Category Archives: Europe

Central London Megabus Tour

Megabus tour in London

Even having lived in London for over ten years, I know there’s always more to see and learn.  I’m already a big fan of the Sandeman free walking tours so I decided to try a London bus tour for a change.

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I found that Megabus has started doing bus tours!  They are already great for cheap coach travel across the UK and US, so I was happy to check out their 2-hour London bus tour with a friend.  Tickets start as low as £1, and you can easily find tickets for £5 per person.

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Here is the info from the website:

See London for less when you experience our non-stop bus tour, which will take you to up to 50 of the capital’s most famous sights in the space of just 2 hours. Prices start from just £1 plus a booking fee.

You’ll be able to get onboard one of our open top double-decker buses in central London every day of the week, every hour between 10:00 and 17:00. And you can start and end your tour from three locations:

  • The London Eye
  • Tower of London
  • Park Lane

Why choose megasightseeing.com for your open top London bus tour?

  • 2-hour tour – you’ll see all of London’s best bits in two hours
  • Non-stop – we’ll take you through the city, minus the pit-stops
  • Mega Value – prices start from £1 plus a booking fee, subject to availability
  • Seat available upstairs – so you get a great view of all of London’s best bits
  • Easy to use – just get on at your choice of three locations
  • Book online – you can book online right up to time of departure
  • Departures every hour – find the time that suits you best
  • English Commentary – we’ll give you all the fascinating facts about London with a special appearance from Sid.

I booked the tickets online.  I foolishly made some booking errors and was able to correct them easily online for a fee of £2.50.  Our pick up point was at Hyde Park Corner, a couple of minutes from the underground station.  Our bus was late by 15 minutes because of traffic, luckily it was a beautiful sunny day so we waited in Hyde Park.

We sat at the top of the bus and there was a clear recorded commentary throughout the tour.  It was really awesome!  We had great views and went past loads of things like Trafalgar Square, the new Bloomberg building, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye.

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Overall, this Megabus tour was definitely a big HIT.  It was cheap, simple to book, easy to find, then you can just sit back and enjoy!  I did learn lots of new interesting info, like the spike monument at London Bridge station (pictured below with the Shard in the background) is to remember all the beheadings that used to take place there… before the heads were placed on spikes along the bridge!  How times have changed!!

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Bear in mind when booking that there are various pick up points.  Make sure you pick the right one!  And take a brolly.  We did get a few minutes of rain, but what’s a summer day in London without a sprinkling of rain??

Click here to book the Megabus London Tour.

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Heart of Hollywood tour – London O2

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A friend took me to see the Heart of Hollywood that is currently on tour in London until 17th July.  It’s part of a world tour that will cover 60 cities.  I didn’t know what to expect, but it was pretty awesome!  It is a collection of memorabilia from Hollywood, including the original letter ‘H’ from the Hollywood sign, iconic art and some original costumes from movies including Superman.

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The highlight was definitely the one-hour dancing and singing outdoor performance at dusk as the sun set over London.  The performers were really amazing and it was such a lively and eclectic selection of songs.

This was a really awesome and ‘different’ thing to do in London.  It’s located in North Greenwich by the O2 arena so there is easy access and plenty of restaurants nearby.  You can find out more and buy tickets here:

https://www.theo2.co.uk/events/detail/the-heart-of-hollywood-tour

http://www.heartofhollywoodtour.com

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Visiting Amsterdam

I went to Amsterdam a number of years ago and I always intended to go back.  I was glad when the opportunity came up to go again with a few friends.

Airport to city

It was quite simple to get into the city from Amsterdam airport.  We took a €6 train into Centraal, then took a taxi to our accommodation, which cost about €35 in total.  The other option would be to take the tram from Centraal that costs about €3 per person.

Stayed in Airbnb

For this trip, we decided to stay in an Airbnb property.  There were four of us travelling for four nights, so we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment close to the centre.  It was great to have a kitchen, dining table and shared living room for us to hang out in.

