Tips for Travelling Through London 

Our time in London has come to and end and so I thought I might put together a bit of a concluding page of helpful tips for travelling through the city that people talk about all over the world. All in all I did not step off the place and fall in love with this place like I immediately expected, however I’ve never believed in first impressions and so of course the city did grow on my. I found that I loved the areas that were less in the business district and more so in parts of the city I found tucked away while wandering a random street. The nightlife and theatre district was always filled with energy and I’ve definitely decided the city in the evenings is something I’m a fan of. Realistically speaking, if you grew up in a city in Canada, london is going to have pretty much everything you’re used to having…probably more. It was by no means a difficult city to be a tourist in. If I were to go back to England I think I’d travel to some other areas before heading back to the city. However I really think it would be interesting to spend more time there to find the parts of the city that only locals know about. Anyways you’ll have to visit and decide for yourself! 

Here are some things I picked up along the way that may help if you’re travelling there anytime soon:

1. If your phone is unlocked, there is a phone company called “Three” where you can get a UK phone number and 12GB of data for 20 pounds. If you are travelling for longer they give you a code to top this up whenever you run out of data/texts etc. This also works in most European countries you just need to make sure your phone is unlocked or you won’t be able to use this as I wasn’t. 

2. There is wifi virtually everywhere you go– even in most department stores. I even had wifi at Hampton Court Palace. If you’re staying in London you probably don’t even need a phone card. But it can make things easier if you’re trying to communicate with people in the country. 

3. People don’t really tip in London. Generally 10%, and you only tip if the service was actually good. This is because their minimum wage is rather good here and most often tip is already included in your bill. 

4. The tube is amazing and ridiculously easy to use. When you get to the tube station you can buy something called an Oyster card (another card that you can add money too as you go). You’ll scan your card on your way into the tube and then when you scan it on your way out it will subtract that amount from your card based on the distance you travelled. Make sure you scan on the way out or it will take the entire amount off of your card as a penalty. The best part about this system is that the amount caps off at 6.60/ day. So you can virtually ride the tube as much as you want for that amount 

5. Tesco & Tesco express. This is their grocery store (or one of them) You can get anything here, yes including alcohol. The best thing is that they have a meal deal which includes a sandwich, snack and drink for three pounds. For those of you concerned about health I used to get a garden sandwhich, spinach smoothie and organic granola bar. YOU CAN SAVE SO MUCH MONEY IF YOU USE TESCO. 

6. Tourist attractions i.e. Museums, palaces & churches close around 1700 with last entry often taking place around 1630. Get up early if you want to fit everything in. 

7. London Pass– this pass offers you admission into a set amount of tourist attractions over a certain amount of consecutive days (of your choosing) once you’ve activated your pass. It includeds access to a hop on/hop off buss tour as well. The pass gets cheaper the more days you choose to use it. I highly recommend you determine whether you are going to use this pass to its full potential before you decide to buy it. You will most likely save money if you don’t use it.

8. Check out festivals in the area before you go. There is so much going on in this city! While we were there, their summer food festival was going on. Come July there’s a music festival like every two weeks. The queen’s birthday parade happened while we were there too. This is a happening city! 

I expect some other things will come to mind that I’ve forgotten and I’ll update as I go! But for now goodbye London! It’s been a pleasure!

With love,

Kolina 

Food & Drink In London 

Food in london basically means you can eat anything that your little heart desires. I’m not kidding when I say that if you want something, you will find it, you just have to look (and generally speaking, you don’t have to look that hard) I’ve been searching out vegan and vegetarian options because that’s generally how I eat at home. But for the purposes of this trip I won’t be sticking to one specific diet. I’m looking forward to trying the different cultural dishes in each place we visit!

Below are some of the things I ate (.. and drank.. duh)  throughout the week! 

This vegan food joint is located on oxford street. I stumbled upon it on the way back from the tube by chance. As pictured below I had coconut chickpea curry, vegetables & hummus, and a rice mushroom stew as well as a coconut iced latte for around 12 pounds. NOT BAD! (And very delicious) 


Kelsey and I enjoying our long coveted Butterbeer at Hogwarts! 

High Tea- A must do if you are in England!

I really didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did but it is such a lovely way to spend some time with the people you’re travelling with. There are multiple courses of tiny dishes as well as scones and desserts at the end. My favourite part was the tea which might sound a little obvious but I’m quite the tea fan at home. 

