Been there, Done that: London

London By the Water

By Staff Sgt. Robbie Arp

Fish and Chips!

There are a million other things to see and do in London, but for me, it was all about the fish and chips.

My wife and I had never been to London. It was a new adventure for both of us.  She was looking forward to the sites, the history, and the shopping.  I was only looking forward to food.

We caught a late flight on Ryan Air out of Frankfurt Hahn (and if you’ve ever tried to find Frankfurt Hahn in the dark, you know it seems like you’re lost. But keep on driving, it’s out there) and arrived at Stansted Airport in England around 11 p.m.  Stansted is a little more than an hour outside of London.

There was an option to take a train that connected to the Tube (London’s Underground Subway) at Liverpool Station, hop around on the Tube for a few stops, and then walk to our hotel a few blocks away from our final stop. But it was nearly midnight by the time we got through security and claimed our luggage.

Side note, don’t check bags with Ryan Air if you’re only going somewhere for a few days. You are allowed a backpack and a small carry-on to go with you onto the plane.  Save some money, travel light. We opted for a car service that would take us directly to our hotel.  But take note, this was a seriously expensive option.  It cost one hundred and fifteen pounds.  That equals about $180.  A more cost effective option would have been to take the trains.  I told myself we were paying for peace of mind.  Now that the trip is over, do I still have that peace of mind?  Eh…

Our hotel was a little ways from any of the major attractions. We booked through one of the many online hotel sites and found a pretty affordable option that was also nice.  And even though we were away from the major attractions, transportation wasn’t an issue at all.

London has many bus tours that are “Hop On, Hop Off,” with bus stops scattered in convenient locations all over the city running every 5-15 minutes. Each tour also gives free maps of the city that highlight all the typical tourist spots.  Chances are, no matter where you want to go in London, you’ll be able to get relatively close by using one of these buses.  A 48-hour pass cost 31 pounds ($49), and they run from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.

London mixLondon is beautiful! Point your camera in any direction (mostly) and you’ve got a pretty decent photo.  There was no shortage of interesting things to see and do.  The bus tours offer live tour guides who are pretty funny and full of knowledge.  We found the city to be completely accessible and friendly.  But I had not yet accomplished what I went there to do.  I was on a mission.

Queen's HeadHidden behind the ruckus of Piccadilly Circus, I found what would become a fond memory. The name of the establishment is The Queen’s Head.  It doubles as a Pub and a restaurant.  My wife and I took one look at the exterior of the building and we knew this was the place.  Finally, some fish and chips!

Fish and ChipsIt was exactly what I wanted. A huge, beer-battered fish filet with some thick cut potato wedges that the British lovingly refer to as chips.  Also on the plate was a scoop of mushy peas.  But please, if you find yourself in a similar situation, try these peas.  I was skeptical at first, but I thought they were awesome after I added a sprinkle of salt.  A friend of mine had told me about the mushy peas before going on this trip and how much he loved them.  He was not mistaken.  They are good!

Nightime LondonSo with my mission accomplished, I sat back and enjoyed the rest of the trip like a boss. As the sun began to fade in the beautiful British sky, my wife and I made our journey back toward our hotel.  Days tend to fly by in London.  We stayed so busy and interested in so many things.

Here are a few things to remember when planning a trip to London:

  1. It’s expensive.  The pound is a constant reminder to study for promotion.  Why?  Cuz you gotta pay to play, especially when the pound is hanging around.
  2. Plan for weather.  It tends to rain a lot in London, and in the autumn and winter months it’s pretty chilly.  So make sure you bring an umbrella, a scarf, a beanie and some gloves.  Maybe you won’t need them, but it’s better to have them instead of paying pounds for new ones.
  3. Have an idea of the train situation before you go.  Being educated on the train and the Tube will save you a lot of money and also time.
  4. If flying on Ryan Air, don’t check a bag.  Try fitting all of your stuff into a backpack and a small carry on.

I was thinking the trip would be stressful and we’d be going non-stop trying to cram a million things into two days, but I was wrong.  It wasn’t stressful.  It was fun.  And, yes, we were busy, but a fun kind of busy.  The kind of busy you had when you were a kid and lost track of time because you got lost in the good time.

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