Europe Day 19 – Bond Street, Thames River Cruise & Trafalgar Square

We awoke to another day of sunny skies in London which totally destroyed my misconception of wet and soggy days in the city as mentioned always in literature. Maybe it was one of those good weeks in summer time which totally explains why Londoners really like the summer season. Like our lodging in Paris, breakfast is an extra charge for guests but since we are located so close to a Pret A Manger outlet, we figured why not experience breakfast in the city like the locals. Being a monday morning, the streets of Piccadilly is already thronged by office workers strutting along importantly and as expected the Pret outlet is also packed with people getting their daily dose of caffeine. We got ourselves a Pain au Chocolat, a Ham and Bacon Croissant and a Raisin Bread along with 2 cups of coffee and a bottle of water. As an additional treat, I added a small pack of potato chips.

Park Lane Hotel Room View
Park Lane Hotel room view
Pret A Manger Breakfast
Pret A Manger Breakfast

The light breakfast was satisfying enough but since we were intending to visit the famous Nobu Japanese restaurant for lunch, it was good enough to recharge our energy to do some shopping along Bond Street. This shopping street is actually divided into 2 parts, with Old Bond Street linking towards Piccadilly and New Bond Street linking towards Oxford Street. Starting off from Old Bond Street, we passed by mainly watch boutiques and jewelry stores like Bvlgaru, Tiffany & Co. and Cartier. Since my Mum was advised to head down to the Louis Vuitton store along this street to get her evening clutch, this was one of the stores we visited first. In actual fact, Louis Vuitton’s boutique along Bond Street was recently refurbished and is every bit as amazing as their branch in Paris. Along with their new store, purchases made in the store had a special edition bag with a tag indicating the new store address which I found to be an interesting touch. Outside the LV boutique along New Bond Street also lies this interesting bench where visitors can take a photo between Churchill and Roosevelt, the 2 leaders leading the Allies during World War II. We continued on shopping, visiting Burberry and other boutiques along Bond Street before heading to Bruton Street and cutting through Bruton lane to head back to Berkeley Street where we had our lunch at Nobu.

Shops along Old Bond Street
Shops along Old Bond Street

As Nobu has a strict no photography policy, I wasn’t able to take shots of their restaurant interior or their food. Their restaurant was nicely furnished, simple, yet comfortable and airy. It feels more like the interior of a French bistro rather than a Japanese restaurant. Since it was lunch time, we ordered 2 bento boxes and one grilled codfish dish with rice. It turns out that the food was too much for us to handle as each bento box sets comes with sushi rolls, sashimi, the main dish, rice and miso soup. There was even tempura on the sides. The food quality was good but nowhere spectacular and on hindsight, we might have enjoyed the meal better had we not stuffed ourselves full. If you’re on a light appetite, it is possible to share a bento box set between 2 persons and ordering a small side dish or appetizer. Pricing wise, it was quite expensive but since we were full and my parents did enjoy the food, it was money well spent. My Mum tried the Nobu in Las Vegas and she was mentioning on the great beef they served there, so perhaps I should give dinner a try at Nobu next time!

Street traffic along Berkeley Street
Street traffic along Berkeley Street

Shopping along Bond Street continued after lunch and we walked past Berkeley Square where a Jaguar showroom was situated at, and I got a glimpse of the new XJ in real life. I have to say that the new XJ does indeed look better in real life than in pictures. Once we reached Bond Street we explored more shops and visited some watch boutiques looking at some nice watches. It was really easy to pass the time shopping and before we knew it, we had to return to the hotel to drop off our shopping bags. But it wasn’t before I managed to head down to the Chanel boutique to get a bag which a friend ordered. I wasn’t able to get it in Paris as it was out of stock but the lighter tourist numbers in Bond Street meant I was able to purchase the model my friend wanted. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by Starbucks for some refreshments before taking another cab towards the County Hall so we could be in time for the Thames River Cruise. Arriving at the dock early, we queued up for the boat which have yet to return. It wasn’t a long wait though and very soon we were heading down the Thames, admiring sights like the other end of the Palace of Westminster with the guide on the cruise showing us the distinctive wings for the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Thereafter, the cruise proceeded east along the Thames passing under the bridges of the Thames with the guides giving witty commentaries on the sights on both sides of the river such as the British Secret Service Headquarters which was featured prominently in James Bond movies and the City of London School where Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe attends classes at. Other landmarks we passed by included the OXO Tower, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, More London Place where the City Hall is located at, the warship HMS Belfast, the Tower Bridge near the Tower of London and finally ending at the Shad Thames, a wharf-area that was redeveloped into high end residential apartments. On the return trip, the guide also pointed out landmarks such as the modern skyscraper nicknamed the ‘Gherkin’, the Monument to the Great Fire of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral. While the buildings along the Thames aren’t as magnificent as the ones along the Seine in Paris, the interesting commentaries provided by the tour guide made this Thames River Cruise as worthwhile a trip and felt more personal instead of the automated guided tour given on the Seine River Cruise.

Tower Bridge
Thames River Cruise boat passing under the Tower Bridge

Disembarking from the interesting cruise, we decided to board another bus heading towards the City of London for more sightseeing on land. One good thing about public transport in London is that the bus stops indicates the route of travel, and my familiarity with the language also allowed me to choose the right bus to take. I had wanted to head down towards the financial district and see the skyscraper known as the ‘Gherkin’ up close and actually pass by some other tourist sights along the way. Eventually I settled on a bus that took me past the Tower of London, the historic fortress which was infamous for the numerous executions and imprisonments carried out within the walls. The bus took us all the way towards Tower Gateway from where we took a short walk to Aldgate where we got a nice view of the ‘Gherkin’ and the St. Botolph’s Church. We took another bus from here which brought us to Trafalgar Square where we alighted to have dinner at a Thai Square restaurant.

View of the ‘Gherkin’ and St. Botolph’s Church from Aldgate

For dinner, we ordered a Mixed Starter Set to share as appetizers, one Tom Yum Goong, Roasted Red Duck Curry and Spicy Sea Bass for the main courses, all accompanied with Coconut rice. In addition to the great food they served, they also offered a refreshing fresh strawberry juice! Another satisfying dinner to wrap up the day in London but not before I headed out to Trafalgar Square to take some photos of the traffic around this major intersection. Due to its major strategic location, several buses passes by through this area and it was easy to get a bus which brought us back to our hotel to retire for the night.

Trafalgar Square at Night
Trafalgar Square at Night

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