Travel – London

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First travel tip: Choose your travel buddy well. Yeah, it’s all smiles and giggles when you take pictures but sometimes travel gets stressful and you definitely want someone you can count on and get along with. Linn and I are excellent travel buddies! We tested it out on a Stockholm trip last year so it wasn’t a surprise.

Second: Know your travel buddy. Are they a morning person? Do they need coffee to survive? Do they get fussy when hungry? Sleepy? What stresses them out? What are they looking forward to about the trip? Museums or clubs? Plan this stuff.

It’s also important to know which one of you is the navigator. Linn is an excellent navigator. She loves maps and she’s not afraid to ask questions. BUT she can get peeved when hungry and has a sweet tooth, so I carry candy when we travel together just in case. (Phong gets particularly fussy when hungry but doesn’t respond well to sugar dips, so I carry protein bars for him when he’s my buddy. Oh, and if you have a friend/loved one that gets angry when hungry, don’t ever tell them until they’re well fed and happy again.)

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Our hotel! We stayed in Earl’s Court. We were just around the corner from a subway station and a block of restaurants and cafes. It was a great location! The staff was about a 50/50 split as far as helpful went. Half of them were great and cheerful and the other half we weirdly offput and barely looked at us let alone spoke to us.

The only real problem with this hotel, and it was a pretty big and odd problem, was a mysterious puddle that would bubble up from the drain in the ground to fill that concrete space between the step and the door in the right hand picture. It soaked the carpetting inside the hallway and smelt bad. BAD. We, unfortunately, had the room to the right of that picture on the other side of the puddle. I didn’t get a picture of the actual puddle when it was full. It was dark and I was peeved.

There was no way around it and because of the angle, we couldn’t jump over it either. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it was gone. Some of the staff would be helpful and come down and make it go away and some insisted they had no idea what it was or where it came from (yeah, we totally believed that) and that there was nothing to be done about it.

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At least the room was nice. The TV didn’t work but we didn’t really have time to use it anyway. We really just came back at night, showered, and fell asleep and then were back up and out as soon as we could muster it.

Oh! Showers! The showers (not sure if it’s an English thing or not) were on a platform. You stepped up into them. A little odd, as I’d never seen that before.

Breakfast: I’m not sure how hotel breakfast works in your country, but here in Sweden it’s included in your stay and it’s amazing. It’s one of those things that hotels compete over and Swedes take very seriously in their ratings of hotels. Everything else could be great but if you have a shabby (or non-existent) breakfast buffet, you’re not going to get a good rating. And we’re not talking a few pastries and some cereal. Hotel breakfast in Sweden is a beautiful thing.

Alas, fantastic included breakfasts does not seem to be the way of things in London. Our hotel had a breakfast included in the price of our stay, so we dropped by the first morning to check it out. Luckily, Linn had been in London before and we had already lowered our expectations. It was a dungeon with toast. Seriously, just toast and cereal. So, being the spoiled Swedes that we are, we left in pursuit of cafes.

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Oyster card. Get one! We used the subway constantly on our visit and it worked out great. We took it from Heathrow in to London central when we arrived. There were machines to get your card and load it with money right there at the first platform in Heathrow and personnel to help explain if you’re confused. We put £30 on our cards, plus £5 for the card itself. We used them a lot to get around in London and after four days, we still had money left on them when we came back to Heathrow. And we could return them and get a refund on what was left, including the cost of the card!

The subway was easy and fast but if you have a problem with crowds or tight spaces, probably try to avoid the weekday morning rides. There are lots of signs to show you the routes, plus personnel at the entrances and even these nifty help boxes on the wall on the actual platform. You push a button and an actual human person answers your questions about how to get where you’re going.

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It was our experience that the people in London were very pleasant and helpful. We didn’t have any bad experiences except for some of our own hotel staff (Weird right? Hotel staff are usually so delightful.) and one very forgetful waitress who was still quite nice.

Tip: Trashcans seemed to be far and few between. If you’re taking your coffee to go, be prepared to hang on to that cup for a while.

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As you might have gleamed from my previous posts about our London trip, Linn and I are daytime tourists. We’d rather go to museums, cafes, parks and shops than nightclubs so we didn’t see much of London after dark.

We did a lot of walking and found London to be delightfully flat and full of cafes.

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This trip was a great experience. Hopefully it won’t be my last visit to London. We barely scratched the surface of things to see.

All pictures of me were taken by the amazing Linn– photographer/travel buddy extraordinaire!

This should be the last of my photobomb blog posts about our trip.

On to this months adventures! Getting married and visiting Phong’s family!

 

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The POD

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pod2Despite all of the fun things we did on this trip to London, the POD might have been the most fun!

Our flight back to Sweden was leaving Heathrow around 6 in the morning on Sunday, so we stayed at a hotel by the airport on Saturday night.

We took the subway out to Heathrow, knowing that our hotel was close to Terminal 5, and from there asked someone what the best way to get to our hotel would be. They suggested the elevator up to the POD. We kind of assumed this was the name of a bus or train but it turns out it’s an actual pod.

They’re not on tracks like trains. Both sides have seats like the picture to the right, fitting up to four people. And it drives itself between the terminal and a special parking lot. IT DRIVES ITSELF! On it’s own cute little road!

I want one of these to take me everywhere! It only took about five minutes and costs five pounds and is incredibly cool!

 

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Cafes in London

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That’s a strawberry marange cookie! It was amazing and I don’t even like marange. Oh, and my name isn’t Sharol.

