Hey everyone! Ok, whew, I’m finally back and mostly caught up with boring adult life things, so now I can get back to the fun stuff! Wheeee!! Today is all about my trip to London (with a little two day stop in Paris). Sorry if you just wanted me to dive back into the sewing shizz! Deal with it~
Anyway, sooo, London! I’m just going to touch on highlights, and share some photos (nearly all of these have been posted on Instagram/Twitter, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little backstory with the photos, yeah? :) Oh, except for the ones I shamelessly stole from other people. Hey, if you tag me in it, I get to use it hahaha). Don’t take this as a ~London guide~ because I really am not a travel blogger by any stretch of the imagination, but hey, I’m happy to share all the things I learned while on this trip :) Fair warning: I did not take very many pictures. I never do when I go on trips; I find that for me it’s really hard to stay in the moment and enjoy myself if I’m worried about getting good photos. Also, this post ended up being reeeally long, despite my best efforts at condensing it – so yeah. Sorry! It’s totally ok if only my mom ends up reading it :)
Thursday: I flew into London on a red-eye, arriving on Friday morning. Not much to say about the trip, as I mostly slept on the plane (or, rather, tried to). I will mention that I never once saw my seat mate do anything other than stare straight ahead. Not even watching TV – that was off the whole time – just staring at the back of the seat in front of him. At one point, I noticed he was wearing headphones. Later, I realized that they weren’t plugged in. So there’s that.
Saturday: This was the day of the London meet-up on Goldhawk Road. Yes. The day after I flew in. In retrospect, planning a meet-up during which I will likely still have jet-lag (spoiler: I did. Ohhh I so did) is a terrible idea. I ended up feeling very tired, a little sick (in that I-barely-slept-last-night kind of way, although, I *did* sleep well the night before. When you’re staying with Clare in her Elvis Presley Deluxe Suite, how couldn’t you? ;) ), and was generally very quiet and a lot overwhelmed – not overwhelmed with the meet-up, per se, but just the whole thing about being in a completely different country and all that. All that being said – I had a wonderful time at the meet-up! We had a smallish group of less than 20 women, which was nice and manageable (I’ve heard stories about those 80+ people meet-ups, and y’all, I would be horrified. Haha!). It was so nice to meet everyone who came out, not to mention shop with them! I do like buying fabric solo, but man… I’m a big fan of the peer pressure influence too :) And Goldhawk Road is pretty awesome! It’s no NYC Garment District by any means, but there were still loads of shops to check out, the prices were good, and everyone who worked there was pretty friendly :) Also, some of the window displays were insane.
This was my favorite window display out of all of them. How good is that? The more I look at it, the more it makes me laugh.
Price-wise, all the shops in the area were pretty reasonable. I had to be very mindful of whatever I bought – I was limited to one checked bag (an additional would have cost $100), plus, my dollars don’t go as far in London when compared to the pound. Not to mention, I have TONS of fabric at my house that I need to sew through! So I tried to stay pretty restrained (and make everyone else buy lots of awesome fabrics, heh heh heh) and did not buy much.
After we were all shopped out, we went to Defector’s Weld around the corner for drinks and food. I unfortunately did not get a photo of the meet-up (again, me and taking photos doesn’t really jive), oh well! So instead, here’s a photo of my name on the table. Big thanks to Stevie for wrangling the reservation for this part of the meet-up – couldn’t have done it without her! ♥ Also, big huge thanks to Sally and Fiona for being my personal Tube Guides during this day, as I otherwise would have definitely gotten myself super lost.
So yeah, first meet-up was excellent! Thanks to everyone who made it out – I just wish I’d been feeling better, so I could have talked more and not just sat there staring at my soup like a freaking zombie. I have learned my lesson for the next time! Get over the jet-lag first!
Fortunately, the jet-lag only hung around for another day… then I felt REALLY splendid for the rest of the trip. So that was good!
Sunday: I met up with Birgitte, who was also visiting London from out of town (albeit from Norway… but still! Somewhere Else!), and we went to see the Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibit at the V&A Museum. One thing I loooove about London is that basically all the museums are free! SWEET! Of course, certain exhibits may cost you regardless – such as the one we saw at the V&A, I think it was around £10? It was totally worth it, though! They will also check your coat and bags at the museum for free, which was nice since it was cold and rainy that day.
