Australia survival guide

Photo of an Australian koala

As an Australia expat living in the UK, I often get asked by friends and colleagues “how did you survive?!” to which I respond: if my dog Jack can handle it, I’m sure you can!

We may be home to some of the world’s most venomous snakes and spiders, but you’re much more likely to be stung by a “bloody mozzie” or by a random breath test. πŸš“

That being said, there is a thing or two to know before you go. πŸ‘‡

Beachgoer basics

Photo of swimmers between the red and yellow flags

Australia is known for its sandy beaches, sunshine and surf for good reason! β˜€οΈ

To make the most of your time at our world famous beaches, keep these tips in mind and you won’t find yourself thrown into the deep end.

  • Swim between the flags at beaches patrolled by Surf Life Savers. The flag system protects us from rips (powerful currents)
  • Shark attacks are rare, so to keep it that way by swimming at patrolled beaches alongside other swimmers and avoid sunrise and sunset when sharks are most active
  • Box jellyfish and the blue ringed octopus are the ones to watch out for in the water
  • The ozone layer is thin over Australia, so remember to slip, slop, slap to avoid getting sunburnt in a “sunburnt country”
  • Temperatures can soar, especially in summer, so always keep hydrated and seek shade where possible.

Wrestling reptiles

Photo of an Australian saltwater

Crikey! If you’ve ever enjoyed the famous Crocodile Hunter series, you’ll recall the take home message that when you respect nature it respects you back. 🦎

  • Crocodiles inhabit the northernmost part of Australia. Attacks are rare, but when in croc country follow steps to be crocwise and only swim where there are designated safe swimming signs
  • Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them and only strike when they feel threatened. Stick to the path when bushwalking, and keep your distance if you spot one at home and call a professional
  • Of Australia’s 10,000 spider species, only two types should be of concern: the Sydney funnel-web and redback spider. If you encounter one, call a professional to have it safely removed: pest control, the Australian Reptile Park or the Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26).

Cute critters

Teeth and scales aside, Australia is home to some of the most unique and adorable critters on the planet; koalas, kangaroos and smiley quokkas come to mind. Cute, yes, but looks can kill:

  • Kangaroos are colour coded! Grey kangaroos are smaller and mild-tempered compared to their red cousins, so keep this in mind when approaching one for a photo 🦘
  • Tasmanian devils appear cute and cuddly but are skittish and feisty, so heed their guttural growls and keep your fingers out of reach
  • Dingoes may look like a family pet but respect this rust-coloured wild canine like you would a wolf
  • You’re unlikely to spot a duck-billed platypus in the wild, but if you do admire it from afar as their toxic stingers can be painful.

What Australians actually fear

Photo of a kookaburra and a magpie in an Australian backyard

While crocodiles and sharks won’t really bother you, magpies in swooping season certainly do. And nothing is worse than the sting of a bluebottle at the beach, or the sight of a huntsman spider scurrying up the wall. 😨

If you’ve ever wondered what Aussies actually fear, it’s the dreaded email alert from MyGov in your inbox signalling tax return time…

So now that you know the basics, enjoy your time Down Under!


Ever heard of the infamous drop bear? Share some of the “scariest” things you’ve heard about Australia in the comments! πŸ‘‡


More in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

Sightseeing in Sydney

Hotspots around Sydney that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. ⛴️

Fall for London in autumn

Photo of a squirrel in London in autumn

Picture the city’s beautiful parks painted in hues of gold, red, purple, russet and orange. It’s no wonder autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons to experience London. πŸ‚

Pair this stunning backdrop with some of the most fun events, festivals and holidays of the year and you’ll want to think twice before swapping hiking boots for slippers.

From comfort food to leafy trails, here’s why you’ll fall in love with autumn in London.

Forest floors and foliage

Photo of autumn fall leaves in London

For a sprawling metropolis, London boasts an abundance of green spaces. Come autumn, lush greens transform into warmer hues and brings that satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot. πŸ₯Ύ

Take in the crisp fresh air in beautiful city parks like Hampstead Heath, Kew Gardens and Kyoto Garden in Holland Park.

There are also hiking trails on the outskirts of the city. Some of my favourites are Epping Forest‘s natural beauty, the lakes of Lee Valley, Richmond Park‘s grasslands and free roaming deer, and Surrey Hills‘s countryside (wine tour, anyone?).

Warm knits

Photo of three knitted jumpers

The beauty of autumnal weather is its consistency; no more of summer’s mood swings between heat waves and downpours! Autumnal crispness is here to stay.

Time to swap flats for ankle boots, mini for midi skirts and … well let’s be honest, you never put that light jacket away, did you? 🌬️

Quality knits are worth the investment. You’ll need a comfy fitted jumper or cardigan to easily slip on and off, an itch-free scarf and a statement coat to complete your look (and practical needs).

Scottish cashmere is perfect (if you can afford it). Otherwise, Uniqlo, Gap and Marks & Spencer have a range of affordable staples and basics.