Bangers & Mash! 

I was hell bent on trying some traditional English food and so I searched out a place that had what was promised to be good bangers and mash. To be quite honest I’m really not sure why I was so intent on having this dish. I don’t often eat meat and I hate mashed potatoes hahah! Needless to say this wasn’t my favourite meal but I’m glad I had the opportunity to try it. 

Pictured below is the Mac & Cheese I had at Camden market. By far THE CHEESIEST Mac & cheese I’ve ever had with an interesting twist of pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella on top. 

At Camden market there is a stand where you can order a cereal cocktail! I didn’t get a chance to try it but I thought it was a pretty interesting idea & proof that you really can do anything with alcohol 😉 

By far THE BEST vegan meal I had this week was this crepe at Camden Market. It had tons of vegetables, smoked tofu, tahini, sesame, spinach, roasted squash, and of course the crepe. It was ah-mazing. 

Fish & Chips! A classic. You can get them anywhere in London and you just have to do it even if they aren’t your favourite. Peas seem to come with everything here too. 

If you get a chance, have a 3 Hop lager, it’s brewed in Edinbugh and it’s quite good. 

Tea, scones and clotted cream (sound a lot more “heart attacky” than butter if you ask me haha) from Hampton Court Palace. I mean can you really go to a royal palace without afternoon tea?

Hawkers Ginger Beer. Refreshing! Warning – it’s much sweeater than you think it’s going to be! 

Have a tasty day!!

With love,

Kolina 

Welcome to Hogwarts 

On this day I did what many have dreamed of doing since were little and burying our heads in the books or lining up outside movie theatres to see it on the big screen- I went to Hogwarts. 

I really have nothing I can say to give it justice other than it.was.magical. 

We saw everything that made this movies one of the favourite parts of my childhood. All I wanted was to be Hermoine Granger. HOW COOL would it be to play quidditch with your friends and study potions and spells. Every year my sister and I have a Harry Potter marathon at least twice, and I’ve read the entire series 3 times. In fact Kelsey and I downloaded all eight films to watch throughout Europe while we’re here. Okay OKAY fine, I’ll admit it… I’m watching the Philospher’s Stone as I type this.  You could say that visiting the set of Harry Potter turned me into a really big fan girl.. and that doesn’t happen very often (unless of course we’re talking about a sunset…or Harry Potter)  

The Great Hall
Gryffindor common room & Hermoine, Ron and Harry’s outfits from the first film.
“Sherbet Lemon”
Malfoy Manor
The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets ( OMG SO COOL)
Umbridge’s Office
Buckbeak
Aragog
Diagon Alley
Hogwarts set used for filming throughout all 8 films

That evening my family and I went to see Les Miserables at another of the theatres in Soho and it was breathtaking. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a musical as much as this one. It was sad, and beautiful and everything in between. What a day to end our stay in London. 


I hope your day is just as magical as mine was!

With Love, 

Kolina 

Little Books & Cider 

Kelsey and my mom went to the British museum this morning, yet again more proof that my sister has a deeper appreciation and understanding of the old treasures this town holds. We see it differently, each adding our own perspective to this trip, both valid in their own ways. Then their are times that our opinions overlap in one way or the other and it’s lovely to bond and giggle our heads off (normally while my mom looks at us like we’re a little crazy.. which lets be serious we probably are).

While they went off looking at mummy’s, I met my friend Kyela’s old roommate, Brooke in south Kensington for a cider. This is Brooke’s third time in the UK and so we spent some time talking about the lifestyle of the people that live here. We talked about how both of our lives are in very exciting places right now. Graduating (or nearly), deciding which country we might live our lives in, ways to advance our careers etc. Now, more than ever, we have choices to make about the way we want to live our lives and we’re actually at liberty to make them. It seems that the world is at our fingertips should we make commitments and work our asses off to get there. Seems simple right? Maybe not so much but I still stand strong in the though that anything can happen if you’re willing to work for it. Brooke took the subway with my up to oxford street to meet my family (thankyou thankyou for helping my directionally challenged self). On the ride she read one of my little poetry books. She also has one off her own that she sent me some pictures of later on. It was refreshing to connect on a very personal level with someone I had only met once or twice before. We spoke of writing honestly about life experiences. Without filtering, it’s important to capture the raw emotions that navigating through this world brings out of us. We found that we had written about the same topics, often time using different words or images to depict the same feelings. That’s fascinating to me. That we could experience something and describe the same thing in different ways. Brooke if you’re reading this keep writing. Someone some day is going to enjoy it just as much as I do. 


