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Raspberry Jam, Fairy Gardens and Sunsets: A British Summer

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

I believe in times of uncertainty, we can dream of the past and manifest the future.

I want to share with you my perfect British summer holiday, in the hopes that I shall inspire you to float across the pond to seek beauty, culture, fresh air, and adventure as soon as life allows you to. Here is a full itinerary of this trip.

For a moment, let me take you somewhere.

I fell in love with the British Isles aged 11. With its green glens, rocky coasts, and cobblestone cities and villages, I felt it was a true fairyland (and still do). On my first trip to Britain in 2010, I waved goodbye to my Auntie Beti as I boarded my flight departing the UK. She waved back and promised me, “Soon, we will have many more adventures.”

In the summer of 2015, I returned to the UK. I was to live with my aunt and uncle in London and at their home in the Isle of Man, as well as attend a four-week summer study program at Cambridge University, making a total of two months in the UK — and so, the adventures continued. 

Auntie Beti, wearing chic black sunglasses, waved as I came out of Customs and into the Costa Coffee at Heathrow Airport in London. Off we went to Chelsea, where we stayed at The Sloane Club, a private nook of beauty and elegance in central London.

On the same day I arrived, we visited The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace to see a beautiful exhibition titled Painting Paradise. After getting absorbed in lush paintings, silverware, and embroideries depicting gardens, wise old trees, and flowers, we stepped out of the Palace and onto the sidewalk. The sun was shining. 

We popped around London and ran errands — bank runs and a trip to John Lewis department stores. When I travel, I love taking time to do everyday, local things like exploring a local teahouse or shopping at a department store ( I have been to gorgeous Harrods as well of course!). I loved doing a quick bank errand, shopping at Zara after outdoor lunch off of King’s Road, shopping and wandering at Covent Garden and going for long walks with no final destination. It’s these spontaneous moments that count just as much as the planned galleries and tours.

We saw two West End shows. The first was a play, The Audience, starring Dame Kirsten-Scott Thomas about The Queen’s relationships with her prime ministers throughout her longstanding reign. The other was a Beatles tribute musical called Rain. We danced and sang the night away, the theatre acting as a time travel machine to the 1960s. Afterwards, we took a nighttime stroll in the near empty, beautiful Trafalgar Square. If you can, take strolls at night in twinkling cities. You see a new side of your destination.

John Gielgud Theatre, where we saw The Audience.

We learned about music history during our time in London. We toured the Albert Hall and learned of its Victorian roots and the brilliant engineering of the grand hall. (The UFO circles on the ceiling are to help the sound bounce and create ambience, as a circular room usually deadens sound!).

Auntie Beti surprised me with tickets to An Evening with Burt Bacharach, a concert event held at performance venue Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Centre. The musical legend, and one of my favorite songwriters of all time, told stories about his life and career while a fabulous orchestra and gospel group accompanied his performances. To see one of my musical heroes talk about his incredible life and sing his own beautiful songs was so intimate and special. It was a magical night I shall cherish forever. 

Wherever you travel, I recommend you find the time to attend a music event, whether it be a concert, a local group at a pub or a street musician busk performance. Listening to great music while traveling is experiencing the richness of culture, and is so healthy for the soul. You never know what you might find.

An Evening with Burt Bacharach at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre. Photo by Emily Dosal.

We saw an Alexander McQueen exhibition at Victoria and Albert Museum, attended an abstract art auction, toured the Houses of Parliament, watched Shakespeare’s As You Like It at The Globe Theatre and had afternoon tea at The Ritz. Our memories of London are simply divine.

Houses of Parliament

Me at The Globe Theatre!

Beautiful floral arrangement at the art auction!

Tea at the Ritz.

The Ritz ceiling details.

Sophie, myself and Beti at afternoon tea at The Ritz.

We then took a train up to Liverpool for the weekend. Liverpool is a maritime city in the northwest of England that was once a bigger source of income than London. It became home to thousands of Irish immigrants throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and was bombed heavily during World War II. Liverpool is a true working class city. The people were friendly, welcoming and funny. There is no sense of humour like that of northern Englanders.

There, we embarked on three Beatles experiences: The Magical Mystery Tour bus tour, the National Trust tour of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s childhood homes, and The Beatles Story interactive museum experience at Albert Dock. After seeing Rain in London, we were so lucky to experience the real history of the iconic rock group in their homeland. I’m a massive fan of 1960s and 1970s culture in Europe. As an aspiring filmmaker and musician, I felt that by tapping into the music, places and stories of those times during my time in Britain, I was invigorated and inspired in a completely new way. 

Discover and connect with the history of your heroes and events in history that touch you. It changed how I experience and create art and music.

