadays are not just a place for academic learning, but is also a place of interest. The University of Oxford draws thousands of visitors yearly due to its use as a filming site for the Harry Potter film series, while my alma mater NTU has also attracted some photograph enthusiasts to capture photos of the uniquely designed NTU Learning Hub (affectionately dubbed the dim-sum building due to its resemblance to stacked dim-sum steamers). UQ also has its own appeal and allure, with the Great Court being one of my favourites within the campus grounds. The Great Court is a heritage-listed site that was added into the Queensland Heritage Register in 2002. The court was built upon extensive sculptural work featuring historical artwork, coats of arms and Australian cultures and traditions. It has now transcended to a place of aesthetic significance and is an important part of UQ’s identity. I also love the fact that students can choose to study on the grassed area in the centre of the Great Court – a huge contrast to the concrete jungle that we are so used to in Singapore’s universities. The Great Court is also surrounded by beautiful sandstone buildings which are now the dominant feature of the St. Lucia landscape. Definitely worth taking some time to stroll around the beautiful campus grounds.

Dim-Sum Building at NTU

Dim-Sum Building at NTU

The Great Court in UQ St. Lucia

The Great Court in UQ St. Lucia

Sandstone Buildings at UQ

Sandstone Buildings at UQ

As for the student house itself, I must say I was pretty impressed with the facilities and amenities provided by the university. My sis was housed in an apartment unit shared with 3 other housemates, all of which are international students. Each student is given her own personal room, fully furnished with bedding, wardrobes, study desk and other basic needs. The apartment also comes with a kitchen, living room and a balcony, which allows for simple home cooked fares and a place to hang your laundry. It is much better than what is being offered in NTU, where most halls are simply single room units shared between two students with only basic pantry services available at the common area at each level (although we do get air conditioning here at NTU). That said, the cost of living in UQ is almost 3 times as much as what one pays for at NTU, so I guess what you pay is what you get.

Cromwell College, where my sis will reside

Cromwell College, where my sis will reside

We had lunch at Burger Urge where feasted on burgers, wraps, chips and onion rings. The limited edition Mrs Clinton’s burger (named after Hillary Clinton) was my favourite item from the menu. Featuring a soft toasted wholemeal bun, a tender piece of fried chicken, maple smoked bacon, jalapeños, melted cheese and chipotle mayo dressing, my advice is to cut the burger in half, take a bite and enjoy the messy but strangely satisfying jumble of different flavours in your mouth and then do it everything all over again once more!

Mrs. Clinton - by Burger Urge

Mrs. Clinton – by Burger Urge

After lunch, we went to Toowong Village to stock up on daily essentials for my sis while I also took the opportunity to shop for (everybody’s favourite) Tim Tams to be brought back to the loved ones back in Singapore. The wide range of Tim Tam flavours were really fascinating, from conventional flavours like Chocolate and Salted Caramel to exotic flavours such as Strawberry Champagne, Pina Colada to Chocolate Banana and Pineapple. I spent a mini fortune on the Tim Tams, enough to fill up my entire hand carry with nothing except the delicious little treats.

Spent a mini fortune on these delicious little treats

Spent a mini fortune on these delicious little treats

Once we were done with our shopping, we took the CityCat back into the CBD where we had dinner at Jade Buddha Bar and Kitchen, located along Eagle Street Pier. With spectacular views of the Brisbane River and stunning sights of the city lights, Jade Buddha is a great venue for a cocktail or a casual meal whilst in Brisbane. Boasting a menu of Asian fusion cuisines, we went with a Jade Buddha Platter, Barramundi served in Coconut Cream and Butter Chicken dished up in a delicious creamy Tomato Butter Gravy with crispy Pappadums. The meal was made complete with a pint of Australian cider and their signature Chocolate Buddha; a Chocolate Lava Cake served with Vanilla Ice-Cream. The food here is pretty decent, although the prices was a bit on the steep side given its location and setting. Dinner for 4 (including drinks), will easily set you back abit, with my bill coming to around 150 AUD.

Brisbane's CityCats

Brisbane’s CityCats

Jade Buddha offers a stunning view of the Brisbane River

Jade Buddha offers a stunning view of the Brisbane River

The Signature Chocolate Buddha

The Signature Chocolate Buddha

With our tummies filled, it was time for me to get back to our apartment to pack up and rest as I was due to leave for the airport early next morning. From Eagle Street Pier, we took the free CityHopper ferry service to North Quay, where it is just a quick 5 minutes walk away from Evolution. It is nice of the Brisbane City Council to provide such free services, which benefits both the locals, and also provides tourists like myself an affordable and enjoyable mode of transportation as we took in the Brisbane River and city sights. If only there was a similar service in Singapore that provides complimentary river cruises along the Singapore River.

One of Brisbane's CityHopper ferries

One of Brisbane’s CityHopper ferries

Day 5 – 12 Jul – Bidding Goodbye, First Flight on Qantas and Appraising The Graduate

My pickup to the airport was due to arrive at 0840hrs in time for my 12:15pm departure on QF51 back to Singapore. My parents were staying over in BNE for a few more days until my sis starts her orientation at UQ. As the airport transfer pulled in, it was an emotional farewell as I wished my sis all the best in her endeavour at UQ; the sudden realisation that it would be sometime before we’ll meet again in person (Thank God for Skype/Facetime/Whatsapp/Email and Viber!).

Skype will probably soon be my parents' best friend

Skype will probably soon be my parents’ best friend

I arrived at the Airport with loads to spare, and I took the time to grab some breakfast before making my way through immigration. This would be the first time that I will be flying on Qantas, and I was pretty excited at checking out their cabin amenities, in-flight entertainment (IFE) and cabin services. Being in the aviation industry for almost a year now, I guess I can’t help but to “audit” the flight, especially on the arrival handling in Singapore, which I am part responsible for too.

First flight on QF

First flight on QF

The Airbus 330 was in a 2-4-2 configuration with a decent seat pitch and width in Economy. I was seated on the right-side aisle in the centre 4, and it helped that there wasn’t anyone seated beside me, giving me a little extra legroom at the sides. The IFE was also quite respectable for a full-service carrier like Qantas, with a generous range of movies, games and music (although I think SQ still has a slightly larger selection when compared) to choose from. The thing that stood out for me was their “Classics” selection, which features Academy favourites such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Dirty Dancing, Pulp Fiction and The Graduate, of which I watched the latter, reliving some of the most memorable quotes and scenes from film history (cue Benjamin Braddock: “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?“).

Qantas boasts a pretty decent selection of movies, TV programs, music and games in their IFE library

Qantas boasts a pretty decent selection of movies, TV programs, music and games in their IFE library

As one of the most praised films ever, The Graduate is a coming-of-age film set around Benjamin Braddock (a very youthful looking Dustin Hoffman), an innocent and confused (and lovesick) youth who was (somewhat) exploited, mis-guided and seduced (literally and figuratively) by Mrs. Robinson (portrayed brilliantly by the stunning and beautiful Anne Bancroft). The movie was one of the ground-breaking films of the late 1960s, and set the path for Hoffman as a heavyweight in Hollywood, while making Bancroft a huge sex symbol with many boys treating her as their first sexual fantasy. The film however, had more serious undertones to it, with themes such as the shifting social and sexual mores, the alienation of the (then) younger generation and the growing dissatisfaction of the middle-class community all being featured and/or discussed in the film. For those like myself who are too young to have caught the film when it was released, do take some time to catch some of these classic movies whenever possible – they are called classics for a reason.

The Beautiful Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson

The Beautiful Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson

On the food front however, I must however admit that Qantas failed to meet my standards. Having also been in catering during my GAP rotation (see A Week in August), the food served on the BNE-SIN sector really was quite disappointing. While you get to pick more choices (3 in fact) than what I normally get from flying SQ, the food really wasn’t quite appetising. The Western choice was Lamb, which I decided to give it a miss since I had red meat mostly in the last couple of days, while the Asian menu was an Indian Vegetable Curry – which I am not a fan of Chickpeas and Chutney. I ended up with the alternate choice, Chicken Salad with Vermicelli, which was really not how I had imagined it to be when I first saw the menu. For the first time ever, I did not finish my meal and left half of the dish untouched. Dessert was not any better; it was some sort of pastry/cake with some berry filling which was too sour for my liking. The best part of the meal was (surprise, surprise) the bread roll, which was served warm with a garlic butter inside. A pity no soup was served as part of the menu in coach. It would have taken my disappointment away.

Not quite living up to their tagline of being the finest restaurant in the sky

Not quite living up to their tagline of being the finest restaurant in the sky

Anyway, I touched down back in Singapore just after 6pm and was greeted by the familiar faces of my staff and colleagues. Headed straight to office to pick up some stuff, drop off the Tim Tams for the team and started clearing the snowballing number of emails that have piled up over the days. As I will be on reservist from the 13th till the end of the month, there will be more emails to clear and more work to be done off-site. So not looking forward to it.

