London Calling

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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Sunday, August 19, 2007

About a month or so ago a mate I met traveling flew to London on route to Denmark from Morocco as it was far cheaper than direct flights home. It was so good to catch up then that he said he'd be over with his girlfriend Sascha in a few weeks so we could meet up again. So a plan was quickly thrown together and off we went to London after work on Friday.

Although Central London is only 40 miles from my house I have never been there for a night out or stayed the night in town. I decided it was about time I experienced a crazy night in London and the UK hostel life!!

Friday

I met up with Jesper and Sascha (who had flown into Gatwick) at Green Park station and walked with them the rest of the way to the hostel Dave has arranged. Looking at the reviews on the Internet this really didn't seem to be the best hostel in town, in fact the only redeeming feature was the location just behind Piccadilly Circus.

Here are a couple of sample reviews for Piccadilly Backpackers from Hostelworld:

cassidy8268 from USA stayed here on 17th August 2007 Hot water was nonexistent in men's showers, and the only option in women's. Crappy, cheap, disintegrating bunk beds. Overall, a poor choice of a place to stay, and far too expensive for what's provided.  43%

pbarlow4900 from Canada stayed here on 25th July 2007 The reception and facility in general is significantly undersized for the number of beds. It is very inconvenient to have everything on the fourth and sixth floors with an inadequate elevator. The mattresses are ancient. We will not stay there again and will pass on our views to any of our friends going to London. There is a great hostel near Kensington that we will strongly recommend.  60%

bede_cunningham from Australia stayed here on 04th July 2007 This place was really disappointing. They couldn't even manage to have toilet paper in the toilets despite repeated requests, our access card continuously didn't work, and their facilities (eg internet) were expensive compared to other places in the area (despite advertising they were the cheapest in the area) - luckily their facilities were out of order!  43%

Zapopan from Mexico stayed here on 10th June 2007 It's the most expensive hostel I've been in in my whole life! It has the worst breakfast I've ever had in my entire life! It's a shame they sell toasts, juices, and everything! It's a shame they have a severe luggage keeping curfew. We chose it for its location, but Romano's Hotel near Victoria station has better location; it's cheaper; breakfast is TOTALLY FREE AND ABUNDANT... nevermind, never will book or recommend this hostel again! if they'd have a money back guarantee I would definitively ask for my money back because my family and I did not get value for money at all!!!!! this hostel abuses of people because it's steps around piccadilly, but I just hope in months or few years a dozen or more cheaper hostels sprawls so these owners would learn to be a bit more sensitive, humble to low income tourists, real backpackers and be less mean and miserly!!!!! Location is good Staff in general are great with the exception of couple of two guys. But their owner's miserly and mean shortness, vision and everything to give an abundant range of free services is EXTREMELY BAD!!!!!!  53%

I think you get the idea!!

Anyway, so we arrived at the hostel to find an unbelievably crowded reception area with people coming and going all the time. The person manning reception seemed more interested in chatting up every girl that walked past, checking peoples access cards were valid and generally ignoring people waiting rather than checking anyone in. We stood around waiting for 25 minutes to fill in a name/address form only to be told to go to the 4th floor to check in. Complete waste of time.

On the 4th floor we entered another tiny room to check-in. Paid our 46 each (23/night 4 bed dorm) and went up to find our hovel on the 5th floor. Hovel is one term I could use, prison is probably more apt. Row-after-row of bright orange doors with big black numbers on them. I already hated the place and hadn't even had the pleasure of seeing the room yet!

The room was a small box with a couple of creaky bunk-beds and a sink. It also looked like it had never been cleaned. The bunks looked like they would collapse with the slightest touch! Needless to say we didn't spend very long in the room over the course of the weekend.

By the time we had checked in and dumped our bags it was nearly 9pm so we headed off to find some dinner. Seeing as we were so close we decided to pay a visit to Chinatown for old times sake (met Jesper in China). We found a great little place that was full of Chinese (always a good sign) and had a great meal in the basement. We even tried out our Chinese skills when ordering the food and surprisingly remembered far more than I thought we would.

After dinner we headed off to nearby Soho for some drinks. As all the normal bars charge for entry on a Friday we went to a chain pub (Slug & Lettuce) for a few cheap drinks to start the night. Before entering I realised it was opposite the Itsu Sushi restaurant that was recently involved in the Polonium Nitrate poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. ...

Had a couple of drinks before withdrawing more money and heading off to find a bar nearby to carry on drinking. Jesper and Sascha were wondering why the bars were closing so early so we had to tell them about the drinking laws in UK. They thought it was stupid as you can drink all day in Denmark almost everywhere.

We went to a couple more bars where we had to pay an entry fee but by 2am we had had enough and retired to the hostel. We told them we'd find a more lively music club for tomorrow night instead.

Saturday

Saturday morning came and it was like being in a tent in the dorm room. If you've ever been to a festival or had the pleasure of staying in a tent you'll understand just how uncomfortable they are to be in when the sun comes up. We were in no rush today so we didn't even start sightseeing until about 11:30.

Dave had gone off to pickup his missus from Waterloo so I took Jesper and Sascha off to meet them before heading to the London Eye. I was going to be a proper tourist today :) I had been on the London Eye before but that was years ago when it first opened so it was good to give it another try. It was OK but I wouldn't pay to use it again.

