What We Loved: London

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the great city of London twice now. I’ve always looked at travel as a great privilege, so getting to tour a fairly far away place for pleasure more than once is something I feel profoundly grateful for. Funnily enough, I didn’t love London the first time we traveled there 4 years ago. Neither did my hubs. But there are certain cities (admittedly mostly big and iconic ones) that I am open to giving a second chance. After all, I moved to New York City after three visits where I kind of hated it. I took a gamble and now it’s not only the city I’ve called home for almost 9 years, it’s also my favorite place on this planet.

London did not disappoint the second time around. In fact, it exceeded our expectations. We had a blast. We adored the neighborhood we stayed in, we ate well, we had great interactions with people, and we enjoyed all the sites and activities we chose to partake in.

Selecting an AirBnB in Islington, on the East side of London was the best decision we could have made. The first time around we stayed in a hotel in the Westminster area–mostly because it was our first trip abroad together and our instincts (and fears) geared us toward the center of the “action”, aka tourist hell. In reality, I would never direct another traveler to stay in Times Square (although most do). Having to make our way through the swamp of selfie sticks on Westminster Bridge every morning and evening was enough to never make that mistake again. Neighborhoods where real people live are the ticket! Islington was wonderful and chock full of shops and restaurants and interesting places to peruse, all while being fabulously situated between several tube stations that made getting around a breeze.

Thanks to all of you who followed along on IG  and shouted out tips along the way–a lot of them were really invaluable. Now, to fill in the gaps, here’s the rest of our trip to London–in pictures, and a few words…

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We took a tour of Shoreditch (a neighb in the East End) on our first day in the city. While the tour was only so-so (I’ll always recommend ones I think are top-notch, if you want to know about companies I don’t think are so great, feel free to ask me in the comments), the street art we saw was amazing. I’m a little obsessed with Shoreditch. It’s like Williamsburg before all the strollers moved in. So many cool shops and creative people living out loud. The only reason we didn’t stay there was cause we like our sleep. We’re not partiers anymore so while we loved hanging in Shoreditch during the day, Islington’s quieter evenings were more our speed.

I love street art because it’s unpretentious. I don’t feel like I always have to know it’s intention. The artists make me feel like they are open to my interpretation and encouraging of whatever feeling their work evokes.

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Our first day trip from London this time around was to York. Go to York! It’s so charming and  full of history and only 2 hours away on the train (which isn’t the shortest for a day trip but really it’s very manageable). Take a tour with White Rose York. Trust me. You’ll be transported. The madness of Henry VIII will become even more vivid as will the reality of the logistics of travel and life during that time. These are stories you won’t soon forget. Also, make time for a much more contemporary and off the beaten path narrative that can be found at the York Cold War Bunker. This site is a nice 30 minute walk outside of the tourist center and is really worth checking out. It ended up being one of my husband’s favorite parts of our trip!

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Our second day trip (on our third day in London) was Brighton. Hands down, favorite beach town outside of a city I have been to yet–and we’ve been to a few. We tend to gravitate towards them when we take long trips to big cities just to get a different vibe for a day. Brighton was by far the largest and most interesting one we’ve been to so far. It’s very much a city in and of itself and carries it’s own traditions and history. We took a food tour and a bike tour and I would recommend both. Go for a day or two. You’ll enjoy the chill people and atmosphere, and eat and drink really well. At just barely an hour outside of London, this one’s definitely worth it.

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Our fourth day in London was my 35th birthday! Those of you who know me best know that I’ve got two favorite ways to start a day: a run or some yoga. We began the July 1st festivities with an amazing hot yoga class at a studio just down the street from our apartment. The teacher we had actually just got her certification so staying after to chat with her a bit about that was really the cherry on top of the sundae.

Speaking of dessert, after class and some breakfast, we headed over to my favorite sweet spot (whose stall we had visited in Camden Market the last time and whose brick and mortar just happened to be a skip from our apartment, what luck!) to gather some goodies for our return later in the evening. Vegan and gluten free donuts galore. My tummy was extremely happy.

