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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!