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Surprise — I’m in the land of union jacks and mandatory umbrellas! This trip has been in the works for a while now, but since it wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye when I wrote about my expected travel plans for 2016, I never really got around to announcing it.

After all, it’s not like returning here was burning a hole into my bucket list. I’ve been three times before and I haven’t been shy about sharing that at first, I struggled to find love for the capital of London. Yet as so many of my trips are, this one was born more of visiting friends and taking advantage of certain circumstances than spinning the globe and fulfilling one of my wildest travel dreams.

United Kingdom Map

So how did this one come about? Well, a late August trip to Newfoundland to visit Ian’s family once he was done with his summer tree planting contract was a must. After that, the world was wide open to us! We did in fact discuss taking one of our dream trips, like a Jamaica road trip or a hop around Uruguay. But in the back of my mind the whole time was the fact that two of our best friends in the world — Brian and Amy from Koh Tao — were going to be back in the UK visiting Amy’s family around the same time. And with London just a five and a half hour direct overnight flight from St. John’s — and prices under $200 USD one way when we first started searching! — we were definitely intrigued. (We ended up paying more because the universe hath cursed me with the inability to ever purchase a flight at the low price that I first find it at, but regardless it was still a good deal.) But at first, we just couldn’t get super excited about returning to a place we’d both been a few times and felt fairly familiar.

Yet not long after leaving Koh Tao this spring I was feeling ridiculously wistful and missing my crew there immensely, and in a fit of nostalgia I called Ian and told him I wanted to make the UK happen. So we did! But the agonizing wasn’t over — we then had to wrestle with creating an itinerary. I’ve been to England three times now and not seen anywhere outside London and Manchester, so for this trip I was determined to get a more well-rounded view of the country. As I’m not really one for castles or the culture of ye olden days, we focused more on the quirky and the fun of today — and of course, where we had friends. Over time our excitement for this trip grew and grew and now we truly could not be happier to be here. Here’s what we ended up with.

Brighton

Brighton was a no-brainer. It’s probably the UK city I’ve been most anxious to visit over my last few trips, and so we made it a top priority this time. Making things even easier was the fact that direct flights from St. John’s go straight to Gatwick Airport, conveniently located halfway between London and Brighton! It’s a quick and easy half hour train ride from boarding gates to boardwalk.

While many simply visit Brighton on a day trip from London, we really wanted time to get to know this quirky seaside town, and so we splurged on three nights at an adorable bed and breakfast and planned lazy days of enjoying the beach, checking out the town’s offbeat attractions, and enjoying some alone time after a summer spent apart followed by a few weeks of visiting each other’s families in the US and Canada.

Two Weeks in the UK

London

After three collective weeks spent in London over the last few years, I really have found an affection for it — and had a hard time dedicating just three days for this trip! But with so many places and people we wanted to see, sacrifices had to be made.

The part that really broke my heart is that many of my close friends in London are out of town the weekend we chose to be there, and as we’re popping in and out so fast I won’t have time to see some of them. That killed me! But focusing on the positive, I will get to spend plenty of time with my dear, dear friend Koh Tao friend Kat, who Ian and I are crashing with, and also catch up with other Koh Tao friend Freya. For the most part, we are handing the reigns over to Kat for our three nights in London — and I’m sure she has some wild nightlife adventures in store!

Leaving London, we’ve actually hired a car. With rail service being super efficient and driving somewhat of a hassle, it’s an unusual choice for traveling in England. But at one point in the planning process I was in talks with a travel brand about sponsoring this trip as a road trip and got pretty excited about some of the ideas I brainstormed. When the deal fell through — and to be honest, it’s a relief to be on a totally independent adventure at the moment — we still liked some of what we’d sketched out with a car hire. So since we’ll have our own wheels leaving London, we’ll be pausing at the beautiful Bombay Gin Distillery followed by a stop by Stonehenge.

Two Weeks in the UK

Bristol and Bath

Next stop, the neighboring cities of Bristol and Bath! Bristol really caught my eye as the home of Banksy, the iconic British street artist. It’s also home to one of Ian’s bartending friends from Koh Tao, who I too adore. We looked at accommodation in both historic Bath and modern Bristol, and while Bath is the more beloved of the two by tourists we ended up indulging a really hip AirBnB in Bristol that we absolutely fell in love with.