After the museum, Birgitte and I wandered into Liberty of London. At the risk of making myself sound like a complete idiot – I had no idea Liberty was a department store? I’ve only ever known it for the fabrics. So I was pretty surprised to see that – not only is it an entire store, but it’s a fucking FANCY store! Now I understand the hype. Still don’t care much for the fabrics (I tried, I really did! But no Liberty fabrics came home with me on this trip), but, I get it.
Monday: This was the day I really started feeling 100%. I met up with Nicole, Rachel and Vanessa for a shopping day in Dalston Mills, at the Ridley Road Market. Nicole lives in the area and was kind enough to show us around – it. was. AMAZING! Such a completely different culture from what I’d seen the night before (I mean, I went into Harrod’s at one point, for fuck’s sake hahaha). We shopped for fabrics at the little fabric store – as well as on all the tables selling beautiful African wax prints (which you can also get on Goldhawk, but I liked the wax prints here better!). I also bought hair dye (because, why not?) and a new neon green purse, having realized my sling bag was not big enough for the necessary umbrella & other necessities.
There is a lot of dead meat on Ridley Road. Here I am standing next to some. Yay, meat!
It was such a treat to be able to spend some time with Rachel. We may or may not have bought mostly the same fabrics (all destined for lingerie, no less!). In case you were wondering – she’s just as gorgeous in real life as she is in photos. Maybe even more so! And she’s so tall – especially next to this 5’2″ runt :P
After my shopping day in Dalston Mills, I stayed in East London and met up with my friend Peter for drinks at a couple of the nearby bars. Peter is an old friend of mine – we go ‘way back, like, pre-high school, and he was my first roommate when I moved out of my parent’s house. I haven’t seen him since he moved back to London 10 years ago, so it was REALLY great to see him and catch up. We both drank ourselves into hangovers that night. It was awesome.
Tuesday: Hangover day! I started my morning with a big, proper English breakfast with Clare, which I ate about half of (I know! I hate wasting food, but hangovers for me tend to be the really sick/no appetite types). I did not touch the beans, which horrified about half of Instagram, apparently. Sorry, dudes. Baked beans are gross and I wasn’t about to risk trying them when I was already feeling sick!
Anyway, a hot shower did a good job of clearing me right up, so I was able to drag myself out of the flat and take myself on a date to the British Museum. This was pretty much the only thing I had planned in advance before getting to London – I knew I wanted to see mummies! And I did see mummies – three times, in fact. I kept going back to the Egyptian room, because mummies are awesome haha.
I also took a selfie with this guy. I felt pretty silly, but I’m trying not to care. I really wanted to take a selfie with the naked Greek statues (head height for me is right about at the weiners, which is PERFECT), but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Next time!
It was also pretty cool seeing the all the Parthenon stuff. We have a full-scape replica of the Parthenon in Nashville (because of course we do), and it’s pretty true to the original. Except for that whole collapsing part haha :P
Wednesday: In the AM, I met with Melissa Fehr in her floating house boat on the Thames river. Yes, you heard me – HOUSE BOAT. I had no idea that was a thing in London, but it is, and it is excellent. There’s a whole boat community out there, with floating gardens and community centers and other impressive floating things. Also, Melissa is fucking hilarious, and her cat is adorable and extremely good at laser acrobats.
After tea & pumpkin pie and general boat-awe, we took a bus to get lunch with Tilly on her side of London, as well as check out her beautiful studio where I would be teaching my class later that evening.
Oh, so, my class! Zips & Buttonholes was 3 hours of great fun! My students were all fabulous and really killed their zipper insertions (and I’m a little jealous that my first zippers never looked that great! Many, many MANY years of dodgy zippers are in my past, ha!). Everyone was so lovely and fun to chat with – one person even brought me a gift of bicycle print jersey (for real! I was – and still am – completely floored by her kindness and generosity. Thank you so much, Caroline!). We did have one injury in the class – I think that was a first for all of us (knock on wood, haha). Poor Rosie! Actually, she was a really great sport throughout the ordeal – and I love the photo we got together haha. I hope your finger is feeling better now, Rosie! You should be proud of your battle scar :P haha!
