An ice-cream each city, keeps me happy

Who can eat ice-cream almost any where and at any time? High 5, me too. Whether its sunny days or pouring rain or even snowing outside, you name it – ice-cream is always a good idea. Trust me, it is! During the my trip to both UK and  Europe, it wasn’t part of my plan to have ice-cream or gelato at each of the city I visited but looking back at the photos, I actually did that. In fact, one of my friends actually commented about it. Oops!

Having ice-cream is always comforting, especially the creamy texture. It has always been my favourite dessert or snack but why it became some sort of staple food for me is because back in 2007, I had tonsilitis and the only soothing thing to my throat was  ice-cream. Trust me, it was the advice from the doctor okayy. I remember after being discharged from the hospital vanilla ice-cream was like my best friend. I had to have it now and then especially during the 3 weeks recovery period. No one can share the tubs of ice-cream inside the fridge and no one dare to argue with that. They say there’s always a blessing in disguise and I am forever thankful on that part. What is there to complain when you have all the ice-cream tubs for yourself right? Since then, whenever possible in choosing desserts there must be at least a full spoon of ice-cream inside it ( ice-cream with tapai and chocolicious sundae from Delicious are my fav!)

It was early March last year I went to the UK and the weather was still freezing cold even in London and it lasted almost till the end of my trip. During the night in Croydon where I had dinner in Chennai Dosa with the Wandle Park, and we shared dessert and of course I ordered some dessert with ice-cream (couldn’t recall the name, ish) and there was this one with saffron in it, I think it was faluda. Mind you it was a night with a single digit (maybe minus) celsius outside and we had to walk to the tram station after. I personally think a good meal is when you end it with desserts.

During my stay in London, most of  the time I just bought the ice-cream whenever I see the rare ones, none you can get in Malaysia. But the only thing extra I had to do before buying it is to check the ingredients haha. Fast forward to Manchester, and to our (Afroze, Asrul and myself) surprise, it was way warmer up north. I left foggy -2 celsius Croydon and were welcome by a bright sunny Manchester. It was indeed warm, the temperature rose to 18 celsius and all of us felt feverish that day. (I actually open the bedroom window) But then again, it was the perfect time to go to strolling at the park bringing baby Amelia outdoor. At one point it was such a relief to finally seeing the sun again but when it hit 18-20 celcius, woooow it was way too warm.

Heaton Park, a baby and children friendly park near Cheetham Hill, Manchester where they actually have a mini animal farm for the family to bring their children, a spacious greenery site to play frisbee with your dogs, a wide path way for the kids to play their bicycles and ice-cream vans too.

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Mr Softee Ice Cream
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Rainbow sprinkles vanilla ice-cream
Such a rare view seeing people queuing up buying ice cream in winter but that one particular day in Manchester it was really warm, it felt like summer somehow. This Mr Softy ice-cream was so creamy, better than the McDonalds sundae. Smooth texture and not too sweet, just to my liking.

BICESTER VILLAGE

The day I arrived at Bicester Village was one of the coldest and gloomy days of the entire UK trip. The 4 hours driving from Manchester – London was so nice with the sun accompanied throughout the journey until arriving at Bicester, everything went grey. Pfft. But then, intstead of having hot chocolate in Pret – A- Menger, I bought myself the gelato and a nutella waffle.

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Having Amorino gelato at 4celcius outside

 

Then it was the Euro trip for almost a month. Probably it was during this time I had ice-cream almost everyday and in each city.

AMSTERDAM

Sunny Zaanse Schans
Pretty windmills under the bright sun
I remember when in Zaanse Schans, Amsterdam (No, wait. Mind you in Amsterdam, you might be lucky enough to experience all four seasons in a day. Well, true cos I did) I had the creamy vanilla chocolate ice cream while it was suddenly pouring heavily for 10 minutes. Upon arrival, it was sunny even the journey from Amsterdam Centraal to Zaanse Schans was so beautiful. Seeing the houses near the canals, the locals cycled to work and just seeing the windmill in such bright weather were amazing. And because of this I decided to try the ice-cream. Just minutes after I made the payment (and snap a picture), tadaaaa it poured heavily just like that with such strong wind.