Comfort food

Photo of a pumpkin spice latte

Comfy knits and a roaring fireplace may keep you warm on the outside, but this season’s cuisine will warm you up from within. Best of all, you can find them all around London or can easily recreate the recipes at home! πŸ₯£

The UK is known for their roasts, so be sure to order one out at your local pub. For entertaining at home, try hearty recipes like soups, stews, curries and braised or roast meats with root vegetables.

Baked goodies are the perfect accompaniment. Some classics are crumble, pudding, pie, sponge cake, slice, cobbler and warm custard all flavoured with seasonal fruits and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Down it all with a seasonal pumpkin spice latte. Be sure to stock up at your next grocery shop: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. β˜•

Festivals and events

Spriggan, Parkland Walk, Crouch End

As temperatures drop, Michael BublΓ© and Mariah Carey start to rouse from hibernation. But before London gets festive, no matter how much retailers try to force it, there’s a few holidays to mark on the calendar first!

Autumn plays host to some of the best cultural holidays and festivals: revel in spectacular fireworks displays at Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes Night), celebrate the heart of the city at Totally Thames Festival, explore architectural wonders at Open House London and celebrate London Design Week.

And let’s not forget Halloween! Some of the spookiest sites include Whitechapel (i.e. Jack the Ripper), Highgate Cemetery, the Parkland Walk spriggan, and haunted pubs like The Flask, The Spaniards Inn and The Grenadier. πŸ‘»

Pumpkin patch

Photo of a girl holding a pumkin

Pick your own Jack O’Lantern pumpkin at a picturesque pumpkin patch! πŸŽƒ

What once was a simple family outing is now an Instagrammer’s hotspot, so expect crowds. You have plenty of choice scattered around just outside London. Some of the best known pumpkin patches are:

For something a little closer to home, you can book a Pumpkin Carving session at The Cauldron, or simply pick one up from your local Waitrose and M&S Foodhall.

Snuggle up

Photo of a corgi dog wearing glasses

With so much to see and do, you might feel a little exhausted after a busy week. And that’s the beauty of autumn. “A quiet one” is the perfect excuse to stay in, and no one will shame you for it because it’s highly likely they’re thinking the same thing! 🧦


What’s your the most awesome autumn activity you look forward to each year? Share your tips in the comments! πŸ‘‡


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What to pack when you move to London

Photo of a girl packing clothes

With limited baggage allowance, packing up all your worldly possessions into a suitcase might seem impossible but it doesn’t have to be. Each item just has to earn its place, and this guide will show you how! 🧳

Clothes and accessories

Photo of a woman's outfit

Did you know the term “capsule wardrobe” was coined by a Londoner? Essentially, it’s the essentials: a collection of timeless staples which can then be paired with seasonal pieces.

For example: coat, jeans, white shirt, black blazer, pencil skirt, little black dress, sundress, jumper, scarf, hat, flats, heels and boots.

Aside from the staples, bring about a week’s worth of underwear, socks and sleepwear. The rest you can cheaply stock up on once you’re here. πŸ›οΈ

I also found it handy to bring a set of activewear and trainers as you’ll be doing a lot of running around in the early days.

Key considerations

  • Quality over quantity is key. Leave the bargains and synthetics back home and bring only your best pieces.
  • Prioritise versatility. Your typical rented room in London is cosy, so ideally each piece can be worn for different occasions, including at work.
  • Practice some self-love. If you haven’t worn something in months because it’s uncomfortable or makes you feel self-conscious, donate it to charity.
  • London is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so you have loads of options to look forward to!

Toiletries

Photo of toiletries

Toiletries take up a surprising amount of space and the weight quickly adds up. Unless you have a skin allergy or particular hair care needs, don’t bother bringing your cosmetics collection.

Pack around a week’s worth of shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste (travel size is perfect) and stock up when you arrive. You’ll be surprised how cheap toiletries are in the UK, however makeup prices vary greatly.

You might even score a few freebies from the airline or hotel! 🧴πŸͺ’

Key considerations

  • If you use over-the-counter products, ask your doctor to cover your prescription for the next few months so you can stock up before you leave. Getting a local GP in the UK can take time (a permanent address is essential), so it’s best to prepare in advance.
  • Not all products have the same retail name in different countries! Might be worth double checking online for specific products.

Tech devices

Photo of various tech

Tech is important to get right early on. Having data on your phone for navigating and a reliable laptop for forms and applications are crucial for hitting the ground running. πŸ§‘β€πŸ’»

What to bring: mobile phone (unlocked SIM!), laptop computer, portal power bank, charger per device, adapter (AU to UK is essential, and AU to EU is useful for trips) and a USB stick (you never know).

Key considerations:

  • If you’re planning to upgrade in the near future, consider waiting until you arrive so you’ll be covered by warranty in the local region. I bought my mobile phone on my first day in the UK!
  • Consider bringing a power board to avoid over-relying on adapters.