A Familiar Sight

A Familiar Sight

In any case, just wanna end the post by wishing my little sis all the best in UQ. Go with an open mind and heart and enjoy yourself. Grow as a person and experience new adventures and cultures. Most importantly, stay safe and have fun! And also, special thanks to Amy Quek (Sharon’s sister) who I must thank for showing my family around Brisbane despite me having flown back to Singapore first. Much appreciated and hopefully I will finally get to see you the next time I visit the capital of Queensland.

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy yourself in the land down under sis!

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy yourself in the land down under sis!

For now, G’day and G’bye.

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~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Europe (Part V) Coming Full Circle

Day 21 – 26 Jun – Final Stop – Copenhagen, Denmark

A relatively short day today, beginning with a late morning pick up to the airport as public transport is not readily available in the small town of Kiruna that has a population of only around 25,000. The final leg of my graduation trip will see me travel to København, Denmark via Stockholm. The SAS flight landed in Kastrup at about 1800, which gave me just enough time to go scout for dinner and plan for the next day’s activities before I retire for the night.

Boarding the flight from Kiruna to København

Boarding the flight from Kiruna to København

Day 22 – 27 Jun – Grand Inner City Tour of Copenhagen

My accommodation in Copenhagen was Ascot Hotel, just minutes away from København H, the main railway station of the city. The famed Tivoli Gardens is located just opposite the train station along with other landmarks such as the Hans Christian Andersen Statue. I hadn’t planned much for my stay in the capital of Denmark as the sole reason for me being there was because Copenhagen was the nearest airport from Kiruna that SQ serves (in order for me to fly home). But since I was there physically, I thought I should spend at least one day to explore Scandinavia’s greatest little kingdom.

Statue of Hans Christian Andersen

Statue of Hans Christian Andersen

I booked myself on a Grand Inner City Tour by Hamlet Tours. This ¾ day tour is just about right to cover the city’s major sites. We first went to see Christiansborg Palace, where we visited the beautiful reception rooms used by the Queen. It was followed by a quick photo stop at the Old Stock Exchange, the Church of Our Saviour and Amalienborg, the latter being one of the most beautiful squares in the city and home to the royal family. We then went on a canal tour, where we sailed around the old idyllic canals for approximately an hour, before docking at Nyhavn (New Harbour), where we enjoyed a lunch of pickled herring.

Nyhavn (New Harbour)

Nyhavn (New Harbour)

The tour ended at Rosenborg Palace – the original renaissance palace that houses the Danish Crown Jewels and other old treasures and paintings. I then proceeded (on my own expense) to visit the Tycho Brahe Planetarium and doing the Carlsberg Experience, where I enjoyed a pint (or two) of the world famous pilsner. I later hopped onto the S-train to Østerport, which is the nearest station to Langelinie – home of the statue of Den lille havfrue, or The Little Mermaid as commonly known in English. Commissioned over 100 years ago, the statue has since become synonymous with the city of Copenhagen, achieving iconic status akin to Manneken Pis in Brussels or even New York’s Statue of Liberty.

Den lille havfrue

Den lille havfrue

I had Nordic Gravad Lax (cured salmon) for dinner before I headed back to Ascot to take a breather, before heading out again at night to Tivoli to catch the fireworks. I had no idea that Tivoli does a fireworks display on Saturday evenings, until a good friend of mine who did her exchange in Copenhagen told me that I should not miss the fireworks spectacular. It was good that I heeded her advice, as the fireworks were indeed quite breathtaking, better than many that I’ve seen, although it was a pity that I was left without a photo memory of the night as my compact camera isn’t superior enough to capture the dazzling array of colours lighting up the night sky.

Tivoli Fireworks (Photo Credits: Wikipedia)

Tivoli Fireworks (Photo Credits: Wikipedia)

Day 23 – 28 Jun – Coming Full Circle

With a good night’s rest and after breakfast at Ascot, it was time to head to the airport for my flight home. As the cab whisked through the city on my way to Kastrup, I can’t help but feel mixed emotions inside of me. On one hand, I was glad to be heading back to Singapore after almost a month away from home. On the other hand, the fact that I was returning home meant that my holidays were ending soon, and I’ll shortly be embarking on the next phase of my life – as a working adult. In fact, I was due to head straight to office upon my arrival into Changi to complete some paperwork before I report for work on the 1st of July. In any case, I was pretty proud to have done the trip on my own – my first full solo trip overseas.

Day 24 – 29 Jun – Final Thoughts

With the voyage from Copenhagen to Singapore almost certainly being my final flight travelling on SQ for free, I tried my best to savour every moment of the journey. I also took some time to reflect on the trip as I recall on the people that I’ve met (such as the Drummonds in Edinburgh), the places that I’ve been (5 Countries, 9 Cities in 24 days), and the cultures that I’ve encountered (Graduation Celebrations in Denmark is a one-of-a-kind tradition); all of which make up the pieces of one truly priceless memory – feeling accomplished 🙂

When will I see these gorgeous Singapore Girls again?

When will I see these gorgeous Singapore Girls again?

Final Thoughts about my Europe Adventure

Final Thoughts about my
Europe Adventure


~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Europe (Part IV) – An Unexpected Surprise and 66 Hours without Nightfall

Day 17 – 22 Jun – 8 Hour Transit in Düsseldorf

It was nice of Gek Theng and Yan Zong to send me off at the airport, given my flight’s departure at a very early 0640 hours in the morning. As Linz isn’t very well connected, I had to transit over at Düsseldorf for a connecting flight to Stockholm, Sweden. The first leg from Linz to Düsseldorf was on a de Havilland Dash 8, a turboprop airliner. Other than the C130 Hercules that I flew on when I went to Brunei during my national service, I have never flown on a turboprop as a paying passenger, hence my excitement at flying in one of these powerful machines.

An Austrian de Havilland Dash 8 (Photo Credits: FlightAware)

An Austrian de Havilland Dash 8
(Photo Credits: FlightAware)

I arrived into Düsseldorf just past eight in the morning. With my connection not departing until 1600, I had to find ways to burn 8 hours at an airport with limited free Wi-Fi. I bought myself a magazine and some coffee to kill time as I waited for the Eurowings flight to arrive. The flight to Sweden would mark another first for me, as I was flying on a Bombardier CRJ – my first flight on a plane with rear-mounted engines.

An Eurowings Bombardier CRJ, similar to the one I flew from Düsseldorf to Stockholm

An Eurowings Bombardier CRJ, similar to the one I flew from Düsseldorf to Stockholm

Touching down at Stockholm Arlanda at around eight in the evening, I made my way to my accommodation – the M/S Rygerfjord, a boat hostel located at Söder Mälarstrand, just minutes away from the Stockholm Central Station. I had originally planned to stay in hotels for this trip, with the intention of rewarding myself upon my graduation. However, with the hotel rates in Stockholm an astronomical high, I decided that I would stay in a hostel for this leg of the trip. It wasn’t such a bad choice in the end, as I got to experience sleeping on a boat; the Rygerfjord having been transformed from a sailing vessel to a hotel & hostel of today. The location of Rygerfjord also presents a beautiful panorama of Riddarfjärden (one of the bays of Lake Mälaren) as I tucked myself into bed watching the sun set into the horizon.

M/S Rygerfjord

M/S Rygerfjord

Day 18 – 23 Jun – One Day in Stockholm

Having bought the Stockholm Card, I decided to make full use of the perks that were included in it, saving time and money as I discovered the sights, museums and attractions that Stockholm offers in the one day I had there in The Capital of Scandinavia. But before I set off for the day’s activities, I headed first to Kalf & Hansen for brunch. Kalf & Hansen was highly recommended by a classmate of mine, who had recently returned from Sweden on holiday. Located within the district of Mariatorget, which is just a couple of minutes away from where I was staying at Rygerfjord, Kalf & Hansen specialises in organic Nordic food with their vegetarian meatballs a huge favourite among locals.

Kalf & Hansen

Kalf & Hansen

Vegetarian Meatballs from Kalf & Hansen

Vegetarian Meatballs from Kalf & Hansen

After filling myself up, I headed to Stadshusbron for the Historical Canal Tour – free for holders of the Stockholm card. Travelling through the narrow canals of Stockholm, the cruise lets one revel in the views of the beautiful city, as I learn and hear about the stories of historic buildings located along the sail route. After the cruise, I proceeded to one of Stockholm’s most well known landmarks – Stockholm City Hall. Famed for hosting the annual Nobel Banquet, the compound of City Hall also consists of a 106m tall tower, of which it provides for one of the best views of the city.

Views from the Historical Canal Tour

Views from the Historical Canal Tour

Views from the 106m Stockholm City Hall Tower

Views from the 106m Stockholm City Hall Tower

I covered other major attractions of Stockholm in the rest of the afternoon, such as The Royal Opera House, The Royal Palace, NationalMuseum and The Nobel Museum, before ending the day with a walking tour in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Day 19 – 24 Jun – A 1240km Train Ride & An Unexpected Surprise

I received an unexpected text from Jun Wen early in the morning, asking if I was still in Stockholm. Apparently, he was due to arrive in Stockholm for a couple of hours while en route to Oslo, Norway. Since I was only due to leave Stockholm for Kiruna only in the evening, we figured that we could meet for a meal or something. I hadn’t seen Jun Wen for almost half a year, since he left for Edinburgh for exchange, so it was nice to catch up abit. After locating him at the train station, I took him to Kalf & Hansen, where I opted for their meat quenelles this time round (I tried the vegetarian meatballs the day before). At 100 SEK (18 SGD), the meal was pretty decent, especially if you consider that everything there is homemade and 100% organic.

