After Paris, we traveled to our final destination in Europe: the United Kingdom! After months of foreign places, London was the next best thing to home. The sound of people speaking English was music to my ears. It's so comforting to know that if you get lost or need to order food --- you can communicate with others easily. Besides all that, it's London! Woo hoo!
We decided to give Couch Surfers a try since we'd heard great things about it. Couch Surfers is a website promoting hospitality exchange between travelers. It encourages cultural exchange as well. The idea is that you don't need a lot of money or a fancy hotel to travel the world. Through the website's network, you can find people living in the city you want to visit who are willing to let you crash on whatever is available in their house (couch, pull out bed, spare bedroom...etc) for free. You're not allowed to charge a dime.
This idea doesn't work if everyone takes but no one gives. When you join this website, you're expected to host - not just surf. You have a choice as to who you host and when you host. It's all in your control. There's also a verification process and your profile shows references from people who have hosted you explaining whether or not you were a nice guest, respectful, and safe. I think the process is very trustworthy.
We didn't know anyone in London before, but we have a wonderful friend there now - his name is Jade and he allowed us to stay in his spare bedroom for five days. He was so nice... meeting us at the subway station, taking us to his house, and he had a freshly cooked meal waiting for us when we walked in the door. It was such a treat to stay with him! We felt so comfortable and welcome the entire time. Plus, whenever Jade wasn't working (he's a doctor), we hung out and had a great time getting to know each other. I'm so glad we stayed with him. He's one of the most genuinely kind and giving people I've ever met.
Traditional English breakfast we woke up to - compliments of Jade!
It's a lot like Harry Potter with the matching homes ;-)
Getting coffee at the subway platform.
My water was "boring" because it wasn't sparkling lol.
Jade's home is located in Surrey in a town called Epsom. It's the place to live if you're going to be in the suburbs. It's a very traditional English town, with easy subway access to London, and it's also one of the safest places to live. We loved it there! Everything is within walking distance from Jade's cozy little townhouse. Most people don't ever drive. You can walk or take the subway pretty much anywhere.
Jade took us to a pub one night - the "cultural center" as he called it. According to him, everything in life revolves around the pub there. We ordered drinks and Indian food (they had a special that night called Curry Club). It was fun to get the pub experience.
Me with Jade.
This is just the start of posts on London... but I really would urge anyone wanting to travel and meet nice people to consider Couch Surfing. We had a wonderful experience with it and have made a great friend in the process.