Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Ten Priceless English Experiences

I have to take this opportunity of thanking Zhu from Correr Es Mi Destino and her post "10 Priceless Canadian Experiences" for setting me the following challenge:

"Describe the best experiences in your country, your region, your state, your province, your city..."

I have spent the last few days contemplating and cogitating over my selection and have finally come up with the 10 experiences that I think are worthy of going into the list. So here goes.....

1) The Food
Well, naturally I had to start with this one first. I have been fortunate as my family have always been willing to experiment with food (which is helped by the fact that my mother is the best cook in the world). This has meant that I was brought up sampling many different things – and in England there is certainly plenty of opportunity to try many different types of food. However, deep inside my heart I don’t think you can beat the true traditional foods of my home country.

Some of the finest are listed below:

a) England wouldn’t be England without Fish’n’chips

Ahh.... Fish, chips! There is nothing more British than fish and chips. Freshly cooked, piping hot fish and chips, smothered in salt and soused with vinegar, wrapped in newspaper and eaten out-of-doors on a cold and wintry day - it simply cannot be beaten! So how, when and where did this quintessentially British dish come about?

The potato is thought to have been brought to England from the New World in the 17th century by Sir Walter Raleigh although it is believed that the French invented the fried potato chip. Both Lancashire and London stake a claim to being the first to invent this famous meal - chips were a cheap, staple food of the industrial north whilst fried fish was introduced in London’s East End. In 1839 Charles Dickens referred to a “fried fish warehouse” in his novel, 'Oliver Twist'. The populace soon decided that putting fried fish and chips together was a very tasty combination and so was born our national dish of fish and chips!

b) The Full English breakfast - Eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread, mushrooms, baked beans

"And then to breakfast, with what appetite you have." Shakespeare
The great British breakfast is famous (or notorious) throughout the world! Actually nowadays it is a bit of a myth, today many British people are more likely to have a bowl of cornflakes or a cup of coffee with a cigarette than to indulge in the wonders of this feast!
However that is not to say that the traditional breakfast is dead, far from it, it's just not often eaten every day of the week. Speaking as a true Brit I occassionally push the boat out and treat myself to the full monty (not to be confused with the film of the same name).

The typical English breakfast is a 19th century invention, when the majority of English people adopted the copious meal of porridge, fish, bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade, that has now appeared on English breakfast tables for 100 years.
The annual consumption in the United Kingdom is 450,000 tonnes of bacon, 5,000 tonnes of sausages and millions of eggs, so you can see the Great British Breakfast is very much alive and well. It has retained its popularity as one of the country's favourite meals, and survived a whole series of eating trends and food fads.

c) The Cornish pasty

The Cornish Pasty started life as the working lunch for the tin miners to take underground with them. The pasty was easy to carry, could be eaten with dirty fingers, was nourishing. And could even have savoury at one end and sweet at the other. The underground miner would not return to the surface or be able to clean his hands when he paused for a lunch break. An added danger was that arsenic was often found with tin, so that might be on his hands), they could hold the folded crust and eat the filling, then throw away the dirty pastry. Another tradition believes that it is bad luck for fishermen to take pasties to sea. The Cornish pasty's dense, folded pastry stayed hot until lunchtime. Traditional bakers in former mining towns, until fairly recently, would bake pasties with fillings to order, marking the customer's initials with raised pastry. This was originally done because the miners used to eat one half of their pasty for breakfast and leave the remaining half for lunch, meaning that a way to identify their pasties, from the other miners', was needed.

d) Bangers and Mash

Bangers are sausages in England. (The reason sausages were nicknamed bangers is that during wartime rationing they were so filled with water they often exploded when they were fried.)

e) Bubble and Squeak

Typically made from cold vegetables that have been left over from a previous meal, often the Sunday roast. The chief ingredients are potato and cabbage, but carrots, peas, brussel sprouts, and other vegetables can be added. The cold chopped vegetables (and cold chopped meat if used) are fried in a pan together with mashed potato until the mixture is well-cooked and brown on the sides. The name is a description of the action and sound made during the cooking process.

