#Goals: Bernina Express

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Have you ever accidentally come across something, felt sudden chills running through your body, and thought, “Oh my gosh, I want this”?

Bernina Express in Winter_by Kabelleger_David Gubler_Public domain_via Wikimedia Commons

The Bernina Express in winter. Photo by Kabelleger / David Gubler (public domain).

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I was just looking up how to get to Venice from Paris in Seat61 and it mentioned the Bernina Express, so I went to that page, and then just: chills.

I don’t know why — I’ve never actually even dreamed of going to Switzerland before. But I make a lot of my travel decisions this way: based on whether or not the thought of going to a place gives me chills. (Wait, is the proper term chills or thrills?) And it’s not just because I’ve never seen snow yet, I don’t think.

So: #goals.

How do you decide where to go?

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© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

16 Places in Batanes That Will Make You Never Want to Leave (or Make You Start Planning Your Return ASAP)

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Whether you’re in Batanes for 2 days or 2 weeks, joining a tour group or going DIY, these are the stunningly gorgeous spots that will make you fall in love with the Philippines’ northernmost province — so much so that you’ll start keeping an eye out for seat sales the moment you get back home!

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NORTH BATAN

 

Basco Lighthouse_01

Basco Lighthouse and Naidi Hills
The iconic Basco lighthouse is one of the highlights of the North Batan tour and is the perfect place to watch the sunset. It can also be reached by a leisurely 30-minute walk from the town center.

*

The view from Fundacion Pacita's dining area

Fundacion Pacita
The Fundacion Pacita Batanes Nature Lodge was the home of acclaimed artist Pacita Abad and is now an exclusive (and expensive) boutique hotel. Its proceeds fund projects for Ivatan artists, educational grants, and eco-tourism programs.

*

Mount Carmel Chapel_03Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
A charming little chapel built in the tradition of old Ivatan stone houses, the breathtaking views from its beautifully built doors and windows will make you believe there is a God.

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Rolling Hills_06Rolling Hills
In these sprawling emerald hills — a pasture for goats, cows and carabaos (Philippine water buffalo) — you could point your lens towards a random spot, take a random shot, at a random angle and focus, and your photo would still come out perfect.

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Boulder Beach_001Boulder Beach
When Mt. Iraya erupted all those years ago, it rained molten rocks on Batan island’s east coast, eventually leaving behind the boulders that now adorn this beach. The stones, waves, and surrounding cliffs are particularly gorgeous during sunrise.

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SOUTH BATAN

 

Batan_06White Beach
Visit this secluded strip of sand on a misty morning and you’ll never want to leave.

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Boat Shelter Port_01Boat Shelter Port
A touch of Venice! Functionally, this port is where marine vessels seek refuge during inclement weather, but the profusion of outrigger-less boats floating on a watery avenue will no doubt remind visitors of a certain Italian city.

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Batan_09Alapad Hill and Rock Formation
Aside from the chance to see goats risking their lives to graze on steep hills, this spot also offers views of grass-cloaked mountains, glorious cliffs, and waves furiously crashing against stoic rocks.

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Chawa Viewing Deck_04Chawa Viewing Deck
From this vantage point — often the first stop on the South Batan tour — one can behold otherworldly cliffs, sun-kissed hills, deep blue seas, frothy waves, and the majestic Mount Iraya.

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Racuh a Payaman_02Racuh a Payaman
Its colloquial name, Marlboro Country, is pretty apt: Racuh a Payaman has just the sort of vast, rugged, grassy terrain through which the Marlboro Man can be expected to gallop. Although horses have been known to graze here in the past, nowadays the primary residents are carabaos — and tourists marveling at the stunning views.

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Tayid Lighthouse_01Tayid (Mahatao) Lighthouse
The original lighthouses in Mahatao were two stone structures situated several meters apart: once their two points of light converged, sailors knew they were at the right spot for entering the town port. This newer, prettier lighthouse is perched on top of the Mahatao mountains and commands views of sprawling hills and sparkling seas.

