Friday, January 16, 2015

13 Things You Must Do/See in the United Kingdom

I am starting to get super super excited about my upcoming tour. Work permit secured and official dates to be announced next week, but feel free to email me if you're in the United Kingdom and are curious about which dates to hold. While I am trying to wrap my head around being away from the Wee Boy for two weeks (the thoughts in my head scream horrible mother! how dare you!), I am also trying to focus on the idea that for two straight weeks, I will be performing original music for people who are paying to hear it.

And also, castles!

And so many other things that I'll get to see, do and consume while on that small island. Here are a few of the things I'm more-than-I-should-be excited to encounter while I'm traveling. They are in no particular order. Mostly I just started with chocolate because I am pretty much always thinking about chocolate.

1. Cadbury
It's not the best chocolate I've ever had in my life, and, honestly, I prefer dark chocolate. Still, there is magic within a milk chocolate sugary Cadbury, free of high fructose corn syrup. The magic, I think, lies within the massive amounts of choice one encounters at a random gas station.

2. Petrol station, aka "Services"
There is a song that David and I sang when we approached "Services" (It goes SER-vi-ces!! Sing it loudly, a descending Perfect 4th: dotted quarter, eighth, then half note. You're welcome!). Services essentially means, like, a truck stop. Except it's somehow clean and pleasant, and I've only occasionally seen a truck (I mean, lorry). There is usually a Marks & Spencer, filled with delicious and healthful road snack options. Also, even the low-end service stations have thousands of Cadbury options.

3. Tea sets.
It's not just grabbing a cuppa that I miss. It's that even when you just pop in for a cuppa, it comes with a lot of dishes. At home, I do everything I can to avoid having to wash extra plates, spoons, etc. Somehow, even in a country where most people do not have dishwashers, there is no dish spared when it comes to the serving of tea. Sugar bowls. Sugar spoons. Personal-sized teapots. Saucer. Plate for used teabags. Such luxury!

4. Cheese.
I could go on for years about the amount of cheese available at at 1/10th of the cost. I will likely buy a huge wedge of Brie at the Services for $1.50. Then give myself a bellyache, but it'll be worth it because BARGAIN.

Inveraray Castle, Scotland.
5. Castles
I said it already, but CASTLES. Everywhere. Ruined ones, inhabited ones, ghosts of where surely a castle once was. Places where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid, places where princes were entombed alive, and places where dragons once roamed freely! It's way more fun to play Castle Collecting than Cows-in-the-Graveyard.

6. Whisky choices.
I spent the majority of time living in Scotland pregnant and then nursing round-the-clock, so I didn't get to enjoy the mindblowing selection of whiskies available everywhere. I had great plans to try a new one every week -- even started this defunct blog, wherein I got one drink in before getting knocked up.  (Have just revisited that blog, and I now want to restart it. YUM YUM YUM.) I know I'm a Kentucky girl at heart, but I am also a single-malt convert. To order a Laphroaig Cask Strength for $5 ... oh my goodness oh my goodness.

Macaroni & Cheese with
pub chips.
7. Pub chips.
French fries/steak fries/whatever you call them. They taste more delicious when consumed in dark, basement pub. Also, they come with everything. They accompany deep-fried veggie burgers, curry, etc. I especially love it when "macaroni & cheese & chips" is the vegetarian option. CC: +Dan Canon .

8. Baked Potatoes as a meal.
My first meal in Edinburgh almost 20 years ago was at the Baked Potato Shop. I only have a day to spend in this fair city, but you better believe I will have a baked potato with vegetarian haggis.

9. Vegetarian Haggis.
Vegetarian haggis at the
Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Roll your eyes if you must (meateaters have not yet gotten tired of the vegetarian jokes, which is super annoying, and old, and I don't understand why you don't pick on people who have actual weird eating habits, but whatever, grow up already, that's another blog, piping down now, sorry ...), but vegetarian haggis is divine! Delicious. Perfect. I like it served on a baked tattie with shredded cheese. I also love it served in a dish with neeps and tatties, like a personal casserole.

10. Fry-ups.
I want to call this "Scottish Breakfast," but my English friends will revolt. And vice versa. We shall stick with "fry-up." A plate-full of grease is good for the whisky-soaked soul. But I won't feel guilty because of that old adage: Breakfast like a king. Lunch like a prince. Dinner like a pauper. I tend to forget that rule by noon, but it's a good justification for fried eggs.

11. Cream tea.
Americans will think this means "put half and half in your tea." It does not. It means you get tea, but it's not the tea that is the star. It's the scone. And the clotted cream. The jam is good too, but oh, the cream! Savor. Or savour, if you are really feeling it.

12. Old graveyards
Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I love kirkyards. I think it goes back to just a love of history and respect for the past, but I love reading the dates on the tombstones -- and thinking about how many other people have stood on that same hallowed ground, saw the same mountains ... oh, I get all weepy just thinking about it. The graveyards in the UK are beautiful, even with the ghost stories. I love the Edinburgh ghost tours that take you through graveyards.

13. Stone Circles
I don't think I'm susceptible to time travel, so I wasn't worried. There are stone circles everywhere, so I can't wait to find one and frolic. The one pictured is just hanging out on a golf course in the Hebrides Islands (Islay).

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