f) Black Pudding

Looks like a black sausage. It is made from dried pigs blood and fat). Eaten at breakfast time. Black pudding recipes vary from region to region, some are more peppery and some are more fatty than others.

g) Toad in the hole

Traditional toad in a hole will use bangers, which are large pork sausages. The Yorkshire pudding recipe is not an actual pudding, but a baked pudding made from flour, milk, and eggs. This batter then covers the sausages, and the result is a heavily browned, raised crust that encompasses the meat.

h) The British Sunday Roast

The most important meal of the week in a traditional British household is Sunday lunch. Served around 1pm-3pm, this family meal consists of a large joint of meat (typically roast beef or a leg of lamb) roasted along with King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes and served with boiled vegetables and the appropriate sauce - strictly apple with pork, horseradish with beef, and mint with lamb.

i) Afternoon Tea

Thank you Muse for reminding me of Afternoon Tea (how could I forget such an important treat for special part of the day!!).

Afternoon tea is a light meal typically eaten at 4 o'clock. It originated in the England though various places that used to be part of the former British Empire also have such a meal. However, changes in social customs and working hours mean that most English folk only take afternoon tea on special/formal occasions.

Traditionally, loose tea would be served in a teapot with milk and sugar. This would be accompanied by various sandwiches (customarily cucumber, egg and cress, fish paste (bloater), ham, and smoked salmon), scones (with butter, clotted cream and jam) and usually cakes and pastries (such as Battenberg, fruit cake or Victoria Sponge). The food would be often served in a tiered stand.

While afternoon tea used to be an everyday event, nowadays it is more likely to be taken as a treat in a hotel, cafe or tea shop (my favorite tea shop is Polly’s Tea Rooms in Marlborough, Wiltshire). Although many people still have a cup of tea and slice of cake or chocolate at teatime (including me!!!).

2) A pint of Real Ale or Beer in an English Country Pub

Of course, the first thing you must do after eating a hearty meal, is to wander down to your nearest pub and enjoy a sensual pint of English Beer. Luckily I live not far from Devizes which is the home of the Wadworths brewery – Hence we have some great beers around here.

Interestingly, In 1393 King Richard II compelled landlords to erect signs outside their premises. The legislation stated "Whosoever shall brew ale in the town with intention of selling it must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale". This was in order make them easily visible to passing inspectors of the quality of the ale they provided (during this period, water was not always good to drink and ale was the usual replacement). This started the custom of the Pub Sign. In those early years, when most of the population were illiterate, the signs only had pictures on.

3) London, England's Capital City.

Well, what can I say about London? Ever since I have been little, I have been visiting London. There is something simply magical about it… a buzz that you just don’t experience anywhere else.

My journey to London starts with a 60 minute train journey to Paddington Station. This station is famous for it's fictional Bear.

Paddington Bear supposedly came from darkest Peru and arrived in England and made his way to London, arriving at Paddington Station. The Brown family found him with just a black hat, a battered old suitcase, a jar of orange marmalade and a sign around his neck that said "Please look after this Bear... Thank You". And so the story continues....

On my arrival, I jump on the underground tube to Covent Garden. Covent Garden is famous for its shops, street performers, bars, restaurants, theatres and the Royal Opera House. Covent Garden is an Italian-style piazza packed with restaurants, bars and fashionable boutiques. Surrounded by Theatreland, in the heart of London's West End, the area is recognised as the capital's premier entertainment and leisure destination.

At the heart of the Covent Garden piazza lies the famous market, designed in 1632 by Inigo Jones and now visited by 30 million tourists each year. The large glass covered building comprises several arcades of fashionable boutiques, cafés and an arts and crafts. In the open piazza jugglers, mime artists, variety acts and musicians delight and amaze the crowds. Restaurants, cafés and bars line the piazza, offering great views of this daily spectacle.

