Wednesday, 15th May – Travelling to Heathrow

After considering the pros and cons of flying business class with Qantas for our next European Adventure, we decided it was worth the money. The extra cost is offset by the opportunity to have extra baggage allowance, chauffeur drive to the airport, access to the business lounge, express lanes through customs, priority boarding, an impressive menu and a fully flat bed to get enough sleep to arrive refreshed.

For this trip we thought it would be a great opportunity to check out the QF9 Melbourne to London via Perth with Qantas.

Once arriving in Perth we were directed to the Transit Lounge. It’s a brand new lounge that Qantas have built with this flight in mind. It’s a lovely space and there is also a ‘refresh area’ with Aurora Spa products including a face cleanser, hydrating face mist and moisturiser. There were chef prepared hotdogs along with a buffet and many different beverage options, showers and a yoga/relaxation room!

The flight from Perth to Heathrow is non stop so after dinner service we utilised the flat bed and managed to get between 8-10 hours of really good sleep. Once arriving at Heathrow we found ourselves shuttled to terminal 5 where we were to await the last leg of our journey to Geneva.

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Saturday, 4th October – London to Santorini

On the agenda today was some last minute sightseeing before flying to Santorini, Greece.

You can’t start a good day without breakfast and so we got our fancy pants on and enjoyed a lovely meal at The Ritz in St James.

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From The Ritz it was a short but beautiful stroll through Green Park to Buckingham Palace. We were not alone, hundreds of people were also making their way to see the Changing of the Guard.

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Undeterred by the inclement weather it felt like thousands of people were gathered around the Victoria Memorial.

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After the ceremony was finished we went back to Blake & Peter’s and packed our small carry on bags for our trip to Greece. We again utilised the Tube to make our way to Heathrow for our Aegean Airlines flight to Santorini.

Our journey to Santorini was an overnight flight to Thira via Athens. Our travel tip from this experience is that we recommend getting the day flight. When we arrived in Thira we had a long wait until we could check in to the hotel and there was literally nothing open when we arrived.

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Friday, 3rd October – London

Today we planned to do all the standard “touristy” London sight seeing before checking out of the hotel and meeting our good friends Blake and Peter.

From the tube, we got out at Westminster which put us right in the heart of things. We made our way over to Westminster Bridge and enjoyed the view of the Thames taking in this iconic view which includes the London Eye and Big Ben.

We decided to have breakfast at St Stephen’s Tavern which claims to be the hangout of the local politicians. Sure, there were probably cheaper places but the Tavern is absolutely gorgeous and we couldn’t resist.

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After breakfast we explored Parliament Square, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Walking up Whitehall Street past 10 Downing Street and the Horse Guards, we made our way to Trafalgar Square.

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We had a wonderful day, the weather was perfect and we reluctantly made our way back to the hotel to pack our bags and check out.

In perfect London fashion we walked out of the hotel to find the weather had gone from perfect blue to pitch black and it was pouring. This didn’t bother us as it was a perfect excuse to get an iconic black London cab to meet the boys at The Crabtree in Fulham for drinks and dinner.

It was awesome to finally see our good friends and catch up over a couple of pints and a lovely meal.

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Thursday, 2nd October – London

Today was going to be a very Harry Potter kind of day.

Bec had been looking forward to going to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio tour. We purchased tickets online for about 28 pounds each and were given specific times to do the tour.

We travelled to the studio in Leavesden via train from Euston to Watford Junction. At Watford Junction there was a Harry Potter themed bus (no, not the night bus) waiting to take us to the studio (for 2.50 pounds return). The whole trip from our Hotel to the studio took less than 40 minutes.

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Once we arrived, there was too much too look at! The studio was the place where most of the Harry Potter movies were shot and when they finished filming, they turned the studios into a living museum.

The locations that you walked through (like the Great Hall and Diagon Alley) were the actual sets used in the films. There was also a huge amount of props and back drops that were arranged throughout the studio.

The ticket price included a self guided tour that Bec used while Keith just took lots of photos.

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Once the tour was finished we explored the back lot where there was a Night Bus, Privet Drive and the opportunity to try Butter Beer!

The final part of the exhibition also showed a lot of the artwork and models used in the production of the series. This included a massive scale model of Hogwarts that you could walk around. The detail was so perfect that they actually used it for some of the outside shots!

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After spending most of the day in fanboy heaven, we decided to do some sightseeing around London once we got back. A couple of the key things we wanted to see were St Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge, London Tower and London Bridge.

We saw some great sights, got some great night shots and had dinner in the city as well. After seeing London Tower and London Bridge we headed back to the hotel.

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2014 European Adventure England

Saturday, 20th September – Paris to Ely (London)

We had packed everything yesterday and it was a good thing we had. In our infinite wisdom we had celebrated our last night in Paris with one too many bottles of red wine. Sleeping in until the last minute, we met Julien at 10.30am to hand over the keys to the apartment and got in a taxi to Gare du Nord – the train station where we were boarding the Eurostar.

The train station was absolutely beautiful and busy! Approximately 190 million travellers per year pass through Gare du Nord making it the busiest in Europe!

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We had plenty of time to get some breakfast, check in, go through customs and board our train by 1.15pm. We were hoping that this Eurostar trip would be uneventful and on time – unlike our first experience.