Another thing why I like to try their local ice-cream is because it’s homemade (the creamy ones, especially having it with ice-cream cone) Yumms! I prefer these kind than the popsicles.

€2 creamy ice-cream

PISA & FLORENCE 

Arriving in rather warm and humid Italy which would be the perfect reason to taste their famous gelato. Florence is full of historic architectures and lots alleys and beautiful doors to discover, well I guess you can find that in most of the cities in Italy. If in the UK, I wouldn’t be  afraid to simply take a walk  but not  in Europe. Not even to just walk to buy juice at the nearby shop. It is somehow eery especially during the night.

My first gelato was at the Pisa tower. It was almost a 3 hours train ride from Florence and when we arrived here tho it was only almost 11am but it surely felt like noon. It was soooo hot but I had to stay on wearing the leather jacket because I wore a sleeveless jumpsuit. So lucky it was a jersey cotton material, somehow that helped. Bought myself a 3 flavored gelato, raspberry (my fav) + hazelnut + chocolate and cost me €4. Maybe some may say they tastes the same, but no. It’s the same when you drink coffee, you can taste the difference by the first sip. That is how well I know my ice-cream.

 

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Gelato in front of Pisa, checked!
When in Italy, you can find a lot of shops along the alleys or chic cafes selling gelato. Of course the price varies but I would say a standard 2 scoops cone would cost say around €3 depends on where you buy it. So there was this gelato I had in Florence, well I was aware of the shop before ordering it. This particular shop (below pic) sells it at €6 per flavour. How can it not be? Just look at the presentation and the size of the cones compared to the ones in Pisa.

 

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While everyone else were busy shopping – Lindt ice-cream
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One of the Gelaterias in Florence
LUCERNE

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Lucerne Old Town
Arriving in Zurich was such a relief after a bumpy flight due to the turbulence before landing. It felt like the longest 10 minutes in my life, sigh. Coming back to Switzerland after more than 2 decades surely bring back memories. It’s known as the most expensive and beautiful country in the world. Almost everything in Swiss are expensive. A lunch set (at a normal restaurant inside the train station) can cost you €25 and a tall Starbucks would be €9. Cray isn’t it? Well, we stayed in Swiss for just 3 days and the things that I bought were their famous Lindt chocolates, fridge magnet for own collections and Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream.

It was drizzling the whole day when visiting Lucerne, an old town with its own beautiful character. If you asked me, I would prefer Interlaken over Lucerne and Zurich. Their countryside is beyond words. You gotta see it to believe it. Beautiful is underrated to describe Interlaken. Anyhow, when strolling around Luzerne town, I noticed that it is similar to Italy. Each building has its own charming doors. Be it wooden carved, solid steel, colorful coloured doors, you will be able to see this along the alleys. I have a collection of pictures with doors now, lol.

 

So I went to this small pretty shop, (the ones you see in Pinterest) initially just to warm up myself. Then, I saw the ice-cream freezer and it was Ben & Jerry’s. Contemplating at first because: 1) it was still drizzling outside 2) a small tub would cost me 6euros (ahaa as if that stopped me from buying it) So yea this girl bought herself the ice-cream and enjoyed it like nobody’s business.

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why you so yummy?
Literally I had an ice-cream in each city I have visited during my UK and Euro trip. Some may said they rather spent it for shopping but when I travel, I like to taste local food and desserts myself. Shopping is one thing. Knowing and learning their cultures is another but to have a taste of their local food, you will not get that else where. Gelatos in Italy will not be as the ones we have here.

Did you know I have tried all 6 of the Kapiti ice-creams? Bought one each time I had Siva’s class last time, every week. It was really good, Google it. MAS (I think) used to serve Kapiti onboard last time for the Australia / NZ flights.

