London – the one and only

Dear London, you were almost perfect! Why “almost”? Because of your crappy weather, of course. However, we did have an amazing time and we are looking forward to see you again!

So yeah, I have to admit that London wasn’t on our bucket-list and that’s only because we love the sun… more than… the rain :))

Other than that, we really enjoyed our stay in London, which is enormous by the way and our 3 days spent there weren’t enough to see all the places that husband and I wanted to visit. I think you’ll probably need at least 1 week or so to see this amazing city at its best.

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But if we weren’t attracted to London that much from the beginning, then why did we choose this destination after all? Oh well, because we have a lot of friends living in the UK and we’ve all decided to meet up in London. Some of our friends came from Aberdeen, Scotland and some of them from nearby cities such as Hemel Hempstead, Coventry and Birmingham.

First things first: flight tickets. Ryanair again, 52 Euros both of us, round-trip tickets. Great bargain, I know! We landed on Stansted Airport at 8AM in the morning which was kind of perfect because we had the entire day at our disposal to explore the city. However, the airport was pretty busy and lasted over an hour only to get out of it. Let’s just say this wasn’t a great start…

From London Stansted Airport we took the National Express until Stratford. Round-trip tickets were £33 for both of us and it was a 50 minutes ride. I have to tell you this, the public transportation in London isn’t cheap at all. First thing we did when we reached Stratford was to get our Oyster cards done.

What is Oyster? Oyster is a smartcard which can hold “pay as you go” credit and you can use it to travel on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Air Line, River Bus services and most National Rail services in London. So, basically, pretty much everywhere. When you get a new Oyster card, you’ll need to pay a £5 deposit. If you decide you don’t need it anymore, return your Oyster card and you’ll get a refund of any remaining pay as you go + your deposit.

Also, below are 2 very useful articles about London’s public transportation:

From Stratford we took a bus until Walthamstow Central (zone 3) and then we finally reached our accommodation. We stayed at ibis Styles London Leyton (£116 for 2 nights + breakfast included) and let me say that we were quite impressed. The hotel is very nice and clean. Staff are friendly and helpful. The room is modern, good WIFI, comfy bed… Honestly, nothing to complain about! The Walthamstow Central Underground station is 15 minutes away  by foot and from there you have the Victoria line which takes you in no more than 20 minutes into the city center. Totally recommend it!

So here starts our DAY 1. I am now realizing that this is going to be a loooong blog post haha. Hope you don’t mind and hope you won’t get bored either^^

First stop: The London Eye which, by the way, is not a Ferris wheel. It’s the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.  It is so huge that it didn’t even fit in my picture below:

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On average, the London Eye receives more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Another interesting thing is that despite there only being 32 capsules, for superstitious reasons they are numbered 1 to 33: for good luck, there is no capsule numbered 13.

TIP: use the 2 for 1 Deals. There is no need to pay full price for every attraction you visit. With National Rail, it is possible for visitors to purchase a rail ticket which, in turn, will grant the holder 2 for 1 access to some of the biggest attractions, exhibitions, theaters and even restaurants in the capital. With so many places in London signed up to the scheme, it’s one of the biggest (and easiest) ways to save money whilst in the capital and all you need is a ticket and access to a printer! For example we paid £25 both of us for The London Eye.

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Next stop: SEA LIFE Aquarium. Entrance fee £20 for 2 people with the 2 for 1 Deal. My opinion – it’s nice but expected to be bigger. I was impressed by the huge turtles and the sharks as well. Oh and the cute penguins yay.

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The next few hours we’ve been in a pub near Leicester Square where we’ve met another good friend of mine who showed us the surroundings.

We ate in a kebab place, I don’t recall the price but it wasn’t expensive at all and the food was very good. We were all really hungry so I guess any choice would have been a good one haha.

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Two of our friends had recently had their birthdays on March 14th, so Happy Birthday guys again! Therefore, we had to celebrate. So the very next thing we did, we all went in Enfield where some other guys were throwing a party.

We tried reaching XOYO Club afterwards but unfortunately we arrived 5 minutes late after their last entry which was at 3 AM. Not nice. However, we had a blast in the Uber XL that we all took from Enfield to XOYO. We were aaaa little bit drunk and we were all singing “Mariah Carey – Can’t live” which was on the radio. But, do you know that YouTube version “Ken Lii To Libi Dibi Daut You”? This is how we were singing. Sorry Uber driver!

