My husband and I are celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary this week. Here's us cutting the cake on that day:
In late May, early June, we took a trip to London and Paris to celebrate.
Freedom is one of my top core values, and nothing beats travel to truly express that feeling of freedom. One of the things I teach clients and members of the Financial Freedom for Creatives Club is to spend more on what you truly value.
So, I'm really excited to share our trip with you.
First, we did spend more for business class seats on British Airways. It was definitely worth the extra money, considering they were less than half the price if we were to have booked our trip for later in June or in July. So, one of my ways to save money on a trip is to be flexible on your travel dates! We had planned to go in July, when it's our actual anniversary but took advantage of the lower ticket prices by going earlier. We probably saved two to six grand on our tickets.
We each had our our little mini-suite. Michael and I got two adjoining ones, so we could open the window and toast!
It was nice to be able to lie down flat and sleep, to hit the ground running in London with less jet-lag, and I also loved being able to close a door, watch TV, have a drink and enjoy a meal in my own cocoon, especially on a long flight like this and during covid (although no one but us were wearing masks on the plane). I LOVED this non-alcoholic sparkling cranberry and lemon drink:
Once in London, we stayed at a new hotel near Paddington Station called Inhabit Queens Garden. It's just on the north side of Hyde Park in a neighborhood called Bayswater... here's a view from our window - very traditional looking rowhomes, with cute flower shops and cafes.
If you go to London, I would NOT recommend this hotel. First of all, the photos make it look nicer than it is. It said it was a 4 star hotel, but it's really more like a 3 star one. I chose it because it had a "plant-based" restaurant on site that served breakfasts. However, breakfast would take forever, and it had a lot of non-plant based options, including eggs, meat and salmon. One day our breakfast had a jagged cherry tomato stem in a scramble that we almost choked on, and did they apologize or comp our breakfast? No. So, I definitely do not recommend. But I don't want to concentrate on the negative because overall, our stay in London was lovely. Here's us on the first day seeing the GORGEOUS flowers on every street corner and walking around our neighborhood, which included Hyde Park.
Below is part of a memorial fountain for Lady Diana. The photo really doesn't do it justice and probably why most people don't photograph it. It's really, really interesting because it's a low to the ground kind of fountain, and there are places where it's smooth and the water just flows easily and other places like in the photo below where they've added rocks, so the water is choppier. It's such a beautiful metaphor for her short, vibrant and tumultuous life. (By the way, who has watched The Crown? Since going to London, I started the series, and I'm obsessed.)
Just on the south side of Hyde Park is Knights Bridge, home to Nichols and Harrod's department stores. Founded in 1849, Harrod's motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is Latin for "all things for all people, everywhere”. It's Food Halls, are well known, and abundantly spectacular.
Below are some pictures of my in-laws, Hermine and Pete, on a trip to London in 1981. Michael's Dad was representing the U.S. at an international teaching conference. Michael's mom really loved London, walking through the narrow cobble stone streets, visting cathedrals and embracing the hustle and bustle of the city.
Here, 40 years later, we decided to recreate some candids, at the center of London, Trafalgar Square.
We then spent time with Michael's friend Will, who showed us around Covent Garden, the Apple Market, Seven Dials, Neal's Yard and what he says is the best coffee in London, Momouth Coffee. According to Will you have to go the OG store on Monmouth street in Seven Dials.
For lunch we went to Darjeeling Express, a resturant that we saw on Netflix's Chef's Table. It's the best Indian food I've ever had. Michael and Will loved the grilled cheese sandwiches. I believe the Brits call them Toasties. They're everywhere, but these had an Indian twist. The restaurant is now closed, due to having to find a new location, so it was really special for us to get to go and eat there.
I also loved meeting the Chef-Owner Asma Kahn (pictured above). She was sitting with an American who wanted to bring her restaurant to the States. I didn't want to disturb her, but if you've seen her episode of Chef's Table, she's such an inspiration that I just had to meet her. Her story and her restaurant is all about empowering women and girls, and she's someone who really lives out her values. If you haven't seen her episode of Chef's Table (Season 6, Episode 3), I highly recommend it. When my husband told her that I was an entrepreneur and coach, she said she could feel that I was also inspiring women, which really touched my heart.