Important documents

Photo of an Australian passport and flight ticket

Get your life admin organised before you go anywhere near Departures. πŸ›«

You’ll need originals and photocopies of all your important documents and, ideally, digital versions backed up in cloud storage and synced to your devices just in case.

What to bring: passport (visa vignette included), various forms of ID, visa approval letter from the Home Office, proof of funds document (valid up until 3 months), and any professional accreditation documents (university degree etc.) required for your field of work.

Key contacts:

  • If you get into trouble and require passport or consular support, contact the Australian High Commission: United Kingdom on +44 (0) 20 7379 4334.
  • Register your journey on Smart Traveller and follow their recommendations for the United Kingdom.
  • Dial 999 to reach emergency services in the United Kingdom.

Food and confectionery

Before you stuff your face or fill every compartment with TimTams, relax. Australian confectionary, even lamingtons, are relatively easy to come by in London.

Pay Clapham a visit and you’ll get a decent (albeit pricey) flat white and ANZAC biscuit in no time. πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί

Key considerations

  • Ask your friends and family to bring a goody bag when they come to visit.
  • Admittedly, there are a few things you won’t find like Weis Bars. Have a go at making your own! 🍨
  • Australian brunch is hugely popular in London. Check out my top picks to get your avo on toast fix. πŸ₯‘

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. Let me know in the comments below if you think I’ve missed anything! πŸ‘‡


More in London

Photo of a squirrel in London in autumn

Fall for London in autumn

London in warm autumnal hues coupled with fun activities and events will make you think twice before swapping hiking boots for slippers. πŸ‚

Photo of Oxford's skyline

Day trips from London

There’s nothing quite like strolling along a tree-lined canal or cobblestoned village lanes. πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§

Photo of Tower Bridge and London's skyline

First impressions of London

If expat life feels like home then you’re doing it wrong πŸ˜… This is my ever growing list of culture shocks I’ve experienced since moving to London.

Thrifty London life tips

Photo of a Pret coffee cup at a picnic in London

London is one of the most vibrant, thriving and exciting cities to live in the world. It is also one of the most expensive. πŸ’·

Coming from Sydney, I was confident the high cost of living wouldn’t be painfully obvious. I was mostly wrong.

Steep rent, public transport and bills (some, you’ve definitely never heard of) coupled with generally lower wages takes some getting used to. After your first few pay cycles, you’ll start to work out what you can afford and what’s best to enjoy in moderation.

While you work out your budget, here are some tips for scrimping and scraping without missing out. πŸ‘Œ

Food and groceries

Photo of a London food market stall

Bottomless brunch and covering the next round of drinks can stack up quickly. Fast food is cheap, but you can easily achieve a healthy and sociable lifestyle:

  • Β£3 meal deals are a convenient mid-week lunch or breakfast to go. They typically include a sandwich, bottled drink and packet of crisps
  • Packaged salads and sandwiches at supermarkets are great for healthy convenience, but costs much less if you meal prep at home πŸ§‘β€πŸ³
  • Cafe loyalty cards offer freebies or discounts over time. Following your favourite places on social media is also a great way to spot a giveaway
  • Supermarket prices can vary a lot. Opt for cheaper groceries at Lidl, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons
  • Yellow stickers typically signifies a reduced price item which is perfect for a sandwich or sushi roll to be consumed that day.

Transport

Photo of a Santander Cycles docking station

TfL isn’t a world leading transport authority for no reason, but its coloured Tube service and iconic Black Cabs come at a cost. There’s plenty of ways to get from A to B in the Captial:

  • London Bus and London Overground services are the most affordable options (aside from walking!)
  • Off Peak fares apply outside of rush hour periods, and avoiding Zone 1 when using the Tube is also cheaper
  • The Santander Cycles cycle hire scheme are also affordable and accessible with thousands of docking stations located in zones 1-3 🚲
  • Cycle to Work scheme offers significant discounts on purchasing a bicycle, so it’s worth checking if your employer has one.

Rent and bills

Photo of the view from a London flat

Well, let’s get this one over with like a bandaid: renting in London is ridiculous. Paying up to half your salary for a “cosy” room sharing with random people with varying hygiene standards and noise tolerance levels gets old fast. πŸ™ƒ

While you don’t always get what you pay for, these tips can help ease the pain:

  • Rent is typically cheaper in East London and South London
  • Avoiding Zones 1 and 2, and often depending on the area 3, is a good rule of thumb but bear in mind public transport costs increase the further out you live
  • Living within a 10min walking distance of a Tube station will drive the rent up. Consider moving to an area with good transport connections to Central London or your office via bus, Overground or Docklands Light Railway
  • Not all council taxes are created equal so it’s worth taking into consideration
  • Opt out of paying for a TV licence and avoid doubling up streaming subscriptions. You can split the cost between your flatmates πŸ“Ί
  • Central heating can easily double your bill in the cooler months. Substitute it for warm indoor clothes and a good quality duvet from autumn!