Who says you can only eat ice-cream in a sunny weather? No rules on that, so yes if you are like me, you would enjoy them in any kind of days. And I personally think nothing can beat Italian gelato, theirs the best!

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that smile when you see a pretty door and yummy gelato 😉
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How I survived UK, alone? (Part 2)

Being a Muslim and wearing scarf  is not a problem over there, so not to worry. In fact, when I was strolling around the park alone, walking around Oxford Street and Croydon Town by myself the locals smiled and even helped me with my shopping bags and gave me direction when I thought I was lost. None of the Islamophobia issue happened to me. There was this one time in Victoria London Station where few boys prayed at the pavement while waiting for the train without any disturbance. My friends had such experience and I am not saying there are non, but most of them are nice people. Even here, we hardly come across such how to say hmm considerate people. Taking the zebra crossing for example, the most common problem here in our country. In Malaysia, the pedestrians had to stop not the drivers. geeez!

After London, it was time to visit Manchester (again) Probably the only reason why I keep on coming back to Manchester is because of Afroze and her family. Back in 2010, my girls and I went for a trip to the UK and stayed at her place and 6 years later I am back again. I was not as keen as now when I stayed in the UK to go to Manchester but having a friend living therechanged that thought. It was late night when I arrived Salford and Manchester is not like London. Not at all. It is a smaller city and kinda scary I must say especially at night in certain areas. The Mancunians know whereabout.

( There was this one night near Piccadilly station, I was being approached by this stranger asking for money. He claimed that he is a Muslim (why he approached me in the first place) and the money was to buy a bus ticket going back to Liverpool. I was alone at that time waiting for Afroze’s husband to fetch me and there were only few people around the area. You would be surprised of my reaction, but I just listened to his stories but then rejected and said “I don’t have enough for me either” (inside I was praying hard he had no knife or a gun and for me to be safe) and he walked away right after. I was worried to be honest but I put on my confident look)

I left foggy Croydon just to be welcomed by a sunny Salford. Indeed it was warmer in Manchester. Which is odd actually.It was still a single digit celsius down south but suddenly the temperature rose to 18 degrees. Boy it was really warm and such a drastic weather change because few days before it was snowing in Manchester. The day we went to Salford Quay and Heaton Park was probably the warmest day in Manchester. Afroze said the city welcomed me happily.

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Sunset view in Salford
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King St, Manchester

When in Manchester there are few pit stops that you must go. Most Malaysian students who studied and still studying will definitely go to Al-Jazeera (you can see ‘free drinks for Malaysian’ notice inside the restaurant) The best ‘nasi arab’ and kebabs by far. I kid you not, they serve the best of those two and you will want more. Jazeera is located in Rusholme, a bit dodgy area but you find lots of students especially Malaysians living in this area because of the easy access for Halal food.

Opposite Jazeera, is Moonlight. If you are a dessert fan, you will enjoy going to Moonlight. Their Ferrero ice cream and Faluda are my favourite. In Manchester, almost everything is cheaper than London especially their food. So you do not need to worry if you splurge too much here because mainly the further you are from London the more you save on money (England I mean, Scotland is another story) There are many places to eat in the UK, here are the must have.must try:

London:

Tinsletown, Burger & Lobster, Stax Diner, Yolkin, Melur (I prefer here than Tok Din), The Hummingbird Bakery, Lola’s cupcakes (Harrods and Bicester Village), Drayton, Elgin and Wandle Park’s homecook. There was this pizza but could not recall the name.

Manchester:

Al-Jazeera, Red Chilli, Moonlight and Afroze & Asrul’s homecook

Shopping time! 

