The best thing about England is the people

I just got back from two weeks in England and everyone in New York has been asking me what I got up to. Did I go see the amazing Hopper exhibition? No, but I heard it was fabulous. Did I eat at any of the restaurants I mentioned on my last post? No, but I did eat out a lot. Did I merrily peddle around the London canals on the Boris bikes? Sort of, for a brief time, before I realized that I was wearing a skirt and not entirely opaque tights. Did I catch the stage production of The King’s Speech? No, but from all accounts it was wonderful and I wish I did. Did I gorge on every food stall with free samples at Borough market? Yes, finally I did do one thing that I was planning on do.

Borough market England

Honestly, I didn’t do many of the things I had planned to do in London. I didn’t have time to play tourist in my own city because, well, I spent 2 weeks laughing.

That is not to say that I did nothing. I went to two fabulous hen parties and two amazing weddings, I went out to eat with old friends, went on long country walks and had a very decadent afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental. And yet, what I remember most was how much I laughed. I laughed so much that my cheeks hurt at the end of the day and my mascara ended up running in unattractive lines down my face. All that laughing had very little to do with where I was (London was rather rainy apart from two sunny days) but who I was with.


My friends have somewhat unfortunately ended up scattered across the globe. England has a smattering of amazing school friends in London, Sunderland, Bristol and Edinburgh but from that point onwards it all gets rather aggravatingly international. Oman, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Dubai, New York…you would think that we hated each other from the way we have all fled out across the globe. Luckily, we have email and Skype and all sorts of other fancy tech to keep us in touch. But there is nothing quite like being together. Nothing quite like watching someone bust out a hilarious dance move, or cry as they try to tell a joke, or laugh so hard they snort and then laugh some more. There are some things that you just can’t capture over the computer.

Luckily, I have enough happy memories to keep me going until the next time we get together and I’d rather have those memories than a checklist of sites seen any day.

London Calling: travel plans for a British adventure

In the very near future I will be travelling back to this place:

Travel to England

It has been over 18 months since I was last on British soil and I’m very excited to catch up with some of my amazing friends. I’ll be staying in London for most of the trip and I’m starting to make a dream list of all the places I want to go while I’m there. So far these have made it to the top of my list…

  1. Spending a Sunday mincing around Columbia Road Market and hopefully making it over here for a cupcake or two.
  2. Feasting over a vegetarian lunch with my mum at Ottolenghi.
  3. Making it back to my old neighbourhood for a rarified pub dinner at the Albion.
  4. Stinking up my luggage with some of the exceptional cheese from La Fromagerie.
  5. Poking my head around the bookshelves here before settling down to some afternoon tea and cake.
  6. Taking a cultural break for all the gluttony at the Tate Modern and the National History Museum.
  7. Getting to Borough Market early enough on a Friday to miss the crowds and settle down for some people watching at Monmouth while cradling a mug of cup.
  8. Renting a couple bikes to check out the park life with Jeremy. Taking a ride along the edge of Regent’s Canal.
  9. Escaping the city for a couple days with some friends and messing around on the seaside.

British seaside

I’m loyal to my favourite places but this time I have told myself that I should break out of the mould and explore some new spots that are supposed to be amazing. I’m saving up my pennies for here…

St John London

St John’s

And here…

Dock Kitchen London

Dock Kitchen

And hopefully here…

Rochelle Canteen London

Rochelle Canteen

No doubt, there are lots of other gems that I should explore. To those of you who know the city better than I do, where else should I put on my list?

New York Living: Pumpkins are making me patriotic

On Monday night I walked into the supermarket and saw a pizza combing the frozen foods, a dinosaur being carried through the bakery section and a slew of superheroes at war in the dairy aisle.

On my way home I walked past houses with giant spiders crawling through their windows, witches swooping over their doorways and impressively ghoulish pumpkins guarding their entrances.

Over the weekend I partied with a host of Sega characters, a giant white swan, Hunter S Thompson and Santa. It was messy. You can imagine.

New York does Halloween very well indeed. It makes me adore my adopted home just that little bit more.

And yet, as much as I love this place, there are still pieces of England that I long for…

I miss the way everyone apologizes for everything. “I’m sorry” or “pardon me” prefix everything from asking where the bathroom is to simply navigating a busy city street. In America I sound perpetually apologetic, in England I sound like everyone else.

I miss the fact that no one claps for the pilot when he lands the plane safely.

I miss the NHS.

I miss rolling hills and a pint at a country pub.

I miss the stiff upper lip. Fall down a flight of stairs in Britain and you are expected to do nothing more than crack an embarrassed smile and limp away, protesting that it is really nothing at all.

I miss Sunday roasts, blackberry crumble and hot cross buns.

I miss taxi drivers who know every address in the city and haven’t learnt to drive by playing Grand Theft Auto.

I miss chatting to friends over a cuppa rather than over Skype.

I realize that England has its problems, there are pieces of the country that I don’t miss at all, and I have no immediate plans to return to the homeland. But those thoughts are much too practical…I’d rather sit in my cozy New York flat picturing the UK as an idyllic land of digestive biscuits and sarcasm.

New York versus London