A Great Journey Exploring the Royal Land
The British are probably the most notorious of all nationalities; they conquered almost a quarter of the world, drink relatively large amounts of tea and play Ok football.
I decided before embarking on my journey to the UK to come up with a bucket-list, in case I ran out of ideas for things to do or visit. I scribbled this on a napkin during my flight which I have now conveniently typed for you here:
- Eat fish & chips
- Take a photo with the Queen’s unhappy security guards
- Ride the London Underground
- Visit Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, and Princess Diana Museum in Wales
- Kick a Football at Old Trafford
- Drink English Tea with an English Breakfast
- Walk Down the Tower of London Bridge and See Big Ben
- Jump on a red Double-decker Bus
- Try a British Ale or two
First Impressions of British Culture
My first stop to the UK was obviously London, and I found it hard to distinguish between Londoners and tourists, there was just so many people. I managed to board the underground though this was during rush hour with many collisions caused by frantic strangers who had finished work and probably needed a cold beer. On a positive note, every person who bumped into me said sorry, this is a common trait with British people. If you asked a British non-smoker for a lighter, they actually apologise that they don’t smoke.
The Brits are reserved in nature and enjoy their personal space, not that saying hello would scare a British person. It’s just uncommon to witness social displays of random communication. I did find out that there were a time and place for that, the pub.
Drinking British ale WAS on my list and after travelling on a plane and the subway, I thought I deserved a reward. Sure enough, as soon as I had made it out of the underground, a dingy looking pub with a union jack hanging above the door awaited me, perfect.
I sat next to a rather older gentleman. His toothless grin gives the impression that he was a local and not a tourist. He began to inquire about where I was from while simultaneously guzzling down his tar coloured ale. When I told him I was from Germany, he replied that our beer was shit compared to the Brits. I immediately felt awkward, but then he followed up his reply by informing me he was only “taking the mickey.” In British culture, making fun of someone is common and not necessarily a bad thing. With this in mind, I decided to take an aim back at him by stating that “his beer looks like shit and probably caused him to lose all his teeth”. Oh, how we all laughed.
After 30 minutes, the tipsy man started talking about the Queen and her birthday celebration. The last big party was the diamond jubilee in which the royal family toured the UK as well as other Commonwealth countries throughout the year of 2012. British citizens celebrated by having street parties. Permanent tributes were created to the Queen in her honour such as murals and coins. The elderly gentlemen explained that in British culture, many citizens have an outstanding respect for the Queen and royal family though occasionally people do “take the mickey”.
There is more to British Food than Fish & Chips and Tea
After the pub, I needed food, good food. I looked at many old buildings in the vicinity (some buildings looked older than Canada) and came across a local restaurant. At the table was an unusually coloured condiment that the waitress told me was called “brown sauce”. This sauce consists of blended tomatoes, dates, tamarind and spices. It first surfaced during Victorian times. Its tangy flavour worked really well with the bacon I ordered. This wasn’t the only obscure thing I discovered while in the UK, other traditional British dishes (which are delicacies to some and disgusting to others) include:
- Pork Pie
These pies range from the size of a golf-ball to the more expensive one that fits into your hand. The filling is chopped pork with a crusty brown pastry encapsulating the meat.
A kipper is essentially a salted and smoked herring, once served as a breakfast food for lower classes when fresh fish was expensive to buy.
Made from the parts of sheep you probably wouldn’t enjoy however the unique peppery taste might be a valid reason to try it at least once.
- Toad in the Hole
Who doesn’t love sausages but what if they are baked in a slightly sweet batter, served with gravy and potatoes? Hmmm.
- Spotted Dick
Although a strange name and probably something you don’t wish to order in public, this sponge pudding made from the dried fruit. According to local, it’s a traditionally common British dish. It’s available in many stores and even school dinners.
- Scotch Eggs
Hard-boiled egg covered in sausage meat then rolled in breadcrumbs, either deep-fried or baked and really delicious. Popular amongst the Brits on picnics.
- English Tea with English breakfast
Brits almost always drink tea with milk in the UK. Meanwhile, an English breakfast consists of bacon (traditionally back bacon), fried, poached or scrambled eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast with butter, and sausages. Tasty but calorie-rich, I probably treated myself to one during my trip due to fear of gaining a ton.
Click here to find restaurants in London, where you can find those dishes above.
Sightseeing the Royal Land
I recommend you to purchase a London pass when in London. You will get free entry into many places and discounts in others. I had planned to visit a few palaces since you don’t really get to see palaces when you visit a country and old historic buildings are kind of spooky, like being in an episode of Scooby Doo. The London pass came in handy for saving money while sightseeing the main royal hubs of England. Here are a few of the essential hotspots to visit:
- Windsor Castle
The Queen’s preferred residence in the England county of Berkshire. The location is about 21 miles (34 km) west of London. It’s also the oldest occupied castle in the world, as a tourist I had the opportunity to explore the St George’s Chapel and State apartments. It took approximately half a day to get around the entire castle, and it’s not always open as the queen does stay there from time to time.
- Kensington Palace
This is where Prince William and Prince Harry stay on occasion, and the palace is the birthplace of Queen Victoria. You can’t visit the apartments but the rest of the palace is available. There I found a great café that made me rejoice after a few hours of walking around. The palace is close to Hyde Park where I stopped by to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, a beautifully constructed homage to England’s infamous rose.
- Buckingham Palace
Finally, I found the Queen’s guards and they were just as expressionless as the pictures online. What do they do if a pregnant woman broke into labour in front of them? This palace is where the Queen Knights people hold crazy parties (I mean state banquets) and ambassadors visit. The palace is only open to the public during July and August. You better book the tour in advance.
- The Manchester United Museum
Ok so not necessarily a palace to most but for me (a diehard football fan), it must be included. The 5 hours train journey up north was tedious, to say the least, but once I made it to Old Trafford, I couldn’t contain my giddiness and excitement (like being a five-year-old kid). The visit to the trophy room was impressive. The player’s dressing room smelled surprisingly fragrant though they are all millionaires. A few fascinating exhibits were detailing the history and success of the football club accompanied by interactive experiences that give tourists the chance to feel a part of their journey.
Overall, it was an enjoyable experience exploring the Royal land. If you’re planning to have a short weekend getaway in the UK, this article could probably give you some ideas. Anyway, that’s all for now, stay safe and have a fun trip!
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