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Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet

Yay like finally. If you are looking for high-end boutique brands by all means please visit the Bicester Village (honestly, since most of them are European brands it is better to shop in Milan France Italy for cheaper price) if not, please take a bus or a train and spend a day or two in Manchester and go to Cheshire Oak Designer Outlet. and again everything is way cheaper and here most of the high-street brands can be found. Oh yes, they have Celine too here. You need at least a whole day here. The place is huge and open. Similar to the JPO here but bigger. I scored my Flyknit 4.0 for only £22. Kaching!  You know it is hard being a girl and  an accountant at the same time. The struggle is real. I used the iPhone Notes to write my daily expenses including the 10 donuts for £6, short bus ride and Uber fares. Yes DAILY expenses for a month, people. haaha!

The other weakness was Paperchase. I still prefer the traditional way of giving away cards on birthdays, writing on notebooks and collect notebooks like nobody’s business and Paperchase understands me. This place, has tons of beautiful printed and handstiched journals to choose from but it comes with a price. So, when in Cheshire Oak make sure to visit their shop because the outlet price will make you want to have all but nah I just bought 5 tho. Hee.

Of course I had my shopping list just for the sake of keeping track of  where my money went and it helped. Phew. Have you heard of Accessorize before? They opened few outlets in Malaysia but did not survive long and it is not that cheap in the UK either. I remembered contemplating on whether to buy this backpack in Westfield. Ask Aliaa, she knows. £30 is considered pricey for just a fancy bag. Reluctantly put the bag and walked away was not the best feeling and kept mentioning about it to Aliaa (and even saw someone wearing the same colour backpack) during the train ride home to Croydon. Fret not, that was the best decision because I bought mine at the outlet for 10 freaking pounds only. Again, scored! How can you not love Manchester?!

Spend for things / place that you will appreciate for the rest of your life

I am referring to the football stadiums tour or matches and Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio tour. The ticket will be expensive but the experience will be priceless. I have not had the opportunity to watch any matches yet but it is in my bucketlist to experience it at least once. Trust me I really want to watch the World Cup match live at the stadium someday. Germany 4lyfe! Coming back to this, the Harry Potter tour cost me £47 (complete studio tour package – adult) but it was worth it for someone who grew up reading all the HP series books. I shall write on this experience in a separate special post. But really, if you have the passion for something why not spend some to gain such memorable experience. You will not regret it and it is worth every single penny!

Back in London Town

(Tips: Buy your entrance tickets online. If with family or pax of four, you can save more. Cheaper and some only provide online ticketing services – stadium tours and Harry Potter studio tour especially-)

As much as you are familiar with a place, you just want to know more about it. So I took the Big Bus London Tour for a change and see the town from the bus upperdeck view. Why I said familiar because UK was once home to me. My dad was transferred there but we lived in Aberdeen, Scotland. Unfortunately, I did get the chance to ‘balik kampung’ during this visit. Time constraint, hee another reason to come back. Anyhow, the bus tour was nice. You can simply hop on hop off the bus and walk to wherever stops you want. The breezy sunny weather was just nice for a tour. For the London Hop On Hop Off 24hours Tour, the ticket will be £27, online price.

The almost a month time spent in the UK was indeed something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Only when you travel alone you encounter things that you never imagined before. Different beautiful memories to be captured when travelling with family or friends but when you are all alone, that is when you know who you are. How you handle unforseen events, the happy and the creepy ones. When travelling by yourself, is when you will appreciate the time the money and the people around you more. I never experienced UK like this before compared to the last time my family and I stayed there for a few years.

“Always take home as many stories as you do photos” Alhamdulillah, I did and looking forward to many more adventures.

How I survived UK, alone? (Part 1)

 

Pre-trip

(Tips: Thoroughly survey your flight ticket. MATTA Fair is not always the best option. Bought mine, RM2599 MAS return)

There are many articles online on “When is the best time to buy the cheapest flight?” even though it is handy but not 100% reliable. Different airlines, different offers. So I noticed, most of the airlines will make their own offer at least a month before each MATTA Fair which surprisingly is way cheaper than on the day itself. You just need to browse through their website regularly. It was between Emirates, Qatar and MAS since their range are between RM2499-RM2799 but since I was travelling alone I rather go for the direct flight tho MAS was not the cheapest at that time.

