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Julie - "Girl on the Move"

Spending One Day in Ventura California

I believe that any trip to Southern California should extend beyond Venice Beach and Disneyland. As iconic as these places are, Southern California has so much more to offer. I’d recommend setting aside one day of your trip to venture just north of LA to visit Ventura. With so many wonderful things to do in Ventura, you won’t regret your visit.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Things to do in Ventura: The Food

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day so kick off your day with a yummy breakfast. Not only does Marie Shannon Confections have a fun vibe, you’ll get a yummy breakfast to fuel you for your day.

I would argue that you can’t go to a beach town in Southern California and not get fish tacos. Specifically, the fish tacos from Spencer Makenzie’s. Voted the best fish taco in Ventura and ranked in the top 50 Tacos in America, you don’t want to miss these!

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Be sure to stop by Beach House Fish located on the Ventura Pier for a happy hour drink and appetizer. Grab a table along the windows and enjoy the coastline views.

Why not wrap up your day with a Fish Waffle Cone from Coastal Cone?!? Located in Ventura Harbor Village this is the perfect spot for strolling by the boats and enjoying your ice cream.

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Things to do in Ventura: The Sights

To learn a bit about the history of Ventura I’d recommend beginning your exploration of the city with a stop at the San Buenaventura Mission. The missions are an integral part of the history of California. Continue your journey through the history of the city with a stop at City Hall. The architecture of City Hall makes me feel like I’ve stepped on the set of a movie. In 1971 the building was declared a county, state and federal historical landmark so it’s definitely worth setting aside time in your day to visit.

If you’re looking for an unrivaled view of Ventura I’d recommend a visit to the Ventura Botanical Gardens. Not only will you get to see a carefully curated selection of plant life but with an easy hike up to Grant Park you will be treated to stunning views of the city and beach below.

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You’ll also want to make sure you set aside time for a stroll down Main Street. I always enjoy popping into bookshops when I travel and Main Street has several great options. Calico Cat Bookshop and Bank of Books. While usually I don’t recommend a stop at the post office, you won’t want to miss the post office just off Main Street. Inside you’ll find Gordon Grant Murals painted in 1936-1937. The murals are listed on the Federal Register of Fine Arts and you don’t even have to pay to see them…just pop in the post office!

A trip to Ventura is definitely not complete unless you’ve stopped by Surfer’s Point. With a south facing point right hand waves roll in consistently throughout the day. Not only will you be able to watch surfing, but on days where the wind picks up you’ll also be able to enjoy watching kiteboarders and windsurfers.

As you’re planning your time in Southern California I would also suggest a day trip to Solvang or a trip out to the San Jacinto Valley. And if you want to explore what Orange County has to offer beyond Disneyland, be sure to check out my Ultimate Orange County Bucket List.

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Best Bookstores in London

One of my favorite hobbies is reading, so when I was planning my first trip to London I knew I needed to set off in search of the best bookstores in London. But since it was a bit daunting to research London book shops I decided to bring to life the London Bookstore Tour from Cierra of londonblockbyblock. This gorgeous map doesn’t include specific directions, so I sat down with Google Maps and worked out a plan to visit twelve of the best bookstores in London. If you want to explore the best bookstores in London on your own, download my Google Map for easy exploring.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

John Sandoe Books

Founded in 1957, John Sandoe Books is in one of my favorite areas of London, Chelsea. Set just off Kings Road you can stop by to browse the books after a bit of shopping.

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Hatchards

Founded in 1797, Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop. The bookshop is located on one of the most famous streets in the world, Piccadilly. Additionally, Hatchards holds not one, not two, but three royal warrants, which you can see displayed above the entrance.

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National Theatre Bookshop

Located on London’s South Bank, the National Theatre Bookshop offers an unrivaled selection of playtexts. There are also books and gifts related to the theatre.

Stanfords

Another one of my favorite areas of London is Covent Garden. Add in a bookshop filled with maps and travel inspiration and I’m in literary heaven. The bookshop might look like a typical shop when you enter, but when you descend the stairs into the basement you are greeted by maps upon maps upon maps.

Persephone Books

A quite unique bookshop that actually does more business online than in the store. Founded in the 1990’s, Persephone Books only publishes reprints of books, and each book sold has a gray cover.

Daunt Books

There are several Daunt locations throughout London with the Marylebone location being the original. The store originally opened in 1912 and claims to be the world’s first custom-built bookshop. And the design has paid off because you’ve likely seen images of Daunt Books on Instagram.

