2012 was the last time I was in London, and it was my last stop on my Eurotrip after graduation. One week into my month-long trip, I had gotten my wallet stolen in Nice, and was relying on the friends I was traveling with for €€. By London, everyone else had flown home and it was just me and my boyfriend at the time. We got in late at night from Paris with only Euros on us, hoping to exchange for GBP once we got to London, but everything was closed. My ex had also forgotten to notify his bank that he was traveling, so his debit card was frozen and he couldn’t withdraw any cash. We had to somehow get pounds to take the bus to our AirBnb, so we went to the one place that was still open. McDonald’s. I went up to everyone there asking if they would take my Euros for a couple pounds for two bus tickets. Most were sympathetic and just gave me the change they hand on them, but one very proud English man started ranting about how he hated the Euro, and how he was “an Englishman through and through!” Should’ve seen Brexit coming way back, haha.
This trip was definitely smoother! I stayed with and hung out with an old friend from UT who is currently attending LBS. H and his wife, A, are both from Houston, and moved to London almost a year ago. They were the sweetest, and it was great to catch up. I also reconnected with a former Dell colleague, who now works in The Shard (oooooh), after backpacking for a couple years and then attended INSEAD. It was really cool to talk about how our different life and career decisions had led us to where we currently are.
N was in Leeds for a work meeting, so I met him there for the night. There are basically two options to get to Leeds from London, 2 hours by train or 4-6 hours by bus. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead and train tickets the day of were a whopping £105 one way! On the other hand, bus tickets were less than £20 but took way longer. As I’m currently unemployed, I opted for the bus. Horrendous. Do not recommend. I got to Leeds at 8pm after a grueling 6 hours in traffic.
May 1 was Labor Day and a bank holiday, so N and I went up to the Lake District with M and her boyfriend for the long weekend. N, M, and I were all in the same hostel room in Lima a year and a half ago, so it was awesome to meet up again and have a mini reunion. We rented a car in Leeds, and drove two hours to Ambleside.
Our plans were to summit the highest point in England the next day, Scafell Pike (978 m), so we took it easy the first afternoon. We went to Grasmere and stopped by the gingerbread shop where gingerbread was invented. The shop is a tiny place that can barely fit 5 people, but did offer some really delicious gingerbread. If you’re not a fan of ginger, I would not recommend, as it’s a lot less sweet and a lot more ginger-y than the version you find in the US.
We then took a quick walk around our hotel and found some super old Roman ruins, and a very pretty cherry blossom tree.
We woke up the next day pumped to attempt Scafell Pike and discovered a flat tire but no spare 😭. Poor N spent the day waiting for the tow truck while M, M’s boyfriend, and I hiked the nearby Red Screes (776 m). We took the route from the south which starts in town. It’s a slow and gradual incline with stone walls and sheep everywhere. It gets very windy the higher you go, so I highly recommend a windbreaker. Along this route, we encountered a couple false “summits,” but thanks to trusty Google Maps, we knew we still had a ways to go. At the actual summit, there were several pools from the recent rains, and a spectacular 360° view. We met several friendly dogs at the top as well.
We descended along the steep Kirkstone Pass and ended up at the Kirkstone Pass Inn
where we had a couple congratulatory pints. From this point, you can take the bus back to Windermere, but we walked back to Ambleside through the farmland and valley. We took a leisurely 5 hours round trip for this hike, but it can be done in less than 2 hours if you’re in freakishly good shape, as N proved he was after he got back from fixing the flat.
That night, we went to the Unicorn Inn for a couple pints and some live Irish entertainment, courtesy of the Chip Butty Man. The next day, N drove more than 5 hours to get us back to London. He’s the best.
There’s so much information out there about London so I won’t bore you, but I’ll share a few more pics.
Lessons and Tips
- Recommend renting a car if you want to explore the Lake District
- Always check said rental car for a spare tire
- Always carry an umbrella or rain jacket, weather can be unpredictable
- Book hotels and train tickets in advance
- English cask ales are served at cellar temperature, not warm as is a misconception
- London has loads of top notch free museums
- when an older Yorkshire lady calls you “love”, you feel so warm and fuzzy
- A chip butty is a sandwich with French fries and butter
- Clotted cream. Sounds gross, tastes great.
All photos taken with the iPhone 6s