The last leg of my trip was in England, going to Brighton for a convention, then on to Canterbury and London. My first stop was Brighton, taking the 1.5 hour ferry ride from Calais to Dover (though the website said it was a half hour), then a 2-hour train ride into the throbbing, congested heart of Brighton. Thankfully I had a map.
The Royal Albion was where the British Fantasy convention was being held, so that’s where I headed, probably about a 15-minute walk from the train station through scores of people thronging the streets. I noticed how dirty the streets were here, permanently marred with dead gum and just generally trashy. I watched a woman open a tin of some sort of fish, toss the metal lid into the street and drain the liquid all over the sidewalk with a disregard for splashing anyone. It seems Vancouver, at least, is farther ahead on the recycling and garbage front.
The Royal Albion is no longer a grand dame even if it’s 200 years old. It’s more like someone who spent too long drinking away their life savings. Parts of the building were tatty and worn down. It took 36 hours to get an iron from them because it seems they only have one and they didn’t know who had it. The bathroom had a metal rack that heats up to dry clothes. However, there was no caution sign saying it got very hot, and was so close to the toilet that I burned my leg. There was no holder for the toilet paper so it kept falling and rolling under the rack. I had a gob of toothpaste on the wall by the sink that was there before I arrived and still there when I left. Service in the bar on the whole was friendly and many of the bartenders were very nice but others were slower than a sated slug. The one meal I had, some sandwich special was flavorless and slim to nonexistent. The Albion is very close to the beach because at the convention price of 79 pounds, it was not worth it.
Because of this I went to the Umi on the Sunday night, booking through the tourist information, which has you pay 10% up front. When I got to the hotel I paid cash (way cheaper than using a credit card in Europe and incurring extra charges at both ends). They didn’t give me a receipt and I was tired so I just went up to the room. They had upgraded me (for the 50 pound price) so I had both a double bed and a single in the room, a beach view, and air conditioning. The room was clean and the heating rack in this bathroom said it got hot. The one problem was that there was no light by the double bed so I had to turn off the light by the door and stumble to the bed. The other problem on checkout, where I was just returning the key and picking up my receipt, was that I was told I hadn’t paid. Confused, I said I’m pretty sure I paid but I paid again. Waiting for a ride I went back in and said, I know I paid because it was cash and it was an odd amount (left over after that 10%). They said they would check and let me know but I know they did not. I would only recommend them if you insist on your receipt right away. Being tired meant I got screwed.
I then went on to Canterbury and stayed at the Clare Ellen B&B. Be careful as the train I took went to Canterbury West but
the B&B was at Canterbury East, which it turns out I would have had to transfer an hour or more back. Though a relatively short walk through the town, I was hot, dragging luggage over cobblestones and didn’t know where I was. I took a taxi halfway through and Clare Ellen was really about a 15-minute walk from the center of town.
The room was spacious; I’d been given a double because the single was taken (and paid about 50 pounds/night). This did include breakfast, which I partook of one day, and was the typical English breakfast, but whatever you wanted and as much: eggs, ham, tomatoes, mushrooms, cereal or porridge.
Wifi was included in all three of these places though the pricey Royal Albion only had it in the lobby/lounge. The ISP was down in Canterbury but the B&B owner let me use his own computer so that I could book a room in London. Unfortunately, because of this and it becoming more last minute, I
panicked and forgot about some sites and couchsurfing. I booked the Wembley Hotel, which turned out to be a half hour north of London central (by the tube) and was not in a good area of town. It was very close to the station but when I first arrived I paid and they said they would give me a receipt the next day. I said no, today because of what happened at the Umi. The first room was down in the basement. There was no light in the corridor and the toilet was stained and dirty. I asked them to clean it so they moved me to another floor, through many doors and little 2-3 stair landings.
This room was small, by the tracks and looked clean enough though I pulled back the sheets to make sure. Again the floor and carpeting in the hallway were dirty, the toilet had grunge and pubic hairs around the base, the shower door looked like it had never been wiped down and there was dust and dirt in every corner. It was the type of place where I locked my suitcase when I went out. The one coffee cup (there were no other glasses) had so many murky fingerprints on it that I just used my water bottle. The basic room wouldn’t have been so bad but for this lack of cleanliness. When I had to leave the next morning at 6 am to catch my flight, I had not lights but the little table lamp, and there was no hot water, even after running it for ten minutes. The shower barely had water pressure at all. I would recommend staying far away from the skeevy dive. It was definitely the worst place I stayed, even after the one bad couhcsurfing experience.