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.
What’s better… Christmas season or wedding season?!
As we all know from Wedding Crashers, it’s clearly WEDDING SEASON!
I am a bridesmaid for my sister-from-another-mister Penny in just a few short weeks! The bride tribe and I had so much fun organising her hen do (or bachelorette party as us Americans say) – and thought I would pass on some ideas for your future festivities!
I was in charge of decorations because (1) I’m obsessed with glitter and confetti (2) Pinterest is my Bible and (3) I love a good crafty project!
Amazon, Ebay and Paperchase were my go-to places for operation Pen’s Hen! You can find great decorations at inexpensive prices. I first picked out a colour scheme (white, pastel pink and mint) and went from there!
Paper pom poms, balloons, a ‘bride-to-be’ banner and confetti were at the top of my list – they would look perfect in the Oxfordshire cottage we rented for the bride-to be!
Although there are a few items you need to buy, there’s also so much you can do with objects you already have! I took a few of my picture frames and inserted printed personalised messages into each one including ‘Welcome to Pen’s Hen Party!’ and ‘Sip sip hooray!’ – ideal for a drinks table 🙂
Photos are also a nice way to personalise the space – plus, a great way to reminisce and meet the rest of the bride’s friends!
Since many of the girls were traveling from far and wide – some from outside of the country – I thought hen do ‘survival kits’ would be a nice little touch. Inside were the essentials to get any girl through a weekend away including:
As summer comes to an end, and as autumn’s go-go-go mentality creeps in, I find my mind slipping away to the sunshine and excitement from my summer trips.
The other week I went to Dubrovnik for my cousin’s wedding – and wow, I was absolutely blown away. I had been to Zadar, Croatia before, so I assumed Old Town Dubrovnik would be a bigger version of the quiet seaside town.
Boy, was I wrong.
Dubrovnik is like no other. From its bustling cobblestone streets to picturesque beaches, this city is one of a kind.
After walking through impressive city walls, you’re greeted with a stunning view of a marina as you stroll through stone-studded streets. Palm trees and sunshine… yes, please!
Some may recognize Dubrovnik as a Game of Thrones filming location, which is cool of course, but the city is so much more than that! Dubrovnik is first and foremost a dazzling, historical European city, being a filming location comes after (wayyyy after) all of its cultural and beautiful offerings.
From quaint cafes to little independent shops, Old Town offers a variety of businesses and restaurants. One of my personal favourites was Pupo, where I found my desperately needed oyster fix.
If you’re a pizza, pasta or seafood fiend, you’re in luck. Dubrovnik boasts an abundance of mouthwatering goodness on every corner. Don’t forget an ice cream cone (pistachio for me!) to top it off!
After you’ve scoped out the city’s cobblestone alleyways and city walls, venture to Banje Beach for an afternoon of sun and sea. The beach is just a five-minute walk from the eastern wall of Old Town, equipped with a beach bar and sun loungers to rent for 100 kuna (£12).
The pebbled beach leads you to the refreshing Adriatic Sea. When we were there in late August, temperatures were HOT, making the cool sea water more than welcome.
Beach by day, cocktails and music by night. On my first evening in Dubrovnik there was a mini music festival in the main square of Old Town. It was absolutely surreal to dance to house music under flashing lights in such a historic, seaside setting!
In addition to the impromptu rave, we perused everything from little hole-in-the-wall bars to the city’s massive Club Revelin – there really is something for everyone!
To and fro
Dubrovnik Airport is only 20 minutes away by car. An Uber is about 250 kuna (£30), but you can also take a shuttle to Old Town at the bargain price of 40 kuna (£5).
My family rented an Airbnb just outside the city walls because we had quite a large group. However, you can find deals within the city walls, right in the middle of all the action, for £60 a night (for a couple). If you book far in advance, I’m sure you’d be able to find deals at hotels as well.
Money, money, money!
Many places took both euros and kuna, Croatia’s official currency, but you should 100% use kuna within the Old Town. Not all places take euros, so better safe than sorry!
I’ve posted more photos from my Dubrovnik adventure on my Instagram, so feel free to check them out if this amazing city has made it onto your travel bucket list!
After all, Dubrovnik is calling your name! And you need this beautiful sunset in your life!
Hope everyone is ready for the weekend! Whether you’ve planned a chill movie night in or cocktails in town, it’s going to be a good day 🙂
I’ve always been intrigued by ‘immersive dining experiences’ where dinner and drinks are taken to the next level. I was recently invited to my very first one – Bombay Sapphire’s The Grand Journey! Guests are taken on an excursion (whilst staying put in London!) – from Java to Ghana to Tuscany – to experience the stories of 10 botanicals that fuse together Bombay Sapphire’s gin! Pairing deliciousness with fun facts – I’m in!
Upon arrival, guests are ushered to a platform where you await your carriage for the evening. I really did feel as if I was standing in the most luxurious train station on earth – complete with a fabulous conductor, train sound effects, luggage props and more!
Once we boarded, with each destination came a new cocktail and innovative dish created by Michelin-Star chef, Tom Sellers. Equipped with eye-catching and engaging special effects to match each location, this was the ultimate multi-sensory drinking and dining experience. My first realization: venturing outside my go-to G&T with cucumber is a must from here on out.
Here’s a glimpse of the evening!
Add in some gold glitter and mint, and this decadent cocktail was a hit. Paired with scallops and radishes… YUM.
Bring on my next dinner party because I’m taking inspiration from the fabulous Grand Journey. Who would have thought gin was so versatile?!