After enjoying a bottle of red wine, i settle my bill and then take the opportunity to wander around the wonderful city, sometimes on foot and sometime on the underground tube.

Now, I could ramble on for hours about London but there is just so much to say. I recommend that if you want to read more about it, then click on the following LINK or enter "London" into your search engine.

However, I have added some photos to wet your appetite:

a) St Paul's Cathedral

b) Inside St Paul's

c) Big Ben and The Houses of Parliment

d) The Royal Albert Hall

Many concerts are held here. I have attended several classical concerts here with my family, where we all get dressed up in the pompous regalia and wave our union flags to classic pieces such as "Rule Britannia", "The 1812 Overture", "Land of Hope and Glory" and of course our National Anthem. There are some times where one feels passionately patriot - and attending these events certain does it for me.

e) Buckingham Palace

This is where our Queen (Queen Elizabeth II) lives.

f) London at night

What can I say, other than WOW!

g) The London Eye

A viewing wheel that was erected for the celebrations of Yr 2000. It's appeal has been so successful that it has been decided to keep it running. If you are lucky enough to take a ride on the London Eye in clear weather, the view is simply breathtaking.

h) The changing of the guards

Everyday, there is the opportunity to see the changing of the guards. If you are in London, you must try and watch this at least one.

i) The WestEnd

Before I go home at the end of the day, I always take a trip to one of the theatres in the WestEnd (our equivalent of of America's Broadway). Always a magical experience.

4) The History

Wherever you wander through England, you are surrounded by a true sense of history.

Whether it is the prehistoric sites of places such as Avebury and Stonehenge

The tale-tale signs of the Roman occupation.

The artifacts from the Anglo-Saxon period

The castles of the medieval period

And the modern times (Below is a photo of Shakespeare's birth place).

I truly think this is one of the great things that makes England a great experience, not to be missed.

5)The Scenery

a) The Coastline - Being an island, England has the most amazing coastline (A small taster of this was reflected in my post of the Isle of Wight). Here are some more locations around our coastline:

b) The Countryside - Where ever you live in England, within a short time you can be in the middle of the countryside. Walking, cycling or driving through miles of fields like a patchwork quilt, woodlands, lakes....

...and picturesque villages.

I am very fortunate that I live on the very edge of a town that is minutes away from the countryside, an hour away from the centre of London and 1.5 hours away from the coast. I'm simply spoiled with the joys of Englands "Green and pleasant land".

6) The Humour

The famous British sense of humour has long been our most cherished national characteristic. We have valued it above historic military victories and great works of literature, above our rich scenic landscape and our talent for invention.

Comedians, not generals or sports stars or scientists or politicians, are the truly loved public figures of Britain. We sneer at other countries, especially Germany, which we believe lack our gift for humour.

"He's a good laugh," is the warmest personal accolade any individual can receive from friends. Our ability to make a joke of anything is supposed to have seen us through wars and crises, saved us from revolution and political extremism.

The spirit of the Blitz in the Forties, when the Luftwaffe was laying waste to large swathes of urban Britain, was based on the determination to "keep smiling through", even in the face of terrible adversity.

7) The Language

The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany.

At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders—mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from Englaland and their language was called Englisc—from which the words England and English are derived. Since then, it has gradually undertaken several phases to form our current understanding of the English language.

8) Marmite

This one almost fell into the first category... but I decided it deserved it's own space.

Marmite is one of those things in life that you either love or hate (and trust me when I say there is no 'in between' with this one. Marmite is dark brown-colored savory spread made from the yeast that is a by-product of the brewing industry. It has a very strong, slightly salty flavor.

The most common use is as a spread on toast or in sandwiches. Note: it is generally spread very thinly because of its strong flavor—don't use it like jam. It has drug-like qualities; the more you eat, the thicker you need to spread it to get the same mouth-burning effect. Some people have even called it addictive - I'm one of them!!!