The rest of the day was just as perfect as the beginning. I’m a huge history nerd (as is my hubs) so we visited the Imperial War museum. (There’s SO much to see here, we only scratched the surface in the time we had. Luckily it’s something you can always go back to (it’s free!) and we definitely will). After that we ate another incredible meal (message me for restaurant recs any time and I will share!), and then made our way over to Shakespeare’s Globe to see Hamlet. Last time we were in London we took a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon and saw Merchant of Venice at the RSC, so this viewing of Hamlet pretty much fulfilled all my Shakespearean dreams. We ended the night with a romantic street and moonlit stroll where the whole time I had that feeling of “holy shit, is this really my life?” It was a great birthday.

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Our last day in London started out with a 5k jaunt through our neighborhood (and probably through a few others but we weren’t totally sure where we were!). Although we do a massive amount of walking when we travel it always feels great to get a run in and get the heart rate up. After we burned some calories we turned right around and loaded up on them with an incredible meal of Indian food at Dishoom.

Then more than adequately fueled, we headed out on a tour of the Soho neighborhood which was absolutely fantastic. I think the benefit of getting to come back to a huge city like London more than one time is getting to explore individual neighborhoods on a deeper level. Soho’s sex, drugs, and rock n’roll history kept our attention as we wandered through tiny streets and back alleys we never would have discovered on our own.

One of the things we sometimes take for granted living in New York City (honestly, that was just a turn of phrase, I don’t really take it for granted, I appreciate it EVERY DAY) is our diversity. Diversity–or lack of it, shows up everywhere. It’s in our homes, in our schools, and it’s also on our plates. It was in Budapest a few years ago that I finally realized something quite obvious. I asked our tour guide where we could find good asian food, and she replied, “nowhere.” Shocked, I asked why. She laughed and said, “well, because there are no asian people here.” I chuckled at myself then and thought, “duh, how did I think I had access to everything I eat? I live in f-in America, we are a melting pot! When people immigrate, they bring their culture and traditions and most deliciously, their food!”  As much as I’ve enjoyed eating in different places in Europe I almost always get homesick for food first. I eat Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, and Thai food (to name just a few) on a weekly basis. So as much as I am a meat and potatoes girl, I tend to crave guacamole and/or asian flavors hard when we travel.

Lucky for us, London leads the UK in diversity, so we were able to not only start our day with a delicious Indian meal, but also end it with unbelievable hand pulled noodles from a Chinese spot 5 minutes away from our apartment. It was the perfect end to the best second visit to a city we’ve ever had.

London’s the closest thing to home I’ve ever experienced abroad. Of course it’s different from New York–but the energy and the pace are very similar. London’s depth for discovery is endless and we find that both welcoming and exciting. We can’t wait to return!

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51 thoughts on “What We Loved: London

  1. Hi Cat – I am just catching up on your posts and realise that I missed your post about you visiting my hometown Edinburgh. I hope you got here and had a good time. I have been out of the loop ( except for IG ) as my work has been a bit chaotic these past few months. Am now following you on Instagram – so will keep an eye out for your travels there.
    For the past year I have been working in London most weeks and have become a part-time Londoner as I was living there mid week for a couple of nights. I love London and so glad that you stayed in a neighbourhood away from the tourist areas. I really enjoy your writing and when I read good blogs like yours I am inspired to get back into my own writing groove. 🙂

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    1. Hi Margaret! I actually still have to write about Scotland so you didn’t miss it! Just a little behind–so much to write about ;). But it was really wonderful, can’t wait to share. Then when I do maybe you can enlighten me on some things I was left wondering!
      I love London too! Before this trip I I’d say that Berlin was my favorite city (besides my hometown ;)) but now London is close behind!
      I hope you do get back into writing–would love to catch up with what’s going on in your world. Glad we are connected on IG now though as well so I will get a peek through there ;). Really enjoy having you as a reader, always enjoy our exchanges! x

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  2. Sheree

    New York and Lndon, two great cities that deserve to be fully explored on foot. So much to see, do and eT. Glad your second trip was an improvement on the first. I lived in London for 25 years and loved it but now I’m happy to chill on Cote d’Azur.

