I’m so excited to share with you the finest hidden gems ever – the secret mews of London!
When I found out this month’s travel linkup theme was “hidden gems,” I was on a Megabus back from London. Crammed between a boisterous 5 year old and my smuggled McDonald’s french fries (who decided french fries aren’t allowed on buses anymore??). Despite that, I had one of those light bulb/angel choir singing in the background moments. Because there’s nothing, I repeat nothing, more “hidden gem” than these quiet and quaint rows of houses, miraculously peaceful in one of the world’s largest cities. Continue reading
I wanted to tell you all about my trip to London this past weekend – but I didn’t know how. After all, it’s not like it was my first trip to London (see here, here, here, here etc…) so how do I put a spin on it? (That’s what you’re supposed to do on a blog, right?) So here’s what I do have… My city UN-GUIDE to London. Continue reading
But seriously, it’s high time that I pay tribute to southwest England’s greatest masterpiece (forget Agatha Christie, Tom Daley, JK Rowling, Sherlock Holmes etc.) – it’s The Stable! As you all know by now, my favorite part of traveling is undoubtedly eating. And my favorite part about eating is pizza. Although I recently decided to move away from listicle type posts and give you all some more heartfelt and *deep* words….sometimes I just need to write about PIZZA! (And you’ll soon see that, to me, The Stable means a bit more than just pizza). Continue reading
Shakespeare wasn’t talking about London when he wrote that, but I saw it written in tiny graffiti along Southbank yesterday, and it stuck.
Whenever I go to London, I have a plan. I’m either headed up to see a play, show friends around, family vacation, etc. I’ve never really had a day in London where I could waste time. Until yesterday, that is.
I was headed into the city to stay overnight for my early morning flight from Heathrow – but decided to take the earliest train in so I could have the whole day. It seemed a waste not to – but when I landed in London, I realized I had no plans (besides a brief lunch date with my old housemate on her work break).
One of my absolute favorite things about being an expat in England is the weather.
Haven’t heard that one before?
Yeah, probably not. But I’ll take a bit of rain any day in place of polar vortexes. And even better – England’s mild weather means that I can go outside every time of year. At home in Michigan, I severely suffer from Vitamin D withdrawal from October until May. Whereas in English winters, I go running every evening and enjoy lots of coastal walks through the depths of January (see here, here, and here).
It’s December and I scroll through my Facebook, full of photos documenting snowstorms back home. A foot of white flakes on our back porch in Michigan. The annual bitter statuses that [fill in any non-northern state] got a snow day for a measly flurry.
Meanwhile, England. It’s been a happily dry Autumn/Winter. Still, my house is an old, drafty Victorian and the radiator rattles away in the farthest corner from my bed. I’ve been getting up before dawn, before the radiator seems able to muster itself up for the day ahead. Which makes two of us. Continue reading
This past weekend we drove almost two hours through the pelting Cornish rain to the little seaside city of Falmouth. We arrived just as the clouds were emptied, to the smell of fresh-roasted coffee, and the smiles of friends I hadn’t seen for a while.
I’ve been wanting to visit Falmouth for ages. It held a special place in my heart, even before our weekend visit, because I used to live in a little city called Falmouth on Cape Cod.
When I was ten years old we packed up our car and drove across the country to our new home in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where we lived while my dad was on sabbatical. It was the first big move which I was old enough for it to affect me – I whined and cried and complained at first. I was leaving my best friends behind in the Midwest, to move into a tiny, un-air conditioned, ranch house with no internet, no dishwasher, and a wasp infestation in the overgrown garden. I was used to the spacious and over-friendly Midwest, not cramped and touristy New England.
However, my dislike of change quickly melted into one of the best years of my life. My memories of Falmouth include mornings eating pancakes at the Betsy’s diner, countless bike paths leading to beaches, the seal I named Lucy outside the aquarium, Ben & Bill’s ice cream emporium (they even sold lobster flavored ice cream), cracker jacks at Red Sox baseball games, catching crabs at the beach, afternoons swimming in the Holiday Inn pool because there was no swim team, learning to play flute for the first time, chasing the traveling ice cream truck, weekend trips to New York City, clam bakes, cranberry bogs, crisp fall leaves, and a best friend who I still keep in touch with over a decade later.
Can you tell I’m getting nostalgic? To this day, Falmouth is one of the dearest places in the world to me. So naturally I had to check out how the nearby English version compared!
We went for the day to meet up with uni friends who we hadn’t seen for a while and actually had a class project we needed to collaborate on. One of them lives in Falmouth so we made it into a day trip, beginning at Espressini (a quirky cafe hosting tons of gluten free options).
It is such an adorable coffee shop – I would definitely return (/return to Falmouth just so I could eat here again what).
The coffee beans are roasted in house, and super strong. I asked the barista what he recommended, and he asked me a few questions about my coffee preferences, and then made me a flat white with a Jamaican roast…it was so good. I may have been jittery the rest of the day, but worth it?? Yes.
I also ordered the breakfast tacos, which came with basically an entire avocado sliced up inside, and an eggy kind of tortilla replacement. Once again it was incredible!
Okay, now that I’ve got you drooling…
After brunch (and working on our project of course) we headed out of Espressini and toward the high street.
A very nautical city indeed!
The day of our visit also randomly happened to be the Falmouth Oyster Festival (#cornwall) so we explored that, plus some city centre shopping. Falmouth has a great high street with lots of my favorite shops (Sea Salt, Joules) and lots of locally owned boutiques and craft stores, too. We did a bit of early Christmas perusing…
I loved all the bunting flapping in the wind. To be honest, Falmouth seems to have gone a bit bunting wild.
We enjoyed the cobbled streets, nautical tiles, and just the general colorful atmosphere of this small cornish city. I was expecting Falmouth to be a lot smaller and more touristy (think Looe, if you’ve been there), but it was much more city-like…I could imagine living there, not just vacationing!
