Being obsessed with a place is a strange thing. I can’t tell you why I love England and London so much. I’m either thinking about visiting, planning a visit, enjoying a visit or recovering from a visit. I’ve just wrapped up my ninth trip to England. Before you get the wrong idea, I’m not wealthy and I don’t have any great tips on getting great deals. I go so often because I work hard at saving up the airfare and I have wonderful friends and cousins that allow me to stay with them. I’ve gone to many areas but have made sure to visit London each time. It’s a chaotic, vibrant, ever changing city and I like that.
I’m always impressed with the folks that drive there. It’s rarely easy. I watched as my friends wove in and out of side streets, trying to shave a few minutes off of any journey. I learned to drive in America where we have wide streets and freeways. We think nothing of driving fifty or sixty miles to try a new taco place. It’s mind boggling to hear that a person has to plan, map out and schedule a visit to a relative that lives only twenty miles away. Instantly in my mind its a twenty minute drive, London reality is a two hour drive. You can begin to see the obstacles here and why the brilliant people of England have some of the best public transport in the world.
This particular visit was pure relaxation, we didn’t do the tourist stuff this time. My husband and I visited with our friends at Fox Hill B&B. We talked a lot, ate more, watched movies, read, napped, enjoyed cocktail hour and all of the things that get pushed aside in the day to day business of life.
We took the train one day up to Huntingdon, near Cambridge to visit cousins. We checked out their jewelry store, Underwood the Jewelers, in the nearby village of Ramsey. Check it out if you’re in the area. We had a nice chat while enjoying a pub lunch. It’s always fun to take the train through the countryside, so beautiful and completely different to London.
We walked up to the village of Norwood several times. We enjoyed the cake at Dalhousie. I tried a Victoria Sponge, made famous (in America) by the movie “Calendar Girls”. The Blackbird Bakery there is also very good. We had a scrumptious hamburger at Crystal Palace Market, with some of the best french fries we’ve ever had. My husband loves cupcakes so much that after going to Ms.Cupcake last September, he was moved to embroider a few sweatshirts for the ladies that work there.
We also went with our friends to a little area across from Hampton Court called Molesey for breakfast at Henry’s, excellent food and service. I enjoyed the fresh croissants and coffee especially. I love poking around in little antique shops and finding treasures that are so different from what you would find in America. Neil is always up to a challenge, so I pointed out a particularly nice metal garden bench and asked if he would be able to make us a similar one. He has been wanting to improve his welding skills, so I may get a nice bench after all. I wouldn’t necessarily spend the money to buy it and then pay the expensive shipping from the UK. Found this funny little brass piece in Molesey. It reminds me of the faces you see on the walls at Oxford College. It may have been a belt buckle, but I have plans to use it on a custom bird house.
The styles and indeed the customs are very different from place to place and that’s precisely why I like traveling. It’s disappointing, at least to me, to see things like a McDonald’s in England. I realize that companies want to expand to every corner of the globe. When you can get the same things wherever you go, why do you need to travel. I try very hard not to eat at chain restaurants as it is, mediocre is the word that comes to mind. Try something local, even if in your home town. You may be missing something unique.
I don’t have the mistaken notion of many who have only traveled to England via TV and movies. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard comments about some of my photos that give me the idea that most Americans expect London/England to be quaint and simple, like the days of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. There is history and wonderful old architecture with all of the quirky little details all through the ages there. Victorian, Gothic, Roman and Medieval times blend with twenty first century sky scrapers. Ever changing. It’s modern and intelligent, and very much up to date. I read that even Westminster Abbey is adding a tower. A living, breathing part of modern England as well as a view to the past.
With every visit, I take away impressions, knowledge and a little more familiarity with my ancestor’s homeland. This time I realize that I can love a place that I’m not actually from. I can feel close to it for my love of it’s history and culture, knowing that if circumstances had been different, I would be a citizen instead of a visitor. What continues to make it so important and dear to my heart though are the people I’ve gotten to know and the stories I uncover. I am, as always, happy to be home. And, as always, thinking about my next visit over which will be very different to this last one, but no less wonderful! Happy travels.