London

Highlights:

Admiring the masterpieces housed in the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Geeking out over animals, rocks and dinosaurs galore at the Natural History Museum. Being enthralled by the fabulous vintage fashions and stage costumes at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Oogling the famous exhibition windows and luxurious homeware and clothing of department store Harrods. Monkeying around at infamous Kiwi/Aussie backpacker sunday session institution ‘The Church‘. Strolling through bustling Trafalgar Square and beautiful St. James’s Park. Having a laugh at the giant dancing M&Ms at M&M World (where you can find every type of M&M merchandise imaginable). Touring the Tower of London guided by a very entertaining and informative real-life Beefeater (well worth paying the extra pounds on top of the entry ticket price for the Beefeater tour) and checking out probably the world’s most insane bling collection, i.e., the Crown Jewels, housed inside – think heavily bejeweled crowns, swords, orbs, scepters and solid gold feasting utensils! Applauding a fantastic performance of the Billy Elliot Musical at the Victoria Theatre. Finding my inner child through the wonder of toys at Hamleys – ‘the Finest Toy Shop in the World’.

Lowlights:

Talk about raining on my parade! I was so excited about going to see the ‘Changing the Guard’ ceremony at Buckingham Palace, but unfortunately Mother Nature had other ideas – it rained cats and dogs and the event was canceled (booooo!). A ‘wet change’ was undertaken however, so at least I was still able to see the guards march past in their fabulous tall black fluffy bearskin hats and catch a glimpse of their scarlet uniforms from underneath their raincoats.

Travel Tips:

For riding the tube, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London you are going to need an ‘Oyster Card‘ – a smart card which holds pay-as-you-go credit to pay for your travel on these transport services. I was able to purchase a £40 Oyster Card that gave me unlimited travel for 7 days (even though I was only there for 5). The best idea is to ask an attendant at one of the tube station information desks when you arrive – they will advise you of the best option for your needs, or you can visit www.tfl.gov.uk for all the info before your trip.

Always have an umbrella or ‘brolly’ handy when exploring London!

A Passion for Fashion:

It was such a delight getting to feast my eyes on the most beautiful collection of fashions and styles from different eras at the Victoria and Albert Museuman absolute must-visit for anyone interested in art and design.  A selection of famous stage costumes and make-up was being exhibited when I visited, including an entire recreation of one of Kylie Minogue‘s dressing rooms – amazing! Until March 2015 there is also a special exhibit at the V&C showcasing the development of the ‘wedding dress’ and it’s take by various big name designers (think Vivienne Westwood, Vera Wang, etc.) – gorgeous! Visit http://www.vam.ac.uk for all the details on current and upcoming exhibitions.

If you’re a fan of Italian design powerhouse PRADA then my goodness you are in for a treat on the fourth floor of department store Harrods, as here you will find yourself in the PRADASPHERE – an incredibly exuberant exhibition of the fashion house’s historic collections and special collaborations and projects, a.k.a PRADA heaven!!

Curious Cuisine:

For a fun and trendy dining experience head on down to Brixton Village – a funky set of covered arcades lined with a great selection of rave-reviewed eateries in Brixton, South London. Here you will find cafes and restaurants pumping out flavours to tantalize your tastebuds from every corner of the globe – Europe, India, Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

I chowed down on some seriously delicious Chinese food at ‘Dumplings Legend‘ in the heart of London’s Chinatown. Crispy-skin chicken, chicken stir fry with chinese broccoli, and pork and vege dumplings washed down with traditional Chinese tea was the order of the day, and my oh my did it go down a treat!

Ok, Ok, Ok, so I know that it’s French, but there is the most beautiful Ladurée tea salon in Covent Garden’s iconic Market Building where I treated myself to a simply scrumptious serving of rose hip and strawberry gelato, four of the store’s signature macarons, and the most divine fruit tea named ‘Marie Antoinette’. I would just sit among all those pastel tones and gold trimmed edges scoffing their delicious desserts forever if I could!

