I was bringing a full suitcase, but I wanted to have room to bring things back if I wanted to. I carefully chose four outfits (two with pants, two dresses) with the plan of doing laundry halfway through the trip. My bag weighed about 20 pounds when full, I felt this was manageable for the subway and left 30 pounds of leeway for purchases.
My mother and I visited London together in 1996, so obviously a lot has changed since then. On the previous trip I wanted to see the grave sites of famous poets and authors (I had a guide book called Permanent Londoners) so we used that as a sort of reason to go to all sorts of different corners of London.
This time my mother wanted to see textiles and fashion and I was interested in some of the newer architectural things there and of course I love chocolate and the new London food scene. I designed an itinerary for us that had a little of both each day. We were also a little budget minded. The plane tickets were close to $1K each, and the room as $1,600 ... I hoped to get by on about $50 a day after that.
My mother and I traveled from LAX to London via Virgin Atlantic on a Friday night. It's a long flight - about 11 hours or so. The flight was manageable, after some negotiation once on the plane, my mother and I were able to sit next to each other. (The layout in the back of the plane is 2-3-2, so we had a set of window-aisle which was roomy enough considering.) I didn't sleep, which is completely normal for me, though my mother must have dozed for 3 or 4 hours.
We arrived in London mid afternoon Saturday and had no trouble with passport control (though my suitcase was very late coming off the belt - about 10 minutes after all the passengers were gone but we tag teamed using the ladies room to freshen up while we waited).
It's a long walk from baggage claim to the Underground Piccaddilly, but after sitting on a plane, it was rather welcome. We bought two one way tickets for cash - 5.70 each. Getting on was super easy, as the platform was rather even. The ride to the Holborn station mid-Saturday isn't overcrowded and we were able to put our luggage in the spot on the train and sit next to them.
When we got to the station, there is a big gap/step down off the train, which I noted for the return. Then a half a flight of stairs down ... then two flights of escalator to the surface. Our hotel, the Citadines Prestige Holborn was a mere half a block away.
Check in was flawless, got our keys, scouted the complementary coffee in the lobby and then went to take a shower and check out our space.
Citadines is an Apart'hotel. We had a simple studio which was very well suited to us - small kitchen, full bath, twin beds, small desk and a couple of chairs. The ceilings are high and plenty of storage (so we could stow our luggage out of the way) so it didn't feel cramped at all. After taxes, I believe it was about $196 per night for 8 nights.
We took a walk up to Euston to get our travel pass with National Rail to take advantage of the 2 for 1 but ran into trouble finding the right ticket counter ... so instead of fussing we just walked to St. Pancras up the street and used that one instead. It was quite simple, we provided our photos and purchased our two zone 1-3 passes that started the following day.
It's a beautiful station and we ended up finding a cafe where we had some soup and split a sandwich. I took some photos. Then we walked back to the hotel, stopping at the Waitrose across the street to pick up a few things for breakfast to keep in the fridge. I just wanted some black bread, a little goat cheese and some sliced pineapple. We also got some cookies for that evening.
Back at the hotel we got ourselves unpacked and organized for the following day. The wifi worked well enough that I could skype without any issues and caught up on my email. Then we went to bed a bit early - 9 PM.
I didn't find it easy to sleep after being up for so long. Strange noises, and unfortunately there'd been some game that night and some football fans came up and down the hall singing a few times between 2 and 4 AM. Luckily that was the only night we experienced that. (My mother slept through that.)
Next up ... our first full day in London.
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London Trip Report - Textiles & Chocolate