Photo by Eva Dang on Unsplash

By Tiffany Edison

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of traveling abroad is pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. In fact, research shows the experience of travel has several health and psychological benefits. A joint study from the Global Commission on Aging (in partnership with the US Travel Association) reports that workers who travel at least twice a year show “significantly lower risk of suffering a heart attack than those who only travel every six years or so.”* 

Personally, I always find myself more motivated than ever after I return home from a trip. It’s as if I transform into the Energizer Bunny, pushing forward with limitless drive and inspiration. 

As spring approaches, I will be taking my teenage daughters out of the country to visit London for the very first time. The preparation for this trip has been invigorating, and as an avid design lover of all things English, I will share some of the places we will be visiting while we are across the pond. Here is the nudge you need to plan a trip you’ve been putting off for some reason. You’re welcome.

Accommodations

The Ham Yard Hotel, designed by the extremely talented Kit Kemp, will be where we will rest our heads while visiting the United Kingdom. Located in the heart of Soho, this hotel is quite a treat for the eyes. Kit’s ability to mix patterns and textures is so very inspiring. She has the perfect knack for balancing whimsical motifs with sophistication. 

Other notable mentions include The Rosewood Hotel, Claridges, Blake’s Hotel, and the more affordably-priced Covent Garden Hotel. All boast excellent locations within walking distance to several museums, restaurants, and superb shopping areas.

Parks

London is known for its many parks, which all offer unique characteristics in addition to providing the perfect background for picturesque strolls throughout the city.

St. James Park is where to go if you feel like getting your royal on! It is surrounded by three royal palaces (including Buckingham Palace) and has a large lake where duck-watching and pelican-feeding are a must-do activity. 

Equally distinguished is the centrally located Hyde Park, which boasts over 4,000 trees. It’s home to magnificent rose gardens and perhaps the most memorable attraction, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. 

Regent’s Park is also at the top of the list! Designed by renowned architect John Nash, this park is wildly popular among those seeking boating opportunities. It features an open-air theatre in the midst of stunning formal gardens.

Culture

The London Eye, or the Millennium Wheel (its other moniker) is perhaps the most well-known tourist attraction in London. Built in 1998, this cantilevered observation attraction on the bank of the River Thames will not disappoint. It’s an impressive 443 feet in height, and lets groups of passengers take in a bird’s eye view of the city proper. If you book your tickets online, you’ll save 10% on tickets!

If heights are not your thing, but art is, then head on down to the Tate Modern Museum. Make sure to plan ahead and see what special exhibits are in town while you’re in the area. As an ardent art lover, and lover of modern art in particular, this is a must! I’m hoping to nurture an appreciation for modern art in my daughters this trip.

The V & A (Victoria & Albert) National Portrait Gallery is a high-recommended destination option. You could get lost for days in this vast structure dedicated to art and culture. Again, make sure to check what exhibits will be going on while you are in town and plan accordingly.

Where do I stop? The Crown Jewels, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Burlington Arcade (for you Ann Arborites, I’d describe it as a grander version of Nickels Arcade) — London has anything your heart desires.  

Shopping

I will start with my favorite store on the entire planet: Liberty of London. It has the most tasteful collection of designer items to date, including high-end fashion and luxury homeware. You will find rooms dedicated to scarves, shoes, and blankets. I personally could stay here all day, but if it’s your first time visiting London, you may also want to check out the uber-famous Harrods. On top of featuring amazing high-end clothing, Harrods has a well-established restaurant worth checking out, as well as a highly-esteemed wellness clinic. All of this makes for a pretty amazing shopping experience.

Antiquing

Perhaps the most coveted antique store in the United Kingdom, Guinevere, opened in 1963 and has had staying power ever since. There are literally treasures everywhere you look; what’s better than bringing home an item to commemorate your trip? As an interior designer, it’s these items that set apart the “designed” home from the “collected” — and trust me, these homes are miles apart.

Pubs

Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell is an old time pub that’s at least 700 years old. The atmosphere is amazing and the food’s not bad either. Fish and chips anyone?

On the opposite side of the spectrum hails The Ned. This place will give those looking for a refined English experience the opportunity to sip an amazing craft cocktail in a sophisticated ambience.

Lastly, the Blue Bar (I was there years ago — it’s amazing) was designed by David Collins and is located within the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. It’s a jewel box, and a testament to my favorite things: the color blue and the perfect Manhattan. 

In the words of one of my favorite movies: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” It’s your choice. Cheerio!

*Global Commission on Aging study: www.nbcnews.com/better/wellness/5-scientifically-proven

BIO: 

Tiffany Edison has been an interior designer since 2002 and specializes in both
residential and commercial projects.  She holds a Master of Social Work degree
(ACSW) and utilizes interpersonal relationship skills on a daily basis with her client
base, largely comprised of Ann Arbor, and Metro Detroit residents.  She has a
wonderfully large blended family residing in the city and enjoys the comforts of home.
When she’s not fully immersed in client projects, you can find her active on the golf
course, a favorite pastime.

www.birchdesignassociates.com