A Travellerspoint blog

Birthday Boys

Happy Birthday Edward Richard and Edward Charles Lewis!!

We arranged to meet the two Ted's at ClueQuest, which is a 'live escape game'. You basically get locked in a room and you have an hour to solve the clues and escape otherwise the world explodes, so no pressure. Ted was running late so we started without him. We'd just made it out of the first of three rooms when he joined us. It was actually really good. You had to work as a team, using different expertise to solve the clues, unlock drawers and doors to finally escape. They gave us an extra 10 mins as we only had three people for part of the game and managed to get out with 7 of those 10 to spare.

After the game we wandered down Shoreditch High St and stopped off for some lunch. Now I'm not 100% sure what a 'ballon' is but they take them very seriously in Shoreditch.


We made our way to Brick Lane and the Brick Lane Mosque, which was originally a Huguenot church. We stumbled upon a chocolate shop and had hot choccies - all different flavours, Susan had plain, Ted had ginger, Teddy had cinnamon and I had chilli. The guy in the shop was hilarious and after he spilled my chill hot choc everywhere, made up for it by given us some free handmade choccies.


As we walked around we found ourselves in Spitalfields admiring the old Huguenot silk weavers houses. I noticed the names on the streets and mentioned we were in Jack the Ripper territiory, so we stopped off for a drink in the Ten Bells, an old haunt of the Ripper victims.


The plan was to get the Tube to London Bridge and have a drink in the bar at the Shard, but when we arrived it was closed off, we think prob because it was Guy Fawkes night and there would have been great views of the fireworks.


Instead we walked along the river to Tower Bridge and Shad Thames and stopped off for a drink.
We left our yacht moored alongside.....


Teddy had to leave to celebrate with his Uni mates, so we walked across Tower Bridge and he headed off to the Tube whilst we walked around the Tower to see the installation of poppies.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd seen photos but until you actually see it you don't grasp the enormity or vastness of the sea of red. There are 888,246 ceramic poppies that fill the moat around the Tower. One for each British fatality during WWI, which of course this year is the 100th anniversary. It's very impressive and a fantastic and moving work of art.


The three of us caught the river bus back to Greenwich and finished off the evening with some Frangelico and lime.


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River Commute

I was up and about before Susan this morning so went for a walk and found a little coffee shop, Peyton & Byrne to have my morning coffee.
Quite nice sitting watching the world go by.

We thought we spend some time wandering around Shepherd's Market today but instead of taking the Tube to Green Park and then a 10 min walk thought we'd take the river taxi to Westminster and walk to Mayfair, which I estimated would be about a half hour walk.
The river taxi is great. It's a couple of minutes walk from our flat and it's quick, comfy and you you can have a cuppa whilst looking at the scenery. I don't mind the Tube, but it's not exactly picturesque and it can get a bit crowded.


We got off at Embankment and since the last time we were here they have installed some memorials for the Battle of Britain.
We walked up to Westminster and discovered some very unusual shadows on the bridge!
After spending some time wandering around Westminster and taking in the sights I realised I'd wander in the complete opposite direction we wanted for Mayfair. We decided to leave Shepherd's Market for another day and found ourselves a nice pub to have lunch in.


After lunch we made our way to Westminster Cathedral, the main Catholic church in London. I didn't go in as the smell of incense gives me panic attack (Don't even ask, I can't even go into those new age hippy shops for the same reason!) Susan, being the good Catholic girl that she is, went inside for a look around and to light a candle. I stayed outside to chat to a guy who was selling the Big Issue, until he got into a fight with another guy who was begging. Nothing like street entertainment.


Once Susan had finished looking around we made our way to St Clement Danes in The Strand. The original church was built around the 9th century but the one currently there is one of the Wren churches built after the Great Fire in the 17th C. It was damaged by bombs during WWII and restored during the 50's. It's now the church for the Royal Air Force.


Just across the road is the Royal Courts of Justice. A very impressive Victorian building which houses the High Court and the Court of Appeals. This isn't the same as the Old Bailey - that is a completely different building about a mile away.


On the other side of the Courts is the Twinings Tea shop. It's been in the same spot since 1706 and Susan went in to buy her favourite Irish Breakfast tea, which cost twice as much as it does in Australia - go figure.


Almost next door to Twinings is one of my favourite things about London. A small unobtrusive alleyway, that if you weren't looking you would just walk straight past. If you keep your eyes open you spot these all over London. Walk down them and you will discover they open into an oasis of peace and quiet. Small pieces of heaven and solitude away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Trees, benches, fountains you'd never know Fleet St was within spitting distance.


