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A TRAVEL GUIDE TO LONDON, ENGLAND

The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London

London! Where do I start? I suppose at the beginning – or in this case, a decade ago when I studied abroad there and fell in love with this place. I’ve been dying to go back ever since and getting to experience this time with Adam in tow was even better than I had imagined. I love London for a million reasons, but mainly because of the amazing mix of history alongside the modern pulse of a major international city. While I could spend years in London and still not see everything, I’ve done my best to showcase a highlight reel here in the case that you’re planning on hopping the pond yourself. And if you are.. can I come with?

The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London

TOURIST SPOTS WORTH VISITING:

As someone who lives in a place where I avoid ‘tourist traps’ like the plague – London’s tourist destinations are full of such incredible history that dismissing them all together would be a mistake. You’re going to want to see Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben (although as of November 2017 was nearly completely covered in scaffolding thanks to ongoing restoration). Picadilly Circus (London’s version of Times Square) is worth walking through – if only on your way to Oxford Street shopping (locals call this ‘high street shopping’) and Trafalgar Square deserves a stop. All of this allows you to get a real sense for the heart of the city.

And if you’re a New Yorker looking for a Central Park equivalent, you’ll find it in Hyde Park. One of my favorite spots in all of London, Hype Park is an expansive bit of calm amidst an otherwise bustling city. Be sure to walk through Kensington Gardens and visit the Princess Diana Memorial and Peter Pan statue.

The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to LondonThe Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London

HOW TO GET AROUND:

I usually prefer to see cities by foot, but due to the sheer scale of London, you’ll want other options. The Metro (or Tube as the Brits call it) is incredibly easy to navigate and about a million times cleaner and more organized than the NY Subway. Likewise, buses are great for flexibility and there’s the added bonus of getting to jump on a red double-decker.

And lastly, the most fun way to see the town is – hands down – by water. On our last night there, we took a boat tour of the Thames and were rewarded with a pretty incredible sunset. While you may not get quite as lucky, you’ll still get a great view of both side of the river and in half an hour will have taken in most of London’s skyline.

The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to LondonThe Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London

Now for the good part – the food and drink. Once you’ve exhausted yourself from walking all over town, you’ll want to pop in somewhere for an afternoon cuppa (tea that is) or pint at the pub. Below a few of my favorites from the trip:

Biscuiteers: The cutest little Notting Hill cookie and tea shop.

Cafe Murano: I tend to think New York has some pretty great Italian, but this place gave it a run for it’s money. A small spot with beautiful interiors (and an awesome wine and craft beer list), we nearly went back for a second time in a single trip.

Churchhill Arms: A classic pub in the front, a crazy greenhouse of a Thai restaurant in the back. And the outside reads like a botanical garden gone wildly British.

Granger & Co: Our best breakfast of the trip by far. Fresh ingredients, delicious takes on the classics and located in the cutest area of Notting Hill. Get the Ricotta hotcakes and never look back.

Jazz Cafe: An otherwise simple bar up front, that opens into an awesome and intimate concert venue. We saw a jazz tribute to Van Morrison and it was one of our best nights in London.

Sketch London: Sure, it’s become Instagram fodder, but honestly it lived up to the hype. A serious feast for the eyes, ever detail of this incredible space has been considered. The main dining room is a lavish dream straight out of 1920s Paris. The bar where we got drinks was like an actual enchanted forest.

The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London

And – because it wouldn’t be The Steele Maiden without a pause for cute stoops – I thought I’d share some of my favorite places for Instagram-worthy doors.

Notting Hill: Anywhere and everywhere – from the pastel lined streets to the tucked away alleys (like St. Lukes Mews shown below).

Kensington: For grand white architecture and beautiful tiled stoops

Marylebone High Street: This gem of a little street is actually where my University was located when I studied abroad – lined lots of photo-worthy storefronts.

Queen Anne’s Gate: A tucked away street along the path from Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, well worth the detail.

The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London

THINGS TO DO:

You’d be hard pressed to be bored in London. And depending on your interest there’s really something for everyone. Here, a few of my personal favorites.

Daunt Books: My favorite bookshop in all of London. They organize the sections by location in the world – so aside from guidebooks to London, you would also find the work of Dickens and Austen in the ‘England’ section.