With love,

Kolina 

Camden Town 

Today we ventured out into the more northern parts of the city- the city that holds one of the most amazing markets I’ve ever visited- CAMDEN MARKET. You walk off the tube and immediately the city has a different feel than being right in the heart of london. The buildings are smaller, there’s a rougher sort of artsy feel to the shops and pubs- AND there is room to walk on the sidewalk because it is far less crowded. The buildings here are painted all different colours. It’s lovely. 


The first thing I’ll say about Camden market is that you’re not just going to spend an hour there. There are so many stalls and venues and different levels that you will get lost for an hour before you even find the next area that you want to explore . Just when you think you’ve made your way through the market completely, you turn around the corner and there’s a new maze of hallways and vendors to visit. If you’re into second hand this place is your heaven. I got to 17 and then I stopped counting. If you like food- THIS IS YOUR HEAVEN. They have things like vegan crepes & pancakes, gourmet Mac & cheese, meat from all over the world, Venezuelan street food, and more donuts than you could ever imagine. If you like alcohol- I’ll say it once more this is your heaven. They have a shop where you can get a drink made out of your favourite cereal, gin tasting, a pub etc etc. I could go on but really Camden is something you need to experience for yourself. 


That evening my friends and I grabbed some wine and sat by the river for another sunset. A perfect end to a perfect day. 


Hoping all your days are perfect,

With love,

Kolina 

Phantoms, churches and towers..oh my!

This morning we went to Westminster Abby and I was absolutely in awe. I stood on the graves of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. It was a spiritual moment for me. I thanked them both thousands of times. I MEAN COME ON! DARWIN AND NEWTON! As someone who’s life it quite dedicated to science I found this fascinating. The church was not only massive but absolutely breathtaking. The audio guided tour, (provided free of charge) was quite informative and could be completed in about an hour to an hour and a half. It’s the only audio guide I found to be strictly informative without the background theatrics and commentary and so I would definitely recommend it. I do not have any pictures to share with you as this is a place of worship and so pictures are not allowed nor appropriate. I’m not always a fan of touristy places however this is definitely one stop I would recommend if you are in London. 


After Westminster Abby we took the tube to London Tower. Here we saw the torture chamber and the crown jewels. I’d recommend getting here early if this is somewhere you’d like to visit. By 2pm the lines were massive and I was thankful we had already gone through the areas we wanted to see. I liked this palace a lot less than Hampton court. It had been modified and set up for tourist purposes and therefore it was harder to imagine the rich history this site holds. If you’re looking for places to visit in Paris I’d recommend Hampton Court or Windsor Castle. However, Kelsey would disagree with me and tell you to go to all three. An interesting fact about the london tower is that there we crows on the grounds everywhere. The BIGGEST crows I have ever seen. Legend has it that the King wanted all the crows executed because they were causing his astrologist issues, however someone reminded him of the tale that stated “if the crows fall, so does the castle” and so there have been crows on site ever since. 


I left Kelsey and my mom to search through London tower on her own time and met up with some friends who happened to be there at the same time! We went up the monument which is one stop off the tube over from london tower. I’d say this is a good alternative (and much cheaper alternative) to the London Eye. Both offer breathtaking views of the city. We then stopped for food and a beer in the street- one of the coolest things about London. On their way home from work people will stop at a pub, order their drinks, and stand in the sunshine with friends. We spoke with some locals who told us about different parts of the city we should visit and enjoyed our beers in the sunshine. 


That evening, as a family, we saw The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s theatre and it. was. phenomenal. Going out to the theatre here is something many locals do around twice a month. Often times if you line up before the show you can get tickets fairly cheap. It’s really interesting to me that the arts are so integrated into their lives. It seems rather appreciated and I like that. 

