In the city of black cabs, red phone booths and grey skies...

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Europe » United Kingdom » England » Greater London » London City
October 23rd 2016
Published: May 8th 2017
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This time we had a short break in Poland only and I have to say that the excitement about heading off somewhere again simply wasn’t there... maybe it was the weather? Cold dark mornings, temperature dropping rapidly, sad grey days... and at the same time so cosy at home sitting by the fireplace... Croatia certainly seemed like a more exciting destination than London – there was a chance we could get some sun rays by the Adriatic Sea still, but London? Wasn’t it just another huge city? Loud, busy... and expensive! Weren’t we just going from one grey place to another? I don’t really know why but London simply didn’t seem attractive to me at all... I've been there once only and only for a day so there was plenty to explore still... yet I was quite reluctant to go there again... But then maybe it was just the wrong timing? Since we had to cut our stay in Poland short we would miss out on celebrating Millie's birthday with the grandparents... I felt quite guilty about it actually as we simply could’ve planned it all a bit better... Ah well... In the end it all turned out quite well as instead of having one birthday celebration, Millie would have three! First a visit to my granny as she just had to wish her first and so far only great granddaughter happy birthday, then another little party with my parents and finally an outing somewhere in London... Not bad at all! Now only to survive the journey – late flight arriving in Stansted at 23.40!, swallow the price of the missed flight (that's what happens when booking cheap flights, no refunds!) and we could start our London adventure...

As it turned out not only it was a long journey and the three of us were overtired, but also UK didn’t welcome us with open arms at all... First of all the flight was delayed, not too much, but at this hour every minute was making a difference... When we got to the passport control at Stansted, our jaws dropped slightly... Gigantic queues! After standing in a queue a few minutes we knew it was going to take a while... For some strange reason they decided to put only one person for the non-EU check! The queue wasn’t going anywhere at all... Also they didn’t seem to be too bothered by overtired and crying children around as there was no priority queue for families in sight... It looked like we were going to stand there for hours! Thankfully after a while they added a few more people to check the passports, still it took an hour before it was our turn... At last! After a few standard questions as to the purpose and the length of our visit, we or rather Grant was suddenly being interrogated! Are we married? Where are we going next? How long are you in Europe for? Sooo long? What is your occupation? Do you have money to support yourself? How much money? Do you have proof of it? Nooo? Seriously lady, we’re reluctantly staying here for 5 days only and seeing how we are being treated are very unlikely to return, will you just let us get some rest now??? What was that all about? I understand the high security and all that, but seriously that was a ridiculously long and thorough passport check... Thankfully after that the rest was easy... we caught a taxi and a short drive later and a wallet 16GBP lighter!, we arrived at our B&B in Elsenham... Once we got to the room we noticed our pram was leaking slightly – bottle with milk totally squashed under, oops! Let’s just hope the boot of the taxi wasn’t too soaked as the taxi driver was actually nice... Finally at 2am (3am for us as got up on a Polish time) we could call it a day... Millie was strongly disagreeing with that though... So overtired that she couldn’t go back to sleep... Poor little munchkin, finally after a good hour of rocking, we could all catch some z’s...

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day and the previous day was already forgotten... kind of... We were ready to give England another chance though. After breakfast we packed our bags and headed to the train station. We missed our train to London by a minute or so and unfortunately they weren’t too regular – an hour wait then! We weren’t too upset about that though – the sun was shining, it was a nice and fresh morning and it actually took us a while to figure out what tickets we needed to buy... 😉 40-minute train journey and two metro changes later we arrived at Earl’s Court station and shortly after were in our hotel. My jaw slightly dropped when I saw the room, yes it was tiny – but that wasn’t THE problem though... It simply looked like it hasn’t been cleaned for days, if not longer... Lots of hair everywhere, blanket full of stains instead of a decent cover, toilet missing a seat cover... Yuk! Was that the standard around London? When we were looking for a cheap hotel somewhere in the centre, most of the hotels had a barely passable score... and they still weren’t too cheap... So far it was the most expensive hotel we’ve booked on this trip! And the poorest standard when comparing to price for sure! Anyway... After all we were only going to sleep here... Using Millie’s wipes I ‘mopped’ the floor and we were ready to start exploring London.

