Thursday, June 26, 2014

Heading Home

As you read this I'm on my home following a fabulous month exploring London and its environs. I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to see and learn so much of this incredible country. The historical context was my primary focus, but I've loved every minute of learning about modern London as well. It just blows my mind that people can take a bus tour around the city and think they've “seen” everything. The bus tours are great, but if that's all you do, you've not even scratched the surface of what London has to offer. A week is the absolute minimum, in my opinion. And if you intend to visit sights outside of London, you'll need at least one more.

A Dream Trip

In the past I've only had a few days in this city, and trying to fit everything in that I wanted to see wore me out and lessened my enjoyment. A person can only do so much in a day, and as an almost-senior citizen, I can tell when I've had enough. Last year I remembered thinking that it would great to be able to rent a flat for several months and write my Regency-set historicals in England where the Regency actually took place.

London, however, is expensive. Really expensive. And so are hotels and flats and food and transportation. So I hesitated. Until I came down with a serious illness and for awhile there it seemed like my days were numbered. But the medical establishment came to the rescue and I made a full recovery in eight weeks.

But the whole experience showed me that life is very tenuous, and there's no point in waiting to begin doing the things I've long wanted to do. That's when I booked a flat in London for a month in May/June. You can find it here.

The Good

It's a nice flat for one person or perhaps a couple. There's sleeping room for three people, but I'm thinking if three people spent much time here they'd get on each other's nerves very quickly! Still, if you plan to be out most of the day and just sleep here, it's a bargain compared to a hotel. The Sherlock Holmes Hotel about four blocks away has double rooms for 170 pounds per night, but you won't find a kitchenette complete with a washing machine there. And when I asked for a discount for a longer stay, the management took 1200 pounds off the price, which works out to be a discount of 36 pounds per day!

Though small, the kitchenette is fully stocked with cooking appliances, dishes, cutlery and everything but food. At first I only bought breakfast foods and sandwiches and had lunch out, but it wasn't long before I got very tired of sandwiches and discovered the prepared meals at Marks & Spencer. I also calculated that eating a restaurant meal every day could easily run to 800 pounds (about $1280—more than four times what I normally spend on food for month)! A meal out might easily cost 15-20 pounds, where I can get a prepared meal for about three pounds, and a bit more for fruit or a salad. Sandwiches from Tesco or Prêt à Manger are even cheaper.

The apartment is quite nice and very clean—a maid comes in and cleans every Friday afternoon. The location is perfect—a few blocks from Baker Street—and overall I'm quite happy with it. However…

Burlington Arcade

The Bad and the Ugly

There are a couple of hiccups, unfortunately. The worst is that there is construction going on next door during the day, and it's been enough to drive me crazy! Sometimes it feels like someone is going to drill a hole through my head as I lean against the wall to write my blog posts! They usually stop around 4:00 p.m., but I often find it necessary to get out of the flat to escape the noise. The result is that I haven't got much writing done, except for blog posts, and I seem to be struggling to do them. So that sort of knocks out my dream coming to London for inspiration to write. Bummer!

The other is the lack of air conditioning. I have a tendency to get overheated easily, and this second floor flat can get quite warm when the temperature gets up to 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit). The second week of my stay was an unusually warm one, and I found it impossible to sleep, even with a wet towel on my face. Finally I mentioned it to the manager and she got me a fan. Opening the patio doors helps a lot too, but I don't like leaving them open at night because I fear the bugs might come in. No screens on windows here, you know. It's been cooler this week, and the fan helps, but I really prefer a temperature of about 72. Unfortunately, most people here don't have air conditioning because it doesn't get hot for very long, and utilities are expensive. Still, if it's hot outside, it's even hotter in upper floors and places like the Tube. During the extremely hot summer of 2006, the temperature inside the trains reached up to 127 degrees Fahrenheit, and many people died!

Many hotels, of course, would have air conditioning, so if heat is a problem for you, either choose a cooler season, such as September or October, or consider a hotel.


For the most part, transportation in England is fantastic! The Tube and buses will take you anywhere in London. Rush hour should be avoided, if possible. There are bicycle stations where you can rent one and return it to another near your destination. There are trains to take you just about anywhere you want to go in England. You can rent a car if you want to go off the beaten path. And there are boats too, if you can spare an extra hour or two.

Train Station

What I Won't Miss

The crowds. I'm really not comfortable in large congested areas, and you can't avoid them in London. In the Tube tunnels, everyone is in a hurry, and just when you've mapped out your path to the escalator, a couple with a baby carriage steps out in front of you and stops right there! Or you get to the platform and try to make your way to the end—hoping to find a less-crowded car—and everyone seems to be standing right there at the entrance so you can't get through! (Are they all tourists who haven't figured that out yet?) Or you're walking along the sidewalk near a pub, and there are a dozen people crowded on the sidewalk smoking so that you have to either walk out in the street and hope not to get run down by a car or force your way through the group holding your nose to avoid the secondhand smoke. No, those things I will definitely not miss when I get home!

The lack of trash bins. The other day when I went to Westminster I took a Starbucks coffee with me and walked what seemed like a mile before I found a way to dispose of it, and that was only because the kind security guard at the Banqueting House offered to take it from me. In the meantime I saw trash on ledges and on the ground because others couldn't find one either and just left it somewhere. In some Tube stations they have a trash bin near the escalator on the way out—clear bags hanging from a rim. I wonder if that's because they're concerned about security threats, since I know Paris had a problem with bombs in trash bins. Westminster would have even tighter security due to the government buildings there, so perhaps that's why there appear to be none in the area.


Leeds Castle, Kent

While I haven't been able to get any actual writing done, I have been inspired by all that I have learned. I've taken several of Louise Allen's Walks Through Jane Austen's London, and I have a much better idea what the streets look like. While it's true that much has changed in the past 200 years, enough remains that I can imagine what it was like to live or walk along this street. It truly has been a trip of a lifetime—one that I will never forget!

If you'd like to see photos of some of the places I've seen in London, check out my Pinterest boards. You'll find the more recent ones toward the bottom.

Tell me about your “bucket list." What have you accomplished on it so far?

About Susana

A former teacher, Susana is finally living her dream of being a full-time writer. She loves all genres of romance, but historical—Regency in particular—is her favorite. There’s just something about dashing heroes and spunky heroines waltzing in ballrooms and driving through Hyde Park that appeals to her imagination.

In real life, Susana is a lifelong resident of northwest Ohio, although she has lived in Ecuador and studied in Spain, France and Mexico. More recently, she was able to travel around the UK and visit many of the places she’s read about for years, and it was awesome! She is a member of the Maumee Valley, Central Florida and Beau Monde chapters of Romance Writers of America.

Susana’s Parlour (Regency Blog) • Susana’s Morning Room (Romance Blog)


Tina Donahue said...

Thanks for sharing, Susana - I've always wanted to go to London.

jean hart stewart said...

LOVE London....My husband had to spend a lot of time there on his former job, so I'm lucky enough to have spent time there. Ate at the Sherlock Holmes pub... It's a fun city.

jean hart stewart said...

LOVE London....My husband had to spend a lot of time there on his former job, so I'm lucky enough to have spent time there. Ate at the Sherlock Holmes pub... It's a fun city.