I know that I haven’t been blogging as much but I actually had full intentions on doing so while I was in London so that I could let others (aka my mom) keep up with what I was doing along the way, but if you’ve been to London then you know that if you want to do everything, you basically can’t even shower you are on the go so much. This first blog might sound a little complain-y at first. I hope you’ll join me in the spirit of just being honest about what happened and come along for the ride. Buckle up. I will also preface this by saying that although we had some interesting experiences, London is one of my all time favorite cities I've ever been in my life. I am obsessed and want to know all the history of that amazing, beautiful city. You know that I have talked about my love of NYC for years and years, and dare I say that I might like London more. EEK! I won't ever cheat on NYC, but man yall, it's amazing.
Our Airbnb Mishap
On the shower note, I also didn’t shower much because a) there were no plug ins in this (gross – will explain momentarily) bathroom b) the towel I was provided had gross stuff on it as if it hadn’t even been washed (y’all-LOL) and c) my adapter wouldn’t fit the prongs for my hair dryer. So, I was like YOLO, gonna pretend I’m camping this week. That’s how T told me to deal with what we came into on Sunday night at 2am. We always go cheap, as I’m sure you all know, but we always check reviews and minute details to make sure it will be okay. We had a place, and then the girl contacted us last minute and said that it was too late that we were arriving so the week of the trip, we had to pick a new place. That was stressful and we ended up not doing enough research.
It was like a 600sq ft apartment that 4 mid 20’s Italian and French guys were staying in. The toilet was downstairs and the shower was upstairs (which was where our room was). In London, the ground floor is what we call the first floor, and the first floor to them is our second, so he told us to go in to the first floor. At 2am, we are greeted by this guy coming in from drinking asking us what we are doing in his room. The guys on the ground floor (who ended up being so nice) were from Italy, and the guys upstairs (whom we rented from) are from France. So he like was about to fight Tanner.at2am.in a country we have never been and I wish you could see the outside of this place. HAHAHA. JOY TO THE WORLD.
We walk upstairs to our room and the sheets literally look like they haven’t been washed literally ever, and the comforter and bed just have like dirt all around, there’s McDonald’s in the trash can and the room is only big enough for the bed. When I laid in the bed, I might as well have been just laying on springs even with how tiny I am, so I had to like sleep on my big puffy scarf to try and ease that. We found this clean looking towel and wrapped it around the pillows. OMG Y’all! I’m cracking up writing what we had to do. My chest got tight. I was like OMG WHAT IS GOING ON?! Oh, and our phones didn’t work and we didn’t now the wifi at this point. I was trying not to panic. Deep breaths. WOOOSA.
I couldn’t sleep that first night and our plan was to find a new place that next morning. When we woke up, we decided to go get breakfast and over breakfast we discussed that due to having to pay cancellation fees which we had already had to do with our first place (yea yea we could have fought it through Airbnb but that’s not guaranteed and SUCH a hassle) and the fact that we only planned to sleep there, we would just tough it out. YUCK. Whatever. Now that that story is out of the way, let’s get to London.
I try to be really upfront on my blogs so that people can get the full experience and not just the fluff howeverrrr this BREEDS people thinking I’m asking for their opinions. Hahaha! I know, I know. We should a) spend a little more and get more value b) could have switched and complained c) could have spent more time finding a place d) the list goes on and on. Lesson learned. We get it
I really don’t want this blog to be 10 pages long, so I’m going to tell the traveling details and mishaps and mistakes today then I’ll move into the fun and to do’s that we did tomorrow. I always like to give useful info if you’re taking the time to read my blog <3
Months ago, I was on Norwegian air as I do sometimes, and found flights to London in December one way for 190£. At the time, I was not familiar with pounds, but I knew the dollar amount was “close”. Looking back, our deal was not worth what we had to do as you plan your own. We discussed at large yesterday how if you are getting a deal, you are “paying” for it in some way, and while we ended up spending more than $3200 on this trip (I like to give REAL figures so people know if they want to do it), it was uncomfortable and if we plan a trip this large in the future, we just know that we need to invest, save, and do it the mature, adult way.
So, 190 pounds is about $250. But in order to do that, we had to go through JFK. We thought that was great as we would just see friends, but turns out like basically all of our friends have now moved from New York City so we had to a) get an Airbnb b) didn’t have enough time there to do anything anyway. It was only one full day.
We flew out of New York on Friday night. There were two massive wrecks on I-85 going to Charlotte, and based on the time frame, we knew there was no way we would get to our flight so Tanner literally drove on the shoulder and in the grass on the side of the interstate to get around this situation. We literally only did that for maybe two miles and it cut off 30 minutes. Crazy how that works in stand still traffic. We arrived in NYC at 10pm, but the place we ended up getting was in the upper west way far out (because again #WENEEDTOJUSTPAYMOREMONEY), it took 1.5 hours on the subway and we ended up at that place at 2am.
