Do you still remember my post about my dream to visit the place of Hercule Poirot’s filming location from Agatha Christie’s mysteries books? The post title was My Travel Wish. I shared the dream with my boy. Since the filming location for Agatha Christie’s books was England where it was also the filming location and the background story for Enid Blyton’s children books, my boy showed very high interest and we had been talking about visiting England one day (at that time we still didn’t know yet and thought that it might be somewhere in the future when he’s in high school).
Well, then the boy was more interested in visiting Legoland and Harry Potter Studio and castle ruins than the villages where Miss Marple and The Famous Five might had been lived once in a blue moon………….
So anyway, we shared the same wish and dream of visiting England and we also had the same mission to persuade daddy to agree with our holiday proposal…………….and after calculated the budget several times (more than ten times), he finally agreed with us to go to UK in the boy’s year end school holiday. Were we happy? Of course we were very happy, but followed by very stressful days of applying UK visa, hahaha…………… There were many documents to prepare and forms to fill in. Plus, we had to wait for another 3 weeks before we saw on our passports that we had been granted UK visas, hooray……………
To apply for UK Visa from Singapore (for Indonesian Passports), you have to apply online via the website: www.vfsglobal.co.uk/singapore
You will have to fill in the online documents and make online appointment before submitting your applications by yourself to VSF Global Singapore in Cecil Street. No need to buy flight tickets and book hotels before your visa is approved. Also, no need to submit printed photos as the staff will be taking your photos and finger prints in VSF office. Just read in the website and follow all the guidance in the website to know more about applying for UK Visa. All are clearly stated in the website. There was no interview when we applied for UK Visa.
VSF notified us by email when our passports were ready for collection, but they didn’t tell us whether we got our visa or not. On the collection day, we went to VSF Office again and the staff gave us sealed envelope for each passport, and we were very happy to find out that our visas were approved…………….
I also decided to buy Oyster Cards at the VSF Office (the counter was just next to passport collection counter). Oyster Card was basically an electronic card that we would use to ride tube (tube is like MRT in Singapore) and bus around London. I just had to buy 2 Oyster Cards for 2 adults because our son which was not 11 years old by then, could travel for free around London. Yes for that………….
The cost of our trip was quite predictable since we had to buy most of the tour package online either to get cheaper price or because it was requested to do so. For example, Harry Potter Studio Tour and Legoland tickets must be bought online. Southeastern train tickets to Leeds Castle was also a must to buy online in order to guarantee lower price. We also bought Leeds Castle entry tickets and Chelsea Stadium Tour tickets online because it was cheaper by 10%. For Tower of London entry tickets, we bought them on the spot since we were not so sure if we were going to enter the old palace or not. Of course, our hotels had to be booked and paid before. Note: all the ticket prices can be checked in their websites.
For food and transport (our daily live while in London) and to buy small souvenirs, the total cost for the 3 of us was around GBP 750.
After comparing the price, time of departure and arrival, and also passengers review, we finally chose red-eye flight from Singapore to Heathrow London by Singapore Airlines (direct flight for 14 hours). We departed just after midnight and arrived in London very early in London (Singapore time is 7 hours ahead of London). The options for direct flight were British Airways or Singapore Airlines, but since we will not be using BA very often, we chose to stick to SQ to earn the miles. The price was almost the same (it depends on flight time).
Surprisingly, it was very a very pleasant flight although I was very worried of the long hours flight that we had to take (so worried that I was very nervous even weeks before, I hate long hours flight and the feeling like a I was trapped in a small cubicle for more than 10 hours somehow scared me…………. ). Thankfully, flying with Singapore Airlines was very convenient and it didn’t feel like we were in a long journey, and we did actually enjoyed the flight and just like that………….we arrived safely in London. I somehow didn’t feel like I was trapped in a small space for hours like I was afraid of. Maybe because I was also distracted by the boy who was constantly hungry and thirsty and asked for food and drink, hahaha……………and then slept on my lap for hours (after 2 hours, I gave up and either sat on the armchair or just stood up in the corridor because my half body just felt numb). That was how I ended up sleeping for only 2 hours on the plane.
When we flew with SQ in a long haul flight, we didn’t have to worry about getting hungry or thirsty. There was food and drink all the time every time we felt hungry (and we did feel hungry so many times, hahaha……………). Even the boy liked his child’s meal and he kept on snacking whenever he woke up.
