After a quick, well needed, hour nap, I took the Piccadilly Line from Russell Square to Piccadilly Circus. As soon as I got to the area, it was BUSY. People (tourists mainly) were everywhere! I explored the area which was incredibly lively especially with street performers. I came across M&M ‘s World. I fell in love with this store on my first trip to New York City, and after visiting the one in London, I have now been to four M&M World locations! Quite the accomplish eh? It was very busy in the store. I went hunting for a mug. My favorite mug I own is from the New York store and I figured I’d look for a neat one from London. I ended up purchasing one of the M&M’s walking down Abbey Road. The cashier was so sweet. After hearing that I been to other M&M World stores, she asked me which one I liked best. “London of course” I answered (which may have been a white lie. I actually like the New York store best if I HAD to pick).
After I left the store I began walking towards Leicester Square and Covent Gardens. It continued to be a lively evening. I grabbed some pizza, browsed a few shops, but found I wasn’t in a shopping mood. I noticed the time was about 6pm. What should I do with my Saturday night? I thought to myself. The area was far too busy that I wasn’t keen to eat dinner by myself in a restaurant. I decided to see what was on sale as the TKTS ticket booth in Leicester Square. (Note: you will find a lot of discounted theatre ticket booths in the area, but from what I’ve read, the TKTS is the best to go to. I can’t speak to say how the others are). When I checked out what was on sale, I wasn’t too keen to see any of the plays at their prices. So I kept walking around the area and found a Barclays. Free wi-fi! Time to come up with a Saturday night plan.
I had an early start. I had to be in Camden Town for 9am to meet a friend of mines who was currently living in London completing his MBA. My plan was to walk, but after Day 1’s walking, I knew it was wiser to take the tube. I began at Euston Tube Station (not to be confused with Euston Square), which was less than 10 minutes from the Tavistock Hotel. My walk’s highlight was the two men in a van who continued to hit on me as I walked. Why do the traffic lights keep stopping? I thought as I seemed to keep meeting them despite the fact that I was walking and they were driving. When they finally waved goodbye, another man on the street noticed “Popular today are we?” he smiled at me. “A little bit…” I laughed.
Euston Station is on the Northern Line. I took the tube up two stations to Camden Town.The station has two sides to exit. I picked one and waited. It was 8:45am and chilly. It didn’t help that I was wearing a skirt. I stood on the side next to an ATM and waited…and waited. The good part? There was Barclays (a bank) across the street. Barclays has free wi-fi that you can access by being near the bank. Even though I was across the street, the wi-fi worked perfectly! So as I waited, I began FaceTiming with a friend back in Toronto who happened to be awake. Pretty cool! Long story short, it was 9:45am by the time my friend and I connected. We began walking and it was a really awesome neighbourhood. “The markets will be opening soon” my friend explained. He took me to a breakfast spot at the Roundhouse called Made in Camden. We must have gotten there near 10am and apparently the restaurant said they didn’t open until 10:30am (although you could still get coffee while inside). And then, I had one of the best breakfasts ever! It was scrambled eggs with guacamole and fresh salmon with sour cream. My friend ordered the “fry up” also known as an English breakfast which looked delicious as well. We then walked to Stables Market and Camden Market. It must have been 11:30 to 12pm at this point. Both markets were SO busy! Plus the chilly morning had turned into another gorgeous sunny day. By the time, we left the markers, it was RAMMED with people. “This is only about 20% of the crowd. You should see this place in an hour” my friend advised. Boy, was I glad we were there early! We then walked to Primrose Hill. It was gorgeous! Many people were lying on the grass, so many dogs in the area and what a great view of London from the top!
It was a lovely morning. My friend led me towards Chalk Farm Tube where my plan was then to head to Covent Gardens to join the Sandeman’s Royal London Walking Tour. But I decided I was exhausted. I took the Northern Line down to Euston Tube Station, walked to the Tavistock Hotel…and that’s when it got exciting: I napped.