We woke up on Saturday morning and explored NYC at Christmas. It was absolute perfection as New York always is but also an absolute madhouse. I visited during Christmas for the first time 7 years ago and it was fun to think about that, and also how much has changed around the city and one of those changes is with the advent of the internet and easier access to travel, there’s more and more people in the Times Square area so we didn’t spend much time there. We walked a lot through Central Park and just chatted and had coffee at the Boathouse. We ended up having a big dinner that night due to us both starving which is always fun to go all out.
We woke up on Sunday morning and immediately went to the airport even though our flight didn’t leave until 11am because we know how NYC is with getting around and doing international travel. I’d rather be 4 hours early to an airport vs stressing out over not making it.
The flight was stated to be 11am to 11pm but it was actually only about 6.5 hours but you travel 5 hours ahead in time. Norwegian Air is honestly wonderful. It’s very “new age-y” so they play like mainstream music and young people on board, it has lots of space, and we got lucky and got the exit rows. The key on Norwegian is that you need to pack super light to avoid extra baggage fees (check their rules), and remember that if you don’t order their food, then you need to bring food on the flight .. which we did. Everything went smoothly on the flight!! When we landed, we noticed everyone was running and we were confused. We later found out it’s because the rail service shuts down and we literally made it on to the rail 1 minute before it left or we would have just been hanging out all night. Yikes. This isn’t due to lack of trying to plan ahead. We tried so hard to figure out all details. It’s just hard and complicated to know what to expect when going into a foreign country at 11pm. We also flew into Gatwick which is through Norwegian air, but that is not the closest airport so people questioned that. Most would fly out of Manchester. If you don’t live out of a hub that Norwegian flies, then I honestly wouldn’t bother with all the hassle it entails. We literally saved like $30 by doing the entire hassle of going in and out of NYC…so we won’t do that again. Live and learn.
Their “tube” or subway station was shut down once we got into London proper, so we ended up having to get a cab the rest of the way. The tube isn’t like the subway in New York. It’s much cleaner, and some areas shut down at night which honestly is great so they can work on the dang things. London is much older than NYC so I was very impressed. We got the unlimited travel card. If you look online, they always recommend getting the Oyster card that you can put just continual money on. We used ours SOOO much that I can’t even imagine what that would have added up to. So, if you are there for a week then I definitely recommend unlimited. It was around 50 pounds each for Zones 1,2,and3 but we should have only done Zones 1&2. We didn’t know though, and that would save about 10 pounds each.
We also had heard that exchanging money at the airport was the cheapest, so we did like an ATM debit to get some pounds or quid as the slang is. Quid is like saying “bucks” in USD. I have an American Airlines citi card which I use for mileage and free baggage, and it also has the perk of no international exchange fees so we could have gotten away with mostly card, but it was nice to have cash especially for the walking tours. We didn’t get charged commission on the amount we got out so that was nice. The exchange rate is 1 pound = 1.1 USD which adds up quicker than you realize.
One little tip though is that if you have an American card, they make you sign and check your ID at EVERY location, so imagine an NYC environment and you’re at a coffee shop and so with the crazy amount of people, it’s best to take cash. Another little thing we LOVED is that you can get little sandwiches and quick cheap lunches literally EVERYWHERE. They were healthy, tasty, and cheap. We didn’t want to spend a blue million dollars eating at a nice restaurant for every meal and we got so so hungry the entire time walking around so much, so this was SO useful. They even had macros listed on everything, and every single pop in was healthy food. I.LOVED.THAT. NYC is all about decadence with food. London isn’t like that. They are all about that alcohol and pubs though! LOL!
I like to go in order of the trip but since we are discussing flights, I want to go back to the flight home that we also had to purchase because that deal I found was a one way JFKà London. From London to JFK, it was around $300-350 each. I can’t remember so let’s go with $325, plus the $250 going so $575 for flights. I know you’re thinking WHAT A STEAL. We did too. Then we started adding up flights to NYC, airbnb’s in NYC, ubers and subway costs in NYC and that’s how I came up with the calculation that it was around $30 to go through here.
We flew out yesterday from London at 5pm, and our flight is 8 hours returning with the 5 hour time difference so we got into JFK at 8pm. We got an uber to a place near the airport where we had got another Airbnb, which was SO nice. THANK YOU JESUS. She was a wonderful host. This morning we got up at 4am to get to the airport for our 630am flight back to charlotte, and due to snow and something being wrong with the plane, the flight didn’t take off until 830am. Soooo, if you factor in the Friday night traffic adventure, the treck 1.5 hours on the subway, the London Airbnb experience, the Gatwick area being 1.5 hours out of London proper, and the delays this morning, you can imagine that we won’t be traveling for quite a long time on a plane!
However, I did look up direct flights to London from Charlotte, and they are literally cheaper than what we paid to do all the crazy that we did, sooooo now I want to go back once I've recooperated for a bit. Sheesh, international travel is exhausting.
Up tomorrow, the fun stuff! <3