Well you might not believe me, and to be fair it has been darn near a month but I promise you I did go on vacation. I did have a magical ten day trip spanning across England and Paris where I celebrated my 25th birthday under the glimmering lights of the Eiffel Tower. It still seems like a dream.
It's taken my much too long to write this blog but to be fair, it's taken me a long time to acclimate back to the real world. I still find myself daydreaming about gallivanting throughout the streets of England and Paris, not a care in the world but what amazing tourist destination I wanted to visit next.
Ugh, the real world sucks post-vacay.
Anyway, London had been on my travel bucket list for a WHILE. For some reason London was the city I envisioned myself visiting and falling in LOVE with. Like the kind of love where you try and figure out how to make this vacation destination your everyday home. Yeah, serious stuff.
Funny enough, it ended up being everything I dreamt it to be and then some. Because of that, London and Paris will each be getting their own blog post.
Let me begin with London...
I will admit I was a bit intimidated by the transportation system when we first arrived. Mainly because I wasn't used to such quick traveling by metro and also because we had been traveling for 10+ hours and I just wanted to get to our destination and get there fast!
After a smooth metro ride and a bit of a walk we found our AirBnb which was just as stunning as the pictures. With huge windows in the living room and a little patio right off the dining room, the natural light was to die for - you know how I am about my natural light.
Views from our AirBnb.
Look at this cute little kitchen!
It was funny getting used to such a small living space. In America we're spoiled with the size of our apartments and houses so it was interesting to see how the other side lives in compact little quarters. An example being, my knees hit the wall in front of me when I sat on the toilet - we're talking TIGHT quarters people.
We didn't have much time to settle into our new digs before it was time to shove off to our first activity - England vs Nigeria Friendly match at Wembley stadium. Talk about checking something off the bucket list!
I've always had a desire to go to an international soccer match because of the die hard fans and the energy that reverberates throughout the stadium. At least that's how it seems on TV. But let me tell you, TV doesn't lie - at least not in this case.
We’re here for the home team!
Wembley Stadium, unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
I bet you can’t tell we’re running on like two hours of sleep.
From the moment we set foot in Wembley stadium the air was electrified with the cheers of fans from near and far, ourselves included. Despite the 70,000 people cheering on the home team, it was at that very moment that our jet lag and travel fatigue decided to kick in. We fought our bobbing heads as we struggled to stay awake for an entire soccer match.
But don't let that fool you - we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our first experience at an international soccer match. And dare I say it turned us into England supporters!
Thank God we were smart in our planning for today as we made our reservation for the London Eye at 12:30pm, giving us plenty of time to sleep in and catch up on the missed hours from the flight the day before.
I don't know what it was but for some reason this scaredy cat was totally fine on the London Eye. Maybe it's because it moves so slowly or you're encased in a giant glass bubble, whatever it was I thoroughly enjoyed the birds eye view of the city down below. We booked the VIP tour which gave us access to a special lounge as we waited for our tour to start and came with champagne to be enjoyed during our journey as well as a tour guide who pointed out all the sights below. It is without a doubt the best view of London you can get and there's something about having a glass of champagne as you glide in the clouds that makes it that much more enjoyable.
These are the little glass pods we traveled in as we looked down upon the city below.
Champagne toast at the top of the London Eye.
Once we had our feet on solid ground again, we walked around until we landed on a spot for lunch. You can definitely tell that sunshine is not the norm there as EVERYONE was out and about enjoying the warm summer day. The amount of men, older men at that, who had their shirts off strolling around the city - like I said, I think spectacular weather doesn't come around too often.
Like the locals, we sat out on the patio of a tapas restaurant and enjoyed the sunshine and some delicious bites before heading off to our next destination - Buckingham Palace.
Call me American but I still find the idea of a monarchy simply fascinating! I know, I know, my American is showing. Anywho...
Buckingham Palace was honestly as incredible as you imagine it to be. We didn't catch the changing of the guard but seeing them out front in all their solemn honor was still pretty incredible. I'm just saying, if the Queen is looking for a roommate, I'm her girl.
I mean just look at the size of that place!
On this edition of Cribs…
On our way back home we stopped at this absolutely delish dessert destination, Peggy Porschen's. While the coffee and cupcakes are to die for, it's the exterior that's the real icing on the cake (pun intended). This Instagrammable destination caught my eye on social media a while back and it was immediately added to the London Bucket List. Little did I know that it would be down the street from our AirBnb. Fate.