An Unexpected Surprise in Stockholm

An Unexpected Surprise in Stockholm

With Jun Wen’s train to Oslo not departing till hours later, he sent me off for my ride to Kiruna. The train ride from Stockholm to Kiruna is one of the highlights of my entire trip. At over 1200km, the Arctic Circle Express runs from Stockholm to Kiruna and the port of Narvik in Norway. I had wanted to save some money on taking the economy cabin, but was persuaded to pay a little extra to travel on the sleeper, for a more comfortable and effortless journey across the Swedish Lapland. The journey from Stockholm will take approximately 18 hours, and with so much time to kill, I took the effort to mingle with fellow travellers heading north with me, most of whom were going on hikes up into the beautiful Swedish mountains.

SJ connects Stockholm to Kiruna and Narvik up north

SJ connects Stockholm to Kiruna and Narvik up north

Despite the long journey, the sleeper cabins were actually quite comfortable. Each bed comes equipped with pillows and blankets, with dedicated bedside lights and power sockets for every traveller. I can say that I had quite a good sleep during the journey, as I looked forward to my stay in Kiruna.

Views onboard the Arctic Circle Express

Views onboard the Arctic Circle Express

Day 20 – 25 Jun – Missing out on Midnight Sun

I arrived into Kiruna a little behind schedule – the train having been delayed earlier due to inclement weather midway into the journey. Bad weather had been plaguing the trip ever since I left London, with rain almost a daily occurrence. If I could choose only one day of my entire journey to be free of rain, it has got to be today, as I was supposed to catch the Midnight Sun at Kiruna. In fact, the sole reason for my 1240km detour up north, was to experience polar night (the natural phenomenon where night lasts for more than 24 hours). However, looking at the skies as the train pulled into Kiruna Central Station, I was not putting my hopes too high on being able to see the magnificent sun stay above the horizon throughout the day.

Grey skies greeted me in Kiruna

Grey skies greeted me in Kiruna

After checking in to Hotell Kebne, I braved the rain looking for dinner while exploring the town of Kiruna. As the northernmost town in Sweden, Kiruna is one of the most popular places to observe the midnight sun (in summer) and northern lights (during winter). It is also home to the ICEHOTEL, where one can stay overnight in a room made entirely out of snow and ice. I went to see two of Kiruna’s more famous landmarks – Kiruna Town Hall and Kiruna Church, the latter of which is constructed of wood and was voted Sweden’s most beautiful building in 2001, before heading back to Kebne to monitor the weather to see if I was destined to witness the midnight sun.

Kiruna Church - Voted Sweden's most beautiful building

Kiruna Church – Voted Sweden’s most beautiful building

As the clock ticked towards midnight, and with the skies not clearing up, I knew that my trip to Kiruna was going to be a futile one. But having made the long trip there, I decided to make the most of it, and carry on with my original plan to conquer the Midnattssolstigen (Midnight Sun Trail) up Luossavaara despite the falling rain. It wasn’t too bad at the start, but as I walked deeper into the tree line, it became a little dangerous as the track became wet and slippery. Also, I was alone with no means of communicating with the outside world, and wild animals were also known to roam the area leading to the summit of Luossavaara. Hence, fearing for my safety, I decided to turn back about a km into the trek.

Going ahead with the Midnattssolstigen despite the rain

Going ahead with the Midnattssolstigen despite the rain

Views during the climb up Luossavaara

Views during the climb up Luossavaara

Though I missed out on seeing the midnight sun, at least I experienced the effects of polar day, having not going through nightfall for over 60 hours since I left Stockholm. Hopefully, next time round, I will get to see the wonders of the midnight sun, maybe at some of the other Nordic states, with Norway, Iceland and Finland also well-known for their views of the Arctic phenomenon. That said, Kiruna I still want to revisit sometime in the future, in winter preferably, to have a once in a lifetime experience at the ICEHOTEL, chilling in subzero temperatures and sleeping on bed frames made of ice. Oh yeah, and not forgetting the northern lights.

Jun Wen caught the Aurora Borealis in Iceland before we met up in Sweden. Hopefully one day I'll be back in Kiruna to catch the northern lights. (Photo Credits: Jun Wen)

Jun Wen caught the Aurora Borealis in Iceland before we met up in Sweden. Hopefully one day I’ll be back in Kiruna to catch the northern lights. (Photo Credits: Jun Wen)

Click here for the final part of the series: My footprints in… Europe Part V (Coming Full Circle)


~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Europe (Part III) Austria – Reunions & Reunions

Day 14 – 19 Jun – Schönbrunn Palace, Operas & A Reunion with Dr. Therese!

Having arrived into Vienna the day before, I was able to orientate myself on my surroundings, which was around the area of Wien Westbahnhof. My hotel, Ibis Wien Mariahilf is located just on the edge of the Old Town – in between Schönbrunn Palace and the city, which was a pretty decent and convenient location to stay at. Despite the skies turning shades of grey, I started the day with a walk to Schönbrunn Palace, which is a former imperial summer residence for the Habsburg monarchs and currently a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’ve been to countless palaces in Europe – Buckingham, Holyroodhouse, the Palace of Versailles and many more, but Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace, along with the Château de Versailles, have got to be the among the most impressive that I’ve ever seen. I bought a Classic Pass on a student discount which gives me access to not only the main palace, but also entrance to the surrounding attractions as well. I was greeted with a beautiful panoramic view of the palace with Vienna in the background at the Gloriette located on the top of the Palace Gardens, while I also took some time to visit the Roman Ruins and the Labyrinth situated within the palace grounds.

Neptune Fountain

Neptune Fountain

At the Gloriette, with the palace at the background

At the Gloriette, with the palace at the background

The Roman Ruins

The Roman Ruins

Heading into the Old Town next, I visited key attractions such as the Town Hall (Rathaus), Austrian Parliament Building, MuseumQuartier, the Vienna State Opera and the Hofburg Palace, before meeting Dr. Therese at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Dr. Therese, who taught the module Fables, Folklore and Literature at NTU, happened to be in Vienna on vacation as well, and we decided it would be nice to meet up for dinner. We took a tour of the Romanesque and Gothic cathedral, learning about its history and symbolic significance, before heading to Mozarthaus to learn more about the famous composer of the Classical era. It was at Mozarthaus, that I witnessed first hand on Dr. Therese’s proficiency in languages, as she conversed with the receptionist in a slew of fluent German.

Rathaus - The seat of the mayor and city council of Vienna

Rathaus – The seat of the mayor and city council of Vienna

I couldn't get nice pictures of St. Stephen's Cathedral as they were doing restoration works to the exterior of the building

I couldn’t get nice pictures of St. Stephen’s Cathedral as they were doing restoration works to the exterior of the building

As evening approached, it was time for us to grab dinner. Dr. Therese graciously treated me to a meal of Viennese Schnitzel, widely touted as the national dish of Austria. There are many variants to the dish, such as using pork or chicken as the main ingredient, though veal is still the preferred and most traditional way of preparing the thin, breaded pan fried cutlet. Following the scrumptious dinner, the two of us went for a short stroll in the Historic Centre of Vienna, culminating once again at the Vienna State Opera where I’ve been at earlier. The Wiener Staatsoper, as it is known in German, screens live performance of various operas on a large screen outside of its premises for free from time to time, and they were just about to play Mozart’s Don Giovanni when we got there. We stayed there for a bit, enjoying the performance of Don Giovanni attempting to seduce the Commendatore’s daughter, Donna Anna, with Dr. Therese kindly providing me with an English commentary of the act.

Dinner with Dr. Therese

Dinner with Dr. Therese

We ended the day at the Church of St. Charles (Karlskirche), a baroque church located somewhere on the south side of Karlsplatz. It had started to drizzle (again) when we left the church compounds, and Dr. Therese walked me to the metro station, where it was a quick hop on the U-Bahn back to where I was staying. A great day out in Vienna, and I enjoyed the company of one of my favourite professors of my varsity stint, as I looked forward to another reunion in Linz the day after.

Dr. Therese snapped this photo of a rainbow outside Karlskirche as soon as I hopped onto the U-Bahn

Dr. Therese snapped this photo of a rainbow outside Karlskirche as soon as I hopped onto the U-Bahn

Day 15 – 20 Jun – From Vienna to Linz – A Reunion with an Old Friend

Linz wasn’t originally in my tour’s itinerary. In fact, despite being the third largest city of Austria, Linz is generally not popular as a port of call for tourists, with many preferring cities such as Salzburg, Graz and Innsbruck instead. The reason for the detour to Linz was actually to meet up with a dear friend of mine, Gek Theng (or Baby as we affectionately call her). I last met up with Gek Theng two years ago (see Farewells & Goodbyes), just before she left Singapore to pursue her studies in the art of dance. I had mentioned in Farewells & Goodbyes that she was offered a scholarship at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in the United Kingdom, but had subsequently transferred to the Institute of Dance Art at Anton Bruckner University in Austria to be with her partner, hence my diversion to Linz.

