Thursday, July 16, 2015

A week in England

For those of you who don't know, I took a month-long trip that started by driving from Los Angeles to Miami, flying from Miami to New York and then flying from New York (with a quick layover in Iceland) to Europe. For those of you who do know about my trip and have asked about it, I took notes on my iPhone every day from May 30th through July 8th about the food I ate, the mishaps I experienced and the people I shared my journey with and can't wait to share (some of) it here. 

A full week in England--with English friends--was a lovely experience, and I only actually spent a day in London. The countryside and its people, to me, are much more fascinating than any cosmopolitan city. Sheep, horses, foals, rams and a couple awesome pups--English Springer Spaniels, specifically--can be seen all over England and I have a ton of unnecessary animal pics taking up space in my phone now. 

I had a really bad bout of jetlag and exhaustion when I first got to Europe. I was falling asleep in the car, on the train, standing up, sitting down and it took me nearly a week to recover, but walking every day along the river or through the forest helped a bit being that it was really clean, green and mind-clearing. 

For the sake of organization (and because this is how my brain works), I will share this leg of the trip in chronological order, focusing heavily on restaurants, bars and sights.

Day 1: Northamptonshire / Stamford / Rutland
Met up with girlfriends for a sausage sandwich and tea at a cute little spot called Sweet Taste. From there we went to the Burghley House, where Queen Elizabeth the 1st once lived, toured the property and then stopped in at its Orangery for afternoon tea. The house was amazing, the tea was fine and the scones didn't look or taste like scones. I'd recommend a visit to the Burghley House for sure, but if you want afternoon tea, get it somewhere else. So many options that are cheaper and more delicious. The English really do drink tea all day long. It's great. We did dinner at a pub called Old White Hart; I think this was my favorite meal in England. I was also very finicky (travel belly), but I was able to have the most incredible carrot soup, bread, potatoes. Mmmmm, carbs. 

Day 2: London
We dropped our car off at the train station and took the Picadilly Line to Buckingham Palace. Ended up at the exact right place at the exact right time to see the changing of the guard, which only happens once a day every day. A lot of walking in London and we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Big Ben, the River ThamesShakespeare's GlobeBurrough Market for cheese and coffee and then George Inn for a beer. You kind of have to do these things (or a variation of) on your first quick trip into the city. 

Days 3 and 4: Oakham / Kettering 
We had a typical girls' day which included nails, shopping and breakfast at the Rutland Coffee House. Around lunchtime we went to Horse & Jockey for wine and pork scratchings, and then the most incredible afternoon tea at Baines. Finished Day 3 off with a hike at the Wakerley Woods and takeaway fish & chips (had to). 

Spent our last two nights at a bed and breakfast called the Brooklyn House in Kettering--the most charming little place owned by a husband/wife team who cooked for us, printed my train ticket and pulled out an iron and ironing board for me when I told them my steamer was broken. Dinner at Mangiamo and finished off Day 4 at a fun bar with good music and decent people-watching called Kino Lounge.

Day 5: Kettering
The sole purpose for my week in England, and what got the wheels rolling for my entire Euro trip, was the wedding of a beautiful friend who I met in the Keys many years ago. I've been to and have been in so many weddings over the past few years that it's safe to say I've seen it all, though the amount of love and heart that went into the planning and preparation for this one was really something special. The couple took so much pride in making their big day enjoyable for everyone, and I've never seen a bride who was so zen, collected and just overall happy the day before her wedding. The ceremony was held at this fairytale-looking old stone church; there was an ice cream cart at the reception, which was held in the groom's grandfather's field; the meal was a delicious pork roast, not unlike a Cuban lechon; the bride's sister made all the cupcakes for all the guests. It rained briefly at the ceremony (good luck, I'm sure) and cleared in time for the reception, where I got to see a proper, clear English sunset. 

Next week: relive my train ride from London to Paris, my missed flight from Paris to Prague and everything in between.

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