Blackwells

Blackwells began in a single room with the trade of rare and secondhand books. Now they have been trading books for more than a century and there are Blackwells located all over the UK. With an even greater selection available online for worldwide delivery, including thousands of rare books.

Word on the Water

Floating in the Regent’s Canal Towpath this is definitely one of the most unique bookshops I’ve ever visited. Step onboard this 1920’s Dutch barge near Granary Square in King’s Cross and explore the books of Word on the Water.

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Owl Bookshop

Although Owl Bookshop is now owned by Daunt Books, the store retained its original name. Owl Bookshop has a truly terrific children’s section and regular author talks. Walking into Owl Bookshop gives you all the warm feelings you want when you walk into a bookshop and encourages you to stay a while.

Primrose Hill Books

I highly recommend a visit to Primrose Hill when you’re visiting London for the stunning views of the London skyline. Then stop by the family owned and operated Primrose Hill Books located in a Victorian terrace. After visiting this lovely shop, be sure to also browse their online selection.

West End Lane Books

An independent bookshop which prides itself on making excellent literary recommendations. In their own words, “We’ve been selling books, recommending books and drooling over books since 1994,” and that is exactly the kind of literary haven I enjoy exploring. Add in the delightful children’s section and this has everything you want in an indie bookshop.

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Books for Cooks

Notting Hill’s famous cookbook shop not only sells cookbooks but tests out the recipes in the in-store cafe. There are countless titles stored in every available space in the store plus mouthwatering aromas tempting you to taste the food and then buy the cookbook.

Literary Connections

Here are a few of my favorite books about bookshops, one of my favorite settings for a book.

Nina is a literary matchmaker in Jenny Colgan’s Bookshop on the Corner and she sets out from London to build a new life.

Another Jenny Colgan suggestion, because you really can’t go wrong with one of her books, is Bookshop on the Shore.

Although it is set in Iowa, US and not in London, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is an excellent book about a bookshop.

If you’re planning to visit London during the holidays, here’s a look at my five favorite things to do in London at Christmas.

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Experience the California Blossom Trail

I’m sure if you polled most California tourists, they’ve never heard of the California Blossom Trail. When most people think of California they think of Disneyland or the Golden Gate Bridge. As popular tourist destinations, many California trips are to Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, there are also some great options between these two cities. When I stumbled across an Instagram post with these blossoms, I knew I had to check it out for myself!

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The Fresno County Blossom Trail is a 62-mile loop just southeast of Fresno. You can download a trail map and get information about the timing of the blooms from their website. Usually, the blossoms are out from mid-February to early-March but depending on the year they can arrive earlier or later. If you’re not able to visit the California Blossom Trail in February or March, don’t worry! You can visit from May to September when it becomes a Fruit Stand Trail.

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Did you know that two-thirds of the fruits and nuts in the United States are grown in California? The farms of the Central Valley produce peaches, nectarines, apricots, almonds, plums, and apples who get their yearly start with these gorgeous blossoms. Over the course of the 62-mile trail you’ll be treated to blossoms in a dazzling array of whites and pinks.

If you want to see more between the Central Valley and Los Angeles, I’d also recommend a visit to Solvang where you can take a step into Danish culture.

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California Pro Sports Teams: A California Challenge

A couple of years ago I decided that while I wanted to continue to explore the US and countries around the world, I needed to spend a bit more time exploring right at home. So the California Challenge was born. In 2018 I set out to visit all 21 of the California Missions. For 2018 I decided to attend a home game of all 18 California pro sports teams. Let’s take a virtual tour of the 18 California pro sports teams from the San Diego Padres to the Golden State Warriors.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Here are a few fun facts from attending a home game of all 18 California pro sports teams…

•The home team won nine out of 18 times, lost eight times, and tied once.

•The Los Angeles Rams played in the oldest stadium – the LA Memorial Coliseum, built in 1923. However, they’ll be moving to their new permanent home in Summer 2020 so then the Dodgers will lay claim to the oldest stadium in California, built in 1962.

•The San Jose Sharks play in the SAP Center at San Jose, the smallest capacity in California with 17,496 seats. The Los Angeles Rams played in the largest stadium, with a capacity of 78,467 in the Coliseum. Their new permanent home, SoFi Stadium, will also be the largest pro sport stadium in California when it opens, with a capacity of 70,240.

