I’m back to the blog after a wonderful (and much needed, if I’m being honest) break and vacation. Time off seems to come when it’s needed the most!
Last week, I went back to England for the first time in 5 years.
Y’all, I love England. I studied abroad in London my junior year of college, and my family had traveled to London a few years before that. I’d been wanting to go back since my study-abroad and I finally made it happen!
This time, I went to visit some friends who live in Cambridge and explore more of the country outside of London. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love London; and I did get to spend a day in the city. But I wanted to see more of the smaller towns and villages and get some different experiences.
Back story: the friends I visited, Josh and Seb, are friends of mine from Atlanta. I went to middle school with them; when my family moved to Pennsylvania after 8th grade, they moved to England! Thanks to the Internet and social media, we’ve all been able to stay in touch over the years. This is my same friend who came to Chattanooga two years ago (read about that in this post).
Also, a bit of a digression: I recently invested in a new camera right before my trip, and y’all, it’s my favorite purchase of 2018 thus far. I got the Sony Alpha mirrorless digital and I am obsessed with it. I’m so happy with how my pictures from this trip turned out.
Anyway… back to England.
On my first night, my friend Josh and I went to a place called Butch Annie’s for dinner. It’s a new burger restaurant in Cambridge, that also has delicious milkshakes and a nice selection of craft beer! I opted for a classic cheeseburger and fries (or “chips” as the English say) and they did not disappoint.
After dinner, we went to the Arts Picturehouse for a live screening of Macbeth by the Royal Shakespeare Company! It was fabulous, and Christopher Eccleston was stellar as Macbeth. My inner Shakespeare nerd was quite happy.
For my first full day, we went up to a town called Ely, which was about 30 minutes outside of Cambridge. Ely is known for its cathedral and stained glass gallery, but it also has a super cute town square with lots of cafes, restaurants, shops and a killer market. There was a coffee truck at the market and the truck had a balcony on top where we could enjoy our coffee and look over the market.
The coffee truck we stopped at was called Silver Oak Coffee and y’all, it was amazing. My mocha was made with real melted dark chocolate, which was mixed with the steamed milk, then espresso and more milk. Yummm.
We had lunch at a place called Samovar Tea House. They had a whole wall of teas, plus a binder of tea choices on each table! It was my dream. I opted for a jasmine green tea, which is one of my favorite blends. The bacon-brie-apple bagel I had for lunch was pretty delicious, too.
If you travel to England and want a smaller-town experience, I highly recommend adding Ely to your itinerary. It’s super easy to spend a day there, especially if the weather is nice!
The next day, Josh showed me around Cambridge. It’s big enough that it has everything you’d need and want, but it’s not overwhelmingly big, so we could see a lot in one day.
Any good exploration day starts with crepes and coffee. I’d spotted Benet’s Cafe when we went to the theater and had crepes on my mind since. The crepes were essentially “create your own,” so I opted for strawberry and Nutella, with a cappuccino. One day I will try a savory crepe, but how can you say no to strawberry and Nutella?
After crepes, we strolled around town and I did some shopping – mostly gifts for friends back in Tennessee! The weather was (mostly) great that day, so I got some nice photos of the Cambridge University buildings and some other sights around town.
That Saturday was probably the highlight of the trip—my first English Premier League football match! My friends are huge Southampton FC fans, so we went down to Southampton for their match against Chelsea, at St. Mary’s Stadium. We started the day at a pub called Banana Wharf and I got my fill of Full English Breakfast.
Okay, I left off the tomatoes, mushrooms and beans, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
EPL football is a whole other world. Sure, I’ve been to a few USMNT matches here in the States, and I thought the AOs got creative and rowdy. English football supporters are a whole different breed, in terms of creativity and trash-talk level. (Reminder that I love the AOs and am a member and have nothing bad to say about it.)
As a mostly neutral observer, the match was pretty amazing. Southampton was up 2-0 and played tough for about 65 minutes. Then Chelsea scored 3 goals in, like, 10 minutes, and won 3-2 (thanks, Olivier Giroud). The Chelsea fans had some “fun” with that. Unfortunately I can’t type what they were singing, but I got a good laugh out of it. But perhaps the coolest part was hearing masses of Southampton fans singing “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In” all around the stadium. Chills. All the chills.
That Sunday was an easy, “chill” day. We needed it to rest up for our Monday adventure into London!
After taking the train into the city, our first stop was Covent Garden. More specifically, Ben’s Cookies, which is a small bakery on the corner of one of the halls. It was one of the first places my parents and I went when we first visited London in 2011, and it has remained one of my favorite places in the city ever since. They offer so many different flavors and varieties of cookies, most of which have a gooey glob in the middle. I always go for the classic chocolate chip cookie, which has a gooey, milk chocolate center.
One of my favorite things about Covent Garden is that there are always buskers and various performers. That day we saw a marvelous string quartet that played some of my favorite pieces from my symphony days.
After strolling around Covent Garden (and shopping a bit), we made our way down toward Trafalgar Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral, which are two of my “happy places” in London. After walking around there, we went back toward the Leicester Square area for afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie. I think I’m going to add afternoon tea to my weekly routine. It’s just marvelous.
Real talk: shoutout to Josh for taking so many pictures of me. You’re the real MVP.
We took one last walk through Covent Garden before hopping the train from King’s Cross back to Cambridge. I love any time I get to spend in London and that was a great way to spend my last day in England.
The real highlight of the trip was getting to spend time with my decade-old friends and catch up with them, since we don’t get to see each other very often anymore. The Internet and social media can only do so much!
Travel is good for the soul and I’m so glad I was able to make this trip back to England. I hope it’s not another five years before I can go back again. Maybe I’ll add another city to my itinerary next time!
What’s next on your travel to-do list? What’s your favorite city you’ve visited?
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