Fill your plate with internet deals!
“Here's your bill. No rush, though.”
My friend rushed, certain that the total for four eating and drinking would be exorbitant.
“How is it £60? Aren't we in London?”
“Are you sure they got everything?”
There on the printed bill was: six beers, a bottle of wine, four appetizers, four entrees, two coffees, and the total.
Yes, yes the waiter had recorded everything and still our dinner only cost £60. And yes, me and my friends are in London. But we were not eating from a street stall or even on the outskirts of England's capital.
Instead we, well I, had planned ahead. I was determined to go out for a nice dinner, but not spend more than $100.
Why? Because I am on a mission to try and find ten trips from and in London for under $100. So far I have been to Stockholm and Sigtuna in Sweden; Sachsenhausen and Berlin in Germany; Hampstead, Dover, Brighton and Bath in England and now I am in London.
My first trip to London for under $100? That was the flight I bought with my frequent flier miles on American Airlines, transferred them to British Airways and flew to London for $65 one-way. Tips on how to use those miles and my other adventures can be found on my blog: www.robynswanderings.com.
But now it was time to try and discover this capital city for less than $100. My first attempt was to eat out in a nice restaurant for less than $100. Not to be done, you say, in London. Especially if there is alcohol involved?
Well you would be wrong. The four of us managed it in a restaurant near Covent Garden (i.e. central, central London). How did we do it?
Well that is the trick of a handy website: toptable.com
Earlier that day I visited the website, chose a type of food I wanted (Mexican), picked a location convenient for everyone and the website then found an offer for 50 percent off the food at Navajo Joe's. Perfect!
Even better? The website made the reservation for me. I was hooked! I used their service over and over again in London to find better and better deals. Their customer service is incredible too! When a place I had reserved cancelled at the last minute they e-mailed me multiple times and even called me to offer to book another restaurant for me.
And toptable.com does not just book in London. Going to Glasgow? Edinburgh? Birmingham, Manchester, New York or Paris? This cheap eats at gourmet restaurants website is there for you!
But London is not all about eating (though that's a very large part!). I also wanted to go and see places, people and things, right? Well I could have taken a taxi. One ride, however, would probably destroy my $100 budget.
Instead, what I needed was an Oyster. “But Robyn, you said it wasn't about eating.”
It's not. Oyster, for some reason, is the name of a card that I use for the London Underground. It's refillable providing convenience, but it gives me discounts on my journey. Using the Oyster ensures that I never pay more than the day travel card price for any trips I took in London! The card was £3 pounds to purchase, but I could get that money back when I left London. I held on to it. The card and any of my money on it does not expire. Where do you hear that anymore? I always, however, prefer to walk around London if I can. After escaping Bermuda where sidewalks are almost non-existent, walking through a chaotic city can inspire. Plus it's also great exercise! Besides sidewalks there are plenty of parks to enjoy the autumn/winter/spring in. So I like to check out another website: www.walkit.com for advice. The site can give me the most direct route, distances and even walking tips.
There are, however, very few places that I enjoy walking into more than a coffee shop. One of my favourite (sadly, perhaps) things to do is sit in Starbucks reading or writing while I am abroad. Ok, perhaps they do not have the best coffee in the world, but they do have an endless time limit on their tables!
For £2.50 I could sit all afternoon with a book! And that's exactly what I did. Well until I had to write a column for
The Royal Gazette. Then I needed the internet. Good thing Starbucks has that too for....FREE! Yes, free. All I had to do was sign up for a Starbucks card (which is FREE) at the store and register it. Once registered I could use the internet at any Starbucks in the UK (that has it of course).
Without an internet connection of my own this was a godsend for keeping in touch, writing my blog (www.robynswanderings.com) and sending my column all for the cost of a cup (or vat) of coffee £2.50!
With all the caffeine and some spare time, I also needed to do some shopping. Good thing London was filled with markets to keep me busy and entertained on the cheap. Of course there is the Borough Market on the South side of the Thames near Tower Bridge. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday it fills with cheeses and freshly-pressed apple cider. Then there is also Camden Market (up north in Camden of course) with its cheap coats, scarves and all sorts of accessories I most definitely needed.
But perhaps the most mammoth and new of shopping experiences in London is, of course, the Westfield Mall in Shepherd's Bush. Of course, I wouldn't normally subscribe to this beast, but I couldn't resist having a snoop. For £1.80 on my Oyster Card I was in this mall/small town.
Good thing free internet also fits in this town! Yes, no Starbucks card is needed. Only online registration and I had free internet anywhere in the Westfield Mall. There is also an enormous Sainsbury's grocery store attached where fresh sushi and all the gluten-free products I might have needed could be found for a small price.
I'm back on food. Fully stuffed, caffeinated and with a book filled with experiences for my ten columns on cheap trips from and in London it was time to depart England. For my last trip for less than $100 it was back to the flat (but check-out www.lastminute.com for good hotel deals) to pack and say adieu to friends before the trek to London Bridge train station.
Sure I could have taken the Gatwick Express train to, uh, Gatwick Airport of course, but that would be expensive. Instead From London Bridge my ticket was about £7.60. The express? £16! Not only that, but my trip to the airport was fast. Only 20 minutes or so. The express? About the same. My final cheap train and it was time to board the plane. Back to Bermuda on my $65 flight and to green Bermuda. Well greener than London! But that's all the hype! Stay tuned next week for Travelling Green and for all of your travel tips, tales and random stories daily visit: www.robynswanderings.com.