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SABTANG ISLAND

Sabtang LighthouseSabtang Lighthouse
The last of three lighthouses in Batanes, this edifice is the most prominent feature of the Sabtang coastline and is as picture-perfect as its two counterparts in Batan island.

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Sabtang_Savidug Village_01Savidug Village
Traditional Ivatan stone houses, separated from the sea by a row of coconut trees and a beach dotted by fishing boats, transport the wanderer back to simpler times.

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Sabtang_Chavayan Village_03 (2)Chavayan Village
Brightly colored windows add a touch of whimsy to sturdy stone dwellings built by Ivatans in the shadow of legends.

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Sabtang_05Morong Beach and Mahayaw Arch
It’s hard to resist taking a dip in the cool, clean waters of this fine, white sand beach — or taking a selfie with the Mahayaw Arch as the perfect natural frame.

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Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint_03Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint
If the wind here doesn’t blow you away, the view undoubtedly will: behind you, towering rocks, under which goats and carabaos contentedly graze; before you, craggy slopes and grassy hills recalling landscapes from Lord of the Rings; and below you, a steady procession of unruly white waves stemming from seas of crystal blue.

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BONUS!
#17

Maywang A Libro Du VatanMaywang A Libro Du Vatan
Leave a piece of yourself in Batanes. This archive of blank books, located within the grounds of the San Carlos Borromeo Church in Mahatao, lets you leave a message, a prayer, or…anything, really, within the pages of any book you choose. I randomly pulled out book 156. Or was it 165?? I guess I’ll find out when I return.



© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

 


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14 Stunning Destinations on Air Asia’s Route Map (Countries A-I)

“Seat sale” — ah, the two sweetest words in the universe for those of us whose pockets can’t quite keep up with our travel dreams. Sometimes, though, it seems like our dream destinations never go on sale when we want them to (hello, Batanes) or the discounted prices are still too steep (*sob* Paris).

Well, maybe we should change our strategy! Instead of waiting for our bucket list destinations to go on sale, maybe we should look at the destinations on sale and add them to our bucket list.

Air Asia seat sale? Here are some of the gorgeous sights and destinations you should be looking at:

1. Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide Zoo

Image by Kelly Byrne (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Kelly Byrne (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Morialta Conservation Park

Image by Peripitus (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

Image by Peripitus (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

Image by Peter Neaum (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Peter Neaum (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Victor Harbor

Image by Ian W. Fieggen (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Ian W. Fieggen (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

2. Gold Coast, Australia

Image by Alpha (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Image by Alpha (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

3. Melbourne, Australia

Royal Exhibition Building

Image by Diliff / Ian Fieggen (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Diliff / Ian Fieggen (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Yarra River

Image by Donaldytong (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Donaldytong (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Phillip Island

Image by Chensiyuan (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

Image by Chensiyuan (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

Image by Paul Gear (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Paul Gear (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

4. Perth, Australia

Penguin Island

Image by Zigzig20s (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Zigzig20s (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Gnangarra (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Gnangarra (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Rottnest Island

Image by pat_ong (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by pat_ong (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by Cas Liber (Public domain)

Image by Cas Liber (Public domain)

5. Sydney, Australia

Blue Mountains

Image by popejon2 (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by popejon2 (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by Jennifer Morrow (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by Jennifer Morrow (CC-BY-2.0)

Three Sisters (Blue Mountains)

Image by Ali b (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Ali b (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Lake Burragorang (Blue Mountains)

Image by Roger Barnes (CC-BY-2.5)

Image by Roger Barnes (CC-BY-2.5)

Royal National Park

Image by Inas (Public domain)

Image by Inas (Public domain)

Image by Maksym Kozlenko (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Maksym Kozlenko (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Sydney Opera House

Image by Diliff (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Diliff (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Taronga Zoo

Image by Jan Derk (Public domain)

Image by Jan Derk (Public domain)

