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.
striped blazer red pants2
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.
striped blazer red pants1

Unintentional coordination with Nick – now if only I can get him to smile

striped blazer red pants3
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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  1. Suzie Q wrote:

    Jean, I saw on Instagram that we overlapped on our London trip there! I had the same observation about the fashion there with the darker edgier look and trench coats everywhere. For your outfit shoot, the backdrop looks so similar to the outfit shoot that I did there too =) I brought multiple pairs of shoes on the trip, but I ended up wearing my flat booties most of the time there because the weather was so darn consistently cold! Sounded like you had a wonderful time on your trip!

    Suzie Q

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  2. Elyssia wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  3. Milena wrote:

    Polish people always help me with my bag in plane. Im surprised, that no one help't you…. For shoes i bought small, leather flats on

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Did you bring back any cool souvenirs? 🙂

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  5. Cat wrote:

    So I didn't see any toiletries in that bag. Your hair looks perfect, so I know you had to bring something! Show that as well!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Thumbs up for your comment. I believe in being self-sufficient too. *If* there is a polite, able-bodied male or female who offers to help, lucky me! But I want to be confident knowing I am capable of handling my own baggage. Otherwise, just store it in front of your feet on the ground.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    Have you ever tried Dr. Scholl's flats? They're comfy, cute (some of the styles at least), fairly durable and you can get them for under $50 online. I use mine for commuting and travel, and don't feel bad if they get banged up. For nicer flats, you can always protect your shoes by adding an extra layer of rubber (fellow Bostonian here, the shop in the basement of the Cambridgeside Galleria only charges $15 to add an extra heel).

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  8. Janki wrote:

    I had to snicker a little when you mention not getting help lifting your bag. I'm small too and though I'm strong, there is something really tough about lifting and shoving that bag OVERHEAD, even if it isn't heavy at all. It's like the physics doesn't quite work. I do agree with checking in if you can afford it, but like many have mentioned, what if your luggage is lost? You need at least a carryon with some basics.
    I found a pair of Naturalizer (old lady) shoes at DSW. They weren't the most stylish but boy were they comfy.
    Great post on packing and the sites of London. I'm Indian and would gladly give you some tips on what to order aside from the typical Chicken Tikka Masala. (my faves are Chicken Korma, Rogan Josh, Mattar Paneer,and hubs like Chicken Vindaloo). One tip I learned when at a Persian restaurant is that you should always ask the waiter/manager about what they would recommend for someone who is new to the food. We did that once and discovered some great dishes and how to add certain spices to our dish that only natives do.
    I really like how you try to embrace the culture via food!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  9. 珍珠 wrote:

    Ahh ! I miss London so much! Did you get a chance to go shopping? I love the shot/perspective of the London Eye and yes I too am just overwhelmingly obsessed with the comfort of Toms! I also love how you packed so orderly even for a short trip~ I usually just try to pack as little as possible lol cause I am too lazy to even think about myself– just want to be comfortable while sightseeing~ but so jealous you can be so chic abroad!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  10. LOVE this outfit! The floral scarf goes great with the striped top, and the red pants are so fun. Great coat too!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    *Correction: sleek in an old-lady way

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    Clarks is my go-to brand for comfortable walking shoes.

    As you can see, I especially like their slip-ons. Obviously they do not go well with certain outfits as they're sleek in an old-lay way. I managed a department store during one of my college internships; Clarks clogs worked well with walking and standing for 8 hours a day on the sales floor. Also, I've recently discovered that real all-day shoe comfort comes from shoes that wrap around the entire foot such as sneakers or Uggs, as opposed to flats or pumps that only cover the side/sole of the foot.

    Hope this helps!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Fellow petite ladies, please don't neglect exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Even if you're skinny, doing pushups (no equipment needed) everyday will help you increase muscle density, without bulking you up. Don't be frail & helpless. Let's all surprise all of these onlookers by being able to lift our own bags by ourselves without ANY struggle or breaking a sweat. I have refused help offered even before lifting my bag up because of my appearance. I then lift my heavy bag up into the overhead bins without any problems. No dependence on others necessary.

