Can you live the London life on a budget? Why not…

EveryIMG_5687 time I travel home from uni, I have to venture up to London, before I then head back down to the south. It may just be a part of my route home, but one day (in the very near future, pretty please), I want it to actually be my home. I love it. I’m obsessed with wanting to live that London life; busy, hectic, eventful. I know it doesn’t sound all that relaxing, but your 20s aren’t a time for slowing down, they’re when you’re just getting started. I know London is exactly where I want to be after I graduate. Fairwell uni bubble, the capital is calling!

My love of London means I’ve spent a fair amount of time roaming the streets, but when you’re a student, and money is not your best friend, London starts alarm bells ringing. Fear not, my fretful friends, I’ve got a few tips up my savvy student sleeves.

Note: This isn’t the way to live every day, let’s not be frivolous now, but for those odd days off, here’s how to reign in the spending.

Musicals mean money.

FullSizeRender

Theatre Old Drury Lane

From previous posts, you may be aware that I do love a good musical, and that they don’t come cheap. Before, I’ve suggested turning up at Leicester Square and grabbing whatever cut price tickets you can get. If you want to get more for your money, then here’s another suggestion. The last few times I have been to the theatre, I have purchased mid-range or low-range tickets, right near the back, where my fear of heights suddenly manifests itself, only to be upgraded to better, higher priced seats. I’m not saying this is a dead cert, but it is always worth inquiring on the day what the situation is. To make it even more likely, pick a mid-week matinee performance which is always less popular, because let’s face it, everyone else is busy working away while we’re off gallivanting to the theatre like cultured students. Just think: the less people who go, the more likely you’re all going to be shuffled up into the swanky seats. Winning.

Photo by Byron Hamburgers

I sat there! Photo by Byron Hamburgers

Eat on the cheap.

Even if you’re not off to see a show or a musical, go and pretend you are. The restaurants around the theatre district, close to Covent Garden, are surprisingly cheap. But isn’t Covent Garden a tourist money trap, I hear you say? Not necessarily. Pre-show menus are everywhere! Two courses for £9.95, drink included. Yes please. I know, I was surprised too. From lunchtime to around six, every restaurant around is touting for your business. There’s so many to choose from, they have to lure you in somehow, and if you’re as conscious of money as every other student, this is the way to do it. And when it’s a set menu, there’ll always be the crowd pleasers on there, so you’re sure to find something you like.

Hang around at Happy Hour.

On my last trip to London, I was celebrating a close friends’ 21st, so I wanted to do something extra fancy. Following our extremely cultured theatre trip (to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory … (at the Theatre Old Drury Lane)), and a cheap but scrumptious after show meal, the next step was obvious: cocktails. And if you get your timing right, finish dinner just as Happy Hour begins. Two doors down from Byron Hamburgers (go there!), is Be at One, a small bar where Happy Hour lasts three hours.

Photo by thecocktailcard.co.uk

Photo by thecocktailcard.co.uk

It’s trendy (I’m not sure that word is cool anymore), and it’s got a great atmosphere; maybe because everyone has finished work for the day, or they’ve just had one too many cocktails. Ah, that London life. After work cocktails in Covent Garden? See you there one day. The bar staff were extremely welcoming and incredibly skilled at what they do. I don’t know whether measurements are stronger in London, but wow, you get a lot for your money. Cheap, lethal pre drinks before heading back for a night out at uni sorted. You’re welcome.

So, there you have it. It’s very simple, but it’s all about timing: when to eat, when to drink, when to book tickets. We also managed to minimise travel costs and time wasted on the tube by staying in one neat contain area. The theatre, restaurant and bar were all within metres of one another. Maybe you don’t get to see as much, but you get to make the most of your time and try out a few new places you maybe wouldn’t have thought of going before.

And, remember, when in doubt; wave your student card around. You’d be surprised how many places accept student discount.

Advertisements

The Travelling Student

I actual7781380900_e4cfd159f0_bly like public transport. Coach, train, tube, whatever. It’s travelling without responsibility. I don’t have to pay for fuel or insurance, just my ticket to wherever I want to go. It’s not that I can’t drive. I can (not very well I’ll admit, it’s always a little bit dicey), but I’d prefer to sit by the window with my headphones in, and a book in my hands.

So why is it that everyone else seems to despise it so much?

Well, have you ever tried travelling on a bank holiday or when the entire country has transformed into a bathtub? I most certainly have. Seeing as the next time I travel home, in just a couple of weeks, it will indeed be another bank holiday, I thought I’d prepare myself (and you) by reliving my past travelling nightmares.

Let me take you back to the festive season,  when once upon a time I very sensibly chose to travel home by tube, train AND coach on the day before Christmas Eve, one of the busiest days of the year and when the clouds had decided to cry over every road I wanted to travel on. A two hour journey took me seven and a half hours.