We decided to check out Big Ben first by taking a longer stroll by the Thames. In no time at all we were exposed to London’s icons... Black cab – check! Red double-decker – check! Red phone booth – check! Underground station, Victorian houses, posh London accent – check, check, check! 😊 Now it was time to see some tourist attractions... Walking along the Thames wasn’t exactly too exciting, nice stroll by the river but nothing out of the ordinary... Maybe apart from one monstrosity on the other side of the river – some kind of factory it would seem... I didn’t give it too much attention until we sat down in a local pub for some beer and food and we happened to sit right under a poster of Pink Flloyd’s ‘Animals’... Wait a minute, wasn’t it the same building? Indeed it was, how about that? It turned out it was an old power station, which was built in 1935 to bring electricity to the south bank of the river Thames and even though it is out of service now, it has been used for other purposes since – like movie locations for example – Dark Knight anyone? Interesting...

We walked further along the Thames until we finally reached the Parliament and Big Ben. Both sites were totally cut off from the public by some ugly and yet very fierce looking metal structures, so you could only ‘admire’ them from a distance... Quite impressive pieces of architecture, and yet with the metal fence and grey skies overhead, a little bit
And we're in London! And we're in London! And we're in London!

In a horrible room at the hotel... and yet Millie doesn't seem to care! Such a happy little girl :)
underwhelming if I may say so... It looked like we were there just in time for the Big Ben’s tune and after that we were ready to call it a day... Not exactly too keen on going back to our dirty claustrophobic room but we could definitely feel the lack of sleep from the previous night, so it was time to get some rest. Maybe after a good night’s rest London would look slightly more attractive?

The following morning we had another unpleasant surprise in the room – apparently we had no hot water either! This time it wouldn’t go without complaining... They said they would fix it, ok then, I guess we would just have to find out in the evening... We strolled by the Thames again. It was nice to give the legs a bit of a workout after sitting in front of a fireplace for a few days. It felt like a much shorter and quicker route this time and soon after we were by Big Ben again. We went to check out Westminster Abbey, it was quite a short visit though as we most certainly would not be paying 20GBP each to get inside... Actually it looked like we would be seeing most of the ‘attractions’ from the outside only as all the entrance fees were that high... No, thanks then!

Next we headed to the Trafalgar Square and as we were walking towards it Millie suddenly started making some cute little sounds, which only made us wonder what got her so excited... and soon it was all clear... two statues of some national heroes... on horses! Only a small obsession... 😉 As it turned out a few metres further there were real horses as well. We were right in front of the Household Cavalry Museum. And it looked like we were there just on time for the changing of the guards... It looked a bit tricky as the guards had to stand still in front of the building... on horses! There was a big sign next to the guards advising the tourists not to get too close and not to touch the horses as they could kick and bite but that didn’t stop many people from standing right next to the horses and patting them in order to get the best picture possible... Once again I felt really bad for the guards... Tough job! Hope that at least they got paid well. Next we walked through London’s ‘Broadway’ street (Strand Street) and after making a big loop headed back to our stinky hotel.

Next morning we woke up and guess what – there was no hot water again... The steam started slowly coming out of my ears... Yeah, they repaired it, right! After another complaint we actually got another room! Well how about that? It hasn’t been cleaned yet though... There was no way we were staying in the old room, so Grant moved our bags to the new one and we left the hotel hoping they would clean the room despite our bags being there. Clean sheets and towels please? That’s the least we could ask for at this stage... We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. That day we decided to check out the Tower Bridge – walking all the way there of course... Passing by Big Ben for the third time... Once again we were there just on time to hear the bells ringing... 12 times this time! Some people were actually recording the whole thing... Not exactly a very exciting video to watch later on I’d say... but what do I know? 😉

And then we walked, walked and walked... not really even knowing if we were going in the right direction or how far it was to the Tower Bridge. We would get there though... eventually! After a while we spotted some signs pointing to the Tower Bridge. We were on the right track then! First a quick bite to eat at some funky market and off we went again. Finally there was a bridge coming up... Unfortunately the wrong one... We got to London Bridge instead. From here it wasn’t too far to the Tower Bridge thankfully. Another one of London’s icons and quite an impressive one as well. It probably would’ve been interesting to explore more of the bridge, go up the towers, walk through the glass floors and even check out the exhibition, however we gave up on that idea after seeing the queue... Next time maybe, if there will be one...

