Photo Journal: Rekindling the Spark with London, UK

Do you remember your first time?


No, you dirty bird, your first time away from home. The first trip you ever took? (And I don’t mean one of those forced family vacations, like the one to Disney World. At the age of 14.) I mean, your first semi-grown up vacation that you paid for yourself?


I remember mine well. And not only because it was the trip that made me catch the travel bug, that opened my eyes to a whole new world outside the vast galaxy known as New York City and so many many other things. But looking back now — the most unforgettable part of my first “adult” trip was just how insanely ghetto frugal it was. And I mean that in the most endearing way possible.


It was 2003 and I had made enough cash that summer to pay for the coming year’s university books, tuition and boarding fees with $700 bucks to spare.


With the bills burning a hole in my shallow pockets and a week before the start of junior year, two girlfriends and I decided to take a short trip to London. And after:

+ 1 round trip ticket from JFK –> LHR ($400)

+ 5 nights stay at the Regency House Hotel ($95p/n ÷ 3 people x 5 nights = $158 pp)

+ 1 taxi fare from LHR to Regency House Hotel ($45)


there was $97 left to spend across 5 days, (“mind the gap” in my wallet), which managed to materialize:

– 5 free breakfasts from the hotel as close to lunchtime as possible

– 3 sandwiches from Marks & Spencer

– 1 entrée-portions to split between three hungry girlfriends

– off-peak tickets to sites

– 20-minutes of emailing at the local internet cafe


But despite needing to painstakingly craft endless (and doggedly creative) ways to stay alive, we managed to make lasting memories across the UK’s shining capital. We strolled through the city’s prominent and offbeat landmarks, ogled at the Crown Jewels, pondered the silent secrets of Stonehenge, drank (free!) water at the Roman Baths and discovered the irrefutable magnificence that is Marks & Spencer.


And just a short decade and change later, I planned to take my second trip (to my first trip) with Lilia, a like-minded working professional and couldn’t help but wonder how my modestly improved financial situation would shape my experiences, my tastes, my preferences in this fast-paced city. And how my modestly older wiser mind would affect my views, perspectives, reflections.


As Lilia and I embarked on our journey to the ex-motherland last month, we aimed to relish in the comforts of our more settled lifestyle. During the day, we walked through familiar sites and neighborhoods at our leisure, photographed simple street scenes, bought unnecessary trinkets. By night, we wined and dined at the city’s trendy eateries, scouted the streets for nightlife and pampered ourselves with ritual spa days. Needless to say, we enjoyed the (reasonable) perks that came the working life.


But despite these luxuries amidst the lack of hardship and struggle, every corner we turned, every crevice we explored still brought a familiar sense of adventure, spark and wonder.


After all, you never forget your first.



Corinthia Hotel London
1 Whitehall Place
London SW1A
United Kingdom
+44 20 7930 8181


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  • Lisa Friedt

    This is so beautiful. I love the depths and the angles and the richness of the architecture. As I read your blog I allowed my mind to journey to my first trip…my first real vacation. Nearly three weeks spent in California with my girlfriend. Budgets weren’t even really considered. No hotels preplanned…just a ticket into San Francisco and a rental car booked. What an adventure.

    Thank you for sharing a glimpse of London from the view from your heart. <3

    26 May 2014 at 11:00 AM
  • My family did go on some wonderful vacations, and I also traveled a lot with my church youth group and my Camp Fire troop. When I was in high school I asked the German teacher to take a group of us to Germany, and he agreed. That was for a month, and the teacher drove us around Germany in a VW bus. I saved up money from my job at Ward’s and paid for it myself, so I guess that would qualify as my first independent vacation. I also spent a year abroad during college, and spent one semester in Hamburg and another semester in Madrid, with a lot of travel on breaks all over Europe.

    Although I have never been to London, your pictures bring me back to the excitement of all of the traveling I did when I was younger, before raising a family. Someday I hope to get back to seeing the world.

    24 May 2014 at 11:08 AM
  • Chris

    I like the last pic, of London Eye, with the converging clouds. It’s very cool!

    23 May 2014 at 7:18 PM
  • Ah yes London. I used to live and work there. Did you ever visit Borough Market? It’s where Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels was filmed. Such a real vibrancy there and the smells are just to die for! Your photo’s remind me of what I took for granted for so long. I no longer live there but a visit maybe back on the cards! My first trip was Dublin I believe another great vibrant city! Thank you for this :)

    23 May 2014 at 1:05 AM
  • I LOOOOOOOVVVVEEEE London. My first trip there was back in 1999 and I’ve had a few visits ever since. If I can convince my husband to move there even if just for a year we will be on the next plane over. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures!

    22 May 2014 at 2:54 AM
  • you chose an expensive city to have your first grown up trip at… mine was florence and it’s a good thing that wine is cheaper than water there, that’s for sure…

    21 May 2014 at 12:22 PM
  • What great photos! I was “forced” to go on many family vacations but as I look back on them they were absolutely wonderful. Funny but even though I traveled extensively as a child my adult life has not allowed much in the way of travel. Something I would most certainly like to get back into! Thanks for sharing!

    21 May 2014 at 9:44 AM
  • My favourite photo in your London collection is the street shot with the red buildings.

    Are there really teenagers who felt ‘forced’ into going on holiday to Disneyworld? Disneyland at 14 for me magical – first time I’d been on a plane and travelling on this “surprise” trip with my parents, brother and grandfather, it holds such incredible memories – the start of many amazing travel adventures.

    21 May 2014 at 5:16 AM