You know how everyone always get plane tickets so cheaply and fly everywhere for (almost) free, and you always pay full price and it ends up costing an arm and a leg? Well, I do. Because when you buy 4 plane tickets, have to time your flight to the school holidays and can never really book a long time in advance (this one is mostly because we never know where we’ll be next whenever), you are lucky if you don’t have to sell a random organ to pay for the pleasure of packing three suitcases for a two day trip because the kids “bed-friends”, toys and electronic devices take up at least a suitcase and a half (and that’s after we vetoed Olaf, the ginormous snowman), go through all the security checks, and cramp into a too-full flying bus.
But not this time. Last week I snagged, for the first time ever, a flight that was so close to single digit price tag you could almost hear the credit card smiling.
The only catch was – it was a one night flight. Fly to London Saturday morning and come back to Berlin Sunday early afternoon. Some would say it’s not worth it. But I have an obsession with EggNog Latte from Starbucks (which apparently they don’t share here in Berlin, but is “back due to popular demand” in London), and the Oxford St Christmas lights, so after the kids stopped whining about it being “only one day” (they have an obsession with London in general, and anything less than a week is deemed “too short” for their taste), we packed the three trollies and hopped on the plane.
It all started innocently enough, we had our regular table at the airport cafe (yes, we have a regular table) we even gave a couple of young girls some tips about Copenhagen (I love it when we can give people tips about places. It happens so rarely) and we passed border control quite fast (I hate border control, they scare me half to death every time and in every country). I should have known we were doomed.
The phone call came at 9:05 am, just as we were closing the hotel room door and heading into town. A major crisis at Hidai’s work, servers down, losing money by the second. And this, if you ever wondered, is how not to go to London.
But at least we learnt some valuable lessons –
Don’t try to fit a ten hours shopping day into four. Especially on Oxford st, before Christmas.
Don’t try and eat three meals in the span of two hours. Especially when you’ve been stress-munching non-stop on food that belongs to the category “something sweet for the kids”. There is no way a grown-up’s stomach can stand all that plus a McDonalds, a Starbucks, a Pret and some chocolate from M&S and still let you function.
Don’t try to walk leisurely and stop for good photo-ops in Oxford St Especially on Saturday afternoon, before Christmas, and when you have two kids who apparently have forgotten what city life really looks like, and has gotten used to the Berlin pace and space.
Don’t take the kids with you. Especially if they have been up from 3am, Flew for 2 hours and sat in a hotel room for 5, glued to iPads which were connected to electricity and ate three bags of sweets. But if you do, don’t forget to also bring ear-plugs.
Don’t forget that London high-street shops have a tendency to blast (lousy) music every minute of every day, but especially when you have a headache. I assume they think we feel younger and oh so cool and hip and whatever the kids are calling it these days. In reality it makes the people actually paying (as in the old people) just feel older and grumpier and count the seconds until they are out of there.
Don’t forget they now charge 5p per bag. Or as I like to call it a “if you pay this we’ll let you out of here faster” charge.
Don’t try and change your flight home online, on the phone or at the airport. Especially if you are flying EasyJet. Our options were plentiful, but they all ended up costing twice (!) the original flight price for an extra 5 hours in London. Even we are not that crazy.
Do go to Starbucks, because evil corporate or not, there is nothing like those red cups.
Do eat at Pret, which are not an evil corporate, and have the best sandwiches in the world.
Do pop into M&S, which I have no idea if they are an evil corporate or not, but they have excellent packaging-design department, and those chocolate buckets.
Do go to the new(ish, I guess, it wasn’t there in May) toy store which is a cross between Hamleys and Disney. It saves time. Also you get to play with really cute things and blame the kids.
Do not be terrified of the person in Boots who looks at you funny and judges your shopping habits. It is perfectly normal to buy 15 bottles of Otrivine. And a few other things. and the latest Heat. Hey, if I had time I would have gone into 4 different Boots for this.
Do walk around. Just walking around Oxford St, with all the lights, the noise, and the crowds is enough to get you into the Christmas spirit. And also to think once more that someone should pitch the people at Gatwick to add a sign of “Welcome to London. Where everyone is thinner, younger and better dressed than you”. Honestly, I don’t even know why I try.
Do book a new flight to another weekend, because the prices for January are really low, and compared to Berlin, it’s considered a “warmer climate holiday”. Just make it a two day holiday. Or a week.