Slice Of The Past - Baby's Farewell (2013)

Slice Of The Past – Baby’s Farewell (2013)

In any case, I left Vienna for Linz on the 1130 train from Wien Westbahnhof, the journey taking approximately an hour and a half. Gek Theng and her boyfriend (Yan Zong) were already waiting to receive me at the arrivals of Linz Hauptbahnhof when I got there. Gek Theng had invited me to stay over at their home, giving us more time to catch up, especially when the two of them still had classes to attend to during the duration of my stay in Linz. In fact, right after I had settled down at their residence, they had to rush back to school for classes.

My hosts were studying at Anton Bruckner, a prestigious school specialising in Music, Drama, Dance and the Arts (Photo Credits: Wikipedia)

My hosts were studying at Anton Bruckner, a prestigious school specialising in Music, Drama, Dance and the Arts (Photo Credits: Wikipedia)

While they were away, I took the time to settle some issues regarding my convocation as well as to clear my emails, which have been piling since the day I left Singapore. It wasn’t long before they returned to pick me up for dinner, as they took me to a Chinese restaurant which served pretty good Asian food that were similar to those of Singapore. Following a hearty meal of 虾枣 (Prawn Rolls), Curry Beef, Sambal Kangkong and 八宝粥, they introduced me to a few of their classmates at Anton Bruckner, before heading to Linz Casino as a group later in the night. I had visited a few casinos before, in Macau and Vegas, but had never tried my hands at it. Feeling lucky, I decided to risk a few quid on the fruit machines and roulette, eventually losing 20 Euros to the banker. At least I got to try Linz’s famous Linzer Torte and enjoy a glass of bubbly whilst at the gambling table, so it wasn’t that much of a loss overall.

Dinner with my awesome hosts

Dinner with my awesome hosts

Linzer Torte - Crumbly pastry with cinnamon, lemon and redcurrant delight!

Linzer Torte – Crumbly pastry with cinnamon, lemon and redcurrant delight!

Day 16 – 21 Jun – Hiking up Pöstlingberg and Biking to Pleschinger See

Despite being out till late last night at the casino, the three of us woke up pretty early for a morning hike up Pöstlingberg, a hill located on the left bank of the Danube. The site of Wallfahrtsbasilika (a pilgrimage church dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary), Pöstlingberg also provides for a beautiful view of the city at the viewing platform located at its summit.

At the summit of Pöstlingberg

At the summit of Pöstlingberg

Taking the tram down back into the city, I went to explore the town on my own as Gek Theng and Yan Zong had to attend rehearsals for their upcoming Phantom of the Opera showcase. While Linz isn’t your typical tourist hotspot, it is still worth visiting if you have time to spare in Austria. The Old and New Towns of Linz serves as a connection between modernity and Austria’s long history, with a good blend of contemporary and historical architecture. The points of interests that I covered includes; Hauptplatz (Main Square), Landhaus, Ursulinenkirche and the impressive Mariendom (New Cathedral), the latter being the largest church in Austria.

Mariendom - Austria's biggest church

Mariendom – Austria’s biggest church

I was reunited with Gek Theng and Yan Zong later in the afternoon, where we went to the Street Food Market, where hawkers from all over the world come together to present their most delicious recipes. There, we had a smorgasbord of cuisines, such as American Steak Sandwiches, French Crêpes, Indian Samosas and many more, after which we went to the beautiful Pleschinger See, a recreational lake about 20 minutes away from their residence by bike.

Mouth-watering foodfare from Linz's Street Food Market

Mouth-watering foodfare from Linz’s Street Food Market

I would have gone for a dip in the lake had I brought my bathing suit with me

I would have gone for a dip in the lake had I brought my bathing suit with me

We began making our way back home as the sun began to set in the distance. As I was leaving Linz early next morning, the three of us decided to have an early night so I could have enough rest before my arrival at my next destination – Stockholm, Sweden.

Click here for part IV of the series: My footprints in… Europe Part IV (An Unexpected Surprise and 66 Hours without Nightfall)


~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Europe (Part II) Paris – The City of Romance

Day 11 – 16 Jun – Bonjour Paris!

I caught one last sight of the famous white cliffs of Dover as the P&O ferry left for Calais on the French side of the English Channel. As the Eurolines coach pulled into Paris Gallieni, I was engulfed with a sense of familiarity. Of all the European cities, Paris is the one that I’ve been to the most, with this being my third trip to the French capital. Many people have said that France is overrated, that Paris is unsafe and the people rude and bad-mannered, but I’ve found no such evidence whenever I’m there. In fact, I’ve found the people of Paris to be quite friendly, and the city exudes a romantic allure that cannot be described in words; you have to experience Paris yourself – take a cruise down the Seine on a moonlit night under the stars or have a grand crème at one of Paris’ famous sidewalk cafés, and you will understand the draw that Paris brings.

Leaving the Port of Dover, Kent, England, for Calais, France (Photo Credits: Port of Dover)

Leaving the Port of Dover, Kent, England, for Calais, France (Photo Credits: Port of Dover)

In any case, I arrived at my accommodation, Hotel Regyn’s Montmarte, quite early in the morning. Montmarte, located within Paris’ 18th arrondissement, is known for the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, which is one of the most impressive churches that I’ve ever seen. As I stayed at Pigalle (which is located on the border of the 18th arrondissement) during the two trips prior, I was pretty familiar with the area of Montmarte. I begin the day first at Île aux Cygnes, where a replica of the Statue of Liberty resides, before walking along the Seine to the pont de Bir-Hakeim, where one can get a great view of La tour Eiffel whilst crossing the viaduct bridge.

The pont de Bir-Hakeim, where the Bridge of Mirrors scene from Inception was filmed

The pont de Bir-Hakeim, where the Bridge of Mirrors scene from Inception was filmed

I then headed to Champ de Mars (home of the Eiffel Tower and Palais de Chaillot), as I marvel once again at this great engineering feat and global cultural icon that have placed France on the world map. Following lunch, I continued my exploration of the city, going to landmarks like Les Invalides, the Musée d’Orsay and taking the Montmarte Funicular to see the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, after which I decided that I would go for an early dinner and head back for some much needed rest.

La tour Eiffel

La tour Eiffel

Day 12 – 17 Jun – Midnight in Paris

With only three days in Paris (and this being the only full day), I was prepared to cover some mileage for the day. Beginning first with the Arc de Triomphe, which honours the fallen in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, I proceeded along Champs-Élysées, passing the many boutiques and luxury stores that it is famous for. Lunch was a simple meal of Nutella and Banana Crêpe, while I treated myself to an extravagant dessert of Ice Cream and Macarons from Ladurée. The famous glass pyramids at the Lourve was the next item on the agenda, and I took the chance to relax and reflect on my trip whilst at the adjacent Jardin des Tuileries. I subsequently headed on to Pont des Arts, which was the former site where tourists (and locals alike) have taken to attaching love locks to the railing or grates of the bridge. Since 2014, the city of Paris have started removing the locks over concerns that the sheer number of locks locked on the bridge have resulted in structural damage, due to the increase in weight of the bridge’s live load. A “Love without Locks” campaign was launched on social media platforms with the hashtag #lovewithoutlocks to discourage people from placing locks on the bridge. Despite such efforts, locks can still be found on the Pont des Arts as sweethearts continue to symbolise their love through the gesture. I’m not saying that it is right to do, but I can understand why people will do such things, especially in a romantic city like that of Paris.

At the Lourve

At the Lourve

I took a break at Jardin des Tuileries, sitting down and enjoying the sunshine, and reflecting on the trip

I took a break at Jardin des Tuileries, sitting down and enjoying the sunshine, and reflecting on the trip

Despite the #lovewithoutlocks campaign, symbols of love could still be found on the bridge

Despite the #lovewithoutlocks campaign, symbols of love could still be found on the bridge

The Notre Dame was the next stop of a long day, a place where I spent quite some time at. Widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, it is also consistently been ranked as one of the most visited tourist attraction for the city of Paris. After admiring the historic monument, I took the metro (don’t get me started on Paris’ metro system, but there is just a rustic charm to it – cue buskers entertaining passengers on the go and the manually operated metro doors) to Olympiades, where the Quartier Asiatique is located. Despite having quite a considerable Chinese community, Paris has no Chinatown to call its own. The closest it has to Chinatown is the Asian Quarter, which serves as a commercial and cultural centre for the Asian community. However, due to France’s history of being the colonial masters to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, there is a significant population of these communities in the neighbourhood as compared to the natural Chinese. I had dinner there, at a Chinese restaurant run by a Vietnamese family. It was an interesting time trying to order food there, as Vietnamese and French were all Greek to me. The owners, having come from Vietnam or born in France, were not able to understand Mandarin, but thank god for Cantonese that I was able to converse with them and order my food ultimately.