6. Brunei, Brunei Darussalam

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

Image by sam garza (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by sam garza (CC-BY-2.0)

7. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Image by dalbera (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by dalbera (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by McKay Savage (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by McKay Savage (CC-BY-2.0)

8. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat

Image by David Sim (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by David Sim (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by sam garza (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by sam garza (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by Chris (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Image by Chris (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

9. Beijing, China

Forbidden City

Image by Pixelflake (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Pixelflake (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by kallgan (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by kallgan (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by star5112 (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Image by star5112 (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Great Wall of China

Image by Hao Wei (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by Hao Wei (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by Craig Nagy (Frayed) (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Image by Craig Nagy (Frayed) (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Image by Saad Akhtar (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by Saad Akhtar (CC-BY-2.0)

10. Shanghai, China

Image by Fanghong (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Fanghong (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Kevinsmithnyc (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Kevinsmithnyc (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Bernt Rostad (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by Bernt Rostad (CC-BY-2.0)

11. Hong Kong

Image by WiNG (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by WiNG (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Hunchback BBC (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

Image by Hunchback BBC (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

12. Kolkata, India

Victoria Memorial

Image by Washedwall (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Washedwall (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

13. Bali, Indonesia

Image by chensiyuan (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

Image by chensiyuan (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

Image by Yves Picq http://veton.picq.fr (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

Image by Yves Picq http://veton.picq.fr (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)

14. Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Prambanan

Image by Jimmy McIntyre (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Image by Jimmy McIntyre (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Image by Jimmy McIntyre (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Image by Jimmy McIntyre (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Borobodur

Image by PL09Puryono (CC0)

Image by PL09Puryono (CC0)

Image by Bennylin (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by Bennylin (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Image by ctsnow (CC-BY-2.0)

Image by ctsnow (CC-BY-2.0)

 

14 Stunning Destinations on Air Asia’s Route Map (Countries A-I)” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

Traveling the True North: Batanes, Philippines

Rolling Hills_05

It’s the Philippines’ northernmost province, but beyond that fact not many, until recently, knew much about Batanes. The few privileged to have paid a visit to this singular string of islands extolled its myriad virtues, but still Batanes hovered below the average traveler’s consciousness.

Until breathtaking photos of rolling hills, verdant pastures and stunning cliffs started making the rounds. Until word started to spread of a place up north that was unlike any other in the Philippines. A place whose landscapes recalled Scotland or New Zealand; a place, in a tropical country, that counted winter as one of its seasons. A place where people leave their bikes unchained by the roadside, knowing no one would ever dream of stealing them. A place whose nature, culture and values are well-preserved, largely untouched by time.

And just like that, a few years later, Batanes is the Philippines’ best-kept secret no longer.

Here, in photographs, is why Batanes is on everyone’s bucket list — and why it needs to be on yours too.


North Batan

 

Basco Lighthouse and Naidi Hills

Basco Lighthouse_01
Basco Lighthouse_08

 

Fundacion Pacita

Fundacion Pacita_03
Fundacion Pacita_01

 

Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel Chapel_02
Mount Carmel Chapel_03

 

Rolling Hills

Rolling Hills_01
Rolling Hills_06

 

Boulder Beach

Boulder Beach_01
Boulder Beach_02

 

South Batan

 

White Beach

Batan_06

 

Boat Shelter Port

Boat Shelter Port_01
Boat Shelter Port_02

 

Alapad Hill and Rock Formation

Batan_09

 

Chawa Viewing Deck

Chawa Viewing Deck_04
Chawa Viewing Deck_02

 

Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country)

Racuh a Payaman_02

 

Tayid (Mahatao) Lighthouse

Tayid Lighthouse_01
Tayid Lighthouse_04

 

Sabtang Island

 

Sabtang Lighthouse

Sabtang_01

 

Savidug Village

Sabtang_Savidug Village_02
Sabtang_Savidug Village_01

 

