Cheerio from the U.K. friends!
Well, almost, I'm officially back in the states now, but my mind is definitely still swimming in the U.K.
Some of you may know, this was my first time out of the U.S., and oh-boy did I want to stay in rainy U.K. forever. Unpopular opinion warning, I absolutely love the rain and the cold. I used to live in Portland, Oregon and it's 90% rain all year long, ah-mazing! Anyways, I loved the U.K., everything is green, even things that probably shouldn't be like street signs and bricks are all covered in moss and ivy. It's so gorgeous. Everything looks like it's alive and living it's best life. I'm gushing.
This trip was a two-week long excursion all over the U.K. including, Oxford, London, Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Edinburgh, and through the Peak District. My family and I rented a car and did a lot of driving through the countryside, which if you've never done before, I can heartily recommend. There really is nothing like the English countryside. Rolling hills everywhere, quaint little farm homes and villages, and soooo many adorable sheep.
I thought a good way to start this post off would be to share with you all some of my packing misfortunes so if you go on an international trip you don't make the same mistakes I did.
International Travel Tips
- No. 1. Bring a satchel bag if you have one, especially if you're traveling in the winter. I cannot tell you how annoying it was to have my tote bag fall off the shoulders of my big coat every five seconds. If you have a reliable satchel/cross-body bag, I highly recommend taking it with you.
- No. 2. Shoes. I knew it was going to be cold in England, and I knew it was going to be rainy, but I didn't prepare for walking everywhere in the cold and rain. Side-note: I only have one pair of boots and they are slightly heeled (about two inches), and I thought walking around all day everyday in these would kill my feet, so I didn't pack them. This left me boot-less in England (potential girl band name??). If you're going to England over winter, I'd recommend bringing two pairs of shoes. One that you don't care as much about for rainy days that can get muddy, and another pair that are comfortable, warm, versatile walking shoes (like these from Poppy Barley - you might have seen these on my Instagram stories - I am obsessed!).
- No. 3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate before your flight. I cannot tell you how incredibly dehydrated I became on my flight. Especially if you're not flying first class, bring extra water on the flight because the attendants do not bring water often. My skin started cracking horribly in the middle of the flight and my legs became ashy. Additionally, be that extra girl who does a face mask on the plane. I brought two face masks (Korean sheet masks) and an eye mask and pampered myself thoroughly to try and keep my face somewhat respectable. This brings me to a my best travel idea to-date: See no. 4.
- No. 4. In-flight travel beauty bag. I recommend taking a small beauty bag with you on the plane filled with must-haves - face masks, deodorant, extra underwear (wearing the same pair of underwear for 10 hours might be a little gross when you get off the plane, so this is a great way to change your underpants when you get off at your destination, especially if you plan on starting a full day out), moisturizer, face wash, toothpaste and toothbrush, maybe even a hair spritzer/mineral water to keep your hair and face looking hydrated.
Alright, now let's get to the good stuff. Here are places I would reccommend checking out in the U.K. (organized by city and then spot!).
A charming little town nestled between the hills with a river running through the middle. Bath used to be home to the Romans back in the day, and was named Bath because it is the site of some of the famous Roman bathhouses, which you can still go into today! I didn't go into the bathhouses because they freak me out a bit, but if you're into that sort of thing, go for it!
The Bath Abbey. Now, I'm not a particularly religious person, however I LOVE old Abbeys. They are all over the U.K. and filled with gorgeous architecture and artwork, so be prepared to see a lot of Abbeys and Cathedrals on these city guides. :) The Bath Abbey is v old and filled with incredible inlaid columns. If you like to take an inside look at history, visit.
Jane Austen's House. Now, Jane Austen lived in Bath for around five years and subsequently had multiple homes throughout her stay there, but if you're an English Lit nerd like me, you'll track down all of her homes and take photos of them. Additionally, you could go to the Jane Austen museum, which is loads of fun but a bit kitchy. You can try on period clothing and learn loads about Jane's life! Some of her novels are even based off of the streets of Bath.
Lunch at The Stable. After walking around all day lunch at The Stable is a must! They have a huge variety of ciders and delicious personal pizzas. I'd recommend getting a blush cider if they have one on hand!
The Circus. Alright, I know what you're thinking, but this isn't like a circus with elephants and tigers and clowns. This circus is a beautiful circle of townhouses built in 1758 that make up a gorgeous representation of Georgian architecture. It's incredible and definitely worth a look.
If you're heading up to Scotland, Edinburgh is a must, if for nothing else than to hear the amazing Scottish accents.
Arthur's Seat. Off to the side of Edinburgh, but close enough by to where you can easily get to it by car is Arthur's Seat. At the top of a mountain next to the city is a stone throne called Arthur's Seat that you can hike up to. Pro-tip, don't be like my family and try to hike up the steep mountain without proper gear (literally I was in a peacoat) and on a day when there is a 60 mph wind advisory. However, I can definitely say this is one of the most rewarding experiences from the trip. Definitely a peak. ;) The views from the top of the mountain are incredible, you can see the entire city and the North Sea. The hike only takes a couple of hours and then you can go grab lunch!
Lunch at Monteiths. A small pub restaurant located under the Royal Mile, Monteiths is where you'll find delicious sips and eats. Definitely one of my favorite meals in the U.K. So quaint, warm, and trendy!
The Royal Mile. This is a mile stretch of local shops that leads you straight to the Edinburgh Castle! If you love wool and cashmere, this is where you can get local Scottish wool and cashmere. It's amazing. I popped by a couple shops and ended up with Scottish chocolate (oh my gosh, so good) and shortbread.
