I have this general, possibly misguided, theory that trick or treating is not that big in the U.K. Part of this is based on the fact that I never went trick or treating when I lived in Scotland or London, and never knew anyone who did. Guy Fawkes Night was much more of the thing to do. Granted, that was over a decade ago. Times may have changed. Halloween may have arrived in a bigger way in the U.K. since I’ve moved back to the U.S. Has it?
My husband has an American colleague who moved to London with her family this summer when her husband landed a job there. She commented on how big Halloween was this year, how many kids trick or treated at their house. And then, in nearly the same breath, commented on the amazing items that her kids brought back from their trick or treating adventure in London, which included unwrapped M&Ms and other small, loose, unwrapped, man-handled candies, loose home baked cookies and even a pot of rhubarb yogurt.
Okay, Londoners. Is this weird or the norm? Is this an accurate picture of Halloween, circa 2013, in London? Enlighten us, please!
Last month, MSN Travel asked site visitors to send in their photos of their favourite places in Britain – be it hotels, restaurants, beaches, castles or views.
Check out their top 30 photos that made them say, “I want to go to there.”
Check out Buzzfeed’s collection of top 12 places you’d never know we’re in the U.K. (including spots that are dead ringers for Italy, Greece, India and New Zealand.)
I discovered Anglotopia.net a few months after I launched Britrish.com and have enjoyed the content, from its travel pieces to news headlines to British tips and everything in between.
I finally had a chance to connect with founder Jonathan Thomas, who runs the site with his wife Jackie, from their home in Valparaiso, Indiana. Here’s what he had to say:
One of the highlights of our recent trip to England was celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary at Ode in Shaldon, which has been named UK’s most sustainable restaurant by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
The food was absolutely amazing, delicious, fresh and exciting from beginning to end. Service was friendly and helpful (owner Tim Bouget was lovely!). And all of this for a great price! Our wedding anniversary fell on a Wednesday and Ode features a reduced price menu on Wednesdays: three courses for 29 pounds! We added a couple of glasses of kir royale to start and a very pleasant French white wine to accompany our main courses.
Once we landed, we quickly made our way through security and customs, picked up our luggage and made a beeline for Heathrow Express, the super speedy train that travels to Paddington Station.
I’ve traveled on Heathrow Express so many times that I actually feel like I’ve officially arrived in London when I take it. Something about the smell of the carriage, the lighting and the news segments playing on the TV. It’s just serene and nice! The price, on the other hand, is getting a bit steep! It’s £20 for a single adult ticket, £34 for a return (or round-trip) adult ticket, £10 for a single child’s ticket, £17 for a return (or round-trip) child’s ticket. Kids under 5 are free. We found out later that it is much cheaper, when there are two or more people traveling, to take a mini cab from central London straight to Heathrow. But never mind! There is also something to be said for tradition and I loved the trip. It’s 15 minutes and you’re there! Paddington!
I love the little Paddington Bear statue at the station. There’s also a little Paddington Bear shop upstairs, which sells all manner of Paddington items – books, stuffed toys, plates, cups, aprons, tea towels, chocolates – you name it!
Paddington Station also has plenty of options for food. We stopped for lunch at Patisserie Valerie, which had a nice selection of bakery items, sandwiches and desserts. I got a simple ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette and a cappuccino (ah, can anyone explain how Europeans get coffee so very right?!). It was the perfect precursor to our trip to Paris, which was only hours away.
Hello! I am happy to report that we are back from our whirlwind trip to the U.K. and Paris and had a fabulous time!! I have so much to blog about for the next few weeks and lots of photos to share so stay tuned!
First things first! The plane ride! We flew Virgin Atlantic out of San Francisco Airport, which required a morning drive from Sacramento. Best thing we did? We booked long-term parking at Millbrae BART station, which was $6/day! So much cheaper than any park-and-sleep package I could find and a lot cheaper than long-term parking by the airport. My husband dropped me and the kids (and our luggage!) off at the airport first and then parked and took the BART to the airport (so we wouldn’t have to lug all of our luggage and stroller and kids with us on the BART, and we saved money on three BART tickets in the process). Win!
Now about that flight … well, we flew economy and splurged on extra leg room seats, which Virgin offers now for an added $50.
Was it worth it? Well, it was hard for me to tell (but I am 5′ 3″). My husband appreciated the extra legroom.
We haven’t flown internationally in a couple of years now and I was most startled not by the lack of leg room, but by the lack of food! My 3-year-old daughter ate an adult sized portion of pasta and bread, and was starving, as were we all! She refused the Gu mango and passionfruit cheesecake pot that was her dessert and so I quickly ate hers and mine.
Big mistake. Huge.
Within a couple of hours – in the complete serenity of our turbulence-free cabin – I became decidedly unwell. I actually vomited into my empty water glass and had to climb over the poor sleepy
stranger victim, who was unlucky to be sitting next to me (and who was none too impressed and looked like Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) to get to the bathroom. My husband and son were sitting directly behind us since there weren’t a four-seats-in-a-row available to us in the extra-leg room section.
My husband asked if I had eaten the Gu. He hadn’t touched it since he thought it smelled spoiled. Neither did my son. Thankfully!
There wasn’t any ice cream, or after dinner Bailey’s (which I think of wistfully, when I think of flying Virgin years ago. The water and juice tray came around a couple of times. It actually didn’t matter since I couldn’t stomach anything after the Gu. Not even the skimpy muffin top breakfast that they brought around with coffee and tea. I was sick again.
But it didn’t matter. After ten hours or so, we touched down in London and I wasn’t going to let any Gu stop me from enjoying my holiday!
Imagine tucking into a frozen lasagne, only to discover later that the 100 percent beef you were eating had trace amounts of horse meat.
And then imagine finding out even later that the so-called trace amount was actually more like 100 percent horse meat.
Such is the scandal that is rocking the U.K. in a country of horse lovers, and it doesn’t stop there. The horse meat that was labelled as beef has also appeared on other products made by Findus and Comigel, which have also been pulled from shelves across France. Investigations into the supply chain have found that the horse meat originated in Romania.
Here’s what I’ve learned since this story broke:
1. This is what horse meat looks like.
2. This is what horse meat tastes like.
3. This is how many horses you will eat in your lifetime.
4. These are the countries who like horse meat.
5. These are the health risks of eating horse meat.
I don’t know about you, but this story has really put me off lasagne.