Slice Of The Past - At the Fontaines de la Concorde, circa. Winter 2011

Slice Of The Past – At the Fontaines de la Concorde, circa. Winter 2011

Fontaines de la Concorde, Summer 2015

Fontaines de la Concorde, Summer 2015

After dinner, I headed back into Paris’ city centre, where I enjoyed the romantic night scene of Paris. Taking a stroll along the Seine, I took in the sights of an illuminated Eiffel as newlyweds were seen taking their wedding photos at various vantage points in the city. I must have lost track of the time, as it was almost midnight when I decided to return to the hotel. There was however one last place to visit – the world famous Moulin Rouge. Located along the red light district and just a few minutes away from Hotel Regyn’s, I took a little detour on the way back to take photos of the famed red windmill of the cabaret house. I’ve yet to catch a performance there, and I’m waiting for the right company to go watch the can-can revue with. Hopefully on my fourth trip to Paris, I can finally bring my sweetheart to see this world renowned dance act!

It still looks bright, but it was almost midnight when I snapped this picture

It still looks bright, but it was almost midnight when I snapped this picture

Day 13 – 18 Jun – Au revoir Paris!

Having been out for almost the entire of the day before, I spent much of the day recuperating and recharging myself. With my flight to Vienna not departing until afternoon, I was able to sleep in until just before check out was due. As I was travelling alone, the most economical way to get to CDG was via the Metro and RER, and I took the opportunity to catch one last glimpse of Paris as the train raced to the airport. Despite many low cost carriers operating the Paris-Vienna sector, I decided to fly Air France (codeshared with Austrian Airlines) as they offered cheaper prices for travelling youths like me. Having not done my check-in in advanced; I was pleasantly surprised that I was allocated seats on the emergency exit row, which meant a much larger leg room to stretch my legs during the journey. The flight to Vienna took approximately two hours, and I arrived into VIE at around dinnertime. I quickly found my way into the city with help from a fellow traveller from Brazil, checking-in to Ibis Wien Mariahilf as I looked forward to reunions and more reunions whilst at the Republic of Austria.

Au revoir Paris!

Au revoir Paris!

Click here for part III of the series: My footprints in… Europe Part III (Austria – Reunions and Reunions)


~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Europe (Part I) – Back “home” at Old Trafford, missing out on Hadrian’s Wall & being mesmerised by the Phantom of the Opera!

If you had read My footprints in… USA (Part I), you would have seen that I had mentioned that the trip to the States was likely to be the final time I could travel under SQ for free. However, that proved to be untrue, as I was able to fly under my dad’s umbrella for one final time, as long as my return was before I start working full-time or the day of my convocation (whichever is earlier). As such, I was able to fly Singapore Airlines for my grad trip – a journey which will see me cover 5 countries in 24 days. Here’s Part I of My footprints in… Europe! and I hope you’ll enjoy the read!

Day 1 – 6 Jun – Bon Voyage!

As my departure was on a Saturday, the family was able to come send me off at the airport. This trip will be the first time that I’ll be travelling alone for an extended period, hence the mix of excitement and fear that was going through my mind as I waited to be checked-in by one of the SATS passenger services staff at T3. As the seconds ticked towards the scheduled time of departure, I bid my family farewell as I headed to the gate where the plane was parked. It has been quite awhile since I flew on a B777, with the last couple of long haul flights that I’ve been on being serviced by the A380 or the A330, and so was pretty hyped to be back on one of the most popular long-range jet airliners ever produced.

Flying to Manchester on Singapore Airlines

Flying to Manchester on Singapore Airlines

The flight time would take approximately 16 hours, with a layover at Munich. The first leg of the flight was pretty full, with many travellers using Munich as a hub to connect to other parts of Europe. The second leg, however, was quite empty, and I was able to have the entire row of seats to myself, giving me the opportunity to get some shut eye before I start my day in Manchester when my flight arrives in the morning.

Transit in Munich

Transit in Munich

Day 2 – 7 Jun – Tracing Back My Footsteps

I’ve been to Manchester once before, back in 2008 with my aunt, where we toured parts of the United Kingdom and Paris. With the U.K. and France both on my agenda again this time around, I was ready to retrace my footsteps, seeing the changes and/or simply reminisce on the wonderful memories of yesteryear.

Slice Of The Past - Manchester circa. 2008

Slice Of The Past – Manchester circa. 2008

Back in 2008, the metro system was not extended to Manchester Airport. Today, Manchester’s Metrolink has services that ply between the city centre and the airport, providing much convenience for the journey to my accommodation for the night. Alighting at Old Trafford Metrolink Station, it took me about 10 minutes to walk to Hotel Football where I will be staying. While there are many cheaper alternatives around the city centre, I had intentionally choose to stay at Hotel Football, given the rave reviews of its overlooking views of Old Trafford and superb service. Furthermore, the hotel is owned by the members of The Class of ’92, and I was crossing my fingers that I might bump into one of them during my short stay there.

Hotel Football - The Brainchild of The Class of '92

Hotel Football – The Brainchild of The Class of ’92

As I arrived way before the time for check-in, I left my bags at the baggage room and headed off to the city centre in search for food and to explore the sights. My first stop was at Red’s True Barbeque, a BBQ restaurant at the recommendation by a friend of mine. Located at 22 Lloyd Street, Red’s True Barbeque is famous for its signature Donut Burger. Consisting of two flame grilled beef patties, melted cheese, smoked bacon and onions set between two glazed donuts, it is an unique take on both the donuts and burgers. While the first couple of mouths were good, I soon found the course to be quite jelak, though I do have to declare that the accompanying sides (a spicy bacon-wrapped jalapeño and sweet potato fries) and the 5 different dipping sauces are really good. Better than the donut burger itself I’d say.

Red's True Barbeque's Signature Donut Burger

Red’s True Barbeque’s Signature Donut Burger

5 Superb Dipping Sauces To Go With Your Meal

5 Superb Dipping Sauces To Go With Your Meal

After brunch, I walked around the city centre, retracing my footsteps from the last trip, popping by places such as Town Hall, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester Cathedral and Manchester Arndale. I also visited the National Football Museum (free entry), where exhibits featuring both British and international players were on display. The museum is said to hold the world’s greatest football collection, with over 140,000 items currently in their care. One can discover and relive moments such as Pelé lifting the Jules Rimet trophy and Giggs scoring against Arsenal during that FA Cup Semi Final Replay as well as learn about football hooliganism in the United Kingdom.

The National Football Museum, where over 140,000 items are currently in their care - Photo Credits: Wikipedia

The National Football Museum, where over 140,000 items are currently in their care – Photo Credits: Wikipedia

Chinatown was my final stop for the day before I made my way back to Hotel Football to finalise my check-in. Although it has only been less than 48 hours since I left Singapore, I was already craving for Asian food, so being at Chinatown was a reprieve and I promptly ordered a roast duck rice box from one of the restaurants for dinner that night.

Slice Of The Past - Manchester Chinatown circa. 2008

Slice Of The Past – Manchester Chinatown circa. 2008

Back at Hotel Football, I couldn’t wait to check out the facilities and the views from my room. As a lifelong United fan, I couldn’t ask for anything more than the magnificent sight of the stadium that would greet me in the morning. Other highlights includes the interior decor, with montages of football legends, that cover the walls of the common areas within the building. Also, the rooftop pitch, which is aptly called “Heaven”, is decked out in astroturf barricaded with safety glass, allowing hotel guests to have a kickabout alongside a panoramic view of Old Trafford. Despite not having brought boots, I couldn’t resist in some target practice, where I started my own little crossbar challenge, lofting balls towards the goal post though I’ve to admit I was a little rusty at this!

The view of Old Trafford from my room

The view of Old Trafford from my room

Target Practice at Heaven

Target Practice at Heaven

After sweating it out, I headed back to my room where I cooled off under the rainforest shower, which comes fully equipped with bespoke class of ’92 toiletries, before tucking into my roasted duck rice box dinner and then to bed, looking forward to the next day where I’ll be doing the stadium and museum tour.

Each room came with a set of class of '92 toiletries

Each room came with a set of class of ’92 toiletries

Day 3 – 8 Jun – Panic at Manchester!

I was only due to head down to Edinburgh at midnight, so not wanting the burden of dragging my luggage around, I left my bags with the concierge at the hotel so I could continue the day hands free. The first stop was just a stone’s throw away at Old Trafford where I’ll be doing the stadium and museum tour. With my Maybank Manchester United Card, I was able to purchase the tour tickets at a discount. I had visited the stadium the last time I was here in Manchester, but was unable to do the tour as they were preparing the venue for a Champions League match the next day. This time round, with my visit during the off-season, there was no excuse for not doing the stadium tour. The tour lasted approximately an hour, during which we covered areas such as the dressing room, press room, VIP lounge and the technical area. After the tour, I grabbed lunch at the Red Café, where I had a Ribs & Wings Combo, which was served with chips and onion rings. While the meal was average, the service and restaurant setting was top-notch. Not only were the servers attentive to my needs and requirements, I was also impressed by the dining sets used at the café. I continued with the museum tour and the Megastore after lunch, where I bought myself some souvenirs of my beloved red devils.

