Not staying with the Queen at Buckingham Palace - my new digs in London

Anyone who has ever travelled to London knows the exorbitant price of accommodation - be it a zero star “hole in the wall” bug-infested mattress on the floor or a five star “chi chi” palace catering to bling blinged “richer than Saudi sheiks” status seekers – obtaining reasonably priced lodging was a chore in itself. It was therefore with trepidation that I cringed at the possibility of having to fork out hundreds of pounds for a roof over my head for the 8 days that I would be sequestered in the British capital.  Short of having to resort to ringing up the Queen herself and asking whether or not she could spare a room or two (heck, just loan me an entire wing, if you may), the dream of residing in her 700 + room palatial headquarters at Buckingham Palace , would be a commoner’s wish come true. But, alas, languishing in the historic old dwelling, enjoying a cuppa tea with the old dame was not in the cards for me, and I had no choice but to look elsewhere for suitable accommodation. 

As luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to be able to secure a reservation at the Latvian House at 72 Queensborough Terrace, across the street from Hyde Park.  Located just a stone’s throw away from Her Majesty’s quarters, as well as from Kensington Gardens, this gem of a find sits on prime real estate in a prestigious, fashionable and residential London neighbourhood.  Unable to contain my glee at not having to break the bank, the total cost of my stay came to approx 430 pounds, less than 53 pounds per night.  And, that included a full English breakfast consisting of eggs, ham, beans, hash browns, toast, cereal, yoghurt and fruit.  Breakfast was served by the ever pleasant cook who greeted us each morning with a nod and a smile, eager to ensure that each meal was an exercise in perfection.  Depending upon the weather, you could choose to sit either inside the cozy dining room or outside in the enclosed garden area, surrounded by fragrant blooms and lush greenery, and be delightfully serenaded by several melodic chirping birds.

The 16 room Georgian style guest house features cheerful, clean, budget-friendly warmth and hospitality, a welcoming atmosphere and feels just like your “home away from home”.  The single and twin rooms, as well as one ensuite double, have basic amenities, such as a sink, flat-screen TV, kettle, hair dryer and feature large picturesque windows which overlook the property.  Showers and water closets are not situated in each room, but are shared, yet in no way did I feel as if I were in a dorm residence or hostel, but instead in a private and secluded residence.

Steps away from the front door was Bayswater Road where you would turn left and walk about 20 minutes towards Oxford Street, one of London’s hustling and bustling mecca shopping destinations. Day in and day out, my pink-sneakered feet would carefully tread along the pavement (careful to take cautious note of the “look left” or “look right” helpful chalked road markings) and scoot along the perimeter of Hyde Park, blissfully content to merely meander along the sidewalk and absorb the essence of this age-old metropolis.

If I craved a little bit of vino, a bag of crisps or a fashion magazine, there were a couple of quaint shops tucked away on the various side streets, hawking all sorts of goods, open at least until 11:00pm at night and a two minute jaunt from my fabulous B & B.  Of course, you can’t forget the pubs, and a new favourite became “The Swan”, where I would indulge in a few pints of Guinness and the best nachos (believe it or not!) and fish and chips ever! 

The best nachos ever!!

So, what can I say, except “when can I relocate and move on in?”

And if perchance, the Queen does happen to ring you up with an offer to spend time at the palace, make certain to inform her that you’ve got a far better arrangement at 72 Queensborough Terrace!!


Come hang out with the Latvians at their inviting B & B, wander along Bayswater Road and idle your time away as you paddle boat in Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park…come explore London and travel with me…

Hanging out in the quaint pub at my B & B

Next week – Where do my pink-sneaker footprints take me? Stay tuned!!

Have baggage will travel - Dodging traffic in London

You realize that you have a severely huge packing issue when your luggage is over-weight even before you commence the first leg of your three week multi-country transatlantic journey.  Yikes!!  Did I really need to pack every single one of my picturesque travel books, colour co-ordinated travel journals, my entire scrapbooking collection and reams of blank paper, just in case I ran out?  Like, seriously?  Surely they will have maps, books, paper and pens on the other side of the pond – an enticing plethora of yet to be discovered distinctly European paper products – some of which I would end up purchasing nonetheless, just to add to my ever expanding paper library.  So what if my love of acquiring the latest issues of foreign fashion magazines forced me to plunk extra money down on a new carry-on backpack, consequently heaving me over like a rickety old lady, causing me to throw my back out and subside on pain relief medication for the remainder of my sojourn?  Like, seriously, who does that?  An entire suitcase filled to the brim with over-flowing agendas and journals?  Forget the latest designer duds and handbags in London or Paris – just point me in the direction of a stationary goods emporium, library or bookstore and I’m in seventh heaven!

