Travel to England: planes, trains, automobiles…and food.
Everywhere I venture there are signs of Fall insinuating themselves on a not quite ready me, unusual because it’s my favorite season. I’ll blame it on our non-summer, my excessive indulgence on vacation planning, and the trip itself which deposited me willing or not smack on November first’s doorstep. It’s disorienting missing Halloween to find grocery stores “big buy” areas brimming with typical displays of canned pumpkin, canned cranberries, canned corn, canned green beans, and canned gravy of all things. Did I mention canned? Refreshingly, each website I’ve visited, a welcome assist in my recovery from jet lag — I swear it takes longer the older I become — is sporting new recipes for stuffing, a new twist on pumpkin bread, spicy cranberry relish, and yes, green bean casserole — all made with fresh ingredients.
Not quite there myself, I’ve been caught up in a rekindled love affair with England remembering the best of our recent two-week trip. Of course the best of anything will include food — savory pot pies in particular. This wasn’t a trip planned to seek out sleek restaurants or exclusive menus. Instead we wanted to visit the markets, purchase what we could to make a few meals when a kitchen was available, and enjoy a few pubs or tea rooms along the way. From what we’ve been able to estimate, “the way” was close to 1,000 miles and included a high speed train, not so high speed trains, a taxi or two, and a Saab station wagon packed to the gills with luggage that seemed to grow in the night. Not included in our miles covered were myriad trips on the Underground while we were in London, an open air tour bus ride that we never quite mastered the art of hopping on and off of, a Thames river boat cruise, and some walking. Actually lots of walking, which explains why one is able to lose a few pounds on a vacation diet utterly lacking anything green.
It was completely delicious.
We were treated to moody grey skies, a few rainy days, freezing mornings complete with frost, and warmer sunny days with blue skies forever. In other words, the weather was perfect!
We enjoyed the relentless energy of London, the vibrancy of York, Cambridge in all its Fall glory, and so many towns and villages from nearly all regions of the country, you’re lucky this is only a smidgen of the shots I took.
Although we did have some time to shop, often we had to settle for admiring a window display. A good thing, too, because we may have had to roll ourselves back home if we’d stopped in to sample as much as I wanted.
Baked goods and tempting sweets weren’t the only offerings I found myself lusting after, with signs most everywhere touting “local” and “fresh” posted with shops selling cheese, poultry, and game since hunting season had just begun. And yes, we could hear the sound of shotguns in woods when we were near enough, wondering at first if it was something else, prompting my ever vigilant numbers oriented husband to begin timing them, because surely, they couldn’t be gun shots, could they? Yes, dear, they could be.
The open air markets showcased a variety of products in addition to vegetables and fruit, and at a cost much less than what we are used to. We didn’t purchase the Haggis at Lambournes in Stow-on-the-Wold, but we did sample a delicious wedge of nice Yorkshire Wensleydale outside of Henshelwoods Deli in York and had the pleasure of meeting a British couple who used to own a travel company featuring walking tours. Asking what type of cheese we were nibbling on, the woman put us to a quiz. “You do know who likes Wensleydale, don’t you?” to which we responded in unison, “Wallace and Gromit!”
And yes, we cooked. Not always easy in a vacation rental, but it forces one to be creative, using only the basics — like salt. Cooking two breakfasts and one dinner gave our wallets a welcome rest and allowed us to try our hand at a traditional English breakfast, even though chicken apple “bonfire bangers” may not be traditional.
The kitchen in our “cottage” rental, which was a two-story portion of a meticulously restored 400-year-old home in Worcestershire, was well equipped. It didn’t take long to realize I wouldn’t want to leave. Fabulous hosts, destinations outside the focus of many tourists, and spectacularly beautiful countryside to be enjoyed at every turn. Walking trails, free access across fields, crisp Autumn weather, and so quiet, the thudding of apples falling from the trees in the Bulmer’s orchard across the road could be heard. We were in need of a few restful days in the middle of our trip, and this lovely place served that purpose.
We pried ourselves out of the cottage long enough to enjoy many beautiful places, like Bibury. It truly does seem like the perfect village — until a tour bus pulls up, expelling its load in the idyllic setting. We wandered through more quiet lanes toward the old church enjoying the drizzle of the day.
Some days were a tad more tiring than others due to my less than healthy knee and a few blisters, so it was a toss up about whether to have afternoon tea, or a pint. Both presented a perfect way to have a seat and slow down long enough to process all that we’d accomplished. Sounds a bit like work, doesn’t it? We were informed by one person that we were traveling, as opposed to vacationing, and I guess that would be correct. Hence the tea and ale, and not necessarily in that order.
We’ve vowed to return knowing that there are so many places left to visit, and figure that with respect to relaxing while on vacation in England, the third time is the charm. Hiking is relaxing, right? Perhaps by then I will have learned how to make sure my hair looks decent, something that always escapes me when we’re that far from home.
p.s. I got to try a real Cornish pasty as well and can say that as good as it was, mine was a respectable second!