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    1. Exactly Sheree–I don’t think I have really even scratched the surface of either of these–and that’s what I love about them. It’ll take my whole lifetime and there’ll always be something new to discover–or better yet, eat!
      I know NOTHING about Cote d’Azur! Hoping that will change now that I am following you, yeah? So nice to meet you Sheree! x

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  3. Seeing your IG and this post about London is a reminder that there’s so much more for me to see! And for all the great documenting of art, historical places of note and food, I love that you’ve kept the running and yoga practise up throughout! The next time I travel, I’ll have to re-read this blog and some of your other travel entries, my travel technique could definitely do with some fine tuning 😀

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    1. I feel the same way Paul! my Dad was actually just here visiting and we did some touristy stuff with him and it was a blast–always have to remember to keep discovering my own city as well!
      And laughing out loud regarding your travel “technique”. I think this is something we refine over time. I really enjoy doing new things, but I also LOVE doing my favorite things, the stuff I normally do, in a NEW place. I kinda think that’s the best!!

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  4. I love travel blogs as much as I love running/fitness blogs this is awesome you photos are fab, I love street art too❤️ Sounds like an amazing trip and a fantastic birthday (I knew it was your birthday, I didn’t know you were 35, we’re the same age 😊you’re a whole 15days older than me) looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip 😁

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    1. I am obsessed with travel blogs too! I wish I was a little more artistic and better with wordpress so I could make things a little prettier around here–for now just working as hard as I can on the content ;).
      Woohoo for the 35 club girl! 1983 was a great year ;).

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  5. What a fabulous account of your travels! Reading it and seeing your great pics felt like being there. The food, the art, buildings, people, neighborhoods and streets all were so inviting. That red phone booth was brilliant. Loved every word! You could write a travel brochure for a getaway to London! Glad you got to run and do yoga during your stay. Beautiful pic of you outside the yoga studio in your dancers pose. Thanks for sharing your adventures Cat!
    Maggie

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    1. Thanks so much for taking an interest in my adventures Maggie–it makes it even more fun to share!
      I was obsessed with those red booths ;). Some of them are really beat up and others have been kept in better attention. I kept wanting to take pics but we waited for a while to find one that looked pretty nice. London has so many iconic things that are specific to them, it’s really fun.
      And yes–always try to run and do yoga wherever we go–one of my favorites. It’s like having a bit of home abroad and it just makes me feel like I am broadening my perspective by experiencing something familiar in a different place. Everyone does things just a little bit differently, love learning that!

      Thanks for your support Maggie! x

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  6. This is excellent timing as I head to London in ac ouple of weeks. Dishoom keeps coming up! Of all the foods NYC does well, Indian and Ethiopian are two we lack. Luckily DC hits the latter and I can’t wait for a good curry or six in London. More ideas for my Google Map!

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    1. So glad this helps Cari–how exciting you are headed there soon! Definitely hit up Dishoom, I thought it was really delicious. Interesting you feel like we don’t have good Indian here in NYC. I am in no way an authenticity expert in that cuisine but there are a few places I really love!
      Hope you have a blast on your trip! x

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  7. Thanks for sharing a most wonderful trip Cat! Have wanted to go to London and your tips are welcomed! So good to travel. Let’s you see how others live and opens your heart to diversity and growth. Have traveled a lot so good memories are like re-tripping!!!

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  8. Oh Cat, What a wonderful trip you appear to have had! Inspiring. I love your advice of staying in an AirBnb away from tourist central. Its what we do when we are traveling stateside and it makes a lot of sense to do it overseas as well. You guys packed a lot it, and the joy on your faces is a delight.
    Happy belated birthday, and thanks! Looking forward to more installments.