Thursday: While my family spent the day feasting and hanging out, I woke up at the ass crack of dawn (aka 5AM) to catch a train to Paris! Our party (me, Clare, Kelly and Emmie rode the Eurostar into Paris bright and early, with a couple hours to spare before the big meet-up arranged by Carmen. Clare was staying in a separate hotel (being preggers, she has greater rest needs, plus, she was staying an extra day in Paris), but Kelly & Emmie and myself – along with Tilly & Freya (who I just met during the trip and OMG LOVE HER) – booked ourselves up a swanky little pad via AirBNB. Like, my bed nook (hell yes I got my own bed… I’m opening to sharing, but I also snore, so that usually means I end up solo hahaha) had PARIS DISCO LIGHTS:
I almost wish we staying in Paris longer just to enjoy that damn apartment. We were on the top floor, with skylights on the roof and chandeliers hanging off everything. There was also pink toilet paper, which really cracked me up. Apparently, that’s not uncommon in Paris (or London, for that matter)? I’ve just never seen it in the US – only ads from, like, the 60s. I wish we had colorful toilet paper here now. My bathroom would be so much more exciting.
The Paris meet-up was SPLENDID. Carmen really outdid herself with planning everything down to the last detail, with an itinerary, maps, and GOODIE BAGS.
I am pretty sure I have the worst manners ever, but Kelly & I fucking ripped right into those bags the second they were handed to us. Everyone else was standing patiently and politely up to that point. Whoops.
I was really excited to see Norma! I met her in NYC while I was there in March, but we didn’t really have a chance to talk then – so it was nice to actually have a good chat with her. Love Norma!
Ok, so, as far as places we shopped in Paris… I’m afraid I can’t really give you a running list. I ended up following my small group like a little puppy – not to mention, I couldn’t read any of the signs (I really did try to brush up on my French in the months before I left, but learning a foreign language is hard!), so I don’t remember them. Sorry, guys! If you want suggestions on where to go for fabric shopping in Paris, best ask someone else… because I’m pretty useless haha.
We did find some great shops, though! There was one- Les étoffes du Sentier (I took a photo of the bag, ha) – who liked us so much, they led our small group (we were long split off from the big group, being slow shoppers and all) to their big warehouse where they had even MORE stuff, including (really inexpensive, really nice quality) leather. Loved those guys!
We also went into La Maison Sajou, which is basically the cutest shop in the world. I could have bought one of everything in there, were my bank account limitless. I am chatting with Rehannon here, omg that girl is such a trip! ♥ Also, I’ve never seen a bigger collection of Lauren derp faces than there are from this trip HAHA!
The ladies at Sajou were kind enough to make us all tea, and clever enough to serve said tea in their branded mugs. PROTIP: If you want me to buy something, just let me carry it around for a while. By the time I finished my tea, I knew that mug was coming home with me. You can totally see it in my eyes, haha.
Oh yeah, we also hit up the sweet Les Coupons de St-Pierre, which is one of those mythical “coupon” shops where you get 3 meters of fabric for 8€ or 10€ (or more of less, depending on fabric!). That place was sweet, the employees were awesome, *and* they gave us a discount because of Carmen! Woohoo!
Finally, what was left of our party moseyed over to The Pink Flamingo Pizza Parlor rue Muller (fair warning – that link auto plays music!) for drinks and dinner. I really loved this place – the pizza was outstanding and there were some cray flavor combinations. We shut that place down with our chatting and drinking.