If you can't tell yet, food is really important to me, and I love all of the women of color chefs. The next day, we went to Borough Market (one of the oldest and largest food markets that started around the 12th century) because I wanted to go to Mei Mei, a food stall that sold Singaporean Street Food, owned by another Asian female chef. However, there wasn't much on the menu we could eat, since I don't eat chicken or beef. (Another travel tip: you can eat really well, pretty cheaply, by eating at some of the food stalls at a market like Borough.)
So, we found a restaurant called fish!, which touts their fish ’n chips as the BEST in London. The funny thing is...I ate here the last time I was in London (about 20+ years ago)!
I've actually been to London twice. Once after college, I backpacked around Europe with one of my high school friends, and then I went to just London with my friend Plymouth Rock (yes, it's his real name) a few years later.
Now, on this trip, our next stop were some iconic London attractions, like Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and the fascinating Tower of London. When William the Conqueror built a mighty stone tower at the centre of his London fortress in the 1070s, defeated Londoners must have looked on in awe. Now nearly 1000 years later, the Tower still has the capacity to fascinate and horrify. Here, we got up close to the Crown Jewels in the year of the Platinum Jubilee, but we don't have any photos because they're not allowed!
Once inside the building with the crown jewels, we stood on little conveyor belts, at one point, which moved us past the crown jewels at a nice, even pace. Again, no photos allowed.
The Tower of London is its own city with Beefeaters who live there! We also saw all of the former royals' suits of armor. Even little kids had suits of armor in the middle ages!
At the Tower of London is the first Mint where they made money. Pictured above is an early gold coin that the minters created on location at the Tower of London.
Since we're talking about money, we went to a museum, and I thought these were interesting. The first and third artwork are done by the Guerilla Girls in 1990 (those stats are still bleakly about the same), and the middle one is by Barbara Kruger.
Now, don't you just love this?
We learned pretty quickly if you don't have a reservation in London, chances are most nice restaurants are "fully committed" for the evening, which is totally different in the States, where even if you didn't have a reservation, you could usually wait at the bar or outside until a table opens up. After a couple attempts at getting into a restaurant, we happened upon Bottega Prelibato (wich means delicious shop in Italian). It's a charming little spot in a back alley in hipster Shoreditch. We were welcomed by a very sweet host, the place was packed, and they offered us a table outside on the patio....in the smoking section. Before Michael could even ask to be moved though, our host came out and upgraded us to a prime table w/ heat lamp. The food was excellent, and the people next to us told us that it's one of the best restaurants in London. So, we scored!
The following day, seeing as it was the Queen's Platinum Jubilee (Yes we were there during the celebration!), Will and Heather showed off Chelsea’s flower show displays. (Not be confused with the Chelsea Flower Show, which I watched on television and was absolutely fascinated by).
While in London, I had to get some shopping done. Besides Harrod's, I really wanted to go to Liberty, a Tudor-revival department store filled with high-end fashion and luxury homeware, with its own fabric line. It's an absolute must, if you love Liberty's beautiful fabrics and to see some cool, younger designer lines. I also happened upon an accessories store called Pretty Ballerinas. A pair of shoes caught my eye, but I walked out with the cutest hot pink evening bag.
While walking through Mayfair, we stumbled into the Mercado Mayfair food hall which is basically the coolest food court ever. It's an old church that has been transformed into London's first sustainable community market. All of the partners are entrepreneurs who care about sustainablility, quality, and traceability. We ate some steamed veggie buns but should have probably tried the wood fired pizzas!
Mayfair was quite touristy but fun to see. Glad we spent a few hours here.
The weather in London was cool and hazy for us L.A. residents, but seeing all of the Londoners and tourists sitting outside, it was a perfect day to be alive! Here's how many steps I took in one day! I believe this is the MOST I've ever walked.
Finally, our first Eurail experience as a couple. I wonder what our lives what be like now if we had met while traveling through Europe in our 20's?
Let me know what you thought of our London experience or what questions you have on spending and saving money on travel. Next week, read all about our Paris adventure! Au Revoir for now!
With Love & Gratitude,
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