I recently returned from my third trip to London—my second trip there in the past 6 months. And even though I was only there for a few days this time, it was long enough to make my heart ache once again with a deep and serious yearning for the city and the country I love so dearly.
As I sat on the plane headed back to the U.S. with what has now become my usual, self-assembled, Leaving England Kit (consisting of a pocket pack of tissues for the ridiculous tears I always shed, a bag of McVitie’s Mini Milk Chocolate Digestives, copies of the latest issues of Time Out London and Glamour UK, and a Beatles playlist as well as an episode of Gavin & Stacey queued up on my iPod), I made a list of a few new things I learned during this go-round in Blighty. I thought I’d post them here for posterity, and perhaps for the reading enjoyment of someone, somewhere (Hi, Mom).
- Proper girls drink half-pints. A friend of mine who lived in London for a few months last year for work actually mentioned this as something she’d learned during her time there. I filed it away somewhere in the recesses of my Anglophile mind, figuring I’d haul this little factoid out at some point and put it to good use. Well, on this trip I did. And let me tell you, the blokes in London definitely notice!
- William and Kate’s faces can be put on just about anything, and I will want to buy it. The cheesier and campier the better, in my opinion. On this jaunt, I found paper dolls, tea towels, silver plated spoons, a bone china loving cup, a mini collector plate complete with display easel and keepsake booklet, and my personal favourite, a poster of them dressed as punk rockers. There is fantastic shopping to be had in England right now for any fan of the Royal Wedding.
- I actually like mushy peas. Although I love most vegetables, I’ve just never been a fan of peas in general. Consequently, I’ve always steered clear of this traditional English dish. However, I sampled a forkful of these on this trip, and I have to say, I’m now a fan. I’ll definitely be ordering some up on my next trip across the Pond.
- The London Eye is a must-do. On my last visit, I had an English friend acting as my tour guide. As we walked by the ridiculously long queue for the London Eye on a Saturday afternoon, he shook his head and exclaimed, “This is f*#*ing mental!” Needless to say, we didn’t ride it that day. But I did on this trip, and it was incredible. The views of the city it affords you are unparalleled. I went on a Monday afternoon, and I didn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes in line. I think the trick is not to go on the weekends. Highly recommended.
- Few things in life are as delicious as a Ben’s Cookie. Actually, I learned this during my last trip in October, but it was further solidified on this trip. This English cookie chain seriously knows what they’re doing. Give me a Ben’s double chocolate and nut cookie fresh out of the oven … le sigh. One of these days, I’ll remember the location of another one of their stores beyond the one at Covent Garden, but for now, that’s my go-to spot when I’m in London. My work colleagues are so smitten with these little gems that I now take a plastic container that I purchased from Poundworld and fill it with cookies to bring back to them each time I visit the Big Smoke. One of my co-workers gets so chuffed about them, that his facial expression can only be described as what he might look like if he got married and witnessed the birth of his first child on the same day.
- I will never take the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow ever again. I know this is what smart Londoners do to get to and from the airport; that’s precisely why I did it this last time. However, I nearly missed my plane, even though I left several hours in advance of my flight. There were severe delays on the line as it was on that particular day (it was a Tuesday). But to top it off, the train I was riding actually broke down and was put out of service, leaving us to wait almost 30 minutes for another one. By the time I got to Heathrow, got checked in and made my way through security (the woman checking me in recommended that I literally run to my gate), I had about 15 minutes left before my flight began boarding. To be honest, after that harrowing experience, it’s worth the extra money to me to take one of the express connections to Heathrow to guarantee I make it there in plenty of time.
- You haven’t had Indian food until you’ve eaten at Veeraswamy. As the oldest Indian restaurant in the UK, Veeraswamy on Regent Street is absolutely fantastic, and the provider of one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. We were lucky enough to get a table without a reservation, but call ahead if you want to experience some serious deliciousness. I cannot recommend it enough. YUM!
- I really, really, really, really want to move to England. This will happen one day. Not right now, and probably not in the next year, but one day. The logistics of how exactly this will happen, I haven’t a clue, but I do know this: I belong there. I feel it in my bones each and every time I visit. The people, the culture, the history, the ironic sense of humour, the pubs, the music, the accent which has become my kryptonite, the smell in the air when it rains… All of these things. I miss all of these things on a daily basis. I am a silly, sentimental, England nerd. And damn proud of it.
Until next time…