Friday: We had a small meet-up rendezvous at Anna Ka Bazaar the next morning. They served us tea and cookies and gave us a nice discount (and yes, I bought myself a special piece of splurge fabric. Anna K instead of Liberty, fuck yea!), and let us hang in the shop for a bit. Norma came out, because I wanted her to see my Marlborough bra and assess the fit. Sooo… long story short, after realizing there was no bathroom to duck into, and determining that no one in the shop (especially the owners, obviously) minded seeing some bewbs, I just stood behind the counter in my bra and Norma gave me an impromptu fitting lesson for the crowd’s entertainment. Ha! Fortunately, the major fit areas (band, bridge, most of the cup) are spot-on. I just need to tweak the upper cup and the strap placement, which Norma told me how to do. How’s that for some customer service, amirite? Also, the ladies at Anna K were really excited when they realized that, not only did I make my bra – but the patternmaker was Norma! And now I can say I spent some ~topless time~ in France hahaha.
Jolies Bobines met with us and took our small group (me, Kelly, Emmie, Tilly, Freya & the addition of Nicole) on to more shopping after Anna K to some of her favorite Paris fabric shops. One of the places she brought us to was Malhia Kent, which was AMAZING. So much brocade and sparkly lurex! It was hard to restrict myself to just one special piece, but I was worried about luggage restraints at that point. I managed :) Also, it was really cool to finally meet Jolies! Despite my complete and utter lack of French knowledge, she was able to speak enough English so that we could get a good conversation going :) She did suggest that I start following French blogs and reading French patterns, as it helped her learn English faster – so I might have to try that!
After Jolies left while we ate lunch, I starting feeling my hangover (two in one trip, argh), so the rest of my time in Paris was spent avoiding the wine and steaks that my fellow travelers were eating. Bummer! As luck would have it, I felt better right about the time we boarded the Eurostar to get back to London. Figures!
Saturday: Since Clare was still in Paris for another day, I went back into central London (by myself! I am getting so good at this tube navigation system, haha!) and met with Tilly for a nice relaxed shopping day in Soho. We went to lots of little shops in the area – some fabric, some gifts, some clothing – but the only place I bought anything from was Cloth House (see above for fear of my loot not fitting in my luggage, ha). Tilly also took me into the clothing store Joy, which is full of some of the cutest stuff I’ve ever seen (I really really really want to knock off this toggle coat now. I mean, come on!) (Oh, I just lied to you; totally bought a necklace from this store). We also went to Bravissimo, because the bras there cost about half as much as they do in the US (even with including the exchange rate). This is probably bordering on TMI – but, Tilly & I actually wear the same bra size (lolz), so we were able to get side-by-side fitting rooms and swap bras haha. I ended up buying the Satine bra in black, in case you were curious!
I’m really happy with how well Tilly & I got along. I’ve been friends with her online for ages, but this trip was the first time I was able to meet her in person. Sometimes, people can be different than their online persona (this hasn’t happened to me in the blog world, but I’ve heard horror stories! And I’ve used OkCupid in the past hahahahaha), so it can be a gamble when you plan to spend a multitude of days with one person if you’re not sure that your personalities will mesh. Like I said – I haven’t had this issue with anyone I’ve met through this blog (no, really! Every single one of y’all has been really cool and fun!). That being said, Tilly far exceeded my high expectations. She’s just a really great person and I’m glad I got to spend some time getting to talk with her and hang out. Now I’m getting Tilly withdrawals! Wah!
Sunday: Last day in London! When I was originally planning this trip, Tilly offered to let me take over her studio for a little sewing shindig on the last day I was there. After nearly 2 weeks away from my machine, it was pretty awesome to be able to sit down and sew again! We had a small group – unfortunately, Clare was feeling pretty beat up after Paris, so she wasn’t able to make it :( – but it was great seeing the rest of the ladies: Karen, Roisin, Freya, Emmie, Jane, and of course, Tilly! Everyone brought a project to work on, foods to snack on, drinks to drink on (I’m currently a Prosecco convert… mmmm), and we just had a lovely afternoon. It was a great send-off to a really really awesome trip.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
After we left Tilly’s, Tilly took me to Sainsbury’s in my quest to find Party Rings. These ridiculous
cookies biscuits were a staple for my family back when we were visiting London in the late 90s – as in, my siblings and I ate the SHIT out of them. We brought a metric shit-ton back to the states with us, and it was a sad day when we finally ate the last one. I was bound and determined to find some to take home – and I did! Yay Party Rings! :D
Finally, I met with my friend Jamie Susan in Greenwich for some Vietnamese food and much-needed Nashville gossip. Funny story about Jamie Susan – she’s an old friend from Nashville (we used to go on laundromat dates together haha) who moved to London about 2 years ago after getting married. I knew she was in London, but I figured she’d be so far out from Greenwich (where I was staying) that meeting up would be too much of a hassle. Turns out – girl LIVES in Greenwich! What are the odds, amirite? Anyway, I’m glad we made time for each other because it was great to catch up and I realized how much I miss her. Dammit, Jamie Susan! Come back to Nashville and visit already!
