Back to Victoria Station

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Sep 09 ~ Day #122
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$12200
$113.79
$11064.22
$90.69
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
13905
4451
5180
119
23655

Current Location: Customs House, London, England

Today’s Total Expenses: $113.79

Transportation: $19.94 (£12.60 transit pass)

Accommodation: $75.64

Food: $18.21 (£11.50 – groceries at Sainsburys)

Back to Victoria Station

It was a good thing that we had planned to do more sightseeing in London today.

After getting back to our hotel we noticed that the tickets we had bought to Coventry had been issued incorrectly. One of them was correct – for tomorrow (Friday), however, the other one had been issued for the day we purchased it – yesterday!

We were lucky to get the same gentleman that had issued the tickets for us yesterday and struck his forehead with the palm of his hand and said, “Yes, that sounds like something I might do.” And, he immediately issued a corrected ticket and all was well.

More Sightseeing in London

There is just so much to see in London that you can’t possibly do it all in just a few days.

But we were able to add the following places to the list of things we’d seen:

The Tower of London

It is strange to see such a well known piece of British history being encroached on all sides by the city of London itself.

We did a circuit of the buildings, and even saw traitor’s gate where Elizabeth, along with less fortunate personages, would have traveled through. The area simply drips with history.

Again, we were not able to take the tour inside as it was out of our budget. Sometimes traveling on a tight budget can be too restricting. But, at least we’re here.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is another magnificent structure that is not to be missed.

Less informed people, over the years, have referred to it as London Bridge, which is, of course, wrong.

Dinner in the Park

By dinner time we were almost dead on our feet. There was a small park near a Sainsburys grocery store and so we stopped into the store and bought items for a lovely picnic.

We then headed off to the park and thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing, unhurried dinner among trees, grass, birds and even the odd squirrel.

Getting Ice Can be a Challenge

Having spent most of our time in North America, having ice in your drinks is just normal.

We have also been used to having a ice bucket in any hotel room we have stayed at with an ice machine just down the hall.

Not so in our hotel in London.

When we asked at the front desk where we might get some ice, we were told that we could get it from the restaurant. (That’s the same restaurant where we had the FABULOUS fish and chips on our first night in London.)

So, we stopped into the bar and asked for ice. We got a glass full of ice to take back to our room with us.

Not exactly what we expected but it sufficed for our needs as we just wanted some ice to chill some drinks we had bought at Sainsburys and brought back to our rooms with us.

Again, another wonderful day in London.

Exploring London

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Sep 07 ~ Day #120
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$12000
$110.76
$10836.40
$90.30
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
13905
4451
5180
119
23655

Current Location: Customs House, London, England

Today’s Total Expenses: $110.76

Transportation: $19.94 (£12.60 transit passes)

Accommodation: $75.64

Food: $15.18 (£9.59 dinner & cider)

Miles Traveled Today:
While we are in London we won’t be counting any of the miles we put on by just exploring the city. We’ll only add miles when we’re actually traveling from one place to another.

Dealing With the Transit Strike

Being Canadian we are not strangers to transit strikes but I’ve got to say that I’ve never experienced such a polite strike – really.

Let me explain.

Not all of the lines were shut down during the transit strike which meant you could still get around if you knew how to circumvent the areas that were closed.

Well, not knowing the transit system we thought we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere.

Not so! At each station that had a portion of the tubes, or buses, closed, there were several transit employees telling you how you could get around the closures – honestly.

We were simply amazed and we were able to use the tubes get to the sightseeing that we wanted to do today.

How very, very civilized.

Beautiful Sunny Day in London

As if to offset the problems of the transit strike, London greeted us with a bright sunny day.

We spent the day trying to take in some of the more famous landmarks such as:

Big Ben

Big Ben was right where it was supposed to be and I was certainly excited to see it.

It wasn’t as much of an experience for Geoff as he had grown up near London and had seen Big Ben many, many times during his youth.

I had expected it to be all out on its own, but it was still very recognizable for a new tourist like me.

Parliament

The Parliament buildings are quite impressive and you can actually go into them when parliament is sitting and witness government in action.

I was tempted, but we were there too early. We were told when parliament would be sitting later that day but then figured that government is government and it was likely to be pretty boring anyway.

But it was still an experience to see the seat of power.

Buckingham Palace

Naturally, as this was my first trip to England, I simply had to see Buckingham Palace.

I’m afraid to say that it was a bit of a disappointment. It’s just a rectangular gray building and I was expecting more of a “castle” feel to it.

Also, they were not doing the changing of the guards the day we were there, so I didn’t get to see that either.

They did have tours of certain rooms of Buckingham Palace. Apparently they do this kind of thing very infrequently.

However, the admission fee was £17.00 each (almost $27 US) and was, therefore, out of our budget. Perhaps we will have the opportunity to see it another time we are in London.

Hyde Park and Speakers Corner

We also stopped into Hyde Park with the express purpose of seeing Speakers Corner.

Hyde Park is a beautiful large park in the heart of London. A great place to stroll or picnic on such a lovely day and there were lots of people taking advantage of the lovely weather.

