Tag: Visit

Why You Should Visit Botany Bay’s Chalk Stalks in Kent, England

London gets all the attention. True, England’s capital city is a robust assortment of cultures and flexes considerable historical muscle. But having lived in the city for nearly two years now, I daresay one of my favorite things about it is the ease with which you can leave to explore the sprawling web of countryside and beach walks.

Kent is a county just an hour’s train ride out of Central London, but transports you, as though via the Hogwarts Express, to another dimension entirely. Along Kent’s significant coastline (which includes the White Cliffs of Dover) is Botany Bay, one of the most photographed places in the UK. Standing amid its chalk stalks during low tide, when I ambled around the impressive structures barefoot and searched for seashells in the sand, I felt like I had found my way into the world of Avatar.

There’s more than just the towering stalks, too. If you continue exploring, you’ll find caves and paths that have been chipped into the chalk coast, allowing you to climb to an Instagram-worthy nook overlooking the beach. The spring Saturday I visited, the beach only had a handful of other people in sight, and it was hard to believe that it took just as much time to get there as it would’ve taken me to travel on the tube from my home in East London to West London. Snap Welcome to nature.

Are you, like those of us who are equal parts introvert and extrovert, in need of city excitement and nature walks, both? I feel you. I need some time away from masses of people and imposing buildings to feel human; but after 10 years in New York City and now living in London, it’s evident that I’m a happy city dweller, too. Here in London, you can have your cake and eat it, too. Speaking of cakes…

My friend, cookbook author, and beloved Great British Baking Show contestant Chetna Makan (whose inventive cakes have gained her a following), invited me to her home in Kent recently. We shot YouTube cooking videos together in her kitchen, followed by a simple and outstanding Indian lunch of paneer curry and lentil stew of rice, and walked it off with a stroll along the beach just near her house.

To have the beach life and be within reach of the country’s culinary epicenter in London is a circumstance Chetna does not take for granted. “Do you ever feel like you need to live in London for professional reasons?” I asked, gauging what my own answer might be as I posed the question. “No, never. I go into London whenever I want to or need to for work, and the rest of the time I love living in Kent. I breathe a sigh of relief when I can hear the ocean.”

To get to Botany Bay from London, take the Southeastern train (from many of London’s major train stations, like Kings Cross Station, Victoria Station, Charing Cross, etc.) to Broadstairs or Margate. Broadstairs is the closest village, but Margate is a slightly more touristy destination, which will offer a plethora of fish ’n chips stalls and ice cream stands—everything you would want for a beach-day getaway. Just follow the coastal path from Margate due east and you’ll stumble upon the chalk stalks.

Beyond Botany Bay and beach bumming, the inland nature walks in England are an expansive web of paths open to anyone who cares to explore them. Fairly well marked and well worn, the entire country opens itself up to you in these hikes. Distance walkers come from all around the world to roam the English countryside, which is unique in its laws that allow walkers to tread through private property. Many of my favorite walks have included adventures through beautiful estate lands or saying hello to the horses that share their pastures with us.

These countryside walks were put in context when I heard an episode of the podcast 99% Invisible, in which they delved into this history and explained that “the freedom to walk through private land is known as ‘the right to roam.’ The movement to win this right was started in the 1930s by a rebellious group of young people who called themselves ‘ramblers.’”

Stretching my American legs on the lush, rolling hills of England has been one of the greatest pleasures of living here. Whether it be inland or coastal, I proudly adhere to the title of “rambler.”

What’s your favorite beach in the world? Tell us in the comments below!

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The Best Free Museums in London to Visit on Your Next Trip

Whether you count yourself as a “museum person” or not, I’d bet that you aspire to visit more museums. Among my friends, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to “be more cultural.” Museums, theater, and historic walking tours are all outstanding options in a place like London, the most enticing being the epic—and free!—museums.

Three of my favorite museums in London allow you to experience culture without draining the bank. Classy. Check them out below:

1. The Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is always my first recommendation to visitors, partially because of its location along the south bank of the River Thames; a stroll along the south bank path takes you from the famed Borough Market, past Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, and straight to the entrance doors of the Tate Modern.

It’s a museum of modern contemporary art, so their exhibitions showcase international art like paintings and multimedia, multisensory experiences. They have temporary exhibitions—like an in-depth exploration into the life and work of Modigliani and an exploration of the eras of Picasso—that sometimes have an entry fee, but even those are inexpensive (usually £5) and worth every cent. While you’re there, check out their open viewing terrace on the top floor for 360-degree views of the London skyline. And since you just saved on your afternoon activity…why not enjoy that view with a cocktail in hand?

2. The National Portrait Gallery

Cross the Millennium Bridge, a steel suspension pedestrian bridge, to make your way over the River Thames and saunter a bit west to the National Portrait Gallery. Next to Trafalgar Square, this museum is a national treasure for its prestigious collection of portraits of everyone from the Tudors to Winston Churchill to Kate Moss. Reading all of the captions on the little placards associated with each portrait offers a deluge of historic and cultural information—better than any coffee table book you could buy. I also think of this museum as one of London’s more peaceful places; it’s perfect for a couple hours of quiet introspection.

Once you’re ready to move on with your day from the National Portrait Gallery, you’re in for a treat: The museum is located in the epicenter of London’s best food area (in my opinion), with Soho just northwest and Covent Garden to the north and east. If a glass of wine feels right, head down the street to Terroirs or Gordon’s Wine Bar. If a proper meal is calling you, then check out Petersham Nurseries, Lao Café, The Palomar, Hoppers, Bone Daddies, or Dishoom (an Indian restaurant that has a zealous following in the city and has converted many people who thought they didn’t like Indian food).

3. The Victoria & Albert Museum

My final museum recommendation is in a building so gorgeous that you feel you ought to be charged admission for simply being in such a stunning space. Alas, the Victoria & Albert Museum is free and open to anyone keen for a dose of inspiration. It’s the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, and boasts a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects and temporary exhibitions (like the one I saw last year of Frida Kahlo’s clothing and personal possessions from her home, Casa Azul). It’s not as mammoth as New York’s Metropolitan Museum, so it doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted, but don’t leave before grabbing a cuppa tea at their outdoor courtyard, which is expansive and charming in its own right. The V&A (as it’s often referred to for short), is a five-minute walk from Hyde Park, one of London’s largest and most lovely parks.

The art director and designer George Lois observed that “museums are custodians of epiphanies.” The epiphanies at these gorgeous institutions are recurrent and will inspire you to return again and again.

What’s your favorite museum in London? Tell us in the comments below!

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You Can't Visit New Orleans Without Going to This Street

I’m not from New Orleans. I’m actually from a city two hours west, Lafayette. But anytime I say I grew up in Louisiana, people always have the same response: “Aw, I’ve been dying to go to New Orleans Mardi Gras.”

And I want them to go, too! But the wild and crazy party that they’re likely envisioning isn’t what New Orleans is to me. While Mardi Gras is admittedly fantastic (I’ve gone every year since I was 18), I think there are better ways to really experience the Crescent City.


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