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London day 3 - #travel #holiday #london #uk - Random thoughts [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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London day 3 - #travel #holiday #london #uk [Aug. 11th, 2016|02:47 pm]
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[feeling |busybusy]

British Library

For those just catching up and wanting to read it all in chronological order: here are days 1 and 2 of his trip.

Let me start this trip report of Bert and I's final day in London by debunking some of the blatant lies the media are spreading. It is NOT cheap to travel to London. Whilst it is true that you can go to London by Eurostar for as low as € 78 per adult, round trip, I wish you luck getting the tickets that amount to that price for both ways. And whilst yes, the £ has dropped after the Brexit vote, BUT London is STILL a massively expensive place to stay if you want a decent hotel, and the food is much more expensive than here. Whilst it is true that you can get some things cheaper than in Belgium, this does NOT count for the vast majority of things.
To give an example. If I buy a half a liter bottle of Spa Blauw in a local supermarket, I pay between €0,50 and €0,60. If I buy a bottle of water of the same quality in London, I pay £0,70 - £0,80, which amounts to over €1 for half a liter of plain old still water. That's a stupid example, but I'm just trying to point that 90% of all things are STILL more expensive. The £ STILL costs more than the €, so to speak, even though it has dropped. Our three day holiday in London STILL cost us € 270 base price (transport [NMBS, Eurostar, Oyster card for the tube ] + 2 nights hotel stay), and that is without calculating costs for food, drinks and museum entry tickets. Of course, once you are in London you can try to budget by taking along plenty of prepackaged food and drink, but I'm just saying that the media are really exaggerating the supposed cheapness of the UK and London in particular.
Sure, we saved some money because of the £ drop, but I don’t think we saved more than € 60 on our ENTIRE trip. And whilst yes, that is quite a bit of money, it’s not the incredible amount the media will have you believe it is. They’re making it out you’ll spend half of what you would have pre-Brexit, and that’s a blatant lie.
So if you go there, and you should if you feel like it because it's full of coolness, don't believe the media, and save up enough cash.

Anyhow, onto our final day in London (le sad).
I could have stood to stay a little longer but as everything was so pricy, it's probably for the best that I didn't. I still have money left, but I'm saving those £ for a next trip :)

On our 3rd day we had also slept in a little later than usual. When we had showered and had eaten breakfast, we decided to go back to M&S Food, just to get a few bottles of still water to take along. Because apparently the hotel coffee was pretty vile, we went to Prêt a Manger, where Bert had an organic latte and I had a passion fruit and mango smoothie. I also picked up a bag of sweet and salted natural popcorn for Loa and Shinto, because Loa LOVES popcorn (he’s not allowed much) and I had to bring something back for him. Shinto likes salty popcorn, so I figured they just had to share the bag with us (which they did). FIY: I don’t have a habit of stuffing my pets with unhealthy snacks, but sometimes they get a little of it. Considering neither is overweight and both are super healthy, I’m not doing anything wrong.



Back in our room we quickly checked our emails to see if there were any family emergencies (thankfully there were none), check eurostar and NMBS site in case there were strikes and/or other issues (thankfully, there were none of those either), packed the last of our things, double checked that we hadn’t forgotten anything and went to check out, an hour earlier than we had to. The friendly guy at reception fed all the info to his computer, asked if we wanted to store bags, and bade us a good day when we said we’d take them along.
The tube was still quite crowded, but luckily less so than the day before. The fact that it had still been mega crowded around 9.45am, was another reason for us to want to leave around 11 today. Well that and our plan was literally: visit the British Library and do some shopping in St-Pancras station.

The thing is, with the glory days of arriving with your luggage in tow at a museum and leaving it in the cloak room (often for free) well gone, we were now stuck with our luggage. Which meant we were pretty limited in what we could do. We also were quite far from Kings Cross St Pancras station, so leaving the bags in our hotel’s care and then coming back for them also wasn’t terribly practical because it would take at least an hour, providing there were no issues with the tube, and a handy tv in the breakfast room showed there were issues with the Circle line already, so we decided to just take it along and visit the British Library.

