I've been to London a few times, and the third time was not the charm. The train ride from Manchester on a Virgin Express had left me sour, thanks to two hours spent next to a smelly, shifty man, and then we had trouble finding our hotel. I was even far from relieved, however, when we arrived at our location, The Langland, which was dirty, creaky and made me feel like I was sleeping in grandma's attic--if grandma was Norman Bates. To save money, we booked a room without a bathroom, so needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I debated peeing in our sink in the middle of the night as to not have to put on shoes and walk down a dark, scary hallway, but decided against it. It's one thing to be desperate, another to be classless.
I woke up the next morning, having not slept at all, and just wanting to say hello to Big Ben. So, off we went, but on the way, got distracted by the half-price ticket booth in Leicster Square, where we scored 14 pound, obstructed view seats to Priscilla: Queen of the Desert: The Musical. Nice. At least we'd get to see a show.
What followed could have been filmed for the Amazing Race. Ernest and I were worried about checking our bags on budget airline Ryan Air--they only allow one carry-on and we had way too much shit, so he came up with the wonderful idea of getting a cheap-ass laundry bag. Well...London isn't cheap, so the odds were against us, and we circled Chinatown until we were dizzy enough to give five dollar hand jobs, but came away with nothing. We searched and searched and searched, until finally, twenty minutes before the show as about to begin, we found the most hideous looking green plastic bag for six pounds. It looked like someone had vomited all over it, but did the trick, and we snatched it up, ran around town some more in search of an Internet cafe (to find a new hotel) and then ran to the theatre.
Wiped off the sweat, had a little photo shoot, and headed inside, where a handsome usher in a little red hat informed us that the section we'd purchases seats for was closed. "Oh fuck," I thought. Now we're not going to get to see the show on top of everything." Before I could spew, "bugger," the happy little man told us we'd receive an upgrade--and we ended sitting in the orchestra, in the seventh row! It was a theatre miracle. The show was great, too. Man in drag, glitter, sparkles, camp, pop music, over the top wardrobes, and even a kangaroo here and there. How could you go wrong?
We were thrilled after the show, and felt like London has paid us back for the crappy hotel and raping our wallets. We went back to the hotel, collected our stuff, and headed for the airport. Easier said than done. First, the metro broke down, and we had to wait a long time for a train. I worried that we would run dangerously late and miss our flight. When we did get on a train, ut was crowded, and hotter than hell. Sweat dripped from every part of my body, and I introduced Ernest to the phrase, "swamp ass." Then he got his stuff caught in the doors, as everyone looked at us like dumb American tourists, and when we arrived at Victoria Station, we had exactly one minute to catch a train to the airport. We made it, thankfully, but I think I lost a lung in the process.
So...if you are going to take a trip to London...
1. Buy the cheapest theatre tickets you can find to a weekday matinee, odds are you will be upgraded to primo seats
2. Don't stay at the Langland Hotel. Cheap and inexpensive are way different.
3. Don't go looking for certain kinds of "spas" down dark alleys. You will be disappointed.
4. Drink at your hotel, then walk around town plastered. You'll save money, and it'll be way more fun.
5. Expect to bleed money, even for the little things.
Next up, Stockholm!
Mark Jason Williams
I find trouble wherever I go