With love,

Kolina 

A Westminster Sunset

Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite thing in the entire world is a sunset or a sunrise. I am completely enamoured every. single. time. I mean you’re quite literally watching the world light itself on fire every day. You are witnessing the earth wake itself up or put itself to bed each night. The Sun is Mother Nature in its purest form. Humans have no ounce of control over it and it is a constant reminder that this earth does not need us. Each time I sit in silent awe, I am once again reminded of the duty we have to this earth to give it the respect and gratitude it deserves. I have made it my goal to see the sun set and the sun rise in as many places around the world that I can. 
If you are in London and do not get to see the sunset over Westminster I am telling you here that you are doing it wrong. Take the tube or walk from wherever you are staying and get off at the Westminster stop. Grab yourself a bottle of wine and some friends, if you’ve none of those (as I didn’t) grab yourself a pair of headphones and cross the bridge to the other side so you are facing Big Ben. You then want to be on the left side of the bridge. There are many places you can sit along the edge or on the stairs and sit. If you’re in London in the Summer time make sure you get there around 2110 and be prepared to stay until at least 2210. If you take music with you I recommend taking the headphones out at some point to feel the city around you. Feel the air, smell London, really know where you are and how you feel. It’s a brilliant experience. 

Here are some pictures from that night 

I think we might be Tourists ~ Days 3 & 4 

We started off our day wondering around. Our plan had been to do a bus tour of London however this had been cancelled and so we decided we would set out on foot and explore. The past two mornings while walking down Charring Street we have passed the statue of a First World War nurse named Edith Cavell. On the statue reads ” Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.” I’m a fan of this, and I say a silent thankyou to her each time we pass. 


Somehow, and don’t ask me how this happens, we stumbled upon Buckingham Palace. I’ve absolutely no sense of direction or previous knowledge of this city but I think most people plan to end up here. It’s quite mind blowing to wonder through a city and then somehow find yourself standing in front of literal royalty- and then you turn around and you’re in the middle of a tree filled park with water fowl of all sorts- and then you turn around and you’re on a street filled with people, bookstores and pubs.
We then visited parliament took some mandatory phone booth photos. We stopped and bought some things for lunch and sat on the steps outside near Westminster Abby while people watching and enjoying our sandwiches. (Again seriously.. if you’re travelling in London- Tesco is your BEST FRIEND).  As a family we went on the London Eye which offers an incredible view of the city. We then parted ways and I headed to the Florence Nightingale Museum. This was actually my graduation day and so I revelled at the chance to learn about the nurse who really paved the way for the type of care and practices that we carry out today. 



The following day was spent exploring Hampton Court Palace. To get there you can take the train from Waterloo station to Hampton Court exit. This palace is famous as it is where Henry the VIII resided. We entered a room at one point where Shakespeare himself had performed for the King.  It was impossible to wrap your head around the sheer size of this palace. I wish I could write enough here to do this historical palace justice, however you’re speaking with the wrong sister. I am definitely not the history major on this trip.  I could tell you endless amounts about the energy on the streets of soho, or the way the clouds look when they are sillhouteed against Big Ben, but medieval history is not my forte. What I will say is that it is worth the visit. You cannot help but acknowledge the vast history that this palace holds and the beauty that it contains. How long you wish to stay is up to you. 

 

With Love,

Kolina 

Day Two – Exploring Soho 


We arrived at Heathrow airport tired but very excited. Quite honestly I thought I might marry the boarder guard because her accent was so lovely. 

We made our way to Soho which is the theatre district we’re staying in and it is such an interesting district on London. As we made our way into the city they have flags hanging that read “LONDON. Everyone welcome.” I loved seeing this.  We stopped for a lunch at the pub across the way and then much of our day was spent wandering the streets of Soho before we succumbed to our exhaustion. Here’s what I liked about our first day abroad.

We visited Foyles, the largest bookstore in the world in regards to shelf space. With 5 floors and endless corridors of shelves stocked with books I’d have to agree with them. I made my way to the poetry section which blew my mind. Chapter’s mere shelf of poetry will never again compare to the 13 that Foyles had. Kelsey and I have already determined we’ll be headed back. 


The energy in the streets after 5pm here is incredible. Everyone seems to get off work and head straight for the pubs (which happen to be every other shop). Everyone is spilling out of the bars and standing in the streets with their beers and chatting with their friends. You quite literally have to push through people to get to where you’re going. As this is the theatre district there are shows on every corner, and so there is a buzzing hum of excitement as people head to the show dressed in their best. 

Tesco. A life saver to say the least. If you’re travelling on a budget, or you’re a bit of a health freak like me this is your answer to the food question. We stocked up on groceries for breakfast and cooked our own dinner while listening to the bustling streets of soho below us before we fell asleep. 

That’s all for now, trying desperately to get caught up on blogging but there’s so much to see!

With Love,

Kolina