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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

it’s true what they say about England

The food is terrible:

The weather is atrocious:

The people are rude:

Not the best photo ever, that second-from-bottom one, but it’s me and my travel pal Bonnie in the middle sandwiched by David, on the far left, and Harry, on the far right, bartenders at Bar Room in Stratford-upon-Avon, which we decided to make our other local in town (after the Dirty Duck), mostly on the strength of Harry’s adorable charm. Also, they serve food that sounds bizarre — like crispy duck pizza — but is absolutely scrumptious.

The bottom photo is of Martin and Ellen (and Louis the dog), who run the Adelphi Guesthouse, where Bonnie and I spent nine of our 10 nights in England. I’ve stayed in lots of B&Bs in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and this was by far the nicest B&B experience I’ve ever had, and very reasonably priced to boot, and offers free parking and free wifi. Martin and Ellen are absolutely delightful, and went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and at home. I honestly feel like I made two new friends in them, and I can’t wait for an excuse to go back to Stratford so I can stay at the Adelphi again. And I hope they do make the trip to New York they told us they were possibly planning, so Bonnie and I can show them around our town and make them feel as at home as they made us feel in Stratford. If you’re thinking of a trip to Stratford, I heartily recommend the Adelphi — and you can let Martin and Ellen know that I sent you.

Part of the reason I would love to make an annual thing out of a trip to Stratford isn’t just for the theater — which would be enough on its own to make it worthwhile — but because of people like Harry and David and Martin and Ellen, and everyone that we met everywhere, who were uniformly friendly and enthusiastic and generous.

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  • Tara

    didn’t meet any yobbo’s/chavs then ;P

  • I stayed in a B&B at Tahilla Cove in Ireland and it was a great experience. Wish I could do it more often.

  • Anne-Kari

    I too encountered such lovely people in the UK… but MAJ and Bronxbee, tell me please what is that delicious looking dish in that first picture?

  • blake

    Hang on, I live in England and I never meet nice people, only chavs and *******.Still it’s great to see that you had a good time and the photos are nice.I’ll be on the lookout for crispy duck pizza!

  • Gia

    I love England! The food is delicious and the people are wonderful. My first night in London, I met a girl while I was outside the hotel having a smoke. She ended up taking my friends and me to a nightclub and we had a fantastic time.

  • MaryAnn

    what is that delicious looking dish in that first picture?

    It’s a shrimp and crabmeat appetizer thingie I had at a restaurant in Cardiff. It was *yummy.*

  • Anne-Kari

    Oh man, that sounds as good as it looks. Drool.

  • blake

    I was just thinking, do people outside the U.K. have chavs?

  • “It’s a shrimp and crabmeat appetizer thingie I had at a restaurant in Cardiff. It was *yummy.*”

    as was the potato/leek soup in the bowl on the other side (mine) of the table.

    the B&B was amazing… i cannot say enough nice things about Martin and Ellen (the dog was Louie Bijan)and the delicious breakfasts they served.

    the weather was gorgeous, the people were warm and wonderful (if you’re in Stratford on Avon, you should also visit Jeannie, the clerk at Blackstone’s books, and the chemist at the chemist shop right next to New Place who recommended cough drops for me, perfume for my aunt and hellfire for all politicians), and the food was superb — from the late night chippie down to the superb champagne tea at Benson’s!

    also, my travelling companion was wise, warm, witty and wonderful.

    best. vacation. ever.

  • Anne-Kari

    Bronxbee & MAJ – I’m just swimmin’ with envy:) Sounds like the perfect vacation!

  • Weimlady

    Blake–re chavs–if we have them, we don’t call them that. In fact, when Cassandra referred to Rose as a chav in Doctor Who, I had to google it to try to figure out what she was saying. Would be interested in your take on “what’s a chav” since when I googled “slapper” and reported back to this site, some speakers of native Brit-slang contradicted what I found.

  • blake

    Well, Weimlady, a slapper is a tart–not the edible kind, the kind that hang out by petrol stations at 3 in the morning.
    Chavs tend to where tracksuits and labeled clothing, baseball caps are big with the chavs. The boys like to have their trousers hanging down so low they are forced to walk like penguins, the girl chavs tend to have thier hair pulled back into a pony tail.
    I would never call Rose a chav, Cassandra was just being a snob.

  • jackie

    A closer approximation to Chav might be Trailer Trash. It’s a derogatory term which is used to suggest that somebody is poor, probably got few qualifications and is badly dressed.

    The tight pony tail is also known as a “Croyden Face Lift” (i.e. a “face lift” for people who can’t afford surgery).

  • Tara

    I don’t think trailer trash sums it up. In my eyes anyone can be a “chav” cause its the attitude that makes you one. Chavs are the type of people that go around terrorising the rest of their neighbourhood and drinking all the time. They’re the ones in class that get expelled for giving too much cheek. They have mega bad attitude. And Blake’s description of their clothes is just right.
    Rose was called a chav because she had that attitude to her and her clothes were slightly common, she’d left school and didn’t have any qualifications. However because she wasn’t bad thats why she was referred to as the “likeable chav sidekick Rose”

  • blake

    I sadly know of some very rich chavs, there are more middle class chavs than any other class.

