Riding a bike in Hyde Park//H&M jacket//& Other Stories boots
I'm here, I'm in London! I'm no small town girl no more. My world has expanded for me,
I can dip into it and touch it, I can gently bump the countries around 
with my fingertips...

I'm writing from my sister's couch in her apartment in the English countryside. I have looked forward to this for more than 6 months of saving and planning and anticipating, and now I'm finally here! And it's very surreal. I have been in the UK/EUR for three weeks now and I'm not ready to go anywhere but this side of the world for now. This post is a long one so I'll break it down into pieces of information and imagery for you to enjoy.
July 12th, 10.30pm, I got on a plane with my twin sister to fly as far away as we've ever been before. 10 hours in it lost its charm. 16 hours in and I'm not even fazed. 28 hours and it's coming to an end, we've reached our destination but I'm unsure of my very existence - is this a dream that I'm awake inside? The whole plane journey I questioned what we were doing in a plane and completely forgot where we were going. My brain decided to agree with the fleeting assumption that this was my new job: sitting still for hours on end, on a plane. Yup. I guess this is it. Goodbye dreams, I'm leaving you for long-haul flights and trays of awful food I'm not even hungry for. NO! I snap myself out of it by watching Bridget Jones' Diary. 

When I walk out of the arrival doors I feel like I'm moving through heavy water towards our big sister Kobe. Suddenly I'm in a car being driven out of Heathrow with a can of coconut water in hand - oh sweet hydration! I cannot stress how good it was to arrive to familiar flesh and blood! (and coconut water)

FLIGHT SURVIVAL NECESSITIES: the more nice smelling things to spray on your face to refresh yourself, the better!
HEALTH: fruit & nut snacks; SUKIN hydration face mist; CAUDALIE beauty elixir; GROWN ALCHEMIST day cream; DOVE deodorant & face wipes; constant water bottle refills.
SLEEP: eye mask; neck cushion; dress in layers: shirts, jumpers, scarf & poncho - it gets cold on flights!
ENTERTAINMENT: APPLE ear-pods & a good book.

England is my base during my travels, in a very small and very pretty country village. My sister Kobe has lived there for years and lives in a quaint apartment block where a screaming baby two floors down certainly made our sleepy time all the more enjoyable. It's about a 1 hour train trip from London city and has all of the essentials - such as Mr Whippy vans by the waterfront - and plenty of fresh country air to go round'. Everything is within walking distance so if I wanted a Mr Whippy, I could have one whenever I wish - but never did because they looked sussed as fuck.

 Holly in the local graveyard                                                  Local countryside walk

With walking trails abound, the refreshing countryside helped a great deal with recovering after a long flight - and throughout the trip for that matter. Nature can really help centre yourself if you take the time to immerse yourself in it. The greenery was so lush despite it being summertime and overall the lasting impression of the English country side is flowers, and more flowers.
The little town only offered so much, along with it's neighbour town Manningtree - where we caught our train into London from. After observing the swan filled bay on our walks into the town spaces and gorging on cheap bakery food  - ah yes, the British bakeries do it well - we felt more at home than ever in our little sea side/country side location.

Adorable houses sitting on top of the town's main road which is just big enough for two cars 
Ahhh but London! So much to see, so much to do. People are always on the move, it's busy and bustling 24 hours of the day. I felt so comfortable in it and although living in a country town my whole life, I felt like I was in my exploring element. The city is pretty gorgeous and I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. There's this undeniable buzz around the River Thames in the summer evenings, people are everywhere and once dusk falls street food vans open into a mini food festival along the pathways beside the river. Restaurants are full with the sound of laughter and voices spilling out from them. Daytime buildings turn into lively bars in the sky that overlook a city lighting up. Business men rush to their Tube stations while we stroll casually over the bridge soaking up the sunset, reflecting on the water. Buskers play and the River Police pull their boat over to listen, nut roasting stands waft sweet smells through the crowds of people, the sun goes down. After we eat, we exit to a sparkling city and go to the TATE which is open late.

Detour street just outside of tourist area, London
The scale of the city is overwhelming on a map and even more so once you're in the thick of it, but nevertheless super easy to navigate around after your first few days there. The Tube was a godsend and has changed my thoughts on public transport forever (as the shitty Queensland public transport system was what my previous opinion was based on).

