Last weekend I went to London with my friend Anisa. You remember her, right? She was the roommate who helped me overcome my food poisoning? And we’ve been friends ever since we arrived here. She’s a cool chick who just happens to be from Maryland as well (although she picked the wrong HBCU to go to, YOU KNOW THE ONE ANISA). When she told me she was headed to London, I thought, “Well I should intrude on it, I’ve been meaning to go to London.” She said sure, so I bought my ticket and booked my hostel.
I should have booked my ticket as soon as possible.
Instead I waited a bit, choosing mini-cheesecakes from the grocery store over saving and buying my ticket then and there. As a result, my flight to London went through Luton Airport, about an hour from downtown London.
The more and more I travel, the more I realize how my brain fails to remember the lessons I’ve told myself to remember. I said I would never book a super cheap flight again, I said I would never book a hotel or flight without considering the distance from downtown, and yet!
My flight was delayed before I even got to the airport.
By the time Anisa had landed, some time around 10pm, I would just begin my three to four hour delay in the airport. I landed in Luton at 3am, and didn’t make it to my hostel until 4am (which really sucked because I had paid for that night!). Oh that reminds me.
About my hostel…
I went to Clink 78. I really should have considered that name. The hostel is a former London courthouse, famous for hosting a trial of the legendary band, ‘The Clash’ (of “London Calling” fame). All the websites said it was quirky and interesting, so I read the less than stellar reviews with a grain of salt. They just don’t get the vibe it’s going for, I thought. Turns out, those less than stellar reviews were on to something.
My room was in the basement, one bed among four (some rooms had 12 beds!). We had one tiny basement window and… a sink. Get it yet?
The hostel bedrooms were former prison cells.
Day One: Warm Up, Be Humble!
Anisa and I plan to meet at a restaurant called the Breakfast Club. I share the address with her and I head out of my hostel to find it. It’s freezing outside, to a degree I wasn’t prepared for, so the walk warms me up. I consider taking the metro or a bus, but I don’t have the desire to figure out another public transportation system. I also just like walking, especially when I’m in a new city. I get to the Breakfast Club and see the line is long. I take my spot and wait for Anisa. About an hour later, we find out that we are at completely different restaurants. We decide to stay where we are – on completely different sides of town – and eat breakfast apart.
I got what was called, “The Elvis,” a peanut-butter waffle with yogurt and maple syrup with caramelized bananas on top. I got a side of scrambled eggs too, for good measure. I try not to order “American breakfast,” on the menu of foreign restaurants because …duh. But I get Earl Grey to start the day and absolutely DESTROY my breakfast, it was so good. With a full belly, I brave the cold again to meet Anisa at a nearby Starbucks. Wonderful thing about Starbucks is that they’re everywhere, and very easy to spot in any city.
Anisa’s phone is dying, so we stay inside the Starbucks warming up a bit before embarking on our first sightseeing goal – the Buckingham Palace. While the United Kingdom has several official palaces as residences for the Royal Family, Buckingham is the administrative headquarters of the Monarchy, as well as being a place of public mourning or rejoicing. Before Anisa and I are able to leave, it starts snowing with really powerful wind. Anisa and I are covered in snow on our walk, stopping several times in nearby stores to defrost.
All I could think about was that classic Campbell’s Soup commericial where a snowman defrosts into a little boy.
We walk through Green Park to Buckingham Palace, taking photos of the snow all the way.
Buckingham Palace is pretty, yes, and lots of people are outside taking photos, sure. But Anisa and I are slowly freezing to the core. Even my phone gets tired of getting photos, and starts freezing and acting weird. After doing all we can outside, Anisa and I look at each other and just know. “You ready to go?”
“Let’s do it.”
We leave and go to a nearby restaurant to warm up and chit chat.
And we call it a day. London had effectively beaten us into submission with one snowy day. I went back to my prison cell and made the best out of a bad situation with the sleep. I got back to my room and everyone was asleep. Do you know how hard it is to climb to the top bunk of a bed in the dark, especially when the ladder to get to the top is like a rock climbing wall? It’s hard, lemme tell you.
So that’s it for Friday, stay tuned for Saturday – the epic conclusion to the London Flurry.
God Save the Queen!