•Attending a home game for all 18 teams meant visiting 15 stadiums. The Los Angeles Kings, LA Lakers and LA Clippers all play at the Staples Center. The LA Galaxy and LA Chargers both play at Dignity Health Sports Park.

California Pro Sports Teams Awards

Biggest Fan Award goes to my dad. Eighteen different people attended games with me during the challenge, but my dad went to the most games at five.

Favorite Stadium Experience Award goes to the LAFC at Banc of California Stadium.

Frequently Seen Player Award goes to Erik Gudbranson. He played for the Vancouver Canucks when they played against the LA Kings and then was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.

Favorite Player Award goes to Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

San Diego Padres

A gorgeous baseball stadium in downtown San Diego. And since the team is in San Diego you’re almost guaranteed gorgeous baseball weather! (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

This game was an adventure! We don’t get a lot of rain in the spring, summer or autumn in Southern California so this was just the 12th rain-delayed game in Angel Stadium history. Fortunately I was able to attend the make-up game the next day to check the Angels off the list.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Not my favorite team or stadium, but I will admit it’s gotten a lot safer in the last few years. Dodger Stadium is the largest MLB stadium at a capacity of 56,000 so it should be included on any MLB Stadium Bucket List.

Oakland Athletics

Constructed deep in the ground so fans enter at the upper decks, this stadium has a lot of concrete. Visiting RingCentral Coliseum feels like a throw back to stadiums of the past and I don’t recommend attending solo at night. (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)

San Francisco Giants

Located in the South Beach area of San Francisco you can be treated to a waterfront view from some seats. (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)

National Football League (NFL)

Los Angeles Rams

What an experience to see the Rams play at LA Memorial Coliseum. For the 2020 season they’ll move into their new permanent home at SoFi Stadium, but for now this was a memorable experience. The Rams and Chargers recently moved to LA and I am amazed at how quickly they’ve developed very different fan bases. In my experiences this year, the Rams seemed to attract more of an LA crowd.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers on the other hand seem to have attracted more of an Orange County crowd, which makes sense since Orange County is so close to San Diego. It’s not easy to judge this stadium because the Rams are only playing in a temporary home after their move from St. Louis. For the 2020 season they’ll move into their new permanent home at SoFi Stadium.

San Francisco 49ers

This was my very first NFL game so it will always be a bit special but the stadium itself felt fairly impersonal. Essentially, it is just a really large stadium designed to fit in as many people as possible. Definitely doesn’t have the character or personality of older, or smaller, stadiums. (Transportation Notes: This is in the suburbs so public transportation is a bit limited but there are some great places to park and ride to the stadium)

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Major League Soccer (MLS)

Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC)

Wow! This is the hands-down the best soccer game I’ve attended in the US (I imagine going to a game in Europe would be even better!). The energy was absolutely electric and the new stadium is worth a visit. (Transportation Notes: Parking is not cheap at this stadium so if you’re able to use public transportation I’d highly recommend going that route.)

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Los Angeles Galaxy

A fun soccer game with really passionate fans. The game was filled with chanting, scarf waving and excitement. I thought this was a really good experience until I went to an LAFC game, so I’d rank this second in terms of MLB experiences in California.

San Jose Earthquakes

This was probably my least favorite team/stadium of the challenge. The energy wasn’t very good and my favorite part of the game was getting to watch the planes take off and land from the San Jose Airport next door. (Transportation Notes: They have an easy park and ride option from downtown San Jose to help you save money on parking)

National Basketball Association (NBA)

I feel like I need a disclaimer for this whole section of my whole challenge…I don’t particularly care for the NBA. Basketball is enjoyable, but I prefer college basketball. So shelling out money to attend four NBA games was a bit painful!

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers and the Lakers both play in the Staples Center and it was amazing to see how different the atmosphere was for each of the games. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)

Los Angeles Lakers

Admittedly this is one of my least favorite professional sports teams so I took a friend who is a big Lakers fan to help make the game more exciting. And then Lizzo made the game really exciting. And I discovered one of the Lakers newer players, Alex Caruso, and he became my favorite player of the challenge. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)

Sacramento Kings

The Kings play at one of the newer stadiums I visited and it was quite impressive. The court is underground so you enter the stadium at the 200 level and then go down if you have seats closer to the court…I did not! It is also located in downtown Sacramento so there is a lot to do around the stadium.

Golden State Warriors

Chase Center is the newest of all the stadiums I visited, having just opened in 2019. It is located in downtown San Francisco not too far from where the San Francisco Giants play. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in San Francisco, public transportation can be easy to use.)