Glory Glory Man United!

Glory Glory Man United!

The dining sets at Red Café features current players as well as red legends - Photo Credits: Manchester United

The dining sets at Red Café features current players as well as red legends – Photo Credits: Manchester United

Slice Of The Past - Stretford End circa. 2008

Slice Of The Past – Stretford End circa. 2008

Following the conclusion of my Old Trafford experience, I took a leisure stroll to the Imperial War Museum North (IWM North), which was about 15 minutes away from Old Trafford by foot. The IWM North is part of the Imperial War Museums, which records all conflicts that the British and Commonwealth forces had taken part in since 1914. One of the highlights of IWM North is their Big Picture Show, whereby moving images and photographs are projected digitally onto the 27-foot high walls of the Main Exhibition Space, accompanied with a state of the art surround system that immerses visitors into the experiences of conflict and warfare.

IWM North's Big Picture Show

IWM North’s Big Picture Show

As it was still quite early when I left IWM North, I decided to walk along the Manchester Ship Canal towards Salford Quays where MediaCityUK was located. The 200-acre mixed used property was opened only in 2011, giving the dockyards there a new facelift and more vibrancy. What was supposed to be a leisure stroll around the wharf, quickly became a nerve-wracking ordeal. I had left my phone in flight mode for the day in order to preserve its battery in light of the overnight journey into Edinburgh. Whist at MediaCityUK, I decided to tap into the free Wi-Fi that was available to access my social media platforms and to check my emails. However, I got a shock when I was connected to the hotspot – I was bombarded with numerous missed calls and text messages from my family back home, asking me to check my coach ticket to Edinburgh. I had apparently booked my ticket for May instead of June! Realising my error, I quickly rushed back to the hotel to see if I could arrange for an alternative into Edinburgh without jeopardizing my travel schedule. It was too late for me to head down to National Express’ ticketing office located in the city centre, so my best bet was for the concierge at Hotel Football to help me book the next available coach/train to the capital city of Scotland. Luckily for me, the staff at Hotel Football were very helpful in offering their assistance in helping me arrange the necessary required for me to get into Edinburgh without any other additional delays. Otherwise, I’ll most likely be stranded in Manchester for the night for sure.

View of IWM North from MediaCityUK

View of IWM North from MediaCityUK

My new reservation will see me leave Manchester only at 0110 hours. With a couple of hours to spare, I decided to grab dinner at Cafe Football before heading to the coach station. Dining at Cafe Football is an experience in itself, with a diverse, rounded menu and subtle nods to the beautiful game. The menu is designed by Michelin star chef Michael Wignall, who is also a creative director at the Hotel. Items such as The Wizard (Welsh Lamb Burger) and El Clásico (Pizza topped with Chorizo Sausages) which honours Giggs and the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is a fun take on the traditional menu format. I ordered the Nev’s Noodle Pot, which consisted of egg noodles, roasted chicken, mushrooms and bok choi, served with a pot of broth/tea/sauce (which I must say was a little confusing as to how the meal was intended to be consumed) and ending the meal with a cup of hot chocolate finished with a latte art piece featuring the trademark of Cafe Football.

Nev's Noodle Pot from Cafe Football

Nev’s Noodle Pot from Cafe Football

I marked the end of my stay in Manchester with a quick farewell to Old Trafford on my way to the coach station at Chorlton Street. Looking at the “Manchester United” neon lights light up in the dusk of the evening light, I know I’ll be back at the Stretford End one day, hopefully fulfilling my dream of watching a match alongside the Old Trafford faithful.

Goodbye Manchester!

Goodbye Manchester!

Day 4 – 9 Jun – Missing out on Hadrian’s Wall

I arrived into Edinburgh a little behind schedule because of an incident on the coach which required intervention from security personnel. That said, I still got into Scotland way earlier than the check-in time for The Carlton Hotel where I will be staying. I left my bags with the reception and began planning for the four days that I’ll be spending in Edinburgh. My original plan was to explore the city on Day 1, travel down to the Anglo-Scottish border to see Hadrian’s Wall on Day 2, visit Loch Ness on Day 3, and cover Edinburgh Castle on my final day before heading down South to London.

The Carlton Hotel

The Carlton Hotel

However, when I tried to make arrangements for the trip to the border, I was informed by the concierge at the hotel that all tours to Hadrian’s Wall for the week were fully booked. One alternative was to go to St Andrews (the university town where Prince William met the current Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton) or to just split whatever I had on the agenda for Day 1 and 4 into three slower paced days. As I had not much of an interest in visiting Fife, I decided that I’d rather spend more time exploring the sights in the city instead.

St Andrew's was a possible alternative to Hadrian's Wall, but I decided to give it a miss

St Andrew’s was a possible alternative to Hadrian’s Wall, but I decided to give it a miss

After finalizing the plans for the next couple of days, I headed out to explore the city of Edinburgh on my own. Much of the day was spent at Scott Monument, the Scottish National Gallery, St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, St Andrew Square as well as window shopping along Princes Street. I then proceeded to 10 to 10 Delhi (recommended by Jun Wen who had recently ended his exchange over there) for dinner. Located along Nicolson Street, 10 to 10 Delhi is a laid-back, quaint tea house that serves classic Indian dishes with a twist. It is also very student-friendly, as it offers discounts to diners who can produce a valid student ID. As I couldn’t decide on what to eat, I opted for the Mixed Meat Plate, which comprises of Pakora, Samosas, Chicken and Chana Masala Curry with Couscous and Naan. In addition, I also ordered a glass of their famous Mango Lassi, a cool, smooth and creamy concoction that was perfect for a warm summer day. The whole meal was a satisfying one, and value for money too, with the bill coming to less than £10.

Mixed Meat Platter and Mango Lassi from 10 to 10 Delhi

Mixed Meat Platter and Mango Lassi from 10 to 10 Delhi

Day 5 – 10 Jun – 21 Gun Salute and Meeting New People

Missing out on Hadrian’s Wall meant that I was able to shift my visit to Edinburgh Castle forward to today. Keen to avoid the crowd, I left The Carlton early to make my way to the castle via the Royal Mile, where I caught sight of St Giles’ Cathedral en route. Some quick information on Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which sits on Castle Rock (a volcano plug) at the head of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Although the site had been occupied by human civilization since the late Bronze Age, the earliest parts of the current castle was built only in the 12th century. Many battles and sieges were fought over control of the castle over the years, where it also serves as a royal residence to the royal family (although the Queen’s official residence in Scotland is The Palace of Holyroodhouse, and not Edinburgh Castle). Today, Edinburgh Castle is not only one of Scotland’s leading tourist attraction, but also serves as an officer’s mess, preserving a military presence within its walls since the Wars of Scottish Independence.

View of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

View of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

With the guards from the Royal Regiment of Scotland

With the guards from the Royal Regiment of Scotland

Edinburgh Castle offers free guided tours that departs every half an hour or so. It was during the guided tour that I found out that there will be a 21 Gun Salute at noon to mark the birthday of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. So as opposed to just the One O’clock Gun that is fired daily (except on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day), visitors were treated to a total of 22 cannon fires instead. After covering the rest of the castle, I headed to Oink for lunch. Highly recommended by Jun Wen as well as many online reviewers, Oink specialises in Hog Roast Rolls – carved hog roast served in bread rolls and topped with relish, sauces or haggis. One can choose from three different sizes, The Piglet (£2.95), The Oink (£3.95) or The Grunter (£4.95). I bought a serving of The Oink with chilli relish and haggis. While I wasn’t exactly too overwhelmed by it, it was no doubt a cheap and value for money lunch option for travellers on a budget. Oh, and for those who don’t know what haggis is, it is a traditional Scottish delicacy made from sheep’s pluck (liver, lungs and heart), hence somewhat of an acquired taste. So for those not adventurous enough to have offal in their pulled pork sandwich, I would recommend topping their rolls with sage & onions and Oink’s deliciously addictive apple sauce.

Oink - Specialising in Delicious Scottish Hog Roasts

Oink – Specialising in Delicious Scottish Hog Roasts

I made my way to Calton Hill after lunch, where the Nelson and National Monuments were located. Included in the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the views of, and from, the hill are one to behold. It was at the National Monument of Scotland that I met the Drummonds, a family of five on holiday from the United States. It was a chance encounter; I had asked them for help to take a photo, and we began chatting from then on. We ended up exploring the hill together, and even went for a pint (or two) at a local pub. I had a great time with the family, and we exchanged contacts before we went our separate ways. Hopefully we’ll keep in touch with each other, and I’ll be more than willing to play host should they ever come visit Singapore in the future.

