So what's been going on in London? Well, its work - I'm currently traveling to Brighton as I write this post. We're doing a bit of an experimental program with Kineo, a specialist elearning consultancy, to build out a learning portal for ThoughtWorks' delivery capabilities. Lets see how that goes and I'll perhaps write about that more as time passes by. I haven't written one of my training/ presentation/ elearning posts in recent days and I promise to write one about Socratic discussions in classroom settings as my next post. If that's a topic that interests you, please keep your eyes peeled!
What else has been going on in London? A bit of sightseeing, I must say! I've tried to make productive use of the weekends I have had thus far and here are the places I've visited up until now:
- The Roman Baths in Bath;
- The Salisbury Cathedral where I saw the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta;
- The mysterious Stonehenge;
- Windsor Castle;
- Hampton Court Palace;
- Warwick Castle;
- Christchurch college of the Oxford University;
- Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford upon Avon;
Of course, I shouldn't forget the kindness of Mark Harrison from Kineo for having treated me to Fish and chips on the most beautiful Brighton pier and while his suggestion of eating mushy peas was one I shouldn't have taken, I must thank him for the great experience and his amazing narrative of Brighton's history.
So, I don't need to write much about each of the places I visited. Wikitravel should be able to give you loads more information than I possibly digested during my trips. I can however tell you that each of these are really short day trips from London and you can get to most of these places by train from the city stations. You can also choose to go as part of organized tours and two of the more reputed tour companies here are Evan Evans and Golden Tours. The services from both companies are comparable, though Golden Tours may just turn out to be more value for money. If you do go on one of their tours, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Tours start REALLY early -- so find a cafe near you that serves breakfast at about 0630, because your pick up could well be at 0715.
- Avoid the trips that have lunch included. While the food can be expected to be good, the choice is limited. So use the time they set aside for lunch to do your own sightseeing or just find better variety for lunch.
- Lastly, these are coach tours and while the coaches are very comfortable and the roads excellent, consider this carefully especially if you're prone to travel sickness.
If you don't want to do the coach tours from these companies, I suggest you plan your trip intelligently and buy yourself a London Pass. The London pass is great value for money and gets you discounted, fast-track access to many of the attractions in and around London. Of course there are quite a few places that are not covered by the London Pass and for those you should try to look for discounted tickets online. Those are the best ways to save money in pricey England! Then again, try to plan as many back to back trips as possible. The reason is, that the longer the duration of your London Pass, the costlier it gets. So to save money, consider a shorter duration for your passes.
The benefit of being on a business trip is that my food and local transportation is paid for. That said, I still feel responsible for what I spend because after all I have some sort of ownership for being a part of the firm. Here are a few ideas to beat the high prices in London.
TransportationLondon's an amazing walking city. If you come from a place like Bangalore, then you've perhaps missed a lot of the daily walking opportunities that London can offer. Its important to remember that most of London's sights are really close to each other in a very small radius. Walking is healthy, keeps you fit and helps you beat the pound. Most importantly, all great places are best explored on foot and there's no better way to know a city. One of my favorite resources is the list of walking tours that you can download from London South Bank's website.
For slightly longer hauls, use the extensive bus and tube network that London has to offer. In India we're very accustomed to flagging down a rickshaw or a taxi. Try the public transportation in London; its simply world class! If you buy a pay as you go Oyster card then you can make transportation even cheaper! Yes, there may be urgent situations when you will need a taxi. Try to limit those situations and use a black taxi, because then you know that you have a really seasoned, qualified driver that knows the city like the back of his hand.
FoodIts a great temptation to go to London's restaurants and I must say go for it! If you're trying to get value for money however, nothing beats the big English breakfast. Its a huge meal, meant especially for meat eaters such as myself and will generally have 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 hashes of bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, toast and your favorite blend of tea or coffee. Tuck one into yourself in the mornings and you can easily skip lunch if you need to. The inexpensive London sandwich is no secret really and if you walk around, you'll see dozens of sandwich shops that'll offer you great sandwiches at relatively cheap prices.
If you're keen on restaurants, look around Chinatown and Soho for some places that serve good food at great deals. Busaba Eathai in Soho, Store Street and Bird street is a personal favorite. Again, I know some people cringe at the thought of chains, but there are some chains that I really like. Busaba Eathai is an example. Chez Gerard (french cuisine) is yet another one. The key to enjoying London food, is to keep an open mind and not make generalizations. The only generalization I'll make is about Indian food. I'm sure Indian food here's a great experience, but I must say I don't have a great opinion of Indian food in London. Its way too English to be authentic! (But oh well, so is Chinese food in India!)
LodgingLondon's expensive and lodging is bound to be pricey. If hostel type/ backpacking style accomodation doesn't bother you, I suggest you look at websites like Hostel World to find cheap accomodation. I'm sorry I don't have much first hand information about this, because my stay's taken care of by ThoughtWorks.
What else? Well I'm sure I'll gain some more experience with England in the next couple of weeks. I'm planning to visit Canterbury, Leeds Castle and other places close to London soon, so I'll perhaps mention more about that soon. My next weekend however, is to catch up with the sights of London I didn't see the last time I was here. Its a long weekend, and I'm hoping to use all three days to explore London in all its grandeur. So what I'll most definitely write about are my top 10 London sights. So that's my blog post for next Monday evening. In the mean time, you'll see a post on Socratic discussion and maybe something else.