I’ve been back from London for a few weeks now, but haven’t found time or inclination to write about my trip. I very nearly didn’t go, as we had a scare with one of the girls on the evening of my flight. But we managed to sort things out, and I left on the encouragement of the husband and a good friend, both of whom said I should just take the time away to recharge.
The Malaysian Airlines flight to London was pretty uneventful. I made my KUL-LHR connection without delay and was glad that I had paid more for an upper deck seat on this leg, as there was more legroom, and the cabin was much quieter with fewer people seated in the section. I was seated next to a teenage girl who spent most of her time watching movies and sleeping, and she did not move from her seat at all for the duration of the flight. The only one doing any moving about was me, because I felt stiff and wanted to prevent oedema. I managed to watch a couple of movies, including Hidden Figures, which I’d wanted to catch when it was showing in Singapore. Caught some decent shut-eye, too.
The flight landed at around 6am, and I cleared immigration quite quickly as being on the upper deck means I got off the plane before the rest of the passengers in the lower deck. I had 2kg of Australian honey in my luggage, which I’d bought for my sister because it’s not easy to find in the UK, so I went through the “goods to declare” customs channel. There was no one there, but there was a red telephone in a corner with instructions to lift the handset and wait for someone to answer. A grouchy voice came on the line and told me that I did not need to declare the honey, and that I should just walk through the green channel. So I did.
After that, it was a simple matter of buying an Oyster Travelcard at the convenience store next to the entrance of the Tube station, and taking the Tube in to the city to get to my accommodation.
I don’t believe in spending too much on accommodation while travelling, so I always try to find the best bang for my buck without sacrificing too much in the area of privacy and hygiene (read: decent bathrooms). I know some people have hangups about staying in places without en suite bathrooms, but I feel that if I can use the toilets at my gym with no issues, I can stay in places with shared bathrooms – as long as reviews say they are clean.
I’d booked a single room with no en suite at College Hall, which is quite centrally located in the Bloomsbury area of London. The hall is served by three Tube stations – Goodge Street, Euston Square, and Russell Square on the Piccadilly Line. I took the train to Russell Square, because it meant not having to change trains from Heathrow. It did involve a slightly longer walk to get to the hall, which was a bit bumpy because of cobbled roads. Note to self: Next time, you’re travelling with a backpack.
It was too early for me to check in, so I left my luggage in the front desk’s store room and headed out. Here are some pictures of the room and bathroom, taken later.
The room was pretty basic, but it had a washbasin and a cupboard with a personal safe. Plenty of room for just one person. It had a radiator, but no air-conditioning. But it can get chilly at night in August, so opening the window just a crack made it just right temperature-wise.
This is the view from my window. I couldn’t take a better picture because the window cannot be opened fully – I think it’s to discourage people from jumping from it. Below the window, near the floor, is an safety anchor for rope rescues. They think of everything!
The bathroom was also basic, but spotless. So spotless, in fact, that if not for the fact that the toilet seat was occasionally left up, I might have been the only person on the floor using the bathroom. I later learned that most of the rooms in the hall have en suite bathrooms, which explains why the shared ones were not more heavily used.
The hall’s dining room is located in the basement, and breakfast is served every morning from 8am to 9.30am. It’s a pretty good breakfast – eggs, ham, bacon, hash browns, beans, breads, cereals, yoghurt, fruits, and decent coffee too.
College Hall is located smack in the middle of a university campus, so it’s surrounded by faculty buildings. I liked this, because it made me feel like a student again. I’ve always wanted to go overseas to study, but have never had the opportunity, so I pretended I was a UCL student for the few days that I stayed in the hall.
I paid S$310 for four nights in a single room (shared bathroom) with breakfast and free WiFi, and thought it was a very good deal. The only thing that could be improved is the lumpy mattress, which was so thin that I could feel the springs. Other than that, College Hall is a pretty good choice if you’re budget conscious, and still want to stay in a central part of London.