The National Monument of Scotland @ Calton Hill

The National Monument of Scotland @ Calton Hill

With the Drummonds

With the Drummonds

Day 6 – 11 Jun – Nessie Spotting and The Highlands of Scotland

I had booked myself on a day tour to Loch Ness & The Highlands of Scotland operated by Gray Line Tours. Picked up by the driver at about 0730, we drove north pass the town of Callander, Stirling before reaching our first stop of the day – Glen Coe. Often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland, Glen Coe is a glen of volcanic origins, located within the Scottish Highlands. While at Glen Coe, our guide shared with us the story of the famous 1692 MacDonald massacre, which took place simultaneously in three settlements along the glen.

The Highlands of Scotland - Glen Coe

The Highlands of Scotland – Glen Coe

The next stop of the tour brought us to Fort Augustus, located at the south west end of Loch Ness. With a population of less than 1000, the economy of Fort Augustus is highly reliant on the tourism dollar. Lunch was a simple affair of a sandwich takeout from a convenience store as I strolled along the Caledonian Canal watching the sailboats navigate the locks along the loch. I then went on a cruise equipped with a sonar underwater imaging system that provides information on what really lies at the bottom of Loch Ness.

Fort Augustus Canal Locks

Fort Augustus Canal Locks

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

After Loch Ness, we returned south towards Edinburgh, taking in the magnificent views of Loch Laggan as we passed through the district of Lochaber. We then stopped for a quick photo call at the Commando Memorial, which offers views of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mòr before reaching the picturesque resort town of Pitlochry, Perth. While at Pitlochry, I had ice-cream with Miki, a Japanese exchange student whom I befriended on the cruise at Loch Ness. She was a little shy at first, but after talking a little bit more, we started easing into longer conversations as we shared about our experiences travelling alone in Europe.

The view seen from The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

The view seen from The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

It wasn’t long before we had to re-board our coach for our drive back to Edinburgh. Arriving back into the city just before 8 at night, I bought a simple takeaway dinner on the way back to the hotel after a long day out Nessie spotting and admiring the beautiful Highlands of Scotland.

Day 7 – 12 Jun – Holyrood Palace and Conquering Arthur’s Seat

After a good night’s rest, I was ready to explore the rest of Edinburgh city before heading to London at night. There were only two things left on my agenda – Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat. As mentioned earlier, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, it sits directly on the opposite direction of Edinburgh Castle. The Palace, being the official residence of the monarch in Scotland, has hosted a number of foreign visitors, with Pope Benedict XVI the most recent high profile dignitary to visit in 2010. While at the Palace, one can also read about the life of one of the most famous residents of the Palace of Holyroodhouse – Mary, Queen of Scots, who acceded the throne of Scotland at the tender age of only six days old.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse - Photo Credits: Wikipedia

The Palace of Holyroodhouse – Photo Credits: Wikipedia

The Gardens of Holyroodhouse

The Gardens of Holyroodhouse

Leaving the Palace of Holyroodhouse, I walked towards Queen’s Drive in order to get to Holyrood Park, where Arthur’s Seat was located. Arthur’s Seat, at over 800ft high, is possibly the highest point in Edinburgh, thereby providing excellent panoramic views of the city. It is a relative easy climb for beginners, with a simple gradual ascent, bar the last couple of feet to the summit, which is a little steep and requires careful navigation. I completed the climb up in a little over an hour and was rewarded with one of the best views of Edinburgh one will ever get. Sitting right at the top, I held a mini picnic of juice and Biscoff cookies, while enjoying the breeze, sunshine and city sights.

Climbing to the peak of Arthur's Seat

Climbing to the peak of Arthur’s Seat

I timed my descent to avoid the dinnertime crowd as I went in search for food before my long journey to London. Craving for Chinese food once again, I checked the Edinburgh visitor map/guide for any offers/discounts that I could make use of. Saigon Saigon Chinese Restaurant, situated in the heart of Edinburgh, offers a 10% discount to their à la carte menu for diners holding an Edinburgh visitor map. Furthermore, with its location not far away from The Carlton, I decided to make Saigon Saigon the place where I’d settle my dinner needs. I had a Seafood Udon fried with XO Sauce, which was served with many succulent prawns and plump and juicy scallops. However, it still lacked a tad bit of wok hei that defines a good Cantonese stir-fry. My verdict for the meal at Saigon Saigon is that while it is good, it is not great enough to be memorable. It certainly can satisfy one’s craving for Chinese food, but having had so many good zi char over the years, it is not quite among the same standards.

Day 8 – 13 Jun – “Seduced” by the Phantom at a Cold, Wet & Gloomy London

After 9 hours on the road, I finally arrived into London’s Victoria Coach Station in the dawn of the morning. Despite it being summer, I was greeted by the most typical of London weather – dark clouds and rain – the type of conditions that would plague my entire trip from here onwards. Nonetheless, I was not gonna let a little rain derail my travel schedule, and so went ahead with my plans for the day. First leaving my bags at the B&B’s (once again too early for check-in), I headed out to the travel information centre at Victoria to book a tour for the next day as well as to purchase an Oyster Card for my travel needs whilst in London. I then proceeded to Westminster, where I saw the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, before walking along the Thames towards Tower Bridge, as I passed by other landmarks such as The London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London Bridge, among many others.

Shakespeare's Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe

Slice Of The Past - Tower Bridge circa. 2008

Slice Of The Past – Tower Bridge circa. 2008

Tower Bridge Today

Tower Bridge Today

London was part of my itinerary during my last trip to the U.K., so many of the places of interest I’ve visited and done before. However, one new addition to the London’s skyline is The Shard, which was opened only in 2013. Standing at over 1,000ft high, it is one of the tallest buildings in the world. I had originally planned to go to the observation deck (the View from the Shard), but decided against the idea, knowing that the dark skies would limit my experience 70 floors above the ground.

The Shard© - Changing the outlook of London's skyline

The Shard© – Changing the outlook of London’s skyline

As I had not had a single bite since my meal at Saigon Saigon, I decided to go for an earlier lunch at Rock and Sole Plaice, a Fish and Chips eatery at 47 Endell Street that I had previously visited. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal of Haddock & Chips as well as the London Pride that I ordered. Easily one of the best fish and chips around, I exceptionally liked the simplicity of the place and the wide range of fish choices one can opt from.

Fish & Chips from Rock and Sole Plaice

Fish & Chips from Rock and Sole Plaice

Leaving Rock and Sole Plaice, I took the tube to Pimlico as I headed back to the B&B to freshen up before the highlight of the day – Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Truth be told, I had wanted to catch Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre instead, but was unable to get the tickets. That said, The Phantom of the Opera remains one of theatre’s most mesmerising and unforgettable productions, with jaw-dropping scenery and breathtaking special effects. Despite being in its 29th year of production, the musical continues to captivate audiences around the world, cementing its status as one of the most beautiful and spectacular productions in history. I was seated up at the balcony, which somewhat restricted my view, but was no doubt still entranced by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s amazing score and the performances by The Phantom, Christine, Raoul and co. Judging from the cheers and applause from the crowd, “The Phantom of the Opera“, “The Music of the Night” and “Masquerade/Why So Silent” are undoubtedly the most popular numbers from the blockbuster production, and I no doubt enjoyed the entire of the approximately two and a half hours long performance. Only qualms I have is not having a date to make the night out in the West End of London a perfect one.

The Phantom and the stunningly beautiful Christine

The Phantom and the stunningly beautiful Christine

Day 9 – 14 Jun – Stratford, Oxford and the Cotswolds

The day started early with a pickup at Victoria for a day trip out to the city of Oxford. The tour, by GoldenTours, will first begin at Warwick Castle, where one can be a part of Britain’s greatest Medieval experience. The castle is famous for being the home of one of the world’s largest siege engines. Built in 2005, the trebuchet is an authentic recreation of one of the most deadly military catapults of all time. The attraction is still being fired from time to time and is the highlight of most visitors to the castle every time it launches.

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

View of the Trebuchet on top of the castle walls

View of the Trebuchet on top of the castle walls

The next stop of the tour is one of my favourites of my entire trip. Leaving Warwick Castle, we headed for Stratford-upon-Avon, which is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. I visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace at Henley Street, where it is now a museum which offers a tantalising glimpse of Shakespeare’s early world. The adjacent Shakespeare Centre adds some drama to the visit with their own troupe of professional actors, where one can request excerpts from any of Shakespeare’s plays and watch the characters come alive in front of their very own eyes. I caught the brilliant cast do A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Taming of the Shrew, while I requested for King Lear (reliving my JC literature days), as the female lead re-enacted Cordelia’s famous “Unhappy that am I, I cannot heave” soliloquy from Act 1, Scene 1 of the famous tragedy. It amazes me as to how the actors can remember so many lines from so many of Shakespeare’s plays from the many impromptu requests from the audience. The “Bard of Avon” would certainly have been proud of his legacy.

Shakespeare's Birthplace at Henley Street

Shakespeare’s Birthplace at Henley Street

With the Amazing Actors from Shakespeare Aloud!

With the Amazing Actors from Shakespeare Aloud!

