Recently, a random series of events occurred that led me to spend 12 hours in London after a trip to Greece.
A normal person would’ve probably said to themselves “Now would be probably be a great time to grab a room at the airport hotel. Catch up on sleep and the insane amount of emails I’ve been neglecting while spending a week and a half in Greece”.
But, as they say, curiosity killed the cat.
I wanted to see London and a severe lack of sleep coupled with a complete lack of knowledge of how I was going to accomplish this wasn’t going to stop me.
Meagan, my sister/travel guru, says her traveling philosophy is just to wing it. We definitely winged it in Greece and she taught me well. Aside from that, I’ll talk to anyone about anything… Including asking strangers in a foreign country where I am and then demand they tell me exactly how to get where I want to go. It’s not a perfect system, but it works for me.
Take a Night Tour
I arrived at the London Heathrow airport at 9 PM. My friend, Jordan, was kind enough to research night tours of London while I was mid-flight. The company is called See London By Night. Perfect! That’s exactly what I wanted to do!
The problem was that the last tour of the night began at 10:15 PM. I checked Uber and it would’ve been a 45 minute drive (not to mention expensive) to get to Green Park, where the tour began. After customs and waiting for my bag, I knew there would be no way I would make it. But, I still had hope.
Luckily it was late, so I breezed right through customs. Around 9:15 PM I stood by the baggage claim and it came to grinding halt! Dang it! I was on a mission! I decided to ditch the bag since I knew they would lock it up for safekeeping if it went unclaimed anyway. I didn’t want to chance an Uber and be late so I found the Heathrow train station! I bought a round trip ticket into Paddington Station, which is close to the heart of London. The train even had free wifi, which is clutch for international travel. The journey to London by train only took 15 minutes! While I was on the train I met some nice locals and persuaded them to say things like “cheerio” and “ello govna”. They laughingly played along.
Once I arrived, I got off the train and began to panic. What in the world was I doing? I’m alone in London with no idea what was going on. It was now 9:45 PM and I had to get to Green Park. I was scared, but soldiered on. I wandered over to a Hilton and scored free wifi after a quick explanation of my mission! Thank goodness for technology, am I right? Anyway, that made it possible for me to grab an Uber over to Green Park! The tour departure area was right in Piccadilly, which I guess is a London hot spot. I made my way over and bought my ticket!
I’ll spare the details of the tour because there are a million other articles describing what to see in London. But I will say that I think anyone visiting should see the city by night. The lights and the energy were whimsical. That’s right… I said whimsical. That’s how lovely it was.
After the tour I grabbed an Uber back to the train station and made my way back to the airport. It was now the middle of the night. I made my way back to the baggage claim and grabbed my bag, relieved to see that it was still there. Now with lots of time and energy to kill, I wanted to find something to do. There were people sleeping all over the airport in the departure check in area. Unfortunately, I was not blessed with the ability to sleep in public or even public transportation. It was also too early to check in and head through security to the restaurants and shops in the airport. I finally got tired enough to sleep. I stretched out on a row of seats and covered myself with a beach towel my sister bought for me in Santorini, Greece. I set my alarm to go off when it was time to check in. It was only 30 minutes, but a power nap did me well!
I checked in for my flight and headed through security. It was around 5 or 5:30 in the morning. Once I got through security and up to the gates it’s like I had entered a whole new world. Really, the London airport is nicer than most towns I’ve visited. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep. I saw signs for bedrooms in the airport. BEDROOMS! I was all over that… I followed the signs and they led me to a swanky lounge right there in the airport called No1 Lounge. I later found out that these lounges are located in different airports around the world. I unfortunately could not afford to use a bedroom lounge. The lounges and bedrooms are very affordable but alas, I was very poor after my big trip to Greece so I had to decline.
While I was waiting to ask, I met a nice family with two small children that I played and goofed around with. Once I found out I couldn’t afford the lounge I started to make my way out. The father of the nice family came running after me. They had a guest pass and offered it to me! I wouldn’t have a bedroom but I could access all other areas. I was floored at his random act of kindness! I happily accepted his offer!
The lounge is much nicer than most restaurants and bars I’ve been to. I ordered eggs Benedict and a mimosa from the friendly waiter who greeted me and helped myself to the coffee, croissants, and the fruit they put out for guests to enjoy. I sat there taking SnapChats and feeling fancy. I read a newspaper and a magazine and wondered how I’d gotten so lucky.
Then something random happened. A pipe burst and water started pouring out of the lights in the ceiling!
Needless to say, we were all asked to leave the lounge. It was a bummer, but I got a good two hours in to enjoy myself. While we were leaving I might have accidentally grabbed three ginger flavored beers out of the complimentary cooler. Classy, I know.
So there I was left to wander around the airport some more. A mild case of ADD prevents me from just sitting and waiting. I must always be doing something. I spotted a very good looking gentleman sitting close by and thought about offering him a beer. Too bad it was like 8 in the morning. So instead I wandered over to the Mac makeup studio right there in the airport. I ran out of foundation so I figured I would go play with some makeup to kill the last hour before I could board my plane. A very nice girl helped me color match my skin and pick out a new foundation. I put the rest of the foundation on and “looked” at more makeup… Basically, I used a bunch of samples to make myself look halfway decent. After awhile the girls working at Mac got into it and gave me a makeover! Score!
When I was finished at Mac I spotted a crying baby wandering around by himself! Hundreds of people were walking past him and no parent in sight! Nobody even seemed to notice. I walked over to the baby and tried to comfort him and luckily security happened to be nearby. His mother came up and grabbed him a few minutes later without saying a word to anyone. What the? Whatever. He was now back with his mom and safe so I guess that is all that matters. How frustrating that, with hundreds of people around, nobody bothered with this poor baby.
It was time to head to my gate! I wandered over and checked in since I was flying standby. Luckily for me, I was upgraded to first class! Score again! I sat to wait for boarding and drank half a ginger beer. Finally, boarding began and I was greeted in first class with a glass of champagne. Back to New York!
Morals of the story: Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous, be nice to strangers, and don’t ignore babies wandering around alone in airports!