I had an exceptional Airbnb experience in London…
London is a huge city.
On my first trip there, I was 10 years old and with my parents, tagging along on a business trip. We stayed in a hotel near Picadilly Circus and it was a time for many firsts. The first time I saw a towel warmer and learned you could use it to keep your trousers crease-free. The first time I tuned in to the BBC. And the first (and only) time I was ever admitted to a hospital on a trip (I had a bad experience at McDonald's).
Twenty-odd years later, I was planning my second trip to London, and did not know where to begin looking for a place to stay. Luckily, my friend Cristina attended LAMDA a couple of years back, and because of that, she'd become my go-to person for all things London. She told me that West Kensington was a good area to stay at, and thus began my search for the perfect cushy / not-so-expensive Airbnb.
With Cristina's help I did zone in on three places and eventually settled on one townhouse (see the row of houses pictured above) which I booked as soon as I had bought my Harry Potter tour tickets (priorities).
Before I go into my Airbnb in full detail, let me tell you about where I was staying.
Honestly, I did not realize how posh this neighborhood was.
A year before this trip, I had the pleasure of interviewing the wife of the former Philippine ambassador to the UK for an article. She told me that their family, during her husband's post, lived right across Kensington Palace.
It only dawned on me when I was actually in West Kensington that this was the exact same Kensington neighborhood that the fancy lady I interviewed was talking about. The same Kensington where William, Kate, and Harry (and Meghan?) reside.
Kensington Palace, the High Street and the gardens were a super quick bus ride from my place. The gardens were particularly beautiful this time of year. I was there in October and the leaves were just beginning to turn. I sat for a good half hour on a bench down this road, watching people take walks. There were was a pond nearby with swans. SWANS!!!
There was a statue of a young Queen Victoria right by the gardens with a QR code that let you listen to her "speak." The Queen grew up here and if you've not seen Jenna Coleman portray her on the PBS TV series yet, then I suggest you give it a go.
I loved where I lived because it was a short walk to two ]stations. There was West Kensington, where I would take the District line to most places on my To-See list.
And there was Kensington (Olympia), which I would take home on late nights. This station was right near an expo center that was holding a chocolate exhibition right before I left (that I missed).
I had a very pretty bedroom with a super fluffy bed. I had built-in cabinets (so many!), a proper reading light, and strategically located electrical sockets for gadget-charging in bed.
Decor-wise, I dug the lovely plaid headboard which matched the blinds. The pastel lavenders and greens offset light stripes of the wallpaper, which then matched the gingham of the window frames. I was in the dream bedroom of my 12-year old self.
I lived with my host, an interior designer (which explains the matching fabric and wallpaper) and her partner, a theater actor and director (who reminded me of a British Kevin Kline).
My window looked out to a private courtyard, which would have been perfect for morning writing sessions (hypothetically). I spent my mornings watching Netflix in the comfort of my room, which, to be fair did have this view. It was so nice to draw the curtains first thing in the morning and see all this greenery though. Sometimes, the house cat would saunter by.
(You know I am not a pet person because I have completely forgotten the cat's name by now and do not recall taking any photos of him / her).
Even though I rented a private room, I got practically an entire flat to myself. I shared the basement with my host, who had her office on the opposite end of the hall. I had my own fully functioning kitchen, breakfast nook, washer dryer, bath, courtyard, bedroom, and refrigerator stocked with juice, yogurt, and grapes they had grown themselves. WHAT.
For $110 a night, this was a tremendous steal! I was overjoyed the minute I stepped into this place, knowing that I would be spending a full 10 days here.
And not just that, my hosts were the nicest. They were in touch with me way before my arrival, making sure I had tickets to all the museums / plays / whatnots I wanted to visit. They arranged airport transfers for me even if it would have been so much simpler for me to take the train (I had five-weeks worth of stuff in my case, I did not want to have to deal with the commute). And on one, particularly embarrassing instance, they even helped me with my laundry because I needed to step out already and the dryer was taking forever (I overstuffed it, no wonder).
So when my London trip was over, it kind of pained me to have to mention this *one little bit* in my review.
It's actually my fault I missed this glaring detail in the fine print—I was only too happy to have finally found a decently priced room with my own bath in West Kensington.
I was overjoyed when my host gave me my Airbnb tour. I arrived at the house at around 9 PM—I was exhausted, and basically just wanted to take a nice shower, change into clean pajamas and sleep. The bathroom was sparkling clean and there was no yuckiness in the grout (my pet peeve)—it was perfect.
But when I stepped into the tub and turned the water on (after receiving very specific instructions about the boiler), I realized that I was caught in a predicament. With only a hand shower to work with, no curtain to draw over the tub, and a fully carpeted bathroom, there was no way for me to get myself clean the only way I knew how—by showering STANDING UP.
Brits love their baths (I realize this now). But Southeast Asians (like me) love showers so much they take them multiple times a day. I am not myself without a morning shower and an evening shower. I can't not wash my hair everyday. So given this layout, I found myself in a very compromising spot.
For 10 days—yes, TEN DAYS, I tested one position after the next, trying to figure out how to best take a shower without causing water damage and wrecking my Airbnb. I crouched; I bent over (the recommended position, btw, for hair-washing—not great for your lower back, seriously); I sat (you cannot get ALL OF YOU completely clean in this position, just saying); and I basically dreaded coming home and waking up throughout my trip because I just could not get comfortable. I eventually settled for a thorough shower at night instead of twice a day, with me standing up (even if I wasn't supposed to) and holding the hand shower very precariously so I wouldn't spray water all over the place.
You can imagine my relief when I flew out of London, arrived at my hotel in Amsterdam and saw a rainfall stainless steel shower head in my hotel bathroom. THE JOY.
So that's it—make sure you read the fine print and check multiple times before booking your Airbnb. When people say "private bath," they probably mean private bath. Not shower 🙈
It cracked me up that someone I follow on Instagram posted this 👇 a month after I had gotten back from my trip.
No truer words have been uttered. Ever. At least this one had a shower curtain. 🚿
And now that I'd gotten this tiny tidbit out of the way, I can't wait to talk about what I did enjoy about my London trip.