On the way back we even met a local celebrity next to St Paul’s Cathedral – celebrity for someone who watches ‘Chase’ that is, we do get hooked on quiz shows at times, so it was nice to bump into one of the Chasers. And guess what? He even said ‘hello’ back to me! Back at our hotel we had a surprise – a toilet seat, actual bed cover and a slightly bigger room? Not to mention hot water... well, how about that? I wondered though why on earth we were given the previous room in the first place... It looked like none of the guests should have ever stayed there! Ah well... Soon we would be leaving anyway...

It was Millie’s birthday the following day. I couldn’t believe she was one already! Time flew by... We didn’t really have anything special planned, just wanted to make sure Millie had a good day. First we went to the Natural History Museum. It looked like we were there at the right time as there was no queue to get inside at all! As we walked in straight away we spotted a sign informing us that the dinosaur section was usually very busy between 12 and 3. I could see that happening very easily, taking into account the queues we saw in front of the building the previous day but also seeing it wasn’t even 11 yet and it already was quite crowded there. Millie slept through the dinosaur section but woke up just in time to see some mammals. Her reaction was just priceless – very, very happy little girl! It looked like we chose a good place to start the birthday celebrations. We left the museum just as it was slowly getting swarmed by people. Talking about good timing!

Next we just strolled around the Hyde Park – love walking through the parks in autumn! So colourful! I also experienced my first ever attack of the ladybirds... I couldn’t believe how many of these little creatures were flying around... At first it seemed like a lot of fun, but after being hit in the eyes a few times and in general being covered by them, I definitely wasn’t laughing anymore... Never saw anything like this before... Survived though! 😉 We thought it would be a good idea to find a playground and let Millie have a bit of fun, so we headed t to Diana Memorial Playground. Not too impressed about it unfortunately as not only it was swarmed with kids but also didn’t have much stuff for toddlers... Who would’ve thought I would get so picky about playgrounds? Thankfully we knew the spot Millie would enjoy for sure so next we walked to St James’s Park again where she could watch some duckies, geese, pigeons and squirrels... Amazing to see how much joy it brings her to simply observe the animals. 😊 Next we hanged around Trafalgar Square and Strand Street while Millie was snoozing. Unfortunately she was brutally taken out from her beauty sleep by an ambulance – it sure is one noisy city! Before we called it a day, we got a few things for Millie at Primark and headed to The Montagu Pyke pub for some dinner. Altogether a very pleasant day and a great first birthday. 😊

So on this last day in London I actually started warming up to this city. Yes, the tourist attractions are ridiculously overpriced but it’s up to you whether you’re willing to spend that kind of money on them... We didn’t feel like we missed out too much on seeing attractions from the outside only. We enjoyed strolling around the London streets much more than seeing the overcrowded interiors of London’s landmarks. And there are plenty of things you can do on a small budget anyway – buying a sandwich and eating it at one of the beautiful parks can be as rewarding as sitting at one of the fancy cafes, especially when the sun is out. I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the shows around here and get a taste of the nightlife as well, but again I didn’t feel like we missed out not doing any of that. After all it was Millie’s extended birthday celebration and we did all we could to keep her entertained throughout our stay here. We were ready to move on now though. I could already feel the breeze coming from the Adriatic Sea. Next stop: Zadar!

Additional photos below
Photos: 50, Displayed: 32


Posing for pictures with the guards...Posing for pictures with the guards...
Posing for pictures with the guards...

At the Household Cavalry Museum
Stay away from the horses, right?Stay away from the horses, right?
Stay away from the horses, right?

At the Household Cavalry Museum

10th May 2017
First stroll around London

What a great photo
14th May 2017
First stroll around London

Thank you :)
15th May 2017

Ariport mightmares x 3
We have been through heaps of horrible late night airport fiascos but just could not imagine doing it with a small child, hats off to all three of you for surviving it. As for your London room, it sounded pretty bad, and as much as you can expect a cheap room for a cheap price, it is unacceptable for it to be unclean, just know that feeling when you get lumped with a crap room. Glad to see that you could tick the boxes in a short space of time and get out to warmer climates.
18th May 2017

Ariport mightmares x 3
Stansted definitely didn't welcome us with open arms. Not much you can do about it though... When I think about that room in London, I keep wondering why we didn't ask for another one straight away? Ah well... We got spoiled further along the way though so all good.

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