On the itinerary is an Ocean Film Festival, street art spotting, soaking in Bath’s healing waters, and meeting up with my friend Gwen who I met in Brazil. Considering we’ll be splitting them between two very enticing destinations, I have a feeling our three nights here are going to be a bit hectic!

Two Weeks in the UK

Liverpool

Leaving Bristol, we plan to spend a lazy day driving through the Cotswolds, an insanely scenic district on the way to Liverpool. There, we’ll connect with Brian and Amy, the reunion that this trip was dreamed up around! We’ll be spending just one night in Liverpool meeting Amy’s family before stealing away for a road trip to their cabin in Wales for a weekend.

After our little road trip, I’ll be swinging back through Liverpool for a second night to stay with my dear friend Becs from Indonesia and meet the little munchkin she was pregnant with when I was doing my Divemaster.

Two Weeks in the UK

Anglesey

Wales! I don’t care if the United Nations list of countries lumps this one in with the rest of the United Kingdom… I’m counting it as a new tick on the Wanderland list of countries, and that will bring my total to thirty four. I have absolutely no idea what to expect from our three nights waterfront in Anglesey, but I know we couldn’t ask for better company.

Two Weeks in the UK

Even with two weeks, we couldn’t fit in everywhere we wanted to go in this tiny island! We were dying to make it to Cornwall, but when our first choice of AirBnBs booked up nearly six months early, we took it as a sign that it just wasn’t our time. On top of that, one of my best London girlfriends Lou is moving there this year — I’d rather save it for my next visit when I can be shown around by a local.

Luckily, I think there will always be a “next time” for me and the United Kingdom. Here’s to sipping ciders, paying respects to the birthplace of the Spice Girls, and packing stylish rain gear.

Any advice for this trip, my brilliant travel friends?

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109 Comments...
  • Noelle Brahimi
    September 5 2016

    England outside London is really, really beautiful (London is fun, but can be so busy!). I’m heading to Bath and Cheltenham myself this weekend. The countryside in Wales and the Cotswolds are stunning as well. Enjoy your trip!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Thanks Noelle! I’m definitely crossing my fingers for some devastatingly gorgeous scenery on this trip 🙂

  • Ashley
    September 5 2016

    This sounds like such an awesome itinerary! Although I was a bit sad to see that you won’t be venturing a bit further north to Scotland 😉

    Bath, Brighton, and Wales are all on my UK travel wish list, so I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences there!
    Ashley recently posted..Expat in Edinburgh: Month 15

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      I absolutely loved my time in Scotland! Not rushing back just yet but won’t rule it out for someday!

  • Cate
    September 5 2016

    Omg this was such a surprise! I never expected you to be heading to the UK, as you’ve said before how it’s not really in your top ten. But that itinerary is perfect, I can’t wait to hear all about it!!
    Cate recently posted..Summer 2016 Travel Roundup!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      I guess I just really love all my amazing friends there 🙂 So excited to see them!

  • Rosie
    September 5 2016

    Welcome to the UK 🙂 it’s really exciting to know you’ll be exploring this not-so-exotic (and pretty rainy at the moment) country! I live very close to Brighton and it is a great, vibrant city which I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Your blog is an inspiration for me and I look forward to reading what you think about the place I call home.
    A word of advice- if you go for fish and chips on Brighton seafront, guard them with your life as the seagulls are ruthless!
    Rosie
    Rosie recently posted..DIVING IN UTILA, HONDURAS

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Ha, I’ve observed that! I died laughing the other day at how terrified one woman in particular was of them… she was literally dragging her child over the rocks to get away screaming like she was in a horror movie. And meanwhile I’m trying not to cry I’m laughing so hard! They must be brutal!

