Sunday, 14 May 2017

1705.12 LDN ON A SHOESTRING

...Or a cycling themed trip to the capital when I'm skint. 

My best mate of 30 years got free tickets to the Spin Cycling Festival at Europa in London. What a great excuse for a trip.

City breaks and days out are very popular but times are hard and trains are expensive so how can we have a boys day out without spending a small fortune? Simple answer is 'coach'. If you don't mind sat on a coach for 4-5 hours a return is as little as £10 (although I booked a little late but still managed to get it for £15). So a plan was hatched and a day out was organised, but it had to come in on a small budget. And the day has arrived...

05:45 - An early start. Mr C had offered to pick me up and drive us to the bus station (his workplace is nearby - ideal for parking). He's due to arrive at 6:15.

08:15 - The getaway went like clockwork. We caught the National Express coach at Meadowhall Interchange and are now hurtling down the M1 towards London. It's a long journey but the coach is comfortable and I brought nibbles with me. My only quibble is that a thought the coach would have USB charge ports but all they have is regular wall 3 pin sockets (I have a battery pack so hopefully I'll last all day). 

The coach trip was fine, I had a snooze and found it stress free and relaxing. The coach had an on board toilet which was clean and functional.

12:20 - We arrived at Victoria Coach Station on schedule and emerged onto the streets of London. Our event didn't start for a while so we walked on ending up going through the diplomatic area of the city, Belgravia Square. Sheldon from "Big Bang Theory" would have loved the 'Fun With Flags'. We then got on the Underground and caught a Tube to Earl's Court. We emerged to find someone had parked their TARDIS here…
Who parked the TARDIS here?
At Earl's Court
So now I'm sat in the 'Blackbird' pub drinking a pint of London Pride (which incidentally has cost over £5!), it's out of our budget to eat in here despite the food looking nice, after this we'll be going across the road to Burger King.

13:15 - We are in Burger King and I'm waiting for a chicken burger, I've just seen a poor American chap trying to get a free refill on his pop. I felt sorry for the guy, free refills have only just arrived on these shores in the last few years and are usually only available in certain chain restaurants. 

14:05 - OLYMPIA, SPIN CYCLING FESTIVAL 

We're here! It's a big trade show with talks and exhibitions.

I couldn't resist trying out the Zwift stall, that is a virtual reality trainer.

After all that I was ready for a beer so we settled down in front of the massive screen, had a beer from the Camden Town Brewery bar and watched today's stage of the Giro d'Italia.

I had a bit of birthday cash so I used some of it to buy myself this cycling jersey... 
Some would say that this is
perfect for me!
 ... and a 'cake stop caddy', basically an up cycled inner tube made into a compact wallet (to fit nicely into a cycling jersey pocket).

After we'd seen everything we emerged onto the streets once more.

17:45 - We've decided to do something slightly mad. Everytime I've been to London I've looked on at the massive numbers of cyclists in the capital with a little envy and fear. So we're going to hire a Boris Bike!

If you don't know what a Boris Bike is it's a bicycle that belongs to the London based bike hire scheme, Santander Cycles. It's an impressive piece of infrastructure.

Me on a Boris Bike
Inset: route taken
Mr C and me riding
Boris Bikes
So we hired a couple of Boris Bikes, 2 quid for 30 minutes. We rode to Hammersmith and doubled back and headed towards Putney Bridge. It wasn't as bad as I thought, there was a hairy bit weaving through traffic (we followed other cyclists through). The bikes are heavy and slow but functional and I can see why the system is popular. We docked the bikes at Putney Bridge close to the Tube station.

We jumped on the Underground of which I am a massive fan of. I am completely envious of the public transport system. We travelled to Westminster...

19:15 - We are having food in a Wetherspoon pub, the leading discount pub chain. 'The Lord Moon of the Mall' was busy but we found a seat. Prices for food were as cheap as they are back home although the beer was a little bit more. You can always rely on a 'Spoons pub.

Afterwards we took a walk down the Mall to say hello to the Queen but she wasn't in. 
Buckingham Palace
It was almost time to head home, we managed to buy pop and crisps for ordinary prices at a Sainsburys Local in Victoria Train Station concorse. So the day is over and it's time to head home.
The gateway home
21:32 - The coach home departed on time and is already making good time through the streets of London. 

21:55 - Currently making our way through London towards the motorway, the M1 is close by and soon we'll be hurtling back up North. We are tired, Mr C is already asleep and I am feeling the call of exhaustion - it's been a long day.

01:27 - I'm back home...

So can you visit the capital on a budget? Do you need a serious wad to take on London? As well as a great day out I was testing out how my trip compares to when others I talk too visit. So...

Coach travel - £15
Oyster travel - £5
Boris Bike - £2
Food - £14 (2 meals) 
Beer - £11

So, excluding purchases, I spent a grand total of £47 (I could have saved another £5 by booking the coach earlier) - a London trip for under fifty quid!

Conclusion, if you have something to visit, an event to attend or if you want to see the sights then you can do London (or any major city) pretty cheaply. There is no need to exclude yourself just because money is tight. Some will turn there noses at coach travel, at eating in a Wetherspoons and that is their problem, I had a great day and I hope to again.

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