Socialising and sightseeing

Photo of Sky Garden

Enjoying all London has to offer is hugely appealing; while it’s important to treat yourself to a West End show from time to time, there’s plenty of affordable options to keep you entertained:

  • London hosts some of the best museums and galleries in the world, and almost all of them are free to enter
  • Panoramic views of the city are free from Sky Garden and the Viewing Level at Tate Modern
  • Standing tickets are just Β£5 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
  • Pubs and bars often host cheap trivia nights, comedy sessions and theatrical performances
  • London’s many stunning parks are perfect for picnics and outdoor fitness πŸƒ
  • Food markets or food halls are a great location for social gatherings as there’s a variety of options to suit everyone’s tastes and budget
  • Lunch time menus are typically cheaper than dining out in the evening
  • Rush tickets are a great way to bag cheap tickets for live and theatrical performances
  • MeetUp and other online groups offer socialising and free or cheap classes.

Fashion and beauty

Photo of a clothes rack

London is considered a fashion capital of the world. If you’ve ever wandered down Oxford Street and Regent Street, you’ll see why! Fast fashion is the name of the game, but your wardrobe doesn’t need to be at odds with your wallet:

  • Bag a bargain for a good cause at a charity shop
  • Shop sustainably at London’s vintage and retro markets
  • Use an app like Vinted or Depop to find your next secondhand treasure πŸ‘—
  • Student discounts are available at many major retails (and food vendors) so make sure to flash your ID card
  • Get your hair cut for free or coloured for a significant discount with salons like TONI&GUY who need hair models for their apprentices
  • Check Groupon or similar services for beauty package deals to get your nails, waxing and more for less.

Health and fitness

Photo of pedestrians crossing Millennium Bridge

While bottomless brunch beckons, it’s important to balance binging with regular physical activity. Affordable options include:

  • Streaming online workout videos
  • Free trials at gyms and fitness centres are a great excuse to try something new. Barre, anyone?
  • Joining a local fitness group. There’s loads of hiking, yoga and other social groups running cheap or free sessions
  • Cooking at home and freeze portions to have something healthy on hand when hunger strikes
  • Reading my guide for avoiding the Heathrow Injection! πŸ’‰

Holidays and travel

Photo of

European holidays and local trips in the UK are a hugely appealing reason for being located in London. With multiple airports and international rail, it’s also hugely accessible. Here’s how to bag a bargin:

  • Score cheaper airfares by travelling mid-week
  • Shop around for fares, tickets, rooms and rentals online
  • Flights and accommodation are generally cheaper in shoulder seasons (off-peak)
  • Student discounts apply for most airlines and travel packages
  • Learn the basics of a new language via app or a free language exchange.

How to do keep your finances under control in London? Share your hot tips and hacks in the comments below! πŸ‘‡


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Sightseeing in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

I spent six years living in Sydney before I moved to London. From postcard destinations to uncovering local gems, I savoured every minute of this harbourside city. ⛴️

Visitors often experience choice overload when it comes to exploring, and trust me its the same story for Sydneysiders when it comes to weekend planning.

Here ‘s my shortlist of hubs around the city that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. Each area boasts stunning scenery, good transport connections and great food options. πŸ˜‹

Circular Quay

Photo of a Sydney Ferry

Circular Quay epitomises a Sydney postcard and it hosts the most spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks in the country. πŸ₯³

Within walking distance, you can easily access the iconic Sydney Opera House, view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

A day in Circular Quay will keep you busy, but food options tend to be overpriced. The Rocks is just a stone’s throw away and has better dining options, or you can organise a picnic in the gardens with a view.

Transport: Circular Quay is well connected and serviced by rail, light rail, buses and of course the classic green and yellow Sydney Ferries.

The Rocks

Photo of people walking at The Rocks in Sydney

A short stroll from Circular Quay and at the doorstep of Sydney Harbour Bridge is The Rocks – a heritage district from the settlement days with cobbled lanes and home to one of Australia’s oldest pubs.

Enjoy the famous markets at the weekend; this is where you’ll find the perfect souvenir! Christmas in July is a particularly fun time to visit. 🎁

Weather is pleasant year round, but if you’re after something special then check out Vivid Sydney in May and June when the city becomes a festival of light and sound where art meets technology.

Transport: a short walk from Circular Quay and its many transport connections, and the area is also directly serviced by buses.

Lavender Bay

Photo of the North Sydney Olympic Pool

Cross the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Lower North Shore home to Lavender Bay! There area is much more than just getting your adrenaline rush at Luna Park Sydney. 🎑

Easily spend a whole day exploring this peaceful paradise. You can enjoy scenic walks from Lavender Bay to Milson’s Point, stop by Wendy’s Secret Garden, and swim at the North Sydney Olympic Pool by sunset. If you have energy to spare, return back to the city via the pedestrian walk across the bridge.