Portobello Road: You don’t have to be a fan of the movie Notting Hill to enjoy Portobello Road – this outdoor market includes amazing vintage clothing and antiques stalls on the weekends meaning you’ll likely want to carve out a few hours for wandering.

British Library: Housing everything from the Magna Carta to original works by Shakespeare to Beatles lyrics scribbled on napkins to Harry Potter tributes – if you’re a library lover this one is kind of a holy grail.

Victoria & Albert Museum: London’s museums are largely free (amazing, I know) and while I love the Tate Modern or the Natural History – the V&A is far and away my favorite. With the best historical clothing display I’ve seen anywhere in the world but lots of other rotating exhibits ranging from industrial design to classic art – even Adam liked this one.

London Eye: If you get a clear day in town, the London Eye is essentially a huge ferris wheel and offers a unique perspective to the city below.

The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London

Until next time London!

The Steele Maiden: Travel Guide to London

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VISITING THE COSTWOLDS: ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE INSPIRED STYLE

The Steele Maiden: Cotswolds, England - English Countryside Inspired Style for Fall

Yesterday I styled these velvet jeggings in a way that was simple yet chic for the office or casual holiday parties – but because honestly I just can’t get enough of them and wore them multiple times on our recent travels, I’m back with a more weekend ready alternative.

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LUXE TEXTURES FOR FALL: CASHMERE, VELVET AND FAUX FUR

The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest

One of my favorite things about Fall fashion are all the luxe textures. And this outfit from Talbots I wore on our first day in Edinburgh checks off all my favorites. A classic cashmere sweater, velvet jeggings and faux fur vest. Not to mention plaid on plaid (when in Scotland.. do as the Scots do, right?).

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I like that all together it feels simple but because of the mix of rich textures it also feels super chic. It’s exactly the sort of thing I would wear to the office and then straight out afterwards for an event or holiday drinks this season. Plus, the fact that they’re separates means that you could also add any of them to a more casual look to elevate the whole thing. And can we talk about these velvet jeggings?? I know, I felt skeptical at first too but then I tried them on and proceeded to wear them on 3 separate occasions during our 10 day trip. They come in a bunch of colors but I’m loving the ivory color. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing an entirely different way to wear them.

P.S. This area in Edinburgh was called Dean Village and was truly like stepping back in time. Can’t wait to tell you more about our short but sweet time in Scotland.

Talbots Faux Fur Vest, Velveteen Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Plaid Bow Heels c/o

The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid VestThe Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest The Steele Maiden: Luxe Textures for Fall - Velvet Jeggings, Cashmere Sweater and Faux Fur Plaid Vest

Thank you to Talbots for sponsoring this post. As always all opinions are my own.

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NIGHT OUT IN LONDON: LEOPARD RUFFLE DRESS

The Steele Maiden: London Night Out Style - Leopard Ruffle Dress, Fisherman's Cap and Patent Booties

London calling! As we speak, I’ve made it back to New York and am fighting off a cold and jet lag (no easy feat) – but also am so excited to share with you all the places we went and naturally, all the things I wore. This look is from our first night out in London and one of my favorites from the whole trip.

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We headed to Camden Town (kind of the East Village of London if you will, and where I lived when I studied abroad there for a semester) for a night out and ended up grabbing last minute tickets to London’s Jazz Cafe where they were playing a tribute to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks album. I’ve been a huge Van Morrison fan since high school so I was hoping they’d do the album justice… and was literally blown away. So good that Adam and I still haven’t stopped talking about it. Then it was a few more drinks, a little dancing and back to our first AirBnB of the trip to collapse into jet lag. For the record I don’t recommend this big of a night for your first day adjusting to a new time zone, but I also don’t regret it one bit.

This leopard ruffle dress (under $40!) and patent booties held up through it all and hopefully helped fit in with the British girls who just always look so effortlessly cool. Also, carried my vintage YSL clutch that is one of my most prized purchases from the vintage markets in Camden Town – bought almost exactly 10 years ago. How’s that for full circle?

