We make money from advertisers and affiliate partners. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Bag 'O Nails pub London

This article originally appeared on PubClub.com, and wanted to share it here, as well. It is a story about something that could have been a travel nightmare that I turned into a positive. It was not my fault and I could do nothing about it, so I took advantage of being in a foreign city. Here is my story of how I spent my unexpected 12-hour layover in London.

I did not anticipate having a 12 1/2-hour layover in London but when my flight got in late and massive traffic from Heathrow to Gatwick caused me to miss – barely – my other flight, I was left standing in the airport with unexpected time on my hands.

It was 5:30 in the evening and my new flight did not leave until 6 the next morning and so guess what I did next.

I boarded a train and went to some London pubs!

Now I could have been mad, upset, kicked and screamed at my situation but that would not have solved the problem. It’s not my style anyway. I prefer to abide by the philosophical words of a man with a sailboat named Bob Bitchin’ who says “the difference between ordeal and adventure is attitude.” Instead of making it an ordeal, I turned this into an adventure.

I caught a train to Victoria Station and if you have never been to train stations in major European cities, let me tell you that they are not an easy in-and-out thing. They are the size of giant, multi-level shopping malls in America (in fact, they are giant multi-level shopping malls) and I always find myself wandering around in a confused daze trying to find my way out of the danged things. (This happened a couple of weeks later in Paris to the point I stopped a friendly couple and asked them escort me out of it.)

Finally emerging outside, I immediately spied a pub. Shakespeare Pub stood like a beacon calling me into it.

buckingham palaceIn front of Buckingham Palace in London.

But while in London, heck, I was going to do a little sightseeing. Victoria Station is near Buckingham Palace and while it’s only a short walk I managed to turn it into a long one because a couple of cops I approached sent me off in the wrong direction and I kept getting conflicting directions from others.

This is a situation that would be repeated often later in Paris, by the way. In London, I crossed streets – managing to avoid getting flattened by a double-decker buses, rushing cars and the occasional bicyclist, all coming from a direction opposite to what I am used to in America (pro’s tip: wait for the light at the crosswalks) – and eventually was at the Buckingham Palace back wall and what a wall it is – it’s huge!

Finally, after walking several long blocks, I found the front gate and did the tourist thing by taking a few photos and having another tourist – who failed to inform me of his lack of photography skills – take a few of me. I spent another half hour or so there before coming to to the conclusion that it’s not really very scenic, is not a good subject for photos and after the initial “hey it’s Buckingham Palace” thrill, that it is pretty boring there.

Time to go to a pub!

bag o nails london pubThe Bag 'O Nails pub was calling me in London.

Right away, I saw a London pub called Bag O’ Nails. Now I know London has some crazy and unusual names for its pubs and there was no way I was NOT going to have a pint in a place called Bag O’ Nails!

There was an after-work crowd (half of them were standing outside for some reason; maybe because it wasn’t raining, which I hear happens from time to time in London?) and it was exactly what I wanted in a London pub. It was all wood, the floor creaked a bit and it had character. I ordered a lager, which I would up really liking, and paid just £7 for a pint. And this was a London pint, larger than the American pint by a couple of ounces. I was happy.

I had another pint there but since I still had several hours and the idea sitting in a boring airport did not particularly appeal to me (it made no sense to get a hotel room since I was leaving so early in the morning; plus can you imagine the cost of one night in London!?), I went searching for pub #2.

I found it, a place called The Victoria. It was bigger and a bit darker than Bag O’ Nails and did not have many people in it (again, more were standing outside than were inside) and I had another big pint for £7. That’s about $9 in USD which to me is a bargain. In the States, the cost of a large, good local beer will set you back $12-15. When I marveled at the price of beer in London the servers seemed surprised at my joy. After all, here I was by Victoria Station, one of the most heavily-touristy places in all of London, and I was drinking a big beer for less than 9 bucks. It seemed like a bargain to me.

As night began to arrive, I wandered over to Shakespeare Pub. It is a bit of a famous pub in London and I was kind of saving it for last but the real reason is that it is right across the street from the Victoria Station entrance and I did not want to be wandering around the London streets after dark trying to find the train.

shakespeare pub londonA bartender pours a beer at the Shakespeare Pub in London

There, I plopped down at a table, had a couple of pints and a hearty Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. As I was enjoying my unexpected layover, I chatted it up with my server and we would up following each other on Instagram.

Finally, a belly full of food and good beer, I decided it was time to head to the airport. I was pretty tired by this point, having not slept since I left San Diego some 20 hours earlier (including a long layover prior to arriving in London) and I dozed off like a child in his daddy’s arms on the hour train ride back to Gatwick.

I arrived there at Midnight (and I wasn’t famous yet – Jimmy Buffett fans will get the reference) and got the very last seat and was at least able to sit down. Three hours later security opened up and I was able to stretch out a bit but did not want to fall asleep because if I did and missed my new fight, I would have been right back where I started.

My final destination was Split, Croatia, and after exploring that city a bit upon arrival, having dinner and a few beers in the Split bars, I settled in for a long sleep.

I can’t say I was glad that I missed my flight in London – it would have been nice to had arrived in Split a day earlier because the next two days I was a walking zombie in Croatia from lack of sleep and the time change – but I did get to see a little bit of London and have a few pints in its pubs.

Bob Bithin’ is right – having the right attitude does turn an ordeal into an adventure.

Originally published on PubClub.com.