The Gowers’ flat is a great base for exploring London. Mottingham rail station is a 10 minute walk downhill (Eltham station is about 15-20 minutes in the opposite direction), and London Bridge is a 15-minute train ride away. Charing Cross is an additional 12 minutes. The penthouse is in a beautiful, gated Victorian home on a tree-lined street of gated homes. This is a nice neighborhood; I felt very safe. Sainsbury’s, restaurants, shops, and pubs are a 10-minute walk away. A post box is less than a block away.
On the plus side, in addition to the location, this third floor (in American terms) flat is large by US standards; by European standards, it’s gigantic. The architecture is fun—there are skylights and angles everywhere. The view from the dining room window over the (big, very green) back yard is great if you’re into bird watching. The beds are comfortable and the shower talks to you. (She has a funny Japanese-Donald-Duck voice.) If you like Ikea, you will love the décor. Lana and Alan are perfect hosts—they live onsite, but are totally unobtrusive. If you need them, they’re there. Otherwise, you’ll never see them.
On the minus side, I’ve rented several homes in Europe and this is the first that was not well-stocked. Usually the hosts leave something, even if it’s just a loaf of local bread and butter and a small jug of milk. The penthouse kitchen contained some salt and some sugar and a bottle of vinegar, one potholder, one tea towel, and washing detergents. It would have been nice to get at least two potholders. Some of the furnishings are a bit worn, and if you have trouble getting out of very low furniture, beware. Also, the angles that make for interesting architecture and skylights can be dangerous if you’re not short. Get off the toilet in the wrong direction and you could give yourself a concussion.
Bottom line: the nicest thing about the flat is probably the value. We paid half of what we would have paid had we rented a hotel room, just a small room, in the city. There is no argument that the price of the flat makes up for any imperfections. If you are willing to ride the train and walk a bit, I highly recommend the penthouse in Eltham. We bought 7-day travel passes for 42 pounds each; they allowed us to ride the rail, the tube, and the buses in zones 1-4 on- and off-peak times. They saved us both money and time. One other recommendation—pick up a “half-off” brochure the first time you catch the train. We didn’t see them until the last day we were there, and we could have saved over $100 on attractions if we’d checked them out a week earlier!
We rented through Wimdu.com, and I was a bit leery since it’s a fairly new company. But we had no unpleasant surprises; the entire rental process was very smooth.
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