Therefore, I have decided to organise it in the following manner.We begin our adventure in London town.
(All photos by me)
Make use of the very efficient London Tube system. For longer stays like ours, the most economic way is to use the Oyster card. At the end of your time in London, you can take the card to a ticket desk and get any amount left on the card refunded along with the amount that you pay for the actual card. Keep in mind also that you will be charged a higher fare for peak travel times.
Take advantage of the free museums and overdose on some art, history and culture. Museums such as The British Museum, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert museum are all free to visit, unless you enter one of the special exhibitions.
Get away from the hustle and bustle and take a day trip out of the city. We took a train to the beautiful town of Bath in Somerset, which was only a short 90 minute trip. Tickets are cheapest when booked in advance, and can be booked on East Coast Trains or First Great Western.
Visit Days Out Guide and have a look through to see if there are any attractions you want to visit. One of these combined with a Travelcard for the train (Oyster not included. Must be a National Rail ticket) will get two people in for the price of one. Well worth it when you consider that attractions such as Madame Tussaud's are around 30 pounds per ticket (ouch).
Sit down and work out whether buying the famed London Pass is worth your while. List all the things you would like to see/do and find prices, then compare this with the list on the website and the price of the Pass. When we started planning, I had decided to get us Passes, but once I compared I realised not getting it was actually saving us over $100. In saying this, a lot of people do find it worth the money. It just wasn't going to personally save us anything.
Forget the manners your mother taught you when on the Tube and at the stations. You will be told off by hurried commuters for not staying to the right hand side of the escalators.
Forget your headphones if you decide to get on one of the hop-on-hop-off tour buses. Depending on the bus, it may mean that you miss out on the commentary.
Not so much a 'don't', but a recommendation. If you're going to visit places like Oxford or Regent Streets, try to do so on weekdays instead of weekends if you can. They'll still be busy no matter what, but the weekend crowds can be utterly hectic and spoil the 'therapy' part of your retail therapy.
Necessarily book your afternoon/high tea at The Ritz just because you think you have to. There are hundreds of other places around London where you can get amazing afternoon tea for the tiniest fraction of the price of The Ritz. We had ours at The Athenaeum in Mayfair and it was wonderful.
Confuse London Bridge and Tower Bridge. The bridge that most people think of is actually Tower Bridge. London Bridge unfortunately no longer exists.
If vintage is your thing (let's face it, we all love a bit of vintage) then you can't go past the Portebello Markets and the surrounding shops. Full to the brim of antiques, vintage clothing, shoes and jewellery, it is bound to satisfy your retail cravings. I don't usually have a hard time finding clothing to spend money on, but my bestie usually struggles. She walked away completely satisfied with her vintage finds, which really just proves my point about how good it is.
I should also mention that it was here that really cemented our growing feeling that we pay way too much for things in Australia. I have purchased a few 'good' vintage garments over the last few years and they always seem to set me back more money than I care to share. I walked away from Portebello Markets with a vintage psychedelic maxi skirt for 10 pounds and a 60s vintage top for only 8 pounds.
Aside from Portebello, head down to the area around Brick Lane for some more great vintage finds. We didn't find the actual market to be much to write home about, but the surrounding streets house some fantastic stores that are overflowing with amazing vintage. Some stores are a little on the pricey side, but these tend to be the ones that stock older vintage from the early 20th century.
Brick Lane Market is also around the corner from Petticoat Lane Market. I know it sounds like it should have a quaint little flea market, but in actual fact it is stall after stall of mass-produced, low-quality clothing and accessories. Just don't go there. Unless that's what you're into, of course...
I know people always recommend Camden Market for shopping, but due to half the stalls being closed the day we went (on a Sunday, no less), I'm unable to comment personally. Although, I will mention that there are two markets, the Camden Market, and the Camden Lock Markets. The former is again, stall after stall of mass-produced clothing, while the latter is more your antique/vintage/hand-made jewellery kinda place. Best not to confuse the two.
If new clothing is what you're after, the best thing I can suggest is Oxford and Regent Streets and the surrounding area, such as Carnaby Street. Here you'll find (several) Zara stores, H&M, Mango, Topshop and Forever 21, as well as a few quirky boutiques (more so in the Carnaby area). For those who are shopping on a budget but still want to look the part, there is a chain store called Primark, which consists of several floors of clothing, shoes and accessories for extremely low prices. On the other end of the scale, this area also includes the upmarket department store, Liberty, where you'll find labels such as Acne, Marc Jacobs and J Brand, as well as designer bags, shoes and accessories. Around the corner down Regent Street, you'll find luxury brands like Burberry, Michael Kors and Ted Baker.
A special mention goes to Harrods, of course, but in our case it was more browsing and window shopping than actual shopping. Harrods is a complete mecca for designer goods, so obviously for those with a larger budget than mine or perhaps just for treating yourself and splurging a bit. If you only spend five minutes walking through the handbag and accessories section, you might want to double check and make sure you've actually seen the whole thing. It is huge!
While you're there, also go for a wander through the famous food hall. Even if you're not interested in paying 10 pounds for a pastry, the food is always interesting and mouth-watering to look at. I also find it interesting for watching all the impeccably-dressed women buying exquisite looking cheeses and delicacies for what my daydreams tell me are fabulous dinner parties with even better canapes. A girl can dream...