I recently took a trip to the mother-land of England where my wife and I spent a little over a week experiencing one of the best places on earth. I say mother-land because I can trace my heritage back to a specific Scottish clan. Though we didn’t venture up to Scotland (arriving in London the day after they voted No on independence from the United Kingdom), the whole country-side and the city itself were simply amazing. I learned a lot on this trip, both about the history of 500+ years ago as well as about myself. That’s what I’m going to share with you here.
Admittedly, I’m somewhat of a private person. I haven’t spent much time sharing insights into myself or my life on either the radio show or this blog. That’s not really fair to you, because whether you’re listening to the show or reading the blog or both, you haven’t had the chance to really connect with me. I apologize for that. One thing London taught me was to come out of my shell more and be more open. That’s going to be reflected on both platforms.
All that to say, a little insight into this trip is that it was my first overseas trip to Europe, and it was the culmination of a decade of love and planning.
My amazing wife (aka Mrs. Smith of Keeping Up With Mrs. Smith) spent a semester in England ten years ago. Prior to her time there, she and I had gone from being really close friends to not really talking much. London brought us together again. Almost as soon as she got over there I felt this big hole, and I would send her the silliest emails just to have that interaction. As soon as she got back to the states, we were together and married shortly after.
Suffice to say that we are extremely happy and have been for the past decade. She fell in love with London and talked about it all the time. So, we started saving a little money every month and years later took the plunge and made the trip.
If you follow me on Twitter (@Appetizerradio) you know we had some issues with good ol’ American Airlines getting on that flight out. I still haven’t forgiven them for ruining our planned departure, but not even that could mess up the great time we had. We spend a week in Littleport with very dear friends, venturing out during the day to some lovely towns and historic sites like Oxborough Hall, Ely and the Cliffs of Dover. The history and beauty of the towns and especially the people were really wonderful. I had great conversations with complete strangers, all of whom were friendly and very warm. It was so easy to make friends with people (who also have amazing accents).
One of the things I wanted to experience was the pubs. I live in a small town in West Texas that is just starting to incorporate more of the Austin-brand of craft beer and a pseudo-pub scene. The British pub life is different. After 5, everyone gets off work and heads there for a pint and a chat. There’s a pub on every block (sometimes 2 or 3 on a block in London-proper). Each pub has its own series of brews that they’ve been making for 200 years or more. In Ely and other towns, most of the ales are cask-brewed, which is a very refined and specific process. English beer (or ale as they call it) is very smooth, not overly powerful or dark in flavor, especially with stouts. Guinness in England is a very smooth beer that you can down and not feel like you swallowed something super-strong, much different from the version we have here in the States. Bitter beers weren’t bitter but bright and full of flavor. My favorite of the trip? I couldn’t tell you. I had a different beer in each pub and loved all of them.
I mentioned on Facebook that I saw more exotic cars in London in 2 days than I’ve ever seen in my life. Every other vehicle was a Mercedez or BMW. There were a few Fords, and absolutely not one single Chevy. Also there are no trucks. In a twenty minute period I saw 2 Ferraris, a Lamborghini, and a Bugatti all driving down the street. This one was parked which was how I was able to get a pic of it.
We did get to hear some great street performers. I’m going to post more about them in a few days when I get the videos up on Youtube. There was a fantastic Chapman Stick player who I hope to be able to feature on the radio show in the coming months, as well as a few other bands we saw while walking the outdoor market in Notting Hill.
Speaking of walking, London and all the areas we ventured to involved A LOT of walking. It was fantastic exercise, but you do need the right shoes for it. I didn’t bring the right shoes, so not all of the trekking was as comfortable as it could be. Wear tennis shoes (or Trainers as the Brits call them) when you head over there.
London is a gorgeous city full of life, history, and tons of great things. It was wonderful to get to experience the town that brought Mrs. Smith and I together. Her side of this tale is a great read (as are all of her blog posts). Read her London blog here.
That tune “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” was something told to me as a kid. But London Bridge did more to build me up and create new adventures than any place I’ve been in recent years.
And I have one other thing to admit: I didn’t buy many souvenirs but I did land some kickass comic book buys. Ha!