After my early afternoon in the Knightsbridge & Kensington area, I took the District Line (London Underground) from South Kensington Station to Embankment Station. When I walked out, I made my way to the Hungerford Bridge. Goodness, it was such a gorgeous view to see across the River Thames. I decided I should get something to eat. When I crossed the bridge there were many restaurants. It was such a lively area! I walked around a little and came across the Real Food Market at Southbank Centre. I grabbed some type of pastry filled with spinach and chicken peas (it wasn’t too great; maybe if it was warmed up and had some cream cheese filling but I’m no chef…), grabbed a cappuccino and grabbed a caramel cheesecake from various vendors. I walked down a bit and found a random spot to sit and eat. I sat for a few minutes and was approached by a man asking me if I had any change. I have to say, he was very friendly. I politely said no, and offered him the rest of my food. “Oh no I’d never do that” he said. He asked where I was from and then went on his way.
I decided to then check out the London Eye. I had no desire to ride it. In terms of finding my way, honestly, I took some guesses. I knew it was in the area so I simply walked towards the Thames and a sign told me which direction to walk in. The day remained gorgeous; there were many, many people in the area and I saw a few street performers surrounded by crowds on the way. I sat across from the London Eye watching it for some time while eating my delicious caramel cheesecake. It was about 5pm at this time and SUNNY!
After about half an hour, I decided to walk towards the direction of Blackfriars Tube where my plan was to join the London Walks: Along the Thames Pub Walk for 7pm. So I walked and I walked AND I walked! On my walk from I saw: Waterloo Bridge, Shakespeare Globe Theatre, London Bridge, The Shard, Tate Modern, The Golden Hinde, and many other neat buildings. The coolest thing I saw on my walk is the London pub life! There were so many people (especially men in suits after work) drinking pints of beer outside of pubs.
Somehow, without even knowing it, I made it to Borough’s Market (super cool!). By this time, I was thinking, Wow, how far did I walk!? I knew I had passed Blackfriars but it was early so I had continued exploring. However, I didn’t see Blackfriars Tube on my walk (only the rail station). From Borough’s Market I decided I should walk back towards Blackfriars Tube, but decided to take the street route this time. I walked down Southwark Street and then down Blackfairs Road. Signs kept saying the Tube Station was near here, but once again, when I arrived, I only saw the railway station. Now I was confused. Where is the damn tube station? By this time, it was night and the Thames looked absolutely gorgeous. But my feet were exhausted (I must have walked for ages!), plus I was hungry again…and had to use the washroom. So I walked back up Blackfriars Road and spotted Southwark Tube Station. I noticed a Pret-A-Manger nearby on The Cut (I was in the Waterloo area). Success! This would solve all my problems! After I ate at the Pret, I asked one of the workers how to get to Blackfriars tube. He explained you go down Blackfairs Road but you have to go across the Thames! OH! It all made sense now! I followed his directions and found the tube station. It was about 6:50pm at this point. I stood inside the station and waited…and waited. How the heck do I spot this pub group? By 7:10pm, I walked outside and saw a HUGE crowd across the street. Curious, I walked over and realized…it was just a bunch of people drinking outside of a pub! It was SO lively! It was far too social everywhere for me to walk into this busy pub alone, so I thought, Screw it, I’m going home. I’m tired and my foot feels like it’s broken. From Blackfriars tube, I took the District line to South Kensington, switched to the Piccadilly Line to Russell Square. Home sweet home!
Boy, did I get lucky that I got to check-in early at the Tavistock Hotel and begin my London adventure! I originally planned to visit the Knightsbridge and Kensington area on Day 3, but as it was only 11am by the time I was settled, I figured, why not? I thought to myself, I should nap.I think I got maybe three hours of sleep on my flight. But it’s so gorgeous out! All I knew was it rained a lot in London, and I thought if this was going to be my one day of sunshine, I did not want to waste it sleeping. (Fast forward, I didn’t endure any London rain!).
