Background to these posts: I am lucky to have 3 weeks holiday this Spring, so have bought an Interrail ticket and am off to see the sights of Europe by train. I have lots of places that I want to see, but will won't really know where I am going until I get there!
The journey to London from home last night was tiring but far cheaper than the train. Motto: Watch out for ageing VW Beetles (called Desmond) where the heating warms the feet of the passenger, the bottom of the driver and nothing for the back seats, and cannot be turned off. Cue me and Dave cooking and Robyn in the back freezing. Heavy traffic coming into London also meant the journey took about 3 hours. However, very nice to see Dave and Robyn again and stay at their house in Streatham.
This morning I have caught the first of many trains in to London Bridge Station, then walked along the riverside path to Tower Bridge. I was tempted by HMS Belfast (having done submarines on my last trip a battleship seemed appropriate) but the £12.95 entrance fee was rather off putting so after breakfast I succumbed to the "Tower Bridge Experience" which comprises the old engine rooms and the pedestrian walkway across the bridge.
The engine rooms occupy about 15 minutes and to my mind are rather dull but I was pleased to be channelled round into the gift shop at the end. I like a good gift shop, me. Once I had climbed the many steps to the top of the North tower you can then wonder back and forth along the foot ways to your heart's content. Both sides are open and both offer fantastic views up and down the river with notes and guides to help you decipher the views. Having a fantastic clear day as well is a definite plus. I remember going up there once before when I was a sprog and I was sure then it was open to the elements, not behind double glazing as now, but the guide assured me that this had never been the case.
After finishing at the bridge (recommended by the way and not too touristica) I waled on through the City past the Tower of London vaguely in the direction of Kings Cross but on eventually consulting my map decided that the rest of the distance should be covered by tube. This took me all the way to St Pancras International, for me to collect my ticket, have lunch and get my bearings prior to my departure early on Tuesday morning. Lunch was supplied by Yo Sushi! - very enjoyable and much cheaper than usual as they were doing a deal "all plates for £2.20". The waitress seemed surprised at how much I had eaten but then it would be rude to leave them on the conveyor belt, going round and round I felt.
Then onwards from the station to my hotel. Just outside St Pancras is a YHA and now I'm a member I was cursing for not having booked in. As I walked down the Euston Road I was pretty certain that I had made a critical mistake choosing this place instead, but now I have arrived I'm not so sure. First impressions are rather odd - you go to a local newsagent (smartly refurbished by the way) and collect your key and a member of staff shows you to the apartment. I seem good a picking places with lots of stairs and this place is no exception - the rooms are on the third floor.
With the entrance hallway looking a bit grotty, and all the steps, I was starting to feel like doing a runner there and then but once inside the place is lovely. Smartly modern interior with 3-4 small bedrooms off a shared corridor, there are two bathrooms (cramped but usable) and a good sized kitchen You are right on Tottenham Court Road which certainly provides a lively scene from the bedroom window, and a tube station is just round the corner (Goodge Street). Best of all though is the kitchen is well stocked with tea/coffee/milk/eggs/bacon/washing machine with powder/a kettle/microwave and oven etc etc, all for £45.00 per person per night.
I reckon this is the way to go - it might be a mile or so from St Pancras, and there might be sirens rushing past, but having somewhere like this that is cheap and user friendly, and best of all not full of scuzzy backpackers (like the YHA) is great. And I can plug my laptop in, make myself a cuppa, and relax (and wash my smelly socks). The link for the company behind the appartment is www.flexistay.net
Tonight I am meeting another friend for supper then a reasonably early night before heading to Brussels tomorrow morning. Next update coming soon...