After a delayed start on my first leg of the journey, knight of the tracks, Mr Train Driver felt it necessary to let every other train pass each junction before him. So when I finally got off the train with just five minutes to spare before my coach left, I naively thought I might actually make it. But three flights of stairs, a ridiculously heavy suitcase and my pitiful strength stood between me and Christmas. Thank you to those of you who stood in my way and refused to help the panic-stricken, struggling girl with her present filled suitcase. You are all off my Christmas card list.

Having made it to the top, looking like I’d just fought my way through a herd of buffalo, I managed to get my case stuck in the turn style and then found that my ticket didn’t work. Ever the optimist I convinced myself my coach and everyone on it has their noses pressed against the coach window, banners and balloons in hand, waiting for my arrival. So I ran, in the pouring rain to the coach station which I now realise is not ‘just down the road’. Thanks for that.

I sprinted with all my luggage only to be held up by the most obnoxious Londoners around. Why stroll down the middle of a busy pavement and just meander from side to side. It felt like the ultimate blockbuster movie. Me against the clock, sprinting for the only coach out of the city before a meteor would strike. It was intense. Unlike the movies, I only made it in time to watch my coach pull away and see the meteor hit. I did not live happily ever after. That could be a slight exaggeration of the truth but my mum certainly thought the end of the world had come when I rang her sobbing convinced I would be spending Christmas in Victoria Coach Station.

Tears and tantrums aside, I did eventually make it home. And in hindsight it was an interesting adventure. It’s all part of the fun of public transport. Picking your way across the country, sitting next to someone different every time and getting to eavesdrop on everyone else’s lives is quite an experience – kudos to the mother teaching her four year old son about the best Class A drugs.

So when you travel home for Easter, take my advice. You have three options: walk all the way home (Google informs me this will take 47 hours. Considering I live nearly 150 miles away I think it’s assumed I’m a racehourse), travel in the middle of the night (obnoxious Londoners may have gone home by then) or unlike me, just travel on a day that isn’t a national holiday. Simple.

(Photo by The Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

 

Broadway on a Budget

 

ImageOnce Is Definitely Not Enough

I’m a student who loves to go and see musicals, plays, gigs, whatever it is, if it’s on stage, I want to see it. But if you’ve ever been to London’s Broadway, you’ll know that tickets don’t come cheap. So here’s my advice. Travel to London by coach, normally around a fiver from either Canterbury or home in Salisbury and turn up at Leicester Square where all the cut-price ticket booths are, desperate to get rid of their last seats. Pick the cheapest one going. It doesn’t matter what it is or whether you’ve heard of it before. It’s more fun that way.

I gave it a go and here’s my review of Once at The Phoenix Theatre.

Ticket: Under £20

Verdict: Once is definitely not enough.

It’s your average guitar-playing, hoover-fixing Dubliner boy meets eccentric, singing Czech girl, and it’s the best musical I’ve seen in a very long time.

Don’t go expecting the all-singing, all-dancing, glittering scenes of Wicked or Dirty Dancing, this is more of a play performed to music. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know the storyline is as simple as its title: two strangers meet, make music, become friends, fall in love and then fall back into the normality of their lives, except apart from each other. But the plot really isn’t what matters here. It’s all about the music. And what amazing music it is.

I implore you to listen to the film soundtrack and if you haven’t heard of the Academy Award winning Falling Slowly, written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (the stars of the film) what the hell have you been listening to? It’s so beautifully composed that I have it on repeat pretty much all the time. And performed on stage by Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitesic, it’s the perfect lullaby.

Before the musical has even begun, the actors are on stage, just playing around with their instruments and their voices while we get settled in our seats. The atmosphere was so relaxed, I was tempted to jump over the balcony, join them and realise my potential as a West End star (if only that wasn’t an insanely dangerous idea). And who doesn’t love a musical where, during the interval, the pub in the set becomes a fully functioning bar where you can get on stage and enjoy a drink. It’s probably the only time I’ll get to appear on Broadway (so that’s definitely going on my CV).

Throughout the play, we see just a handful of actors on stage, swapping in and out of scenes and playing their own musical specialty on one simple set. Over the two hours, all we see is a few chairs, a table and some spotlights for the night sky. There’s no need for over the top props and sets, just beautifully talented actors and their voices in one modern and realistic (almost) fairy tale.

There’s a charming contrast between the Irish and Czech characters which adds plenty of humour as they mock each others accents and mannerisms. And when the actors are laughing at the jokes as much as you, you can tell they’re doing it for more than just a paycheck. They’re enjoying their time on stage, despite performing eight times a week. Bennet and Cvitesic have undeniable chemistry and it’s incredibly heart warming and obvious to see that this tight knit cast are genuinely friends backstage too. It’s a pleasure to watch.

There’s really not much more to say: it’s just simple and you need to see it.

But if you don’t get the chance to go to London and see this masterpiece, then definitely definitely definitely watch the film and listen to the soundtrack. Hours and hours of procrastination right there. You’re welcome.

Enjoy!

(Photo by Tom Morris)