Working and living in England is a good experience for a foreign student. However I can’t speak about England without talking about London, the heart of the UK and the LATE British Empire.
My epic journey to London began when I took the coach from Bournemouth station the last Friday of March to join my girlfriend and her sister in front of Buckingham Palace. The first step was to find the hotel at East Ham and then get mentally prepared for the many kilometres to walk the next few days. In fact we might have walked an average of 8 km per day, I know this because I have a 3DS which count the number of steps. Walking is exhausting but not as much as shuffling inside the museums. If you’ve already done tourism in a big city, I think that you had known these particulars pains in the leg and back that transform in a few days your sightseeing tour into a “sitting” tour. Every bench, seat and even the floor seems very comfortable in those moments. That’s why we did St Paul’s cathedral and its 500 stairs for our first to be fit and in a good shape for the following days. A little anecdote about it, 3 years ago I tried 3 times to get in without succeeded because of my usual bad luck. The first time I arrived too late, the second time I also was too late because of underground problems, and the third times was because of an exceptional ceremony inside the building. So this time, I enjoyed a lot the place with its dome, whispering gallery where you can hear people talking from the other side if you stay close to the wall, the top where you can see the healthy pollution over the city and the crypt where I didn’t see intentionally the shrines of the demoniacs Nelson and Wellington. Hopefully they are dead! In the afternoon we walked around London Bridge and London Tower before heading to the Harry Potter studio. This day we went late to the hotel, my only wish was to sleep but the shower didn’t want to make life easy. Indeed, the shower head stayed in my hand when I twisted it, making it impossible to set the temperature. So we had to borrow the shower from my girlfriend’s sister’s room.
The day after we went to the Globe theatre, to Harrods where we got lost inside, and then to the shopping streets around Piccadilly Circus. The shops over there are wonderful and quite big, we went for instance into the oldest library in London and it has 5 floors of books. It’s the best place in UK to do shopping…if you are millionaire, in our case, the poor people, it’s limited to window-shopping. The prices are so high that buying a single cupcake or chocolate square costs your entire souvenir budget. And the nice “gifts shops”, full of colour and little objects like mug, keychains, berets with unberetveable prices…. are entirely part of the scam as well. So if you desire souvenirs, take pictures and send postcards. Just be sure to get your stamps from the post office if you don’t want your cards to arrive 10 days later. That day we also ate the “best burger” in London if we trust the London’s guide book at Honest Burger restaurant. It was indeed awesome but we had to book 1 hour in advance to have a table.
The others days we did St James Park where I feed some squirrels without noticing the forbidden sign, the Churchill War Room museum, Canden district, the British Museum, Tate Modern and National Gallery.
London is a great city, however it is one of the most expensive place to visit I know. It’s seems that most of the historic places and museum are managed by private companies because it literally costs you an arm and a leg to get in, even more if it’s a property of her highest the Queen. This is non exhaustive prices list to give you an idea: £20 London Tower, £18 for Westminster Abbey and Churchill War Room, £16 for St Paul cathedral, £15 for the Globe theatre… And this range of prices are not just limited to London but to all the UK. It’s seems that cultural things are for rich people in this country. However they sometimes offer some very generous student discounts of £2 maximum. So being a student won’t make your access easier in these greedy lands. Then the food in London cost almost twice the price of the others places, even more around the tourisms areas. You will barely get a sandwich with £5, hopefully it’s possible to find some affordable places if you follow a guide book. Of course, you have to add the hotel and tube costs. The London underground is probably the most expensive one of the world where a single ticket is only at £4.50. So we paid £38 and a £5 deposit for an oyster card with unlimited travel for a week inside the zones 1 to 3. It would have been fine if the train ticket for Harry Potter studio had worked at the reader machine, thus we wouldn’t have used our oyster card to open the door and exceed the zone 3. Hence our cards were blocked and we had to pay a charge (because of their non functioning machine) of £1.60 per card to reactivate them. Furthermore, I greatly advise to book on the internet the earliest possible all you travel by coach with National Express because the prices are more expensive at the box office and change every day, prices can fluctuate over £10 for the same ride depending on the moment you buy your ticket.
So if you want to have a good time in London, well prepare your wallet!!! And then, you can enjoy !