^^ Hoping this was a joke??
After getting our fill of window shopping (and actual shopping), and checking out Events Square, we headed back into the neighborhoods.
The streets were lovely with the changing leaves, and the stone houses.
^^ Look at that nautical detail! Falmouth, I love you!
^^I even got to meet my Falmouth friend’s pup, so my day was basically made then and there!
In the evening we took a drive out to Pendennis Point, which is a gorgeous point in Falmouth overlooking the sea and the bay. There is a castle you can visit, or just stand on the outcropping with the wind whipping your hair and the salty sea smell. We drove to Pendennis but there is also a long and lovely walk through a park to get there!
After Pendennis Point, we took our last detour to Gyllyngvase Beach. There are lovely beaches and harbors in Falmouth, but this is the one my friend recommended.
It was too chilly to take a dip (although we saw some people who clearly disagreed splashing about in the subthermal temperatures…lunatics), but I enjoyed smelling the salty-sea air and watching all the dogs run free along the sand.
We also took a little break at the Gylly cafe, which I recommend, for some hot chocolates as we overlooked the ocean.
I loved my day in Falmouth, Cornwall. It’s different from my old home, to be sure, but I love it all the same, just in a different way! It’s less touristy than my old home, and a little less built up, but more sprawling. They both have that wonderful, nautical feel, though.
Maybe it was just the name, but visiting Falmouth felt a bit like going home for the weekend.
Looking back over my posts, it’s odd that I’ve never written about Exeter! Things are about to change, my friends. I’m giving you the ideal walking map for a day trip to Exeter Quay, complete with my favorite pubs (and even gluten free pizza!!).
This walk is full of nature, quaint shops, dogs running off-leash, along fields and forests and rivers! It actually used to be my old running route!
I lived in Exeter for a year, during my study abroad program, so to me it feels like this weird idyllic home, but also a bit melancholy and nostalgic. Because I only lived there for a year (a year I spent reading Shakespeare and traveling non-stop and meeting lifelong best friends and eating *a lot* of clotted cream) I mostly just have fond memories of Exeter – it’s a smallish city, and I didn’t live there long enough to ever get bored. Still, every time I’ve gone back I get a rush of nostalgia – it’s just not the same without my American friends from my program there alongside me. It’s weird and sad to think that it will actually never be the same.
Still, it’s a wonderful city that I love, and I’m so excited to share it with you! Probably one of my favorite areas in Exeter is the Quay (pronounced “Key” as I learned with much shame in the first week of my study abroad program). I’m lucky to only live an hour away from Exeter now, so when I took the train over last weekend we made it into a day trip to the Exeter Quay.
To get to the Exeter Quay, if you’re coming from out of town, take the train to the Exeter St. Davids train station. From there you can literally just walk along the riverside path until you get to the Quay!
After passing this bridge (^^) you’re at the Exeter Quay! Be careful of all the hungry swans and geese though…
^^The Quay is a very charming area. One of my favorite unique additions are these tiny shops built like caves into the side of a huge brick wall! They’re mostly crafty/artisan shops… although you can find a bit of Cath Kidson here and there.
^^ Overall, the Exeter Quay buildings are beautiful brick pieces that overlook the river. It can get a bit crowded on a sunny summer day, but was a bit calmer as we visited right at the turning into Autumn 🙂
^^ So it’s basically idyllic…is there any better word?! There are lots of antiques shops and restaurants at the Quay. Also, if you’re in an active mood, you can rent bikes, rent canoes or kayaks, take a river cruise, or even go rock climbing or bowling!! Basically, you’re not going to run out of things to do.
But if you’re in the mood to find the secretive pub at the end of the river, just keep walking alongside the river path.
It’s a bit twisty – you’ll need to cross the bridge over the river, and then follow the southernmost leg of the river when it splits. It’s pretty self explanatory in terms of signs and riverside paths, but if you’re directionally challenged like me, you can follow along on my map!
^^You’ll probably see quite a few people fishing, canoeing, paddle boarding, and more on a nice day.
And then…dun dun dun…you can’t miss it! You’ll reach Double Locks, the pub at the end of the river!!
Well, it’s not quite the end of the river, but there is a large weir, so this is the end point for any boaters who’ve been floating along the river. Lots of people kayak their way to the pub, or even road bike (you’ll see a few patrons wet and covered in mud), or of course walk!
^^We sat out back on the many benches overlooking the river, and I enjoyed hot chocolate. It was a bit chilly, though, so eventually we moved inside…
Where it’s still oh-so-very British and cozy. Seriously, this is probably the most quintessential southwest English pub you will ever see. And even though it’s so out of the way, it’s always full of happy (dirty) people and dogs, munching away on fish and chips, burgers, you name it…
^^And yep, I did say dogs. Dogs are very welcome at Double Locks!
^^It’s just gorgeous from the front. Look at that! The ivy was quite overgrown when we visited…you can barely see the “Double Locks” sign peeking out between the vines!
^^dirty puppy paw towels – can’t be having a muddy pub!
^^ Eventually, we began our walk back along the path toward the Exeter Quay….
^^Where of course we stopped for an early dinner at On the Waterfront, AKA probably the best pizza you’ll ever eat (especially gluten free – it’s basically like GF sourdough bread base!!).
^^I went a bit out of my comfort zone and ordered a “Mama Meata” – my usual order is the “Rustica.”
All in all it was such a nice fall day, walking along the beautiful river, getting some fresh air, and revisiting some of my absolute favorite places in Exeter. Definitely what I needed after the not-so-great news last week. I hope you enjoy my little map, and I hope it can help you navigate your way to the Exeter Quay, and the lovely wee pub at the end of the river.