    PS. Very pretty pictures. 🙂

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm also a carry-on and personal item traveler who is working on lightening my load. It's really important to me to be self sufficient when traveling solo (which is often). I agree that if someone offers to help, it is nice, but it is really self centered to pack more than what you can lift above your head. Other people shouldn't risk injury from my need to bring stuff.

    If I'm traveling with someone else taller and stronger, I still try to pack light. Again, other people shouldn't risk injury from my need to bring stuff. Sure, it is chivalrous and kind for others to offer to help, but again, why should they have to carry or lift my stuff? I'd like to be able to tow my load and even offer to help others if needed.

    Shoes are usually the first to go if I need to lighten weight. Then I would have to say toiletries (wet and dry) and denim are the next heaviest things.

    Ecco makes some comfortable flats.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  15. Wonderful pictures! It looks like you had a great time. Great tips on packing – it's amazing how neat and orderly your suitcase is!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  16. Khanh wrote:

    Love this post. Have you tried Me Too flats? I have gone through about 5 pairs and they are really comfortable.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  17. Jennifer wrote:

    Thank you for sharing!! BTW, where is Nick's stripe tee from? Super cute!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  18. Ann wrote:

    Wooow I'm amaze you seem to be able to cram so much in such a small suitcase! Rolling it all up seems like a great idea to make use of such dense and crowded space!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  19. Dice wrote:

    Thanks for sharing your tips for packing. I will definitely put it to use the next time I travel as I always have a tendency to over pack.

    Loving the food pics! =)

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  20. Anonymous wrote:

    Thanks for the packing post – I have the same carryon so this is really helpful! Glad you had a wonderful time in the UK!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    @anonymous, I wasn't actually replying to Jean, but to Annie's comment, hence the fact that my comment was under hers instead of a standalone comment.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  22. Michelle wrote:

    Impressed with everything you squeezed in that bag! Love the unintentional matching. 🙂 Jon and I do that a lot…it is strange.

    I am on the hunt for walking shoes for Seattle, so I will let you know if I find anything. I want something that can be worn with skinny jeans, skirts, or shorts and not look silly. I have tried TOMS (like you, it was a desperate moment in Seattle to find something) and Sperry loafers. I still feel like there could be something better for city walking.

    And loving the food pics. Pistachio-anything dessert is one of my favorites. I have a recipe for pistachio ice cream that does not need an ice cream maker to make it. Never tried it, but hope to experiment with it this summer. 🙂

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  23. Michelle wrote:

    Oooo, timely post! I'm going to London in Sept as my sister is enrolling in university there so the whole family is taking the chance to do a vacation there together. 😀

    I spent two weeks walking around Spain in November and am happy to share what worked for me —

    1) For me a low heel is more comfortable than a flat – flats strain my arches and my feet get really tired. I lived in 3 pairs of 2.5" ankle boots, two from La Canadienne and one on sale in a random store in Madrid (which was our first stop!). All 3 had zip sides so they came off easily for security or shopping; I wore thin socks inside. The LC boots are not cheap, but they have taken a pounding (2-3 winters of solid wear before this trip) and survived beautifully (lived in them again this winter after the trip; expect to wear them for years to come!) – so they are definitely "not too costly" all things considered!

    2) Like you, I wanted a pair of slip-on wedges for city traveling too, and was lucky enough to score these Anyi Lu 2" wedges at Nordstrom Rack last week for < $80. (I KNOWWW!)
    They look a little bit "old lady" in my mind still, but they are SO comfortable due to the construction, and your foot never slips forward to have your toes pinched. I'd definitely recommend that you try a pair of this brand the next time you're in a Nordstrom, if they have your size, so that you can put them on the shoesalestalking list 🙂 They make flats too! I'm looking forward to breaking these in in the fall and in London.
    Note on the sizing: I got these in a 36, and I'm usually a American sz 6. I see on the Nordstrom site that the brand does go down to a 34, so good news for smaller-footed ladies! (This polka-dotted flat in sz 35 currently on sale for "only" $200! )