Billy Elliot the Musical

Billy Elliot the Musical

St. Jame's Park Cottage

St. James’s Park Cottage

A Wet Change of Guard at Buckingham Palace

A Wet Change of Guard at Buckingham Palace

PRADASPHERE Exhibition Case

PRADASPHERE Exhibition Case

Playing with Giant Puppies at Hamleys Toystore

Playing with Giant Puppies at Hamleys Toystore

Oh just your regular homeware from Harrods

Oh just your regular homeware from Harrods

Trafalgar Square Lion

Trafalgar Square Lion

M&M World

M&M World

A Real-life Tower of London Beefeater

A Real-life Tower of London Beefeater

Hong Kong

Highlights:

Riding the Peak Tram to see views of the city from Victoria Peak. Perusing the Ladies Markets on Tung Choi Street. Strolling down the ‘Avenue of the Stars’ promenade along the harbour front. Taking the Star Ferry from Kowloon Peninsula over to Central in the evening, timed with the ‘Symphony of Lights‘ skyscraper light show. Admiring astonishing sea creatures in the huge aquarium, doing a trillion loop-the-loops on crazy roller-coasters, and riding the gondola overlooking a beautiful coastline at Ocean Park theme park. Lighting a candle at the Man Mo Temple and finding antique gems on Hollywood Road. Learning about fascinating Chinese medical histories and advances at the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences in Sheung Wan Province.

Lowlights:

The travel money card that I had pre-loaded with Hong Kong Dollars ($HK) just would not work at any of the many ATMs I tried. Remember to always have a second option when it comes to travel finances.. you never want to find yourself strapped for cash overseas! Luckily, I had a credit card for back up (recommended!).

Travel Tips:

You need need need to grab yourself an ‘Octopus Card‘ for riding on Hong Kong’s public transport networks. I purchased a card for $HK150 that came with $HK100 free credit and received $HK50 back as a refundable deposit – if that’s not a bargain I don’t know what is! And that initial amount saw me all around the city on the MTR over 4 days -Bonus! (They can also be loaded with cash for use at convenience stores and supermarkets, etc.).

When exploring any big city, more than likely, you are going to end up pounding a bunch of pavement and for this you are 100% going to need comfortable footwear. For any big day on the feet I just can’t live without my NIKE trainers – with a huge election of fun colours available these sporty shoes will have your tootsies feeling and looking fab all day long (and you don’t always have to pair them with sports clothes either)! THE place for all your big name brand sports gear at pretty good prices in Hong Kong is Fa Yuen Street.

If you’re planning on exploring all the fantastic shops in the ginormous very clean and very sparkly shopping malls (such as Hysan Place, the Times Square Mall, and the IFC Malls), make sure to take a warm top with you as they seriously crank the air-conditioning in these joints. The extreme temperature differences between the hot and sticky streets and the cool interiors of the malls could leave you with a chill or cold if you’re not careful!

A Passion for Fashion:

There was a truly fantastic selection of fake or rip-off brand sunglasses to be found at the Temple Street Night Markets – I’m a firm believer that one can never have too many sunglasses (I may or may not have 11 pair stashed in my suitcase) and priced at between $HK69-89 a pair of these snazzy sunnies will have you looking fabulous without breaking the budget!

Girls – have some fun and easy up do’s ready for exploring Hong Kong. Cute top knots or high ponies are the go here – with high humidity and temperatures above 30°C, backs and necks get super sweaty, super fast, and you don’t want long hair anywhere near them, trust me!

Curious Cuisine:

Believe it or not I actually struggled to find eateries serving cheap authentic Chinese cuisine! There was western food to be found everywhere I looked. One place I would recommend however was a rooftop restaurant called ‘The Glasshouse‘ on the top level of the IFC Mall. There I gorged on small plates of delectable small fried fish, marinated chicken thighs and tempura prawns topped off with a sensational peach juice-based mocktail presented in a fun little glass jug.

Enjoying my Glasshouse Mocktail

Enjoying my Glasshouse Mocktail

Shoes for bound feet at the Museum of Medical Sciences

Shoes for bound feet at the Museum of Medical Sciences

Offerings at Man Mo Temple

Offerings at Man Mo Temple

Symphony of Lights

Symphony of Lights Show on the Harbour

Avenue of Stars Plaque

Avenue of Stars Plaque

Riding the Gondola at Ocean Park

Riding the Gondola at Ocean Park

Hong Kong Mini Tram

Hong Kong Mini Tram

View from Victoria Peak

View from Victoria Peak

Ocean Park

Ocean Park

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