Being someone who has claustrophobia, a huge leg room is a huge deal for me. Either that or an aisle seat. So yes, you guess that right. I actually Google the seating plan of the A380 MAS when choosing my seat (of course this is only an option) Upper deck seat 33A has the most positive review and indeed it was. Spacious legroom, checked!

Since it was almost a month trip to the UK, I asked my friend who works there to buy me a phonecard prior to my arrival. (Yes, but if you have no one in the UK you can simply buy it at the airport) It was easier that way since I can just use immediately once I arrived there.

Trip Day, March 1 10:10

(Tips: You do know that you can bring empty tumbler on board and asked the crew to refill)

Sick, I just had to be to sick on the day and had to survive a 14 hours flight. Anyhow, thanks to my uncle, he escorted me straight to the gate. Flight was fine. Sat next to a Chinese lady who apparently works in London and she shared her stories. Probably slept total of 4 hours only throughout the journey.

16:10  March 1 – Heathrow Airport

(Tips: Look and talk confidently with the immigration officer)

Phew thank goodness the officer did not ask a lot. Either I just got lucky or the lady officer was just in a good mood. If you are worried because you are a Muslim and wearing hijab, just be confident and answer them properly.

During the trip

(Tips: Citymapper app. is a life saviour. Install this and buy your Oyster Card, you need this if you are in London)

It was not my first time coming to the UK but why I went to this trip, ahaa nope not going to tell but too lucky to have few friends still living in the UK.

Let me tell you more about Citymapper app. It is super convenient and free! The apps does not included all the cities in the world but most of it and the number of city is adding up. You know how in London there are trams, tubes, buses, trains and Uber so using this app not only letting you know the time, cost but also which coach you should sit in inside the tube or train. Awesome!

The timing is accurate, the app shows the time of the transportation arrival so you can plan your journey ahead. Cool ey? I rely on Citymapper all the time whenever in town or in London and Manchester.

Here is how it looks like:

Eg. Harrods – Tinsletown

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Set your Start and End location

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Choose one from the suggested ie: by train / buses 

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Choices of tubes and rain safe too

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Let say choose option 1, so this is how your journey will be

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Detailed info are provided to reach your destination
 

and done! Easy right?! Thanks to Alif and Cik Ton who suggested me this app. Done will all the must do and must have.

It is always easier (and cost saving obviously) when you have friends living abroad, so the accommodation is free. For the first week was in East Croydon. Where is Croydon? A small town in the South East of London in Zone 5 and where two of my friends (and now a total of 8 new friends) who lived and still living there.

View of sunset from Elgin Rd house
When actually I was literally all alone? My second night in Croydon, since all Elgin girls when to Iceland (preplanned before I came) and mind you the house is huge and the housing area is so quiet and the house is kinda old but being refurbished so you can imagined me all alone for 3 days in winter. Haha! The best thing about Elgin house was the tram station is only 2 mins away. So easy access to the Croydon Town.

Sandilands Tram Station

March 4, 18:30 | Croydon Town
Croydon Town is rather a small town but with high street shops and cafes. You can find Next, Debenhams, M&S, H&M and hmm well most of it. As long as Primark is there, I’m all good! And it was in front of Primark when I first met Alif’s wife, Aliaa. We went to meet the guys for dinner after the office hour. It is easy to make new friends there, as Malaysian there is always that pleasure meeting someone from home when you have been living abroad for so long. Aliaa Alif and their housemates, let’s refer them as Wandle Park (because they live there hehe)

Portobello Market and Westfield

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Weekend crowd in Portobello Market
We took a 40mins train ride from East Croydon Station – Victoria Station – Notting Hill Gate Station and then walked two minutes to get to the Portobello Rd. Why I will always come back to this place is because of the rows of pastel coloured and their all white coloured with such character houses in the area and for the market too of course. You can never get bored looking at it. It was all gloomy when we arrived and it got a lot more colder that Saturday morning. So when it is cold outside, the tummy is screaming inside.

