This was my first week back in the UK after a brief time off traveling. I got straight back into it, though, starting a new job the morning after my return, and then traveling to Bristol this past weekend for the March for Science! I love Bristol and got to see a lot more of it this time around than my last 16 hour stint in October. I’m sure I’ll post more details on all the adventures (read: FOOD) the weekend included, but today, in the after glow of Earth Day and my *first ever* march, I want to talk about the March for Science!
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.
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.
…And it’s gluten free!
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).
Yesterday on the commute back from class, I found myself sitting on a double-decker bus, watching a Royal Navy bomb squad disassemble eight grenades 300 meters from the roundabout we were stuck in.
Eight unexploded bombs were found during road works on Plymouth’s most central road.
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).
So with our particularly mild December, I managed to get out for a nice long country walk in Dorset last week – to East Man and West Man.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Pin it for later…
This post is linked up for Wanderful Wednesdays!