Their security there was very friendly, but as one of our bags was too big to be allowed in (which I thought was silly: they check all bags, so why couldn’t it be left in their free cloak room?) we had to go back to Kings Cross St-Pancras and check it into the luggage storing service. Which meant we had to be back within 3 hours, else we’d not pay £6 for it, but nearly £13! I did take my trolly back to the British Library with me as it was small enough for their cloakroom and I wasn’t going to chuck out £ 6 if I didn’t have to. One of the security guys had changed, but the other one recognized us and just let us go through, very friendly of him. The guy taking my bag in the cloak room clearly had woken up on the wrong side of the bed or something, because he was in a sour mood. He kept on asking what was in my bag (he couldn’t open it because it was locked) because apparently he didn’t believe my answer of “literally, our dirty laundry”. Is it really so strange to pack your laundry separately?! I did offer to open it for him, but at that point he probably realized he was really going to end up facing dirty laundry and said it was fine.

My advice would be to travel as light as possible. If you can: don’t go over cabin luggage size, as that will be allowed into museums and you can still leave it in the cloak room. I hadn’t realized how paranoid people have gotten and took one slightly larger trolley too. I’m starting to think I need to get a second cabin sized one just for short city trips. If you haven’t bought luggage yet: instead of getting one big/huge bag, it’s better to get two cabin sized ones even if that’s more expensive. It’ll give you a lot less grief whilst traveling. Of course, if you plan on leaving early in the day, then it doesn’t really matter as you’ll just be going to the airport on your last day anyway. But if you plan on leaving in the afternoon and you’re stuck with your luggage for that last day: 2 cabin sized bags are better than 1 large(r) one.
This entire terror fear is taking on truly ridiculous proportions in my opinion.

I digress though, back to the British Library!
We saw the Punk exhibit and everything else that was free and accessible for non-readers. Then realised we should have researched it better, as obviously we had no reader’s pass to be allowed in all the other rooms. So we basically didn’t get to see as much as we had hoped. Our fault entirely of course, we should have looked these things up before we left. We took it in our stride, and instead had a light (overpriced) lunch in their café. Bert had said he just wanted a beer or a juice, and seeing the near £6 price of the beer (not even quality beer either!) I got him a juice. Basically I ended up paying £9 for one large oatmeal cookie, a bottle of juice (both for Bert) and a small slice of salmon and egg quiche. Tell me again London has gotten really cheap…
I did find some things I liked in the main gift shop: a pen shaped like a feather and a children’s book of the Jabberwocky poem from Alice Through the Looking Glass.

British Library

British Libary gift shop


With about 45 minutes to spare on our luggage pick up, we decided to profit of having along just the one trolley and went back to the station.

London cab

London bus

Where we looked around in some stores.
John Lewis had some really cool displays

Photo of the day: 28.7.2016 (day 210)

Photo of the day: 28.7.2016 (day 210)

and cookie tins, but I figured I wouldn’t have room for another bus shaped tin, so I didn’t get it. Of course, a few weeks later we went to IKEA and got an extra book case, and now I DO have room for it. Typical! At least I took a photo!

bus tin

At M&S we got some things to take home for relatives, and then we went to the other, bigger M&S because we hadn’t found everything in the first one. I also got us food for the train ride home. I got some more Soltan at Boots, and another free beach ball.

Because we still had some time to spare, we decided to go have a drink. Because everything was well and truly full on the ground floor, we went to a café of the super mega posh hotel (at that point we didn’t know it was the café of said hotel, and we never would have guessed because the prices were, for London and that particular are, rather reasonable).

café in the train station


What annoyed us, a LOT, is that they didn’t advertise the service charge. So when the bill came, it wasn’t £6 like we thought it would be, it was £6,75.
A lot of places in London do this: to make sure that their staff gets tipped, they include a service charge. Several put up a notice quite clearly, so people know, but in many cases, you get surprised by the bill, and you have NO clue how much they’ll charge, which bothers me to no end. Of course, when there is no service charge included, waiters will often pretend they don’t have enough change to return to you, so they can get tips that way (which happened in Yo! Sushi on the first day). I don’t mind paying a service charge, or giving a tip if that’s the country’s habit, but seriously, at least list it clearly so people know what’s going on BEFORE they get the bill.
I can imagine that situations like these lead to a lot of awkwardness with tourists.

