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Part of having all the time in the world when you travel is picking a cheaper plane flight from a nearby city, even if you have to wait a few days for the flight. But when you go to one of the most expensive cities in the world, that might not be the best choice.Photos of London
My trip to London became a launching pad for my trip to Croatia when I found a ticket from Gatwick Airport to Pula, Croatia for $50. I left Edinburgh (sniff) to see family I’d never met in Redditch, a small village south of Birmingham, for a few days (still need to write that blog). Then I stayed in Birmingham for half a day, and finally made it to London. As mentioned in that post, my bus arrived an hour and a half late in London. And my hostel was several kilometers away on the other side of Hyde Park. So to save time, I cut straight across the park. At midnight. Who said it wasn’t safe?
To be honest, the next couple days went by in a blur. I explored several more parts of London which I missed my first trip there in January, such as the Tower of London, London Bridge, more of the museums, Hyde Park, etc. I saw the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace and a 41-gun salute for the queen’s 89th birthday. I met up with some friends whom I’d met when I first started my travels in London several months ago. I went to two different Couch Surfing events and met many new friends. I saw the outside show for the World Premier of Minions in Leicester Gardens.
One day was dedicated to just working on my blog. Touching up the design, writing my post about London, working on other tasks and in general getting all the things done that I haven’t been able to do on the road.
Once again, I rented bikes to get around London each day. This is by far the best and cheapest way to travel around the city. The bikes are only £2 a day, as long as you don’t use them more than 30 minutes at a time. But that is quite easy to do with bike stations all around town. If you need to travel farther, just drop off the bike at one station, walk a couple blocks and pick up another. The only problem I ran into this trip was I would sometimes have to try several stations before I found one with a slot available to return the bike to. And there was one night after a CouchSurfing party when I couldn’t find any bike until the fifth station!
Having learned from my escapades in Scotland, as well as in the rest of my travels, I purchased most of my food from markets to cook at home. There were two exceptions however. One was an amazing bagel shop my host took me to in the northeast part of town, where a lox and cream cheese bagel was under £2.
The other exception was Five Guys. This hamburger joint opened up in the states years ago, but despite wanting to for years and having friends tell me to go, I never went. I saw one in London and I decided to grab a burger before it became months or years before I saw another. I went with a fellow traveler and I can say the burgers are definitely impressive and worth paying a little more for. I just wish I had eaten one in the states where they are a bit cheaper.
I had one other adventure in London, which might have been the biggest adventure so far in my travels. After a couple days in town, my phone dropped into a little bit of water. Even though I immediately grabbed it out and let it dry for a few hours, it wasn’t enough. It stopped working completely. When I brought it to the T-Mobile store, they said it was fried. So I had no option but to purchase a replacement. Not the easiest thing to do when phones in London are about 60% more expensive than if they were purchased in the states. So after much back and forth, I finally decided to get the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, something which has been on my wishlist for months. I went with the tablet since it can effectively replace both my phone and my laptop which weighs too much. This tablet is also 4G so I can use my phone’s SIM card in it, and still utilize my international texting and wi-fi, thanks to T-Mobile. I’ve been using it for a couple days now, and I can say I am thoroughly happy with it. But my wallet certainly isn’t. Now I’m looking forward more than ever to getting to the cheaper countries.
Losing my phone was really interesting as a permanent adventurer. Sure, I was able to use my hard-copy map of London. But that actually turned out harder than I expected with streets changing names every couple hundred meters. Yes I was able handle my blog and social media from my laptop when I was able to find a cafe, but I missed three friends I was supposed to meet up with when there was no way for them to contact me. I even almost lost my host for the night when I couldn’t reach him. So yes, travel can be done without a phone. Does a phone make it infinitely easier? You betcha!
And that was my week in London. Not too eventful…except for the biggest part of my adventure yet. Now I’m off to Croatia, outside both the UK and the Schengen Zone, to explore a whole new series of countries and see a location which has been on almost every list of most beautiful places in the world: Plitvice Lakes.