If you’re dreaming about going on a trip to London on a small budget, well, just dream on. The UK capital has once again been declared as the “most expensive city to live and work in” according to a September 2014 report. As a tourist, I’ve also had a first-hand experience with the high cost of staying in London even if only for a few days. London ranks number one as the most expensive city in Europe, with Paris and Oslo trailing behind. (source: hotel.info)
The foregoing information notwithstanding, my daughter Bea and I thoroughly enjoyed our very recent London vacation. It was the first time for both of us to visit the UK — it was intimidating and exhilarating at the same time. I’ve previously mentioned that London is right there on top of my list of dream travel destinations, and it certainly did not disappoint. It’s as lovely as I’ve always imagined it to be.
During our brief stay, we encountered so many nice, very proper and polite Londoners: from the airport immigration officer to the money changer, from taxi drivers to hotel personnel and even just random people on the street. The weather was also very cooperative. Prior to our trip, I’ve read so much about London’s weather being very unpredictable: some people say that it rains almost half of the year in London. But we only experienced rain during our last day, so it was the perfect opportunity to buy a folding umbrella with a Union Jack design that also makes for a great souvenir. Since it’s autumn, we expected the temperature to be chilly — ranging from 6 to 14 degrees Celsius. It was so cold but I loved it, because how often do I get to experience that biting cold weather?
As is always the case, there were so many things to do and so many places to explore but we had very limited time (and budget). We didn’t get to see a lot of the popular tourist attractions and historic landmarks, but we did get to tick off many items on our priority list. For instance, I simply cannot miss making a pilgrimage to Abbey Road. As a devoted Beatles fan, crossing Abbey Road was a “goosebumps” kind of moment for me. And I did it! With the help of a kababayan (a fellow Filipino) who offered to take this shot, this photo captured that moment in my life that I will never ever forget:
For five days, I got to fulfill my dream of exploring London. We were able to enjoy going around the mega-city on our own time — riding the tube (underground train), buses and taxis. We even rode something like a pedicab late one night. We were not part of a tour group because I didn’t think it was possible to stick to a strict schedule when one is traveling with a 10-year-old. Still, we got to visit the places that Bea wanted to see and experience. We roamed around Notting Hill; went to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” the musical at Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London’s West End; got starstruck at Madame Tussauds London, where we had our photos taken with the wax figures of the British singing sensation, One Direction; queued up for a photo opportunity at Platform 9 and 3/4 in King’s Cross Station; and even took a short trip outside of London to Leavesden for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter. When Bea was 8 years old, she read the Harry Potter books — all 7 volumes — and she was hooked, probably for life. So of course, our London trip won’t be complete without doing the Harry Potter stuff. My little Bea got to fulfill her fantasies, too.
I waited more than half of my life for this London sojourn. It’s so worth the long wait.