Staying in London: Stratford

It’s a challenge to find a place to stay in London when you’re on a budget—particularly when you also have a jam-packed itinerary and can’t risk leaving your precious few hours of sleep in the hands of unknown hostel bunkmates. I look forward to the day when money’s not an obstacle and I can just crash in Mayfair or whatever with the posh people, but right now, I’m 23 and work at a nonprofit. So I spent many, many, many hours scouring Expedia for accommodations on those nights when I wasn’t going to sleep on a bus.

Ultimately, after weighing several dozen options and getting dangerously close to my departure date, I settled on the Epsilon Hotel in Stratford. At $70 per night with free wifi and breakfast included, the price was right, and though it’s not especially centrally located, the tube stop ten minutes away meant it wasn’t too much of a sacrifice location-wise.

Honestly, I liked my hotel in Stratford precisely because it was a bit out of the way. Continue reading “Staying in London: Stratford”

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Test Driving Megabus Gold

Experiences with Megabus in the States did not make me eager to try its European counterpart. It’s at best cramped and at worst unbelievably unreliable (or, you know, deadly—it’s hard to forget one unfortunate encounter between a bus and a bridge near my hometown).

But as I struggled to fit a day in Edinburgh into my most recent trip to the UK, I knew I was going to have to travel back to London overnight to make it work. My options were the cheapest possible ticket on a Caledonian Sleeper train (too expensive), a seat on a regular overnight Megabus (too uncomfortable)… or a bunk on the relatively new Megabus Gold service. Continue reading “Test Driving Megabus Gold”

Christmas at Downton Abbey

As my long-suffering Twitter followers are very well aware, I’ve been full of feelings about ITV’s soapy costume drama masterpiece Downton Abbey for, uh, a few years now. I think my social media #brand has basically been narrowed to obnoxious Downton content, so this fall, to do some field work with the series finale imminent, I made it my mission to visit Highclere Castle—real-life Downton Abbey—on one of their few winter opening days.

After some failed attempts when I actually lived in England, I managed to snap up a ticket for the December 6 opening, which was how I found myself booking my second transatlantic voyage of 2015. That drew not-so-thinly-veiled judgment from coworkers, friends, and a UKBA agent, but you know what? Worth it. Continue reading “Christmas at Downton Abbey”

Travel Nostalgia in the Kitchen: Sticky Toffee Pudding

There are a lot of foods I missed when I was in the UK. Cheez-Its were nowhere to be found, Reese’s Puffs cost £10 a box at the local candy shop, and of course I missed the coffee and chocolates from my favorite local shops in Oswego. But now that I’ve been back for nearly 7 months, I think I’d gladly trade all that for my favorite British foods — Cadbury dairy milk bars, Ribena, prawn cocktail crisps, quality tea, and of course sticky toffee pudding.

Sticky toffee pudding is not, in the American sense, pudding. It’s not custard-y and it doesn’t come from one of those little Jell-O mixes. If it was, I wouldn’t miss it a bit, because that shit is gross. Thing is, in the UK, just like biscuit doesn’t mean something savory that you serve with chicken, pudding doesn’t mean what you think it means either. Sticky toffee pudding is like a super-moist sponge cake and it is delicious. It’s also kind of ubiquitous there — I first tried it at the Stanmer Tea Rooms, and when I was too lazy to hike over the hill to get some there, I’d pick up a package of it at the Co-op and stick it in the microwave for dinner. #responsibleadult Continue reading “Travel Nostalgia in the Kitchen: Sticky Toffee Pudding”

A Day on the Isle of Wight

Just about 24 hours after I handed in my 10,000 words to the Law, Politics, and Sociology Department (yes! I’m finally done!), an acquaintance posted on Facebook that she was selling a ticket to the International Student Office’s trip to the Isle of Wight because she still had a paper to finish. Obviously I snapped that up — and with just 12 hours to spare before the trip was set to depart from campus.

I was kind of apprehensive about this impulse-buy (as I’ve mentioned before, I usually like to book stuff like this months ahead of time, so this was a bit of a walk on the wild side), but it turned out to be such a good idea. We visited a beach and some cliffs and the natural beauty of the island was just incredible. I’ll let my photos do the rest of the talking. Continue reading “A Day on the Isle of Wight”

Spoiler: There Wasn’t Money in the Banana Stand

As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, it’s finals crunch time here at the University of Sussex, and like every other college student in my situation, I’ve become desperate for procrastination methods. I just added the second book in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series to my iBooks library. I’ve actually been remembering to blog. And I finally finished watching season three of Arrested Development (after binge-watching all of the episodes I’d already seen, of course).

Turns out, that procrastination choice was not a huge mistake. Actually, it was incredibly well-timed. I already sort of knew that because the internet has been going insane as the launch of the Netflix reboot gets closer. But I didn’t know that just four days after I finished my Arrested Development marathon, the show would be setting up shop in Leicester Square. It literally took me less than ten minutes on Wednesday night to read about the event, process what was happening, and find myself staring at a Southern booking confirmation page for a spontaneous trip to London the next day — some next-level TV-related procrastination. Continue reading “Spoiler: There Wasn’t Money in the Banana Stand”

Tea at The Delaunay

So it seems I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit. Mostly because I’m forgetful, but also because I’ve actually had to do schoolwork for basically the first time all term and because it’s summer internship application crunch time and because I was busy planning my four-city train adventure birthday present to myself. And because I spent last week in London (and Paris!) with my mom and brother, who flew over for the Easter break. I’ve been pretty busy. But the family week definitely made for a couple of posts, so I’ll quit slacking.

One of the things on my study abroad bucket list was to go to a reasonably fancy afternoon tea, and it seemed like a good item for a London tourist itinerary. After looking for a venue that had some class but also a reasonable price range and available tables to be booked just a week in advance, we ended up at The Delaunay on Easter Sunday. Not a bad choice at all. Continue reading “Tea at The Delaunay”