First ride onto the tube. I had to first get an Oyster card (15 British Pounds at the time) to use their transportation system. The Brits are known for being well-mannered, but I do believe it’s quite the contrary. Their posh accent merely masks the strong musk of their sarcasm. The lady at the London underground ticket counter refused to take my cold hard cash (I had British Pounds ready for her), and said I could only use a credit card to retrieve an Oyster card. Having smuggled a small stack of cash in my travel money pouch taped to my belly halfway across the world along with my traveller’s checks, I refused to let up the use of my credit card if I didn’t need to. Being a “poor college student”, I didn’t want an unnecessary foreign transaction fee tacked on to my bill, so I waited for another customer to make their purchase, and asked them to purchase mine as I handed him my money. That wasn’t so hard was it?
As I got off my stop to meet up with my first Couchsurfing encounter, I noticed that not only do the Brits drive on the wrong side of the road (just kidding), they park freely on both sides on the road.
Fancy this police car.
It was as if I stepped into another world.
This looks something out of a Universal Studio movie set.
If only this were blue, and I could teleport with it. What a beauty.
What’s London without meeting Charlie Chaplin?
Honestly laughing at his misery.
Big Ben over the River Thames
Gates of Buckingham Palace
I believe these were called the Lamb’s ear. They were leaves with a coat of fur on them.
Camden Town is absolutely my favorite place in London to shop and walk around. There is so much to look at, with shops offering little trinkets to punk rock memorabilia and cyberpunk outfits. I, unfortunately, was so enamored by the area that I didn’t stop to take any pictures. They have beautiful, unique pantyhose there that will run you a pretty penny. I did capture a quick snap to give you a glimpse of a part of it. Definitely a must-go part of London.
As I mentioned above, I brought a lot of traveler’s checks, thinking it’d be an easy alternative to carrying cash. I found a neat little place in Camden Town that made the transaction really simple for me. I had a lot of trouble outside of that though because my bank back home had made an error, but more on that later. I spent about 10 days there, which in my opinion is way too many days for one city. Being that it’s my first backpacking trip abroad alone, I opted for a slow start. I Couchsurfed my way through the rest of my trip and met so many wonderful people along the way.
Highlights of my trip was probably all the free museums and things to look at like the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. If I were to do this again, I would definitely take the hour out to see the Stonehenge, stop at the 9 3/4 sign for the photo op at King Cross Station, and spend more time in Camden Town. The food really didn’t impress me, and gave me culture shock when I realized that I would be spending $30 on a really mediocre burger. I could not for the life of me find any good fish and chips that suited my palate. Their fish was real, and not a blend of mystery fish meat (shocker, I know). The standard of living seems really high there, and being that the exchange rate was terrible at the time (British Pound was nearly 1.5 times the USD before Brexit), it seemed that if I stayed any longer, I would very quickly break my budget.
After London, came Amsterdam. I took the ferry (Stena Line) that probably ran me around $100 USD and the trip took about 4 hours. The interaction with the ticket man went somewhat like this after purchasing my ticket:
Me: Where would I go to take the Stena Line?
Ticket man: Do you know what a ship looks like?
Ticket man: Go to the place where the ship is.
And yes, pray tell, where is this mysterious place? I haven’t had the best of encounters with the ticket people it seems. I was actually caught off guard because he sounded so polite with his British accent, but the content of his words and tone of his voice felt so condescending and rude. Better luck next time.
I am often asked how I save money or budgeted for my trip. Not having born with a silver spoon in my mouth, it seemed instinctual to save where I could and splurged only when deemed necessary. Read more on my post on how I got through Europe with no cellphone and just a suitcase in hand here.