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National Hockey League (NHL)

Next up is the NHL and I will admit that before this challenge I had never been to an ice hockey game, at any level. My biggest surprise of the challenge was how much I loved hockey! I hope to more regularly attend games moving forward.

Anaheim Ducks

A fun, family friendly atmosphere. If you live in Southern California, this is just a great family outing!

Los Angeles Kings

Another team who plays at the Staples Center, along with the Clippers and Lakers. I can’t imagine being the keeper of the calendar at the Staples Center…so many moving parts! Just like with the Clippers and Lakers, this was a completely different atmosphere at the stadium which makes me glad I committed to going to a home game of each team instead of just visiting each stadium. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)

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San Jose Sharks

Another really fun, family friendly atmosphere. If you live in Northern California, this is just a great family outing.

You can find more suggestions of things to do in California HERE. Or head here to see more of my California Challenges.

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A Christmas in London Bucket List

The holiday season in London is quite magical! The decor starts to go up in early-mid November and by the mid-end of November, Christmas is in full swing. As you’re planning your itinerary, here are my suggestions for your Christmas in London Bucket List. I’m not sure it’s possible to do all of this in one trip, unless you’re going for the whole Christmas season! So if you’re short on time, here are my top five things to do in London for Christmas.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Christmas in London Bucket List: Christmas Markets

Southbank Centre Winter Market – Stroll along the Thames and enjoy this festive Winter Market. You can book dinner in an igloo, buy holiday gifts, and enjoy warm drinks. Be aware, that this does get rather crowded in the evenings.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – Winter Wonderland takes over Hyde Park and it has it all…beer garden, food stalls, mulled wines, rides, music and more. Be aware, that this does get rather crowded in the evenings.

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Borough Market – One of my favorite markets in London. And then they add a Christmas tree, so I’m all in! In all seriousness while this isn’t a traditional market with all the stalls brought in, it’s fun to visit an already great market decked out for the holidays.

Leicester Square – See a show (there are so many options) and then grab a mulled wine and stroll through the Christmas market.

Greenwich Christmas Market – Not a typical Christmas market in that this market is there year round, but they add lights and it’s more festive than the other eleven months of the year. And if you’re going to go ice skating at Queen Anne’s House (see below) this is a great stop for your day.

Winterville Clapham Common – This market didn’t take place in 2019, but be on the lookout to see if returns in 2020.

Christmas in London Bucket List: Ice Skating

Natural History Museum – This might be the most popular London at Christmas photo! I will add though, that for as popular as this photo is, the rink is not too crowded. And after you skate you can pop into the Museum to warm up!

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Somerset House – Enjoy the ice rink at Somerset House where you’ll also find a mini ice rink for the littlest skaters.

Queen House Ice Rink – Head south of the river for a skate at Queen’s House Ice Rink. Round out the day with a stop at the Prime Meridian and a stroll through Greenwich Market.

More Christmas Spirit

Kensington Palace – A gorgeous Christmas tree, a decorate palace, afternoon tea, it’s royal Christmas perfection. If you’re looking for more than the obligatory picture of the tree, capture this angle.

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Department Stores – Head to Harrod’s, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges for all the holiday decor. The displays will wow you and leave you ready to upgrade your decorations at home.

Covent Garden – You can’t help getting into the Christmas spirit with a stroll through Covent Garden. Enjoy a cookie from Ben’s, take a picture with one of the Christmas trees or pop in and visit the London Transport Museum.

Christmas at Kew Gardens – Book your tickets early for this holiday spectacular, one of my holiday favorites in London.

Advent Services at Westminster Abbey – There is something so special about attending an Advent service where they’ve been holding services for centuries. Be sure to look up their schedule online and get their early enough to get a good seat.

Backyard Cinema– A delightful immersive cinema experience. While this is something you can do all year-round in London there is something quite special about the winter themes. You’re able to choose from a variety of holiday movies shown in either the Winter Night Garden or Christmas at Snow Kingdom.

Know Before You Go: A premium ticket doesn’t cost much more than a regular ticket, so it’s worth it.

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Charles Dickens Museum – The Museum is fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas so it is a must-visit at Christmas time.

Know Before You Go: It’s especially fun to visit the Charles Dickens Museum and then go see A Christmas Carol. I’d highly recommend seeing the Old Vic production of the show. However, you can also cozy up at home and watch the movie. I’d also recommend visiting the museum earlier in the day for smaller crowds.