We paid the $4 entrance to Temple Church. Anyone who's read the literary masterpiece The Da Vinci Code (yes that is sarcasm) will know this church gets a mention for all the obvious reasons - Crusades, Knights Templar, Holy Grail, conspiracy etc) Although those things are interesting, I like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person, the church is actually a really lovely building. Built in the 12th C as the headquarters of the Knights Templar. After the Order was abolished the church was used by two of the four Inns of Court, the Inner Temple and Middle Temple, which were colleges for lawyers. The church managed to survive the Great Fire in 1666 but received bomb damage during WWII and has been restored. It's well worth a visit, but remember to give yourself enough time to just sit and relax in the courtyards.


It was dark when we left the church and was just starting to rain, so we took a walk along the river back to the Embankment and caught the river taxi back to Greenwich. The Cutty Sark looked great at night with the golden sunset behind it. Finally back to our flat and a home cooked dinner. Well I say 'home cooked' by that I mean Mr Tesco cooked it and we reheated our beef stew and dumplings in the microwave. Very tasty indeed.


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Susan and I decided to stay in Greenwich and do some exploring.
First stop had to be a cafe as I hadn't had a coffee yet. I haven't had a chance to buy a stove top espresso maker and I won't drink instant.
So we stopped at Paul Rhodes, a small cafe/artisan bakery. Coffee was good and I had a mini almond croissant which was lovely.
We walked a loop round Greenwich just basically getting our bearings. We found Oliver's Jazz Bar, which is high on our list of places to go.


A few months ago I did some research on Ancestory.com and discovered that for years my family on my Mum's side had all come from Greenwich. My Mum was the first generation not to be born here. She was born in Bermondsey, which is just down the road. The furthest I could go back was 1709. Most were born, lived and died in Greenwich. It wasn't until my Nan's generation (late 1800's, early 1900's) that some started to move away. For generations they were christened, married and buried in the same church, St Alfeges. You can see the church from our apartment and it's about a 5 min walk away.
We decided to have a look around and see if there were any headstones in the the churchyard. There has been a church dedicated to St Alfage on this spot since St Alfage who was the Archbishop of Canterbury was murdered here by Vikings in 1012. It's also the church where Henry VIII was baptised in 1491. The current building was built in 1714 by Nicholas Hawksmoor and is typical of his style. As Kirsten (Fatty) will testify, Hawksmoor has long been a favourite of mine and I've long wanted to do a tour of Hawksmoor's London churches, so it turned out quite serendipitous. There were a few headstones but they were too worn away to see any of the names on them.

We went back to our apartment and had lunch then went for a walk along the Thames path, heading east from Greenwich. Past the Royal Naval College and the Queens House. I'll go into move detail about those places on the days we visit.
The tide was out along the Thames and I tried to talk Susan into going mudlarking see if we could find a clay park, but she wasn't overly keen. There are some lovely looking pubs all along the river, it would only be right to try a few out whilst we were here, surely!?

The sun was starting to set as we walked back towards Greenwich and the sky had a lovely golden glow. It was almost dark by the time we got home. We stopped to pick up some fish'n'chips and spent the evening relaxing watching TV and resting our achy feet.

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We arrived in Heathrow at 5:30 am, made short work of getting through customs and headed for the underground.
Getting to Greenwich required two changes, first at Green Park then on to the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf and finally the DLR to Greenwich. No stairs were required though which was a relief with all our luggage. Unlike our last trip where we had to carry them up three flights of stairs at Tower Hill station! Our apartment is only a few metres from the station and we had arranged before hand to book in early. Originally we weren't meant to book in until 3pm but as no-one was checking out we could head straight there. This meant we were in our apartment unpacked and having a cuppa all before 9am.
I'd been arranging with my sister-in-law to surprise my brother for his birthday.
They had arranged to come down to London for the day and have lunch at a restaurant in the O2 complex at 12:00.
So we got there at 11:30 and thought we'd go to the restaurant and wait at the table behind menus. However when we got there the restaurant didn't open until 12 so we couldn't get in. We didn't know which way they would be arriving and we didn't want Ted to see us and spoil the surprise. So we split up and kept look out. I spotted them heading towards the restaurant and so called Susan over. I thought once they walk in we can go over and creep up behind them, but instead of walking inside they walked past the restaurant and continued to head straight towards us.....panic!!! We dashed behind a wall and pressed ourselves as flat against the wall as possible (well as flat as my boobs will allow!!) I kept whispering "don't look this way, don't look this way" Luckily they didn't look in our direction and continued on. Once they were a few yards ahead of us we dashed into a bar which had just opened, out the other side and across into the restaurant. We ran upstairs and I tried to explain to the waiter what we were trying to do. I was so out of breath I just turned to Susan and said - "you explain". It must have been hilarious for anyone looking on.All we needed was the Mission Impossible theme to be playing in the background! The waiter agreed to let us hide on their balcony. A few minutes later we saw the family arrive and they were seated. My sister-in-law came up to the bar near the balcony and I managed to get her attention. Susan and I then walked out and sang "Happy Birthday" whilst Steph videoed. The look on everyone's face was priceless. Dare I say Ted was almost a tad teary! Hugs and kisses all round.
After lunch we went on the cable car. Great views of the Thames Barrier and the O2 from up there.