I promise I didn’t purposefully wear this dress to match the exterior…Although it does look pretty cute.
His and Hers – each dessert should be savored. Trust me, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.
The smile says it all – Peggy Porschen’s is an absolute MUST when in London.
Well, it's official, we made our first rookie mistake today - taking the metro during peak hours. See, I made reservations for breakfast at Sketch at 8:30am, meaning we hopped on the metro right as everyone was heading to work. NEVER doing that again. NEVER. Learn from my mistakes, please, or prepare yourself for feeling like a hot sardine packed elbow to elbow into a tight metro car speeding through the London underground.
Nevertheless we made it to Sketch in time for our reservation which it turns out was not only in the wrong room, but definitely didn't need to be made. There was absolutely no one there when we arrived. We had the dining area to ourselves. How was it the wrong room you might ask? See I wanted the pink tea room that's been splashed across my Instagram feed for months however I got this 70s psychedelic dining room (formally known as The Parlour), decked out with "far out" colors and patterns and furniture. Oops. Still super cool just not what I was going for...
Not quite the bright pink tea room I was looking for, but an incredible interior nevertheless.
Just our own private bartender, nbd.
Turns out Sketch has numerous rooms throughout, each one more Instagrammable than the next. Once I realized I had totally messed up on this reservation, I immediately pulled out my phone and secured an afternoon tea reservation for the following day in The Gallery.
After breakfast we went to Topshop at Oxford Circus. How much would you judge me if I told you this was a life changing experience for me? A lot? Okay, well, it was. I was overwhelmed from the moment I set foot in this three floored masterpiece. Never mind the incredible clothes and shoes and accessories, the place has a cafe, a cupcake kiosk, a salon and a piercing studio to name a few, I mean come ON!
I definitely did some damage here (how could you not), before checking out the rest of the Oxford Circus area. This was by far our favorite day in the city. The weather was a bit more mild which made walking around more bearable than it was on the hotter days.
Each street we walked down was a welcome surprise filled with new boutiques, restaurants and local discoveries. We stopped off at a pub where we enjoyed fish and chips - a must - before continuing our walking exploration.
Bustling with locals and travelers alike, there’s so much to do and see in this part of town.
Each street is like it’s own art installation. How spectacular is that?!
We stumbled upon Covent Garden which was by far my favorite place in London. This open air market is filled with this indescribable electric vibe. Locals and visitors sit in front of restaurants enjoying an afternoon coffee and live music while others check out the flea market for unique finds. We grabbed gelato and joined right in.
Both an indoor and outdoor shopping destination, Covent Garden is an absolute must visit.
Another day, another morning starting at an Instagrammable breakfast destination. Would you believe me if I said our AirBnb was down the street from not one but TWO of London's most Instagrammable destinations?! I promise I didn't do that on purpose...No, but really, I didn't.
We made our way through the sprinkling rain to Dominique Ansel's Bakery for a quick bite before starting our day. As far as food goes, this was my favorite breakfast of our time in London. While I'm fairly certain our almond croissant had a little bit more than a "hint of alcohol" in it, everything was delicious.
Also, Londoners are very into their flower walls. On this particular street alone there were at least three at three different shops. Hey, they know what gets people in the door, a photo moment. I very much enjoyed my photo moment and coffee sitting underneath the flower wall at Dominique Ansel's.
There couldn’t be a more beautiful place to enjoy your morning cup of coffee.
I’m telling you there was something suspicious about this almond croissant, we both left the restaurant feeling just a tad off…A mystery to be solved at a later time…
After breakfast, we made our way to the Sherlock Holmes museum. While a bit small, it's definitely worth a visit for any Sherlock fans out there. Everything looks exactly as it does in Sherlock! Which if you haven't seen, drop what you're doing (well maybe after you finish reading my blog) and go to Netflix immediately. The tourguide transports you back in time to when flatmates Sherlock and Dr. Watson lived together and solved crimes from 221B Baker Street.
Sherlock and Dr. Watson’s living room, exactly as it’s shown in the series.
There it is, the infamous Sherlock Holmes hat.
The gift shop next door to 221B Baker Street.
We had some time to kill before our afternoon tea so we walked across the street to Regent's Park where I stumbled upon Queen Mary's Garden and some of the most beautiful roses I've ever laid eyes on. I now see why people talk about the parks here so much - they're absolutely breathtaking! I could definitely see myself spending time getting lost there.
