Staying in London
Early on in the planning process, we hit on the idea of looking into furnished apartments as opposed to staying in hotels or a “bed and breakfast” establishment on the outskirts of London.
The one thing I remembered from my teenage years was that this city has an amazing transit system, especially the underground, or as it is affectionately known, “the Tube”, so I knew that no matter where we stayed, we could get anywhere we wanted to go without too much effort and at a reasonable cost.
As Kathryn likes to tell me, travel is one of the most active categories when it comes to time spent on the Internet, and with her voice spurring us on, we planned and booked our entire holiday using the web.
We happened upon a company by the name of Marlin Apartments who offered furnished units of varying types and sizes, and for stays as short as one night. These units have full kitchens, including a microwave, a stove, a fridge, freezer and a dishwasher. There’s also a washer/dryer and in the case of the unit we ultimately rented, a separate bedroom with a double bed.
To give you some wallet-sized perspective, when we checked out hotels in London, of say the 3-star variety, we were confronted with rates of anywhere from $215 to $300 (CDN) a night, and to be honest “bed and breakfast” options weren’t much cheaper. The unit we were looking at was priced at $203 night and with the added benefit of buying/keeping some groceries on sight and being able to do a wash every few days – meaning we could pack a heck of a lot lighter for a 23 day trip.
We researched the company very carefully, checking out comments from previous customers, and could not find any reason why we should not go this route, so we took the plunge.
While we got a confirmation from the web travel agent, booking.com, we did not get an e-confirmation from Marlin themselves. We phoned them to confirm the booking and they verbally confirmed it, but still no paper trail. We emailed them asking for confirmation, and they said, yes they would send it a few days in advance of check-in. But nothing ever came.
With the Zoom collapse fresh in our mind, I must confess we were just a bit nervous heading over to England without an actual written confirmation, but we said a little prayer, and decided to let things unfold.
Arriving at the apartment from King’s Cross on Tuesday evening, as we pulled up outside the building, we both commented on that fact it looked like a pretty nice place, although perhaps in a bit of a “dodgy” neighbourhood.
Taking a deep breath, we opened the lobby door and walked up to the security desk and asked if there was a reservation for Stanger, for 16 days.
The girl at the desk smiled and said seven glorious words – ” yes sir and here are your keys”.
We took the lift up one floor (yes they really do call it a lift here, and it even says “lift” on signs), which in itself was a little weird because she told us we were on the first floor.
We of course took that to mean the ground floor, but the first floor here is actually the first floor above the ground, so we are on the second floor, which is called the first floor. Got that?
Opening the door, we looked in a little cautiously thinking what if those web photos were “crap”, and we’ve been had, but we needn’t have worried because the apartment is great.
It is modern, spacious, totally as advertised, and we could not be happier.
Oh, the dodgy neighbourhood part. Right across the street from our building is a nightclub/theatre called the TROXY. On our first night here, we watched several busloads of people unload themselves at the front door of said club.
We saw Scooby, Ghouls, Spartans, Gangsters, Bikers, people dressed up in all kinds of costumes. At first I wondered if it was some kind of Rocky Horror Picture show celebration, but it wasn’t. It was just a theme night. It was fun to watch them milling about in front of the club.
In the light of day, we came to realize that we are in an area undergoing an urban transformation. We are in the Limehouse district in East London, about five minutes from the “new downtown” – Canary Wharf, and we are a four minute walk from the
Limehouse DLR station (docklands light rail) which connects right to the tube. Or, we can catch a double-decker bus right at our front door and take a 10 minute ride at break-neck speeds to the Aldgate tube station.
We love our London home, and in my next entry, I’ll start telling you about the sights we’re seeing in London.