Excellent Adventures: London with Nicole Breanne
London, the capital city of England and the United Kingdom, is a famous and leading global city in several industries, including the arts, fashion, entertainment, tourism, professional services, and more. It's one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and was ranked as the most visited city in 2015 for its popular attractions including the British Museum, the Tower of London, and the National Gallery. Our friends Nicole, and her boyfriend Lucas, headed to London and documented their favourite parts of the trip — so essentially all of it!
Bather: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Nicole: My name is Nicole and I'm a commercial and lifestyle photographer in Toronto, Canada. I was drawn to photography in my youth as a way to immortalize a moment, and now I especially love documenting people and the human experience. The minute I can capture the essence of a person and have them see themselves the way the rest of the world does is pretty special. That, and bringing someone's idea or brand vision to life are up there as my favourite "is-this-really-my-job" moments behind the lens.
When I'm not shooting, I have the privilege of working with women and teens doing personal development work, by hosting events, workshops, and panels. Other things I love: eating, hosting dinners are our place, traveling with Lucas, supporting local businesses, and of course our dog, Saunders.
B: Give us a bit of background about your trip. Where did you go and who did you go with?
N: I went to London, England with my boyfriend and fellow creative, Lucas Young. He's a graphic designer and illustrator, so together we had similar ideas of what we wanted to do on our trip. We were really excited to see some of the tourist spots and especially excited to explore some of the boroughs as "locals" as well.
We explored South London — our favourite neighbourhoods were Shoreditch, Hackney, Brixton and Peckham) — but we also ventured to Greenwich, SoHo, Covent Gardens, Piccadilly Circus and even Windsor.
B: How long did you stay in London? Any specific reason for the trip?
N: We were pretty excited to have a full week in London, as we knew we'd have lots of opportunity to really explore. I can't think of the last time as an adult that I took a full week vacation in one city! It was originally a family trip for Lucas and his parents (his brother has a young baby and new job so he and his wife weren't able to come), but I tagged along so we had some family time and lots of alone time! It was perfect.
B: Where did you stay?
N: We stayed in a quaint AirBnB in Lambeth, which is a borough in South London. It was perfect because it was a pretty short walk to some of the main sights like the London Eye, Big Ben who's getting a facelift, the River Thames, etc. But it was also a short and easy bus ride to a few of our favourite neighbourhoods. I can't stress it enough, we really loved South London.
B: What are some of the attractions you saw or some of the tourist activities you did?
N: Lucas had never been to London, and it had been several years since I'd been there so we obviously had to hit up some of the tourist attractions. We did a boat tour along the River Thames which is a great (and relaxing) way to embrace being a tourist and have a local teach you about a lot of the attractions. And yes, beer and wine are available on board. You'll pass the London Eye, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Big Ben, the London Bridge, and lots more as you travel all the way to Greenwich.
We did the Tate Modern (highly recommended), Natural History Museum (also great), the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Gallery (also awesome), the Greenwich Meridian and Royal Observatory, and lots more. We walked through the Edinburgh Castle grounds, St. James Cathedral (great views of the city), and absolutely LOVED Kew Gardens.
Some of our all-time favourite spots were Boxpark in Shoreditch (a ton of local shops and eateries in a cluster of shipping containers), Mr. Bao in Peckham (a Taiwanese snack bar with the best steamed buns), Sky Pod Bar at Skygarden (360-degree views of one of the highest points in London, but be prepared to be surrounded by more Insta-selfies, Snapchatters and Insta-influencer-blogger shots than you've ever seen in one place)! We loved craftndraft, which is a craft beer bottle shop, a.k.a. all the best local beer by the bottle in one shop (if only Toronto could have these!) with a very informative owner, who organizes the beer by type. We loved Homeslice pizza in Neal's Yard, Pop Brixton, Peckham Levels, Bussey Beer Gardens, and our favourite locally-made goods shop was Bonds in Hackney. Brunch at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch is never the wrong choice either.
B: What are some common misconceptions people may have about London? Did anything surprise you while you were there?
N: Last time I went to London it was for a dance trip in high school and I don't remember the food being very great. All this time I decided that London had mediocre food, but I learned that was because I stayed primarily in the tourist areas. This time Lucas and I ventured out to cool neighbourhoods and had some amazing meals. I was very wrong!
We also thought London rained all the time. It never rained on us once during the 8 days we spent there. Granted, they were experiencing a hotter than normal summer but even when the forecast showed possible rain it never did. And luckily, with such a dense city there's always a pub, coffee shop or store to pop into if you do get rained on!
B: Anything you wish you could have done? Or something you wish you could do again if you were to go back?
N: Like any major city, there's always more exploring to be done! It would have been fun to spend a little more time in each of the neighbourhoods we loved. We'd kind of find the gems, but one can only jam so many meals, coffees, drinks, and treats into half a day in each spot! But believe me, we tried. It would have been fun to go through Windsor Castle, but we didn't quite make it before closing for the day.
B: Any tips and recommendations for people wanting to visit London?
N: Spend a day doing some of the tourist things — we're not big on being "tourists" but you can't go all the way to London without at least seeing some of the attractions. Pick a few museums and galleries and be sure to check them out too — especially since most of them are FREE!
Otherwise, find a neighbourhood with a few spots you want to check out, and ask the people there what they love in that area. We'd often pop into a cool local shop to chat with the owner, and we'd leave with a few purchased goodies and a list of awesome spots in the neighbourhood. The locals know best, and in our experience, they were excited and eager to help us love the spots they love!
Lastly, don't try and do it all. London is huge and you could spend months trying to see everything. Once you feel like you've checked off a few "iconic London spots", hit up a local brewery or coffee shop and do some people watching.
Describe your trip in 5 words.
Inspiring. Learning. Connecting. Fulfulling. Delicious.
Want to see more from Nicole?
Follow her on Instagram @nicolebreanne or check out her website nicolebreanne.com.