Starting off in London
The first stop on our 200 day trip was the beautiful city of London. As my mother was born in England I’ve been fascinated with the country all my life and couldn’t wait to finally visit.
As we’ll be heading back to the UK for Christmas and New Years this was a short 4 day stop to catch up with friends and also pick up our drone which I’d managed to get my hands on online.
London is a beautiful city, with many buildings towards the outskirts reminding me of the inner-west in Sydney. Once in the heart of the city, you are surrounded by beautiful heritage buildings that really leave a lasting impression. For me personally it was almost surreal to be surrounded by so many beautiful, old sandstone(?) buildings of which we only have a handful of in Sydney.
Below are a few shots that I hope catch that atmosphere.
Taken near Fleet Street
One of many beautiful pubs, this one is nearby Tottenham Court Rd, an area where my mother often visited as a child
Opposite Trafalgar Square
On the Thames River
As you may have also noticed, traveling through London is also like traveling in a mix of suburbs/places between Monopoly and Sydney. So many familiar names kept popping up that it made the city feel a bit more homely in a strange way.
Whilst the city itself is beautiful (or at least the centre of the city), not all things were peachy.
Misadventures in London
1. Couldn’t get cash out at the airport
despite several visits to the bank to prepare my cash card in advance, my Japanese and Aussie cards returned errors at the airport ATMs.
Solution: since most places accept credit including ticket machines, we bought our charged Oyster cards and hopped on the subway. Turns out the ATMs at the airport just weren’t on our side, and we had no issues pulling out cash on the go.
2. Delivery guy had one f***ing job
and he just couldn’t do it. Delivers outside the designated time (9-5pm), doesn’t leave a note, and then registers the package as delivered.
Solution: go directly to the depo to pick it up and wave goodbye to the additional express delivery fees we paid. I have never loved Japanese delivery services more than I do now.
3. One dinner out put us almost over budget for 4 days
and we learnt a lesson in budget traveling. London is a beautiful city and the pubs are to die for, but it is not a city for long-term backpackers to stay more than a few days. Inexpensive places still feel steep.
Our first night in London, where jet-lag got the better of us at 8pm
4. Red telephone boxes were a huge disappointment
oh how I’d dreamt of beautiful red telephone boxes lining the streets. They certainly were around the place, but rather than being used as prescribed they smelt like piss and… well let’s just say you should not even think of going inside one.
There was a particularly interesting one we came across in Soho.
Some things we remember about London
Of course we enjoyed our stay in London, and look forward to going back there again (with a more realistic budget in mind).
1. Public transport is pretty good
If we’re comparing with Japan then yeah, the tube isn’t great, but coming from Sydney, the public transport system in the UK isn’t looking shabby. The beautiful double-decker red buses are frequent and easy to use with some running through the night (and if you’re using an Oyster card there’s a max cost per day as well so it won’t break the bank).
2. The food was good
We had the chance to eat out a few times – Mexican, British, and some pub nibblies. The fish and chips were really good and the Mexican food nice and spicy. Not sure if I could live on this food forever, but it was good nonetheless.
Sweet potato heaven at Wahaca, Waterloo
Fish and Chips at Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen. Many thanks to business-partners-now-friends for covering us
3. Groceries and pre-prepared food is affordable
After realizing we were going to go way over budget, we turned to the local supermarkets. We found that all the supermarkets provided somewhat affordable and also healthy options for pre-made food. Eating breakfast and dinner in is probably your best bet for surviving in London without spending too much.
4. Pubs are amazing
I’ve been to a fair few Aussie pubs in my time and they aren’t places you’d rave about or want to take photos of. But British pubs? They are in a whole other league, with beautiful wooden interiors, a dark yet warm atmosphere and delectable food on offer.
The delectable goats cheese dish we had at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
5. Weather was as expected
Not sure if this is so much a positive, but the weather was just as one would have expected – cloudy with a bit of drizzle. We were lucky that there wasn’t any heavy rain while we were in town and could get away without really using our umbrellas.
One thing that really stood out to us, after having both been to Australia and the US (Fumi also having been to Canada), was that there are not nearly as many Asians in London than there are in other major Western cities. Growing up in Sydney and having traveled to San Francisco and LA for work, it seemed normal for there to be a significant population of ABCs, but the difference really stood out to us.
Quote: “Now I know how it feels when you’re in Japan!”
We really enjoyed our stay in London, and are looking forward to heading back again at the end of the year and maybe meeting with some long-lost family. If I were to plan our trip there again and if it was our only chance to check out the city, we would have also
- visited Kensington Palace
- walked through Hyde Park (free)
- checked out the British Museum (free)
- watched Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace (free)
- never, ever use a delivery service. Ever.
Next stop was Porto, Portugal, where we flew to directly from Gatwick. Post to come…