Monday: Ok, Monday doesn’t really count because it was my traveling day. However, I did want to point out that the plane from London to Toronto was pretty empty, and I somehow managed to get an entire row to myself for the whole 8 hours. That. Was. AMAZING. Also, I flew Air Canada, which was just nice as hell. The food was really good, the flight attendants were incredibly nice, and everything was just really clean and well taken care of. Oh, and there was FREE WINE. I think I’m spoiled for life, now though, after being able to stretch across an entire row and basically have a party to myself for the whole flight. It was like a First Class experience, without the First Class price tag. Go, Air Canada!
So yep, that’s my trip! Sorry the post got so long and out of hand – I tried to condense it as much as possible (and I figure – better one looong post than a bunch of short posts, especially for those who would rather skip this kind of topic altogether!). A few things I’d like to point out about traveling to London & Paris, from a non-international traveler standpoint – these are the things I wish someone had told me up front:
- The very biggest thing that threw me off in London? They don’t put cream in their coffee! This is probably a “no shit, Sherlock” type statement to most of y’all, but I had no idea! Europeans (or, at least, those in London & Paris) put milk in their coffee. Half the people didn’t even know what I was talking about when I asked for cream. Obviously I was able to adapt very quickly (I mean, this is coffee we are talking about) – I learned that I really like flat white coffees! – but it really threw me off the first couple jet-lagged days I was there.
- My little passport wallet came SUPER in handy the whole time I was there. It was nice to have one place to keep my cards and my passport – and I especially loved that zippered pouch for holding all my change. One thing I didn’t realize is that the British use lots of coins, especially for one and two pound amounts (we don’t really have that in the US; the one time they tried to make a dollar into a coin, there was some SERIOUS pushing against it. I know of stores that refused to accept it as payment, even though it’s legal currency haha). So, bring something that will hold your coins!
- Another big tip if you’re taking an overseas trip – if at all possible, get a credit card with the chip, as it’s the safest way to carry money around. I think the chip is about to become standard for all new credit and debit cards (I’ve noticed the machines in stores since I got back), so it’s really just a matter of replacing your current card if you already have one. I found that my bank has a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, which saved me loads of money since I only had to pay the exchange rate. I charged everything to my card and paid it off when I got home. Obviously don’t do this if you’re not able to pay off the card – you don’t want to come home from a vacation already in debt – but if you can be responsible and hold yourself accountable, it’s very useful. Plus, I earned points for every dollar I spent, so it’s like a double bonus!
- Speaking of those chip cards – you’re supposed to get a pin so they can be used in the machines. For whatever reason – mine just didn’t work. The card worked, I mean, but I had to sign for every purchase. I’ve heard it might be an American card thing (some people told me they had the same issues with US credit cards), but it’s just something to be aware of. Again, carry an ID with you if this is the case because they are required to check the signature if you don’t use a pin.