Things to do

So much to do in Amsterdam!

Canal ride

High on the to-do list was a canal tour.  Amsterdam has loads of pretty and picturesque canals, so we joined the Blue Boat Canal Cruise for €18.  We were able to buy tickets on the day.  It lasts about 75 minutes and everyone got headphones to listen to the pre-recorded tour information in their chosen language.  It was also fully covered and heated, so no need to worry about the weather.

Rijks Museum

As we purchased our tickets for the Rijks Museum from the canal cruise company, we got to pay €15 rather than the usual €17.50 per ticket.  I was really impressed with this museum, there was such a huge range of things to see – from Rembrandt paintings to pocket snuff boxes!

 

Walking tour

I’m a big fan of the Sandemans free walking tours.  I booked us spots for a morning tour that started near the Royal Palace.  It was a good way to check out the city on foot and learn about Amsterdam’s history.  We covered the National Monument, the red light district, Anne Frank’s house and more.  As with all of these free tours, you leave a tip at the end for your guide – however much you feel is reasonable.

Anne Frank’s House

I’d already visited Anne Frank’s house on my last trip.  My friends hadn’t been before, but unfortunately they weren’t able to get tickets!  Tickets were temporarily available online only at that time, and it was already fully booked.  If you’re interested in going, definitely look into booking tickets online as soon as you can.

Places to eat

Food in Amsterdam was really amazing.  There’s a lot of Asian influences and international food is available everywhere.  Here are some of my favourite places that we went to.

Food Hall – Vietnamese

Luckily this Food Hall was just around the corner from where we were staying.  There was a lot of variety in the food available.  I went for the Vietnamese noodles, which was really tasty.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Asian Kitchen

This is a very low key cafe style restaurant with great food and even greater food portions!  It was on the cheap and cheerful side, and we were all satisfied with our meal. There was a flower market just across the road too, which we investigated after lunch.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Blauwe Hollander

This restaurant was recommended to us by our Airbnb contact for actual Dutch food, since we were enjoying so much Asian food!  It’s a nice restaurant near the central area.  Turns out Dutch food is quite hearty!  My pea and bacon soup was really nice and we all had some version of ‘stamppot’ that includes mashed potato and meat.  It was really good.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

De Vier bakery

I’m really sad I didn’t make it to this restaurant because it looks amazing.  Fortunately, my friend did bring me some Dutch pancakes (poffertjes) with Nutella and strawberries for me to eat.  They were so yummy.  Dutch pancakes are like little mini pancakes, that are delicious with Nutella!  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Pancake Bakery

This was a recommendation from the tour guide, and I have to say it was a disappointment after the De Vier pancakes.  The restaurant itself is small and cosy, the disappointment was that the ‘chocolate sauce’ was not Nutella.  It was some generic dark chocolate sauce, which just didn’t taste as good!  I’d recommend the De Vier bakery if you get a choice, unless you don’t care for Nutella.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Holiday conclusion

I had a really great time in Amsterdam.  There’s something very chilled out about it, people are very friendly, it’s easy to get around by tram and the food is great.  In fact, I think I’ll go back again one day.

 

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Dickens Festival in Rochester, Kent

I enjoyed a lovely day at the Rochester Dickens Festival. Rochester is lovely on any given day, but even more so when the sun is shining and the streets are full of live music, plays, food stands and people dressed up in Dickensian costumes.  There was such a great atmosphere.

I was pleased to see lots of fair rides at the Rochester Castle grounds.


As well as lots of trade stores selling all sorts of arts, crafts and other things.

My friend and I went to Quills for lunch, which had been on my to-do list. I had a delicious all day breakfast (for lunch).

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And my friend’s burger looked absolutely delicious.

We spent some time along the high street and popped into some of the charity shops to look at books. Followed by some lovely hot donuts from a stall, because there’s always room for dessert!

It was a great day and I look forward to returning to the Dickens Festival in future.

