We made it our mission to escape the constantly overbearing sun of LA to the refreshing realness of winter across the Atlantic.
The quickest way to connect to a new culture is to engage in their museums and you don't come to London to not visit the Tate Modern. Players like Warhol, Picasso, Fernand Léger line the spacious floors to inspire you without spending a dime (yes, admission is free!). It was the first to-do on our rather barren itinerary (more on that later) and easily the most fulfilling.
When I asked around for recommendations in which neighborhood to settle, I asked for what's most like West Village in New York or Larchmont in Los Angeles. The answer: Marylebone. A haven for fresh boutiques and grand red-brick terraces, this impressively elegant district quietly tucked around the corner from Oxford Street was just my cup of tea. The home we made for our few days of winter was The Grazing Goat, a rustic gem nestled on a quiet, chic street of pastel-colored facades. It's a gastropub + hotel, a combination you'd never assume without being in-the-know. There's not even a front desk, so you go up to staff behind the bar to announce you're checking in. Is this a speakeasy for hotels? Almost quite seemingly. The rooms that sit three floors above the restaurant are understated and confident in its tranquil charm. Mini Aesop toiletries grant a refreshing escape from the typical shampoo and conditioner that you refuse to put in your hair. Exposed beams, light wood interiors, and plush quilts remind me so much of our own bedroom (I'm sure we even have the exact same bed. Restoration Hardware?), but the claw foot bathtub and amazing menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner just down the stairs make this even better.
As much as we came for the winter, we are still spoiled children of the sun. So to take it one step at a time, we didn't strain ourselves with a heavy itinerary or the pressure of being a good traveler. We expected to stay in our warm bed, relax in a silky bath, and drink ourselves silly just steps from our room without having to subject ourselves to the bitter blast of cold (average temperatures being in the low 30's). And although we didn't see all of the neighborhood, The Grazing Goat's hospitality and charm was just enough for showing us the essence of Marylebone.
Ok, so we did get out of the hotel at least once or twice. Forget the taxis and the Ubers, take the awesomely-obnoxious-fanny-pack-tourist-approved sightseeing bus! The hop-on hop-off ones are the best, because for one low rate you can travel through the entire city at your convenience. We took the bus to St. Paul's Cathedral and walked our way across the Millenium Bridge to Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe and we hopped back on to pass by Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The sightseeing bus is our guilty travel pleasure and we have no shame in our commuting game.