I took the tube from Russell Square Station to Knightsbridge Station on the Piccadilly Line which was approximately 15 minutes. First stop, which was just outside the tube, was Harrods, the infamous luxury department store. The entrance I walked in was of course the beauty (make-up/perfume) area. My one weakness! I decided to browse. Within two minutes, three different sales associates kindly asked if I needed help. I decided to purchase a Chanel lipliner (something I actually needed (ok, wanted) versus purchasing my 600th lipstick). The sales associate was extremely pleasant. After my purchase, she asked if I needed help finding anything in the store. I explained I just got to London and was browsing. She handed me a store map, pointed, and said “The Egyptian escalators are right there. You should ride them.” I took her advice and spent a few minutes going up and down the most magnificent escalators I had seen. At the very end, there was a memorial area for Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed. It was lovely. Then I decided to find an exit. It was too nice outside to stay indoors. Harrods was far too big and I definitely didn’t want to purchase anything else.
I quickly checked a TopShop across the street and then began walking down Cromwell Road towards the Victoria and Albert Museum, a museum of art and design. (If you don’t know, museums are free in London!). Honestly, I browsed a few exhibits for about half an hour and walked out. It was busy, plus there was a few school groups so I didn’t want to bother with crowds. I continued to walk down Cromwell and arrived at the National History Museum (again free entry although some exhibitions will cost you). I began by checking out the dinosaur exhibition which was pretty cool. However, school groups everywhere! (Ok, so there were two groups). I have to say hearing the young children speaking in their English accents was adorable. But having to walk behind them in the exhibition…not so much. I decided at that point, I’d much rather be outside than in another museum.
I walked down Queen’s Gate towards Hyde Park. I arrived between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It was GORGEOUS out. Many people were laying on the grass. I spent some time reading on a bench in Hyde Park and then I walked down to Kensington Palace and saw Royal Albert Hall on my route. I spent more time reading in Kensington Gardens which is beautiful. It was a lovely afternoon. There were many tourists around. (By the way, next to the Palace is a restaurant I didn’t get a chance to check out but heard about called The Orangery). As you can imagine, my feet were already exhausted with all the walking I was doing. But it was only about 3:30pm (time was fortunately not speeding by!) and I figured I might as well explore a new area. I decided to find the nearest tube to make my way to the Waterloo area. I walked down Kensington Road and eventually found South Kensington Tube.
Accommodation: Tavistock Hotel (part of Imperial London Hotels)
Duration: 4 nights
Cost: 324 GBP
Dates: March 2014
Traveling with: Solo
If you’re planning a trip to London, your first question is most likely: where do I stay!? It’s overwhelming as there are many accommodation options and costs vary. I cared about three things personally: location, cost (cheap), and cleanliness. During my browsing I came across the Tavistock Hotel and it was most fitting for my budget and fit my location desire. (I have to say the most (possibly only) awful part of traveling alone is being unable to split accommodation costs with a partner or group). I knew from the costs and reviews that I should not expect the Ritz and for the most part, the Tavistock Hotel was what I expected. Hm, do I start with the good or bad? Let’s say good.
Overall, I would recommend a stay at the Tavistock Hotel to someone who isn’t looking for a ritzy hotel. If you’re on a budget and not looking to splurge on accommodation, it’s a decent stay. Just don’t eat there…
View from my room on the 8th floor:
The good ol question one asks nearly every vacation: How can I get from the airport to my accommodation? If you’re like me, you want the quick, convenient and cheap way.
As far as I know, there’s three methods of public transportation (aside from the bus) you can take from London Heathrow Airport: Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect, or the London Underground (the tube). Do know the signs for public transit at the airport are HUGE and CLEAR. It is very easy to navigate your way!
Heathrow Express is a train and the fastest way to travel (approximately 15 minutes) into Central London. Adult fare for a single ticket is £20 online/machine/ticket office and £25 purchased on-board. I didn’t take the Heathrow Express so I can’t offer much more information. Apparently, Heathrow Express is among the most expensive trains in the world for its journey but I bet it’s worthwhile if time is a factor for you.
Heathrow Connect is a train which goes from Heathrow Airport to Paddington Station. It costs £9.90 for a journey to London Paddington. I’m not at all familiar with the Connect so I can’t offer any more opinion here but worth checking out if you’re around that station or ones on-route.
