A few days ago I returned from my first trip abroad. To say that I was ecstatic for a chance to travel anywhere overseas is an understatement.
Thanks to the generosity of my boyfriend's parents, both of us were able to tag along with them to London, England where we stayed for a few days near Hyde Park before hopping on a cruise in Dover, England to western Norway. The seven day cruise stopped at four ports (Bergen, Geiranger, Ålesund, and Eidfjord) along the fjords.
Before leaving, I made sure to pack sturdy walking shoes, my essential oils, versatile clothes for cool and warm weather, and a thick book for the 8+ hour flight.
Most importantly, I brought a positive attitude, open mind, and a hearty appetite.
After all, I was representing the United States and didn't want to come off as an oblivious (or ill-mannered) tourist.
Let's Start With London
Despite the fact that English was spoken in both countries (according to one of our guides, Norwegians start learning English at six years old), many things were named differently in the parts of Northern Europe I visited.
American Words With Different Names in England:
- Butter is called cream.
- Regular or (tap) water is called still water (in contrast to sparkling water).
- Restrooms are called toilets or the loo (informal).
- Elevators are called lifts.
- Cane sugar is called white sugar.
- Turbinado (raw cane sugar) is called brown sugar.
- When you order a coffee, it's either black or white (with milk).
The phrases were all easy to pick up, although once at a Pret (a pastry & coffee chain) in London, I asked twice for a double espresso with cream and the cashier kept replying "we don't serve cream here."
At first I was confused, then realized I had just asked for an espresso with butter!
We Only Had Two and a Half Days in London
Between the jet lag and traveling to Dover for the cruise, we only had two full days in one HUGE city. Well, several smaller cites to be exact.
To make the most of our time, my boyfriend's parents scheduled a one day (8 hour long) tour of London and the other day we were free to roam by ourselves.
But first, a few foodie highlights.
The obligatory Fish and Chips.
I ordered this dish at the steakhouse in our hotel near Hyde Park and was not disappointed. One large cod filet fried perfectly with thick cut chips a.k.a. fries. I ate cod a few more times while in London at neighborhood pubs and was not impressed.
British comfort food: Bangers and Mash.
We ate at a cozy cafe called Richoux the first night in London. It was only a block away from our hotel. They seemed short staffed so the service was slow, but the food was worth it!
The sausages were moist with lots of flavor, the potatoes were solid (several other places I frequented had super dry potatoes), and the onion gravy was sweet and savory.
AND if you take a look at the back of the picture, you'll see a Welsh Rarebit. Let me humbly admit that my boyfriend & I assumed rarebit meant rabbit. It turns out this special dish is actually a broiled cheese sandwich.
Classic English Breakfast.
This is similar to savory American breakfasts (eggs, toast, bacon) with the addition of broiled or roasted tomatoes and Cumberland link sausages.
I placed two breakfast orders for room service one morning in our hotel without realizing it was ENOUGH food to feed 5-6 people. Seriously, ya'll. Normal people don't need 8 croissants, 12 pieces of toast, porridge, tea, and coffee, eggs, sausage, potatoes, tomatoes and back bacon. So. Much. Food.
I hate wasting food. It gives me a guilty gut feeling. As you can imagine, I hoarded the pastries and jams in our mini fridge. :)
London Bus & Walking Tour
Our tour guide was an energetic, fast-walking, rather opinionated (I thought that was a good thing) South African who now lives in the London area. He had a flare for the dramatic, so I was not surprised to find out that he's an English professor who went to Cambridge.
Some highlights from the tour (I didn't take many pictures):
Westminster Abbey. Magnificent architecture. We walked into the courtyard behind it for a minute and were able to hear the famous boys' choir singing through the open windows. They sounded amazing!
Tower of London. A view from outside this famous fortress, which is the setting for Shakespeare's historical play Richard III. Lots of folks were tortured and put to death here hundreds of years ago, including queens!
Buckingham Palace: Changing of the Guards. This is probably the number one touristy thing to do in London, and as expected, twas a bit over-hyped. It's easy to imagine these guys & gals as performers, but our guide was quick to point out several times that they are all trained soldiers assigned to protect the royal family.
St. Paul's Cathedral, a famous historical landmark in London. The main picture at the beginning of this post is one of the views from the top this cathedral.
Climbing the 1,161 steps from the Cathedral Floor up to the Golden Gallery at the top of St. Paul's Cathedral...
...for a 360 degree version of this view. My calves were wobbly by the time I reached the bottom again, but the 2,332 total steps were worth it. I wish I had a better camera to capture this view!
And to end the day-long tour...
...we stopped for an add-on excursion with high tea, champagne, snacks, and a great view of Big Ben.
The tour guide joined us here belatedly after he made sure the other tour members were safely at The Eye. By the time he arrived I was already on my second cup of tea and noshing on a macaroon.
Apparently there is a very specific order to things during high tea. And (according to him) unless you prepare your tea and scone (pronounced scawn) a certain way, you will appear "working class".
He sounded absolutely serious and matter-of-fact when he said that, so I do think he meant it. I cannot even begin to understand the class system in England, so I just ignored it and kept asking questions.
In our case, we were supposed to start at the bottom of the circular serving platform and work our way up. Savory to sweet(est).
Let's be honest: I went straight for a macaroon! I only recently tried my first one, so I couldn't resist.
I vocalized this mishap, so our guide kindly instructed me how to properly eat my scone (so I wouldn't screw that up!)
How to Properly Eat a Scone (According to my London Tour Guide)
You first break your scone open (not cut), then spread jam on the half you're about to eat, and generously blob (not smear) the scone with cream a.k.a. butter. I tried it that way, and I have to tell you, it's really good!
Everyone seems to love butter (errr, cream) here and I'm okay with that.
At least I fixed my tea correctly, with the milk and sugar first, then the tea poured in afterward. Our guide made a joke about the tea being undrinkable if you added the milk last.
Stay Tuned For Part Two
In the next post I'll chronicle our second day in London, England with emphasis on Platform 9 and 3/4, the London Library and Borough Market (a.k.a. foodie heaven).
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I'd Like to Hear From YOU!
Ever been to London? England in general? What was your favorite food or sight?
Chime in below with a comment!