Albert Dock.

The Cavern Club, a hot spot in the late 50s and early 60s for local bands!

Strawberry Fields.

Liverpool out of a window at the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Albert Dock.

Royal Liver Building, Liverpool City Centre (photo taken in May on a previous trip).

My Uncle Graham took the three hour ferry journey on the Irish Sea (with car in tow) from their home in Isle of Man to Liverpool. We met up in Liverpool City Centre, and hit the road. 

God's Country!

Our car cruised along the winding roads of Yorkshire, surrounded by fluffy clouds in the sky and herds of sheep. Him and my aunt pointed out the green and golden hills that stretched for miles. “Uncle Graham calls this God’s country,” my Auntie Beti said. 

That evening we stayed at a family member’s home, overlooking the sun setting on the hills of God’s Country, after clinking glasses of wine and having beautiful conversation.

West Yorkshire.

The next morning, we rose early and headed for a day in the village of York. We strolled around the cobblestone streets, York Minster cathedral standing tall in the centre of the city. When we were aimlessly exploring, we came across a colorful garden where a cafe was serving lunch. It was another spontaneous, magical moment. 


Cobblestone in York.

York Minster cathedral.

Lunch in a fairy garden!

After our morning in York, we got back into the car with fresh kipper sandwiches, chutney and cracker snacks, and began a long road trip down from north England to Cambridge in the south, where I’d be a student for the next four weeks (the last week was a field trip to London!). 

During our road trip, we stopped for fish and chips at a cozy pub in a very small English village off of the main roads--afterwards we stayed at a Marriott for one night. The next morning, my family dropped me off at the Cambridge campus. During this next chapter of my trip, I was living solo on campus and meeting new people. I felt I had encompassed a new sense of freedom and curiosity.

In a soft, green field in Cambridge, where the band members of Pink Floyd once sat and wrote songs together, my friends and I sat in picnic chairs and ate scones with fresh jam. 

Afternoon tea in Cambridge.

We also had a picnic in the fields and munched on British snacks like Scotch eggs, Walkers crisps and chocolate covered HobKnobs.

We biked around the small town of Cambridge and punted along the River Cam that snakes through the town and campus. We watched the sun set along King’s College chapel from our boat on the river.

Punting on the River Cam.

We were always walking, biking, punting and exploring nature. Renting bikes is one of the best ways to get around. It’s eco-friendly and you get loads of fresh air and the most organic views of towns and cities. 

View from our bike trail!

The garden where we saw Romeo and Juliet — Shakespeare in the Park. I thought we might spot faeries in the bushes!

King's College Chapel.

Sir Francis Bacon.

Every weekend we went on field trips and excursions. One weekend, we took a three hour bus journey to theme park Alton Towers and laughed our way through daring roller coasters. On another, we took a Saturday day trip to the small town of Windsor, toured Windsor Castle and had afternoon tea at a tea room. 

Greenery at Windsor Castle.

Overlooking a garden at Windsor Castle.

Adorable afternoon tea!

Exploring London with the Cambridge group.

Fieldtrip to London!

We even took a very short weekend trip to Paris to roam around the city and admire the architecture. 

Arc de Triomphe

After three weeks in Cambridge, a weekend in Paris and another week running around London with the student group, my aunt and uncle picked me up and we left for their home in Isle of Man for a week. 

Isle of Man is a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea, named after the Irish God of the sea, Manannán mac Lir. It was invaded by Vikings and has a rich Nordic and Celtic seafaring and trading history. Although it is generally considered part of the UK, it is an independent state with its own Manx Parliament.

In Isle of Man, I hardly took photos. I spent most of my time cooking Sunday roast and fresh seafood dinners with my family, walking through glens, admiring waterfalls, painting, visiting the Viking built Peel Castle, museums, and enjoying local pubs with family friends. Isle of Man is a beautiful corner of the world where one can totally detach and get lost in the untouched nature and brilliance of the ancient island. The Manx are a great people with an incredibly rich history (and their own language!). 

Arboretum walk.

Aunt Beti's kitchen window.

A rocky beach at the end of a glen walk.

Isle of Man

Happy summer :)

It was a summer of discovery. I found a home in my heart and a place of inspiration. What I loved most about my trip to Britain was the simplicity and quality of life I experienced whilst there. I ate fresh, beautiful food, spent time in untouched nature, bonded with family, met incredible, intelligent people, had brilliant conversations, went back in time and learned history, and laughed a lot. These are the riches of life. 

And these riches are awaiting us. Keep dreaming, traveling and manifesting. The sun will continue to shine. These places and memories are waiting for us to discover them.

Sunset on Tower Bridge.

All photos by Emily Dosal.

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