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hello! i’m juli!

welcome to design to explore! I document my adventures in travel, design, and food.

L O N D O N

L O N D O N

May 18, 2018 – an interesting night

Before I get into the actual specifics of London, I need to explain what happened the night before...... I greeted Steph in the hostel around 11:30pm and showed her to our 4 share dorm room. We walk in and all the lights are off, but we see someone rummaging through their bag and she whips her head around and we are greeted by an Asian lady doing a face mask only illuminated by her phone flash light, so, naturally, it looks like a freakin murderer in the room. But only a tiny Asian woman doing a skincare routine at midnight, how normal.

Then Steph and I gotta rummage through OUR belongings to get ready for bed. And this is no easy task, our hostel provided us with cages to put our luggage in so its an ordeal to get anything in or out and god forbid you forget one thing then you have to start the process over of rolling it out from under the bed, unlocking it, taking out the bag you need, finding the thing you need, closing the bag you used, fitting your bags back in like puzzle pieces, looking for you lock, locking the cage, rolling it back under, all in the dark, all to realize you forgot just ONE more thing.

But, we finally get through it and we get nice n comfy in bed yippee! As we are drifting off to sleep, our other hostel mate, a large man, starts snoring like a freaking bear. Not even a joke OR an exaggeration. I had headphones in playing my sleep music v loud, but nope, could still hear it. I took a melatonin and focused so hard to fall asleep and finally did. But to no avail. At 3am the snoring got EVEN LOUDER, I didn’t even know it was possible for someone to snore that loud, I was border line concerned for this man while also extremely livid. So I decided to pick up my water bottle, and completely throw it on the ground as hard as I could from my sleeping position, then, I picked it up and rubbed it against the locker cages a bunch of times, as if I were grating cheese for a nice chicken parmesan, and finally slammed it down on the cage like a judge trying to bring order to her court as a final attempt to wake him up momentarily. It worked, and yes it was ruthless, but when you are staying in hostels it really is survival of the fittest.

And that was only the first night. Seeeeeeeeesh.

May 19, 2018 – Wandering the streets (literally)

After our interesting experience in the hostel bedroom last night, we decided to have a later start to the day, we didn’t have to rush for anything so we took our time getting ready. But because of this we were starving by the time we left and went to the first place we could find which I would equate to a crappy diner in NYC. Pretty solid food, but with more research we could have found something better, I just wanted some plain eggs and toast so it was the perfect place.

Then we were walking around the hostel neighborhood, Elephant and Castle, and found a cool street market, but it was again, a crappy street market. And by that I mean they were selling knock off shoes for 5 euros and weird blankets, and the people were so aggressive, my lawddd!!! One of the vendors started yelling at the customers for dropping his “precious” products, like dude you are selling 10 cent dish clothes from China chill out. Then another woman and a random man almost got in a fight, it was a crazy scene and I later renamed this experience, “the aggressive market”.

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From there, we got a bus pass and went on to see Big Ben, woo first big sight! Wrong. Big Ben is under renovation and has scaffolding surrounding everything but the clock face. Even the parliament building had scaffolding ALL OVER. Like come on, and people were still taking serious pictures of it.

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We were hitting a lot of L’s that morning, but we just kept walking around. We walked through a park to Buckingham Palace, Steph admired the pristine mulch (so much so that I took a snapchat of it and it went on the Buckingham palace story and got over 7k views lol). Then we just kept walking, we didn’t have a plan just wanted to explore the city.

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I did want to go see Notting Hill (cause who doesn’t look a good 00’s romcom) so we hopped on a bus and our day took a turn for the better! Notting Hill was absolutely adorable, and at first we missed the rainbow hill area, but we were still walking through gorgeous streets full of beautiful architecture and it was awesome. Eventually we made our way to Rainbow Hill to discover the Portabella Markets going on (no not mushrooms).

It was street after street after street of vendors, selling all sorts of stuff. Food, crafts, jewelry, textiles, souvenirs. It was awesome, we just walked through the market talking and looking at everything. At one point Steph asked me why I was making so much noise the night before in the hostel, and I explained how I was trying to wake up the beast, and we both had a moment where we burst out into hysterical laughing for a solid 3 minutes, we literally couldn’t contain the laughter.