Sitting by the River Thames & colour co-ordinationg with the Tower Bridge 
The long and short of being a tourist in a new city is that you must have a hit-list. The one I had devised while planning my trip had set the bar far too high for my virginal travelling prowess and was almost immediately culled upon arrival.

I decided against culling the whole thing and just went at it with a pen and brutal mentality. Here is what I ticked off of my list: 
 - Bus Tour of London (gave us some kind of bearings in our jet lagged state)
 - Tower of London 
 - Buckingham Palace
 - Ferry Ride down the River Thames 
 - Oxford Street
 - St Paul's Cathedral 
 - Institute of Contemporary Art  (somehow only managed to see the gift shop???)
 - National  Gallery (you could spend hours in here but Holly and I opted for the quick sweep of an hour and a half)
 - National Portrait Gallery
 - TATE Modern (rad gallery)
 - Victoria & Albert Museum (so much love for this gallery, my favourite in London due to it's garden  facilities and delish cafe area during the summer!)
 - Natural History Museum (cool stuffed animals and very hard to get out of and you will want to because it is B O R I N G!!)
 - Harrods (so cool just to see it! We got lost and spent at least an hour more than planned in here)
 - Camden Markets
 - Spitafields Markets
 - Borough Market
 - Richmond (stayed in a mansion and ate at a five star restaurant, not bad)
 - Covent Garden (such a pretty area of the city!)
 - Soho (trendiest area ever)
 - Hyde Park
 - Lots of shopping

Holly window-side in the Tower of London                                Strutting Tower Bridge

Basically, you can't do everything, you just can't. And that's okay, because I don't have a problem with leaving things to do for next time (such as the Kew Gardens, Saachi Gallery, Fashion and Textile Museum, and exploring the area of Shoreditch!) I found out the hard way that being a tourist is incredibly taxing on the human body. After days out I felt exhausted, no matter how many pick-me-up, ill made coffees I consumed throughout the day. So after our first couple of trips into the city with Kobe as our guide, we devised a top place we wanted to see for the day and then followed with whatever we felt like doing. That way the day is far more enjoyable - but I was always tired afterwards!

Installation of ceramic poppies at The Tower of London where 100,000 would be 'planted'
1. Riding bikes in Hyde Park: There's something so liberating about riding a bike at night time with your sisters. This was seriously my favourite thing we did in London the whole time I was there and it cost us £2. Hyde Park had been calling the whole time and it seemed to just get forgotten - I don't know how seeing as it is freaking huge. We hired the Barclays bicycles from a rack which are dotted all around the city and rode around for about an hour. Passing tourists and Londoner's that were reclining in London's half hearted summer warmth, we rolled past the coolest roller-skaters who weaved in and out of orange cones to 90s hip-hop tunes, skaters skated on the opposite side. Hyde Park definitely has a vibe - a place for the kids who don't quite fit the cliche businessy-type gig - while still retaining the standard's of classy London. After a quick break and a catch up with an old friend, we were back on the bikes and rode around into the darkness that was settling over London.  We laughed and swerved into the night to the No.23 bus which took us on a twilight journey around the city.

Holl, Kobe, and I in Hyde Park riding our Barclay bikes around n' around

2. The Museums & Galleries: most are free to enter and I went to so many amazing exhibitions. At the TATE Modern I saw some of Matisse's last works and was devastated when I found out Yayoi Kusama's exhibition has just finished; at the National Portrait Gallery I saw Virginia Woolf's complex life laid before my eyes; at the V&A I drooled over the incredible Italian Fashion exhibition and saw iconic Italian designer's original works behind glass. I could happily live in these places and quite easily spend extraordinary amounts in their gift shops. I highly recommend educating yourself on what's on at these places in particular, you'll be surprised how you can enjoy a lot of it for free too!

Sneaky iPhone shot in the Matisse exhibition at the TATE Modern

3. Explore areas like Soho & Covent Garden: make sure you don't get so caught up in the tourist designations that you forget that there is way more to see in London. From Liverpool station you can walk to the Spitafield markets, I found great coats being sold by a Frenchman (but were too heavy to take home!) and cool handmade dresses by a young girl, along with lots of handmade jewellery. From there it's a stroll to the left into grungy Soho or to the right, the bar that 'Jack the Ripper' was known to drink in. We first found a 'box building' which was literally a massive box with small, trendy shops in their separate slots, stairs lead up to food shops and an open bar which was packed at midday. Strolling food markets, huge vintage market style shops, great vinyl stores, quality food, street art, and THE BEST fashion magazine outlets are what I loved about Soho.

