London Walking Tour

On my first official morning I opted to take part in a “free” walking tour of the “TV” “London”.  I will explain in further detail why quotes are around the three words in the previous sentence in a bit…

Upon first checking into the hostel they mentioned that there was a “free” walking tour that operated daily leaving the hostel at 10am.  They said that the tour covered central London, but that the main attractions (for example Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, etc) would not be covered, but that the tour would end so close to those areas that they would be easy enough to explore after the tour.

Ok, so here was a great example as to the incompetence of the staff (sadly) at the Generator hostel… First off, the “free” walking tour required a not-free train or bus ticket to get you to the meeting point (Green Park) from which the tour would actually begin.  Now, I’m not complaining about having to buy a train ticket, because as it turned out it came in quite handy for the rest of the day (I bought a day pass from the hostel for 9 pounds that allowed unlimited access to all buses and trains for the entire day, and after my day it was definitely worth its price!) I was just irritated that this little bit of important information wasn’t explained to me when the staff talked about the free walking tour.  Now, I’ve been told I’m too literal a person taking what people say quite literally and to that point I admit that I literally did think that the walking tour would be entirely that… walking.  So when the lady who came to pick up the people participating in the walking tour from the hostel (on foot I may add) we started walking out toward the next hostel where we were to pick up more people when she thankfully asked “do you have a train ticket?”.  My first question of course was “For what?  This is a walking tour, yes?”  To which she explained that we would need a train ticket to get to the meeting point.

So I turned around as she waited outside for me while I worked out the details and purchased the all day train pass.  I’m just saying, if the whole procedure for the “free” walking tour was explained to begin with then that little bit of confusion and wasted time would never had occurred… Oh, and one other little thing… Goes along with the incompetence of the staff at the Generator (who otherwise were very friendly) per their knowledge of this free walking tour that they at least informed people about… ok, so a few more points… #1 no one knew how long the tour would last #2 no one knew exactly what time it started (I was told 10am, at 10am asked where the tour met and was told -by the same person who told me 10am- that it met at 10:15… 10:15 rolled around and I was told once again by the same person, “oh they meet between 10:15 and 10:30… GRRRRR!!!!!) #3 the areas that they said would be covered on the tour in fact were NOT covered at all… I’m not complaining on this point again because the tour actually did cover all the areas I wanted to know more about, i.e. the “TV” areas of London (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc).  All I’m saying again is that there was just a HUGE lack of knowledge from the staff at the Generator hostel about this tour.

Now, to the perhaps credit of the staff, the lady that picked me up from there on foot said that the regular staff were on vacation and that she’d never seen the ones that were there that morning before… so maybe the regular staff are more knowledgeable than the apparently new ones that were there… But I will never know for sure…

Ok, so I’m done venting about the frustrating start to the tour… The tour itself was in one word: brilliant!  The tour guide was funny, friendly and incredibly informative!  As I mentioned above we all met (turned out to be about 30 people in total from various hostels around London) at Green Park and from there began the two hour tour entirely on foot:)

Oh, I almost forgot… the above words in quotes!  So “Free” is in quotes above because as you guessed, the tour wasn’t “free”.  It required a train/bus ticket and a tip for the tour guide.  The guides aren’t paid by the organization that provides the free tours, so they only rely on tips.  “TV” is in quotes simply to mean that the areas covered were in fact the most popular tourist destinations in London, and “London” is in quotes because all the areas we went to (TV areas) are actually in Westminster… London, the REAL London is only one about square mile!!  The rest of what people consider to be London is Westminster.  That’s your first bit of info I got from the tour…

To make it a bit easier for reading perhaps, I’m going to break down each part of the tour and associated stories for each area into links below.  That way this page doesn’t drag on forever!  I’m not going to tell every story told during the tour (I’ve got to leave something out to make you all want to go to London and do the tour yourselves!!) but will give you my favorites.  Cheers and happy reading your free tour with accompanying pictures:)

The Palaces

Red Coats & Gentlemen’s Club

Trafalgar Square

Horse Garden/PM House/Westminster Abbey/Big Ben

Areas Not covered (Eye of London/Brick Lane/Piccadilly Circus)


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Hostel Culture Shock…

Quickly here I wanted to share a few culture shocks I experienced (aside from the prices, lol!!).  Really the only time I had ever before done the whole backpacking hostel thing was when I traveled through Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.  So really my only basis of comparison was with hostels there…

What I had gotten used to from hostels in Latin America was places where basically younger people (early 20’s to 40’s) would go to sleep cheap.  It was a place for singles or couples of friends, but not large groups per se.  Everyone was also very inviting and curious of the newcomer.  You would tend to meet several people and hang out with them from the hostel.  It was like meeting a new member of a family at each place.  You always had someone to do something with if you wanted and everyone seemed very chill as we were all in the same traveling boat so to speak.  You exchanged information and traveling tips with fellow hostel goers.  It felt like an underground society in a way…  Places where the backpackers would convene nightly to exchange stories and dos and don’ts…