If ever you come to England, promise my that the first thing you do when you walk outside the airport, is to find the nearest shop and buy some Marmite!!!!!!!!

9) The Weather

99% of all converstaions in England go like this:

Person A: "Good Morning to you!"

Person B: "Good Morning to you too!"

Person A: "What wonderful/awful weather we are having for the time of year!"

Person B: "Yes it is isn't it!"

Person A: "Good Bye!"

Person B: "Good Bye!"

On very special occasions, there is some small talk before the subject of the weather is raised - but you can guarantee that within 30 seconds of starting the conversation somebody will mention the weather.

We were trying to analyse this phenomenon at work a few weeks ago and have decided that it is something to do with the unpredictability of the weather. On any given day you can have:

A frosty early morning

A sunny mid morning

A wet lunchtime

Snow storms in the afternoon

And a sunny evening with a beautiful sunset... (quick! Take a photo before it rains!!)

So, in summary - one of my favourite experiences is trying to second guess the weather. Then talking about it...LOL!!!

10) The nation's love for their pets.

One of the things that makes England so special is the overwhelming love and respect that we have for our pets. Albeit cats, dogs, fish, hampsters etc etc. I was brought up in a family that had many pets (at one time we had two dogs, three tortoises, a hampster and countless coldfish and Koi Carp).

In my humbled opinion, a pet is not just a pet. It is a companion and a friend, as the saying says "An Englishman's best friend is his dog". Many times when I was younger, I would sit on the floor and chat to our dog - telling him things that I could never tell anybody else. I know he didn't understand my words but I know he understood my emotion.

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So, here endeth my top ten list. I hope you have found it informatinve in some parts and interesting in others. I also hope that it has wetted your appetite to jumping on a plane and taking a vacation in this wonderful island.

The only thing left for me to do, is to pass this Meme onto some other blogging friends:

Rachel AlittlebitofRachel in the Netherlands

Xanadu in the USA (or Mia Confessions of a ninja warrior cat in the USA)

Somethingtosmileabout in the USA

Neoauteur in the USA

Kissing the Dogwood in Scotland

The Totally Transparent Party in England (to see gain another perspective)

So Marjienalized in the USA

Linda Linda and her surroundings in Australia

Choc Choc Mint Girl in Malaysia

I wish you all the best of luck and I look forward to reading your responses :)


linda said...

I love your blog. I am off to the UK in March 2008 (4th time) only this time with my son as well as my husband. Can't wait and my boy just wants to see Castles and Hamleys. Me, Covent Garden.....such delicious shops -sigh! Just love it there. Have to say though Vegemite is much yummier than Marmite. PS, with all that good British Nosh - how is your cholesterol???

Anonymous said...

Graham - how could we top that amazing Traveller's Guide??:)

Tell you what - we're extremely compatible in the kitchen - that's all food heaven for me!

Loving your work! x

Sebastian said...

Hahahaha That is one long list of ten items! And so funny that food is almost 60% of the things you listed!

Good to see you around, my friend!


AZZITIZZ said...

You do definitely get another view from me! Totally opposite to the wonderful English traditions you have described. I am not as poetic and eloquent in my writings as you are, as you will see.
I just tell it Azzitizz! Warts and all!

Daszzle said...

I am super pumped for this meme request! Thanks for including me :). I've already warned Goat that he must help me put a good list together because you've done such knock-out job, I don't want to be a slacker in comparison. Thanks Graham!

Anonymous said...

That was some cool answers and pictures ! Wow !

Okay, English food... I'm really not a big fan. Really. I've always thought that English food always starts off good (i.e chips/ crips) and then there's always a "killer" ingredient that makes it... mmm... weird (i.e vinegar).

And "toad in the hole..." - like our "beaver tails", it's just weird !! :D

Just my opinion ! But I do love real fish and chips in a newspaper !

London is a wonderful place. I love it... Haven't been there in a while because accommodation is very expensive now, but I used to go there quite a lot when I was in high school. I loved the hippy street... I forgot the name now ! I want to go back there to visit.

