Last week, I suggested that I would be going to London, and indeed I did. As a British person, I know London. I mean it’s the capital of the UK after all. However, since moving to Berlin, it’s amazing how many people I’ve met who believe that they could never go to London ‘cos it’s too expensive.
It’s true that London isn’t Bielefeld, but it’s a far cry from Tokyo! With a little planning and a lot of luck, it can be done. Here’s how:
1. Take alternative transport: Flights are cheap but if you don’t like flying or want to do more shopping than is airport-acceptable, then you’re either going to have to take your car and a ferry, take a train, or take a coach (bus) and a ferry. I decided to journey with a German travel company called MANGO tours. They describe themselves as “a cheap and comfortable travel” company and include transport, hotel and breakfast! Due to work complications, I had to cancel my original trip to Amsterdam (sigh!), and in order to avoid a hefty cancellation fee, they offered me a trip to London instead! This would mean travelling to West Germany in order to catch up with the travel company as they couldn’t pick me up in Berlin.
To sweeten the deal they offered me my own room and paid for my five and a half hour coach (bus) journey to Osnabrück instead. The guide – Henrik – was friendly enough and the clientele were pretty mixed. Ranging from a bunch of long-haired, long-bearded hard-rock metal American guys to a couple of French girls. At least twenty people were over 35, and some had pre-teenaged children with them. I also spied a few 20-something girls with at least one parent and a group of friends who all sat at the back but were enormously quiet. So not your normal 18-year-old then!
Being that it’s Germany, beer was sold on the bus or you could bring your own. No worries!
The hotels are never really centrally based but easy enough to reach by public transport, and always a few minutes from a train station. In this case – Wembley Park Station. I was amazed that my nightmare of a tiny, grotty single bed was actually an upgrade to an en-suite private double room with a full English breakfast. Our hotel choices were Quality Hotel and the Holiday Inn.
Not too shabby. Thanks MANGO tours.
2. Go to a market: London has a wide variety of lovely markets to suit all interests and pockets. Some of the best are: Convent Garden market, Camden Lock Market, Brick Lane Market, Borough Market, Greenwich Market, Old Spitalfields Market, Portobello Road Market and Neal’s Yard. I decided to go to Carnaby Street Market.
From as far back as a 100 years ago, Carnaby Street had always been a magnet for creative people and Bohemians, as the area was and is, slap-dash right near the centre of London’s West End, the theatres and the galleries. It was finally in the 1960’s when “Swinging London” was born that Carnaby Street became the place to be and thus “hip and trendy London”. The boutiques, the Mods, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, all these fascinating people were here and made Carnaby Street cool and a bit of a dive.
Carnaby Street is still as bohemian as it comes, with lots of independent shops, crazy fashion, and organic food. A bit like my area in Berlin then!
3. Go shopping: You can’t be in London if you haven’t emptied your purse and wallet. At least a little bit. And there’s plenty to choose from! Go to Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street, Selfridges, Harrods, Topshop, Liberty’s, Hamley’s, Mulberry, Whistles, Heal’s, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, etc.
The last time I came to London, I popped into Selfridges and came out with two dresses and a pair of shoes! This time as my visit wasn’t a shopping one, I wandered around as you do and went into Reiss. Reiss is a British fashion brand that has a strong focus on quality and detail. Just what you expect from a UK label. It’s not cheap I’m afraid, but I have a suit and a dress in my wardrobe from Reiss and since it was the sales….I bought a cream dress for the office, with an original price of £179 dropped to £49. Bought!
I almost had a heart attack over my dress though as it began to rain heavily and I just managed to save my lovely cream dress as the paper bag it came in, fell apart. I was so worried that my red leather gloves would stain my dress, that I went back to my hotel and had a large cup of tea!
4. Go to the theatre, show, musical or comedy: Whenever I’m in London, I always look forward to watching something different. I was going to see something at the National Theatre but as they’re going to be showing in Berlin as part of a worldwide selection of productions, I decided to opt for a musical instead. A Bollywood musical called The Merchants of Bollywood at the Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre.
