Since I quitted living in the UK, I’ve talked to many people about travelling to England. Most know about fish and chips, and some have only been to London. It’s a shame as England is more than London, and English food is a lot more than fish and chips.
Don’t get me wrong, London is an amazing city that I would always go back given a chance. But the city is its own country in many ways, separated from the rest of the country. So I thought I'd write about what I know of England outside London to see if I can make you curious and pay a visit the next time you are around.
From South to North
Most countries are divided into regions with different food, accents and traditions. Even the tiny island of Singapore has such division. So yeah, why not England?
The south of England is posh, so they say. They speak the Queen’s English, have a warmer climate with some lovely beaches, and prestigious cities like Cambridge and Oxford. Take a trip to Cambridge, pay for a punting boat tour around the university, and you will see what being ancient, traditional and royal are like.
The North is heartwarming and down to earth. When you travel around, you will hear stronger and thicker accents. I found the people up North are often friendly and easy going. Of course, it’s a stereotype, and there are always some odds. But go and see for yourself.
Truth to be told, I only visited cities in the south, so I don’t know anything about the countryside down there. In the north, though, there are mountain ranges and widespread countries. Think of Wuthering Height. That’s the North of England. There are coast lines, of course, but you don’t just jump into the sea for a swim. The water is too cold all year round, in my Vietnamese standard anyway.
If you like hiking and love making road trips, you would be spoiled for choice in the north. The Lake District, the Peak District, Yorkshire Dale and Northumberland are of green pastures, old woodland and awe-inspiring landscapes.
Small northern cities like York and Durham are pretty while Manchester is always vibrant despite the constant rain.
I would be selfish here and include Newcastle - the city of the far north. The Geordie accent is incredibly hard to understand, even for English people. But it's also a university town with a big international crowd, so you will find it easy to travel around. It's the gateway to the beautiful Northumberland and super close to the famous Alnwick castle (i.e. Harry Porter castle). I've spent three years there, and Newcastle is always dear to my heart.
How to get around
Going from the South to the North, you can take the train. Rail travel in England is expensive, though. There are many train operators, but you can always buy advance tickets for all trains on this website. (If you want to save some money travelling with the train, check out this guide I wrote earlier.)
There are also buses, connecting big cities. Megabus and NationalRail are the two big operators. They are a lot cheaper than the train. For example, from Newcastle to Manchester, you could get a bus ticket for a quarter of the rail fare.
My experience with Megabus was not the best, though. It ranged from getting home late to being super late or not making it at all. I was once refused to board an almost empty Megabus because I bought the wrong ticket (for the following day, so still valid) and the driver wasn’t authorised to sell me a ticket on board (didn't want just to let me it). It was late in the evening, and I was a small girl travelling alone.
Places like The Lake District, Northumberland and Yorkshire Dale are difficult to reach with public transport. I’ve given it a go a couple of times, but you couldn’t go to some of the beautiful and remote parts, and it also takes longer. When you drive, you can get into the quiet, unbeaten paths, through dramatic, jaw-dropping landscapes and stop at quaint villages.
heard many negative comments about English food from people who have been to England once or twice and thought they knew it all. I think that it’s unfair and ignorant.
English country pubs serve the best traditional food, like sausages and mash, roast lamb, fish and chips, all sorts of meat pies, sticky toffee pudding, Eton Mess, scones and clotted cream. The list goes on. For home cooking, Sunday roast and full English breakfast are pure luxuries.
England also has amazing Indian curry and Chinese food from her colonial past. The two cuisines came into English culture a long time ago, adapted, changed and became something different to the original. Not that I’ve been to China and India to say how different, or (controversially) which one is better. However, they are just a part of English food culture like fish and chips. Do you know that Chinese people run many fish and chips takeaways in England? Just think about it.
No longer living in England, I do miss English food now and then. I miss having fish and chips by the sea. A good Cumberland sausage has no comparison. And sticky toffee pudding is something everyone should try at least once unless you have problems with digesting a lot of sugar. Ian made it for me one evening, and it was a shock seeing how much sugar went into my all-time favourite dessert. I'll still recommend trying it.
The Brexit vote sent such an unwelcoming messages to foreigners. Also, the UK’s Border Control Agency makes it challenging and expensive to get a visa to England. So when you manage to jump over all those unpleasant hurdles, do go further than the great city of London!
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