I’ve never been more excited for a trip! This was our first trip overseas together, and better yet, to two places we’ve both never been to before. To my luck, London and Paris was one of the few popular travel destinations Sam has never visited. This vacation was a spontaneous decision Sam and I made; thankfully everything fell into place at the right time and the trip was successful despite last minute planning. Our flights and Airbnb’s were booked by March and we were off to London in May!
I cannot start this blog post without giving a much-deserved praise to Norwegian Airlines! In searching for flights, we came across their direct flight from NYC to London. I have to admit, throughout the whole booking process, we were a bit skeptical. A direct transatlantic flight, luggage included, and two meals each (with beer/wine!), all within our desired price range…too good to be true right? Nope, not at all! Norwegian Airlines delivered all of that AND more! They’re known for being a budget airline, but nothing about this experience felt “budget” to me. It was clean, decent legroom space, comfortable seats, tv screens larger than my iPad mini, endless movie options, and more importantly, quality service! From the check-in counter to the flight attendants, it was all smiles and positive vibes.
Being from a city ourselves, we were excited to see another energetic city in action. We decided the best way to get the real experience is through the Airbnb route. This was our first time renting an Airbnb and will definitely not be our last. Our hosts in London were so welcoming and cool; the tips they shared were priceless, and the location was unbeatable. We stayed in Shoreditch, a place east of London; in comparison, it’s the Williamsburg, Brooklyn of London. The area was saturated with trendy shops, restaurants, and street markets. It’s definitely the place to stay in if you want to be in the center of the young, hip action in London.
As first timers in London, we had a list of must-see places, but instead of making out a schedule, we decided to take it day by day. If we got to it, great! If we didn’t, just another excuse to go back! Something about following a rigid schedule wouldn’t feel like a vacation to us.
The street markets were one of our favorite past times. To our luck, a photog friend of Sam’s was kind enough to meet up with us and give us a personal tour of two food street markets. The first one was Maltby Market, a quaint and lively market with high-quality food stalls. We saw coffee stalls, fresh bread, seafood, breakfast sandwiches, fresh chocolate, thrift shops…the list goes on. Although small, the plethora of food can satisfy any craving. Located under old railway arches, everything about this market screamed old-warm charm. It’s definitely a must visit if you want a more local and less touristy experience. They’re only open Saturday & Sunday, so plan accordingly.
The second stop was more well-known: Borough Market. This was Maltby Market on steroids! This one was a food market/farmers market in one. Every ethnic food you can think of was being cooked, and every rare delicacy was being sold to the savvy foodie. The enthusiastic crowd and delicious food aroma overwhelm the senses…in a good way!
If you’re looking for another local experience & are a bit of a food-junkie, definitely stop by Dinerama in Shoreditch. Dinerama is a street feast with numerous food stalls selling everything from Italian food to BBQ style dishes, and even some freshly fried donuts. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I could never pass up on fresh, made-to-order donuts.
Last but not least…coffee shops!!! This post wouldn’t be complete without coffee & tea time. Checking out the coffee culture was at the top of our list, and luckily London did not disappoint. Ironically enough, our Airbnb was located a few blocks away from a coffee shop called Brooklyn Coffee. We could not stop laughing at this; thousands of miles traveled to get a taste of home! This coffee shop definitely delivered and made Sam’s list of favorites. Seriously, we almost missed our Eurostar train to Paris waiting for them to open before we headed to St. Pancras Station.
139 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ
Paper & Cup
18, Calvert Ave, London E2 7JP
Not only is this a coffee shop, it’s a not-for-profit cafe under the umbrella of Spitalfields Crypt Trust, an organization that supports recovering addicts and the homeless get back on their feet and into society. Paper & Cup is one of the enterprises where the rehabilitated can start to work in and regain their independence. The wall of books, fresh baked pastries, and proper coffee and tea menu makes this place a must-visit if you’re in the area.
58 Redchurch St, Shoreditch E2 7DP
This minimal, corner coffee shop was perfectly located across the street from our Airbnb. A perfect shop for a quick cup of coffee and small breakfast. We loved their menu options, and I personally loved my fresh mint tea. Fresh tea leaves is the way to go tea lovers!
London → Paris
We booked our one-way ticket to Paris through Eurostar . We have to brag about this experience because it really was one of the nicest train’s we’ve ever boarded. Luckily, we were in what seemed to be one of the newer trains. The train was clean, the air smelled crisp, and the oh-so-comfortable seats made this trip a breeze. The travel time was a little over 2 hours, and with a 1-hour time loss, the timeliness of this train was very much appreciated. We boarded, plugged-in and braced ourselves for Part 2 of our trip.