We kept walking, hit a thrift store tent and bought a cool shirt before ultimately stumbling upon and international food market, it was a branch of the Portabella Markets, but on a side street. We hit the jackpot. Steph got some rainforest bowl and I got some dumplings and we found a little park and enjoyed our food. It was amazing. Our day went from like kinda crappy to awesome.

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At this point it was almost 4, so we went back to the hostel on probably the hottest public transport bus ride of my life, showered, changed then researched where to get dinner for about an hour. We even recruited help from the wonderful foodie Steven West all the way back in the US to help us, before we ended up picking a Thai restaurant called Basaba in Soho. It was super trendy and cool, the tables were all communal, which made the meal especially hilarious when Steph accidentally ate a chile pepper and was on fire. As she was chugging water, I could not stop laughing, I think I was crying harder from laughing than she was from the spice that my abs hurt.

Afterwards, we got Doughnut Time and walked through Picadilly Circus, Soho, and Convent Garden. We just wandered the streets with no real plan and it was pretty great. We finally ended up on the water looking out over the London Eye, before heading back, cause tonight we are trying to beat the damn bear to sleep.

May 20, 2018 - The never ending search for WiFi

Today, after getting a solid night of sleep after taking some melatonin, we were well rested and ready to tackle the day. We started just by going to St. Paul’s Cathedral, but on our walk from the bus to the cathedral we were so hungry and found this amazing brunch place called Bar One. It was empty, we were concerned, but were too hungry to look for another place.

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First, I ordered tea and damn I'm gonna miss the way the British do tea, cause its damn delicious. Then I ordered some pancakes and fruit which ended up being to die for. Steph ordered a veggie breakfast and two bites in completely flipped her plate and spilled all of her food on herself and the floor. She salvaged what she could and ate it, but boy oh boy she is having trouble with her meals (after last nights Chile pepper escapade).

Full and ready to tackle the day, we went on to St. Paul’s Cathedral, but when we got there we found out that on Sunday’s the church is closed for visitors, because ya know Sunday is the gods day of rest. So we admired the beautiful architecture from the outside, walked through the gardens and moved on with our day.

From there, we walked down the Thames River along the water which was really nice, it was a beautiful day, high 70s and the sun was shining. We made it all the way to the London Bridge and the Tower of London. We stopped for a quick photo op before walking over the bridge and exploring the town across the river.

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We wanted to go to the Borough Street Markets, but when we got there we were disappointed to see that they were closed (cause Sunday). So we kept walking before we finally decided to go back to Soho, the area we were in last night, because all the stores were closed last night and wanted to go back to explore. This also gave me the opportunity to go to Fortnums and Mason, the go to tea place of London.

We got to F&M and I just about died and went to heaven, it was tea lovers dream. After traveling to places were they are known for coffee (like is everywhere known for coffee) I was pumped to have a place I could THRIVE. I was fangirling it up, smelling all the teas they had to offer before settling on buy two containers of english breakfast tea (can’t go wrong with a classic, am I right???).

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Steph and I had no plan of action for the rest of the day, just to walk around and see where it took us. We walked all through Soho and ended up going to a super early dinner at 4pm because we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We stopped at a place call Bill’s House Soho where we had a great meal, we appreciated the fact that our waiter was super honest in telling us his favorite dishes and steering us away from bad ones.

Eventually made our way to Convent Garden. There was cute shop after shop and it was cool to see all the petite little stores lining the street. Somehow we ended up wandering into a giant market place. It was awesome. It was a mix of stands along with permanent brick and mortar stores under these large canopies, it was just immaculate. One store had free tea samples which got us into their store where they had at least 10 - 15 teas, coffees, and more hot drinks to sample. It was a great time, I was thriving again.

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We walked around a little bit more, before deciding to head back to the hostels to charge our devices and take a break. Once we were all charged up and ready to go, we went to get some dessert cause going to bed at 8pm was a little too early, were not old people yet. So we went to get dessert at Kaspa’s, where I got a cookie dough bowl and Steph got a brownie bowl, which is basically exactly what it sounds like - absolutely delicious.

Afterwards, we power walked our way back to the hostel and packed our bags because we were traveling to our next stop, Barcelona!!! Stay tuned for more updates as always :) 

B A R C E L O N A

B A R C E L O N A

I C E L A N D

I C E L A N D