An autumn walk in Kew Gardens

We only have a few days left in London before we make our move to Yorkshire. Obviously, we can’t wait! But we’re also trying to make the most of our time here.

Almost on a whim, we decided to go for an autumn walk in Kew Gardens, London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage site. I can’t believe that I’ve lived here for five and a half years and haven’t visited Kew Gardens before. With my love of nature walks I feel I’ve left this way too late and I wish I’d seen it in every season. It definitely belongs on my favourite things to do in London list.

There is a delightful mix of Victorian architecture, modern art and botanical installations that will captivate you for hours. We loved the long stretches of grassy paths bordered by towering trees and bushes in gold, orange and red as well as the enormous glass greenhouses that house a profusion of foliage from around the world. Continue reading


Escape to Tuscany

Tuscany. The dry, heavy heat enveloped us as we stepped off the plane. We turned to each other in disbelief, wide smiles on our faces. The England we’d left behind had been unseasonably cool and rainy for weeks.

We moved quickly through the airport and into the rental car to start the journey to our destination: Four adults with four large suitcases crammed into an Audi A3. Google Maps fired up on the phone. The road laid out straight before us. It wasn’t the smoothest two hours of our lives as we followed the map down narrow side streets in the technology’s misplaced efforts to take us by the fastest – though not the most direct – route. But we all arrived with our sense of humour more or less intact. And we managed to avoid the tolls. Score!

The landscape’s colouring around Pisa was flat: late-summer green that had all the moisture baked out of it, pale gold hammered thin and blanched by the sun, dusty terra-cotta red roofs and floors. There were fields of sunflowers, all their petals gone, row upon row of black heads bowed in defeat to the relentless summer heat. Successive hills with gentle slopes revealed a stone villa here, a walled city there. And we passed small, ramshackle towns in the blink of an eye. Continue reading

My Favourite Things to do in London

It’s normally only when out-of-towers come to visit that I play tourist in my own city, but on a recent, sunny weekend my husband and I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral for no other reason than that it was there and we hadn’t yet been inside. It was magnificent, and the painful climb to the top – all 1,161 stairs – was worth it for the expansive views of a city I’ve come to love.

As a child of the suburbs I always wanted to live and work in a big city. My literary aspirations made New York City the natural choice. The month I spent there while earning my CELTA certification was thrilling and hard, equal measures of dream fulfilment and disappointment. After university and through a friendship with a charming French-American girl, Paris quickly joined the Big Apple as an option as I imagined us strolling along the Seine in the rain, eating croissant in incredibly chic patisseries and writing the next great American novel. Mais oui. 

Then life took a turn. London is the city I’ve called home for five years now. I’ve lived and worked and played among her cobbled lanes and broad avenues, her parks and gardens, her monuments to war and art. I’ve loved the diverse culture and resilience of the people. I’ve hated the overcrowded tube and choking traffic fumes. I’ve made friends and progressed a career.

But that chapter is closing. We are moving north, chasing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and getting fresh air, a slower pace of life and more square footage in the trade-off. It’s exciting and daunting and more than a little bittersweet. I immediately pulled up a list of 101 things to do in London, ready to cram in as much culture and as many urban experiences as I could before we leave. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of the items on the list I’d already ticked off over the years.

So to celebrate this incredible city and our time here, I thought I’d share with you my favourite things to do in London:

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A sunny day in Brighton

Escape to Brighton

In order to get to Brighton from where we now live in Kent, it’s easier to take a 25-minute cab ride west to a small train station than go into Central London only to come back out again. And so that’s what we do today. It’s overcast and cool, 18 degrees after a record-breaking week of 30+ degrees. And we’re revelling in the cooler temperatures.

We always seems to go to Brighton when it rains. In the past five years, I only have one clear memory of a sun-drenched day on the front when the tops of my feet got sunburned in my ballet flats and my ever-present jumper stayed in my bag the entire day. It stands out as a perfect day because I won at crazy golf – something that very rarely happens – though I still lost every game of air hockey.

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An introduction to Vancouver

To be honest, I didn’t have time to form preconceptions of Vancouver. We booked the trip at the beginning of the year, then proceeded to move to our dream house in Kent, which had to be fully kitted out, and I pursued a new role client-side (good-bye agency life!). Whirlwind doesn’t begin to describe it. I’d seen a few images of British Columbia, but my knowledge of things to do in Vancouver barely filled a hastily opened Google doc.

And so, we – inveterate planners who ran out of time – committed ourselves to spontaneity and word-of-mouth recommendations for things to do and places to eat and boarded our British Airways direct flight to Vancouver. A mere 8.5 hours later, aligned with the setting sun, we touched down in a city shrouded by twilight and clouds.

And what we found surprised us.  Continue reading

36 Hours in Prague

Prague is a city of dichotomies: picturesque medieval buildings bumping against soulless concrete structures of Communism; castles and cathedrals rising in majesty next to city walls covered in graffiti; a primarily atheist population in a city rich with religious history and statuary.

Prague Castle

It’s the tension between old and new Prague that I find intriguing and makes this small capital city of the Czech Republic a great destination for a city break. If you’re a newbie to Prague and only have 36 hours, here are some suggestions to make the most of your stay.  Continue reading