Adventure, exploration, travel! It sounds so glam, doesn’t it?
Moving away from home and embracing a new city is a truly wonderful thing. Meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and learning something new – it takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you grow up as a person.
But we’re all human – homesickness is real. I don’t get it often, but every now and then I think about how much I would love a cozy movie night in with my mom or to wine and dine at my favorite DC restaurants with my best friends 3,662 miles away (but who’s counting?).
But there are a few little things that help keep the pep in my step…
Who doesn’t love gifts and pen pals, am I right? My mom and I send each other little care packages full of silly USA or UK-themed presents.
Exhibit A: A USA-shaped cheese board. It’s the one thing I didn’t realize I needed until I got it. In return, I sent her a little German Christmas market souvenir and a British flag chapstick (it is cold season, after all!).
The sillier the better – it’s all about catching the other person by surprise.
Embrace your traditions
OK, any chance to whip up good American comfort food is fine by me.
Thanksgiving is of course one of the biggest days of the year for us Americans – it just doesn’t feel right to not embrace the holiday even if you are overseas. Don’t even get me started on Halloween!
So, make it a thing wherever you are. Invite your friends over, pop some bubbly! There’s always something to celebrate 🙂
Make your home…homey
Make your home away from home…yours!
Whatever your thing is…fluff on fluff, boho chic, plants and flowers – go crazy. There’s nothing better than coming home after a long, exhausting day and relaxing in your space.
Your home away from home will eventually feel like home 😀
Your go-to treats
Let’s be real, sometimes you crave your family’s homemade banana bread or a sandwich from your favorite cafe back at home.
London has a few American places that I have to visit every now and then… Pinkberry, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts (for the iced coffee!)… #basic
A little taste of home is what it is. Although it may seem small, it helps me.
Last but not least…Facetime and Skype to the rescue!
Honestly, I don’t think I could have moved abroad if Facetime and Skype didn’t exist. It’s 100% first world problems, but catching up with friends and family – and seeing their beautiful faces – make it so much easier to live so far away.
What helps you when you’re feeling homesick? Tell me your ways!
I have been lucky enough to have a few of my friends come visit all the way from the USA in the past few months. Seriously, how amazing are they?!
Some of them were in London for the first time, while others know their way around town. Regardless, everyone needs to make the most of their time in this fabulous city! I want my friends to leave LOVING London… so they come back of course 😀
Whether you’re hosting or visiting for a few days, hopefully this top line list will make your London itinerary (depending on how go-with-the-flow you are) a little bit easier.
*Note: There’s WAY TOO MUCH to see in London in 48 hours, so these are just a few mandatory pitstops. I’ve lived here for three years and I still haven’t even seen a fraction of it!
Indulge in afternoon tea
I mean, obviously! What’s more English than afternoon tea, am I right? Whether you’re looking for a traditional setting or trendy hot spot, tea gives you a little dose of elegant English culture.
Growing up with an English father, my sisters and I never left the house without a cup of tea in the morning. While in London, I want everyone to get the experience.
For a traditional tea, I turn to The Orangery, which has an elegant and simplistic ambiance setting amid the stunning Kensington Palace Gardens. You’ll find an array of teas, scones, sandwiches and cakes. Top it off with some bubbles if you’re feeling crazy!
If I’m feeling more of a quirky and upbeat tea setting, I opt for Sketch – think Alice in Wonderland meets Zenon Girl of the 21st Century meets a man in a pink tux serving caviar. The man really is there in pink serving caviar though. Yes, really.
This tea is a bit pricier, but hey, it sure is an experience! Plus, it’s absolutely dreamy.
Stroll through wonderful parks
Fresh air, foliage, pretty blooms and sunshine (if you’re lucky!) – what more could you want?
Every park has its own vibe so check out as many as you can!