  • Danielle

    I also had some good food (everything was clearly marked on menus for vegetarians, which was awesome!) and met some lovely people in England. I only had one day of decent weather, though. But, I like the rain, so I enjoyed myself even when things were gray and damp.

  • MaryAnn

    We had a little bit of rain, but on the whole it was cool and foggy (and beautiful!) in the mornings and sunny and warm by noon.

  • Mathias

    English food is terrible.

    There’s a reason why no one ever sees a hot trendy new English restaurant opening up around the corner.

  • i believe that some of the most famous and reputable chefs right now are british, if i’m not mistaken.

    i think certain nationalities get a bad food reputation by mistaking the way the populace eats with what is served in restaurants. the last time i was in london, we went to a place called “Steph’s” which was “new-english” cuisine. it was wonderful, roasted rosemary potatoes, lamb chops, fresh vegetables. every restaurant we ate in here, even the smallest pub in the smallest town, had lovely fresh food, well prepared, nicely presented. i don’t know what more anyone could want from food in a restaurant.

    give an example of why you think food in britain is so awful.

  • Anne-Kari

    Unfortunately, the reputation isn’t entirely undeserved – but I think it’s pretty drastically outdated.

    I was in London for a semester 20 yrs ago, and I can attest to the dreadfulness of the cafeteria food. But then again, most cafeteria food at most Universities is pretty rank, regardless of the country.

    As for restaurants, I went to several marvelous ones while over there, but an equal number that served really, really dry meat and massively overcooked vegetables. Again, I think that mode of cooking is pretty much a thing of the past.

    And you just can’t get better Indian food (outside of India) than London. Oooo, curry…

  • MaryAnn

    I think it’s safe to say that no one is talking about cafeteria food when discussing a nation’s cuisine.

    I have to say, though, that bronxbee and I were forced to a meal for ourselves at a motorway rest area on our first night in the U.K.: it was late at night, and presumably the takeaway soup and sandwiches were not as fresh as they could have been, and it was all actually quite tasty. And that was the worst meat we had.

  • that’s true… it was a fast food type place, but the soup and the sandwich seemed at least as fresh as they could be at that hour. as maryann says, that was the *worst* meal we had, and it would be comparable to maybe a Pret a Manger…

    i stand by my praise of the food we had in england. and i was at Oxford University for a summer term more than 10 years ago and on weekends i had to fend for myself and i still thought the food was pretty good. and lest you think i just have no palate — i’m considered a pretty impressive cook by friends.

  • Ryan

    I was in London about four years ago for a week, so I don’t have a huge depth of knowledge to draw on in terms of English cuisine…but I have to say that the fact that most English people I know (including my step mother who lived there for over 20 years) prefer ‘currys’ (Indian food) to their native cuisine is probably indicative of something.

    I generally found the food to be acceptable, if not particularly interesting; the only truly terrible food I had was when I mistakenly got a sausage in gravy with toast for breakfast. (Ergh, even the memory is disgusting) The best food I had there was fish and chips in a local pub, and an excellent ale.

    I did go to an Indian restaurant, and one that my friend highly recommended…and it was quite good…but the best Indian food (not in India) can be found near Boston Massachusetts (Punjab, in Arlington Center)

    All in all, there are many things to recommend England as a tourist destination; the history, architecture, etc. I don’t think I would list the food amongst them, or the weather.

  • Anne-Kari

    True, MAJ – as I said, college cafeteria food is pretty much universally “blah”.

    But, OK, now I’m remembering all the super-fresh fish and chips from that weird tiny place two blocks from classes, and those little cucumber sandwiches at tea time, and the incredible pastries from the swanky bakery 2 blocks from my flat….

    And Stella on tap…


  • MaryAnn

    most English people I know (including my step mother who lived there for over 20 years) prefer ‘currys’ (Indian food) to their native cuisine is probably indicative of something.

    And most Americans I know prefer fast food or frozen-then-microwaved crap to fresh real food. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t fresh real delicious food to be found.

  • Anne-Kari

    … clotted cream with warm scones…. shepherds’ pie…. roasted chicken with yorkshire pudding…

    I’m hungry.

  • Ryan

    That makes no sense. Currys are not the English version of fast-food in any way.(And trust me, this woman would not eat fast food if it was the only food left on the planet)

    I’m not saying, if you read my post, that you can’t find good food in England. You can find good food anywhere…but if you’re going to compare it to any other Western European countries food, it’s going to suffer in the comparison.

    (also, I can’t believe that in New York, surrounded by great restaurants and delis et al. that most Americans you know prefer fast food or microwaved meals…that is truly depressing.)

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