So I’m sitting here on my final night in London and can’t believe how much I’ve done since arriving on Tuesday morning or how much time has flown by.
Let’s start with a daily summary of what I’ve done so far:
- Monday Apr 2nd: Left Boston. Transited via Montreal and checked out the upgraded Maple Leaf Lounge. Flew out of Montreal to London on a red-eye.
- Tuesday Apr 3rd: Landed at Heathrow. Checked out the Arrivals Lounge. Checked into the Hostel. Checked out the National Portrait Gallery, Isle of Dogs exhibit, Poppie’s Fish & Chips, watched Ready Player One.
- Wednesday Apr 4th: Strolled through Hyde Park. Checked out Canada Memorial and Gate, Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard (by luck), Queen’s Gallery, Royal Mew, Ruben’s Palace Lounge for Afternoon Tea, Westminster Abbey, Jewel Tower, and met up with a friend to check out a pub in Greenwich.
- Thursday Apr 5th: Wimbledon Museum & Tour, River Thames boat cruise, Tower of London (and crown jewels), and The Shard.
- Friday Apr 6th: St. Paul’s Cathedral (and climbed it to the top), Cartoon Museum, and the British Museum. Dinner was a pie and sticky toffee pudding.
- Saturday Apr 7th: Breakfast at Borough Market, Windsor Castle, lunch with family-in-law, dinner and drinking with friend (old Rosie cider kicked our arses!).
- Sunday Apr 8th: Laundry and recovering from night before, London Bridge Experience, Nando’s for lunch (recovery complete), Globe Theatre tour and museum, Golden Hinde, Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons performance and puppet play. Traditional Sunday Roast to cap off the trip.
- Monday Apr 9th (tomorrow): Sleep in, pack up, train to Paris.
So just a few things right? With all the things I’ve done, it can get very expensive. The only free items in there are National Portrait Gallery, and the British Museum. Both attractions are fantastic to visit and I recommend them on anyone’s itinerary to London. However, I also wanted to check out most of the other places I’ve listed. Normally, this would have cost me just north of 262£ including transport costs. However, with my London Pass, it cost 175.90£ – a savings of 86£ (about $160 CDN/$125 USD)! While the London Pass might not be useful for everyone (people with multiple kids, individuals who like to take their time, etc) it definitely worked for me and made things convenient. Quite often I could skip the obscenely lengthy lines as well as not have to fish about for payment. In the end, it should be up to each individual or group to determine if the London Pass is right for them.
I’d like to also talk about a couple items that bear review. The first one is the Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow. Here is the review I posted on my Facebook:
Spent most of the flight sleeping, having only the Express Light meal (fruits, cheeses, smoked salmon, and salad along with an Argentinian wine). When I woke up we were already arriving in foggy, rainy London – the true English experience. Relatively quick and painless immigration and customs and I finally hit up the fabled Arrivals Lounge in Heathrow. Best advice is to either screenshot your boarding pass or have a paper copy. Took me a bit to finagle an internet connection to show proof. This arrivals lounge services only a couple of airlines including United and Air Canada. Even with that, having Star Alliance Gold doesn’t get you in – you have to have been on United First Class or AC Business Class and arriving that morning. My first priority was a shower. They have several dozen shower suites that are perfectly fantastic for what needs to be done. Haven’t ever felt this refreshed after a trans-oceanic flight and I hope all major airlines endeavour to create more of these at major hubs. After scrubbing away the dust from my travels, I decided to get myself an “English breakfast”. There are a variety of options on the menu, but why go for anything else? The lounge also includes a variety of other breakfast fare such as smoothies and pastries. Overall I found the experience very satisfying and highly recommend stopping in if you get the chance.
The second item I’d like to talk about is the hostel I’m staying at – St. Christopher’s Village Inn London Bridge. London Bridge is a great place to be located as it can get to most areas in 30 minutes. While it is not the most central station, it links to enough places to make it convenient plus it has quite a few sites within walking distance. I did make a mistake as I walked into the original St. Christopher’s Inn. While it is a hostel of sorts, it is much smaller. I knew this beforehand but as I had just arrived on an overnight flight, I couldn’t brain very well. Once I got myself reoriented, I walked down the road about an extra 2 minutes and got to my lodgings for the night.
For those of you who don’t have much familiarity with hostels, they tend to have dormitory style rooms with bunk beds and large shared bathrooms. However, they tend to be relatively cheap and are an effective way to save money while traveling. In this case, my bunk bed ended up being a relatively new style of accommodation which was made popular in Japan: the capsule. It’s pretty much like a bunk bed, but there is only one entrance and you are surrounded by walls everywhere else. The convenient things about capsules are they tend to be much more private and the better ones have amenities like power outlets. The one I’m staying in has 2 power outlets and 2 USB outlets as well as a lighting panel with multiple coloured light options (pretty much the whole rainbow). As you can see, it’s fairly large and I can confirm you can sit up straight in it. It’s a bit of a pain to get in and out of but that’s only because of my size.
The bathroom is clean and functional with 3 individual shower stalls and 3 toilet stalls. Included are hand and hair dryers.
The rest of the room includes lockers (bring your own lock) and a sitting area.
Also, if you book online, you can partake of the breakfast. I tried it once but it didn’t appeal to me. It included some sort of ham like meat slices, plain cheese slices, bread, a hot plate press (like a panini press) which can make toasted sandwiches of the formerly mentioned ingredients, basic European style cereals, water downed juices and milk. I believe there might be a couple pastries but after the sandwich, I had enough.
This hostel is also noted as a party hostel and part of it is a pretty popular bar/club, especially on weekends. I knew this going in, but I’m a pretty heavy sleeper so the pounding beats didn’t bother me. However, if one of the windows in the room are open and it’s a busy night, cigarette smoke seeps in, making sleeping a bit rough if you are sensitive (it bothered me one night).
Now here is a sample of photos I took throughout the week. Most of my photos are on Facebook, but at least you can see a sample of what my experience was like during the week.