From Gatwick Airport, I had to not only get to London, but also cross it to reach my Airbnb in the northwest part of the city. I got a lot of mixed information online about the best way to achieve it because being able to use the Oyster card (prepaid public transportation card) at Gatwick is fairly new. I couldn’t muddle through the steps through my research, so I decided to wait until I was on site to figure it out.
I did know that I had to use a train to get to London and those leave from the south terminal while I landed at the north. So I had to take a free tram (trolley? forget what they call it) there (two minutes). I wandered there for a bit looking at signage and finally figured out where I could get an Oyster card (next to the Costa Coffee). There, I learned that the card is £5, which I can get refunded when I leave by turning in my card. I was advised to start with putting £30 on it and see where that got me. If you use an Oyster card, you get a daily cap that’s based on which zones you’re traveling through and the time of day. In theory, sticking to zones 1 (Central London) and 2 (where I’m staying) and only traveling during non-peak hours, my daily cap would be just under £7, but I think I paid way more than that today (Sunday). I will do a separate Oyster post once I understand the caps better.
But from Gatwick, using the Oyster card to ride the train is the best value. Off peak on most trains is just £8 to Central London, while taking the “Gatwick Express” train is nearly £20! My total cost to get to my Airbnb was £10.20.
My first step was to take a “Southern” train to the London Victoria train station.
At London Victoria, I had to transfer to the Tube. I quickly ascertained that the London Underground is just like the Montreal Metro, only much larger. Use colours to identify your line and the station at the end of the line to know which direction to go. I wanted to end up at Kensal Green, on the Bakerloo line. From Victoria London, I had to take the Victoria Line to Oxford Circle, where I transferred to the Bakerloo Line to Queen’s Park. At Victoria London, I was a little overwhelmed by the number of people and the speed at which they were moving, but once I knew where to go, I just went with the flow and it was fine, no worse than a busy day at the Mercado in Maz!
At Queen’s Park, I switched to the London Overground for one more station to Kensal Green.
I couldn’t check in until 1PM and arrived at Kensal Green around 11:30. I spent the time walking up and down the High Street until I found a bench where I could doze in the sun. It might seem like a waste of time, but my luggage was heavy and so I really wasn’t up to sightseeing. I was just glad to be there and certain that I would make the 1PM to 2PM very short window of time to check in. I hadn’t found a Barclay’s ATM in all my travels, so I decided to just pay the fees to use a different ATM so I could get some cash.
At 1PM, I finished the walk to my Airbnb. It’s a quintessential Victorian row house and absolutely no frills (you don’t even get a towel!). But the bed is comfy, the bathroom is clean, and for 50CAD a night and so conveniently located to Central London, it’s a steal. I did really well finding this one!
I had a wash and changed, which renewed me. I was 24 hours without sleep by this point and knew that I had to last until at least 7PM if I wanted to walk up on local time Sunday. So I packed my day bag and set off to find the nearest chippy. There, I ordered a chicken shawarma sandwich, which came with chips and a drink, and set off to find a place to eat my meal. I found a low wall by the Kensal Rise station that was perfect for people watching. The food was good. I like British chips a lot, especially since you get malt vinegar on them! The food really hit the spot and I felt much better after eating. I should have had lunch while waiting to check in, but with the luggage, there was too much to manage.
Then, I walked around the borough of Brent for a bit, eventually, to my immense surprise, circling right back to my Airbnb!
It was not even 4:00 by this point and I was fading really fast. I decided that I wouldn’t risk going anywhere near my bed, so I decided to go back to Central London!