1. Getting to London from Manchester
Our journey from Manchester to London took an unexpected turn when we arrived at Piccadilly Train Station only to discover that our scheduled trains had been canceled due to an ongoing industrial strike. This sudden development forced us to scramble for an alternative mode of transportation, causing a significant delay in our travel plans. As the situation unfolded, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of guilt for subjecting my parents to this arduous and frustrating ordeal.
Throughout that day, I was consumed by self-blame, constantly berating myself for the circumstances we found ourselves in. However, I had to repeatedly remind myself that the strike was completely out of our control, and I had already done my best when organising the trip. It was evident that I still incredibly dislike deviations from my carefully laid-out plans, and traveling will continue to provide ample opportunities for me to embrace flexibility and hone my ability to adapt to unexpected changes.
If you’re planning a trip to the UK during May and June, it’s advisable to remain vigilant about potential train strikes. Staying informed about any ongoing labor disputes can help you avoid the kind of predicament we experienced and ensure a smoother journey.
2. Getting Around London
As I was travelling with my elderly parents (they are 64 to 65 years old) this trip, I opted to take buses in London instead of the tube to reduce the number of stairs that my parents had to climb. The London tube network is not very elderly-friendly and most of the stations do not have lifts or escalators.
The good news is that if you only travel by bus, the cap for bus tickets is £5.25 per day, compared to the tube which ranges from £8.1 to £14.9 per day. However, please note that traveling by buses in London may take twice as long to reach your destination.
While the cost-saving aspect of bus travel is advantageous, it’s crucial to consider the potential trade-off of increased travel time. Nevertheless, for the sake of my parents’ comfort and convenience, the decision to prioritise buses over the tube was a sensible one in my case.
Mohamed’s Place in Peckham (£69 / S$112 for 3 Pax per night)
At just £23/ S$37 per person per night, Mohamed’s place seemed like an excellent deal to me. The location, although not right in the city center, was still decent as it took us around 40 minutes to an hour to reach the city center using only buses. The room itself was clean, spacious, and had a pleasant smell of freshly washed linens and towels. Additionally, there were drying racks available for our use. Most importantly, there was no lingering pizza smell in the room.
However, my experience was marred by the fact that I was traveling with my elderly parents, who faced difficulties with stairs when accessing the washroom. Unfortunately, this information was not highlighted in the listing, and I had not anticipated such an issue when making the booking. Additionally, the previous reviews were accurate in mentioning that the entrance was unsightly. Furthermore, the kitchen and toilet areas had a persistent pizza smell, which was quite unpleasant. Another point to note was that the mattresses were not very comfortable.
Despite these drawbacks, if I were traveling alone or with friends and looking to keep my expenses low, I wouldn’t mind staying at Mohamed’s place again, considering it was one of the cheapest options available in London.
1. The British Museum (Free Entry)
There are many treasures in this museum which were amassed during the realm of the British Empire. You will learn about many cultures under one roof. It was impossible to fully explore the museum in 2 hours. Therefore, this museum certainly warrants another visit.
You should book your visit to the museum in advance to guarantee your admission.
2. Victoria and Albert Museum (Free Entry)
My mum enjoyed this museum as there were many display of fashion clothes. I like the middle eastern exhibition. I learned more about Islam, Iran and the tiles in Uzbekistan in this museum.
3. Musical: Mama Mia (Tickets start from £20)
When booking the musical performance, I opted for the cheapest tickets since we had never attended one before. Unfortunately, the seats turned out to be highly uncomfortable for my dad. However, during the intermission, I took the initiative to approach the venue manager and offered to pay for a seat change. To my delight, the manager kindly accommodated our request without any additional charge. With the new seats, my parents were able to fully immerse themselves in the remainder of the performance and thoroughly enjoy it.
Intrigued by my dad’s experience, I asked him to name a price he would be willing to pay for a live musical in the future. He expressed a willingness to pay SGD100 per person. This incident made me realise that managing my parents’ finances involves understanding their willingness to spend on different experiences. Growing up with frugal parents, I’ve had to learn to prioritise their comfort by occasionally spending more. It requires a mindset adjustment, but I am confident that with more travels alongside my parents, I will find the optimal balance between price and value to ensure their utmost enjoyment.