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Dublin! A memorable trip to Ireland.

I remember going to Dublin many years ago, but I can’t remember a single thing about what I did there.  I do remember that I enjoyed it very much, so I was happy to join a couple of friends for a 5-night trip.

Sunday

Flights were a mere £40 return from London Gatwick by Ryanair.  We took a taxi from the airport which came to around €40 to Jury’s Inn hotel on Parnell street.  This was a really wonderful hotel with excellent and friendly staff.  Our room wasn’t huge, but still very comfortable and the occasional biscuits near reception were often appreciated.  Breakfast was very adequate, with wonderful cooked options as well as cereals, bread and pain au chocolat.

We took it easy in the afternoon.  We had a little wander around and were thrilled to discover we were right next to China Town!  Our hotel receptionist had recommended a Korean restaurant called Kimchi and we were very impressed.  I had the beef bulgogi, which I’d happily eat again any day.

Monday

After breakfast, we walked to the Celtic whiskey shop on Dawson street which was recommended by our friendly taxi driver who’d dropped us off at the hotel the day before.  By this point, it was clear that Irish people are significantly friendlier than Londoners, and the shop staff were no exception.  We were given some free whiskey samples, including Teeling and Tullamore Dew.  One of my friends even got a hug from Dave, he was happy to oblige!

We had lunch at a French restaurant called Chez Max near Dublin Castle.  This is a nice restaurant with French staff.  I did enjoy my moules frites, despite the slight feeling of paranoia that maybe they weren’t fresh or cooked properly.  This is no fault of the restaurant – it just happens to be a slight phobia of mine that I decided to face that day.

After lunch, we joined a free walking tour with Sandemans.  I’ve been on a few of the Sandeman tours in Europe and would highly recommend them.  There were about 15 tourists or so and Lisa was a great tour guide.  We walked at a very leisurely pace around Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral and through the Temple Bar area.  She gave a lot of handy tips, like don’t drink (too much) in the Temple Bar area as it may cost you an arm and a leg.

Tuesday 

Having walked past it the day before, we returned to the Chester Beatty Library as it sounded so amazing.  It’s free to enter, and a real treasure trove of history, especially the religions section.  It was also very factual and unbiased.

We had lunch at the Queen of Tarts. I wasn’t too impressed with my over priced (but tasty) sausage roll.  The blueberry scone was ok.  I think this place is better as an afternoon cake stop than lunch.

We made a quick stop at Christ Church Cathedral where we paid €6 to see the crypts and the famous mummified cat and rat.

Sadly, the Old Jameson Distillery was closed at the time of my visit, so we visited the Whiskey Museum for the VIP tour that cost €17 with a discount from the Sandeman tour. It was a short experience and felt over priced.  I felt a little conned, especially after the free and friendly service at the Celtic Whiskey Shop.  The VIP option included a 4th shot and a cute shot glass to take home.  I wouldn’t recommend this tour, unless you like over-priced touristy attractions.


Dinner was at Wok Inn, a small unpretentious ‘restaurant’ with minimal seating and food served in cartons.  It’s almost a take away.  I thought it would be cheap and crap, but it was a surprisingly tasty green chicken curry that I thoroughly enjoyed.  A classic case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.  This is definitely good for a quick dinner.


We joined the €12 Sandemans Pub crawl in the evening, which started at 7.30pm at the Workman’s club. It included a free half pint of cider, Heineken or Guinness at the first bar, as well as offers at each of the bars on the crawl.  There was a nice and friendly crowd throughout the evening.  We enjoyed many drinks at a few of the bars and left early to enjoy a drink back at our hotel bar.

Wednesday

A little rough around the edges after drinks.  Change of plan – the visit to the Guinness Storehouse took place in the afternoon instead of the morning!

After a lie-in, we had lunch at Madigans O’Connell Street.  I really enjoyed the bacon, cabbage and mash dish, very filling.  The staff were so friendly and we enjoyed some ‘craic’ (banter) with our meal.