Also be sure to check whether the Kirribilli Markets happening this weekend – you never know what you might find! πŸ’Ž

Transport: the area is serviced by buses and ferry or a short walk from Milson’s Point train station.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach isn’t for surfers. It’s actually one of Sydney’s quieter beaches in terms of crowds and the waves. 🌊

Situated in the harbour, Balmoral Beach offers leisure activities like swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling or strolling down the boardwalk with gelato in hand.

Rocky Point Island is the perfect picnic spot which is accessible via an idyllic bridge, and there are plenty of eateries around to satisfy everyone’s tastes and budget. Personally I recommend getting fish ‘n’ chips takeaway from the famous Bottom of the Harbour.

Transport: the area is serviced by buses, or you can drive but parking prices can be steep.

Spit to Manly walk

Photo of a water dragon lizard

This 10km bush walk offers stunning coastal views and the opportunity to spot some wildlife (the non venomous variety, if you stick to the trail!). You can take your time or power walk your way through, so it’s perfect for all fitness levels.

Technically you can start from either end, but most people start from The Spit Bridge in Mosman and finish up in Manly. This is probably due to the variety of food options awaiting you at the finish line.

Along the route you’ll come across ancient Aboriginal rock carvings, sub-tropical bushland, secret beaches and more. The path itself consists of paved walkways, boardwalks, bush trails and stretches of sand to cross. 🐚

Transport: buses to The Spit Bridge in Mosman, and both buses and ferries to and from Manly.

Manly

Speaking of Manly… While Bondi is more widely known across the globe, Manly is frequented more by locals and visitors alike.

Its tree-limed promenade is perfect for watching surfers and beach volleyball players, and off to the side is its quieter counterpart Shelly Beach which is perfect for snorkelling. 🐟

If you don’t fancy getting your hair wet, you can also explore its many eateries and bars as well as retail stores, boutiques and markets. It’s also a hub of thriving nightlife, so don’t be in a rush to leave.

Transport: ferries from Circular Quay or frequent bus services.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach – aka “Summer Bay” from Home and Away – is situated at the farthest reaches of the Northern Beaches. Its stunning scenery and quiet privacy often attracts celebrities as their choice location for a Sydney getaway.

Its other claim to fame is the iconic view from Barrenjoey Headland. Standing alongside a picturesque lighthouse, you can take in sweeping views of the peninsula flanked by beaches on both sides. If you can turn your gaze to the opposite direction, you can see as far as the Central Coast region!

There’s two pathways to the summits; a long winding trail and a short steep path. I recommend taking the short route uphill for a bit of exercise and taking it easy on the way down.

Transport: regular buses or accessible by ferry from the Central Coast.

Bondi Beach

Photo of Bondi Beach in Sydney

No Sydney sightseeing listicle would be complete without covering Bondi Beach, home to Bondi Rescue, Bondi Vet and my favourite Italian pasticceria!

Bondi Beach is where you’ll show off your Sydney holiday on Instagram: gelato in one hand, a cocktail in the other, sand between your toes and saltwater in your hair. 🀳

Top sights and activities in Bondi are the graffiti wall, Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, weekend markets, open air cinema in summer, and Sculptures by the Sea outdoor exhibition during every October.

Transport: the area is serviced by buses, or you can walk 15min from Bondi Junction train station.


Know a secret spot or local gem that everyone should experience in Sydney? Share your insider tips in the comments! πŸ‘‡


More in Sydney

Photo of an Australian koala

Australia survival guide

From crocodiles and sharks to a nasty sunburn, here’s how to survive a visit Down Under. 🐨

Day trips from London

Photo of Oxford's skyline

London’s abundance of things to see and do is part of its charm, but eventually you’ll want a break from the hustle and bustle.

In the mood for an adventure? Take a day trip to a neighbouring town! There’s nothing quite like winding down while strolling along a tree-lined canal or cobblestoned village lanes.

England is full of heritage sites and historic towns to admire. Explore medieval castles, mysterious ruins, sprawling countryside and cottages. There’s something to suit everyone’s interests. 😍

These are my favourite trips easily accessibly by coach or train from the Capital. Planning ahead is advisable when it comes to affordable fares!

Bath

Photo of Roman Baths interior

Top sights: the Roman Baths, built above a natural hot spring, is equal parts museum and ancient archeological site. The city of Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage site; it boasts incredible architecture like Pulteney Bridge, Bath Abbey and The Circus. Feeling thirsty? Sample the local water’s distinct flavour at The Pump Room Restaurant.

When to go: year round, but summer can be particularly busy.

Getting there: direct train from Paddington Station (1h 20min).

Did you know? Jane Austen is a famous Bathonian resident. It’s also the set of films like The Duchess and Les Miserables. 🎬

Bournemouth Beach

Top sights: explore Bournemouth’s seven miles of beach and surprisingly warm microclimate! Water sports are a popular pastime here; who would ever have thought you could learn to surf in the UK?! For a traditional holiday experience you can rent a classic beach hut.

