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Hiya, London, you all right?

Hiya, London, you all right?

Is it wrong to order a beer at 11am on a Monday? I have reasoned pretty well that it’s not. Firstly, it’s actually 8.30pm in Australia and (I’m telling myself) obviously my body clock is still on Australian time. I only just landed at Heathrow, after all (well, that was a few hours ago, but…).

Secondly, I did peer in the windows of The Black Lion (opposite Queensway Tube) to make sure there were indeed others partaking. Of course, it’s London – and there were. Some have suitcases, others are writing in diaries… I fit right in.

Kronenbourg_1664I wasn’t going to stop, but this morning’s sun just disappeared, it’s raining, John Farnham’s You’re the Voice is sounding from the stereo inside (it’s a sign!), and a sign (a real one, this time) popped out from the pub at me – Free WiFi. Sold!

It would be rude to use the free internet without buying something, right?

Bizarrely it feels like I never left England. Walking down Bayswater Road this morning I couldn’t help but smile. I actually can’t believe I’m back here. Kensington Park looks as lovely as ever. The morning was glimmering under English sunshine – crisp and delicious air. *love*.

Cooper called and busted me – spending money already – right as I was at the counter of Starbucks – my first scheduled stop. You can ridicule and say I have no ‘coffee etiquette’ – why am I spending my GBP at a chain? Well, Starbucks is more than just coffee to me. It’s where I spent time looking for jobs when I moved here; it’s where I sat for hours on the internet, meeting other travellers and finding out about life in London. For me, Starbucks has sentimental value, and remains a big part of my adventures and memories abroad.

With the first stop complete, I promptly nipped across to Tesco and bought some sushi, yummy. Another daily ritual I got used to in my ‘past life’ here.

It was shortly after this that I realised something.

It’s bloody freezing! I swiftly walked down to Whiteleys where I knew chances were high that I’d drop some coin on a hat and scarf (any excuse for a purchase from one of my fave shops, Accessorize). Unfortunately (and Cooper will love this) I’ve found that every shop here is stocking ‘summer’ gear – so my beloved hats and scarves aren’t in stock. That’s bad. Maybe I should have packed some warmer clothes! I was browsing H&M looking for similar attire when I heard a familiar accent ask where their hats are because it’s “freezing outside”, and the shop assistant told my fellow Aussie traveller, “it’s not the season, try Zara”.

We both went next door to Zara but alas, no hats either. I did buy a scarf though (had to spend my money on something, sorry Cooper!), and will be back later in the week… wow their new season looks are gorgeous!!!

Won’t ramble too much more (can you tell I have been on a plane for the best part of 20 hours with little sleep, on my third Starbucks latte and as of 20-minutes ago, first beer?). Am still getting used to travelling on my own, and must admit to being envious of the other adventuring couples I’ve met on the plane(s), here in the pub… Usually I’d be with Cooper. While I was waiting for a train at Brisbane Airport though, I made friends with a lovely little Italian girl who, like me, was sad to be leaving her love. Or rather, he’d had to leave her to come home to the EU while she stays on in Australia. We both chatted about travel, life and love and I gave her a hug to wish her well for the rest of her journey. She’s only 19 but was such a sweetheart – I’ll probably run into her in Cairns, if irony has its way.

The Qantas flights were smooth, staff lovely… only complaint is regarding a child who screamed at the pitch only a one-year-old (and Mariah Carey) can reach – ALL night AND into the wee hours of the morning. Actually, on that note, I feel completely justified enjoying this cold beer (yes, cold… in England – never had a warm beer here, by the way) at…. oh, would you look at that, it’s midday. Time for another, perhaps?

Today: check-in to hotel, charge camera (my shiny fabulous new Nikon S9300, no less – thank you, Duty Free) and computer. Sleep.

Tomorrow: Board the Back Roads Touring coach for an exciting English tour – I’m the Back Roads blogger for a moment in time, after all.

I am the luckiest girl in the world. SB x

A spot of shopping in Scotland

A spot of shopping in Scotland

Edinburgh. What can I say about this gorgeous city? I’m a little bit speechless. Beautiful buildings seeping with history, an impressive old castle perched high on the hill overlooking the town’s folk as it has done for hundreds of years; Wide, well-kept streets, and contemporary structures linking ‘New Town’. Edinburgh is a pleasurable escape from London where the people are friendly and everything seems just a little bit less expensive!

Stay at the lovely King James (Thistle) Hotel – it’s right in the city-centre where you can walk to clubs, restaurants, the famous Old Town, contemporary New Town (lined with the usual high street favourites like Top Shop, Monsoon and M&S) and of course… shopping malls.

The Thistle Hotel is located next to The Saint James Mall. A sign outside dates the precinct back to 1770, however the present shopping area is nothing short of modern, and boasts a range of local shops offering chic fashions for all ages at more affordable prices. Whether you’re keen to stock up on seasonal basics, hats or accessories, this is an ideal spot to start.

Ask for directions through this mall towards Harvey Nichols, the first Scottish store of the group which opened in 2002. The complex is five glorious stories located on the eastern end of St Andrews Square. From the street level (where shoppers can browse the likes of Mulberry, Pandora, Armani and other designer stores should a ‘splurge’ be in order) to the very top of the complex, a plethora of shopping delights await. Weary feet can rest on the top floor – the best kept secret in town – a luxurious dining, coffee and cocktail area aptly named Forth Floor Brasserie, surrounded by sweeping views of the historical city, mountains and a magical body of water known as the Firth of Forth (hence the name of the brasserie is not a spelling mistake, but a play on words referencing the view). There is even a level outside the restaurant where, if asked politely, the staff will let tourists sneak out to take a few happy-snaps of Edinburgh city.

Probably my favourite of the stores in this precinct was Mulberry, and am love with their colours and styles this season.

From the New Town malls and high street to the inevitable stroll along the cobblestoned path of The Royal Mile towards Edinburgh Castle, stop in at a quaint little store, Ness, located at two points along the road (and . I quite liked the bright pink, purple and tartan themed bags, boots and accessories. Keep an eye out for the second of these stores on the way up the hill towards the castle. Turn left and follow the winding road and stairs down towards another old area that locals encouraged us to seek out, called Grassmarket. More wonky old streets, dated buildings and windy stairs opened up to a row of restaurants and pubs as well as a few eclectic and ‘one off’ clothing stores stocking everything from street-wear to formal wear and sexy chiffon gowns resembling ensembles once seen on Sex in the City.

Edinburgh is a city not to be missed if you’re in the UK, and while soaking up the historical atmosphere during a city-break here, you can certainly enjoy some retail therapy at the same time.

~

Check in: The Thistle

Chill Out: The very glamorous bar at Hotel Missoni for it’s sexy decor and delicious cocktails, or The Walkabout Bar for its large, clean spaces, Aussie themes, live sport broadcasts, music and decently priced food and drink deals.

Get Around: Stay in the City and walk. The people are friendly so simply ask where they recommend you hang out.