Portobello Market is known the world over for its vast supply of antiques and collectibles for sale. There are more than 1000 dealers selling from I Love London hoodies to antique watches and cameras. Everything can be seen and bought here. The street market is also their major attraction. Fruits and veggies, flowers and also street food! There are also vegetarian and halal food so it is not a problem. We had the falafel, so good! Also, when in Portobello Market, please drop by at their famous Hummingbird Bakery for their famous cupcakes especially Red Velvet cupcakes. Yumms!

Since it was too cold, so we decided to have brunch at ‘Makan Cafe’, a Malaysian owned restaurant located just under the bridge towards the end of the market. Guess what our famous ‘cekodok pisang’ being called in the UK? Banana Button! Cute ey?

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Makan at Portobello Market. Source: Google
Done at Portobello and Notting Hill, we headed to Little Venice. If you happen to see my Instagram, I posted a picture of Little Venice and shared the moment of our (Wandle Park and myself) reaction towards the place. After visiting both Venice and Amsterdam, Little Venice has its own charm tho. Just the weather that spoilt a bit. It was nice strolling around Portobello – Little Venice – Westfield with the Wandle Park even though everyone’s nose were all red like Rudolf. It was nice seeing the kids playing at the playground with their bubble jackets on. UK and most of the western countries has lots of parks, playgrounds even in the big city.Shame on you Malaysia, we have lots of shopping malls already. Learn something from them, sigh.

Little Venice – tranquil canal area, home to waterside cafes and pubs

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The huge Westfield White City, London
We arrived at Westfield just in time for lunch. See how blue the sky is in the picture, do not be fooled by it especially by the most confused weather city in the world. Trust me it was a single digit degree at that time. In Westfield, I met with Drayton girls and I think it was Tesco house too. (Wandle Park, if you happen to read this, correct me if I am wrong) Cik Ton told me I have met almost of her colleagues in Westfield itself and it was that day Drayton invited me for a two days sleepover. Remember earlier that I was all alone at Elgin? Alif got scolded by Drayton for leaving me all alone instead of Cik Ton. Haha.

Drayton House

Back from Westfield, everyone bought sushi from Yo Sushi (Halal sushi, not to worry) at the London Victoria Station because nobody wants to cook after a long day in London. I went back to Elgin, packed my bag and off to Drayton. This one habit whenever I am in the UK is having cereal every morning. Every single morning and at any point of time. Thank you Drayton girl for buying milk for me, really appreciate that. You have to try their fresh milk and you will be spoilt by their choices of milk. Fresh, Semi-skimmed, Low-fat, Hazelnut, Almond and the list goes on. You name it. My favourite would cereal would be Crunchy Nut (Corn Pops, Coco Pops and Fruit Loops too) which cost only less than £2 for the jumbo/big box and here in Cold Storage, the small box is RM23. Pfft.

So when in UK, please try all of these snacks. “Too good to be true” does not apply to these three.

Back to Drayton house, they are just the nicest people on earth and how they use ‘Kamu’ in addressing a person is, cute! You see I am a complete stranger and Cik Ton was not around but still they offered me to stay and even cooked for me. We had a get together at Drayton and invited Wandle Park for a pot-luck. We made chicken soup and rice. Wandle Park brought rosted chicken, yummayh and desserts too. It was nice to have that small gathering since I am still not familiar with the Flemmings family. Oh did I mention Drayton house is soooo cold?, especially the kitchen. You just want to wrap yourself under the duvet. Nonetheless, it was such a good time with them. Thank you Drayton! Missed you girls.

It is 02:32 now  but this post has been delayed for the past three days. So I guess there will be Part 2 and 3 on UK trip itself. Goodnight! Xx