Before dinner, the stewardess gave us each a menu book so we could choose what food and drink that we wanted for supper, snacks, and breakfast. For beverages, there were so many choices from wine, beer, cocktails, mocktails, spirits, liqueurs to non alcoholic drink such as soft drinks, fruit juices, coffee, and tea. Since we didn’t drink alcoholic beverages, the choices were mainly just fruit juices, soft drink, or just plain water. By the way, here is all the food that we had during the flight
After 14 hours, we finally arrived in Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 (I read that it was the newest terminal). We the continued to proceed to the immigration clearance (it was a long walk from by the way to the immigration clearance). We queued for more than 1 hour (unless we had an SQ pass that allowed us to skip the line and went straight to the VIP line with shorter and sometimes no queue at all, but too bad we weren’t SQ Gold Members, so we waited in the super long line). The staff at the immigration counter asked several questions after checking our passports, such as why we went to London, how long would we stay, where would we stay, and even asked the boy how long his school holiday would be………………..and finally we were cleared we were so happy to finally go out from the airport.
It was warm inside the airport and getting cooler once we ere inside, and even though everybody was tired and sleepy, but we were so happy and excited to start our holiday journey in London.
Since we already bought Oyster Cards in Singapore and didn’t need to activate them anymore, we went straight to the tube station in T2 (just follow clear signs of how to go to the tube station). There were many ways to the city from the airport, but taking the tube was absolutely the cheapest (it only cost us less than GBP 4 for the three of us – because the boy was still free). We could take taxi or chartered car (which was cheaper than taxi) but it would cost us at least GBP 35 one way. There was also express train to the city but it was also more expensive.
Look inside the train………………..it was very different than Singapore MRT (the seats I mean). The seats were soft and comfortable (more like a sofa than a train seat to me, hahaha………….)
During our trip, we commuted mostly by train (and sometimes bus). When we needed to take taxi, it was cheaper to take Uber Taxi (daddy installed the application on the phone).
Our hotel in London was Holiday Inn Express Hammersmith. I decided which hotel to stay after a long search comparing the prices, the locations, the facilities, and mostly people’s review, and it didn’t disappoint us at all.
Some of the reasons why I finally chose this hotel were because:
- Location. This hotel was near the train station, and from Hammersmith there were direct trains to most of the tourist attractions that we visited. The hotel was also closed to supermarket, mall, drugstore, convenience stores, restaurants, and shops who sold shoes, bags, and clothes.
- Price. This was definitely cheaper than staying very close to the city.
- Very good reviews
- Daddy was a member of Holiday Inn Group, so we got additional 10% discount and some points too. I didn’t book from Agoda.com or booking.com, because after we got the member discount, it was cheaper to book directly to the hotel.
- Our boy got to stay and eat for free
- The price was included breakfast
- Free unlimited WiFi (very important, hahaha………….)
The downside was that the room was very small………………so small that we were quite shocked, hahaha……………well, actually, I have read in reviews that hotels in London had very small rooms (expect maybe if we stayed in 4 or 5 star hotels it would be a different story), so we should have been prepared, rite? The rooms also looked smaller because the hotel added one free extra bed for us (it might be a common practice to add extra bed for kids for free?), so we only had very little space to put all our belongings.
There were air con and also heater inside the room, and then there were also coffee, tea, sugar, and milk in small packets, a kettle to boil water, and also toiletries like soap, shampoo, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Other things that we needed but were not in the room, we could always ask to the receptionist. Hair drier was also provided in the room. Extra coffee, tea, sugar, and milk were also provided near the reception area. I always took some because I always had to put at least 4 packets of sugar in my tea (I always liked very sweet tea, but now I’m reducing my sugar consumption because it’s not healthy). There was also microwave, plate, spoons, forks, and bread knives that we could use for free (just remember to return them back………….), and those things were also placed near the reception area.
It was a nice stay for us because although the room was small, but it was clean. All the staff was also very friendly and helpful. Most of all, we loved the breakfast. There was not a big selection of food like in the hotel in my hometown, but everything taste good and all food was in good quality. Fresh bread, fresh fruit, fresh milk were served everyday. The breakfast selection was the same everyday during our stay, but we still liked it and no we miss the super yummy plain croissant.