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    1. Thanks Steph! It really was wonderful. And I am also thrilled to be back home–so feeling like a pretty lucky woman!
      We’ve done less AirBnB in the states for some reason than we have abroad. We love hotels too and see to gravitate towards that when we travel to cities here, although I am not positive why, lol. Although just recently we rented a place in a cute neighb in Boston and that was definitely the right choice there–was not so into the downtown area!
      Thanks so much for the bday wishes, so glad to be back connected with you! x

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  9. So glad to hear you loved London – my husband is from there and I consider it my second home. I used to work in Buckingham Palace Road and pinched myself every morning, feeling so lucky to live where we did. Also glad you got to experience the Globe – an amazing venue! Your photos are fabulous and capture the city so well 🙂

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    1. You’ve got an AMAZING second home Gill–I seriously love it. I so know what you mean about pinching yourself on the way to work–that’s how I feel about where I live now. How lucky are we?!
      So glad you feel the photos capture a bit of the city you know so well. I can’t wait to go back and get to know it even better! x

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  10. Hi Cat, it’s lovely to see you back! Great account of your trip to London, I look forward to hearing about Scotland and Ireland. Who knows, maybe next time I could show you a Londoner’s (well, originally from Croydon, but it’s close!) view of the city? Or you could come to Northants and run with me through some of my favourite villages! So pleased you took in Brighton – the seaside place of my childhood. You can imagine the buzz there during the marathon, and how lovely (if somewhat painful!) it it to run along the seafront.

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    1. Hey Derek, lovely to be back, thank you! I would absolutely love to have a running guide on my next trip there–that would be amazing. Having a local’s perspective makes all the difference.
      Ok now, the Brighton marathon is really blowing my mind–you guys don’t run on all those rocks do you? It was beautiful but i couldn’t believe people were laying out on them–it just didn’t seem like it could be comfortable!
      Before I sign up for any marathons not in the US I am going to check with you to be assured of the terrain ;).

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  11. Lovely pics and stories, wonderful! I love that you noticed and loved London’s diversity: we’re slightly less diverse here in that we tend to have larger blocks of slightly fewer nationalities, but it’s something I cherish about our city, too. Yay York! Yay the Globe (I have never been to a play there, but have at Stratford).

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    1. Thanks Liz! I’ve missed you! Started reading one of your posts yesterday while i was at work and then a coworker interrupted me with something (how dare they?!) Hope all is well-glad to start catching up!
      Definitely really appreciated the diversity of London–the difference was especially stark in contrast to the places we visited in Scotland and Ireland.
      Yes, yay York! Seriously loved it. And yay the Globe. Although I have to say, I think the RSC and Stratford was my preferred experience– I really loved that venue for some reason!

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    1. I can so see why–it was amazing! It’s really like no other beach town I have been to. I just felt like there was so much more to it. Also, the people were some of the most lovely we met our whole trip, they seemed so happy to have us there, really made us feel welcome!

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  12. Glad you enjoyed it my lovely … I’ve lived in London and now Milton Keynes 45 mins away, all my life and still love nipping down there for a day trip .. lots of history, good food and diversity. Hopefully I’m heading to NYC in November next year for a little 26.2 mile run – will shout you for some hints and tips 😊 xx

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    1. It was amazing lady–I really fell in love. Exactly what you say, history, food, and diversity–everything i love!!
      You definitely must let me know if you run next year, I will give you a million tips AND also come and cheer you on, I would love it!! x

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    1. Ohhh I was sooo impressed with Brighton! So many other beach towns I have been to don’t really have their own identity but it definitely does. Really loved it. And SO much good food! So great. You’ve got a good second home ;). Thanks Ida! x

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  13. Carmen

    Love reading about your travels. You guys seem to tend towards Europe. Have you thought about south east Asia at all. I think you would love it, especially the food. Cambodia (history) and Bali (culture) are my all time favorite places. I know it’s a longer haul but what you spend on the flight you will make up for in the cost of lodging and activities!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Carmen! Thanks so much for chiming in. You’ve got us pegged correctly–we have tended towards Europe–but not cause we are not interested in a LOT of other places. It’s more getting busy with work and trying to research those other places (especially getting to them and around them) it starts to get intimidated. I have researched South America quite a bit but always stop when I look at trying to move between cities and see that buses and trains are regularly held up by cartel ;).
      I have a few friends who have been to Asia and a newer friend who is actually from Singapore and she says she will help me navigate–so I am thinking a trip might be nearer in our future!
      And I have heard what you say as well–that you spend more getting over there but cost of lodging and activities is much less. Definitely something to think about! (ESPECIALLY for the food ;), but of course for the history and culture as well). Thanks so much for your comment and for your encouragement–slowly getting less intimidated by the other continents ;).

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