After the "flight" was finished we headed off on a little walking tour around the area passed the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Horse Guards before ending up in Trafalgar Square and deciding it was time for lunch.

After a great pie for lunch we all decided we had done enough sightseeing for the day and couldn't be bothered to walk down the Mall to Buck House or any other sights so went to the Trocadero to go bowling. I remember the Trocadero from when I was a kid and it's a sad state of affairs now. Gone are the days of SEGA World and theme park style rides and half the place is now boarded up. It is also the most confusingly designed building in the world! Honestly try finding your way out of that place, it's impossible. I'm sure it's all designed to get as much of your money out of your pockets and into the arcade games as possible.

I was shockingly bad in the first game of bowling but improved slightly in the next game to get 120 odd which was a bit better. At least they had Sky Sports News on the TV screen so that I could keep up with the Spurs score (4-0 :D). It was a good way to waste an hour or so. On the way out of the most confusing building in the world we passed a bumper car track so Dave and Jesper had a go and terrorised a load of girls in full Muslim garb (surprisingly attractive I might add!).

After the Trocadero fun we headed back to the hostel as I needed a shower to wash London off me. Riding the Underground is truly disgusting in the summer. We are experiencing the wettest, most miserable summer on record yet it is still hot as hell on the Tube. As there was no hot water on our floor I had to go down 2 floors to find a shower that wasn't icy cold. Honestly avoid this hostel at all costs!!

For dinner we thought we'd treat them to a traditional English meal so we went to Brick Lane for a Bengali Curry. Curry is the national dish if you didn't know and Brick Lane is full of Bangladeshis' and as a result good food. It was black and rainy by the time we got to Aldgate Station and had to walk miles until we finally found Brick Lane and were soon pounced upon by touts from every restaurant in Brick Lane. We settled on one and had a reasonable meal.

Seeing as we didn't know anything about clubbing in London (really not my scene) we had a look in the LP and text a few mates to find out what they recommended. The common consensus was Fabric in Farringdon so we jumped back on the train and headed back there.

It was still only about 11:00 and so very early to go to a club but for 16 I was going to get my monies worth. The club itself was pretty special. Upon entering you go down 3 or 4 flights of stairs and the club is like being in a disused Underground station. The acoustics are incredible, as were the drink prices! I got a round of 4 bottled beers and it was at least 15!

The music/clientele were also unlike what I had been imagining. The music was hardcore monotonous techno all night and someone must have switched some days around as I'd estimate the customers were 95% gay! OK...... I have had a look around online and can see no mention of Saturday being a gay night, websites say Sunday, so I guess we were unlucky. I doubt the type of music helped matters much either! Either way we had spent 16 to get in so we stayed until 4am before heading back to the hostel. I didn't even get to see M.I.A who was performing in the club as she was supposed to be on from 3-4, but come 3:30 she was nowhere to be seen so we gave up. So it had been a pretty crap night. We are the worst tour guides ever!

Sunday

To add to the list of bad points about this hostel the checkout time is 10am! This wasn't much appreciated having got back to bed at gone 4am but I wasn't paying them any more money. The reception area was completely packed with other people trying to check out and the queue for the 1 tiny luggage room was insane. It took about 30 minutes to dump our bags before we could head out. You are only supposed to leave your luggage there until 6pm! If your bag is still there at 10pm you have to pay a fine! This hostel is beyond a joke.

We were all dead on our feet and as none of the shops in London open until 12 on a Sunday we found a Starbucks and settled in some comfy chairs for a couple of hours. I think I went to Starbucks 4-5 times over the 2 days as apparently there aren't any in Denmark. Still it was like traveling again as that's all I used to do then as well!

With nothing much else to do we wandered around Oxford/Regent street and visited a few shops. We must have spent about 45 minutes walking around the 6 floors of Hamleys where Dave bought a toy car before heading back to the hostel and going our separate ways.

It had been great to catch up with Jesper again and meet Sascha. He's such a crazy guy when he goes on a night out and I'm sure we'll be doing it again in the not too distant future only this time as far away from London as possible!

I knew there was a reason it had taken me 24 years to spend a night in London and I won't be doing it again any time soon! 4-5 hours round trip to see the delights of the Tottenham High Road and the mighty Spurs is more than enough for me and I'll be doing that in a few week for the game against L'Arse!

Total Spent: 235!

Sidenote: As you can probably guess not all the pictures in this entry are from this trip, I just had nowhere else to put the others on my camera!
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Comments

uncle_davros
uncle_davros on

Fabric
Mate

I use to work around the cornerfrom there. Never been in though.

I love London !!!

rbisset
rbisset on

Re: Fabric
I guess you've been in London long enough for it to grow on you. I always find it such a pain in the arse! I went to the Spurs match the other day and just getting the tube anywhere irritated me. I couldn't imagine what it'd be like during the morning commute!

That said, I live in Guildford now so it's only 30 minutes away by train and there are numerous museums that need a visit. The British Museum is a must so that I can see all the stuff we stole from other countries!!

Got to drive to bloody Neasdon every Sunday in December for a course and I'm not looking forward to that much!

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