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Churchill Arms – Officially the UK’s most festive pub, the outside is decorated with 75 Christmas trees and over 17,500 Christmas lights! This is the perfect stop after visiting Kensington Palace as it’s just a couple of streets over. I think it’s worth a walk down Kensington Palace Gardens to admire all of the Embassies decorated for Christmas.

Christmas Lights – There are so many delightful light displays to see in London during the holidays. The ones that are most notable are Carnaby Street, Regent Street, and Oxford Street. There are some great open top bus tours to see the lights.

Literary Connections

Charles Dickens, who lived in London, wrote A Christmas Carol so this is a fitting book to read during the holidays.

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Interested in visiting other European destinations? Here’s a look at my recommendations of what to do, see, eat, and read on your next European adventure.

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Christmas in London: My Five Favorites

It’s no secret that my favorite time of year is November and December. Because I love Christmas! There is just something so magical about this time of year that puts a perpetual smile on my face. So when a $400 flight deal popped up from LA to Heathrow, I couldn’t pass up the deal. Because in the words of Jenny Colgan in Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, “Christmas in London. Best in the world.” Here are is a look at my favorite things to do for Christmas in London.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Christmas at Kew Gardens

As London is so far north, it is dark by 4:30p during December. This means there are quite a few hours for viewing Christmas lights. And Christmas at Kew is simply magical as the after dark trail lights up Kew Gardens. With Christmas music playing and mulled wine stops along the path, this is a must-visit during the holidays. There a variety of different light displays, food options (you can even toast marshmallows) and photo opportunities.

Know Before You Go: Tickets need to be purchased online ahead of time and sell out, so book your tickets early. I would recommend booking early in the evening if possible. I went at 5p, when the Gardens open, and when I left two hours later, the crowds were significantly larger. The Victoria Gate is easily reached via the District Line from the Kew Gardens station. As you’ll be strolling through the Botanical Gardens in the evening I’d also recommend throwing a set of these hand warmers in your pockets.

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A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic

A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens in London in 1843, so it only seems fitting to see A Christmas Carol while in London. And this production did not disappoint. The music was incredible, including a beautiful rendition of See Amid the Winter Snow. There was just the right touch of interaction with the audience and Christmas magic. If I lived in London, this would be an annual tradition!

Know Before You Go: The seating was not in a traditional arrangement due to the layout of the stage so just be aware when purchasing tickets. Before the show you can get a free mince pie from the production, which was quite tasty! If you have time earlier in the day, I’d recommend a visit to the Charles Dickens Museum to help set the stage for A Christmas Carol.

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Advent Liturgy at Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, as it exists today, was built in the 13th century and is a World Heritage Site. So while any trip to London should include a stop at Westminster Abbey, I believe your visit is made even better by attending a service. The candlelight Advent Liturgy was one of the most peaceful moments of my trip and during the hustle and bustle of the holidays I recommend taking a minute to stop and slow down.

Know Before You Go: You can begin queuing up around 2p and I do recommend arriving early in order to get a good seat. They opened the doors and began seating people at least a full hour before the service began so you won’t be waiting outside too long.

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Covent Garden

This is one of my favorite areas of London and Christmas takes it to a whole other level. It truly feels magical to wander around Covent Garden while it’s decorated for the holidays. Multiple Christmas trees, street performers, the London Transport Museum (one of my fave underrated London museums), and loads of yummy treats. Be ready for a number of photo spots and soak in all of the Christmas magic.

Know Before You Go: There’s no way to eat all the different treats you’ll encounter in Covent Garden, so just choose one or two! And if you arrive at Covent Garden via tube, before you opt to take the stairs out of the station, know that there are 193.

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Holiday Doors of London

London residents and store owners alike know how to dress a door for Christmas! The displays are visually stunning and I imagine if you came back year after year, they would only get better. I saw so much fresh greenery and fun twists on the traditional reds and greens of Christmas decor. Truly, you could spend hours strolling through the streets of London (I average 10 miles a day) admiring the decor.

Know Before You Go: If you take a picture of every beautifully decorated door and window display in London you’ll be stopping for every other door. So if you want pictures of all the doors just know you’ll be stopping quite frequently. Otherwise just snap photos of the really outstanding doors.

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Literary Connections

As Jenny Colgan says in Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, “London is not the place to be if you want to escape Christmas. It does the most wonderful Christmas in the world, and I want to be a part of it.”

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