Home > Uncategorized > Take a Vacation in England

Take a Vacation in England

There is probably no better way to achieve the quest to do something different than to visit another country. Recently I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a trip to England with my husband and son. We met up with my daughter, who is there for a semester as an exchange student. Here are ten things that were really different.

1. Paying in Pounds: It surprised me just how complicated it was to buy something in England–at least at first.  Not only did I have to mentally calculate the exchange rate to figure out the actual value of everything, but the denominations of the British pound were quite different from American money.  There were many different coins (1 and 2 pounds, 2 and 20 pence) that we don’t have in America. Even to buy a cup of coffee required me to strategize ahead of time. It was kind of interesting to think how something simple and basic can suddenly become complex when all the rules change.

2. The age of the buildings: In America, the oldest building I know of dates back to the late 1600s. The cottage we stayed in while in The Cotswolds was built in the 1500s. We visited castles erected in 1070-something, and we took a day trip to Stonehenge, which dates back thousands of years. By comparison, buildings dating to the 1800s seemed fairly new there. Overall, it was pretty fascinating to stay in a home built 500 years ago, and to realize just how primitive that dwelling must have been back then. My son found it creepy. The photo on the left is Lewes Castle, built when the Norman were fighting the Saxons.

3. Driving! For the record, I didn’t drive at all while we were there, but we rented a car and my husband braved the roads. Even from the left-sided passenger seat, this was terrifying. I was pretty sure we were going to crash into something. We didn’t, but keeping on the left side of the road proved to be a group effort, with us all involved, shouting out cues and encouragement. Interestingly, there are no stop signs in England. Instead, there are round abouts at every four-way intersection. Yes, every. These seemed to work surprisingly well, but took some getting used to.

4. The Language: Of course they speak English in England, but they use a lot of different words and expressions.  “We have a lovely car for you,” the car rental agent told us (they gave us a free upgrade to a Mercedes which was nice but more expensive to damage!). Lovely is a word they use a lot there. When you go to a pub (which we did) you don’t order a beer, you ask for a pint. Often, the language just sounded more polite.  For example, my son’s favorite sign read “Don’t let your dog foul the grass.”

5. Pubs:  The first time I stepped into a pub, I quickly stepped out. It was a Friday night and there were people standing everywhere (even outside) holding glasses of beer. I didn’t think I should be in there with my 14-year-old son.  In fact, I came to learn that an English pub is a lot different than an American bar.  Whole families go there, sit at a table, order food and a pint or half pint. It was more casual than a restaurant since you place your order at the bar. Since the pubs usually have wifi, and our 16th century cottage didn’t, we felt comfortable going every evening with our laptop to check our email.

6. Tea: I’ve never been a tea drinker, but the two places we stayed didn’t even have a coffee maker. Instead they had electric tea kettles which heat water to boiling instantly. The tea is usually served with cream and sugar, and it seems a shame to be in a country with so many adorable tea shops and to drink coffee. So I drank tea (two creams, two sugars is the proper way). And it was great! I never had a scone before that I liked, but the home-made scones at tea shops were amazing.

7. The Food: My daughter told me she liked the meat pies. A steak and kidney pie does not sound good to me. But I tried a steak and ale pie and it was delicious. My favorite meal was a full English breakfast (shown in photo), which includes a very lightly fried egg, bacon (which is more like ham), beans, a grilled tomato, home fries, sausage and toast. It didn’t look appetizing when I got it, but I ate it and had a very busy day spent walking and sight-seeing, and by dinner time I still wasn’t hungry. That is a breakfast that holds you for an entire day!

8. Historic sites: We spent a lot of time visiting historic sites. We saw the Roman Baths in Bath, Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-on-Avon, Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and a few castles. It made me realize that there is so much to see and learn, and I really should visit more sites in America.

9. Public Footpaths: I had heard about England’s public footpaths but did not expect them to be so numerous. In the area where we stayed, footpaths were everywhere, crossing farms, bordering streams and creating narrow passageways along backyards. Whenever I had time, I would test one out to find out where it would bring me. More than once I felt uncomfortable as I walked right through private property. But it was a great way to explore a piece of the countryside.

10. London, Bath, Oxford: Each city we visited had its own personality. Because we visited several cities in a short period of time, this really became apparent. London was an amazing mix of modern and historic, Bath had a Roman feel to it and Oxford was a lively and beautiful college city. I wish I could have spent more time in all of them. Maybe, just maybe, someday I’ll go back and do just that.

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