Most of my ancestors are from England and Scotland, so I was way overdue for my first visit to London about five years ago. My dear friend, Roxanne, gave me the trip as a birthday gift. We also met up with my daughter Kara, who was in Spain at the time, so she flew in to meet us. I still dream about that trip, even though I don’t like to fly for long periods of time, but I would go back in a heartbeat. Seeing England for the first time is like a picture postcard coming to life. I was enchanted with the land of Shakespeare, Dickens, thatched cottages, and pastoral landscapes. However, when it comes to food, England has a very bad reputation as being tasteless and monotonous. I found it to be quite the opposite. We didn’t have a bad meal the entire visit. We enjoyed everything from High Tea at the Savoy Hotel to celebrate my birthday, to incredible Indian fare. When I spotted this 1960 book at a used book sale, I had to buy it. The author was born in England, so the book is just as much about her life there as it is about recipes. She includes all the classic dishes such as crumpets, scones, marmalade, plum pudding, and Yorkshire pudding. We were able to indulge in some of these classics in one of our day trips to the Cotswolds. If you enjoy classic British fare, you will love this book, but don’t ignore some of the greatest restaurants in London, with some considered the finest in the world today.
I would have to say one of the highlights of our trip was the Tower of London. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was surprised to find that it’s like a whole little city in itself. We were greeted by the Beefeaters who informed us of the tragic and bloody history of the Tower with stories that could make you shiver. I found one story fascinating about how the term “getting off Scot-free” came into being. It seems there was a Scottish royal who was to be beheaded at the Tower of London. He was up in a dark tower somewhere awaiting his fate. His wife showed up with her entourage of maidens and maids and begged to see her husband one last time. They were allowed inside and proceeded to say their last good-byes. However, they had developed a grand scheme to save the husband’s life. Under all of the long, fancy dresses, the women hid some women’s clothing, and dressed the husband in the clothes, and he walked out with the female entourage and got out “Scot-Free!” But no story could match what Kara and I encountered. We were in one of the Tower buildings walking around looking at the history around us. At one point, we became a little lost and spotted an unmarked spiral staircase and decided to walk up and see what was up there. The staircase twisted and turned, and the walls seemed to become smaller and smaller, with tinier steps along the way. Kara and I suddenly, and at the exact same time, just felt “something” sort of move through us. It was the oddest, and most frightful feeling imaginable, and very real. Kara was ahead of me, she turned around and said, let’s get out of here! Now! We couldn’t get down the creepy stairs fast enough. We left fully convinced the whole place was haunted with the unfortunate victims of the times, and we happened to “feel” one of them. I’m getting goose bumps as I write this. It was really, really scary. But I promise the food is not. Give it a try.