When to go: summer (or a heatwave day if you’d like to swim). πŸ–οΈ

Getting there: direct train from Waterloo Station (2h) or coach from Victoria Coach Station (2h 45min).

Did you know? Its colourful beach huts were originally built in 1909 and the site is marked with a blue plaque at the east of Bournemouth Pier.

Brighton

Top sights: Brighton is a beautiful pebble beach getaway with its iconic pier jutting out into the sea. The town itself features charming architecture, historic pubs and plenty of stores and eateries to explore. Cycling is also a popular way to take in the coastal views.

When to go: summer or any heatwave day.

Getting there: direct train from Victoria (1h) or from Blackfriars (1h 20min).

Did you know? Brighton is considered the second most haunted city in Britain after York. Halloween party, anyone? πŸŽƒ

Bristol

Top sights: the iconic Victorian Clifton Suspension Bridge is a symbol of Bristol. There is a hiking trail to get to the summit, or you can take the easier route via the park. The harbourside is also another major hub of the city, and was frequented by pirates back in the day. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Banksy’s Girl with the Pierced Eardrum.

When to go: year round, but milder climate is preferable if you’re planning outdoor activities.

Getting there: direct train from Paddington (1h 30min).

Did you know? Famous Bristolians include actors like Jeremy Irons and Maisie Williams; literary heavyweight J K Rowling; the mysterious street artist Banksy; and the infamous Blackbeard the Pirate! Robert Louis Stevenson’sΒ famous bookΒ Treasure Island features many locations around Bristol. πŸ΄β€β˜ οΈ

Cambridge

Drone photo of Cambridge University grou

Top sights: Cambridge is a very walkable city, but cycling is the most popular way to see the sights. Some highlights include the King’s College Chapel and the university grounds, a mix of things to find and try at Market Square, and a view of the town from Great St Mary’s. β›ͺ

When to go: year round but summer is preferable for punting on the River Cam, and autumnal walks are magical.

Getting there: direct train from King’s Cross (50min).

Did you know? Cambridge gets its name from the River Cam, and the city has played host to films like The Theory of Everything and Netflix’s The Crown. Cambridge University has also produced world-renowned scholars including Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing. πŸŽ“

Canterbury

Photo of Canterbury canal at night

Top sights: Canterbury Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the world’s most famous places of worship. The town is also home to The Marlowe Theatre; get caught up in the controversy as to whether Canterbury-born Christopher Marlowe actually wrote some of Shakespeare’s works. 🎭

When to go: year round, but a picnic in springtime by River Stour is a great excuse to visit!

Getting there: a direct train from St Pancras International or Victoria Station (up to 1h 30min). Canterbury East is the nearest stop to disembark but Canterbury West is equally close to the centre of town.

Did you know? Canterbury is the setting of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The town’s name is inspired by the fact that it was an easy canter on horseback from London (back in Roman times!).

Hitchin Lavender

Top sights: Hitchin is home to one of the loveliest lavender fields; best of all you can take your clippings home! There are picnics tables onsite for you use or you can order from the cafe. It’s also nice to extend your trip to the town centre where you can admire medieval buildings and cute local shops and cafes. 🧡

When to go: lavender blooms between mid-June until mid-August, but if you stick around in mid-August you can also enjoy the sunflower fields!

Getting there: train from St Pancras International (50min) and a taxi or ride hailing app from the station (10min).

Did you know? The small market town of Hitchin became an established lavender grower as early as the 1500’s. It was one of the only two areas in the country.

Oxford

Drone photo of Oxford University grounds

Top sights: spend the day exploring The City of Dreaming Spires by visiting the university campus, baroque architecture at Blenheim Palace, 1,000 years of history at Oxford Castle & Prison, the iconic Radcliffe Camera and Bridge of Sighs, and get lost wandering the Oxford Covered Market.

When to go: year round, but shoulder seasons will mean less crowds!

Getting there: direct train from Paddington (50min).

Did you know? Famous literary geniuses attended Oxford University such as Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien who studied at the Bodleian Library. The city’s “Olde Worlde” charm also made it the perfect backdrop for Harry Potter films; you’ll recognise Christ Church Cathedral playing the part of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. ⚑

Rye

Top sights: explore cobbled alleys lined with historic buildings; medieval pubs, Georgian homes and strangely named houses like β€œThe House Opposite” or the β€œHouse with Two Front Doors” along Mermaid Street. If you like ancient structures, you’ll enjoy Ypres Tower which was built in 1249 to defend the town and Rye Castle. A beach stroll at Camber Sands is just a bus ride away.

When to go: year round. Perfect for a beachside afternoon or an evening by the fireplace.

Getting there: two trains from St Pancras International changing at Ashford International (1h 10min).

Did you know? Rye used to be surrounded on all sides by water. Hundreds of years ago, it formed part of the medieval Cinque Ports; the town’s hilltop vantage point made it useful for guarding against marauding invaders. πŸ›‘οΈ

Stonehenge

Top sights: well, Stonehenge! There’s also a walking trail exploring the area with great views of the famous stone circle as well as archaeology and wildlife.

