I flew over to London to attend the 4th CBC Digital Health Conference (Behaviour Change for Health: Digital and Beyond) at UCL. I was very keen on this one as I’ve heard lots of great things about this conference from other people in my research group. I also had an oral presentation presenting a section of my PhD research which was super exciting!
My friend and I spent quite a bit of time planning our trip when we went to Canada last year. However, this time, I asked a few of my friends for recommendations which gave us plenty of places to cover. We basically winged it on the spot. Well, technically we planned it the night before. I think it worked well in London because the Tube is so well connected and everything was pretty close (relative to Sydney).
Where we stayed: The Academy
We chose to stay at The Academy because it was located really close to the conference venue. It was listed as one of the top 10 character hotels. The hotel is from the Georgian period and felt very British/ old school, as you would expect. The room felt pretty congested at first but I reminded myself that that this was one of the bigger rooms I had shortlisted!
Where we ate:
- Busaba Thai
- Salt and Pepper (Bloomsbury Street)
- You Me Sushi
- Mondello Italian restaurant
- The Red Lion Pub
- Bao Fa Garden Chinese Restaurant
- Le Pain Quodien
- Tas Turkish Restaurant
- Pataya Thai
- Wildwood Cafe
Places we visited
- London Eye
- South Bank
- Madame Tussauds Museum
- Shelock Holmes Museum
- Big Ben (under scaffolding)
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- Westminster Abbey
- Covent Garden
- The British Museum
- Hyde Park
- Green Park
- Buckingham Palace
- St Paul’s Cathedral
We were feeling very tired after getting out of the plane after almost 24 hours. It felt pretty awful at first but I soon recovered after I started walking. We caught the underground tube to our stop Russell Square which took almost one hour. Initially, the tube was fairly light (got a seat) but it got packed later. We found it hard to get out with luggage and almost missed our stop! The walk to our hotel was a short one and we settled down in our room which felt rather small at first. We went out for a late lunch/ early dinner to Thai Bushaba Restaurant. We went for a brief walk after dinner and settled for an early night.
We woke up super early and were out of the hotel by 7:30am. We looked up a breakfast place in Bloomsbury on Tripadvisor and arrived at Salt & Pepper. We were very hungry and we found their breakfast to be very satisfying. We walked to Madame Tussauds from here which took about 30 minutes. We arrived there before it opened so we decided to take a detour to Sherlock Holmes Museum. Exploring both museums took a long time; especially Madame Tussauds which involved taking a gazillion photos with the celebrities! Our phone batteries were exhausted and we needed to head home soon. We had lunch on the way at You me sushi which claimed to have the best chicken katsu in London. We headed home, rested and went to dinner at Mondello Italian restaurant. We headed for an early night again and was in bed by 10pm.
We were slower getting out this morning and left home around 8:30am. We caught a tube to Westminister and ate breakfast at The Red Lion. We had learnt about Big Ben undergoing scaffolding last night but we didn’t think it would be fully covered! We visited Westminster Abbey after this and took the self-guided tour. I really enjoyed learning about the tombs, monuments and seeing some of the finest architectures that goes back as early as 1200’s.
We visited London Eye after this which was a nice way to transition into the modern world. London Eye sits in the heart of London, opposite the Houses of Parliament on South Bank. I loved the views from here although I am sure it would have looked even better on a sunny day. We had lunch at Bao Garden which was the first Chinese restaurant in London. We visited Tower Bridge after lunch which was another walk through history. We both fell asleep around 7ish after heading back. It was supposed to be a nap but we found ourselves waking up 11:30pm and going without dinner!
Today was conference day. I was very excited for this conference as I had heard a lot of great things from my research group. Thankfully, we were only two minutes away from the conference which gave us the luxury to go out for breakfast at Le Pain Quodien. The baked eggs with salmon were delicious. My day was very well spent at the conference while my partner explored British Museum. We went to a Turkish restaurant near our hotel which exceeded our expectations. It was a really nice experience as I am not very familiar with Turkish cuisine (other than pide). I didn’t have much veggies at the conference so I chose to go with a vegetarian dish (loved the spinach).
Today was my presentation day and also the last day of the conference. I left feeling so inspired and a little sad because it had come to an end. But it was exciting at the same time, we still had a few things we wanted to tick off before we left for Sydney. We went to Pataya Thai to catch up with a cousin who I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We absolutely loved the night vibes at Oxford Circus because it was something we hadn’t quite experienced yet in London (thanks to our jet lag and falling asleep early).
Today was our second last day in London. We started our day at Dishoom for breakfast as we heard great recommendations on the egg naan roll. I am not a huge fan of most Indian foods but the egg naan roll here was absolutely amazing. It was nothing like I had tasted before! We then caught a tube to Buckingham Palace. We were there quite early which left us enough time to explore Green Park. The changing of the guards happen at a certain time but you really need to arrive early to get a good spot. Unfortunately, it was very cold that day. It was between 1-3 degrees and we were both freezing. We ended up with a semi-good spot and still had around half an hour to kill. The wait was excruciating because it was too cold to take my gloves and use my phone (we had to grab coffee to warm up after this).
We visited Tower of London next. I absolutely loved because it was almost like I had a ticket to visit the past! We took our time absorbing moments from history. However, we were starving when we finally finished! It was around 3:30pm and we needed to find food ASAP. We came across Wakanama which provided much comfort food and warmth (we had ramen and udon soup). For dinner, we had plans to go to Ottolengthi as it was recommended by a friend. However, we were a little disappointed with our order and had to leave already (there was a booking after ours). We explored more of Oxford Circus and grabbed another light meal at Wasabi before heading home. We got home just before 10pm. We were exhausted as we are normally in bed by this hour.
We had breakfast at Dishoom again because both of us had fallen in love with the egg naan roll. Today was our last chance to tick off some places before we hopped on the plane at night. Our list included Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Primrose Hill, Notting Hill, St Paul’s Cathedral, Covent Garden was a great place to hang for entertainment because there’s always someone to look at or listen to (in addition to shops). We walked around Hyde Park and decided to have lunch at Soho at Wildwood café. After lunch, we went over to the British Museum which was the last thing on my list (was recommended by many). Seeing British Museum was an eye-opening experience for me. It is the oldest museum in the world and I was amazed at their rich collection of treasures and artefacts from almost every corner of the globe. The Egyptian section was my favourite as it is one that I have loved since I was young.
The perks of jet lag and sleeping early helped us wake up early every single day. While it meant that we couldn’t have much of a night life, we still managed to see quite a lot in the short time. London is definitely a place I’d love to come back and visit again. To be honest, I don’t know when I will be back but here’s a list for next time, just in case I forget!
- Within London (Primrose hill, Camden markets, Notting Hill, Kensington gardens, St James Park, Shoreditch and Sky Garden)
- Outside of London (i.e. Scotland, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford, Newcastle)
- Other places in Europe (mainly Santorini, Switzerland, Paris and Italy)