British humor... I like it. I actually understand it !

And Marmite - it's called Vegemite in Australia and it was my biggest food disappointment - I thought it was Nutella !

Great post !

Anonymous said...

Oh I'm sorry for being picky... could you link my name to my original post ?

Not for copyright or fame purpose, but I'm planning to link us all after ! Experiences from all over the world, something like that... ;)

Unknown said...

Linda, LOL! Although I'd love to indulge in the British Nosh on a regular basis, but I would end up as fat as a house. These are kept as special occasion "comfort" foods - except the roast Beef - which I have quite often.

I have never tried Vegemite - I'll have to see if I can get hold of some. However Marmite is soooo yummy - I just can't imagine anything else even getting close!!

WOW, you are coming to the UK next year... Where abouts are you visiting? I hope you have a great time.

Unknown said...

Walksforwoman, thanks for the nice comment and the award - it is truly appreciated x

Unknown said...


60% of my post is about food? Damn, it was supposed to be more...LOL! I guess it is because we have the best food in the world!

Azzitizz! I simply can't wait to read your response... I'm already poised on the edge of my seat...

Unknown said...

Hey Daszzle, I can't wait to read your & Goat's contribution either. I'm so looking forward to learning about others' experiences.

Zhu, Thanks for the fantastic Meme. I really enjoyed completing my homework....LOL! I know what you mean about the English food - I think each nation has a slightly different palate. The one thing I will say about Fish'n'chips is that they taste and smell so nice when you are hungry, but horrible if you are not.

Ooops, I forgot to attach the link...sry - it is definitely there now :)

Graham xxx

Marjie said...

you know, i've always been fascinated by the english afternoon tea time, and the fabulous sceneries of europe. but i never thought that you have so much wonderful delicacies. quite a delightful culture indeed!

well dear, thanks for hooking me up with the meme. I'm quite excited about writing it :)!

DubLiMan said...

I was born in England, Leeds to be exact. Lousy weather, great history, beautiful scenery, any way you cut it, funny sounding food that tastes sucky.

linda said...

I shall endeavour to expose 10 very Australian things over the next few days. We are only in UK for 3 weeks so a week in London, then picking out places like Portsmouth (ships), Lake District, York, Salisbury etc and out from Edinburgh - not enough time but still better than nothing. Vegemite...mmmmm.

linda said...

PS - also doing afternoon tea at The Ritz

Practically Dutch said...

Thank you ever so much for my tag! i feel pretty honoured!! however i will have to take a while to think of this one but will be sure to get going with it soon!! Also.. am i suppose to write about hollan or england?! i think holland would be better.. can think of far more good things about here!!!

Paper Fan Club said...

Yay, Paddington! :)

I thought your list was awesome, and starting with the food was an excellent idea! Funny how the English always seem to get the shaft from North Americans for the quality of their grub... I don't think so at all! Delicious.

Simon said...

Haft of my homework is done. Btw, I enjoy reading this post.

Unknown said...

Thanks Marjie, I look forward to reading your homework...

Monday Morning Power, I completely agree... we have lousy weather. We just keep talking about it, hoping it will get better one day. Saying that, we had a drought last year - and e people started complaining that there was a water shortage (we're never happy...lol!)

Unknown said...

Linda, I can't wait to read about Oz 'down under'!!!! I am definitely going to have a look for some vegemite. Judging by your comments, I'm sure it will taste almost as nice as our Marmite...LOL!

Tea at the Ritz?? Now that's unfair - Even I haven't done that yet! Also, My goodness - you are going to have a busy time seeing all those places. I'm sure that you will have a great time. I'll see what I can do, to ensure you have great weather when you are here.

Unknown said...

Rachel, oh yes - you must absolutely post about Holland - I'm thinking of doing some city breaks next year - so may make a trip to Holland. It'll be interesting to hear your opinion of the country.

