My London Staycation
It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, and the time really did fly by! I didn’t mean to take a hiatus, but I seemed to skip one Monday, and then boom — a month went by! Perhaps this is because I have actually been going out and about in London for various reasons, which is a welcome change to being stuck at home.
Lockdowns are lifted, kids are out of school for the summer, and the British public is determined to enjoy any form of ‘staycation’ possible since the realms of travel are still a little to far-reaching. While travel is allowed in some aspects, the complexity of it makes it much easier to say “Let’s just stay in Britain this time.” My husband and I felt this when we looked into the possibility of traveling to Paris for a few days. While the Eurostar is running, the ever-changing rules to entry made it a little complex. Vaccinations yes, but testing no? Maybe? It wasn’t clear. Then it was removed altogether, yet other people posting on various Facebook pages suggested that testing was still required. So, we just opted to hang around London for the week that we were off. At least the accommodation was free!
Our first big outing was a day trip to Hastings. Trains from London Victoria to Hastings are under two hours, so this is a doable day out. Note to readers: planning in advance is really par for the course for summer in Britain. Any attempt to do something last minute will result in high prices, no availability, and settling for less than what you want. The day trip to Hasting was a surprise, and when I started looking online at things to do, most of them were either booked or not running. We settled for a return train ticket, a walk along the beach, exploring the pier, and some amazing pirate-themed miniature golf. There was actually an explosion and pirate ship battle while we were on the course! Finishing with a pint at a historic pub, we trained back to London. Hastings is the point where William, Duke of Normandy landed and then travelled to meet up with Harold Godwinson for the infamous Battle of Hastings in 1066. He then crowned himself king. Since I have been teaching this over and over to my students on Outschool, it was fun to be there in the flesh.
Our next big outing was to Thorpe Park. I love rollercoasters, but my husband is not so keen on rides that flip and turn. We again roped my friend Robin into joining us, and it was a full day at the amusement park. Thorpe Park is located near the town of Staines, where the character Ali G is said to be from. You can arrive by train and then take a shuttle bus from the station to the park. I highly recommend arriving early. The park opened at 10am. We arrived on a Wednesday around 10:45 to see a massive queue for entry. We didn’t get into the park until 12noon. This was my first British theme park, so I didn’t know what to expect, but the website had me excited. On the shuttle bus, I saw a girl talking with her friend and referencing the phone app. I downloaded it, as it showed you the queue times for the rides. If you pay extra, you can use the fasttrack system, which was really helpful when there was a ride that I wanted to go on but my comrades didn’t fancy it. In the end, I rode The Swarm, Stealth, Nemesis Inferno, Colossus, Flying Fish, The Walking Dead and explored the Black Mirror Labyrinth. The only thing I missed was the water rides, but that’s ok. Interestingly, there were these little ‘hot cube’ things that were dotted around the water ride areas. For £3, you can stand in them and they will shoot hot air on you to dry you off and keep you warm. While I have never seen this before, it makes sense in a country where it is cold alot of the time. I can’t imagine getting off a water ride and freezing the rest of the day.
Our third big outing was to the Mayfield Lavender Fields. Another train ride and taxi ride, we were in the middle of a lavender field just an hour from when we started our journey. This was a very last minute decision, as we were sitting on the balcony having breakfast and made the decision to go around 12:30. We were there by 4pm, and they closed at 6pm. That was plenty of time for a lovely photo shoot and exploration of the fields, the cafe and the shop. (of course!) English lavender is really lovely, and while french lavender might be more popular, remember that your grandmother probably had a soap made from the British stuff at some point in her lifetime. If you haven’t seen it on instagram, the thing to do here is have a mini-photo shoot. So we did! I took my trusty tripod, we gussied up in our finest, and we pretended to be something special for a moment as we snapped photos in the purple fields. We have attempted to do this for the last two years, but always missed it as harvest is in late August. Luckily, this time we were there and there was plenty of fragrant lavender to keep us happy. The cafe had lavender scones and cocktails, and it would have been rude for me not to do the research required for this blog post. Enjoy the photos! As for souvenirs, I bought way too much from the shop, but as I write this, I can smell the drying lavender on my dresser and it is lovely.
Of course, our little London staycation would not have been complete without going to a few restaurants and eating some delicious foods. We had our regular night at Six by Nico (this is becoming a regular thing every six weeks for us!), we tried a truly Italian restaurant with 2L Aperol spritz glasses, and we found some delicious pancakes at Avocado and Coffee.
To end the week, I earned my Ready 2 Ride stand-up paddle board qualification at the London Royal Docks. This means that I can now hop on a board and paddle my way around without supervision.
Of course, now it is time for me to be the one offering the London visitor a fantastic tour — as it is time to head back to work. Yes, I have managed to get in a few tours over the summer. While my normal schedule shows me doing 3 tours a day, this year I have only had five. That’s five tours in total for the year. I have a few more planned in the books, but this is to say that while everything is open and attempting to get back to normal, my regularly scheduled tours are still awaiting the return of travellers from abroad. I have enjoyed every tour I have had the ability to provide, and it has been sheer joy to get back out on the streets of London and do what I am passionate about, but it is still rather slow. I have a few ideas for new tours, some tours that I was planning to launch in 2020 that were on hold, and of course my regular tours that are so popular and fun to do.
Meanwhile, I have been out and about taking photos and videos to create fun online history tours and classes on Outschool for the 7-12yr old market. That has been great fun! I have managed to build my online class offering to 26 classes, with another 4 on the way next month. It is great to take bits and pieces of my tours and transform them into online classes for kids. I hope that I am inspiring these young people to travel and go abroad when they are older. Travel is the essence of life —- finding new worlds within our own world, discovering new will never get old for me.
The final verdict: a London staycation can be the perfect antidote to not being able to easily travel abroad. Dr Samuel Johnson said it right in the 1700s “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. For London has all that life has to offer.”