One of the first-ever big posts we did, for our website, was just over two years ago when we visited London. During this trip we tasted good at Gordon Ramsey Street Pizza restaurant, we saw some incredible creatures in Sea Life and watch the incredible Showstoppers which is an entirely improvised musical! Since this trip (which you can read all about at https://rhysreviews.com/2020/02/21/london-blog/) we have been back and forth to London multiple times and in fact, we are set to be heading to the capital of UK theatre in a month to attend Mama G’s family pride event which we attend last year and we lucky enough to meet, interview and get cake with the queen of crumble herself, Lorraine Bowen! To read about what we got up to last year and what to expect from this year’s event you can read our blog of the festival at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/07/06/mama-gs-family-pride-celebration/ and we are very excited to be heading back to Stanley arts to see what this year’s event has in store! Due to these numerous visits, however, I am beginning to get tired of the traditional tourist attractions that London is famous for. There are only so many times you can appreciate the view from the London eye or look at some swimming fish in an aquarium before thinking there must be something else to do! This is why when my family and I decided that we were going to spend the May bank Holliday weekend in London we needed to look for something that was the usual things to do! Don’t get me wrong, the London eye, seeing Big Ben and Buckingham palace are all great fun but some of the excitement does wear off after your fourth or fifth visit!
I always seem to forget how easy it is to travel up to London from Cardiff! There are constant super affordable busses (which for this journey cost just over £15 each for a return journey!) that make the journey every single day so all you have to do is book on and turn up and you will be delivered straight to the capital of UK theatre! You do have to keep in mind when booking the Megabus however that you do expect a certain quality due to the low price you are paying to get there and back. While we love the luxury of travelling by train which super comfy seats, plug sockets, wifi and almost the journey time being cut in half you do pay almost twice as much for just a single ticket. On our bus, the wifi did seem to struggle a fair bit but all of the plugs worked so you were able to charge any devices or even get on with some work on the journey up. While it’s not the most extravagant method of travelling to London, it is most definitely the most affordable so you do have to weigh up the options carefully before choosing your method of transport! If you know me personally then you will be aware that I cannot travel any distance in a vehicle without falling asleep and so I closed my eyes in Cardiff and woke up about thirty minutes from London so the facilities were not that important to me!
As we were staying for the weekend we decided to book into the Best Western: Greater London which was located in Ilford. For a family of four, it can be very expensive to book a hotel, especially in central London and so when we spotted the Best Western (which was just over an hour away from central) for just £130 we knew that would be the perfect place to book for our stay! To put it into perspective for the four of us across two nights it cost £130 so that works out at just over £16 per person per night which is such an incredible price! However, upon arrival, we were slightly deturbed to find out that the room we originally book was scheduled for essential maintenance which meant that we could not stay there for our journey. We were then sent over to one of their sister hotels (which admittedly was a short three-minute walk) only to be given a room key and told our room was in yet another different location which was again a few feet away. I think a combination of travelling and the late-night setting on top of these room changes did make me feel a bit uneasy but once we finally found our room (and the free breakfast for our inconvenience) really helped to put me at ease! The rooms are exactly what you would expect from a budget hotel with one double and two single beds that admittedly were not the most comfiest thing to sleep on but I had to keep in mind that you always get what you pay for in these situations! The room was covered in plug sockets which I found extremely helpful as I need to ensure all my devices were charged while sleeping and the surplus of plugs easily allowed everyone in the room to do the same. We also had a kettle, TV, towels, body wash/shampoo and hangers which were also very helpful for our stay. The highlight for me however was the bathroom which was had beautiful marble stained design with a spacious shower unit.
Like discussed earlier, we did not want to do the classic London tourist activities as we have done them numerous times before and so instead we’re on the lookout for something a bit different to do! We decided to visit the incredible Camden where (and this is no exaggeration) there is everything you could possibly want! There were wonderful food stalls which offered tasty samples as you walked past, amazing crafts and homemade items but also some more well known and renowned businesses from clothes to food! We were especially interested in a stall that sold the most fantastical customised shoes that are hand-painted within an hour. While in the moment I decided not to get a pair of branded trainers, I am still thinking about them days after heading back to Cardiff which shows you how tempted I was (and still am) in these products. We headed to Camden fairly earlier in the morning so that we could have a gentle stroll around but around four o’clock it quickly become very busy! There were hordes of people coming from the train station which was when we decided it would be time to head back to our hotel! While Camden is fantastic, I will say that it does get extremely busy and some market holders can be very aggressive in their sales tactics so do be prepared for a lot of loud shouting and loads of people! We spent over four hours looking at everything Camden had to offer and even then there were some sections we missed out on but you could easily spend a whole day there if you wanted! After a long day of wandering around the market, we wanted to grab a drink and a sit down but every possible chair was filled by the end by the hoards of people coming to do their shopping but this just supported our thought that we had chosen the correct schedule for the day! The following day we spent some time at the Sky Gardens which until this point we had no idea this even existed! This is a towering structure that is adorned with fabulous plants that frame the wonderful view of some of London’s must beloved attractions. The gardens were free to enter but you have to book In advance as it does get very busy very quickly! Despite it being a free attraction, the luxurious restaurants and cocktail bars that overlooked London had as feel like respected VIPs which everyone knows I love! From here we had an extended walk around London to spot some of the tourist attractions but also walked through the Borough market which focussed on fresh produce more so than Camden but was equally just as busy! It offered food for everyone to enjoy with everything from burgers to pizza to noodles and everything in between!
Overall, as affordable weekend breaks to London go this was one of the better ones! The hotel did exactly what we needed it to and the free breakfast was a very welcome last-minute inclusion! We experienced parts of London that we had never seen before and were given chance to enjoy some of the less commercialised sides of the city which was a nice contrast to what people usually do when travelling here!