London Underground (tube) is London’s public metro (subway) system. The Piccadilly Line connects directly from London Heathrow via three stations: Terminals 1-3, Terminal 4 and Terminal 5. The cost is £5.50 for a single ticket into Central London (zone 1). It’s a bit less with an Oyster Card. In terms of travel time, it varies depending on which station you are going to, but it’s approximately an hour to the central stations. (I was heading to Russel Square station and it took about 55 minutes for my journey).
For me personally, the Tube was fantastic and I’d definitely use it again as my transportation from London Heathrow. It worked for me for many reasons:
In terms of which one to use…it’s really up to you. Time and/or money may be a factor for you. (Heck, I bet 15 minutes versus an hour may help you make up your mind). Also think about how much luggage you have. Although I’ve only taken the Tube, I’d assume the other two trains are more comfortable and luggage-friendly. You may also want to consider what time of you are arriving (be sure to check all the public transit open and close times before your journey!). Safe travels!
The one thing I always heard about London was how incredible their tube system was and I was excited to witness it. Like any smart traveler, I had taken a look at the Tube map beforehand and it looked…chaotic. There was so many lines! I was used to Toronto’s subway system with its two major lines (four in total) so I was uncertain about what to except. Here’s what I learned: don’t let the map overwhelm you. It’s very easy to navigate your way. The tube is divided in different zones and the majority of central London is Zone 2. Become familiar with…
When planning my itinerary, I used London Drum to determine the tube route. It’s a fantastic site which explains the duration of your trip and tube stations. If you’re having trouble, just Google! I often googled things such as: “Russell Square Station to Tower Hill” and the first link is usually the London Drum website showing the route. I used this to plan nearly all my routes.
Become familiar with fares for London public transportation and decide what is best for you. As a solo traveler using the tube to get everywhere, the Oyster Card was the best fit for me.It’s a “pay as you go” travel card whcih you can use on the bus, Tube, London Overground, Tram, DLR, and some National Rail. An Oyster Card costs £5 and you can choose to load as much money on it as you like. I loaded £20 initially and since I used the tube constantly, I added another £10 during my four night trip. However, £20 should do you just fine. I paid by credit card. Notes:
Overall, public transit in London is very easy and an excellent way to get around. Do your homework and plan your routes beforehand to become familiar with the system!
There I was walking into Toronto Pearson International Airport. It was a familiar area, but this time it was different. This time I was alone. And suddenly I heard a noise. It sounded like my luggage was dragging to the ground. I looked down and noticed a wobbly wheel. Great. Not exactly what you want to see at the start of a trip, but I refused to let it bother me. I thought I’d simply purchase a new carry-on if the wheel broke off (fast forward: it never broke!)
Thank goodness I know how to navigate the airport. Fortunately, I had checked-in online prior to arriving at the airport and was not checking in any baggage. This made my process at Pearson a piece of cake (although checking in luggage and airport check-in is not difficult; but it is a huge time saver!). Within half an hour, there I was sitting by my gate, impressed that the area had…ipads. When did this happen? I don’t mean to make myself sound like someone from the 15th century, but I can’t help but be amazed by this digital era. I’d flown out of Pearson four times in 2013, but never seen this before!
As I sat there, I continued thinking about not knowing what I was in for. I was nervous. I had watched Liam Neeson’s Nonstop the weekend before. (Nonstop is about a plane heading to London which gets hijacked). Honestly, why does every film this guy star in have to leave lingering thoughts about dying on a vacation? First Taken and now this. Ugh. Suddenly, I looked at the time and wondered why they hadn’t began boarding yet. It was 8:45pm and the flight was heading out at 9:30pm. I kept hearing announcements for a flight to Paris from my gate. Ok this can’t be right. They must have changed the gates. And I was right. They had moved the flight to London two gates over. Whoops.
Why London? March 2014 marked my first solo trip. Paris was my dream and as London was a short distance away (and on my travel bucket list), I decided to begin my trip there. There was so much I wanted to experience (and a part of me secretly hoped 4 nights in the city would give me that English accent I always adored).