All of our friends went back in Enfield except for husband and I + another friend. We did not want to return there because it was kind of far and we wanted to sleep a little that night to be able to explore more of London the upcoming day.

However, we did not want to go directly to the hotel either, so we found some non-stop shops, bought some Leffe beers and walked through the city until the morning. We arrived at the hotel just in time for breakfast haha. Then we finally went to sleep at approximately 10 AM, I guess. Or I hope so :))

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So after 3 hours of sleep, here starts our DAY 2. It was really hard to get out of the bed, but we did it somehow. And I am glad we did!

First stop: The Natural History Museum – free entrance. It is a huge museum and also very interesting, but what I liked the most was the earthquake simulator. Cool^^

After this, we just wandered the Chelsea area which is one of London’s richest neighborhoods, home to beautiful Victorian houses and brand new, shiny cars. It’s certainly elitist and there’s many people to be spotted tottering down the most infamous road in Chelsea, King’s Road. The area is adorned with many hidden squares lined with white and red pillared houses, boasting large windows that expose only a peep into the luxury that lies behind.

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After all this walking, we were kind of hungry so we stopped a bit into an Italian restaurant. Why Italian? Because you know… pizza, pasta, wine. The restaurant was super cute, having mural paintings illustrating the best places in Italy. We are going to Sicily in June so it was nice daydreaming a little. We paid all 3 of us £50 for a pizza, pasta and a bottle of white wine.

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Then we went straight to Camden Town, but it got dark until we reached this neighborhood so we couldn’t take advantage of it the way we should have. We went to Amy Winehouse‘s house though ✓

After that we headed to Victoria Street, stopped and ate something (by “something” I mean McDonalds because it was the only food thing open at that hour). Our goal at that point was to go see the Tower Bridge by night. Unfortunately, we were too tired because we slept only those 3 hours that day so we went straight to the hotel. It was almost 1 AM, we were totally exhausted and went directly to sleep.

DAY 3 was our last day in London. We reunited with our “lost friends”, had some breakfast at the hotel, checked-out and off we went to the city center again.

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I wanted so bad to get to Neal’s Yard before we left London that I basically dragged all my friends along to see that pretty colorful spot. Neal’s Yard is a small alley in London’s Covent Garden between Shorts Gardens and Monmouth Street which opens into a courtyard. Loved the place!

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On our way to Neal’s Yard we also passed by London’s Chinatown which is home to some wonderful, authentic Chinese food shops and bakeries, as well as shops crammed full of Chinese-inspired trinkets and gifts.

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After a while, the rain started so we went into a pub to have one last beer before leaving back to the airport. We wanted to see the St. Paul’s Cathedral as well but unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time. Then we said goodbye to our friends and went back to Stratford to take our National Express until Stansted Airport.

Guess what? We were right on time at the airport! We learnt from our mistakes and didn’t miss the flight this time haha. Oh but guess something else… The sun was out when we were literally in the airport. YAY. For 3 days I prayed to see the sun in London even if it was for a short period… but no no no, it finally came out of the clouds when we were leaving back to Bucharest. Sweet… I guess we just weren’t lucky this time. Oh well, maybe next time!

I do regret 2 things…

  • We didn’t see the Tower Bridge by night. I know it would have been awesome!
  • We didn’t visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. We would have enjoyed going up into the dome. Oh and we were also really interested in the Whispering Gallery

Oh and there is one more thing I regret, that I didn’t spend more time with one of my best friends, but at least we have a nice selfie together :))

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We had a great time in London, it is indeed a wonderful city and would love to stroll again through its beautiful streets and admire its Victorian architecture!

Until next time,

Andreea.

  • Our stay in London: 18.03.2017 – 20.03.2017
  • Bucharest – London Stansted and return flight: Ryanair 52 Euros ~ 45 GBP
  • Shuttle from Stansted airport to the city: National Express 33 GBP
  • Accommodation: ibis Styles London Leyton 116 GBP
  • Oyster cards: approximately 40 GBP pay-as-you-go credit
  • Total: 235 GBP

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