We walked to the Guinness Storehouse, which took about 30 minutes (later realised that the tram might have been easier).  It’s quite a substantial ‘museum’ – there’s no tour as such, but a lot to see and walk around. The tasting session was really cool, and included a mini serving of Guinness.  This was really appreciated as I did want to have some Guinness but wasn’t sure I could stomach even a half pint of it.  The tasting was enough for me.  Entry actually includes a free drink, such as a pint of Guinness, at the Gravity bar with amazing 360 views.  There weren’t many seats available so we ended up sitting downstairs at the  regular bar instead, with our glasses of Fanta.


One of my friends carried out some extensive research to ascertain the best restaurant in China Town.  Dinner at Lee’s Charming Noodles was fantastic.  Great pork and cabbage dumplings – a tasty and generous portion. Very tasty braised beef noodles, but I struggled with the chilli!  I was very sad to leave most of the dish behind, it was simply too much food after a big hefty lunch.  I’d love to go back to this place.

Thursday

The jail had been highly recommended to us by many people.  We booked our tickets online in advance – this is advisable given there was no availability for a couple of days.  This was a really good tour, very informative and interesting.  Seeing the jail cells and hearing the stories made everything feel very ‘real’.

There are quite a few museums to visit in Dublin, including the Museum of Modern Art which is just around the corner from the jail.  I ended up going to the Archaeology Museum which has an interesting array of relics that includes arrow heads and mummies!  I didn’t expect to see any mummies.  The cafe at the museum was convenient for lunch.  I had the beef and Guinness pie with noodle and potato salad, which was tasty but expensive for what it was.

Instead of enjoying more culture in the other nearby museums, I decided to go shopping on Henry street.  There were loads of High Street shops and I was surprised to see that most of the prices were higher than in England, even taking into account the recent drop in value of the pound.  I still loved looking around and bought myself a handbag.  What a great holiday souvenir.

In the evening, we had dinner at O’Neills on Suffolk street.  This was also recommended to us by many people and it was very busy.  The food was delicious and the prices were great.  Despite the good value, the place was packed and uncomfortably hot.  It was really hard to find a table, and getting food involved wading past tables to the carvery, which is separate to the bar (so two trips required).  I had a delicious lamb shank but missed the whole restaurant ambience aspect because it was too busy and hot.  We made a quick getaway after eating.  I wonder if dinner here on a Monday or Tuesday would have been a more enjoyable experience…


The quick getaway ended at the hotel bar with pear cider.  Almost the end of the trip already…

Friday

Friday morning was pretty relaxed.  We wanted to go back to Lee’s Charming Noodles for lunch, but as it hadn’t opened yet, we took a chance with lunch at Kanoodle.  In principle, the food here wasn’t bad.  But after being spoilt with so much great food in Dublin, I found that the Tom Yum noodle soup wasn’t my favourite meal of the week.

With a heavy heart, I took the number 16 bus to the airport for only €3.30!  Very reasonable and only 40 minutes away – it made me even sadder to leave Dublin.  I was charmed by the friendliness and variety of things to do and places to eat.  A very interesting and friendly city.

I had a truly awesome time in Dublin and I look forward to going back.  Soon.

 

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A trip to the Tate Modern #London


It’s always a pleasure to visit the Tate Modern, especially on a sunny London day with a viewing level!


I must admit that I didn’t really pay attention to the artists’ names, I just like to wander around and see what catches my eye, like this money tree:


There was a great range of different art works, plenty to keep me occupied for a few hours!

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The Hive in Kew Gardens #London

The Hive at Kew Gardens is a unique installation that is connected to a real bee hive.  The lights light up based on real interactions taking place in the bee hive.  It’s big enough to take a walk inside and really beautiful after sunset.  A friend and I went and enjoyed a cocktail and chat on the grass before going to investigate properly.  Great for a chillaxed evening. 

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