Unfortunately there was no one at Speakers Corner giving their opinion on whatever they chose to. Again, perhaps on our next trip to London.

Royal Cavalry

We also stumbled across the Royal Cavalry Stables and wandered around a bit.

There really wasn’t much to see but there were some rather impressive soldiers there.

10 Downing Street

I had told Geoff that, naturally, I wanted to see 10 Downing Street while we were in London. That is, of course, the residence of the Prime Minister.

He kept telling me that it was simply a door with a guard standing outside and nothing more. But, I would not be deterred.

So, we found where it was but Downing Street was closed off to all but official traffic and we couldn’t get anywhere near 10 Downing itself.

We asked the police guarding this entrance and he told us that this had been done by Margaret Thatcher during the difficulty with the IRA and these measures are still in place.

All in all, it was a great sightseeing day for me and a review for Geoff.

The Best Fish & Chips – EVER!

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Sep 06 ~ Day #119
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$11900
$147.94
$10725.64
$90.13
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
13905
4451
4418+762=5180
95+24=119
23655

Current Location: Custom House Hotel, London, England

Today’s Total Expenses: $147.94

Transportation: $37.72 (£24.00 – train from Gatwick to London)

Accommodation: $75.64

Food: $34.58 (£22.00 – real English Fish & Chips)

Miles Traveled Today:
Air Miles: 762 (Madrid to Gatwick)
Train Miles: 24 (Gatwick to London hotel)

Madrid to London

We didn’t have a direct flight to London from Miami. We opted to change planes at Madrid because that was the least expensive flight we could get and we didn’t need to arrive in London at a specific time. Our hotel was already booked and they would hold our room even if we were late arriving.

Lots of Waiting

Even though we only had a two-hour layover in Madrid it seemed like a lot of time to wait around. As we were simply changing planes we didn’t have to go through Spanish customs or immigration.

After a nine-hour flight, though, the thought of just sitting around simply didn’t appeal, so we started walking along the corridors and browsing in some of the shops.

Sleep on a Plane?

As Geoff mentioned, the flight to Madrid was an overnight flight in pretty cramped conditions. If I got an hour’s sleep I think myself lucky. I just couldn’t get comfortable.

However, it seems, that by the time we arrived in Madrid I was way passed tired and had gotten my second wind.

Now I just wanted us to be on our way again so we could finally get to England.

First Glimpses of England

Geoff had often mentioned the English countryside but I just couldn’t envision it. It seemed to me that in a country so small there really couldn’t be much countryside left.

Well, I was certainly wrong.

As we were coming in to land at Gatwick Airport I noticed it was surrounded by countryside. One field I noticed seemed to have little white dots all over it and then it finally dawned on me – sheep – those were sheep!

It was nothing like flying into Toronto or Chicago or LA.

Then the plane touched down and I was in England! And, Geoff was back after an absence of 47 years!

Customs and Immigration

I always hate this part of flying, almost as much as I hate going through security to get on a flight in the first place.

There were two lines – one for those with EU passports and one for everyone else.

Our line actually seemed shorter but we figured it would take longer. We had filled out our customs and immigration form and just waited in the line until it was our turn.

It seems that no matter where we have to queue up for anything we always get behind the wrong people. And, this seemed like it would be no exception.

The people being interviewed by immigration just ahead of us were really being given the third degree. A supervisor was even called over for one person.

Even though there were three officers on duty for our line, they all seemed to have people that required rigorous questioning.

However, when we finally got our turn, we got the most pleasant officer and were through in no time. When we picked up our backpacks we were just waved through customs. It was really almost painless.

Getting from Gatwick to London

We knew there were trains or buses from Gatwick to London. Now we just had to find out how to get one that would take us to our hotel.

British Rail

We found a British Rail desk and spoke to the person on duty and told him where we needed to go.

He said it was no problem and then very quickly explained to us what we needed to do. He spoke so fast, and, of course, with a lovely British accent, so we had to ask him to repeat his instructions – and slowly this time.

Apparently we could catch a train from the airport and take it to London Bridge, from London Bridge we would pick up the Tube and from the Tube we would pick up the Dock Light Rail to the Custom House Station.

Perfect! Our hotel was right at the Custom House Station.

We purchased our tickets – one ticket that would be good for everything – the train, the tubes and the light rail – and headed off to catch our train.

The British Transit System

Another thing that Geoff had always told me was how good the British Transit System is. He’s always said you can get anywhere using local transportation.

Our trip from Gatwick to our hotel was a fascinating experience for me. A fairly long train ride and the train took us right into the Tube station, then on the Tube to the Dockland Light Rail.

Oooops!

We only did one thing wrong along the way. We didn’t realize that at the light rail station there was a choice of two different trains with, of course, different routes.

We just got on the first train and it was, naturally, the wrong one. However, people on the train, seeing our confusion, explained what we needed to do to get to our destination.

Custom House Station Closed

After getting on the correct train, we were then informed that the station we needed – Custom House Station – was temporarily closed. Yikes! What do we do now?

