[Cambridge, U.K., October 2009.]
A few months ago I went to England. I have this several times already but it bears repeating because! England! J’adore! I promptly handed it my heart — again — and had a simply marvelous time with my friends there, if it was all too brief. I ate a lot and saw a play and wandered around Cambridge and wished I lived there and ate a proper English breakfast and drank two pints of Guinness on my and saw where poor Anne Boleyn was beheaded and drank some tea and ate too many Thai-chili crisps and it was absolutely great.
The first day I arrived I didn’t sleep. I was caught in that in-between traveling space, where time seems inconsequential except for paying attention to what time your flight is leaving from what city (I flew straight across the country to New York, and then from there to London) but also I couldn’t bear to waste a moment. I arrived to Heathrow a bit bleary-eyed in the early morning, collected my bag, and made the long trek out to where my friends live.
(I love wee , by the way. It is small and sweet; there are some old pubs and a pretty park and funny take-away shops, and all this is just 20 minutes from London.)
[Mocha at the Tate, London, October 2009.]
That day we ate scrambled eggs for breakfast, with toast, and I drank as much coffee as I could stand. Later we went back in to town and walked all around by the Globe, had lunch and then an iced coffee at the Tate, and eventually ended up on the stairs at Trafalgar watching the light fade in the sky. It was almost warm and it felt like a spring vacation somehow — comfortable, and a bit like home.
[St. Martin’s from Trafalgar Square, October 2009.
London to me forever is: double-decker buses, crowds and crowds of people rushing everywhere, incredibly prompt trains, sharp sharp cheddar, tea, chips, cathedrals soaring high above uneven streets and pressing against a perpetually watercolored sky.
Outside of the city is lovely, too, of course. I was treated to two short road trips — to Brighton, where the sun bounced and glittered off the water and I ate a surprisingly delicious veggie burger and chips while watching sailboats pass serenely by; and Cambridge, where I ate the most delicious sandwich: just a baguette smeared with brie (and butter) and cranberry jam. Maybe it was so good because I was so hungry, my appetite sharpened by jetlag and wandering around the old, stony streets?
(Later we had tea and a piece of cheesecake at a little cafe across the street from King’s College, killing time before evening services (then of course we wished we’d been able to stay longer, and eat more).
This visit I realized again that despite being maligned in certain sectors, the food in England is very good. It’s actually very very good. I know there are lots of complaints about the U.K. being too expensive for Americans or having awful food or or or but I am here to tell you: don’t believe a word of it.
I ate prodigiously and well for the entirety of my week there, both in the kitchen and out of it (can I please mention how delicious my friend’s homemade lasagna is just one more time? Especially when she makes it because she knows it’s your favorite thing of all the things she makes? I swear there’s love just baked into that thing, sandwiched in between the pasta.). Even with delicious lunches out, sometimes savored with a glass of wine, and I don’t feel like I drained my bank account too awfully. And I am grateful.
Today my trip feels so long ago and I feel as though I am not doing it justice with this writing — here we are, pressed up against the end of the year and today, the first day of winter, dawned cold and clear and crisp in San Francisco, Christmas is in three days! — but it was a truly wonderful holiday full of friends-who-are family and sleeping in and the exact right amount of rest and activity. England now feels like a dream: ethereal, perfect, far away and wished-for.
But happily I have my photos to sigh over when the mood strikes me, and I remember.
ps: Please do remember for last-minute gifties!