Besides the croissant, we also loved the muffins (chocolate and banana muffins) which was in the picture above. I didn’t like muffins and I didn’t eat muffins because I always hated the texture, but these ones were different, they were just delicious. I don’t know what’s the name of the fruit, but I loved it and I ate that at least 1 bowls everyday. I liked the sourness of the fruits which went well with the muffins (only I liked the fruits by the way, the others even refused to try, hahaha…………….). There were other fruits too like berries, but I didn’t like berries.
When we arrived at the first day, it was still early in the morning and we couldn’t do the check in process yet. So after we gave the our luggage to the reception to be kept temporarily, the staff offered us to have breakfast because it was still breakfast time (yes for the three of us without extra charge).My husband didn’t believe me when I said we were offered breakfast for free so he checked with the reception again, hahaha…………..(maybe it was a common practise since my friend was also had the same experience when staying in other hotel), but it was a nice welcoming gesture from them, especially because we were so hungry, hahaha…………..
Although the breakfast was a simple one compared to other Holiday Inn hotels that we’ve stayed before in Asia, but the quality was good. The English breakfast like croissant, sausages (very yummy sausages), scrambled eggs (I don’t like scramble eggs so I never ate that dish), beans (perfect to be eaten with sausages), bread and cheese and jams, choices of cereals, fruits like apples and bananas and berries, and cold yogurt. Drink choices were varied from coffee, tea (and there were some selections of tea that I never knew before but very nice), milk, hot chocolate, and fruit juices.
After 8 days exploring London and Windsor, it was time to go home. We were so sad because we still wanted to see and do more, but we had to go back. We really loved London and Windsor because those cities were just beautiful and the people were friendly and polite (even the boy recognize this and said to me that it was very impressive to see the people were so polite). Anyway, it was an amazing experience to finally see the city of our dream and also, we were so lucky that the weather was so great (no rain) during the days that we were there. One different thing that we recognized immediately was that when we rode an escalator, we had to stay in the right lane not in the left like like in Singapore (and we forgot a lot of times, hahaha………………).
Well, finally, it was time to go to the airport. We had to do a self service online checking in the machines in the airport, printed the boarding pass and baggage tag, then dropped the baggage in the counter where the staff would check our passport. We then continued queuing for the GST refund, and just entered the airport for bag check……………and then we realized that there wasn’t any immigration clearance counter at all. Afraid that we might missed one step, we actually tried to look for the immigration clearance but didn’t find any, so we guessed we were settled. Just like that, we were inside this super big airport and decided to have dinner with fish and chips before we boarded the airplane.
The fish and chips was so delicious and the fish was fresh because I felt fine after eating this (there was no fishy taste in my throat after that so I gave this 2 thumbs up) and the fries and the sauce and the mash peas were also good. The waiter even offered to give the boy free ice cream which he gladly accepted (but why only him………….?).
We made a big mistake by going to the gate so late because we thought the gate was not far away (like in Changi Airport, although it was big but still manageable if we walked very fast). Well, the case was different in Heathrow because it was a very long distance from the shopping area to the gate. We literally had to run (going down and up again for I don’t know how many times and we had what it seemed like an unending walk that we were so tired and when we finally arrived at the gate, we only saw some passengers left waiting to get on the plane). So spare some time if you plan to take a leisure walk to the gate (apparently, many passengers made the same mistake as us, so we run together to our gates, hahaha……..)
The journey back home was faster than when we went from Singapore to London. The boy spent most of the time sleeping (after eating of course) because he was dizzy (too tired I guess). Thankfully, he was well again the next day at home.
Finally, home sweet home………………well, not really, because I was sick but I still had to wash all the dirty laundry, then hang inside the house or outside (it was rainy season to make it worse so I had to juggle where to hang the laundry because one day I could do 3 to 4 batches of laundry). Then, I had to iron and fold the fresh clothes and kept all the winter clothes in the storage. Daddy was back to work the next day so he couldn’t help at all. I had to finish cleaning the house too because we were going back to my parents house for another holiday session just 3 days after we got back from London, how awesome was that………??? But it was fun and I wanted to do it all over again (the holiday of course, not the laundry……………….).
So, this is my last post about our London Trip, and big thank you to the boy who keep pushing me (encouraging me I mean) to keep writing and to finish all the posts and he was also the one who proofread all my posts (maybe he wants to be an editor one day?).