England

24 HOURS IN LONDON

After a sleepy bus ride from Oxford (I'm that jerk that takes up the whole backseat row to fully recline) I had a quick and fun 24 hours in London before taking a train to Paris. 

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Got more banh mi at Keu, was lured into The Bridge Lounge by the sound of blues guitar and reunited with the other kids from the hostel for our favorite past time of buying £1.50 beers and creating an outdoor patio in front of The Dictionary.

It was a nice experience to return to a city (that two weeks ago was completely foreign) and be able to easily navigate my way back to somewhere that almost felt like home and see familiar friendly faces. 

OXFORD

Took a train from Cardiff and stopped in Oxford for a few days. Home of the oldest university in the English speaking world, it oozes a historic, academic feel with it's grandiose, ivy covered buildings. 

 baby rugby practice

baby rugby practice

While in Oxford, I painted my nails in Christchurch Meadow (you have to get creative when you're living in a room with 11 other people) and managed to get locked inside a downtown cafe. Long story, but for a solid hour I was trapped inside Art Cafe surrounded by baked goods and free wifi, which if you think about it, was kind of a dream come true.

Having to go to the post office, I found myself in the historic Jericho neighborhood which was originally a place for travelers to rest if they reached the city after the gates had closed. Now it has hippie book stores, cute cafe's and a stunning pottery shop, Illyria, that's owned by a lovely American with great curls.  

+ Keep clicking the photo above for more shots around Jericho. 

I stopped into Oxford to visit my friend George, who I also know from my time in Australia. He just finished school at Oxford and is now working as a General Manager for a brand new bar called The Chester. George is charming as hell, full of pizazz, could talk me off a cliff and is an incredible storyteller. We caught up over many pints and he told me about his life the last 5 years and his recent gigs as a VIP Host at the London and Sochi Olympics ("Nicole Kidman? Nothing to her! Looks like a praying mantis!"). He took me on a mini-bar crawl to the historical Bear Inn (oldest in Oxford, dates back to 1242), Turf Tavern (beautifully lit outdoor seating) and the bohemian Cafe Tarifa

Oxford reminded me of the gorgeous bits of Boston College and George was an absolute delight to see again. Good couple of days. 

HAMPSTEAD HEATH

A cute bicycle repair-coffee shop-gallery on Hoxton Street employs two of the friendliest and helpful men I’ve ever met and they gave me detailed list of things to do around London, one of which was to visit Hampstead Heath. So, I lured Will away from the pub (he’s not an alcoholic, he’s just English) and we hopped on the Northern Line for an afternoon in the fresh air.

Hampstead Heath is massive, quiet park with giant fields and multiple ponds. You completely forget you’re still technically in London while you're there. We got sandwiches from a shop in the swank little town that surrounds the park, hunkered down for a picnic by the model boating pond and then napped in the sun. It was so, so lovely. 

+ If you'd like to see a few more shots of Hampstead Heath and the surrounding town, keep clicking the last photo above. 

THE TATE MODERN

When I lived in Australia for a year (over 5 years ago) I stayed in Melbourne for a few months and lived at the downtown Flinders Station Hostel. Over many games of doubles pool (partnered with my friends from Little Creatures, either George and Joe --- I contributed very little as I'm awful at pool) we became friends with two fun New Zealanders, Amy and Steve.

In preparation for this trip, I reached out to Amy to see if she'd be in New Zealand or in Europe when I am (she currently works as a pastry chef in Swenden) and luckily enough, it turned out we'd be in London at the same time! So, one afternoon I met up with her and her sweet Swedish boyfriend Martin for a walk around the city and a visit to the Tate Modern

 Millenium Bridge

Millenium Bridge

LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL

The London Design Festival was on last week, which consisted of pop-up shops at local retailers. I explored the trail around Shoreditch and found myself wandering into beautiful shops filled with items I have no actual use for as I'm currently living out of a backpack but were lovely to peruse, nonetheless. Pitfield and Good Hood had such different but gorgeous set-ups (with built-in cafes!) I could unpack my bag and live at either quite happily (sort of like how I usually feel at Anthropologie). 

 Good Hood cafe

Good Hood cafe

 Good Hood

Good Hood

 Pifield

Pifield

 This little photobook about man who lived in East London his whole life was in Pitfeld... "I'm Jewish but I go to the Christian church because the people are nice. We see movies together. Last week we saw Piranha 3D."

This little photobook about man who lived in East London his whole life was in Pitfeld... "I'm Jewish but I go to the Christian church because the people are nice. We see movies together. Last week we saw Piranha 3D."

+ Keep clicking the photo above for more. 

NIGHT OUT IN LONDON

To be honest, every night in London was a night out but this one was a particularly good one. A mix of English, Swedish, Canadian and American folk from the hostel plus a rogue Italian (not sure where he came from) gathered and after a few pints we had made our way to a few bars and later to this massive half-outdoor-dance-club, Cargo

 This is Will. He's from Guernsey, England which he insists is a terrible place ( it looks lovely if you google it )  and he's trying to move to London. He's quickly become my best friend at the hostel. He talks a mile a minute and with his thick accent and English slang I can't understand half of what he's saying but what I do pick-up is an absolute riot. He gets very protective when we go out and I talk to strangers even though up until 4 days ago, he was a stranger. He's a good one. 

This is Will. He's from Guernsey, England which he insists is a terrible place (it looks lovely if you google it)  and he's trying to move to London. He's quickly become my best friend at the hostel. He talks a mile a minute and with his thick accent and English slang I can't understand half of what he's saying but what I do pick-up is an absolute riot. He gets very protective when we go out and I talk to strangers even though up until 4 days ago, he was a stranger. He's a good one. 

The cover charge at Cargo was steep (£20 and the USD exchange rate is brutal currently) but it was well worth it. A great night out. 

EAST END

Went on a walking tour of London's East End. Gritty and colorful, it's full of history and great shopping. 

 Rough Trade on Brick Lane 

Rough Trade on Brick Lane 

After getting some much needed sunglasses (it hasn't rained once yet!) at the vintage markets, I stopped into Rough Trade and had a nice listen to the Adult Jazz record in the listening booth. 

FUN FACT OF THE TOUR: back in the day, London was filthy and gin was cleaner and cheaper to get than drinking water (and kept folks warm during the Great Winter of 1739).  The gin they were making was super strong (80% or 160 proof, today it's 40%) and it was usually cut with other cheap toxins, so it often straight-up killed people or put them in a coma. The coma-ridden would be declared dead after 3 days but would sometimes wake-up later, buried alive and banging on the coffin. They started burying people in "safety coffins" that had a bell in them that the buried alive could ring to alarm cemetery night-watchman to save them. Hence, we have gin (and not Zack Morris) to thank for the phrase "saved by the bell".

LONDON

I'm staying at the Dictionary Hostel in London which despite 16 person rooms and 4 AM false fire alarms, has proved to be fantastic place to live. There's a cute cafe and bar attached which has made it easy to meet locals and fellow travelers. 

The hostel is in the heart of Shoreditch, which reminds me of Williamsburg, Brooklyn with well-designed coffee shops, bars and restaurants at every corner. I'll be surviving off homemade omelettes the rest of the week but the banh mi at Keu and coffee at Ruby was well worth it. Needless to say, I have completed abandoned my budgetary-restricted cappuccino limit already.

Everyone is suspiciously gorgeous in London and while I was expecting the locals to be cold (like in Boston, where we politely ignore one another) they've turned out to be wildly friendly and charming. It's been a lovely start. 

+ Keep clicking the last photo above for a few more shots around London.