While in London, Linn and I visited a handful of chain cafes for quick sugar boosts and breakfast. England had two of it’s own, Costa and Nero, and then of course Starbucks. Starbucks, we’d expected to be the same here as it is in the States and Sweden. As far as drinks and those fun surprise misspellings of names, it was! A few different treats, of course. But the actual cafes weren’t as cozy. The interior design was a little more like a Subway than a Starbucks as we’ve come to know them.

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Costa was the first one we tried for breakfast.

Tourist note: In Sweden hotels have AMAZING breakfast buffets that are included in your stay. If you’re used to this, you may be incredibly disappointed with London hotels. Ours offered breakfast but it was in a crowded, windowless dungeon and pretty much just a toaster machine with white bread and butter, some cereals and coffee. We’re spoiled, so we went to a cafe instead.

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I mean, look at that! Who would stay in a gloomy room fighting over toast when you could get this?

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Breakfast! We tried Costa twice (two different locations). The food was good but in both cases the staffs were incredibly unhappy and stressed and the coffee wasn’t very good.

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Which is a shame, because my latte was so big it had two handles.

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Nero ended up being our favorite. The staff was great, the coffee good, and they had scones with clotted cream just in time for Linn’s clotted cream love.

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We also tried Nero a couple times in different locations.

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And we really liked their cozy decor. We’re suckers for comfy chairs and wallpaper.

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In the end, for us, it was:

Nero – Yes.

Costa – No.

Starbucks – Drift through for frappuccinos. No, I do not live a healthy life when I travel.

 

All pictures of me were taken by the amazing Linn!

Upcoming posts: The POD and Travel in London.

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Shopping Adventures in London

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Between castles and cafes and museums and parks we managed to wedge in a good amount of shopping.

We walked Portobello Market.

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The only thing we bought at the market was a potato skewer thingy. While they were making it we started to regret the purchase because it looked like way too much greasy potato but, as is often true, greasy potato is amazing!

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Yes, we went to platform 9 3/4. There’s a pretty impressive Harry Potter store as well as the baggage cart half in the wall for taking pictures with. The dauntingly long and winding line of children kept us from actually getting a picture with the baggage cart, but we did see it!

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The Platform 9 3/4 shop has everything and looks adorable!

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We got to see and overhear Harry Potter fans from around the world geeking out in this place. Despite the pictures, it was packed. I had to wait and be quick about the picture taking to get ones without a bunch of people in the way.

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The Moomin Shop! We had to take a peek at this one since Moomin is Swedish. It was a really adorable store.

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We saw a couple of these kitschy cute Cath Kidston stores around. Unfortunately, they smell so strongly of perfume that we couldn’t stand to be in them for very long.

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kikki.K kind of blew our minds. We went in because a friend of mine in Australia has raved about it. But when we took a look around, we started to get surprised how Swedish things felt. And then we noticed one of the planners had text in Swedish on it!

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But we’ve never seen a kikki.K in Sweden and were quite certain we’d remember if we had. Also, it would probably be really popular in Sweden. So, we asked one of the staff what was up with this place and he told us that the woman who started the boutique in Australia was from Sweden! Mystery solved! Seriously though, kikki.K should probably be in Sweden too…

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3ina! We went in because we saw a wall of color that turned out to be nail polishes!

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I ended up asking about a makeup problem I was having, they were delightful and now I’m sold on a brand that doesn’t even exist in Sweden.

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Loot!

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One of the few shops we were actually looking for was Forbidden Planet.

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Tons of fan-swag on the first floor but downstairs was where we found the walls of books and comics.

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They even had a steampunk section with some of my favorites! Linn spent some serious time in here. We had to come back after a coffee break.

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I’m going to include the Royal Opera House in our shopping adventure because I was really excited about their gift shop. We didn’t have tickets to see anything (because Frankenstein was totally booked) but we still swung by for the gift shop.

Honestly, we saw a lot of great gift shops. Not just the museums but even the British Library had a great gift shop. Though I supposed the British Library is a bit of a museum itself..

All pictures of me were snapped by the amazing Linn.

Upcoming posts (yes, we are finally getting down to the last of the London posts): Cafes in London, The POD, and Traveling to London.

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A walk through the Victoria & Albert Museum

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Museum time!

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This places was huge and had a little of everything. Most of the museum is free, though it’s nice to leave a donation.

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We went on Friday because it was open from 10 in the morning until almost 10 in the evening. We headed over in the late afternoon, around 6 when the shops we were at started closing.

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As it turns out the museum had a few entrances. We took the subway over and ended up following signs that led to an underground entrance. I was really impressed how easy being a tourist in London was.

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Not all of the exhibits were open but we still had quite a lot to look at and because we were there late, it was nearly empty.

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Sculpture details! Ugh. I love details on sculptures. I might get a bust of Phong made someday…

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The jewelry exhibit was one of the ones closed but we still found shiny things to look at.

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Tiny old crowns!

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English style dress from 1785!

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Dress details. Clothing and jewelry were enclosed in glass but there was also a lot of larger displays of furniture.

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I have so many pictures. SO MANY. And I didn’t take pictures of even a quarter of the things we saw.

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They had collections of clothing and accessories from all over the world.

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There were both old and modern fashion in the exhibits.

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Tea sets! It’s probably good that they put them in glass cases. I might have been tempted to touch otherwise.

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Upcoming posts: Shopping Adventures in London, Cafes in London, The POD, and London Travel Tips!

 

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