But yeah, basically, I found out that they were the café of the St-Pancras Renaissance hotel because I went to use the bathroom, and the friendly staff pointed me towards the hotel and said that as they were the café of the hotel, I could use that of the lobby. Which was absolutely opulent beyond ridiculousness.

The BFG is everywhere

train station roof

statue of a famous poet

some photos taken upstairs.

Outfit: 28.7.2016 - London

My outfit, photo by Bert.
Glasses: Theo
Black top: Forever 21
Top: Friendly Oak (it has a dapper octopus print)
Bag: H&M
Tote bag: British Museum
Skirt: made it myself
Socks: asos
Shoes: sacha
Backpack: Fjällraven Kanken
Trolley bag: Eastpak
Accessories: Veritas, Roxy, handmade, Disney Store, Disneyland Paris, Forbidden Planet, Annso's art

Back downstairs, I quickly stopped by M&S again to get an extra bottle of water (£0.10 more expensive than at the M&S near our hotel, because …London) and saw that our train’s check in had started. So I went to find Bert and we went straight to the gate to start boarding.

And oh my fucking god, WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK is WRONG with UK security officers?! Do they purposely select only sociopaths, sadists and foul natured individuals or something?! I put my stuff through the scanner, exactly like I did in Brussels. Only keeping my roll of film and my step counter in my short pockets. Guess what, in London, something beeped (probably my medical ID bracelet). The security officer I had to deal with can only be described as a heinous bitch. She started shouting at me for no reason, told me I was NOT allowed to carry potential weapons on my person through the scan. Because clearly 4 TINY screws and a flat battery are going to be such a dangerous thing!
Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t even OPEN the damn step counter, I didn’t have a screwdriver! And for the film, well she had to get her supervisor. Who was a massive jerk! He flat out told me he was going to scan my film, and that I should just “shoot digital like a regular person”.

I swear to god I felt like giving them a piece of my mind, especially when I saw the guy put my film through this special scanner not once, but SEVERAL times. He was clearly trying to PURPOSELY DAMAGE my film! What the bloody fuck?! But of course, if you even vaguely protest, you get arrested on terror charges, so I didn’t say anything. I would really love to know why Eurostar employs “people” that are clearly NOT fit to deal with human beings. I knew from previous experiences that UK security is generally in a permanent sour mood and anal, but this is a new LOW.
I am seriously considering alternative transportation next time I travel to London because this kind of crap is not on.
That experience really put a massive damper on my day. And it’s seriously making me rethink traveling by Eurostar ever again.

sandwiches for dinner on the Eurostar

Vegetarian sandwiches for dinner

Crappy phone pics of our train food: overpriced M&S sandwiches.

Our trip back was, thankfully, uneventful, right up to when the train had to dock in Brussels Midi and managed to go into the station so slooooooooooooooooooooow it build up a 10 minute delay right at the very end. Bert and I had to jog to our train (which was of course at the far end of the hall) with only 3 minutes to spare. But luckily we caught it, huzzah! The conductor was also the NICEST conductor we have ever encountered, which was nice. Especially after the bullshit in the Eurostar terminal.
When we got to Antwerp our train was already waiting, so we found a spot on that and didn’t have to wait out on the platform. And that was on time with a friendly conductor too. Bert and I now have a theory that 99% of all friendly conductors are on evening trains, which is why we encounter so many surly ones during the day.
In any case, we got home, Bert’s dad picked us up from the station and dropped us off home, and that was our London holiday!

Day 3 haul, minus the bag of popcorn because it was already open when I took this photo and I forgot to add it.

London haul - day 3

sweet and salted popcorn

Days 1 and 2 of his trip.
All my London photos (of this trip) are here, if you want to see literally ALL my London photos, check this collection on my flickr for more London sets.