When to go: summer and winter solstices are thought to be a spiritual experience.

Getting there: train from Waterloo Station (1h 25min) and a local bus from Salisbury to the Visitor Centre (30min).

Did you know? Stonehenge remains shrouded in mystery even after 5,000 years. Scholars generally agree that it was a calendar given its significance during the summer and winter solstice. It’s also estimated that 200 people are buried at the site. According to a 12th century legend, giants placed Stonehenge on a mountain in Ireland before Merlin the wizard moved it to England with magic. πŸ§™

White Cliffs of Dover

Top sights: the iconic White Cliffs of Dover are a perfect for a scenic coastal hike. Popular stops along the way are the Fan Bay Deep Shelter constructed in World War 2, and the South Foreland Lighthouse. The imposing Dover Castle is also a short journey away (6min by car, 35min on foot). 🏰

When to go: the trail can get muddy, so pack your wellies or hold off until a dry spell.

Getting there: train from St Pancras International (1h) to Dover Priory and then take a cab (10min) or walk (40min).

Did you know? The iconic white chalk surface dates back to the Ice Age. On a clear day you can glimpse France from across the channel. Your phone’s timezone might change, so don’t panic if you suddenly think you’re an hour ahead!

Windsor

Top sights: Windsor Castle, royal wedding venue and preferred place of residence of Queen Elizabeth II, dominates a day trip to Windsor. The town also shares its name with the British monarchy features historic sites and the sprawling Windsor Great Park with 500 free roaming deer at the castle’s doorstep. 🦌

When to go: all year round.

Getting there: train from Paddington with a change at Slough (45min).

Did you know? Windsor castle has been home to The Royal Family for over 1,000 years and is the largest occupied castle in the world!


What’s your favourite day trip destination from London? Share your tips in the comments! πŸ‘‡


More in London

Life-changing reads

If you’re a fan of print, you’ll understand the panic mode that hits when you realise you have to abandon your home library when it comes to The Big Move (see below or read more on Instagram).

With an average of 20-something kilos per bag, you quickly realise suitcase space is hot property real estate. That’s when you face the painful process of picking your favourite book child(ren) and sadly part with the rest πŸ“š

A few ways to get around it are to:

  • Convert to an e-reader and bring your digital library anywhere you go
  • Hit up secondhand bookstores once you arrive. I picked up Rubicon by Tom Holland in great condition for just Β£2 at a London charity shop!
  • Ask your family to stuff a bag full of books and goodies from back home during their obligatory visit
  • Scope out pricey shipping options if you can’t live without your 12 volume fantasy saga. Expat Facebook groups are great for recommendations.

Below are some of the titles that I couldn’t bear to part with, and ironically some actually inspired me to move in the first place – like inspirational comets, crashing into my life plan and shifting its trajectory off course β˜„οΈ

β€œA room without books is like a body without a soul.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Orator

Warning: Reading the following books might change life as you know it! Proceed with caution.

Writing and teen angst

Bitten🐺

Kelley Armstrong, Women of the Otherworld, Horror, Fantasy, 2001

Elena Michaels is the world’s only female werewolf. And she’s tired of it. So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she’s trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him.More info

Before Twilight‘s sparkly vampires infected our lunchtime gossip sessions, I was nose deep this is dark, gritty urban fantasy about werewolf mafia.

The story gets up close and personal, making you shudder with images of gore, and flush red from the abrupt, raunchy sex littered throughout. Armstrong’s writing perfectly blends the supernatural and the adult world, minus the cringey tropes of teen fantasy novels.

After turning the last page, I opened up my Word and immediately started writing my own supernatural saga (because I was such an ‘expert’ by that point). I’d print off every new chapter and bring it to school for my best friends to take home and read. Surprisingly, they enjoyed it and pestered me daily for the next installment. Chuffed that my writing was such a hit in the schoolyard, I decided that being a writer was my calling.

History buff

Mistress of Rome βš”οΈ

Kate Quinn, Empress of Rome, Historical Fiction, 2010

First-century Rome. Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, purchased as a toy for a spiteful heiress. Now she has infuriated her mistress by capturing the attention of Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. Reinventing herself as a singer for Rome’s aristocrats, Thea unwittingly attracts another admirer: the charismatic Emperor.More info

The story hits the ground running. Quinn brings imperial Rome to the present through her protagonist’s modern voice and hits you with sensory bursts – colour in rich silks, thunderous applause in the Colosseum, the shiver of the Emperor’s breath down your neck, and the smell of gladiator sweat as they fight it out for their lives.

I picked up Mistress of Rome early on in my uni degree. At the time I was indecisive about first year Psychology and looking for ways to avoid stats. Knowing that I’d have to tackle my numerical demons at some point, I jumped into my imagination’s time machine. The world of emperors, gladiators and lavish banquets was so richly immersive I longed to be a part of it.