4. Thames River Cruise
We purchased a two-to-go river cruise ticket from buyagift.com, which cost us approximately £18 for two people instead of the usual £21 per person. If you’re interested in getting your tickets directly from the platform, you can also avail an additional 20% discount through a referral link on buyagift.com.
Although the ticket is advertised as a 24-hour pass, it’s important to note that the cruises only operate from 10 am to 6:10 pm. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that you cannot activate the cruise ticket or board from London Eye Pier. However, you are able to disembark at the London Eye Pier.
I highly recommend this river cruise, especially if you’re traveling with elderly companions.
1. Chinese food
1.1. Ding Tai Fung (DTF)
This was my favourite out of the 3 Chinese restaurants we visited. The service was the best out of the 3 Chinese restaurants. I decided to eat at DTF instead of heading to Chinatown as we were in Covent Garden and I wanted to reduce the hassle of walking for my dad. I am glad I made this decision even though I was initially hesitant to eat at DTF because there are many outlets in Singapore.
Personally, the only reason you should try DTF in London if you were a vegan or vegetarian coming from Asia. The menu selection is wider in the DTF outlet in London.
1.2. Canton Element
My cousin treated us to this restaurant which was just a stone throw away from her accommodation when she was studying in London a decade ago. I like the food and the service was fast when we patronised it for lunch. I may return to this restaurant in the future for lunch if I am just around the corner.
1.3. Four Seasons
I was really confused when I was queuing outside this restaurant as there was another restaurant next to it that was imitating this shop named “Little Four Seasons”. I checked with the restaurant manager to make sure that the “Little Four Seasons” was not the same chain.
We waited in line for 30-40 minutes before getting a seat. Personally, I do not think that it is worth the wait. My dad only liked the roast duck while my mum liked the claypot tofu with veggies that I ordered.
I was highly unhappy with the service of the young waiter who took our order. When he represented the bill, I requested him to remove the 12% discretionary service charges, which he initially refused, and only back down when I explained the meaning of discretionary to him. The young chap shooed me off telling me not to return again and that was exactly what I had in mind as well.
2. Borough Market
My mum was initially reluctant to eat at Borough Market and kept asking me to bring her to Chinatown. I had to persuade her several times that this local market had a limited operating hours and we were just around the corner after they disembarked the cruise at Tower Pier. She relented eventually. When we left Borough Market, she said that she would like to visit it again next year if we were to visit London again.
We tried fish and chips and Japanese Ramen in Borough Market. We also met a friendly fellow travellers who chatted with my parents and shared several destinations with us. I realised that as my mum is getting older, she is more reluctant to try cuisines from other cultures. Thankfully, my dad is still pretty open-minded and is more willing to try the cuisines of the host country that we are visiting.
I would like to try Padella in the future when I am back as it was highly recommended by my cousin.
3. Victoria House Coffee and Food
I found my way to this cafe after searching for a breakfast place near British Museum. Despite the raving reviews on google, I was underwhelmed by the experience. I think the British English breakfast is probably catered to the local tastebuds and I still very much prefer the English breakfast that I find in cafes in Singapore.
4. Mercato Metropolitano
My parents ate Korean food, bimbimbap and fried chicken. I was disappointed that the shop which I patronised last year for its Japanese Ramen had closed down. This year, we also ordered Pad Thai at my mum’s insistence and the noodles was flavourful but may be a little salty for some.
I will be sharing the expense report once I get around to compiling the information.
As I was sharing with my friend, I realised that my parents are becoming my children. I had to take care of their needs and coax them to cooperate with me during the trip.
Nevertheless, as I am penning this article after the trip, I feel really thankful that we have the chance to be travelling together as a family! This has been what my mum and I have been dreaming of and we are living our dreams right now.
Next year, if we were to visit London again, I hope I would remember to make a lunch reservation at a Michelin Star restaurant for my parents. My mum had mentioned twice that she would like to dine in a Michelin Star restaurant at least once in her lifetime.