Hostels in London have a completely different feel!!!  First the age range literally included children all the way to senior citizens.  Entire families stayed at the hostel!  And groups of people booked into the hostel.  I’m talking for Stag parties (aka bachelor parties) or gangs of girls wanting to party it up in London.  I was shocked at the dress that people were coming out of the hostel with!  No more sensible travel clothes anywhere to be seen on people, except for a few random ones, but rather short skirts and tall heels!!  These girls are traveling???  No, hostels in London were definitely not for the traveler.  They were simply (at least I believe) the only cheap way to go since I don’t think many people can actually afford hotels in London!!  Or if they were travelers, they weren’t long term, they were just away for the week or weekend on a holiday.  Because of this there was no real camaraderie among the people.  Everyone was out for their own business and no one would really acknowledge others since they had basically all come in their own group anyway.  Personally I didn’t really care if I met people to talk to or not because I’m perfectly comfortable doing what I want on my own anyway, but it just gave such a “cold” feel to the place.  So uninviting.

So, needless to say this aspect was quite a shock to me.  I was very curious at this point how hostels all across Europe would be in general… If they would be what I was used to from my previous travels, or if they would be like the London hostel…


On to London Walking Tour

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Keep Calm and Carry On

I’m no stranger to making fun of myself at any point… and well the title to this particular post is aimed to do just that… it’s actually specifically aimed at showing how uneducated and retarded I can be… I once saw one of my bosses (originally from England) wearing a shirt saying “Keep Calm and Carry On”… and I made the very uneducated comment of, “Oh, is that a spin-off from The Chive slogan of  “keep calm and chive on”???

Yea…. enough said… I can be THAT blonde quite often in life really… and it’s usually ALWAYS when I’m trying to be impressive somehow… Goes to show you should ALWAYS be humble, otherwise stupidity (at least in my case) will always creep out!!!

Moving on, I flew over the pond on British Airways on a fairly cheap one-way ticket I found on my favorite flight site of  Let me tell you, British Airways has it going on!!  The flight was comfortable, the food was actually tasty, and beside a little bit of a hiccup during my movie where it turned off and wouldn’t restart until hours later (which really forced me to get some much needed sleep) it was quite the pleasant flight!

After landing I did what I always do… Sat down and started searching for a place to stay for the night… You would think I would change my ways and plan SOMETHING ahead of time, but hey, that’s kinda part of the adventure of it all, isn’t it??  The only bummer here is that Heathrow airport only gives like 45 minutes of free WiFi to use!!  After that you have to pay for it!!  Seriously???  What if I had a layover there longer than 45 minutes??  Then I would have to PAY for WiFi???  Seemed like a total scam to me, but it was what it was…

Anyway after a bit of researching I did find a hostel that would potentially work.  What I really wasn’t expecting was how absolutely expensive everything was!!  Part of the reason it took me so long to find a hostel was because I was price shopping!!  I knew and had heard that in general Europe is expensive, but seriously London is out of control!! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

So after getting a place in mind to possibly stay, I headed for the ticket booth, got a map and ticket for the Underground tunnel train and headed off.  About 20-30 minutes later I was off the Underground and pounding the pavement of the streets with my feet.  I walked for about 15 minutes until I found the hostel that I thought to stay at.  Why did it take so long?  Well, the map I was given of the streets really wasn’t quite as accurate as it could have been.  So there were several times I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way as some streets were on the map, then the next several were not, then one would pop back up on the map… strange…

Anyway, I stopped into the YHA (Youth Hostels Association- they have a chain of hostels throughout  Europe… Red flag #1 in my book as I think hostels should be more private than corporate) which had prices advertised at 26 pounds per night…. Upon arriving however, it was 32 pounds per night… No thanks!!  That didn’t even include breakfast!!  So I asked about another hostel nearby and was shuttled in the direction of Generator Hostel London.

After another 20 minutes of wandering around somewhat aimlessly while attempting to follow the map but still needing to stop for directions I found the Generator hostel!!  Now, to my miracle, the days I spent in London were actually clear skies and warm!!  You all know by now how much I LOVE warm weather!!  However… when having to walk in it with a 40lb bag on back, it gets annoying quickly!  And I tend to sweat quite a bit.  So needless to say after the first mini-hike to the first hostel, then the second mini-hike to the Generator, I was looking forward to putting my stuff down and showering!  Luckily they did have room and though I was planning originally to stay 3 nights, I only went for 2 since the first 2 nights were 26 pounds each and the third was 40 pounds!!  At the time the rate exchange was $1.71 to 1 pound so 26 pounds was basically well over $40 to stay for each night… Oh and that amount was for ‘no breakfast included’ AND I was sharing the room with 11 other people and the bathroom with the entire floor (which was in the basement and probably had over 100 people at least per floor).

I was definitely missing the hostel prices I was used to in Central and South America!!  This was seriously a completely different ballgame financially!  In any event I paid for my room, headed down to my basement room, changed clothes, made a few calls and sent some emails then headed out for a beer!


On to Hostel Culture Shock

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