I was lucky enough to receive a complimentary ticket from the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. They were so generous and even gave me two. Thank you so much Sadler’s Wells as this was my very first complimentary show!
Now for those who know me, know that I love Asia and Asian stuff, so watching a live Bollywood production on stage, really made my day. In this case, my night! The Merchants of Bollywood is a theatrical dance extravaganza about the troubles and tribulations of the Merchant family dynasty, based in India. The production was pretty amazing and located itself in the traditional dessert and customs of Rajasthan to the fast-paced golden era of India’s film industry, Bollywood. The costumes were glamorous, the music was out there, the dancing was impressive and well-known. They even encouraged people to dance along in the second half of the show and the speed of dancing and choreography was creative and exhilarating.
The show used a fusion of classical, folk, modern, Western and Indian dance styles with a twist of modern blending and wow, they all looked colourful, hot and energetic. Even the character playing the grandfather! I loved it.
You don’t need to be a native-speaker of either Hindi or English to enjoy the show. All you need is an appreciation of a love story, sacrifice, rebellion, and at the heart of the story – a love of dancing.
If you’re in London in the next few weeks, go see it. Having said that they#re always on tour so you#re bound to find them at a major city near you!
5. Go to a museum: Most, if not all, Britain’s museums and galleries are free. That’s right!
I wanted to go to a museum that I hadn’t been to before and hit on the The Geffrye Museum of the Home. This museum does what it says on the tin and is devoted to the history of the home, showing how homes and gardens reflect changes in society, behaviour, style and taste over the past 400 years. It also explores the home from 1600 to the present day, focusing on the living rooms of the urban middle classes in England, particularly London.
I’ve always been a sucker for museums and galleries that show how people actually used to live. This explains my love for the Manchester Science and Industry Museum, the People’s Story in Edinburgh and our very own, The German History Museum, in Berlin.
The museum shows a series of period rooms and how such homes have been used and furnished over particular periods, reflecting changes in society and patterns of behaviour as well as style, fashion and taste.
I had wanted to join a special tour of the restored historic almshouse which had been fully restored to its original condition. This tour would have offered a rare glimpse into the lives of London’s poor and elderly in former times and takes place only once a month, but I missed it by 15 minutes. I couldn’t wait for the next tour, two hours later as I had another appointment, it was raining again, and I broke a part of my camera!
6. Go on a walking tour: Most specifically, a free walking tour. As you recall in my previous post about Edinburgh , walking tours are a delight especially, a free one! I picked a different company this time – Free tours by Foot.
I chose them ‘cos they were doing a rather unusual tour. A tour of the City of London. Known as “The Square Mile”, which is the old and original City of London. With borders nearly unchanged since the Middle Ages, it encompasses the area’s history since the Romans. Our group consisted of South American, Italian, and French tourists, one German and myself!
Charles – our guide – was a knowledgeable Masters students who was able to inform the group about the fascinating history of why the Knights Templars are so-called, Temple Inn, the Financial District, Money, History, Kings & Queens, the majestic dome of St. Paul’s, through the alleys and through the centuries, to the representation of the new millennium and finally ending at Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
Our meeting point was the Temple Station and the tour was a name-your-own-price walking tour which you do by tipping discreetly at the end. A great idea whether you have very little money or quite a bit. Hopefully, reasonable payment will balance itself out.
- For more information on budget travel contact MANGO tours (in German). I paid €169 but prices range between €79 and €184 per person.
- For more information about the British fashion brand contact: Reiss.
- For more information about the show. Contact: The Merchants of Bollywood. Prices range from £18 – £45 with a 20% discount if you buy at least two tickets or more. Very family friendly.
- For more information about the museum contact: The Geoffrye Museum of the Home. Prices are wonderfully free and the special tour will cost an extra £2.50.
- For more information on the walking tour contact: Free tours by Foot. Price. Absolutely nothing except a tip!
So there you have it! 48 hours in London and very little money spent!
This article is not sponsored and even though I received a complimentary theatre ticket, all opinions are my absolute own.
What would you do in London? How would you budget a weekend? Have you ever been to London? What was it like? If you haven’t, why not and what are you waiting for?
Have your say!
If you like this article, share it!