In about October last year, I made the decision to go on a Grand Tour to celebrate my 30th year on this planet, by seeing more of said planet. I decided to minimise trip costs and maximise trip experience by travelling to locations where my ex-pat friends resided – London, Oxford, Stockholm and Edinburgh. I also added in a northern lights tour of Iceland while I happened to be “in the neighbourhood”.
I spent a frazzled week undertaking last minute preparations, with help from my very dedicated travel agent, Siobhan, and a packet of highlighters that I found in our stationery cupboard.
I had originally thought that my journey would begin on Saturday morning, but it turns out it was to be Saturday evening. I was granted an additional bonus 12 hours of prep time, which was much appreciated.
My mate, Adam, spent the last precious few hours of his 20s driving me to the airport, after not being fortunate enough to score a free trip, this time, and I attempted to con (vince) Singapore Air into giving me an upgrade, armed with a letter from my physio. Alas, I was unsuccessful!
My consolation prize was a lime and soda at the departure gate.
This flight, I was delighted to discovere that I had a spare seat beside me! This allowed me to watch Sherlock and The Danish Girl, and to nap in relative comfort, much to the disapproval of the guy in the seat on the other side of the spare. You snooze you lose, or perhaps you snooze, you don’t snooze in comfort. Whatever.
I was rudely awoken from a dream by our landing at Heathrow. After my first British experience in a lengthy queue, I was interrogated at length by immigration (this was after being frisked in Singapore for a reason still unknown to me). The immigration official was eventually satisfied with my reason for wanting to enter his country – visiting the ex-boyfriend of my best friend from high school and my yoga teacher. I was assured that next time, there would be less questions.
My colleague and his wife are going on almost the same trip very soon after me. I have been requested to “test out” the trip, so to speak, and provide tips. Due to Voss’s reluctance to actually read my blogs in their entirety, I have helpfully tagged the information for his trip with “#vosstip”. This is the first one…
#vosstip – You can pre-purchase sim cards from 3 mobile which can also be used in Sweden (amongst other countries). I didn’t pre-purchase mine, but there are actually four sim stores at Heathrow, so it wasn’t actually a problem.
#vosstip – If you are a visitor to London, you are eligible for a visitor Oyster card. Unfortunately and illogically, you can’t actually buy one when you turn up in London. They can only be pre-purchased online and shipped to your home address.
I was very proud of my excellent tube riding skills, arriving at Bermondsey without any issues (quite an improvement from the Malahide incident of 2006 where I ended up at the wrong terminating station in Ireland whilst travelling with my mother, before the ability to use mobile phones overseas without declaring bankruptcy).
I was welcomed by my Air BnB hosts, Emma and Iain, as if I were an old friend or a relative they actually liked. I was served a cup of tea on a London underground coaster on arrival. In my room, there were fresh yellow roses waiting for me and the very same Picasso print, as in my own apartment at home, was hanging on the wall. Emma also cooked me a delicious dinner and didn’t mind me cuddling her ragdoll cat, Mittens.