If scenic views and good eats are your idea of a good time, then I would highly suggest a trip to England. Both the city of London and countryside settings of Woodstock were vibrant, full of heritage and eye-opening. Don’t you dare be fooled by the rumors that are somehow adopted, as in you’ll never get a good meal in England. Lies, all lies.
My job allowed me the amazing opportunity to travel over to England, and the time spent playing tourist was all about living every moment through one meal at a time (as far as my stomach and this blog was concerned). While this post may be a few months late in coming, the adventures to share with you will never expire, so please enjoy!
The main event our trip was focused on was the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials, whose backdrop is Blenheim Palace. We traveled from Boston, MA to Heathrow, London to Woodstock and came in on no sleep just as the event was beginning. From there it was a non-stop roller coaster of activity and culture for the next couple of days at Blenheim Palace and surrounding town of Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
Many of these pictures immediately below will focus on the sheer difference of not only attendance levels at events, but the variety of foods they have as well. It was amazing to see the quality and variety to be had. If only every event in the U.S. was like this, what a treat!
And then of course we watched some of the horses, sat in on the exhibitions and took part in the “job” aspect of why we were over there….and then we had to try more food.
The event provided more than enough to do as well as to eat and experience, but we had to make our way to actual Blenheim Palace for various events, and tours of course. The highlight to one evening was getting to meet the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, who reside over Blenheim Palace and the estate. It truly was an honor. We saw much of the grounds and inside to the palace itself to boot. It took me back to another era (Downton Abbey-esque) and opened our eyes to the immense history this country has to offer.
Speaking of Blenheim Palace Sparkling Water, the story is quite unique and worth sharing. Blenheim Palace Natural Mineral Water is part of a centuries-old tradition which began in the twelfth century when Henry II built a pleasure pool for his mistress, Rosamund Clifford, here at Blenheim Palace. The pool was fed by an ancient spring which, legend maintains, has never dried. Rosamund’s Well can be seen to this day and the water has been highly valued ever since. When demand for Blenheim Palace Natural Mineral Water outstripped supply in recent years, a further source was found in the Park and a bottling plant was established. It is from here that this prestigious and delicious drink now springs.
I absolutely cannot forego the amazing food to be had directly outside of the grounds of Blenheim Palace in the town of Woodstock, Oxfordshire. We ate at the high-end dining experience of The King’s Arms, had Indian food at Jaan Indian Cuisine (not pictured), and dessert at Star Inn. My favorite breakfast items came from the French market that appeared in town for the weekend we were there. It included so many wonderful treats, but more importantly was the freshly baked croissants and baked goods. Oh, how I could go for a fresh chocolate croissant and Illy espresso right now 🙂
Just after the awards were handed out on the last day of the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, we traveled back to London for the duration of our stay. We had dinner in our hotel, the newest Hilton at the Heathrow Airport. We had various meetings and were able to see a few neighborhoods and attractions, most notable, Buckingham Palace. We weren’t allowed to have our cameras inside the palace itself, but when we made it outside, we were fortunate enough to find a cafe, with a number of goodies that didn’t disappoint! The Phoenix Cafe was our lucky find with a truly awesome vibe AND food.
One of the most amazing places I have ever been in, due to sheer size, availability and luxury, was Harrods. The store occupies a 5-acre site and has over one million square feet of selling space in over 330 departments making it the biggest department store in Europe. The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique—All Things for All People, Everywhere. Several of its departments, including the seasonal Christmas department and the Food Hall, are world famous. Amazing, just amazing. Not only did I spend hours in just the food departments, but I found Laduree’s! I actually bought most of my souvenirs here, and treats for myself too 🙂
We had a down day within London to check out a few more sites and museums, which was absolutely lovely. We happened upon some random neighborhoods and a different meal over at The Queen’s Arms. Be warned, if you don’t have access to your phone like you normally do, ask the waitstaff before you order. I had intentions of getting ‘fish and chips’ before we left London, but I didn’t want a full portion. I ordered what you see below.
Our last outing came all too soon. It was somewhere near our hotel at the airport and was located in a very old section with cobblestone streets, small buildings and a very quaint atmosphere. A variety of great food for our last night in London at the Ostrich Pub!
The one culturally different aspect that was striking about this trip was how meals were taken. By this I mean, that restaurants expected you to be enjoying your meal for long periods of time, enjoying the company you’re with and savoring the chefs creations. So, many times when you go out to eat in America, it’s all about high turnover rates. You’re in and out of there in no time, barely remembering what you had to eat and how it tasted. We got many a weird looks for ‘shoveling’ our food and being done with dinner in an hours’ time. Even our tipping structure and asking for the check, was a bit taboo. Our cabbie explained a lot of this from his own experiences to America. He explained to us that the meal experience itself was very different and is an occasion in much of Europe. Meals are meant to be savored. Even with the smaller portions, so long as conversation is abound, you actually realize how full you are and don’t overeat. In terms of asking for the check in a short time period, it went along with savoring the meals and expecting to be holding that table for a good portion of the evening. Tipping at a rate of 15-20% was a bit high, but so long as the service warranted it, it was much appreciated and unexpected. Definitely opened my eyes to stop taking so many pictures, and talk to those around me, finding time to enjoy my food. After all, isn’t that what it should be about?
The trip was wildly successful in all that I learned and experienced. I would just advise people to research, ask around and don’t be afraid to branch out and get lost a bit. You never know what you will find.