  • Angie Silver
    September 5 2016

    I live in London, I hope you enjoy my home country!
    Angie Silver recently posted..A Date Night Dinner at Dabbous

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Always love your instagrams from London and beyond — you show England in a beautiful light <3

  • Sounds like a fun departure from your usual! I’ve loved London the two times I’ve visited and my next UK trip will definitely include the Lake District. Enjoy!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..My All-Time Favorite Hotels

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Just shaking things up a little 😉 It’s a very non-beachy summer for me!

  • Janice
    September 5 2016

    Hi Alex,
    You’ve come to good ol blighty… Yay.
    Well, if you fancy a pint and a plate of cockles whilst looking out over the Thames Estuary from Old Leigh – which is where we Southenders spend many hours of life and a wander round the boutiques in the trendy village of the same name, give me a shout. We’re only 50 minutes on the train from London and I’d love to show you about. Have a great trip!
    🙂
    Janice recently posted..Fizz Beachlounge Koh Tao

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      You are so sweet and I love your descriptions! Unfortunately our time in London is super limited and my friend Kat has planned every minute 🙂 But thank you thank you!

  • LC
    September 5 2016

    Argh! You’re in my hood. ? Bristol and Bath are great, could totally live in Brighton, Wales is gorgeous and the Cotswolds look like they’re straight out of an Enid Blyton book. Enjoy!
    LC recently posted..What’s in a Name? Visiting the Horniman Museum in London

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Thanks chica! Sounds like an LC-approved itinerary. I like it!

  • Emma
    September 5 2016

    You’ve got a great set of locations planned. I’m exited that you’re going to be travelling through my neck of the woods, I grew up not too far from Bath.
    Depending on the route you take from London, if you get the chance to go through Avebury it’s worth the diversion. The stones are from the same period as Stonehenge, but as they’re more spread out you can get up close and personal (and there might still be the odd crop circle around), plus the village pub there always did great food and is rumoured to be haunted!

    Bath and Bristol are both great places to visit. I love some of the old pubs in Clifton and Bath is just beautiful. Enjoy!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Amazing tips, thank you Emma! I am very excited about finding some charming pubs to post up in on this trip…

  • Amy Loxton
    September 5 2016

    OMG! You should check out the Twisted Lemon for cocktails in Brighton! Have fun and I hope you get some of the good British weather not just the typical weather!
    Amy Loxton recently posted..Bucket List Item – River Cottage Experience

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Ha, seriously… but I packed my vitamin d tablets just in case!

  • Kate
    September 5 2016

    Very cool, can’t wait to keep reading this blog. Brazil AND UK coming up! Keep up the excellent work and content!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Aw, thanks Kate! Lots to look forward to around here 🙂

  • Rick
    September 5 2016

    Although I have discovered beautiful and enchanting places in England I’ve come to realize it’s the people I enjoy the most.

    We have become so visually oriented that it often dominates our decisions.
    Enland has smart, quirky, funny and great people everywhere you go, and some great fish and chips!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Interesting points and I agree with you… British humor is quite unique!

  • Gemma
    September 5 2016

    Hello from Scotland! A (not so) warm welcome to the UK! Totally with you on the Brighton front, I’ve only spent half a day there but would like to do more. Dream plan was to spend summer there but we opted for Spain and Portugal instead (tough life!) I look forward to pictures, have some chips on the pier for me.
    Gemma recently posted..Female Travel Packing List: Bras, Backpacks & Big No-Nos

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Omg, a summer in Brighton sounds like a dream. In love with it already!

  • Rob
    September 5 2016

    Omg I’ll take this as a good omen, I first discovered your blog while doing my research on the inca trail so has I sit here shxxing it in Heathrow about to fly out to Peru wondering what I have I got my self in to you have come to wish me good look lol

    But seriously while your in Anglesey it will be a shame if you don’t walk up Snowden’ taking the train up will be cheating

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Oh that’s awesome Rob! Enjoy the Inca Trail… you’re going to do great! It’s a great omen 🙂 Off to Google Snowden…

  • Stacey Davies
    September 5 2016

    I’ve just come back from a long weekend at the Cotswolds and it’s beautiful! St Edward’s Church at Stow on the Wold has beautiful huge trees growing around the back door. Bourton on Water has a cute stream running through it with little bridges you can walk over. Chipping Campden is also nice with gorgeous cottages. Enjoy your trip!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      I just googled the church… wow! Looks beautiful. We may have to add that to our itinerary!

