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Published: January 19th 2007
Hello everyone! Well, now those of you who have been checking this site daily for the past week, simply because it is part of your routine, won't have to feel disappointed (at least not as much) because I'm back to posting!
I had a seriously lovely time back home in Victoria. It was absolutely the best idea ever for Derek and I to come home for a bit before coming to Europe. It gave us a chance to buy warm coats, new shoes, recharge, and see good friends. Speaking of good friends, thanks heaps (I've already been in London too long!) to everyone who took the time to meet up with me in one way or another when I was home. It really meant a lot to me. We must do it again when I return! Another fun aspect of my time at home was the blanket of snow that covered Victoria for nearly my entire time there. I don't know how much snow I'll see in Europe because they're having a really warm winter, so it was good to get some snow time while I could. In fact, there was an article in the Vancouver Sun yesterday about how European bookings at Whistler were up like 150% this year because the European mountains are snowless, and sure enough there were a ton of ski bags being offloaded from our flight.
A lack of snow doesn't mean the weather here is great, however. We hit maaajor turbulence due to really high, gusty winds on final approach to London Gatwick Airport. It was really fun being bounced around all over the place, but I was slightly concerned the all the bouncing was occuring just as we were supposed to be gently caressing the runway. My fears were unfounded, though, as our Zoom Airlines pilot navigated the landing remarkably smoothly in the end. Other than that, the flight was pretty standard. Zoom is a new charter airline to Europe that's kind of Canada's international WestJet equivalent. Bare minimum amenities, but crazy cheap fairs and super friendly flightcrews. I'd recommend it.
We took the train from the airport to our hostel (involving a trip on the "Victoria Line" to "Victoria Station"). While getting thouroughly confused trying to change trains in London Station, a really nice old Brit came up to us to give us directions and EXTENSIVE travel advice. He scolded us for bringing the awful weather with us, and I couldn't really deny that we hadn't after all the crazy weather BC has had. See, there was a HUGE windstorm raging yesterday. All the trains were running late because of speed restrictions in the high winds. I actually was unsure if we'd make it to our hostel at all, because initially the trains were on a limit of 50miles/hour, then we were delayed so they could clear debris on the tracks, then we were limited to 20miles/hour, then part of our line was closed for the rest of the day because a tree fell on it! Let me tell you that walking around in those high winds with a huge sail of a backpack was pretty fun in itself. We made it in the end, and I'm glad we did because our hostel is INCREDIBLE!!! I pretty much spent all Tuesday morning at home researching London hostels, and my work paid off in the end. London hostels are renowned for being really expensive and generally not that great, but Globetrotters is different. It's at the bottom end of the scale for London (though still more than what we would like to be paying) but is without at doubt one of the best hostels I've ever stayed at. Our room is really nice, with hardwood floors (possibly laminate, but it looks good anyway), solid, non-creaky wooden bunkbeds complete with privacy curtains and personal reading light, sturdy lockers that can actually fit my whole backpack in them, a good kitchen for our use, a wholesome free breakfast, free DVD movie room with big LCD projector and comfy bean bag chairs, nice clean bathrooms with great showers, a sink right in our room..... the list goes on and on! I don't really want to leave. I think the plan is to stay 4 nights here in London because the Eurostar train fares to France are cheaper for us on weekdays, so we'll wait till Monday to leave. I still don't know where we're going to go in France. Derek slept for like 3 hours last evening so I spent the time researching and planning a Europe itinerary (subject to Derek approval, of course). The hardest part for me to figure out, however, was the France section. This sucks, because it is the part that needs to be decided right away because we're about to go there! I'm trying to balance everything we'd like to see with our limited days of travel on our railpass, combined with the problem of sticking to places that have good hostels in them. Although I'd initially wanted to spend a fair bit of time in France, I'm becoming less and less of that mindset. I think I'd rather only go to two French towns (then Paris later, which is where we fly home from) and spend more time elsewhere. Hey, Laurel, what do you recommend in France? Where were your favourite spots? I should have asked you this on Sunday. Duh.
Soooo what did we do yesterday? Well, there was a bit of trouble checking in to Globetrotter which was kind of funny. I hadn't made a reservation ahead of time because this place is huge so I wasn't concerned about not getting a spot, but when we went to check in they guy at the desk said that it was going to be 17pounds each per night. That's like over $35CAN!!! That's still a fairly reasonable rate for London, but hostelworld.com had advertised beds as being 9 pounds during the weekdays and 12 on weekends. They guy said "well, that's because hostelworld has different rates than for walk-ins." So I said, "so, you mean if I went to an internet place right now and booked online we would pay 8 and 5 pounds less per night?" He said "yup" so we said, "well, I guess we'd better find an internet place then," and took off. That's a difference of $15/person/night, so we figured it was definitely worth some effort. We asked for local internet at a nearby gas station, and the attendant really came through. He directed us to a great place about a block and a half away, which not only was convenient but has the cheapest internet we've seen anywhere in London (we're there right now, actually). So, we booked online, walked back to the hostel, and checked in with our substantially discounted fare. I'm slightly concerned, though, because were weren't really planning on pre-booking anywhere we went unless there was a really amazing, small hostel somewhere we had our hearts set on, but now I'm concerned that we'll be stuck paying high prices if we keep to that plan. Hopefully it's an isolated Globetrotter policy.
After settling ourselves in we set off to explore the neightbourhood and bit and hunt out some food. It did not take us long to discover that we would NOT be eating out here, possibly ever, due to crazy high prices, but we were really, really pleased to find that prices for quality grocery store food are really good, particularly for pasta and sauce, which I plan on eating for basically every meal. Mmmm pasta... We'll have to make sure that all the hostels we stay in have kitchens available to us. For a snack/lunch/keep us till dinner Derek and I bought yogurt and a u-bake pizza, which ended up having to sustain us until 9:30pm because Derek slept all through normal dinner hour. It was really tasty. Then we took it easy and watched "Murder by Numbers" in the movie room. Derek fell asleep during the movie so he moved up to our room, where he slept for hours and hours. Eventually, though, I woke him up because we had our transit pass which I wanted to use, so we set off on "the Tube" (the underground railway) for some local sights.
Ahhhh time up! I'll publish and post pics later!
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