Eventful England and Europe experience

During the Movement Control Order (MCO) and Lockdowns due to the global pandemic, we are staying connected and engaging with others beyond our homes through social media and the internet.

In Rome, in front of the Arch of Constantine,
next to the Colosseum [Right]
While we stay home, the internet is providing us with loads of news and interesting information about the prevailing pandemic, oftentimes overwhelming us with too much information.

On the other side of the coin, we also have online access to entertaining material like comedy shows, Do-It-Yourself guides and of course, recipes to cook up a storm.

Virtual concerts and museum tours are another form of exciting and entertaining experience and I have been receiving links to virtual tours of various destinations, local and abroad, including an interesting visit to the Holy Land.

International travel seems a long way off and after this global pandemic, air travel will never be the same again, especially with temperature checks, physical distancing and the higher costs due to the lower capacity in each flight.

In front of the iconic Cathedral
of Notre Dame, Paris
Considering the new-normal lifestyle that we are compelled to adopt in the post-pandemic time, I am ever grateful for all the travel experiences we enjoyed in the pre-pandemic years.

In A special bond with Bernice (April 24) I shared about our epic trip to Europe when I travelled with my mother and Aunty Polly, Bernice’s mother, to meet up with Bernice who was then based in London.

My second sister, Pearly, and her family lived in Chinnor, a village close to Thame in Oxfordshire, and all of them turned up to welcome us upon our arrival at Heathrow.

This was not our first time in the UK as my parents and eldest sister, Ruby, were there for Pearly’s wedding, and I too have visited Pearly and her family for my own English experience with an unforgettable time at Windsor and Shakespeare Land.

So, this trip was mainly to enjoy a special holiday with our mothers.

Our old albums, filled with a wide collection of photographs and souvenirs from this trip, reminded me that it was such a good trip and I am more than pleased that we shared this European experience with our mothers.

One of our daily briefings with Bernice in her London flat
Pearly had arranged time-out from her family to join Aunty Polly, our mother and I on the European sector of the trip and from time to time, she too stayed with us in Bernice’s flat in London.

We had planned to explore destinations in London before heading off to Paris by train on the Eurostar and after a brief break back in London, we would fly out to Rome for a visit that included the Vatican City.

On our return, Pearly and Bernice were on leave to join us on a self-drive road trip North to the Lake District in the next sector of our holiday.

In our self-drive tour, we also spent time with Pearly and her family in Chinnor and we also visited her in-laws who lived at Banbury.

A visit to Banbury was not complete without seeing Banbury Cross because it reminded us of the charming English nursery rhyme:

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
And she shall have music wherever she goes

Banbury Cross at Banbury in
Oxfordshire with Aunty Polly
Bernice’s flat was our base in London and every day, she would sit us down for a briefing with a map of the London Underground to help us find our way around that usually ended with a rendezvous for dinner at home or somewhere in the city.

The London Underground had its origins as the world’s first underground passenger railway and one of the oldest networks of trains in the world.

At first it was rather intimidating and complicated but thankfully, we managed to read the map and mastered the art of reading signs so that we always walked in the right direction to exit from underground!

My trips to the UK were always marked by taking in a live theatre show or two and it was no different this time because we had tickets to enjoy two musicals, The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre and Mama Mia at the Prince Edward theatre.

There was always something special about watching a live performance and for me, it was an even more spectacular experience when it was enjoyed in classic theatres in London’s own Theatreland!

At the Lyceum Theatre to watch
The Lion King
We also went to Knightsbridge for a visit to Harrods, a landmark department store, to buy Harrods branded souvenirs and gawk at the shrine set up in memory of the late Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed.

[This has a special place in my heart because my first trip to the UK was just after the Princess’s tragic passing and I remember joining the throng in front of Kensington Palace which was flooded with flowers and souvenirs presented in her memory.]

After 13 years on display, this memorial was removed in 2018 when Harrods was sold to the Qatari royal family’s investment company, Qatar Investment Authority.

While it was fun and exciting to browse around in renowned department stores like Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, I still preferred to walk along cobblestone paths to shop in village stores and sniff out vintage souvenirs from charity shops.

And that was what we did when we explored the charming countryside in Oxfordshire and the beautiful Lake District.

At Prince Edward theatre to watch Mama Mia!
Among the tasty treats to savour and satisfy on our snack attacks – which were plenty – were fresh and preserved fruits, potato crisps and a wide range of delicious chocolates.

And with so much walking in the lovely cool weather (natural air-con!), these calories were all burnt off and when we returned from this trip, we ended up thinner than before!

Looking back, it was indeed a timely trip because there was such a great deal of walking to explore and enjoy, and it was so good that our mothers could still share the experience with us.

As they advanced in age, it would be challenging for our mothers to keep the pace to explore all the must-see sights in Paris and Rome – that included a climb up the flights of stairs up the Eiffel Tower – but they did very well.

On our self-drive road trip North to the Lake District
Our eventful holiday culminated with an unforgettable family gathering to celebrate Aunty Polly’s birthday held in the comfort of Bernice’s flat. This was also the last time we met with other Ng family members who were based in London.

As the new-normal looms ahead in the post-pandemic era, come with me on an armchair travel experience to relive our precious family travel memories.

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