The trip was perfect arriving back at the London St Pancras station at 2.30pm. We were well on track to pick up the hire car that we would have for the rest of our adventure through the UK. And well, that’s when the wheels almost fell off.

The person on the reservation desk at the hire car company was nervous that we were taking the car into Northern Ireland and on a couple of ferries. We went through the paperwork where we had made these arrangements clear, finally getting confirmation from ‘someone’ over the phone we thought everything would now be sorted. Unfortunately when the poor lady when to assign our car, it appeared it had been marked as not to be re-hired. The other piece of bad news, there were no more cars available for us. Ok at this point, Bec was thinking about plan B, and listing what dear friends we had in London we could approach for emergency accommodation. Two hours later and we were given the keys to our upgraded car – a brand new Audi A4 – thanks!

Leaving London three hours later than expected, we made our way to our next destination – Ely. It was a 2 hour drive, but we were well behind and arriving before sunset was now not going to happen.

It was strange being in a right hand drive vehicle and driving on the ‘other’ side of the road. Isn’t it funny how you quickly become accustomed to something that initially you’d think would always feel wrong.

Arriving in Ely in the dark, we checked into the hotel, walked across the road and had dinner, taking our time looking over our plans for the next day.

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Monday, 7th July – London

After a good sleep we headed out of the hotel and had breakfast, ironically in the American styled ‘Ed’s Easy Diner’.

After breakfast we walked back toward the Kings Cross Train Station. We came across an amazing building St Pancras Renaissance Hotel which was established in 1873.

At Kings Cross Station we visited platform 9 3/4 (Harry Potter fans be jealous now), which was well set up for fans to take photos with Harry’s trunk. The Harry Potter shop whilst small, had some pretty cool merchandise. The store was designed so you felt like you were in Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

Whilst there, we had a quick look through St Pancras International to get familiar with where our Eurostar Train is departing from. We meandered around looking at the shops and different buildings.

We then made our way to The Queen’s Head to have a few drinks and catch up with our mate Elaine. We enjoyed a couple of wines and thought we would settle in for a quiet afternoon/evening catching up.  What we couldn’t have realised is that lovely Elaine had a master plan!

We made our way over to Knightsbridge to have a look through Harrods, of course heading straight to the food court. We were overwhelmed by all the amazing fresh produce and scored some cheeky samples.IMG_6897

Of course when in Harrods, if the shopping gets too much you can always take a rest in the Champagne Bar… It’s tough work this Harrods stuff!

After looking through Harrods Elaine suggested we go to the Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental for her favourite cocktail, The Lawnmower. You may think the matching of vodka, wheatgrass and mint would be an odd combination however, it was truly the most delicious cocktail we’ve ever had.

Whilst we were sipping our cocktails Elaine’s plan was uncovered. She had organised dinner at the Michelin Star restaurant ‘Dinner’ by Heston Blumenthal!

Words can’t sufficiently describe the experience. The menu has been put together based on recipes from historical cookbooks from the 14th to 19th centuries with a modern twist. Every course was served with an accompanying wine.

A stand out was the starter ‘Rice & Flesh’. The menu simplifies this dish as Saffron, Calf Tail & Red Wine but is more aptly described by Elaine as “mouth-gasmic”. Admittedly, we had reservations but put trust in our mate. As a side, Rice & Flesh was originally conceived by the cooks of King Richard II in their 1390 book ‘The Forme of Cury’.

The perfect start was followed by mains of ‘Powdered Duck Breast’ (c.1670), ‘Roast Iberico Pork Chop’ (c.1820) and ‘Cod in Cider’ (c.1940) individually paired with an incredible wine.

Mains were followed by ‘Tipsy Cake’, spit roast pineapple with brioche (c.1810). The finale was ice cream cones made by liquid nitrogen served in front of us on a trolley.

At the end of our meal we were given a tour around the kitchen which was such a great experience.

Dining at the number 5 best restaurant in the world was certainly an incredible start to our holiday adventure. Thanks Elaine for such a perfect day!

2014 European Adventure England

We’ve arrived in London

We finally made it.

After a huge day of travelling, we have arrived in London. This will be the longest time in the air for the whole trip – 23.5 hours! Below is a quick time table of our flight:

  • Left our hotel room at 11:30pm on the (05/07/2014) in a shuttle bus to the departure gate
  • Boarded the flight at 2:40am (06/07/2014) from Melbourne
  • Landed at Kuala Lumpur at 8:45am (06/07/2014) after an 8.5 hour trip
  • Departed Kuala Lumpur at 10.10am (06/07/2014) and arrived at Dubai after a 7.5 hour trip.
  • Left Dubai at 2.15pm (06/07/2014) and arrived at Heathrow at 6.40pm after a 7.5 hour trip.

After getting through immigration and customs without any issues we then caught the tube (Piccadilly Line) to Kings Cross Station St Pancras. This was really easy we used the ticket machine to buy an oyster card and it only cost 3 Pound each.

This was the beautiful view awaiting us outside the tube station.20140706_205324

We then got our first London Cab to the hotel. It was a huge day, we were both exhausted so had a quick bite and crashed out.

Looking forward to exploring the local area and catching up with Elaine tomorrow!

Random Cool Thing of The Day (RCToTD) – Massive butterfly inside KL Departure Lounge – it was about the size of an iPhone.20140706_111907

2014 European Adventure England