Who What Wear Leopard Ruffle Dress | Brixton Fisherman’s Cap | Marc Fisher Patent Booties | Vintage YSL Clutch | Express Belt | Burberry Liquid Velvet Lipstick in Bright Plum | Sheer Dotted Tights

The Steele Maiden: London Night Out Style - Leopard Ruffle Dress, Fisherman's Cap and Patent Booties The Steele Maiden: London Night Out Style - Leopard Ruffle Dress, Fisherman's Cap and Patent Booties The Steele Maiden: London Night Out Style - Leopard Ruffle Dress, Fisherman's Cap and Patent Booties The Steele Maiden: London Night Out Style - Leopard Ruffle Dress, Fisherman's Cap and Patent Booties The Steele Maiden: London Night Out Style - Leopard Ruffle Dress, Fisherman's Cap and Patent Booties The Steele Maiden: London Night Out Style - Leopard Ruffle Dress, Fisherman's Cap and Patent Booties

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A WINTER TRAVEL GUIDE TO MONTREAL, QUEBEC

The Steele Maiden: Winter Travel Guide to Montreal Quebec

This time 2 weeks ago, Adam and I were traipsing through a Canadian winter wonderland, popping into cute cafes for coffee and hot chocolate (and okay a few cocktails.. basically anything to keep us warm) along the way. The city of Montreal has long since been on our travel ‘wanderlist’ both for its proximity to New York and all the rave reviews we’ve heard from friends. So when Adam got news that he was being sent for a couple of days on business – I jumped at the chance to tag along. Couple that with the fact that it was Valentine’s Day and under a fresh blanket of snow and the beautifully European-feeling city had us under it’s spell.

GETTING THERE

When we looked at ways to travel from NYC up to Quebec there were a variety of options (driving, bus, plane..) but I can’t say enough how happy I was to have chosen the train on the way there. Although the Amtrak trip will take you most of the day – you can sit back in spacious side by side seats (equipped with free wifi) as you enjoy scenic views of the Hudson River, upstate New York and Lake Champlain. While the ride was honestly gorgeous in Winter, I can only imagine how good it would be in full foliage Fall. I seriously can’t recommend it enough. 2 insider tips? Eat breakfast before you get on the train and pack a lunch. I’m not a fan of the pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks you find on trains, so a healthy breakfast beforehand and the gourmet deli sandwiches we packed picnic style in a small insulated cooler bag meant we spent $0 on the train and really added to the overall experience. And my second tip – fly back to save yourself travel time.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Now – we’re there. The upside – February is definitely not tourist season, so we really felt like we had the city to ourselves with just friendly locals to act as our guides (they’re not kidding when they say Canadians are nice – everyone went out of their way to offer kind and helpful tips throughout our stay). The downside – freezing cold and so much snow. Without shoveled sidewalks or plowed roads we truly ice skated our way through most of the city. That said, there is something pretty magical about being inside of a living snow globe. Pack warm and waterproof if you choose to go at this time of year with comfortable and sturdy boots.

PLACES TO GO

Despite the weather conditions we did our best to see the outdoor sights – the scenic lookout point atop Mont Royal (the city’s namesake mountain), the Notre-Dame Basilica and Rue Saint-Paul in Old Montreal (you guessed it – the most historic and oldest area of the city), and window shopping along Boulevard Saint Laurent in the trendy Le-Plateau-Mont-Royal borough. And when we were in need of warming up – the Underground City – a huge series of connected shopping centers, commercial buildings and hotels that sits below downtown offers every shop you can imagine and even an ice skating rink!

THINGS TO DO

While we didn’t have time to partake in any winter sports, Montreal offers a plethora and if we go back in the Winter ice skating, skiing (for me)/snowboarding (for Adam), and trying snowshoeing are all on our list! And after all of that? You eat. We barely scratched the surface of Montreal’s foodie scene but if I had to recommend just a few places: Melk for coffee and pastries convenient to downtown, C’Chocolat for a decadent hot chocolate or crepe stop and Dominion Square Taverne for pre-dinner drinks. And if you only make one dinner reservation? Le Bremner. Aside from the fact that everything we tried on the inventive, seafood heavy menu was delicious and the cocktails were perfectly crafted – it’s the people and the space that really took our experience over the top. It’s a true hidden gem that was recommended by locals and sits tucked away in a basement entrance filled with cozy, wine bottle-lined booths – and once you’re in there you immediately feel at home. Like taking shots with the wait staff at the end of the night kind of home. It’s a must visit.

I think the same could be said of Montreal in general. We’ll be back… perhaps in warmer months.

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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.