We then drove through the beautiful Cotswolds, enjoying views of the breathtaking countryside as we left the county of Warwickshire for the city of Oxford. There, we embarked on a walking tour of the city, following the footsteps of Oxford’s students, as we strolled through the courtyards and cobbled lanes of the historic university town. GoldenTours and Gray Line has a partnership with Brasenose College to allow visitors free entry to the campus, where one can get to see the college dining halls, library and other facilities used by the college community. We also got to see one of the major locations for the Harry Potter films, as Oxford was used as a filming site for Hogwarts.

Radcliffe Camera - University of Oxford

Radcliffe Camera – University of Oxford

The tour then ended with a drive back into London Victoria, where I bought roasted chicken wings from Sainsbury’s for dinner. The chicken wings came as a huge surprise with them being really well marinated and absolutely delicious. It was also really cheap (can’t remember the exact price, but couldn’t have been more than £5 for 8 pieces (4 mid-joints + 4 drumlets)), and thus a perfect meal option for budget travellers out there.

Day 10 – 15 Jun – Buckingham Palace and Madame Tussauds

Given the fact that I had another long overnight coach journey to Paris at night, I had originally wanted to sleep in late after the long day out at Oxford the day before. However, with the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace beginning at 1100am, I had to abandon that plan in order to catch one of the must-sees in London. I had missed the ceremony the last time I was here due to adverse weather conditions (unsurprising, given it is London and during winter), so I was hoping I could catch at least a glimpse of the action this time round.

Slice Of The Past - Missing out on the Changing of the Guard back in 2008 due to bad weather

Slice Of The Past – Missing out on the Changing of the Guard back in 2008 due to bad weather

I checked-out from the B&B at about 10 in the morning, thinking that an hour’s head start would leave me in good stead to get into a prime position to see the changing of the Queen’s life guard. However, while walking along Buckingham Palace Road, I could see a throng of people already there surrounding the palace grounds waiting for the Horse and New Guards to arrive. In the end, I could only manage to squeeze myself somewhere along Buckingham Gate, with an obscured view of the procession.

The Victoria Memorial with Buckingham Palace in the background

The Victoria Memorial with Buckingham Palace in the background

Though a little disappointed at not being able to catch the entire changing of the Queen’s guard, I kept myself in high spirits knowing that I’ll be heading to Madame Tussauds next. Readers of the series will know that I’m a fan of the attraction, having been to the ones in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Las Vegas and more. While many of the wax figures are repetitive, they are still dressed differently from season to season, and each Madame Tussauds location has their own unique segments to differentiate itself from the rest of the franchise. Madame Tussauds London for example, has a segment dedicated to the royal family, with the waxworks of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge among others of the British Royal Family, as well as the Spirit of London ride, where visitors hop onto one of London’s famous taxicabs and take a journey through the capital’s history. My favourite figures would undoubtedly be those of British film royalty, such as Sir Patrick Stewart and Dames Helen Mirren & Judi Dench, as well as other British personalities like Emma Watson and Jessica Ennis-Hill.

The Royal Family at Madame Tussauds London

The Royal Family at Madame Tussauds London

After being in the company of stars, it was time to go grab a quick dinner before bidding goodbye to the United Kingdom as I made my way to the coach station for the 9 hour long journey to Paris via coach and ferry.

Last Thoughts - Old Trafford (Manchester), The Highlands of Scotland (Edinburgh) & Tower Bridge (London)

Last Thoughts – Old Trafford (Manchester), The Highlands of Scotland (Edinburgh) & Tower Bridge (London)

Click here for part II of the series: My footprints in… Europe Part II (Paris – The City of Romance)


~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Malaysia – 14 Hour Jam Across the Causeway and more Food Porn!

Taking advantage of the Vesak Day long weekend, my family found ourselves back across the causeway, just weeks after the reunion in Kuala Lumpur last month. This time however, we were due to meet up with my grand-aunt’s family in the historic state of Malacca. We left Singapore on the early morning coach by Delima Express hoping to avoid the jam at immigration, but still found ourselves right in the middle of the rush hour at Tuas Second Link.

We took Delima Express for our shuttle into Malacca

We took Delima Express for our shuttle into Malacca

With the coach queue on the AYE snaking till around the Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim exit, it was well past noon when we finally cleared the Singapore customs. After which, it was another four hour wait on the other side at the Sultan Abu Bakar Kompleks before we could continue our journey on the North-South Expressway towards Malacca.

The Straits Times and CNA had warned of heavy traffic at the checkpoints for the long weekend

The Straits Times and CNA had warned of heavy traffic at the checkpoints for the long weekend

More delays ensued as the rain began to fall, creating a congestion somewhere around Ayer Hitam, and we only managed to get into Malacca at about 9 at night, a whole 10 hours behind schedule. After checking in at our hotel, we headed out to Jonker Walk to find food (we hadn’t had a meal since we left Singapore in the morning!) to satisfied our famished tummies.

The crowd along Jonker Walk

The crowd along Jonker Walk

Kicking off with lok lok (skewered food sold at food carts dunked in boiling water or cooked on a grill), we moved on to other street food such as Apam Balik (pancake), Rojak, 臭豆腐 and Chai Tow Kway (Fried Carrot Cake), before rounding up the meal with the creamy and sinfully good durian puffs from 一口吃 as we wandered around the night market, where antiques, textiles, handicrafts and souvenirs were all on sale.

Some of the many street food that we had at Jonker Walk (Image Credits - Various)

Some of the many street food that we had at Jonker Walk (Image Credits – Various)

We met up with the extended family on Day 2, where more food and shopping awaited us. We first had Chicken Rice Balls and Ngoh Hiang (I can’t remember the name of the place, but it is not Chung Wah where I brought my USP friends previously in Malacca/Legoland Makan Extravaganza) which were abit disappointing. While the rice balls were quite fragrant (we ordered over 100 of them), the chicken was chopped in a slipshod mess and the chilli had an insufficient kick to it. After which, we had the “king of fruits” aka durians at Han 叔叔’s new home.

Chicken Rice Balls

Chicken Rice Balls

After a tour of the house, Ling 姑姑 drove us back into the city centre where we did some shopping (and more food!) before dinner. With my graduation on the horizon, it was time to spruce up my wardrobe with office wear as I look towards to working full-time. With the many outlet stores located at Dataran Pahlawan and Mahkota Parade, I managed to add a couple of business shirts to my repertoire. As evening approached, we met up once again with the extended family for the must-eat item while in Malacca – Satay Celup.

We had cendol in between our shopping spree

We had cendol in between our shopping spree

Due to the long weekend, the queue at Capitol had stretched to the road outside, many of them Singaporeans as evident from the number of Singapore registered cars along Bukit Cina. With our time in Malacca being limited, we decided to opt for a less popular (but still famous) alternative at Ban Lee Siang (万里香), located at Jalan Ong Kim Wee, a short drive away from Capitol. The range of items found at Ban Lee Siang are largely similar to that of Capitol, with kang kong, tau pok, cockles, cuttlefish and offal as the main staples. The main difference between the two was probably the sauce with Capitol’s being thicker (yet less spicy) as compared to Ban Lee Siang’s.

With the extended family at Ban Lee Siang

With the extended family at Ban Lee Siang

If you think we were done after the Satay Celup feast, you are oh so wrong. Right after leaving Ban Lee Siang, we headed to another food haunt at the recommendation of my relatives where we had traditional Satay served in a deliciously addictive pineapple satay sauce. During my last trip (see Malacca/Legoland Makan Extravaganza), I had brought my friends to Xiang Ji where I missed out on the pork intestines as they were sold out. This time however, I managed to satisfy my taste buds, as I devoured stick after stick of pork, chicken and offal satay.

Delicious Satay accompanied with the addictive pineapple satay sauce

Delicious Satay accompanied with the addictive pineapple satay sauce

The next morning, we headed out to Jonker Street early to grab breakfast before having to go to the coach station for our ride back to Singapore. With Malacca so closely associated with food, even breakfast was a heavy affair. It was an oyster spread, with Oyster Mee Sua (vermicelli) Oh-jian (oyster omelette) and Oyster Hor Fun (rice noodle sheets). The Mee Sua was perhaps the most memorable of the three. Unlike the more commonly known 蚵仔面线 from Taiwan, the one we had was more akin to how 板面 is served in Singapore, with a clear broth accompanied with greens, shrimps, pork, an egg and lots of lard. A simple, cheap and delicious fare.

Oyster Mee Sua - simple, cheap and delicious

Oyster Mee Sua – simple, cheap and delicious

After breakfast, we did some last minute shopping along Jalan Hang Jebat and Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock before having to head back to check out from our hotel. Due to the heavy demand for coach tickets to Singapore, we were unable to get on a non-stop shuttle back across the causeway and had to connect via Larkin (Johor Bahru) instead. As expected, the exodus of Singaporeans heading south created a huge backlog of vehicles at the immigration and it was almost midnight when we finally reached home, wrapping a long and tiring (but fulfilling) three days in Malacca.

Jam at Woodlands (Image Credits - Mediacorp)

Jam at Woodlands (Image Credits – Mediacorp)

I can’t wait for the next trip back for more specialties from Malacca. Just not on a long weekend with a 14 hour jam.

*Getting ready for my grad trip in a couple of days 🙂