Points Guy gave some great advice about booking tickets to Europe for half of the advertised amount of Avios points through BA's OneWorld Partners. It's my fault that I can't squeeze in a few more days. Initially, I booked a seventeen day trip figuring it was plenty of time, not long enough to cost too much money, in countries that should be inexpensive... but damn if I wouldn't mind a few days extra in Lithuania now that the plans lay in front of me.
I booked my miles ticket back in April, and the guy on the phone told me that it would cost $65 to change the dates. Then, when I realized I wanted a few more days I searched available economy seats on my flight using Expertflyer.com . All economy seats were gone. Like I said before, August is a busy time to travel. I eventually called a guy at British Airways Awards, and he told me to keep checking, that the airline might adjust its inventory of award seating based on demand. As time went by even the Business Class award seats were disappearing, and then I was close to the six week time frame of booking all my other tickets, so I had to make the choice to do the best with what I had already booked.
Of course, I could have really been gung-ho and flown straight from Dublin on August 2nd to Tallinn and met my friend Chris there. Chris lives in London, and there are just a few things about that city that give me travel boner. Such as doner kebabs from The Taza.... HOLY SHIT.... While skypeing with Chris about our plans, I flat out told him. "I get there on the 2nd but let's wait until the 5th to fly out. I gotta see the Oil Room at the Saatchi gallery. I want to do a mudlarking tour. And I need to get my fill on some kebabs from the place between the Bayswater and the Queensway tube stops.
He was laughing. "You've got to go into West London for a kebab?"
"Man, you don't know the half of it. This place will knock your dick in the dirt!"
"I love kebabs myself, but you've gotta go into West London for a special kebab?"
"Yeah, mate. Nothing else like it."
When I took the wife to Perfidious Albion (Hitler's name for London), I deliberately booked our hotel within two blocks of the Taza, just so I could get my fill. In thirty-six hours, I had three kebabs and a falafel. The hot sauce and the long yellow peppers they use are the best I've ever had. They are unmatched.
So as much as I would like to see more of the Baltics, a stop in London necessitates an extra two days. Most importantly is the jetlag after flying East as opposed to West. It kills me. No advice helps. Most people suggest you struggle through the day and go to bed early. No. Never happens. I deliberately find a hotel that will let me check-in around noon so that I can have about a five hour nap. I then walk the city at night and eat a big meal and get some drinks, and this way I can go to bed at my usual time of about 2 am, just like back home. No going to bed at 8 pm nonsense. It's vacation.
But as far as the other two things on my list, they are the only two things I can think of that I have not done in London that will fit my layover. Mudlarking is basically the act of scouring the shore of the Thames to see if you can find any artifacts from London's 10,000 years of inhabitancy. I found this blog by a woman who mudlarks and finds some amazing shit: disposable clay pipes, old bottles, pottery. Apparently, you can pick up and keep anything you find on the shore so long as it's sitting their in the open. You need a permit to turn over a rock or dig. I mainly want one of these old clay pipes from the 16th-19th century. While the Thames washes all sorts of new stuff to shore each day, pipes often wash up to the north end of the Millenium bridge. I wrote the lady and asked if the tide would be low enough on the day I plan to go, and she said it will be perfect. There are tours with an archeologist leading who can explain the finds, and I hope to take one of those tours in the future. But there are no tours in the time I'm visiting. So I'll be on my own. And I have to wear nitrile gloves and boots, because London has so many rats that their piss fills the river, and it can give you Weil's disease.
As far as the Saatchi gallery? Well, while national museums in London are free, the oil room is just that, a room filled with oil. Sounds like it smells and sounds like it's amazing.
To conclude, I've heard a number of people say, "I didn't really like London. It was expensive." I have a number of friends who deliberately seek the poorest countries as places as vacation. I mean, I'm doing that for part of this trip as well, going to cheap countries. I'm on a tight budget just to be on one. But to dismiss London because it's expensive or because you didn't do your homework and find things that interest you? That's stupid.