A couple of months ago, I spontaneously decided to book a trip with two coworkers at my new job to celebrate our April birthdays. Desperately wanting to get back to Europe but not wanting to wait until a yet-unplanned trip in the fall, I excitedly hit ‘book’ and spent 10 days exploring London, Dublin, and Scotland with two new friends.
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Day One: London
Having studied abroad in London and visited it several times since then, you’d think I’d be tired of going back. Nope! While it is nice to visit new cities, I love going back to cities I already know well, just because there’s always something new to discover and less pressure to fill my days sightseeing.
After a rather long queue at customs, we took the Tube into the city and made it over to Shoreditch (really Hoxton), our home for the next few days. I quickly freshened up from the flight and minimal sleep and headed out to Shoreditch High Street to meet a former colleague for lunch at Haché Shoreditch on Curtain Road. It was the perfect way to wake up from the jetlag slump (and eat much needed non-airplane food).
After, I wandered around Shoreditch a bit and then headed down to the City of London. I’d never had a proper wander around the City before and with the blue sky and clouds reflecting off the building surfaces, it was really photogenic.
Walking around London on this day also made me feel a little homesick for the city. The past couple of trips I’ve taken to London have been brief and, to be honest, I wasn’t as enamored with it as I have been previously. I’m glad my opinion of it changed this time around! I should also note that this was my first time not staying in West London on a trip, so that could have something to do with it.
I then met back up with my companions at Ace Hotel London in their café/bar before we did some shopping (I can do some damage at M&S) and had a makeshift dinner of sausage rolls, crisps, and Percy Pigs.
Day Two: London
Our first full day in London was a busy one. I was excited to show off my former home to my friends and boy did we see a lot of it! After taking the bus to Monument, I took them to St. Dunstan-in-the-East, still one of my favorite spots in all of London, followed by the Tower of London and St. Katharine’s Docks, another favorite spot.
By then it was lunchtime, so we went to Borough Market. Although very full of tourists, it is worth a visit in London and has so many lunchtime memories for me. My usual salt beef sandwich stand wasn’t there so I opted for a cold pie from Pieminister that I’d heat up for dinner. Read more about my favorite spots in Borough Market.
From there, we went past my old dorm behind the Tate Modern and then stopped for a break at Paul where I had a sandwich and indulged in a chausson aux pommes since they’re so hard to find in the States.
We then headed over Blackfriars Bridge (dodging some climate protestors on bikes) toward Temple. I wanted to go my usual route through Middle Temple but it was unfortunately closed (I guess for the marathon which would be the next day), so we cut up a different way, hit up LSE and Lincoln’s Inn Fields and wandered over to Seven Dials.
Sarah and I split off to continue exploring, buying macarons from Pierre Hermé (another purchase I always make when I’m near one) before making our way to Buckingham Palace, Parliament, and Victoria Tower Gardens and back to Southbank again. Needless to say, our feet were dead so the bus ride back was very welcome. What can I say, central London is just so walkable!
For dinner, I had my pie, polished off the sausage rolls, and tried to resist more Percy Pigs. The pollen had been particularly bad that day so I went to bed early because my eyes were in so much pain!
Day Three: London
Our third day in London was pretty slow – a welcome change from the previous day. Justicia, Sarah, and I had afternoon tea at The Ivy. I’d never been before and it was wonderful to eat my weight in scones and clotted cream for the first time in what felt like ages.
We then went to Boxpark, this cool group of shops, bars, and restaurants in these old shipping containers (I think) before going on our Jack the Ripper Tour!
The last time I went on a Jack the Ripper Tour it was pouring rain, dark, and very atmospheric. This time around, it was sunny and freezing so although perhaps less atmospheric, it was a great opportunity to see more of the Spitalfields area (and document it during daylight hours). By the end, I was thoroughly creeped out and physically shivering (teeth chattering and all) so I welcomed a hot shower and warm bed.
Day Four: Dublin
The three of us made our way to London City Airport the next morning, hopping on the Tube and then the DLR for a very easy ride there. The flight to Dublin was uneventful despite some turbulence at the end AND I only had to take one ginger Dramamine a big breakthrough for my flight anxiety.
We had a great Airbnb (use this link for $40 off your first Airbnb booking!) located within walking distance of everything, which made it easy to explore Dublin for the first time. Justicia was feeling under the weather so Sarah and I headed out to explore. I had wanted to see Christ Church Cathedral, but it was closed for a private event so we walked around Dublin Castle instead before eating our first Nando’s of the trip!
Naturally, I had to get a dessert. We discovered that Dublin is weirdly full of donut shops so I was able to find one still open where I purchased a pistachio one for later. Before heading in for the night, we visited Temple Bar, which wasn’t nearly as crowded as I thought it would be (I guess given that it was a Monday and pouring rain), but it was still full of tourists. Am I glad I saw it? Yes. Would I ever go back? No.
Day Five: Dublin
Next day in Dublin, we woke up earlier to make it to Trinity College to see the library and Book of Kells. To see the detail depicted on the two open pages of the Book of Kells was something I’ve wanted to do for so long and it did not disappoint.
The next room after the Book of Kells was the library itself – and can you say dream room?! It smells of old books (one of my favorite scents in the world) and is the perfect mix of wood and leather book covers. Unfortunately, it was impossible to read the titles (a favorite pastime whenever I’m in beautiful libraries with old books), but if that was possible I probably would have spent the entire day going from cover to cover.
We took a recommendation from a local and stopped for breakfast at Keogh’s Café where I had one of the biggest pots of tea and a ham and cheese sandwich. Next stop: cathedrals!
Since we couldn’t visit Christ Church Cathedral the previous day, we made our way back there to have a proper look around. Per my mom’s advice, I spent a while exploring the crypts, which were impressive. You all know I love a good church!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was our next stop. While I’m glad I visited both, I think I prefer Christ Church.
My blood sugar was dangerously low at that point, so we headed back to one of the main streets where we could find an open restaurant in the middle of the afternoon. I voraciously scarfed down a brisket sandwich and chips so I would be ready for our next stop: the Guinness Storehouse.
I didn’t have that much of a desire to visit the Guinness Storehouse; I’ve had Guinness before and was never a fan but I was interested to see what the experience would be like since I’d visited Glengoyne Distillery last spring in Scotland. Overall, I thought the Storehouse was really well done – well thought out and well put together. It definitely catered to Instagram and seemed almost like a Disney World experience with its curated exhibitions and ordered path to follow. I am glad I got to see it but would probably choose a distillery or brewery where I could see the product being made next time around.
Thanks to a suggestion from my brother’s friend, we ended up at The Cobblestone, an Irish pub with live music and a local feel. We chatted with a guy traveling solo from Maryland and then heard about 20 students simultaneously break into choral music in classical Latin. I had tears in my eyes because of the beauty of it all – the students were dispersed throughout the pub, so the sound enveloped the entire room. It is indescribable. That is why I travel. How else could you have a spontaneous experience like that?