One of the reasons I love visiting the United Kingdom is that I no longer go there just purely for tourism, but to visit old friends and experience the best parts of their culture. Being only an hour and a half from Lille, in mid-November, my roommate and I took advantage of a Eurostar deal and booked tickets for a quick weekend getaway to London. Our weekend away was much too short, but so quintessentially British! We had afternoon tea, strolled along the River Thames, indulged in fine Indian cuisine, and drank at one too many pubs.
I never really drank tea on a regular basis until I started living with Brits last year, but now I crave a cup of Tetley’s English tea almost every afternoon. In the UK, afternoon tea is an essential part of the day– almost like French apéro (let’s be honest–us Americans don’t have nearly enough civility or class to classify our after-school-snack into an official mealtime tradition.) What originated as a custom amongst the upperclass Englishmen and women in the 19th century, afternoon tea is a essentially a light meal eaten between 4 pm and 6 pm. Usually this consists of tea, finger sandwiches, scones, pastries, or other desserts, and the concept is so quintessentially British. One can reserve afternoon tea in most restaurants or tea rooms, and prices typically range from anywhere from £16 to £65, depending on where you go. (If you want the best of the best in London, try Claridge’s!)
Again and again, I find myself on the South Bank every time I come to London. With such a clear day and an early sunset, my roommate and I walked to Millennium Bridge and then rode the London Eye; I’m so glad I did because the views really were spectacular.
From there, we continued our walk to Westminster and further into the business district, until we found our mates at their local pub.
Just as I love French cafés, I adore English pubs. They are just so cozy, welcoming, and relaxing. The atmosphere (politely) says, “Come have a seat, get comfortable, and stay awhile.” There is usually a blazing fire, comfortable furniture, and well-dressed individuals. It is quite a nice change from the American bar full of dude-bros, Miller lite bottles, and country music. No weekend in the UK is complete without at least a few hours spent at a local English pub!
Photo taken by my friend MT
Photo taken by my friend JL
Most would argue that no trip to the UK is complete without fish and chips, but I beg to differ. Just as good, authentic Mexican food outside Mexico can only be found in the USA, good, authentic Indian food outside India can only be found in the UK. Our group enjoyed a loud and rambunctious meal at an Indian Restaurant in White Chapel (with a BYOB policy!).
Photo taken by JL
Finally, although Sunday mornings are quiet in London, I still enjoyed a leisurely stroll in Piccadilly Circus and at Trafalgar’s Square.
Small girl, Big city.
It took me a bit longer to fall in love with London than it did for me to fall in love with Paris, but I feel like my love for London and the British is here to stay.
What is your favourite part of British culture?