After stopping to smell the roses (quite literally) for a bit, we made our way back to the AirBnb to freshen up before afternoon tea - you know at the pink team room I meant to make our first reservation at.
We found ourselves back at Sketch but this time went to The Gallery for afternoon tea. This pink masterpiece is just as overwhelming as it looks in photos. Believe me when I say it takes a minute for your eyes to take everything in and adjust to being surrounded by all pink everything. While the food wasn't anything to write home about, the experience and ambiance was well worth it.
Also, don't forget to stop by the bathroom before you go. It's essentially a large white room filled with these white spaceship looking pods that act as the toilets and a rainbow stained glass ceiling. Be prepared for people to be standing in there literally to take photos. Don't judge just yet, you'll be right there alongside them after doing your business.
The serving cups and saucers for the tea were too cute! I wish I would have bought some to bring home – next time!
The artwork was also pretty unique and interesting but still kept aligned with the all pink everything theme.
Yes, those white things are the toilets.
After our tummies were stuffed with tea and afternoon snacks, we had a very important reservation to get to - that of the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour. If you're like me and a child of the 90s, chances are you too grew up on Harry Potter so seeing the costumes, the sets, the films truly come to life at the very place they were filmed was an incredible experience.
When the reviews say it takes an average of 3 - 3 1/2 hours to go through the entire experience, they aren't lying! There's so much to take in starting with some of the drawings that later turned into characters who ruled most of our childhoods.
Who remembers this scene?
Hogwarts – believe it or not it’s much smaller in real life 😊
Day 5 - Our Last Day in London
The sun came out for our final day in the city which was a welcome surprise. We started the morning like any other, at an Instagrammable breakfast destination, this morning it was Clerkenwell Grind. Similar to most of the other spots, the food was nothing to write home about but the interior was serious #goals.
How cute is the upstairs bar?!
FYI: Acai bowls in London are not what they are in California…
The downstairs bar, a commonly photographed area, I wonder why…
Following breakfast we hopped on the metro and made our way to the Tower of London which was yet another incredible trip back in time. This fortress has not only stood the test of time but has been so many things throughout history. Man, if those walls could talk, they would have some stories to tell!
Tower of London – and that’s only one side of it!
Views from the Tower of London, would you look at that beautiful city?!
After getting lost for hours within those historical walls, we went back to one of our favorite areas, commonly referred to as The Seven Dials which was not too far from Covent Garden. It happened to be home to an incredible acrylic jeweler that I had discovered on Instagram and wanted to find during our time in the city.
If you don't already follow Tatty Devine on Instagram, do so immediately! They have some super fun, colorful and unique pieces that you simply can't find anywhere else. I got a personalized nameplate in honor of my little love pug, Coco.
The Seven Dials, home to tons of quaint boutiques and cafes, including Tatty Devine.
Tatty Devine – follow them immediately on Instagram! Each piece is more unique and fabulous than the last.
Our stomachs were grumbling at this point so we found our way to another pub, The Spice of Life, where we grabbed some pub food and pints - I wasn't going to leave London without enjoying a pint. This was by far the best lunch food we had during our trip. It had a really great old timey feel complete with a downstairs room with a live jazz band and a crowd of retirees enjoying their afternoon listening to live music.
After bumming around town, enjoying our last day walking around the city we'd called home for the last five days, we went back to the AirBnB to freshen up before the grand finale of the trip, seeing Mama Mia at the Novello Theater.
The theater was this gorgeous, historical destination that had a wonderful intimate feel. I can't say enough about the theater or the play. I chose Mama Mia knowing that my better half is not a huge musical or play kind of guy but we both thoroughly enjoyed this rendition of Mama Mia. I highly recommend it!
Once the show was over, we made our way back to the metro station but not before stumbling on the Somerset House which was not only a London Bucket List item for me but directly across the street from the theater. I swear, the amount of things we stumbled upon in the city, it was simply fate.
Leaving the Novello Theater after a marvelous showing of Mama Mia.
Enjoying our last night as Londoners.
The Somerset House, just as spectacular at nighttime as during the day.
While we didn't get to enjoy the Somerset House in the daylight, it was just as spectacular lit up at night with no one around but ourselves and a few locals walking through on their way home.
When I say I had a love affair with London, I mean it. The city left a lasting impression on me, so much so that I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.
While it's been almost a month since I've been home from my trip, I still miss it every day. London stole a piece of my heart and I can't wait to go back one day.
(Originally Published July 8, 2018)