London: Libations

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London is a wonderful place to just wander and stumble into any bar you come across. Pubs seem to just spill out on the sidewalk, and it’s really easy to fine a good time just walking down the street. Many of my favorite nights (and more than a few Friday afternoons, when my team took a ‘London lunch’) were spent in bars I completely just happened upon.

One I can speak highly of (but is in one of the most touristy areas imaginable – Soho/Theater District) is The Coach and Horse. My friends and I wandered in after a show, and found an energetic crowd singing the hits accompanied by a piano. Hearing my American accent, the bartender asked where I was from. “New York” I admitted (being the easiest answer at the time – I’d never pretend to be a life-long New Yorker). “OI WE HAVE A NEW YORKER” he yelled at the pianist. A minute later, a packed bar in London was belting “New York, New York.” It’s one of my favorite London memories.

My favorite bars/clubs in London are mostly in two areas: Chelsea, and Camden Town. These two areas are a bit touristy, depending on where you go, but also have pockets of hidden gems!

Chelsea: Chelsea is one of the wealthiest areas of London, and the nightlife here has that feel to it. In New York language, I would say it’s most parallel to going out in Meatpacking. Girls in dresses and heels, guys in slacks and button downs, even a suit jacket if the weather’s cool enough.

Most of the nightlife in Chelsea is off of one street: King’s Road. Conveniently also on the same street: a Pizza Express. My friend Cena and I would get dinner and share a bottle of wine at Pizza Express, carb-load before going out at two popular spots on King’s Road: Raffles and 151 Club.

Camden Town: Camden Town is a bit more casual. Relative to New York, I would equate it to an East Village feel. Jeans and a fun top with booties is more the trend for girls; guys would be comfortable in jeans and a t shirt.

There are multiple bar crawls you can buy a wrist band to – usually these are HUGE groups that wander some of the highlights of Camden together (and maybe get a free drink at some of the bars). I did one when I studied abroad, with some friends that were visiting, and it ended up being a cool way to see Camden’s highlights, but it was a bit touristy.

My favorites in Camden:

Proud Camden: this is an old horse hospital, that has been converted into a bar space (with the stalls made into VIP rooms). There are 5 bars spread out throughout Proud, which means shorter lines

Koko: this is an old theater (think balconies and ornate ceiling and curtains) that has been converted into a five story club. The orchestra is a dance pit, and the live music here is pretty good! If you’re not into dancing, the mezzanine and balcony also have their own bar spaces

An important end of the night staple in London: Kabab. Either on a sandwich, or in a platter – it’s always amazing and delicious… The London equivalent to Dollar Slice Pizza!

Important to note: The Tube doesn’t run 24/7, so have a plan to get home (either cab or Uber/Gett is my suggestion if you’re just visiting, although the busses run 24 hours).

6 (Less Obvious) Necessities for a Long Flight

Travel Necessities

There’s a lot about a big trip that can be stressful, but literally the most daunting part of my trip to Australia was the flight situation. The longest flight I’d ever taken was only about 9 hours, and I was about to spend TWENTY ONE hours in the air. But I was completely shocked by how easy it was! A layover in San Francisco definitely helped, but there were a few other things that definitely made it bearable.

1) My Favorite Sweater: My biggest advice: dress comfortably! This is probably a given for my fellow Millenials out there, but there are still a lot of people who dress up for a flight. I boarded the 14 hour leg from San Fran to Sydney behind a girl in pumps with, no joke, a 4 inch heel.

Especially for a flight like this I’d recommend wearing leggings and sneakers (plus sneakers take up so much space so it’s a bonus to save on luggage room!). I’m always cold on flights, so I like to wear layers – usually a long sleeved tee and my favorite Patagonia pullover. An added bonus of the pullover: the huge pocket in the front. I had an emergency exit row, so I wasn’t allowed to have my bags at my feet for takeoff and landing. I packed that pocket so full that I felt like a kangaroo. I’m talking water bottle, phone, headphones, a snack, anything I would need for the flight in case I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to get up.

On my trip I ended up buying a pair of authentic lamb’s wool socks, which were awesome for the flight back!

2) Compression socks: You would be shocked at how sitting upright can make you feel after such a long time. My boss at work is used to long flights and told me that her biggest advice was to get some compression socks (which you can grab at drug stores and super markets). It made me feel a bit like a pro because the businessmen in my row all pulled them out too.

Basically, these help with your blood flow so that all of your blood doesn’t end up in your feet, which can make them swollen and painful. This does make them really hard to pull on (picture yourself pulling on like TWO layers of Spanx). It seriously took me like 10 minutes each time. But it definitely helped – I had no soreness when I arrived, and since I had big plans for a LOT of walking on my first day of Sydney (post to come!), that was crucial!

3) Sleep Aid: I’d never used a sleep aid before – I don’t know why, but it just freaked me out a little. But I knew that to be functional and make the most of my time in Sydney that I would need to sleep a lot on my flight and be fresh when I arrive. And sitting upright is not exactly my favorite sleeping position. So for this trip I planned out my sleep schedule ahead of time (more on that later), and took some Zzzquil. It really did knock me out for a bit – not in a “I’m totally dead to the world” way that could be concerning if you need to be aware of your environment… more so in a “decent sleep” way for about 9 hours. Would definitely recommend.

4) J” Pillow: OK so I know this thing is shaped a little funny, but it was really comfortable! With normal travel pillows, I feel like I have to bend my neck over so far that I end up in a lot of pain. This “J Pillow” sort of surrounds your head, so you don’t have to bend your neck as much. It’s definitely more supportive and it’s also inexpensive! I grabbed mine from Amazon.

5) Skin Mask: I would challenge anybody to say they have drier skin than I do. Especially after being on a plane, I feel like my skin is unbearable, so I knew I was going to need some skincare for such a long flight. One of my coworkers actually recommended the Clarins Hydraquench Cream Mask, so I bought a tube off of Amazon. Usually I think of masks as something I need to remove, but this one goes on so thin and doesn’t leave my skin feeling gunky. I just put it on every few hours throughout the flight, and honestly feel like my skin might have been better moisturized when I arrived than when I left.

6) S’well Bottle: Speaking of hydration — staying hydrated is so important on a long flight because it helps you feel fresh and relaxed, and can help fight exhaustion. I personally really hate having my tray table down – I feel like I’m going to kick it when I cross my legs (maybe even knock it while I’m sleeping). So instead of relying on those tiny cups of ice water from the flight attendants, I just kept refreshing my S’well. It kept the water colder than a plastic bottle I could have grabbed at the airport, but still could be sealed and thrown anywhere out of my way.

Long flights will never be a super fun experience, but the things I listed above definitely improved my experience a lot. A few other tips:

  • If you can bear it, go for the aisle seat and walk around as much as you can. I had an exit aisle, so I was lucky and could extend my legs all the way, but that’s not always the case, and it can be really difficult on your knees
  • Get on the local time of your destination as soon as you get on board. Try to sleep when it’s night time there. For example on my flight back, we took off at 2 PM in Auckland… but it was about 11PM in New York, so I went to sleep as soon as possible.
  • The food isn’t as bad as you would think! If you’re awake, at least try it. I usually do pasta, because it’s safer than meat, but I’ve really had some good airplane meals!
  • FYI: In-flight entertainment in March is full of “Oscar season” releases, because most of these hit theaters in December/January