Saturday, October 29, 2016

London: Part One

About a month ago, we were searching for cheap flights and found unbeatable round trip tickets to London. We'd never flown the airline before but knew them to be super cheap but super basic. Since the cheapest tickets we could find only allowed for a very short trip, we didn't need to pack more than a carryon bag anyway, so we pressed "book now" and excitedly began planning. 

We flew from Dortmund to London Stansted.
We budgeted our time to get to Dortmund early in case it was a crazy airport with long lines. In reality, we needed to leave Munster at around noon, but somehow that got lost in translation in our heads and we told ourselves our flight was at noon. Sooooo we got to the airport at like 10am. Our flight was at 3:45. The Dortmund airport is very tiny, so until around 12:30ish, we sat in the cafe there before security and read our books. I finished mine which was a bummer, since then I was no longer entertained. At close to 1, we went through security (it took like two minutes and they didn't even make Carson take his shoes off) and sat there for another good long time. Finally, we went through passport control and got our passports stamped... and then discovered that our flight was delayed about 45 minutes. So all in all, we wish we'd thought ahead and at least explored Dortmund!

London Stansted Airport we found to be really efficient. The customs line didn't take long at all, and the friendly border agent gave us tips on what to do and reminded us to stay safe.
We'd researched a number of ways to get from the airport to the city, since it's 40 miles outside of London, and found that the cheapest way for us was to go by bus. They have a fast train (the Stansted Express) but it was twice the price. Not that the Citylink option was super cheap, it was just cheaper (note to self: look up all transportation prices before booking a flight) at $16 round trip per person. The bus had wifi and was pretty quick though, and it took us about three seconds to walk up to the counter and buy them - very painless.

We took the bus to Kings Cross station. It's very big and right next to St Pancreas station, which is a station for international trains, so we got a bit lost between the two.

We were looking for Platform 9 3/4, from Harry Potter. They've put up a cart that makes it look like you're on your way to Hogwarts. The line for pictures was quite long that night, so we decided to return on our trip back to the airport for a photo. We did browse the gift shop they have there - it was decorated in a really fun way and they had wands and all kinds of things from the movies.

It took us awhile to find a place that looked good to eat outside the train station, and then we came inside and found this place that's all over the city. We had it three times on this trip because it was cheap and delicious.

We bought Oyster cards (cards for London's transportation systems) and loaded them and navigated our way through the Underground and to our hostel. This was our first time staying in one, and we were a little scared of it because it felt too cheap to be real. We had a private room with a bathroom and while it was maybe not the ideal place to stay, it worked! And this was a budget trip, so it made us happy in that realm too! Carson is posing because I made him, but I always get the bottom bunk in situations where a bunk bed is involved.

Since we had a limited time in the city, we thought the best thing to do would be to explore at night. We headed out at 9:30pm to Waterloo Station and mapped out a walking route to see some things. The places we walked were basically all tourist areas, but it was quiet and we sort of felt like we had the place to ourselves.

We saw the London Eye and Big Ben and various other places from a distance.

Carson posing with the Savoy in the background (their website lists the starting price for rooms at 437 Euro a night, so maybe we won't ever stay there).

We walked around the theater district for a little bit just seeing where we'd end up. We wandered to Trafalgar Square, where we bought a banana and water for each of us to keep us going a little. Carson hopped up to hang out with one of the lions.

Okay, every single thing we did was touristy. I don't hate being a tourist (obviously?), so we had to get pictures with the famous red phone booths. Every single one of them smells like a porta potty. 

We kept wandering and walked past St James Park and ended up next to these flags and...

Buckingham Palace! We were the only people over there, which surprised me!

Thank you, self timer!

Hello, Westminster Abbey! I'd pictured it as being much smaller!

We walked past the Houses of Parliament next.

And back to Waterloo Station at about 1am! Whew, we were tired (Germany is one hour ahead of London, so it was 2am in our heads!)

And back to ye olde hostel to get an unsatisfactory amount of sleep before a very full Tuesday!

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