The changing of the guards ceremony, one of the highlights from my trip.
Try to take a morning walk whilst in London, to get a feel of the city so to speak. Early morning and late night walks are where London is in its rawest element.
This was the house that we stayed in. It has one room, a small but fully functional kitchen and one large bathroom. The bed in the living room can be folded to a 3 seated sofa.
Coming in as a family of five people (it should be six, but one of my sister couldn't make the trip unfortunately), this house serves its function lavishly.
The kitchen was very nice. Very complete as well with all the utensils nicely arranged inside the many cabinets.
Mama's cooking breakfast for us - Chicken soup and sambal ikan bilis. She didn't bring any coconut milk with her so she just cooked a pot of regular white rice.
We bought all our ingredients at a grocery store called Sainsbury's. There are many halal shops nearby but me and my dad decided to buy one near London Central Mosque which took a while to get to. It does make for a good morning walk though.
Abah switched the channel to an episode of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson drove a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo against the British Army which was so over the top.
I'm not much of a breakfast person but we have a full day ahead of us. Do note that if you're eating out, food in London can be quite costly. Some place can get really expensive, for instance me and my sister planned on eating a £40 steak at a very famous steakhouse. But thankfully logic got the better of us and we didn't plan through with it. I couldn't imagine what a RM200++ steak could taste like.
We sat out for a walk quite early on. The thing about travelling in western countries during the winter is that daytime can get by pretty quickly, it's already dark by 4PM.
Hyde Park, an amazing place to walk through. Some people can easily kill half a day just strolling through here.
London has a wealth of really well tended green spots. I imagine this park to be filled with people having a picnic during spring and summer.
We decided to flock with a group of people walking towards Buckingham Palace. Most probably they are going to see the same thing that we plan on seeing - watching The Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The weather today is nice, but almost too nice - the sun's directly on top of our head.
A huge crowd of people already gathers around Buckingham Palace. During winter, the Changing of the Guards ceremony happens every odd days (1st,3rd,5th,7th etc) though they'll cancel it if the weather's bad.
Buckingham Palace Golden Gate which was so nice to look at.
The Metropolitan Police are using Hyundai as their patrol car. That's the Hyundai i30 on the left and the i20 on the right. Hyundai was awarded the "preferred supplier" status in 2010.
The changing of the guard is worth seeing but it is looooong. It starts at 11.15AM but to get a nice spot you need to come 30 minutes before time. I prefer getting a spot near one of the Palace's gate rather than sitting on the centre platform. The latter will get you a much better view of the ceremony but you can't leave the spot until the whole thing is over.
The platform under that huge statue right there is the central platform.
This was one of those rare times where I longed for a 56 or 85mm portrait lens, a 34mm equivalent lens just wouldn't cut it for these kind of events.
The harsh sunlight didn't help things either - most of my photos came out overexposed.
During the winter, the guards exchanged their famous red tunics to grey greatcoats. These greatcoats are thicker and larger in length, giving greater protection against the elements for the guards.
These guards are actually real soldiers serving on duty, these uniforms are only worn during ceremonial occasions such as this one.
On any other day they wear normal combat gear like the rest of the armies.
The new guards marched into Buckingham Palace to replace the ones before.
Getting a good view of what was happening inside the Palace was next to impossible. But I think that I've seen enough so I moved out of the way.
Do take a look at other photos of Hyde Park in the gallery above while I try to catch my breath.
Nearby Hyde Park is another park named Green park. Along the road connecting them is a memorial built to commemorate fallen Commonwealth soldiers. Passerby left flowers, notes, gloves among other things as a sign of respect.
The large monument over there is called the Wellington Arch. This place was not the arch's original position, it was moved here 150 years ago to facilitate a roadway expansion.
It now stands at the centre of a very busy traffic way named Constitution Hill.
My mom and sisters went to Green Park to take photos. I did too at first and took some portrait shots of them, but you know how women go with flowers - they were strolling around for far too long so I decided to find a bench and sit down.
Reading online before coming here, it is absurd just how much more expensive London is when compared to other parts in the UK. Someone quoted that "once you're inside the M25 (Highway), you're not inline with the rest of the UK anymore - it's a whole new world, a whole new attitude.
Don't know how true that is but an interesting quote nonetheless.
The ladies had finished their photowalk, and we continued walking forward towards Knightsbridge.
Some incredible architectures are in place here.
One Hyde Park, a luxury flat which holds the address of No 1, Knightsbride. A very rich Ukranian businessman bought a penthouse here for £136 million. Crazy.
Very near to it is a Ferrari showroom. Can't believe that I'm actually looking at a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta in front of me.
Harrods, perhaps the scariest place I've been all my life. Jewelries & diamonds worth millions of pounds are sold here, handbags & watches priced more than 5 figures, limited edition gold plated cameras and gaming consoles, one of a kind potterware, statues from parts unknown - you name it, its here. There's even a private fashion shopping area. Even the lift and toilet are luxurious.
Since its a shopping complex targeting the riches, there's a sense that everybody in here is secretly judging each other if that makes sense. Maybe it's just me I don't know. My intuition is not exactly on point most of the time.
Oxford Street. It now has a reputation of being too touristy but to me, no matter what people say, if you're in London you need to atleast take a walk here.
This street is actually one of Europe's busiest shopping area. It stretches for more than 1 kilometres.
There were winter sales everywhere.
Oxford Street Apple Store. We're going inside for a bit.
Remember that this trip was in early 2014 back when the iPhone 5S and 5C were just released, so forgive me if I'm showing dated tech gadgets here. All in all the staffs were really as helpful, knowledgable and friendly as what were touted all this while. We bought my other sister (who couldn't make it) an iPhone 5 which if we were to convert it from pound to ringgit, costs RM400 more than buying one locally. The helpful staffs thankfully told us that since we're tourists, we are entitled to be exempted from VAT.
In layman speak that means were getting a 20% discount.
It was heartbreaking to see HMV closing off its Oxford Street store branch, which was the biggest music shop in the world. I guess physical media really is a dying breed.
I really love seeing all these unconventional looking shop lots, something that you just don't see in modern buildings nowadays where everything has little to no variety.
There doesn't seem to be any wasted space here, shops are everywhere. Small stalls like this are mostly managed by foreigners.
And you can and will discover some quirky, odd and charming things that adds to the flavour of this city.
I end part 2 with this picture. This is one long post is it not? There's more to come.