- If you’re going to a foreign country and want to still use your phone without having to deal with roaming/international charges, I would seriously recommend getting a prepaid SIM card. I had my phone unlocked through my provider (DO NOT do this through a third party – nine times out of ten, you’ll get scammed. My provider tried to give me hell about unlocking the phone because I’m still under contract – despite paying cash for the phone when I bought it – so I unlocked it through their website and it went through. Worth a try, anyway!) and bought a prepaid SIM card through EE. For £15, It had 150 minutes (more than enough for me; I never talk on the phone haha), unlimited text messages, and 2 GB of data while in London. Since my plan was local only, I used WhatsApp to keep in touch with my US friends, and FaceTime to talk to Landon :) The phone stayed off while I was in Paris (although I’m sure there are prepaid options for roaming other countries, if that’s a need for you!). This was obviously LOADS cheaper than what my provider was trying to charge for me to roam with a US number. Of course, I could have kept the phone off entirely, but it was pretty useful to have a local number so I could text people to arrange plans/meet-ups, and also have the data for mapping my tube routes and playing on Instagram :)
- I didn’t realize this until I was actually in London, but if you use Uber (a ridesharing/taxi program that is way cheaper than a typical cab), it *does* work in London. I used this to get home after teaching at Tilly’s, and also to get to the airport on Monday morning (I’m sure every single commuter on the train loves and appreciates me for not subjecting them to standing behind me dragging my luggage onto a crowded train haha). The rates are great – I paid £40 to get from Greenwich to Heathrow, which was about a 70 minute drive during rush hour traffic. If you haven’t used Uber before, here’s a shameless free code for ya – laurent319 will get you a free ride (up to $20, then you pay the difference if it’s more than that). You just need to download the free app to use it (full disclosure – if you use that code, I will get a free ride, which I will then use to take me to and from the airport when I travel. Free Ubers for everyone! Yay!). Anyway, Uber or not – I would strongly recommend setting some money aside to get you a cab back to the airport, if public transportation is your only other option. It’s worth the money just to know you can sit and relax and not be banging your giant suitcase into someone’s poor ankles.
- Wardrobe-wise, my capsule wardrobe ended up being a really great decision on my part. I made everything I had planned and wore almost entirely handmade (save for my jeans, which I can’t bear to part with because I love them so much) for the whole trip. It was nice to have a mix and match of outfits to choose from – saved on both luggage space and getting ready in the morning time. Of course, this meant that people saw me wearing the same thing more than once (gasp!), but, you know what? Fuck it.
- Speaking of clothing and dressing appropriately for the weather, it must have been a REALLY mild time in London because I definitely was not cold! I brought both my big plaid coat and my bomber jacket, which turned out to be very useful because I ended up needing them both at one point or another. I found that by wearing lots of lightweight layers, I stayed very warm – and it was easy to peel layers off if I got too hot. It also barely rained while I was in London – it was mostly grey, which I found quite nice. I must have brought something gross back with me to the states, though, because it’s been REALLY cold and rainy ever since I got back! Ew!
I was going to take individual pictures, but I’m tired and this post is long enough. Sooo, just a smattering of things! Just a few I want to point out exclusively – the pretty blue/purple floral-ish one in the very middle is my special piece from Anna Ka Bazaar, the red and gold geometic print is a beautiful boucle (with sparkly lurex!) from Malhia Kent, and the big peacock feathers at the bottom is my African wax print from Ridley Road Market in Dalston Mills. Oh, and the blobs at the bottom are laces and sheers for future bras! I also bought a piece of red and white striped knit from Cloth House, which somehow didn’t make it into this photo. Womp womp.
Also not pictured, but worth noting – I totally bought a mug from Sajou. I drink my coffee out of it every morning now and I just love it :)
Ok, I reckon this post is long enough, so time to wrap up! Big huge thanks to everyone who helped make this trip the wonderful adventure it turned out to be – those of you who made it out to the meet-ups, my class, for London and/or Paris hangs, or who just had suggestions for making the most of my trip. You are all awesome and I appreciate all of you and your input! :) Big thanks to Tilly for letting me take over her studio as much as I did – and for putting up with me for multiple days (poor girl is likely sick of me at this point, ha!). Big thanks to Carmen for arranging the whole Paris meet-up and making it such a highlight of my trip (psst – want to see more photos? Here’s the Flickr Pool!). And biggest thanks to Clare, my love – who opened her home to me and initially stuck me with the I-Have-To-Go-To-London bug. I’m sad that Clare and I didn’t get to hang as much due to her pregnancy and work obligations, but even just sitting on the couch with tea and chatting at the end of the day was really really wonderful. Thank you so much ♥
Also, thank YOU for making it to the end of this post! Whew, that was a big one haha! Come over now for your complimentary Party Ring ;)