And so began my second (and third) academic start, bringing me closer to my Serious Writer dreams and ever so much further away from stats. Seeing the Colosseum in person never fails to snatch the breath from my lungs πŸ›οΈ

Culture and cuisine

The Gypsy Tearoom 🍝

Nicky Pellegrino, Fiction, 2007

Raffaella Moretti is by far the most beautiful girl in the southern Italian village of Triento and she is about to marry the only boy she has ever loved. The last thing she expects is to find herself a widow one short year later, down on her hands and knees, scrubbing clean the layers of dirt from a strange house.More info

I don’t subscribe to the motto ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ – something has to entice you to pluck it from the shelf, right? This little teal book caught my eye and the strange title instilled me with the sudden need to know what a ‘gypsy tearoom’ was.

A chapter or two in, and I’ve been a tragic Italophile ever since. Food, language, art, history, culture, romance … what’s not to love?!

Pellegrino depicts Italy in sepia – picturesque towns and traditions passed down over generations, and a calmness that makes you want to curl up on a sunbed and sip spritz on a summer afternoon by the beach. Hmm, maybe I could live there…

Girl power!

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon πŸŒ™ Volume 1

Naoko Takeuchi, Shōjo Japanese Manga, 1992

Usagi Tsukino is a normal girl until she meets Luna, a talking cat, who tells her that she is Sailor Moon who must fight evil and enforce justice, in the name of the Moon and the mysterious Moon Princess. She meets other girls destined to be Sailor Senshi (Sailor Scouts), and together they fight the forces of evil!More info

Sailor Moon combines most things I enjoy – superpowers, strong females, romance, action, mythology, Japanese culture, the list goes on. The series really kicked off my love for visual storytelling, resulting in many trees sacrificed to my endless ink doodling. Good thing now we have tablets!

Confession: This phase actually started with the American 90s anime adaptation Sailor Moon. This ‘phase’ hasn’t exactly ended yet, and it may have inspired a trip to Japan and led to an obscene amount of merch purchases πŸ›οΈ

My interest in the original manga only started amidst the hype surrounding the franchise’s 20th anniversary and the release of the Sailor Moon Crystal anime series. Nostalgia of the fun, quirky show of my childhood came flooding back and I gave the back-to-front illustrated novels a go. After devouring every instalment, plus a few volumes in Spanish and Italian, I went ahead and rewatched the entire series.

Warning: Prepare to have this track stuck in your head all day.

Myths, gods and heroes

The Iliad 🏺

Homer, Epic Poem, 800 or 700 B.C.

The darkest episode in the Trojan War. At its centre is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his refusal to fight after being humiliated by his leader Agamemnon. But when the Trojan Hector kills Achilles’ close friend Patroclus, he storms back into battle to take revenge knowing this will ensure his own early death. Interwoven with this tragic sequence of events are the conflicts between the Gods on Olympus as they argue over the fate of mortals.More info

Homer. Where to even begin? A timeless epic of Greek and Trojan heroes: honourable Hector, god-like Achilles, beautiful Paris, proud kings, egotistical gods, a hidden trap wooden horse, a decade of war and forbidden love, and ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’.

The Iliad is eternal and enduring. It embodies the Greek heroic tragedy, and would pave the way for countless retellings and interpretations across the ages. The story represents storytelling in its richest form and adapts seamlessly across all mediums: oral, written, audio, visual. In my opinion, its only downfall is the repetitive comparisons of every warrior to a lion. How about a wolf, mountain bear or an eagle to mix things up a bit?

The Iliad is my muse, as my well-thumbed copy can attest.

β€œEvery story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”

Octavia E. Butler

Honourable mentions πŸ₯ˆ

Okay, so this post sort of became a shopping list.

  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo, YA Fiction
  • The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller, Historical Fiction
  • Imperium, Robert Harris, Historical Fiction
  • Antony and Cleopatra, Colleen McCullough, Historical Fiction
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux, Gothic Horror
  • DraculaBram Stoker, Gothic Horror
  • The Aeneid, Virgil, Epic Poetry
  • The Odyssey, Homer, Epic Poetry
  • Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, Memoir
  • Lunch in Paris, Elizabeth Bard, Memoir
  • Geisha of Gion, Mineko Iwasaki, Memoir
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, Dystopia
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantasy
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantasy
  • The Book of Tomorrow, Cecelia Ahern, YA Fiction
  • The Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton, Children’s Fiction
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning ThiefRick Riordan, YA Fiction
  • Stardust, Neil Gaiman, Fantasy
  • Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen, Fiction
  • Harry Potter: and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling, Fantasy
  • Eragon, Christopher Paolini, Fantasy
  • Magic Knight Rayearth, CLAMP, Shōjo Japanese Manga
  • Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura, Arina Tanemura, Shōjo Japanese Manga
  • W.I.T.C.H, Elisabetta Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci, Barbara Canepa, Italian Comic.

β€œIf there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

Toni Morrison

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