And so the curse of my cumbersome carry-on bags had officially begun, trailing me around Europe, as I labouriously struggled to heave my unmanageable load onto planes, trains, ferries and buses – all the while enduring excruciatingly evil and loathsome stares from my fellow passengers as I strove to hurl my baggage onto various forms of transport.  My three weeks overseas came close to virtually disrupting the efficiency of national transportation links on the continent and beyond, as trains, planes and automobiles had no choice but to patiently wait until my pink sneaker logoed luggage was safely stored on board.

And thus began my week long sabbatical in merry old England, navigating the roundabouts whilst skillfully dodging oncoming traffic.  Hesitantly placing my pink-sneakered foot onto London ground as I exited the bus, I nearly got sideswiped by a red double-decker trolley, coming at me from the wrong direction! Jet-lagged and in a semi comatose state, I had numerous close calls with vehicles, buses and bikes, all of which seemed to have mischievously conspired to keep me on my guard at all times. Accustomed to dim-witted foreigners not paying attention to rudimentary street signs, the Brits seemed to have hit upon an ingenious idea, and have marked the pavement with precise instructions as to either “look left” or “look right” for oncoming traffic.  I can’t tell you the number of times that this basic set of directions contributed to saving my life and permitted my pink sneakered feet to safely scoot across the street without fear of being taken out by a garbage truck.

And that was just my first hour in London town. Yikes!!

Stay tuned for more London adventures next week.

Come drive on the wrong side of the road and stop traffic with me…enjoy the escapades of my wandering pink-sneakers as they dart around London, from Hyde Park to Oxford Street, all the while staying clear of the overly claustrophobic underground.

Planes, trains and ferries - can I even get out of the airport or railway station??

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks that my pink sneakers have traipsed far from home, oftentimes strolling, dashing and sprinting from airport terminals, ferry docks and train stations, schlepping my unbelievably overweight luggage along with me.  I’ve since learned that no matter which airline you are scheduled to fly with, it inevitably is located at the possible furthest point from where you are, causing you to literally qualify for Olympic worthy medal opportunities as you bolt along miles and miles of endless corridors.  

Another helpful tidbit of info that I picked up upon on this trip was that it helps to pay attention to which airport terminal your plane is departing from, as I so harshly experienced when I had yet another dyslexic moment, misreading terminal 2A for terminal 2E. Yikes!! You can imagine just how much fun it is to have to waste yet another half an hour, when you’re already late in arriving at the airport due to heavy traffic, and have to literally run like hell with cumbersome baggage in tow, in order to arrive at the check-in gate in time.  Always one to be the first person in line at check-in, I was now crammed in like a sardine, along with the other miserable passengers who also huffed and puffed their way into the ever-growing winding and snaking line.

And then there was the never-ending problem with steps. They’re everywhere, and there was no way of avoiding or escaping them, causing my burdensome baggage and two over-loaded carry-on bags immense challenges. I can’t tell you the number of times that I cursed the number of steps (3 to be exact) that had to be traversed upon clambering up and down those pesky trains. Now, 3 measly steps don’t quite seem like a huge issue in the least, but when confronted with the dilemma of having to figure out how to throw what felt like a hundred pounds of dead weight (luggage) onto the train, the task at hand rapidly became one of Mount Everest like proportions.  And, don’t even get me started on exiting the train stations, which required navigating an endless mountain of steps, nary an escalator nor elevator in sight (not like I would even seriously contemplate getting into an elevator, claustrophobic that I am) - so, I'm stuck with stairs, nonetheless.

So, stay tuned for a wealth of travel stories, tales and adventures, as my pink-sneakered feet wandered along the well-worn paths of several European cities, accompanied by my 16 year old “know-it all” fashion plate niece and, of course, my ever expanding over-stuffed “chain and ball” cumbersome  backpacks and baggage.

Attached are a couple of pics of my travel journey. Can you guess which cobblestoned paths my pink-sneakers set their feet upon?



Come traipse around Europe with me as you schlep all of your worldly belongings and extremely bulky travel books and journals on trains, planes, ferries, automobiles and buses. Yikes!! I’m exhausted already!!

Next week – Stay tuned – The first leg of my 3 week European Pink Sneaker adventure.