    3) My youngest sister prefers flats, and she loves her Sperry boat shoes. They are so not the sort of thing I would normally wear myself, but I went to the store to buy her a pair, and tried on a couple of models, and was really surprised by how comfortable, cushioned, and supportive the Bluefish and Angelfish models were. The arch support was fantastic! I tried on a few other models that I thought were cuter, but they had much "lighter" construction and did not feel as amazingly comfy as those two models in particular. I'd say they are perhaps one notch more formal than the Toms (since they are made out of leather), and definitely have better arch support, so they might be what you are looking for if you want "more supportive Toms". Much like Toms, they come in both neutrals and a bunch of fun colors! For travellers who are dressing casually, or going somewhere warm / in the summer (some Sperry models have mesh sides for breathability and to aid in drying out – they are boat shoes after all!), my sisters will vouch for these. I have a very, very stylish other sister who is almost always in heels, and even she likes to steal my baby sister's Sperrys for walking shoes when she goes on vacation 🙂

    Yay for walking vacations and walking shoes!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  24. Anonymous wrote:

    Love your post! I second the question about the brand of the cobalt blue skirt? I struggle with wearing maxis and long dresses due to my height but you manage to pull it off beautifully and elegantly!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  25. I hear you, Jean! Although I´m not generalizing all European travellers, they do have a tendency to just look at you while you struggle putting in or taking out your things from the overhead bin. I´ve experienced that when I was trying to take out my thick wedding album for my Spanish parents in-laws and everybody was just staring at me and mind you,the guy next to me has the body of a footballer!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  26. Anonymous wrote:

    I got some cole haan loafers which are great for traveling. A bit of a pointy toe, black suede upper, black leather for the body of the shoe. I've walked for hours, good support. I got them at Century 21 for just under $100. Well worth it to me.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  27. Anonymous wrote:

    Great post! I also have a hardsided Samsonite carry-on and it's nice to see how someone else packs. Where is the cobalt blue skirt you're wearing in the picture posing with the suitcase and Longchamp bag from? I've been searching for maxi skirts for the summer and yours looks really nice. Thanks

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  28. Anonymous wrote:

    I love your travel posts! Are you two getting engaged yet? As a longtime reader, I thought you might this trip 🙂

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  29. Anonymous wrote:

    Love how you looped your scarf! Can you explain how you did it?

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  30. That sucks about nobody helping you with your bag! With so many "how to pack" posts out there, I actually really enjoyed your idea about sticking to the color wheel for all your outfits, I had never heard that idea before and will definitely use it next time I travel

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  31. great post, and in london now (I definitely should have packed a bit warmer) for flats, have you tried jcrew's mila flats? they are soft on side b/c of the elastic, colorblocked so pretty cool, and have interior small wedge you can't see so gives a bit of cushion. comfortable enough to wear right out of box, great travel + work commute shoe…

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  32. minnie wrote:

    Jean I love your travel posts. I moved to London recently and was excited to see your food pics, especially since I have a hard time finding things I like to eat here!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  33. I'm surprised you found a uniform in London. Right now there's lots of colour around on the street and lots of different styles. I'd have thought your beautifully and accidentally coordinated look would not have looked at all out of place.

    Perhaps it does depend where in London you are though. And don't forget, you might have mistaken the uniform to have been from London but it could easily have been a lot of chic French tourists 😉

    When in London it is often quite difficult to work out who is a settled Londoner and who is just visiting because lots of Londoners will converse in a language other than English. I hope you enjoyed your visit and that Nick smiled a lot off camera 😉

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  34. Anonymous wrote:

    Uhm, Jean never said not implied that the bystanders weren't helping just to be asses. In one of the previous comments she actually defends said bystanders. If you took the time to read that before deciding to jump down her throat about it, you would have known. I suggest you do that next time before you decide to post such a negative, ignorant comment.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  35. Anonymous wrote:

