By Matt Paul
October 28, 2018
In June, I had the occasion to tag along with a friend on her intrepid journey to the University of Birkbeck in London. What an amazing time! Being in another country for the first time was full of interesting situations and definitely loads of learning.
We flew from Halifax, Nova Scotia to London’s Gatwick airport. Gatwick airport is on the outside of London and well connected to all parts of the city via train, bus and sub-way. You find out early on that you will need a bit of pocket money to get around and you need to budget time to get from place to place unless you have rented a car or plan to take taxis. We took the transit system. For about $10.00 CND per person we got from the Airport to the place we were staying. A plane, train and subway ride and we were in Wood Green. Bring your walking shoes and travel light for the best experience.
Definitely worth investing in the international data roaming for access to google maps to make transit navigation a breeze, having to navigate the maps that you get at the stations for someone who doesn’t know anything is a stressful experience. Thankfully if you are from Canada and open your mouth there are always tons of people on the back and forth commute willing to lend an ear to steer you in the right direction. From our experience we were not led astray or taken for a ride.
There are many banks and you can easily take out money in pounds to buy anything or
use your cards so no stress associated with finances. Food is comparatively priced at restaurant chains like McDonalds and Subway, there are many great Middle Eastern places all over London due to the large population of Muslim people. I very much enjoyed the traditional English breakfast served in a little café nestled in the heart of the Wood Green neighborhood. You can get all the normal North American dishes. We had an amazing feast for about $50.00 at a Bulgarian restaurant that had a lovely atmosphere bustling with people coming and going, a busy patio with all kinds of characters spending time with friends and family enjoying beer and wine and smoking cigarettes.
A great experience was to hop on one of many double decker city buses, go up to the top and sit down and meander through the streets towards one of the main tourist attractions.
We were able to stroll along the Thames, go to London Bridge, see Buckingham Palace and British Parliament, all for the $4.00 fare (1.90 GBP) each. The roads are jammed with cars and taxis. So any way you go, rich or poor, you are going to have to wait. We chose to let others do the driving. Expect to see a lot of construction, as many of the buildings are hundreds of years old and in the process of being repaired. As such access and photo ops may be limited however there are great opportunities in Hyde Park to see flower gardens and walk along a man-made lake with swans and if your flush, rent a paddle boat. If you like architecture you will notice a great integration of old and new, sure to fascinate with the amazing creative designs.
When I head back I will bring more money to experience the pubs. I recommend spending a few dollars to try some English beer and pub fare. Until Next Time.