Chavayan Village

Sabtang_Chavayan Village_01
Sabtang_Chavayan Village_03

 

Morong Beach and Mahayaw Arch

Sabtang_04
Sabtang_05

 

Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint

Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint_02
Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint_03
Traveling the True North: Batanes, Philippines” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

The London List

There are so many things to see and do in London that doing research on them tends to turn rather quickly into travel planning quicksand. The secret, they say, is to not even try to do everything in one visit. This list is less about ticking off the “must-sees” and more about immersion — trying to live like a frugal local, experiencing time-honored traditions, and indulging in personal whimsies (like seeing MI6 and Scotland Yard headquarters, just because!).

Parks

Hampstead Heath‘s magnificent views of the London cityscape, coupled with extensive grassland and ancient woodland, has everyone singing its praises.

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath | VisitLondon.com

Hyde Park, considered one of the greatest city parks in the world, is centrally located and boasts magnificent trees, a royal palace, and a chance to go boating. Also, the beautiful Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens are right next door.

VisitLondon.com

Hyde Park | VisitLondon.com

Richmond Park is “home to 650 deer” and has a “pastoral landscape of hills and woodlands set amongst ancient trees, with plants, animals and butterflies.” (Visit London)

Richmond Park | Airwolfhound / CC-BY-SA-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Richmond Park | Airwolfhound / CC-BY-SA-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Bushy Park is a “parkland with grassland, ancient trees, woodlands, ponds and streams” that is “home to around 320 free-roaming deer.” (Visit London)

Bushy Park | VisitLondon.com

Bushy Park | VisitLondon.com

Markets / Shopping

Borough Market, a gourmet food market with numerous stalls selling meat, cheese, bread, coffee, cakes and other prime eats, has become a little too crowded and touristy in recent years but is still probably worth a visit nonetheless.

Borough Market | travelstay.com

Borough Market | travelstay.com

Maltby Street Market is a less-known, cozier version of Borough Market and is beloved by locals.

Maltby Street Market | Graham Jepson / homesandproperty.co.uk

Maltby Street Market | Graham Jepson / homesandproperty.co.uk

Portobello Road Market — antiques, secondhand clothes, and whatnot.

Portobello Road Market | Cristian Bortes / CC-BY-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Portobello Road Market | Cristian Bortes / CC-BY-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Camden Markets — bric-à-brac, food, clothes, and, yes, whatnot.

Camden Market | Misterzee / CC-BY-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Camden Market | Misterzee / CC-BY-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Primark, a well-known budget department store, had seriously good wares in Zaandam — to be honest, it was one of the highlights of my Amsterdam trip — and I really want to visit the London branch, as this may be the only store in London where I can afford to buy something. (Or maybe not even?)

Primark | VisitLondon.com

Primark | VisitLondon.com

Fiction in Real Life

221B Baker Street — home of the greatest detective that ever lived.

221B Baker Street | Cezary p / CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 / Wikimedia Commons

221B Baker Street | Cezary p / CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 / Wikimedia Commons

King’s Cross Platform 9 ¾ — the closest us Muggles can get to Hogwarts.

Platform 9 3/4 | Bert Seghers / Wikimedia Commons

Platform 9 3/4 | Bert Seghers / Wikimedia Commons

Cambridge Circus — the intersection that lent its name to John Le Carré’s fictional nickname for MI6.

Cambridge Circus | Stephen McKay / CC-BY-SA-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Cambridge Circus | Stephen McKay / CC-BY-SA-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

MI6 — actually, the Secret Intelligence Service — headquarters is at Vauxhall Cross, a mile or so from Big Ben down the Thames, and is known as “Legoland” or “Babylon-on-Thames” for not-so-secret reasons.

