London, United Kingdom

Monday, September 4, 2023

An outcome–whether intended or unintended–of writing about my travels from the past year or so is the ability to relive moments, and once again feel an immense sense of gratitude for everything I’ve gotten to experience in my life thus far. 

And although blogging is no longer considered ‘cool’, it still remains my preferred medium of archiving memories, despite it being somewhat time consuming with no real readership, particularly in this day and age where everyone has the tiniest attention spans (myself included). Yet I can’t help but feel a sense of pride knowing that I’ve maintained this little Internet space for fifteen years now. Fifteen years of my life captured in photos and writing that I can look back on, and hopefully I’ve also grown to become a little less cringey especially since I no longer harbour dreams of becoming the next breakout star blogger.

Fifteen years ago, eleven-year-old me would have never imagined herself going on ‘business trips’, much less one to the birthplace of Harry Potter–sorry, I had to, it’s a way of relating to eleven-year-old me. I guess I still am pretty cringe after all, huh?

But yes, in June of last year, I found myself travelling to London for work. This marked the first-ever work trip of my life, which definitely would’ve come sooner if not for the pandemic. Still, I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity, and thankful for a body that held up post my India trip–though not for long, and you’ll see why at the end. 

Part I: Pre-work things (13 June)

I arrived London the day before my work engagements, and this being my first time in the city (in fact, it was my first time in the UK), I made plans with L, a friend who used to work in the Singapore office but had moved to London recently, for dinner and to show me around. 

We visited Brasserie Zedel, a French restaurant with the most gorgeous 1930's interior. 

Escargots, an absolute must. 

Food was great–classic dishes done well, at a fairly reasonable price point for London's standards.  And it was nice to catch up with someone across the world, reinforcing how lucky I felt–and am still feeling–about the experiences I get to have. 

We walked around to see a couple of iconic places in London before I headed back for an early, but not too early, night to fight off the jet lag. 

I've heard that the weather in this city can be notorious, but it was so good to us the whole time we were there. 

Part II: Fun things amidst work (14-16 June) 

For obvious reasons, I won't be sharing any details on what I was doing in London for work, but there were several pockets of recreational time where we got to play the part of a tourist, with some highlights below. It was pretty surreal seeing my co-workers from the US and EMEA regions for the first time in person, despite having worked with them on screens for two years. 

On the first evening, we went on a dinner cruise and got to see some of the city's most iconic landmarks from River Thames. 

The London Eye! City skylines always somehow feel lacking without the silhouette of a huge observation wheel, probably also the reason why we're sustaining the Singapore Flyer despite it being one of the least profitable tourist attractions.  

Golden hour views are unparalleled. 

Not the London bridge, here's the Tower bridge. 

Unsure what this was, but it looks gorgeous with that soft sunlight.

The Big Ben, which was thankfully not under construction when we visited. 

The Treasury building in Westminster was covered in red paint by activists from 'Just Stop Oil' the day before, to protest the UK Government's encouragement of oil and gas expansion. I'd never witness something like that in Singapore, so this was a unique sight, at least. 

Across all three days, I enjoyed my early morning solo walks to the office space from the hotel, which allowed me to soak in the beautiful city for what it was. As a self-professed true city girl who's also an introvert, I live for the hustle and bustle that surrounds me while not needing to speak or interact with anybody. 

The blend of greenscapes within the city centre was right up my alley–I loved how folks would simply lay down on the grass in Hyde Park at midday, suntanning with a bottle of wine by their side. 

And oh, all the characters you'd meet on the streets! 

One of the final things we did together as a group was to go a couple of oscillations (or was it a single one? I can't remember) in the London Eye. Completely touristy, but I did appreciate it. 

Part III: Post-work things (17 June)

With only one full day left and this being my first trip there, I knew I needed to check off a couple of London 'must-sees', despite that not being my preferred way to travel. L kindly offered to plan and spend the day with me (thank you!), and with her around I was able to cover more ground. 

We started our day at the British Museum which, aside from its problematic status garnered from all the stolen treasures it features, was pretty damn amazing. There was just so much to see, and if I had the luxury of time I would've loved to spend an entire day there. 

Scenes right out of 'Night at the Museum'.

The second stop was to the London HQ at Central Saint Giles. Though I had spent time at the office in the past week, it was the one located at 123 Buckingham Palace, which was more of an event space. 

Post-it art

We were just in time for lunch when we arrived. 

Important fuel, universal across all the offices. 

The CSG office boasted a rooftop spot that featured a barista bar, such an ideal space to sip on a cuppa and catch up with mates. 

As the saying goes (it really is just a trending Internet joke), the height of luxury is drinking three drinks at once: one for hydration, one for energy, and one for fun. Pictured here is just that—water, coffee, flavoured sparkling water, in that order. 

View of the King's Cross station from the rooftop. I suppose this is where Harry Potter catches the Hogwarts Express. 

After the little office tour, we bought some snacks and wine from Marks & Spencer (of course) and headed to Hyde Park to people-watch. I could do that all day, but before we knew it, it was almost time to catch the West End musical that we had pre-booked way in advance–The Book of Mormon! We grabbed a quick Japanese dinner before heading over to the Prince of Wales Theatre. 

Sacrilegious, in the best way possible. It was the perfect end to my time in London. 


Alas, the moment I landed home post a pretty uncomfortable flight, I knew I had brought back more than a suitcase load of memories (and dirty laundry). My awfully scratchy throat and ridiculously stuffy nose were the first indications that I had caught myself a week of isolation, later confirmed by the first bold double lines on my antigen rapid test kit, the sight of which honestly sent chills down my spine. 

It was definitely a sooner-or-later situation, and I recovered fully in no time. I did, however, have to sit with the guilt of having passed it on to my mom. As mentioned at the start of this post, I'm at least thankful that my body made it through two back-to-back trips before collapsing on me, rather well deservedly I'd say. I was clearly asking for it. 

Souvenirs to look back on in 20 years.

No comments

Post a Comment