  • Jana
    September 5 2016

    Welcome to the UK! I’ve been living in Liverpool for a year now, enjoy your stay! Definitely go to both cathedrals and the central library (might sound boring but the architecture is insane and if you go to the top, there is a balcony with a nice view – free of charge ;)), to Oh Me Oh My for breakfast (beautiful interior, great, not expensive food), to The Quarter for lunch if you fancy Italian food and Root Coffee for coffee (obviously haha). I also love cocktails and cheesecake in Turtle Bay.

    I’ve written two short posts about my favourite spots if you want to check them out:

    http://www.janaintheworld.com/2-2016/my-favourite-spots-in-liverpool-1

    http://www.janaintheworld.com/6-2016/my-favourite-spots-in-liverpool-2

    Enjoy your time in England (and Wales), fingers crossed the weather will be at least mediocre, especially in the North :D.
    Jana recently posted..Happy Birthday: One Year of Blogging

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Thanks so much for your recommendations Jana! And I love your very British blessing… weather that is at least mediocre. Ha ha!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    September 5 2016

    I’m so, so excited for you to visit Great Britain again! It may be a bit of an unusual thing to say, but Great Britain is pretty much my favorite place on earth (I’m not British, by the way! 😉 ) and I feel that – aside from London – it’s such an under-rated travel destination that deserves much more praise. So I hope you and Ian are going to have a blast! 🙂

    I was in Wales a few months ago and I really recommend a drive through Snowdonia National Park on the way there. It’s not the quickest way to get to Anglesey, but the views are going to be absolutely incredible and you might have trouble believing that you’re in the UK! I know that you have mentioned that castles aren’t your thing, but Wales has a few really interesting (& photogenic!) ones (Conwy, Caernarfon or Beaumaris) that would be worth a visit, just in case you find yourself with an extra hour or so – my favorite in terms of photography was the one in Conwy, which is also an adorable little town. Anyway, this comment is getting rather long… but I hope you’re going to have lots of fun! 🙂 Can’t wait to see your pictures on Instagram! 🙂
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..How We Spent A Day In Betws-Y-Coed, Wales

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Hm, you’re the second person to mentioned this Snowdonia National Park! We’ve pretty much handed the reigns over to Amy for that portion of the trip, but perhaps she has it on the itinerary 🙂 I hope so!

  • Timo
    September 5 2016

    Aahh … UK. A dream country to visit, especially visit the football stadium and take a tour perhaps! 😀
    Timo recently posted..Catching sunrise from Puncak Darma

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      I’m not much for football… unless it involves looking at David Beckham! 😛

  • Emma
    September 5 2016

    Hope you have a fab time in the UK, love that my hometown made the visit list – Bristol is all kinds of awesome and with so much to do. I’m impressed at that timescale for Bristol and Bath, busy, busy times! 🙂
    x

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      We were kind of working around our friends’ schedules, so some places are a bit rushed! That area will definitely only be getting a brief glance, but hopefully it will be a nice preview for a longer trip someday.

  • Kate
    September 5 2016

    Looks like a great trip round our little island!

    Brighton is great, you’ll love it. I spend hours wandering through the lanes every time I go looking in all the little shops and cafes – you should find Choccywoccydoodah, its a chocolate shop and cafe and does the most amazing looking sculpted chocolate cakes! Also you have to go to the pier and go on some of the rides, then wander along the seafront to the old pier which is now burnt out. Know you like to hike too, and there’s some really good walking round the Devils Dyke nearby.

    Bristol and Bath are also great cities, and I still really want to get to Liverpool. I spent a year working in North Wales and wasn’t that enamored with Anglesey, but maybe I went to the wrong bits! You should def check out Snowdonia though, and I’m desperate to go back and go on the giant zipline and underground trampoline…

    Next time you’re back you’ll have to come further north though 😉 You’ve still got the Lake District, Scotland and my patch of Newcastle and Northumberland to see..!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Ha, funny you mention the underground trampoline… Amy tagged us all in a post about it on Facebook recently and said we are going if there’s a rainy day! Ha!

