England holds a special place in my heart. I love the pubs, the dry humor, the thousands of years of history.
It's also a very unique country. Where else would you overhear a middle-aged man on the train talking about how he's ‘very fussy' with his tea sandwiches?
I'll be writing individual posts about the places I loved most. But for now, I wanted to share the overall highlights of my week in the UK.
1. Getting Rowdy in Essex
My first stop in England? Essex. I went to in Essex to see my friend Alice, whom I met while at yoga teacher training in India.
Our night out was hilarious. First, we met Alice's friends at a bar. Everyone was so sarcastic that it felt like opposite day. One guy said, “You're really cool, I'm enjoying talking to you.” and I was like, “Are you being serious? I'm confused.” British humor is so dry that it makes me feel slow.
We then went to a trashy club and danced for hours. While waiting in line for a chip butty outside the club, a guy with a pompadour said to me, “Your hair's flat. Sorry love, you're in Essex.” Ouch.
2. THE FOOD.
I may have eaten better in England than in France. Seriously.
And I didn't just eat amazing food in London – I ate well everywhere in England. From smoked shellfish in Essex to Lancashire hot pot in Lancaster, I dined like a queen in England. I also tried my first Scotch egg (LOVE) and my first Pimms. How did I make it 26 years without Pimms?! What a waste.
3. Crashing in East London
I. Love. East. London. So I was thrilled that on this trip I got to stay there three nights.
East London is basically everything I want in a neighborhood. Incredible food, street art, a gritty, hipster-y vibe. Can I have a green card already?
While in East London, I stayed at this beautiful Airbnb in Hoxton, the former old court magistrate of Shoreditch. It was expensive but well worth the splurge.
By the way, you can get $40 off your next Airbnb stay with this coupon code!
4. Afternoon Tea at Sketch
On my last day in London, I met the lovely Brenna of This Battered Suitcase for afternoon tea at Sketch.
Sketch was made for Instagram. And while food itself was ho-hum, the whimsical decor was adorable.
5. Seeing so much Americana in London
American culture is very au courant in England. During my time there, I spotted diners, barbecue, brownies, bagels, hot dogs, and burgers.
All in all, seeing so much American food and culture made me appreciate my own culture a little more.
6. Pubs, pubs, pubs
God I love a good pub. The pubs in the North of England were especially cozy, with raspberry walls, stuffed pheasants, and hunting paintings.
Is there anything better than sitting in a pub with a crackling fire and a cold pint? I doubt it.
7. Pretending to be Lizzie Bennet in the Peak District
InThe Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson writes that England is “the world’s largest park, its most perfect accidental garden.”
That describes Peak District especially well. The Peak District is everything you imagine England to be; green and hilly, and dotted with age-old towns. I felt like I was in a Jane Austen novel, especially at Chatsworth House, a.k.a. Mr. Darcy's estate.
8. Getting a taste of super hip Manchester
I had no idea what to expect of Manchester. Honestly, I pictured something kind of bleak à la Billy Elliot. What I found was a super trendy city, beautifully outfitted in Edwardian architecture.
I met up with Beverley from Pack Your Passport for dinner. Being British, she was hilarious and witty and I (yet again) felt about as a quick as a '96 PC. We enjoyed mac and cheese at Northern Soul, and headed to Trof for rum and gingers.
By the end of the night I was dreaming of moving to Manchester.
. . . . . . . . . . .
I'll end this post with another Bill Bryson quote.
“Britain is infinite. There isn’t anywhere in the world with more to look at in a smaller space – nowhere that has a greater record of interesting and worthwhile productivity over a longer period at a higher level. No wonder my trip didn’t feel complete. I could never see it all.”
That's the thing – I never feel done with England. There's still so much I want to see – Bath, Cornwall, the Cotswolds. Although it's small, it packs a punch.
One thing's certain – I'll be back in this compact, quaint, and always surprising country.
What's your favorite part of England? Does anything top London for you?
Important info –
In Essex, I absolutely loved Osborne Bros. It's a super cheap seafood place right on the shore in Southend-on-Sea. If you like smoked fish and seafood, go there!
In London, I stayed at this incredible Airbnb in Hoxton. Food-wise, I loved Friends of Ours for brunch and coffee, and Boxcar for lunch and shopping. As mentioned, Sketch serves a great afternoon tea. (Remember to book in advance!) If you like blues and barbecue, don't miss The Blues Kitchen.
In Lancaster, I loved Merchants for lunch. It's the perfect place for a hearty meal, and it's housed in a historic 17th century wine cellar. Try the Lancashire hotpot!
In Manchester, I enjoyed having tea at Chapter One Books, a book store and coffee shop. Northern Soul Grilled Cheese makes great mac and cheese and milkshakes. And I'd highly recommend Trof for drinks.