We had some refreshments in a local cafe then did the return trip back to the O2.


We couldn't all fit in the car so Ted and Danny took the car back to our Greenwich apartment whilst the rest of us got the river taxi. It's only one stop and when we got back to Greenwich it was teeming with nightlife. Buskers on the corner of our street playing jazz and blues and people milling around. There was a great atmosphere. We all went back to the apartment for a short rest then headed out to one of the local resaurants for dinner.


Steph had managed to secretly pack some spare clothes for everyone and we could all fit into the apartment. The couch comes out as a double bed and there was a travel cot in the cupboard we could use for Saffy as well as the two bedrooms.

Next morning we took a leisurely stroll around Greenwich and had breakfast at the Rivington Bar and Grill. Susan got in her first lot of black pudding, as well as eating mine and Teddy's as well!
The kids all had school the next day so by about 4pm everyone headed off.
It was so wonderful to see everyone. That's one of the problems with living so far away, you only see each other every few years.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 23:02 Archived in England Comments (1)

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Today was our last day in Singapore and more importantly our last day in Raffles. We didn't have to checkout of our suite until 12:00 but we wanted to see more of the city and make the most of our last day, so after breakfast we packed up and Alvero came to collect our bags. They were going to hold on to them until we got the limo back to the airport.
We made the most of the extra day we were given to use our hop on hop off ticket, which could also be used on the river boat. We took the bus to the Singapore Flyer (a big Ferris wheel) and from there got the river boat. Unsurprisingly it was another very hot and humid day and we alternated between sitting inside the boat and on the rear deck in the hope of catching some breeze.

We did the complete tour on the boat and then caught a river taxi across to the Marina Bay Sands hotel. The intention was to go up to the top and have a drink but instead we continued by foot to the Gardens by the Bay. We didn't do the full walk around the gardens, although I'm sure they'd be impressive just from the little we did see. We did however explore their two domes - a flower dome and a cloud forrest. If we'd have known what they were going to be like we would have done the flower dome first. The cloud Forrest was so impressive that the flower dome was a bit of a disappointment. When you first walk in to the cloud Forrest you can't help but just stop and exclaim, as we both did. Being English, I'm not normally one for public displays of emotion, but I couldn't help but let out an audible "wow".


We spent a couple of hours here and then made our way back to the hotel.
We had a final dinner in the Raffles Courtyard with some cocktails and wood oven pizza. They have a timeline cocktail list which has one cocktail from each decade the hotel has been open. My choice was a Rose and Rickey which was popular in 1935 (a good era for me to choose). It was basically gin, cucumber and carbonated rose water. Very refreshing. I'd have liked to work my way down the menu but we were running out of time.


Raffles had given us a key to use the spa to get showered and changed before we had to catch our flight. In our haste we just grabbed a couple of things from our cases and went up to shower. It was only after we got changed Susan realised she had grabbed her pyjama top! So we spent our last couple of hours at Raffles in the Writers Bar, which had become my favourite spot, with Susan dressed in her pjs. The barman kept pouring me double gins (on the house) and Susan had a couple more Singapore Slings as we sat and listened to the piano. The pianist came over and introduced himself and had a chat. Alvero insisted he take photos of us, and we also got some of him. We were very sad at leaving, it had been an amazing place to stay. All the staff had been wonderful, everyone of them knew our names and nothing was too much bother. I realise that is what you pay for but it was an incredible experience, cannot fault it at all. As we waited in the Writers Bar for our driver the pianist played Moon River, the theme from Breakfast at Tiffany's and I admit I MAY have got a bit teary, prob a bit of dust in my eye. I couldn't think of a more fitting tune to be playing as we said our goodbyes and headed to the airport.


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