Apparently when one is tired of London, they are tired of life. So I’m told by the people who believe that London is the centre of the universe and nowhere else matters. They do have a point; London is wonderful, millions of people love it, I love it, I really do, but one can definitely tire of it. With London’s best bits comes its worst… the pace can be frenetic, the people can be unfriendly, and the place can be overwhelming. For me, this is all rather tiresome.
If you’ve reached this point, the only thing for it is to escape the city to breathe in some fresh country air, hear nothing but the birds and the bees, and just marvel at the peace. At the end of a typically busy London week filled with birthday celebrations, babysitting duties, and a whole lot of booze, (not all together) we did just that… jumped on a train, whizzed past all sorts of obscure stations and finally reached our destination less than an hour later.
Like 90% of the Antipodean expats in London, we can talk your ear off about our jaunts to the continent. You want itinerary ideas? We’ve got them. You want restaurant recommendations? We can make you hungry. You want to hear some horror stories? We can make you laugh. But ask us about the UK and many of us might be silenced.
Most of us end up in London, in spite of the crowds and cost of living, because we can move here fairly easily and it gives us the incredible freedom to duck off to Spain or France or wherever within the same day. Too seduced with those options, many of us forget about exploring England. A certain someone and I have been guilty of using England as the fall back option when it comes to holiday planning but I’m pleased we have ventured outside of the M25 a few times; even more so when I think about how well we’ve eaten on these trips.
If you’re planning a trip to old London-town, especially for the first time, you’ll have no doubt turned to trusty Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet just to get some ideas on what to do and see. And, if you’re anything like me on my first visit, you were more than a little overwhelmed with what popped up. There are well over a thousand ‘things to do’ listed on Tripadvisor, with over five hundred being ‘sights and landmarks’ while around three hundred are museums. Woah. I know I shouldn’t be stunned by those numbers as I know there is an almost neverending array of things to do here but still, woah.
With so many options, I was left scratching my head a little when Travelex asked me to come up with my ultimate ‘day out in London’. They gave me a handy Multi-Currency Cash Passport, $150 of my home currency (or the currency of our twangier neighbours) which converted to around £80, and told me to go wild!
Has anyone else noticed that everyone is talking about the ‘F-word’ right now? There’s great debate over what it actually means, and it’s not only the women bandying it around, men are getting in on the action too. I’ve never used it to describe myself, but I guess I am one… so here goes, I’ll admit to you that I am a feminist. Though I would actually prefer to describe myself as an egalitarian because equality for all is actually what we’re striving for, right? Growing up in the ‘girls can do anything’ generation, it blows my mind that it was once commonplace to think and even proclaim that a woman’s place was in the kitchen. However what renders me even more speechless is the contradictory stereotype that it was only a kitchen in the home, the professional variety was still a man’s world. What the?!
Luckily the earlier stereotype is almost completely erased and I’d like to think we are making inroads with banishing the second one but we’ve still got a way to go. While watching this year’s Great British Menu honouring the Women’s Institute, I was a little disappointed to see less than a handful of female chefs competing and only one getting through to the finals. According to Great British Chefs, of the 169 Michelin starred restaurants in the UK right now, only eight are headed up by women, even with my poor grasp of numbers I know that’s a teeny tiny percentage. But it’s still an improvement on the year before so with my ‘girls can do anything’ attitude I have faith it’ll keep growing.
We’ve all heard and shared our own gripes about National Rail, the usual ones being lateness, overcrowded carriages and just how bloody expensive tickets can be, so I thought I would go against the tide and share a National Rail win! When we first arrived in the UK, we decided to visit friends in Scotland, at the time of agreement, we didn’t quite realise it would involve a train from London to Edinburgh, a tight change from Edinburgh to Pitlochry, then finally another change to Dunkeld and Birnam. The first leg ran late, which meant we missed the second leg, which meant the third leg was a total write off.
We were going to put it down to bad luck but a staff member suggested we apply for compensation, so we did it and next thing we knew we had over £300 worth of train travel at our disposal. With time running out to use them, we settled on a weekend in York: a dose of culture at the stunning York Minster, a walk on the city walls with stops at any other attractions we stumbled across, and dinner at The Star Inn. That was the original plan, but as you know my greedy Michelin star hunger got in the way and the weekend was extended…
Right now there are 169 Michelin starred restaurants in the UK, 66 of those are in London. If my insatiable hunger had its way we would visit one every week and approximately four years later, give or take some new additions, we would eventually tick them all off the list and most likely be bankrupt. Let’s be frank, we’re not made of money so even one a month is a bit lavish so what were we thinking tackling three in three days?!
I was thinking ‘heck yes, this is going to be a delicious trip’, and a certain someone was thinking he really didn’t expect to be accommodated at all three of our shortlisted restaurants at such short (less than a week but would you expect anything less from us?) notice. Turns out that despite their Michelin star status these Yorkshire restaurants required a lot less advance booking than their London counterparts; I suspect this has everything to do with the fact they are in rather idyllic but remote locations, as the quality of the food and service was outstanding.
This week when my alarm clock went off there was no sunlight streaming through the crack in the curtains, putting on the 50 deniers was a no brainer, and there was an unmistakeable autumn chill in the air as I walked out the door. This, I told my sun-loving-self was the final nail in the coffin for summer and winter, my least favourite season of them all, is on its way. Sigh. Followed by a little shiver, and then another sigh. Goodbye summer.
This is also about the time everyone chips in their two cents worth about what an average summer it’s been, but as we’ve spent the whole season confined to this island, I can say with some authority that this great British summer hasn’t been all that bad. While our friends were road tripping in Albania, checking out the pyramids in the smouldering desert heat or even downing drinks on Moscow’s rooftop bars, we enjoyed picnics in Clapham Common, sunny afternoon beersies in our backyard, and a much needed escape to the countryside.