      I have been to Scotland in the past and loved it 🙂

  • Jane
    September 5 2016

    Ah, so jealous! Haven’t been to Bristol but believe it’s very hip! Bath is beautiful. I just did a day trip there but when I did the local Rotary or Lions club offered free walking tours of the town. Worth finding out if they still do because it’s a great way to see the town and find out more about its history (which is actually really interesting!) if you have limited time.

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Confession: we are mostly going to Bath to go to the Thermae, ha ha. I’m sure I’ll be pleasantly surprised by everything else around, though!

  • Dominique
    September 5 2016

    I love Liverpool! I’ve lived in the UK (well.. if you call Wales a country I’m allowed to call Scotland a country 😉 ) for three years, but I haven’t been to most of the places your mentioning here! They’re high on my list if I would make my way to the UK soon though. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with Bristol – but I’ve yet to make my way there. I’m curious to hear what you think about it!
    Dominique recently posted..Rotterdam – Van Nelle Factory

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Yes I hear such great things about Bristol! I already wish we had more time there. Seems like such a hip and vibrant city.

  • Yasemin
    September 5 2016

    Long-term reader but infrequent commenter here! Crazy to hear your plans – I’m from Brighton and although I always struggle to think of tips, its a great city and very unique so I think and hope you’ll like it! As people have suggested, the Laines and North Lanes have lots of cute little shops, cafes and a might be a good place to try afternoon tea if you are interested, Snoopers Paradise is a famous flea market type shop in that area, the Pavillion Gardens are a nice spot to sit if the weathers nice and often has street performers nearby, fish and chips is a must, there is a banksy piece near Brighton station (kissing policemen), if you walk slightly out of the main city center the Duke of Yorks cinema is one of or is the oldest working cinema in the UK and the rockery is a nice green area. You can also do day or afternoon tips to the South Downs and the Seven sisters or a little nearby town called Lewes. I’m sure you’ve read about these things anyway but I hope you guys get a sense of the specialness of Brighton and how its residents are proud that it is such a welcoming city – only in Brighton is a phrase you hear often! Bristol is also compared to Brighton a lot although I’ve sadly never been and I love Liverpool. Enjoy your stay x

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Duke of York Cinema is on the list… I love old movie theaters! Seven Sisters looks amazing too though we won’t have a car so not sure if we are ambitious enough to bus there ha ha. Maybe another time for that one.

  • Katie
    September 5 2016

    Enjoy – the UK is an incredible country, even if you aren’t into history. Lots of natural beauty to be found 🙂
    Katie recently posted..The Big Trip: Month Fourteen Round Up

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      I don’t want to paint myself as someone who slept through social studies class, ha ha… I do love certain periods of history but a lot of the English history hasn’t quite captured my imagination just yet!

  • Bethany
    September 5 2016

    So glad you’re going to Bristol, as most tourists just go straight through it to Bath, and it’s such an amazing city. I’ve lived there for two years, and it’s still got so many things I want to do. For cocktails, there’s loads of cool speakeasies, and then for clubbing you have to go to either Motion or Lakota, but you’ll need tickets. Stokes Croft is a really cool artsy place to look around, and Clifton is posh but so beautiful, and the Clifton Lido is dreamy. Have the best time!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      We were looking into the Lido! Looks dreamy! I think we will have to play it by ear with the weather…

  • Harrie
    September 5 2016

    You should hit up Bewdley – Severn valley railway, beautiful forests and a Safari Park!

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      Never heard of any of them… off to Google 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

  • Kat
    September 5 2016

    You’re gonna LOVE Brighton! It’s got such an awesome vibe. Bristol is pretty similar, as well; if you’re into cider (as in, hard cider) you’re in for a treat there.

    There are so many beautiful places in the UK to see, like the Jurassic Coast and the Lake District – but the weather is so unpredictable..

    • Alex
      September 6 2016

      I AM SO INTO CIDER. That’s half the reason we are going ha ha.