'London is always worth a visit. We've been there often and never tire of it - the thrill of seeing historic buildings and streets, fabulous galleries, incredible shows, the black taxis and red buses and the whole mad hustle is a guarantee for amazing memories. Since we started home swapping it's got even better - we now get to experience actually living there, in areas we would never see any other way, shopping in the local shops for food, topping up our Oyster cards where the locals do, buying newspapers and working out the transport. In July 2013 we did our second home exchange (in the meantime we've completed our third and are planning the fourth) and spent a pleasant two weeks in Mortlake, Richmond, within walking distance of Kew Gardens and near the Thames. Travelling into London by train was quite an experience, we soon learnt to wait until after 9am! London commuters are incredibly good at reading while standing propped in a tightly packed crowd and even while walking along the platform and through the ticket barrier!
We can be much more spontaneous now we don't have to pay hotel bills. On this particular trip we walked past a theatre where the musical Top Hat was being advertised with gorgeous photographs. We bought tickets there and then for the evening show. And another thing - we arranged to meet up with Sandra, who became a pen friend when we first signed up to Home Base Holidays. We quickly discovered interests in common but an exchange just hadn't worked out for us up to this point. When I mentioned that we were coming to London, Sandra immediately suggested we meet for lunch and told us how to find her house in Tooting. Another new area for us and - we think - a first. How many home swappers meet when they're not exchanging homes at all?
Sandra gave us a lovely lunch and we had the chance to see her and Paul's comfortable home and garden. We have now managed to arrange a swap too, for summer 2014. We hope Sandra and Paul will enjoy our mountains and lakes. Our own plans are well under way for visits to the British Museum's latest exhibition (the Vikings will be there this summer), Greenwich and the renovated Cutty Sark, the Queen's House, the National Maritime Museum and the new ecology park. Maybe we'll make it to the Thames Barrier this time, and come to think of it we haven't straddled the 0° meridian yet either. No doubt we'll find a few more interesting restaurants and return to favourite haunts such as the Courtauld Gallery for the Impressionists, the National Gallery because it's so impressive, the V&A because it's sublime and the Natural History Museum because the building is as fascinating as its contents. I don't think two weeks will do it, we'll have to start considering the next swap.
Our biggest problem these days is finding enough time to agree to all the exchanges we're offered. This is definitely the best thing imaginable for people who enjoy new experiences! ' - Bea Fitze