This post will give you a very brief overall about my London itinerary. Further posts will provide you with more details (click on the links to take you there). I was able to see a LOT in London during my four nights due to a few reasons:
Day 1: Friday March 14, 2014
Day 2: Saturday March 15, 2014
Day 3: Sunday March 16, 2014
Day 4: Monday March 17, 2014
The start of the blog:
As I begin this blog in March 2014, I’m a 27 year old female (not sure how long I can get away with calling myself a “young” woman…). At the present time, I am living in Toronto, Canada (I have for most of my life), I am single, working full-time, and starting my own business on the side.
In March 2014, I took my first solo trip to Paris and London. By this time my travel resume included many major U.S. cities, a tiny taste of Europe (Spain/Amsterdam), a handful of Caribbean resorts, a few footprints in Canada, and two trips to visit my native country India. It was enough traveling for me to know the ins and outs of an airport and how to navigate public transportation. But holy sh*t, I was NERVOUS! I made the decision in February 2014 and in less than a month, I did my homework and off I went. I could barely sleep days before leaving because I was so anxious. All I could think before departing was "Am I really doing this? Am I going to Paris and London…alone…?” I had no idea what to expect. London didn’t scare me, but as for Paris…I had seen Liam Neeson’s Taken a bit too many times. Hasn’t that film scarred us all? (If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a CIA agent’s daughter who gets kidnapped as soon as she arrives in Paris). I had many silly thoughts of the same thing happening to me (it never did…). This trip was either going to be the best or the worst decision of my life. Why alone? Well, Paris was my DREAM and London was in the top five of my travel bucket list. But I had no partner (no husband, no boyfriend), and my limited number of friends were understandably busy with their own lives, traveling with a partner, or financially couldn’t. I was also at a pivotal moment of “finding myself” in life (sounds cheesy, but if you’ve been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about). Anyways, I thought to myself that I could wait a year or two until someone is ready to come with me…but I also thought “I could go somewhere new in 2015…and I can go to Paris NOW”. So, go I did. And in the end, it was the BEST decision of my life at that point.
I had always wanted to begin writing about my travels, and it was after this trip, that I finally decided it’s about time I start. And here we are.
The intent behind this blog is not to say “Look where I went!” but I truly want to help others looking to experience the places I’ve been fortunate to see (especially women wanting to travel to Paris alone). I want to help you feel less nervous and give you as many tips to make your trip the vacation YOU want. Please know, I am NOT a travel expert nor am I a seasoned traveler. I simply am someone who loves to travel and hope to see as much of the world as I can in my lifetime.
A note about the posts
As mentioned, I had done a fair bit of traveling by the time I started this blog. I intend to write about my past trips, but these will be brief entries (I don’t recall my daily itineraries in great detail, the names of every restaurant, have many pictures…heck, my first trip to the Caribbean was a resort in the Domincian Republic in 2010 and I don’t even remember the name now!). You’ll notice the difference in the details of trips prior to March 2014 and new trips.
RexAngel was the online pseudonym I begin using in 2001. Rex was short for my neighborhood in Toronto and Angel…well, I guess it was cool in my 15 year old head at the time. My online life revolved around a community of “cartoon dolls” (Google it if you’re curious) and creating graphics for things that were cool at the time…such as MSN Messenger avatars, AIM icons, and Myspace graphics (wow, I’m old…). I created my own website in 2004 using Yahoo Geocities (again, old) and self taught myself HTML. In 2006, I transferred my website to my domain RexAngel.com (and created another five websites!). Eventually, life happened. From graduating university to beginning the work life, my website no longer was my priority and the “cartoon doll/graphic” community wasn’t hip anymore. At some point, (2012 I think?) I tried turning RexAngel into a blog about random things (fashion, entertainment, travels), but after three posts, the blog sat there collecting dust. When I decided to create this travel blog, I chose to use tumblr (it’s just easier and plus I use Wordpress for my business website and didn’t want to create a whole new site). Instead of creating a new name, I’d simply still be “RexAngel” and re-direct my existing domain so it would no longer be lifeless.