In case you can’t tell from the title, I really love puns.
My friend and I were young and in a foreign country where we knew nothing and nobody, yet we weren’t scared at all when, after three flights and over 24 hours without sleep (on my part), we landed at Heathrow in London. We each had one suitcase, a backpack, and eager hearts, so we didn’t waste any time and were quickly on our way. We were very lucky, too, because our luggage was not lost.
We were young, as I said, and didn’t have a lot of money, so a taxi was out of the question for getting to where we were staying. We didn’t know the routes at all, so we couldn’t take a bus. The most logical transportation was the Underground.
After buying an Oyster Card (a subway/bus pass), studying the map, and memorizing our specific lines and stops, we boarded the train and sat patiently while we crossed half the city. It took about two hours for us to get to our destination, but it was worth it. We were able to relax after an exhausting trip and see the beautiful city through the windows.
We stayed in a hostel because it was the cheapest option and we only needed somewhere to sleep and shower, though we paid a bit extra (just shy of $50USD a night) for a nice place. As we were planning out our trip in the months prior, we spent days, if not weeks, just on choosing a hostel. We read reviews, looked at pictures, researched the neighborhoods, and checked multiple websites to ensure it was a good fit. It was a long process, but we made the best decision.
We stayed at the Palmers Lodge: Swiss Cottage. The building was beautiful, converted from a mansion to efficient housing for tons of people. While the staff wasn’t incredibly friendly, the service was good and the place was clean. It was also in a great neighborhood, and if we returned late, we didn’t have to worry about the walk from the subway.
We stayed just up the road from the Swiss Cottage station, which was extremely convenient. It was a residential, fairly upscale neighborhood, we were relieved to discover. There were shops and restaurants a street over, and small alleyways easily connected us and kept us from walking long distances. Once a week, there was a farmer’s market at the end of the street.
The hostel had free wifi (a blessing when you’re in a foreign country and can’t use data) and even held our luggage when we arrived a couple hours before check-in. We stayed on the basement level, and when we woke up, we could go halfway down the hall to have a free continental breakfast in the little bar. I’m really upset that we forgot to take pictures in the hostel because it was great.
We stayed two nights in a female dorm with a private bathroom. There were trunks beneath our bunk beds that held our clothes and we could seal with our suitcase locks. We had little lights in our individual beds and curtains for privacy, and there were a few power cords throughout the room. It wasn’t too fancy, but the rooms were clean and tidy, and we had everything we needed.
The other two nights were spent in a female dorm with a shared bathroom. It wasn’t only shared with the other girls on the floor but the guys as well. At first, I was extremely worried about a non-gender-specific bathroom, but after using it once, I realized it didn’t matter. Each stall was like its own room, and the showers had a small space before the curtain to undress. The only awkward moment was when a guy was washing his hands next to where I was brushing my teeth and we made eye contact in the mirror. It really was not a big deal. On top of that, the staff cleaned the bathrooms every few hours, so they were always immaculate.
The hostel was one subway stop away from Abbey Road, so we walked there one day and were able to take cheesy tourist pictures.
We were within walking distance of Regent’s Park, and we quickly discovered our favorite spot in the city: Primrose Hill. From the top of the steep hill, we could see the skyline and enjoy the breezy air.
Camden, a very chic and popular area, was just a few blocks away. Whenever we visited, we would walk. Camden was an excellent place, full of markets and food stands and hidden gems. We loved it and found so much to enjoy there.
We spent five days in London before we met up with our tour group, and it was probably the best part of the entire trip. We had an open world before us and no specific plans. We could go where we wanted, when we wanted, and we walked miles everyday. One of the best experiences of my life was spending those few days with my good friend, wandering aimlessly in London and experiencing freedom.