I believe traveling abroad does wonders to the soul. It does something to your perspective that domestic travel can't quite achieve. Before this, it's been years since I left the country. The last time I did was three years ago to say good-bye to my grandfather in Sweden who tragically passed away from complications relating to his battle with Parkinson's disease. You know as they say, there is a time and place for everything. And as much as I craved a bit of traveling at that time, coping with the loss of my grandfather certainly didn't spark the desire to squeeze in anything "fun."
Then, as many of you know, I suddenly lost my father this year. A distant relative referred to him as a gypsy. Whether that was meant to be a compliment or an insult, there's no doubt he loved to venture out and explore new places. I think that was his way of getting away from it all. To be honest, I think he never liked it at home. He found a greater sense of adventure by escaping from the demands of his family and career.
As foolish as "dropping all your responsibilities" may sound (because I know that's totally not okay), I understand the root of it. From a young age, he was pressured to take over the family business and become a married man - none of which he truly wanted to be. In the perfect world, he would likely have become a pilot, gone to school somewhere in Colorado, and settled in California - not married but perhaps with a lady friend who would come and go. He never liked commitments. Traveling allowed him to learn more about himself and be the real Roman. He wasn't perfect, but he was definitely cultured and loved to bring back the joy of his travels home with him.
At the end of the day, life will keep moving on no matter who falls behind. Under that realization, I experienced the urge to travel again. With some money I earned from my father, my quest for a much need week-long adventure began. Thank you, Dad.
On this week-long adventure, I wanted to experience something entirely new but at the same time feel a sense of familiarity. What better city to fulfill this quest than London? I'm thrilled to be able to share my experiences with you exploring this beautiful city for the very first time. I'm definitely planning a trip back soon! Out of all the places in the world I got to see, London felt perfectly at home to me. Here is everything you need to know as you plan a visit to this iconic city.
SIGHTS TO SEE:
If this is your first time in London like it was for me, you have to make time for historical attractions. After all, you are a tourist! No matter where you go, getting a sense of the history and establishment of a country is a no brainer. It sets the foundation for you, and helps awaken your senses. Here are some of the great sights to see in London.
1.) Eye of London - the best thing to do if you want to really see London in a whole new way.
2). Big Ben - Although it is under conservation work, Big Ben is still a must see!
3). Windsor Castle - Take a tour of the grounds and see Meghan Markle's wedding exhibition. Her dress is on display and you can see the room where they had their portraits taken.
4). Westminster Abbey - See where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got married, as well as where Princess Diana had her funeral. You also can see the tombs of previous Kings and Queens.
5). Victoria & Albert Museum - if you love history + art, this is a great place to go on a rainy day.
6). Kensington Palace - grab a lunch here and then browse their cute little gift shop!
7). Buckingham Palace - Go here to watch the changing of the guard!
TASTES OF LONDON:
The best part of traveling is the food! If you're able to make room in your budget for a few treats, I highly recommend these places to get a royal taste of London.
1). The Chiltern Firehouse - an old firehouse turned into a trendy boutique hotel, with an amazing restaurant. It is pricy but it's ridiculously cozy and delicious.
2). Selfridges Cafe - On the top level, take a break from shopping and grab a cup of coffee and a pastry. It's such a cute little spot to unwind and they have amazing "cruffins" (muffin + croissant).
3). The Corinthia Hotel - go here for tea, then head over to their restaurant for dinner. The atmosphere is unreal and the food is to die for. If you go there between 5:30 - 6:30 during their Theater special, they have select items from their menu for an amazing price.
4). Sketch London - book your reservation well in advance to be seated in one of their fancy rooms. The menu is a bit intense, and I didn't have a reservation so I sat at the front lobby and ordered some fries and a glass of rosé (because, budget people). Still had a good time.
5). The Royal Horseguards Hotel - here is where I stayed. They are located right across from the Corinthia and they have a fabulous bar menu. We went here for happy hour almost every day and enjoyed a dinner here too. It's decent and comfortable; you can have tea here, as well.
A TOUCH OF HOLIDAY CHEER:
London around the holidays is literally like walking onto a set of a Hallmark movie. Every block is tastefully decorated with holiday lights. Walk around the streets at nighttime and you'll experience an even greater sense of holiday spirit. Here are a few lovely spots to take a stroll around if you're a window shopper like me.
1). Liberty London - such a cute department store. I loved browsing their home decor section! Up in the Christmas room, they have beautiful ornaments and decorations. I bought one for myself to put up on our tree as a sweet memory.
2). Harrods - duh. They even have their own grocery store. You're welcome.
3). Soho/ Carnaby Street - tucked away not too far from Liberty London. So many cute little cafes and shops.
4). St. Christopher's place - also tucked away, not too far from Oxford street.
5). Covent Garden - support small local businesses and find amazing souvenirs to bring home with you.
6). Regent Street - London's version of 5th avenue in New York. Absolutely magical with all the high-end luxury shops you can think of.