Edinburgh Castle. You just can't go to Edinburgh without seeing the castle. It's massive and incredible. I swear, ninety percent of this trip I was just awestruck with how beautiful and impressive everything is. You can grab a tour of the castle while you're there, and while these tours may seem a bit kitch, it's so worth it. You get to learn so much! I value learning about history and culture much more than looking like a tourist.
Buckle up guys, this one is going to be a doozy.
Sites. There are a few places you have to see if you're in London and have never been before (like me). The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Blackfriars, The Globe, The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, The British Museum, the big sites. Here are a couple smaller sites you should definitely take a chance on: Hyde Park, Kensington Palace and the gardens, Piccadilly Circus, and Notting Hill (all of the little houses - more on this in a bit).
Neighborhoods. Notting Hill. Probably my favorite neighborhood in London. Every corner has a cafe, the townhouses are adorable, and (of course) the Notting Hill film was produced there. Soho. Soho. You can find loads of historic homes, marked by a plaque on the side of the building with who used to live there. Shoreditch. If you're looking for something more Brooklyn-esque I highly recommend Shoreditch. It's not as quintessential London, but it's thriving and is filled with lots of cute shops, such as the highly instagrammable Labour & Wait.
Bites. To be completely honest, I have not done well keeping track of where all we ate, however I can recommend Gail's Bakery for small bites (get the clotted cream and jam scones!! You can thank me later).
Shops. We walked around the entire city and hardly had time to stop into many shops. However, there's always time for a little perusing. Here are some of my favorites: The White Company. Everything in this store is a capsule wardrober's dream. Neutral everything as far as the eye can see, and super nice quality. If I were a wealthy woman, I would spend all my money here. Blackbird Tea Co. If you love tea, or just want to try some fun tea flavors because you're tired of English Breakfast, this place has delicious tea you can try in-shop and take away with you! Labour & Wait. Every Instagrammer ever has been to Labour & Wait. It's like a right of passage if you go to London. It's adorable and I really liked it, however it was a bit pricey, so be prepared.
Museums. I am a total nerd for museums, history, and art. I'm also a total nerd for advertising (what up my fellow ad majors). In London is the Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising, A.K.A. Ami's homeland. If you love seeing how packaging changes with the times (like from 1750 to now), some of the history as to why we have the packaging we currently have, and to check out which brands have dated back to the 1750's, check this place out. It's located in Notting Hill, which if you get hungry you can always stop along Portobello Road for a snack. The British Museum. Another must-visit. Housing some of the most rare artifacts, the British Museum is home to the Rosetta Stone and other great sights. I would recommend getting there as early as possible because crowds start fast and pushing your way around is never fun. Tate Modern. Now, I did not personally get to experience the Tate Modern, however my sister who lives in England recommends it. I'd have loved to check it out had time permitted! If any of you stop by, let me know how you liked it!
We spent most of our time in Oxford this trip. My sister and her husband have a flat on the River Thames, and graciously hosted the whole family.
Sites. Oxford University. Of course. This is a total no-brainer, however, if you aren't familiar with how the university works, here's the inside scoop. Oxford University is made up of individual colleges, not colleges like you'd think of here in the U.S. where within the University of Texas there is the Moody College of Communications. No, at Oxford the different colleges are entire schools housing every concentration available, more or less. Probably the most famous of these is Christ's Church, which is a college where students live and study together. There is a beautiful Cathedral you can go into, and take a guided tour of (it's seriously so worth), where I learned loads about the women (specifically) who have impacted the church and Oxford University (pretty cool, huh?).
Bites. The Trout Inn. A bit of a walk out of town, but definitely doable. The Trout has wonderful food, perfect for a nicer evening out. I'd recommend the Linguine, scrumptious. The Perch. A nice spot as well, but a bit more casual, especially if you go for brunch like we did. Everything was delicious, and it's located next to a beautiful meadow I recommend walking through on your way in. You'll find locals walking their dogs (sans leashes), cows, and maybe even a sheep or two. Opera. If you'd like to visit a cafe while in Oxford, this is your place. They have everything from Middle Eastern desserts and meals to french croissants and tea.
We were only in Stratford-upon-Avon for a day, but it was a lovely little town. Again, I think the best thing you can do when visiting a place like this is to bite the bullet and look like a tourist by taking a walking tour. We went on the most wonderful walking tour of the town and learned all about Shakespeare, his family (immediate and distant), his early and late life, and were able to see the buildings he grew up around. Truly remarkable.
Lunch at the Dirty Duck. Delicious pub food, and if you go after the Royal Shakespeare Company performs, you might even see some of the great actors themselves, like Dame Judi Dench.
Probably the part of the U.K. I have the least to right about, seeing as how we briefly drove through the Peak District, however, if you make your way out to this part of England, and whether you're a English Lit nerd like me, make your way over to Chatsworth House. Chatsworth House is privately owned, however it is the sight where Kierra Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen's Pride and Prejudice takes place. It's absolutely gorgeous. Renting a car, even just for a day would be worth it to see all of the beauty this country has to offer.
I know this has been a lot of information condensed into one blog post, so if you have any questions on which tour groups I used, would like additional restaurant recommendations, or would just like to gush with me over how gorgeous the U.K. is, leave a comment or get in touch! To see all of my shenanigans around the U.K. and in life, head over to my Instagram! :)