This blog post is seven (yes, seven!) months late, and is about our UK trip late last year that I never got to write about. The last time we visited the UK before that was a 2-week family trip to London three years ago that gave us a good taste of the city (we even managed to catch 6 plays that time: “Matilda”, “Billy Elliot”, “The Book of Mormons”, “We Will Rock You”, “Lion King” & “Stephen Ward”), but which also made Ito and me realize that there was still sooo much of it left to explore. So on our next visit we took our time doing our favorite things–walking the side streets, browsing the shops, enjoying the exhibits and generally just wandering the city without following a schedule.

Ito and I usually love traveling in the fall, plus it’s my birthday month, so visiting London and planning a side trip to Scotland, we were prepared for wet, cold weather and walks beneath grey skies. But it turned out that even though I packed an umbrella and brought a couple of rain parkas/coats, in the three weeks that we were traveling I only got to use them briefly a few times because we had such surprisingly great weather. This meant that, oftentimes, any indoor activity gave way to exploring something outdoors instead–we loved the parks, the markets, the numerous outdoor exhibits–and we ended up enjoying the city even more than we thought we would.

When we go on trips, we usually have a general plan (in this case, we intended to stay in London our first week, head off to Scotland for another week, then spend my birthday week back in London, and we booked our Airbnb flats and train tickets accordingly) then we leave the rest open to whatever comes up. We love getting to know a city as if we lived there, so usually our first day in a new place is spent scoping the surrounding neighborhood for good coffee shops & eateries, looking for a good grocery to buy a few ‘homey’ snack items (I’m always on the look out for delicious ‘live’ yogurt and fruits) and our local SIM cards, and getting to know the transportation system (buying our bus/tube/train cards and picking up a route map). Once that’s settled, we’re free to wander off and lose ourselves in exploring the city.

London is huge and on our first day back we lucked out…one of the places we really wanted to visit was the Serpentine Gallery which we had missed on our last trip. Both of us had no idea where the gallery was but didn’t want to waste a whole morning looking for it, so as we took a bus to Trafalgar Square to get our bearings, we were caught in a slight traffic jam and decided to step off the bus. It was a gorgeous, sunny, autumn day and there was a huge park right where we got off so we decided to go for a walk around the park–then suddenly, on the path right before us was a sign that pointed ahead and read “Serpentine Gallery”. What a perfect way of getting ‘lost’! This serendipitous way of going about our day, a mix of luck, wandering around and letting the weather shape our plans, set the trend for how we proceeded along the rest of our trip. This led us to getting to know the cities we visited a little more intimately which is always one of the perks of traveling in the first place 🙂

Sharing a few photos from our first week back in ‘sunny’ London…(click here for part 2 “Great Scott! Exploring Glasgow & Edinburgh”)

Admiring the bronze sculpture of a horse’s head, “Still Water” by Nic Fiddian-Green

Enjoying the summer weather in autumn

Looking like an unzipped wall, the brilliant Serpentine Pavillion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels

Spotting graphic modern art benches by artist Jeppe Hein

Loving the classic marble staircases in the V&A

Enjoying the street musicians and colorful outdoor art

Discovering the little cafés and joints in this hidden corner of Covent Garden

Having the Saatchi Gallery all to ourselves (well, almost!)

Strolling the gallery

Browsing the books and knick knacks

Looking for tickets to “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time”

People watching from the top deck of the bus

Admiring the timeless silhouettes of Christian Dior at the V&A

Getting inspired by the idiosyncrasies of vintage designs

Painting the sky all shades of blue

Enjoying a brilliantly sunny day and a very delicious al fresco lunch at the Duke of York Square

Peeking into the mind-expanding sensibilities of Yayoi Kusama

*All photos by Ito Ocampo

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