We Screwed Up – Five Tips on How NOT to visit London

You’d think I knew better than this… I did, after all, spend six years of my life living near London.

To start our year of “savvy”, global do-gooding, Jammie and I headed out for our first big touristy trip to London yesterday. It was a train wreck.

This is how it all went down, summed up in 5 tips on how not to visit London.

Here goes: DO NOT:

Do it on little sleep

... yawning on the WAY to London...

Jet lag is a terrible thing. Since we got to England a few days ago, we’ve been waking up at random early morning / middle-of-the-night hours, not being able to go back to sleep.  Then fatigue has hit like a sledge hammer in the middle of the day. It is seriously frustrating. This said, we headed to London anyway, determined to get the most out of the experience. As the picture proves, I was already yawning on the 1 hour train ride to London. It was downhill from there.

Assume that an Indian buffet is exactly what you need to power through

We could barely walk after this buffet

Our first stop was an Indian restaurant with a respectable buffet spread for 6.98 pounds ($11.30). We were hungry so we attacked the buffet like our lives depended on it.

The combination of heavy starches (potatoes, rice, breads), curries and other rich sauces about knocked us out. We staggered out of the restaurant near Euston station in north London already feeling defeated. As we walked past a hotel on the way back to the Underground (tube) station, I sooo wished we were staying there because I was already dying for a nap.  A bad start indeed.

Think you are in a marathon

Super exhausted at Harrods

England is not a cheap place to travel. Our train tickets cost us a combined price of 38 pounds ($62). So we were absolutely determined to get our money’s worth. So much so that we were planning to see as much as physically possible before taking the last train home at 11:50 PM.

This kind of marathon approach would have been exhausting even if we had been sleeping well and lived in London.  In our sleep deprived state and with the added travel time to and from the city, it was torture.  By early evening (around the time the above picture was taken at the world-famous department store, Harrods), I was ready to fall over.  And I knew I still had another 5 hours to go….

Settle for crappy places to nap

Jammie taking a 45-minute nap at a cafe in London's Tate Modern

There comes a time when you have to take a nap.  For Jammie this coincided with our arrival at one the world’s premier modern art destinations, Tate Modern.

Tate is amazing as it is the most visited modern art gallery in the world.  Instead of standing in awe of the huge, renovated power station that houses Tate, we found Jammie the first warm bench available: in the foyer of the main cafe.

This turned out to be a horrible decision as there was constant foot traffic, the bench was hard and the lighting was anything but conducive to a nice nap.

After her impressively long, 45-minute nap we found several superior sleeping options in various galleries with padded seating.  But by then we had the added pressure of squeezing seven floors of gallery into the hour and a half we had before closing time.  Needless to say that did not happen.  We barely covered sections of the top and bottom floors.

Think you will get out of Hamleys without taking ridiculous pictures

We did not want to leave London without visiting Hamleys, the largest toy store in the world.  This place was amazing.  We went to the flagship branch on Regent Street which gets 5 million visitors a year.

We forgot how tired we where and became kids again, playing with remote controlled cars, looking at random stuffed animals and taking pictures with these awesome Royal Guards.

If I had been under 10 it would have taken forever to get me out of that store.  It was truly amazing.

But it was late and after checking out a few more shops we’d had enough.  We abandoned our plans to take the last train home to my parents’ place and instead took one that left an hour earlier.  We were asleep in no time and it is a minor miracle that we didn’t miss our stop at Bracknell station.

Over to you – have any tips for us as we visit London again next week?  I mean, apart from getting some sleep…:)

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Bjorn Karlman

17 thoughts on “We Screwed Up – Five Tips on How NOT to visit London”

  1. Great article. Any tips on how to avoid what should be avoided? I think there are some tricks of the trade for jet lag.
    Indian food was definately the wrong move. What would have been a better choice?

    1. Yeah, jet lag really was the main culprit. We should have been bolder in tackling it early on – as in refusing to sleep during the day to make up for lost sleep at night…

      As for the Indian food, you are probably right but I love the stuff so it’s hard to be more “sensible”:)

  2. Oh man… sorry to hear about this guys. I have a tip for the best place in London to take a nap: The Planetarium. The padded seats recline, it’s dark, and if you are a member of the Royal Museum Greenwich, it’s free of charge! Being a member (£50 for adults and £35 for students/60+ can also get you in to a number of other places for free in London. Check it out: http://www.rmg.co.uk/membership/

  3. In the summer the parks are the perfect place to sleep. In the winter, why not just hop on a bus with your oyster card. Ride it out somewhere £1 and then ride it back. Or just jump on the circle line and go around for a while.

    Just one other comment – how do “global do-gooding” and shopping at Harrods fit together? ;-)

    Look forward to seeing your both for a curry when you are more awake!

    1. Yeah, the Harrods trip did seem a little bit much:) The bus idea sounds a lot cheaper than the double-decker tourist traps..

      Looking forward to the 23rd…

  4. When we went to England for a class trip, our guide made us stay up til the regular London bedtime. Didn’t have too many issues. I know there is a good chain of Asian restaurants in London area that is fairly reasonalbe price. I LOVE the London Museum, but you need more than one day! Get one of the street map books if you don’t have it. It’s invaluable! I loved having tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace! The Tower!! Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, The Eye. Ii want to go back so bad!!! I loved going to Bath and Warwick Castle was fun. Anne Hathawy’s Thatched Cottage, Stonehenge, Oxford. We did 2 days of “Golden Tours”, Windsdor Castle. I want to go back, and Stan just wants to go south of the border!

    1. Great tips Brenda! I should have quizzed you before I left Paradise! We head to Bath right before New Years with some old friends… should be fun:) Say hi to everyone for me!

  5. Oh, there was this great middle eastern place near Piccadilly Circus just up the street. We followed some signs and went up some stairs and it looked wierd, like, what are we doing here! But they served us some amazing vegetarian stuff. The place even had hookah pipes to rent! We didn’t, but it was an interesting experience!

  6. You already did the trip to Harrods that someone once took me on a long time ago. :) Beyond that, I would say get lots of sleep as you mentioned. Also, I find that going 12 hours is way easier of a time difference than 4-8 hours when it comes to jet lag.

  7. Thank for a good laugh! I know you will make the best of it and be back in action in no time.
    I LOVE the crown Jewels at the Tower of London!

  8. Best tip I can think of……..do the toy store FIRST!!! Eat your Indian buffet, take Karin’s advice and nap in the planetarium. Then you will be well rested for whatever may come next. Follow a whim. Miss you both. Muuuuuuuaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

  9. This is great Bjorn! It’s nice to be able to read about this trip as you go along! Keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

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