My personal favourites are Green Park, St James’s Park, Kensington Palace Gardens, Hyde Park and Primrose Hill. From Primrose, you’ll be able to see the entire London skyline…
Peruse the markets
Foodies, this is for you. London’s markets are the go-to place for anything and everything delicious.
Camden Market has a special place in my heart. You’ll find amazing street food – everything from steamed buns to quesadillas to smoothies. The market is in a fab setting as well – just along the canal.
Beyond the nomz, the market has quirky clothing, collectibles and antiques. Honestly, you can find anything there! It’s a must on the to do list!
Columbia Road Flower Market is also a must. Only open on Sunday mornings, the market features florists and farmers from the area to showcase their gorgeous blossoms.
Also, mix and match? Yes, please! You’ll get more bang for your buck.
Borough Market is another one of my favorites. Located near London Bridge, the food market will blow your mind.
I mean, just look at all that cheese?!
Portobello Road Market is great for antiques – and also looks super pretty in pastels!
Take in the sights + how to do it
London’s beautiful attractions make it one of a kind.
This may seem obvious, but it’s important! Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral…they’re all gorgeous. So, here’s how to do it.
When I go sightseeing with my friends, I usually start at Buckingham Palace, walk through St James’s Park (where you can see the London Eye in the distance), where we then end up at Parliament Square.
From the base of Big Ben, you can cross Westminster Bridge to go south of the river.
If you walk along the water, you’ll pass the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern and Tower Bridge (among others). It takes about 45-60 minutes to walk from one end to the other – depending on if you’re a power walker.
Not only will you be able to take in the sights, you’ll enjoy street performers and riverside restaurants.
Embrace the street art
It’s… everywhere. And fantastic. From Camden to Shoreditch, this is one way to view London’s creativity.
Also, makes for a colourful Insta (come on, you know you’re looking out for a great snapshot!)
Embark on a day trip if you can swing it
You can get to the lovely Brighton on the coast of England in less than two hours by train – from St Pancras or Victoria stations.
It’s a completely different feel from the hustle and bustle of London – and so reachable!
Not only do you get the beach, pier and seaside, you can weave in and out of vintage shops and delicious restaurants in the North Laine area. Honestly, it is so quaint and picturesque.
If you’re visiting the UK anyway, why not venture out and see what outside the capital has to offer as well.
Go for a wander (yes!!!)
So this is the part where I encourage you to drop the guide book for a second – and just wander!
There are hidden gems around every corner. Central London is a relatively safe place – so there’s no need to worry about running into rough areas.
I seem to find my favorite places when I don’t have a plan – here are a few of the many!
There really is something for everyone 🙂 And this is just the icing on the cake – there is so much more! But you might just need more than 48 hours 😀
Need more ideas? I post some on my favorite spots on Instagram
Now that the craziness of the festive season has come to a halt, it’s time to gush about how magical my second German Christmas market experience was. We went to Koblenz and a little town called Hachenburg – both very special in their own way.
I mean, look at those sparkly fairy lights – what a Christmas dream!
I know the festivities are over, but it’s never too early to plan trips for 2018 (I’m sure many of you have ‘travel more’ as a New Year’s resolution – I know I do!).
We spent a day in Koblenz, a city along the Rhine River in central Germany, where we perused upwards of ten little Christmas markets scattered throughout the town.
From glitter and gold to pine needles and red hues, each little market had its own unique decor and cheery vibe. Oh, and complete with WAY TOO MUCH FOOD. I think I could live off bratwurst and gluhwein all day, every day.
What better way to celebrate the holidays?!
We also visited markets in Hachenburg, a much smaller town situated about a 40-minute drive outside Koblenz.
Although it wasn’t of the same scale of Koblenz, it did not disappoint. For one, just look at that architecture! There was one main market in the centre of town surrounded by historic buildings decked out in lights and decorated trees.
Here’s a look at the small town Christmas vibe with a big, big celebration!
I know it’s 11 months away, but be sure to add Koblenz and Hachenburg to your Christmas wish list in 2018.