Walked by this beauty, flowers are literally everywhere in London
Covent Garden is pleasing to the eye for anyone in favour of bright bunting strung through streets, with cute coffee shops, patisseries, and skincare shops abound. We were told to find the mysterious Neal's Yard Corner, it's tucked away from the main stretch and once down the alleyway you emerge into probably the most colourful part of London! Neal's Yard skincare and therapy rooms are found there, along with a Neal's Yard Dairy selling pungent cheeses. Upstairs were health food restaurants that had brilliant flower boxes on their windows. I loved Covent Garden.

Colourful Neal's Yard Corner where I picked up some beautiful skincare
Leafy window in the Covent Garden A─ôsop store
Testing products in the stone basin

4. Markets! : The renown Camden markets are the first we hit up. Gee, you wade through a lot of shit to get to the good stuff but I did find pretty things at the Camden Lock Market - as the market is multiple put together. But a part from that, it's all 100's of people sprawled on the streets with crappy London tourist stores that flash brightly at you and Bali tee's that were never really cool. I did see some talented artists drawing on the cement, and trendy punks wondering around asking themselves what Camden has come to. You can bag a delish meal at the Lock Market too, lots of food sizzles away - we just made the mistake of eating a trusty Pret sanga before we went. 

My favourite picture of Holl at a Camden leather store
Food stalls at Camden Lock 
We settled in a cute tea shop upstairs where they played the Pixies = heaven in chaos of market place 

The market I loved most was Borough Market! As soon as you enter the huge glass green-house style building, you know you're in for a foodie's treat. Food, food, and more food! Even in the lane way of the market there's a bustling chocolate cafe that sells hot chocolate using quality melted chocolate with flavour twists, heeeeaven! We tried every taster possible while surrounded by cheeses, cold meats, olive oils, fresh breads, and famous British feeds - and were sold on a delicious salted beef sandwich in the end. Colourful, plentiful, Borough market you really treated us very well.

Turkish treats under the warmly lit themed tents at Borough Market

The market is packed with people, the aromas of amazing food from all parts of the world, 
and the sound of laughter and chatter as people are most happy surrounded by food

Beautiful colours in a dreary London day outside
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm yes
London is a busy place, if you go there with a good mind set and don't put pressure on yourself to see everything and anything you'll have the best time. I love London, you sweet ol' thang. 
My favourite place out of London Kobe took us was to Cambridge - which we visited twice! I loved Cambridge and would probably want to study there in one of the many castle like colleges that sit on the edge of the prettiest river ever if it wasn't $1mill per semester - or something very drastic of the likes - and also if I was a 'fop', but I'm not a 'fop', and I don't have much money, so no, I won't. It  is weirdly European in a very British way (?) and very posh - beautiful green lawn that you're not allowed to sit on says it all. Gorgeous park with ping pong tables handy, beautiful shops, watching fudge being made, and a DELICIOUS Italian focaccia place that always had a line out the door is how I remember Cambridge. 

What a majority of the architecture looks like in Cambridge - cathedral in background
We went punting down the river on worn wooden boats after being hassled on every corner to jump on one, and it was the best decision of the day. It is so pretty down the river, willowy trees would sometimes brush your head to avoid on coming boats steered by fresh punters who wobbled about, "in control" of their family or friends - who were stitches of laughter. Our punter did this every day in the summer, therefore collisions were avoided! You basically lounge in a boat for 45 minutes or so while being fed history of every bridge you go under, and every college you pass. You feel like you're on a movie set, it really is breath taking.

Punters' punting 
Smoke break spot on the river after punting in the sun

From what I saw of England, I generally really liked and enjoyed. We did so many things but I hope I put in the ones worth your reading time. It has taken me such a long time to finally finish putting this all together, let alone having the motivation to sit down and write about things that now seem so long ago! Travel is such a special thing and there is so much more to come on my time overseas - so please stay with me while I sort through the 1000's of photos I took!

Love, Chlo