A lifestyle expat travel blog about culture, history, Brexit, the Royal Family, travels around the world, Europe, and being British in Berlin!
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.
Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.
I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!
Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!
A win-win for all!
Thanks a million!
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.
Sounded like a fun and busy 48 hours 🙂
OMG. It was a jam-packed 80 hour adventure, but in a very good way!
Thanks so much for commenting 🙂
I must save this post for when I visit London! Still have not been there.
Thanks Filbio. You simply must go to London. You’ll love it! Whenever you’re ready to come to Germany or Britain, do let me know 🙂
Sounds like such a fun visit back “home!” I, too, love all things Asia and kind of died when I read about the live-stage Bollywood production you attended. I wish it was playing here in the states! I might have to sign up for a Bollywood dance class to make myself feel better. 😉
Hey Miranda! My trip “home” really was a lot of fun. An 80 hour journey but pretty acceptable in the long run LOL! OMG! The Merchants of Bollywood really was a lovely production. I was so happy to see it. I felt as if I really was in India. India is a crazy country but I miss it so much.
I believe the production will be touring again soon so you might catch them somewhere else if not, go to London LOL or failing that, the dance classes sound like an excellent idea!
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I wish I’d known about the Museum of the Home – that is RIGHT up my alley. As a London newby but a well-traveled and -museumed Europhile I went for classic art with a British twist: V&A and the Portrait Gallery. I skipped the National Gallery proper and the British Museum. Also I saw the Crown Jewels at the Tower, and then the entire city (or almost) on foot – all the landmarky stops.
Hi Anna, it’s funny but I only just discovered it myself even though I lived in London for a few years!
The Museum of the Home is a great place and I hope to catch it again without dropping my camera!
I love the V&A and the Potrait Gallery as well as the National Gallery as I prefer older stuff. For the British Museum, you need a few hours so you could always do it next time you go. I’m so glad that you saw the Crown Jewels, the Beefeaters and the Tower of London: it’s a must see. The first time, our son went to London with us, “The Music Producer” took him to Abbey Road while I went to Selfridges. A successful day for all!
Excellent post and great photos 😉
Thank you dear. 🙂
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