SIS HQ | Peter Trimming / CC-BY-SA-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

SIS HQ | Peter Trimming / CC-BY-SA-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Scotland Yard — that is, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service — is now known as New Scotland Yard, after the Met moved from its headquarters’ previous location, which was known as Great Scotland Yard. In 2015, the headquarters will move to another location on the Victoria Embankment, where it will then be known as just Scotland Yard, and the current New Scotland Yard will, I guess, be known as the old Scotland Yard. #It’sComplicated. Trivia: New Scotland Yard houses the Met’s crime database that “uses a national computer system developed for major crime enquiries by all British forces, called Home Office Large Major Enquiry System, more commonly referred to by its acronym HOLMES.”

Scotland Yard | ChrisO / Wikimedia Commons

Scotland Yard | ChrisO / Wikimedia Commons

Churches

Westminster Abbey
The site of royal coronations, funerals, and weddings, including that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Admission £18. Free to attend services.

Westminster Abbey | Wikimedia Commons

Westminster Abbey | Wikimedia Commons

St. Paul’s Cathedral
The old cathedral was burned down during the Great Fire of London and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. Filming and photography is not allowed inside the cathedral. Admission £16.50.

St. Paul's Cathedral | jedyooo / Wikimedia Commons

St. Paul’s Cathedral | jedyooo / Wikimedia Commons

Landmarks

These attractions are so iconic, they don’t really need further description.

London Eye
Admission (standard ticket) £20.95 (£17.96 if booked online)

London Eye | Lee Kindness / I, Wangi / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

London Eye | Lee Kindness / I, Wangi / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Big Ben

Big Ben | Karrackoo / GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Big Ben | Karrackoo / GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Tower Bridge
Admission £8

Tower Bridge | Myrabella / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GFDL / Wikimedia Commons

Tower Bridge | Myrabella / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GFDL / Wikimedia Commons

Tower of London
Admission £20 (with voluntary donation: £22 / £20.90 if booked online)

Tower of London | IncMan / CC-BY-SA-2.0 and GFDL / Wikimedia Commons

Tower of London | IncMan / CC-BY-SA-2.0 and GFDL / Wikimedia Commons

Museums

At the risk of sounding like a hick, I’ll go ahead and admit it: I’m not a museum person. I’ve been to a number of them and genuinely enjoyed the experience but I usually don’t have the attention span required to fully appreciate everything inside. That said, museums are weatherproof and many London museums are free! Here’s a quick list:

  • National Gallery — Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks, Claude Monet’s The Water Lily Pond, Johannes Vermeer’s Lady Seated at a Virginal, Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers and A Wheatfield with Cypresses
  • British Museum — Round Reading Room, Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles
  • Tate Modern — Monet, Picasso, Dali, Warhol
  • Victoria & Albert — “The greatest museum of applied arts in the world”
British Museum | Andrew Dunn, http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.0

British Museum | Andrew Dunn, http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.0

Other items in my personal London bucket list

  1. See the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (or Windsor Castle).
  2. Join a free tour by the Yeoman Warders (known as Beefeaters) and attend the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London.
  3. Walk along Regent’s Canal.
  4. Have high tea at the Ritz and/or buy food/stuff from Fortnum and Mason. (But, um, I have to check if I can afford it. Which means I probably can’t?)
  5. Listen to a free lunchtime concert in St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square.
Ceremony of the Keys | SpitalfieldsLife.com

Ceremony of the Keys | SpitalfieldsLife.com

Day trips to consider

  • Rye
  • Oxford
  • Bath
  • Windsor & Eton
  • Brighton
  • Canterbury
  • Dover Castle

I’m pretty sure this list hasn’t covered even half of the sights worth seeing and things worth doing in London. For a traveler with limited time and an even more limited budget, though, this will probably have to do. (In fact, for the same reasons, I don’t intend to go up the London Eye or go inside St. Paul’s or the Tower Bridge. I’m just going to take a look at them and — alright, I admit it — take the requisite selfie.) Do you have a personal favorite that hasn’t been included here? Let me know what and why in the comments section.

Next up: let’s try looking for accommodations. Couchsurf at Buckingham Palace — ah, there’s one for the bucket list.

The London List” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.