Eat & Explore London (and packing light for tourism)

striped blazer red pants

J.Crew blazer (30% off w/SUMMERTIME), Coach court bag (review),
Ann Taylor pants (similar at J.Crew for $35+, similar at LOFT w/ extra 40% off), old H&M; linen scarf

While in London, I admired the tall, put-together locals, donning late-May “uniforms” of mostly dark jeans, ankle-height flat booties, and dark leather jackets or trench coats. I wore my bright touristy fare with chagrin, so would recommend packing the aforementioned pieces for visiting if you own them & can pull off the booties. Unlike in this last suitcase series, I packed this time with the primary goal of all-day comfort. The nice part about dressing during travels (for lazy ones like myself, anyways) is that no one will notice when you wear similar outfits daily, or items on repeat. I wore this with heels to the office, onto a red-eye flight, then straight into a day of tourism.
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For longer trips, I use this Samsonite hard shell spinner (use FRIENDS for an extra 25% off) and love it. The 20″ size is pretty small, but on the plus side, it limits packing to a weight that I can lift. This has been key, ever since one of my travel fears came true when a few bystanders refused my requests for help with the overhead bin (resulting in a shaky, embarrassing struggle standing on top of a seat & almost chipping a tooth).

london packing
When trying to pack compactly, I start planning with the largest items (and wear the pieces that take up the most room)…

I looked for easily-washable, wrinkle-resistant jackets that could sustain inclement weather and wear & tear, and decided on 1) a denim jacket (the best travel companion) from H&M; kids, 2) this knit striped blazer, and 3) a dark Theory trench to wear over everything and in the rain. Since the theme was very blue, I continued from there with pieces in either fellow primary colors (red and yellow), monochromatic, or neighboring colors (ie. teal). These schemes from the trusty color wheel allow for easy mixing and matching using a small number of items. A ancient Old Navy kids white tee served as my basic layering piece, and accessories were limited to functional items like cross-body bags and large scarves. I’ve found that rolling up garments helps prevent wrinkles, and also lets you see more items in one glance (without uprooting your entire suitcase) when getting dressed.

packing outfits
For sizing reference: 20″ suitcase & the durable Longchamp plantes tote against ~5 feet tall frame

Walking shoes were the item I struggled with the most. Ideally I would’ve loved to find a sleek leather slip-on shoe with ample arch support, that’s comfortable right off the rack (and not too costly since it’d be taking a beating). Recommendations for such a shoe would be more than appreciated. Instead, a last-minute scour of the mall landed me with a pair of canvas Toms. Out of the few shoes I found in-store in sz 5, these were the most comfortable and lightweight option by far. I’m not a big fan of the canvas slip-on look for myself, but these (with a small embedded arch cushion) were comfy after 5-6 miles a day of walking. The soles are thin, so adding an insert would definitely improve comfort. Fit is true to size but I hear the canvas stretches out with wear, so I plan on adding inserts when mine get looser.
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Unintentional coordination with Nick – now if only I can get him to smile

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Our first stop off the plane was a little shop called Champagne and Fromage, which served mouth-watering cheese & charcuterie platters, tartines (toasted sourdough with toppings), and some small plates like escargo alongside a variety of bubblies. The deal at the time for online bookings was 6.50GBP for cheese or meat boards (typically 8GBP).
champagne fromageWe then crossed the river to catch a ride on the tourist-favorite London Eye. View from below the Eye, while waiting in line:london eye from below
You can buy tickets online to avoid waiting in the ticket lines, but please note that there’s a long delay to receive the tickets electronically for printing (mine took about 5 hours). They aren’t strict at all about the t
ime slot the tickets are bought for, so no need to pay extra for the “flexible” time ticket. View from the top:
view from london eye
After a whirl on the Eye, we walked along the river Thames to the free-admission Tate Modern art museum, then crossed back over the river to see St. Paul’s Cathedral. I heard the views are beautiful from the top, but we were too jet lagged to climb.

We couldn’t go the first day without having some of the spectacular Indian food that London is known for. Dinner was at Roti Chai, which is split into an Indian Street Kitchen downstairs with smaller dishes (similar to tapas or dim sum), and a fancier upstairs dining room. The atmosphere downstairs was very lively with lots of good aromas, so we didn’t go any further.
roti chai dinnerAt Indian restaurants, I’m sad to admit I almost never stray from my chicken tikka masala or saag paneer. The lamb stew and fried chicken lollipops here were yummy, but my taste buds were most surprised by the tender fish curry and tantalizingly spicy “hakka chilli paneer” salad of sorts – so good!
roti chai desserts We cooled our burning mouths with a kettle of chai lychee martini, and creamy pistachio and mango (the better of the 2 flavors) ice cream sticks. The prices aren’t exactly “street kitchen” levels (bill was ~70 GBP for four), but each of us left full and very satisfied.

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