A helpful gentleman on our train told us not to worry. We could get off at the station prior to Custom House and walk – apparently it wasn’t that far.

So, we did just that. Got off at the station before Custom House and began our walk. Now, don’t forget, we both have full backpacks. However, we made the walk in a decent amount of time and happily checked in to our hotel where we ‘ll be spending the next four nights while we explore London.

Custom House Hotel

We had booked our hotel through CheapOstay.com for a very good price for a London hotel.

The room was small – but, hey, we’re now in Europe and that’s to be expected – but functional and clean.

The shower, however, was not at all what we’re used to. There was barely enough pressure to get wet.

Real British Fish & Chips

After checking in and taking a quick shower we no longer felt tired and decided to go to the pub attached to the hotel to have dinner.

Hey, we were in England, so what do you suppose we ordered for dinner? You guessed it – fish and chips!

Well, my first encounter with real English Fish and Chips was incredible! The piece of fish was not only huge, but it was also recognizable as a piece of fish. Not the uniform frozen fish and chips I have been used to. The meal was served on square plates and the fish, which was just lightly battered, went from point to point on the plate. The chips were hand cut and done to perfection and there was also salad and mushy peas. We enjoyed it thoroughly and washed it all down with a pint of Strongbow Cider.

Although the pub was quiet, after all this was a Monday night, it still felt authentic, to me anyway as this was also my first English pub!

We were both happy with our first day in London but jet lag was starting to set in so we headed back to our room, made tentative plans for the next day, let our marvelous supper digest and then drifted off to sleep.

Laundry Day

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Sep 04 ~ Day #117
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$11700
$27.20
$9624.32
$82.26
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
13890
4451
000
69
18410

Current Location: Davie, Florida

Today’s Total Expenses: $27.20

Accommodation: $27.20

Early Morning Migraine

Unfortunately I am prone to migraine headaches, but I haven’t had one in ages.

Well, my luck ran out in the wee hours of this morning. I was woken up by a migraine that was pretty much in full bloom.

Yep, light, sound and smell were all amplified and a few days earlier I had spilled some of my perfume in the tent. Now that was all I could smell.

I downed several painkillers and Geoff helped me into the shower (I had to keep my eyes covered because the light in the bathroom hurt) and I let cool water rain down on my head and neck.

It helped somewhat but then the nausea started to set in.

Geoff suggested that perhaps immersion in the swimming pool might help so he lead me off to the pool while I did my best to keep my eyes covered.

Even at this early hour there were still a few people at the pool.

They were all so understanding and began shutting off all the lights to make it more comfortable for me.

Thanks guys!

Geoff, who was able to think clearly, bless him, suggested he make some coffee.

Great idea! Caffeine is a great painkiller delivery system.

Back at our campsite, Geoff made the coffee and I sipped it slowly while trying to will myself to relax. When I get stressed I clench my teeth. When I clench my teeth it can result in a migraine, particularly if other triggers are present (like the spilled perfume).

By the time I was almost finished my coffee the painkillers had started to kick in. About a half hour or so after that I felt like I could finally go back to bed and get some sleep.

Truly, I don’t know what I would do without Geoff to help me through things like this.

Laundry Day

I may have mentioned it before but I just LOVE to do laundry.

As today is our last day before heading overseas, today is the day to do laundry and make sure everything is clean – both the stuff we’re taking with us and the stuff we’re leaving behind.

We didn’t have a lot but it was still two wash loads and one dryer load.

Now we can complete our packing and be ready to go tomorrow.

Using Up Groceries

We’ve also done amazingly well at using up the groceries that we can’t leave behind.

There are a few cans of things left, and that’s fine. They can stay in the car until we get back.

We will use up the last two tomatoes at supper tonight and the last two bananas at breakfast tomorrow.

Everything is working out well!

Getting Our Ducks in a Row

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Sep 03 ~ Day #116
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$11600
$27.20
$9597.12
$82.73
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
13890
4451
000
69
18410

Current Location: Davie, Florida

Today’s Total Expenses: $27.20

Accommodation: $27.20

Getting Our Ducks in a Row

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about what needs to be done before we head over to the UK on Sunday.

Okay, Okay, I’ve actually been stressing about stuff. Not a good idea.

Being uncertain about when or where we might have an Internet connection means I want to make sure that I’ve covered everything that needs an Internet connection.

Getting Excited

Actually, we’re both looking forward to spending some time in the UK. I’ve never been there and Geoff hasn’t been back since he left in 1963.

He plans to show me where he grew up and I expect that it has probably changed a lot in the time he’s been away.

We are also going to spend a few days exploring London before heading off to Nottingham for a week on a narrow boat with friends.

Missing Home a Bit

Even though we’ve been enjoying this trip and are really looking forward to the European part, at times we long for the comfortable and familiar routine of being home.

It’s still almost 3 months before we head back home and, yes, we miss it.

Too Much Downtime

Perhaps this week of downtime has given us time reflect and, therefore, long for home.

I’m sure once we are presented with new places to explore, the excitement of a new adventure will supplant the longing for home.