We flew into London, and checked into our small budget bed and breakfast in well-located central part of London, near Soho. Met up with friends, had a splendid Indian dinner with seconds, and went for a walk in around the city, passing throngs of drunken youngsters dressed in fashionably loud Brit style. Was disappointed to find that all the bars closed at midnight so we had an early night.
After a gigantic full English breakfast with unlimited toasts was a day visiting city parks, the superb British Museum, dim sum and off to Ipswich by train with our friends for the night. After a dinner of fish and chips we stayed up all night catching up. Our hosts made us a delicious English breakfast and we set out for some punting in Cambridge. Cambridge was lovely and majestic and while the punting guide was not worth his fee, the experience was unique. Wandered around a small evening market, picked up our rental car and then it's goodbyes to our friends and off to our next destination: The Costwolds deep in the beautiful English countryside.
Driving on the opposite side of the road was nerve-wrecking for Henry but we reached the region by sunset where we stopped for a blackberry snack and called our bed and breakfast (on a sheep farm!) for directions. Passed by lots of quaintness-stone cottages, picture perfect little towns and fields as far as the eye can see. We got in just in time to wash up and walk in the dark to the nearby pub for some true British grub-kidney pie!
The next day we rented bicycles and explored the nearby little Costwold towns, found a few gems and visited a beautiful country garden. Took an evening walk through the farms and footpaths to arrive for dinner (bangers and mash!) at a nearby little village. Left for London the next day at a leisurely pace, a nice outdoor market, the Blenheim Palace and finally arrived in London just in time to catch dinner with another old buddy, Szechuan this time. We slept in the car that night and saw two fairytale foxes with bushy white-tipped tails.
England was fantastic, everything was cute and quaint and oh-so-polite. We loved it!
England wins hands down for best outdoor/green space experience of all three countries we visited, be it parks, gardens or the natural countryside. The country walks were intimate and wonderful with dedicated footpaths clearly marked that meandered through the small Costwold villages, through backyards, wooden gates and rolling farm fields. The formal, informal and country gardens and parks were always designed with the human scale in mind, never overwhelming and always varied, beautiful and lush. England/UK also scored for most pleasant visit as well due to the friendliness and politeness of the locals we encountered there, often going out of their way to help us out. Of course, the lack of language barrier might have a small part to play. Unfortunately, it was also the most expensive of the three in terms of public transportation costs. The English food we tried while rustic and hearty were not very exciting outside of London but I did enjoy that chicken curry is a national dish and is therefore on most pub food menus! However, nobody does breakfast and afternoon teas like the English, great way to jumpstart or replenish deflated energies.
Stereotypes: Yes the English are very polite, but so much nicer and friendlier than I thought they would be, willing to open up and make small talk. I had expected them to be more reserved. Also, English food can be very delicious especially after a day of walking, though very humble and not as culturally exciting. England, especially the countryside, is every bit as quaint and cute as it has been said to be! London is NOT a city for nightlife after midnight, as we disappointingly found out.
© Amy Tan