    Long time lurker here. Just can't help to comment because as an avid traveler, can't stress enough the importance of sturdy, comfortable shoes, preferably waterproof. I personally prefer ones with vibram soles, they are great for walking on cobblestones. I think it is very much worth it to pay for a good pair of shoes rather than have painful feet ruin your vacation. And yes, Europeans always wear smart shoes. I always get shoe envy when traveling across the Atlantic.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  36. great tips!

    xoxo from rome

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  37. Mimi wrote:

    thanks for showing us a peek into your suitcase! i always have trouble packing, i tend to bring a ton of unnecessary items, haha. 😉

    p.s. it has always been a dream of mine to go to london — thanks for the mini virtual trip! 🙂

    <3, Mimi

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  38. Mimi wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  39. Of course – this is true and I dont make that assumption…instead, just recommend packing light to be self-dependent.

    Phoebe – the wedges are pour la victorie "Mai"

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  40. Anonymous wrote:

    What I mean is the long wallet don't fit in
    most clutches

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  41. Anonymous wrote:

    Hello Jean, what size wallet do you use for traveling & daily use ? Thank you
    I like long wallet, but just don't liked the fact
    that I have to take my cards out when I use
    a clutch

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  42. Tia wrote:

    These pictures make me so jealous! I can't wait to visit one day!!!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  43. MizzJ wrote:

    Aww you two make a gorgeously coordinated couple!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  44. Anonymous wrote:

    You can't assume that everyone can help. What if they have a shoulder/arm injury that you can't see? What if they have limited mobility? What if they just don't have the strength (regardless of what you assume because of their stature)? What if they forgot to put deodorant on and are saving themselves and everyone around them from stinky armpits?

    I understand it's frustrating being in the position where you can't help yourself, but it's not fair to just assume that people aren't helping just to be asses.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  45. Oh, I wanted to share a story! Posted too quickly! I'm really small and I have difficulty with putting my carry on into the overhead bins as well.

    I remember traveling for work and had a fellow passenger and a flight attendant yell at me because I was asking for help! They advised that I should be checking in my carry ons in the future. I'm really traumatize, so when I travel alone, I've always checked in ever since.


    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  46. Thanks for sharing your ideas for packing! I personally have difficultly finding chic flats that are comfortable and easy to pack!

    On a recent trip to Japan, I took flat boots – that were really comfortable – however it was really inconvenient when I had to take my boots off at Japanese hotels/homes. I did try to wear my flats but the lack of arch support made me run back to the hotel room and just throw on my boots!

    I was tempted to wear the sneakers with heels, however, the style just wasn't me. So, personally, I'm still stumped on how to pack/look great when I go on travel overseas.

    Take Care!

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  47. Phoebe wrote:

    Well, it is true about the 2nd one. I am surprised no passengers tried to help you, though. On my most recent flight, an old man, at least 75, I would say, helped me. I didn't ask him to at all, but he jumped up and did it without saying anything.

    I mean, I felt silly since I was definitely the more "able" person in the situation, but it was still so appreciated.

    What brand are your nude pumps? I quite like the almond toe.

    Also, I'd recommend Bass, Sperry, or Clarks loafers for walking around. They have some cute styles now…they're not all granny chic, haha.

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  48. Brittney wrote:

    Mango ice cream is my favorite! It sounds like you are looking for a leather loafer-esque shoe. I actually love the brand Naturalizer (which I've been told is for old ladies, but whatever) because their shoes are extra-padded and really comfortable for longwear.


    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  49. To be fair : ) …one guy said he didn't have a good back, and the other (male airline attendant) said "policy requires staff to not help passengers with luggage in case they hurt themselves b/c insurance won't cover it."

    Posted 6.11.13 Reply
  50. Annie wrote:

    omg.. are you serious about this? '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).' I cannot believe how inconsiderate some travelers can be.

    i tried the j crew blazer at the store but i thought it was too thin.. no lining 🙁


    Posted 6.11.13 Reply

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