Paper fan club, thanks! I guess England is like most other countries... you can eat at some bad places and some good places. However, generally the food is great!

Unknown said...

neoauteur, I have just read your first 5. They are great. I can't wait to read the rest. So far I give you an A+

Choc Mint Girl said...

Haha...I like the way you end your top ten lists. Sure does make me want to visit England more especially the countryside and the London Eye. Spectacular view and with all those pictures of mouth watering food, I think I could survive in England...;P. Fish and chips is one of my favorites.

Max Coutinho said...

Hey Graham!

I come through Choc Mint Girl! My name is Max, by the way!

I just loved your pics: gorgeous!
Of course I must beg to differ when it comes to food: Portugal is the place to eat, mate!

Ah London, London...the city of my heart!!!

Anyway, I hope you do drop by my blog: I can't even believe you haven't lol :).



Tina Boyer said...

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. Thank you. Amy

damian said...

Muy interesante blog de viajes.Un saludo desde españa

Cocaine Princess said...

I love English food in particular crisps and English chocolate- for some reason they taste much better than North American ones. My favorite is Flake. It's hard to find them where I live, I usually have to go to a specialty store. Thank you for your comments on my blogs. I receive a great deal of them but yours are so much more nicer. I just finished another post, it's not really an entry but more of a message. When you read it you'll know what I mean. Take Care.
Cocaine Princess

Cocaine Princess said...

Hey it's me again. You wrote about FLAKE being so messy that triggered my memory. When I was little the little Flake bits use to fall down onto my clothes and when I use to pick it up it would smear all over the material. It got to the point where I had to wait until I got home and eat it holding a plate underneath or lots and lots of napkins covering my lap....I truly appreciate and say thank you for your support. I really love your blogs- I'm saving the ten things about you for tomorrow.
Cocaine Princess

Unknown said...

Choc, thanks for your comments! I do regard myself as lucky for living in England. A few years ago I couldn't see the benefit, but recently I have realised how beautiful my country is.

Hey Max :) Sorry I took so long to visit your blog. It is great and very enjoyable... I will definitely be keeping in touch.

Unknown said...

Damian, thanks for your kind comments... they are truly appeciated.

Unknown said...

Cocaine Princess - Thank you for your wonderful words. And thanks for the memories about Flakes, I so love them - they are soft and delicate but so tastey also. I really enjoy your creativity in your writing and think your blog is so interesting to read. I look forward to reading more.

Keep in touch!!!!!

 odd facts said...

Alright! Now I am hungry, jealous and craving my fix of British humour! Neat blog. Keep it up please.

Unknown said...

Fantastic! At last a man championing England! Number 2 gets my vote - I love my real ale (just joined CAMRA). Yep, England rules.
Good for you!

gypsy soul said...

Wow! so great to see so much of england from here..
you should come to the philippines..its a totally different world out here..

nice blog..you're making it to my links.. =)

Anonymous said...

Hi Graham,

I am English and living in Spain this year and stumbled upon your wonderful list (when googling bubble and squeak). It just about sums up everything I miss about England. There definately needs to be some more genuine English pride around!!


Anonymous said...

Wow really love your blog! I can sit and have a look for the whole day! Anyway, I've never been to UK but i can tell from your blog that it must be one of the world's greatest locations :D

Anonymous said...

Wow what a cool list - glad to see the Lake District features - the best place in the UK for my money!

New York Hotel said...

When I came to London around Christmas time I though I was in a fairy-tale, the decorations are incredible! And indeed they all disappeared rapidly after new-years.
The ticket wasn't expensive though (of course it wasnt. Got it on ECT :)) so I intend to go back next year.

Virtual Gifts said...

Quite interesting blog.Lot of People has shared their experience. I have also onething to share with you. IN the end of this month, Boonspace.com will be launched. From here you can send gift to your friends in attractive manner. Make a sign up on it and also get a chance to win some prizes. :-)

JohnF said...

Love it. Thanks.

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