England is a marvelous and diverse place. I recently took my first trip there and this list of tips is gleaned from an admittedly limited two-week experience. That being said, my husband and I did travel quite a bit within the country, from Stratford through Bristol, to Exmoor, and to London. We got to see rural, suburban, and metro areas, as well as a seaside town in a lush national park.
1. Sleeping is Good
Jet lag is natural and is not a failing or weakness. Let yourself sleep at the beginning of your trip so that you can enjoy the rest of it. When we arrived in England in the morning, having flown through the night, I was quite a zombie. My plan to sleep on the plane had not worked out, even though I had taken a sleeping pill. I had to nap hard that day, even though I was excited to look around.
I was still able to sleep that night and felt fairly refreshed the next day. On the way home to the U.S. we flew during the day, and while I know travelling west through time zones is generally accepted to be easier anyway, I found day travel to be preferable over all. If you are an absolute pro at sleeping on a plane, the overnight may work for you. Regardless, I recommend embracing your body’s need to catch up on sleep so you can start your trip on the right foot.
2. You May Have A Stronger Accent Than You Think
While London is full of a marvelous mix of individuals and cultures, there was less cultural and linguistic diversity out in the country (as is the case in many nations). So, our American accents stood out in the small towns. I had prepared myself to possibly not always understand the English accents I encountered, but, naively, did not realize my accent might be so strong as to be unintelligible at times.
I have a mild Southern U.S. accent in Virginia but in rural England, it was clearly quite strong. I learned to expect this and just speak purposefully clearly or repeat myself when asked, which locals did for me as well. Overall, everyone we encountered was very kind and often wanted to know about our trip and where we were from. We spent some time in the quiet, charming small town of Bidford on Avon.
In more urban areas, our accents were almost completely overlooked.
3. Slow Down and Absorb
So much of a culture can be experienced in the off-moments of a vacation. While I did find that having a few sight-seeing destinations, such as Warwick Castle, and other explorations booked ahead of time helped the planning to feel less daunting, some of my favorite moments were when we were un-scheduled.
A good dose of local life can be absorbed subliminally and through opening up to the ambient, subtle environmental information all around you. Sitting in a pub, hearing local banter, resting my hands on the smooth, dark, aged wood of the bar, and feeling the fresh air come in from the open window, was lovely. I only saw one mosquito during our two week July trip and most buildings we visited kept the windows open.
One of my favorite places to take it easy and absorb was a small town called Porlock, below, which was very Brigadoon-ish (yes, there is a boat in the harbor named Brigadoon).
Many winding roads had to be traversed (on the left!) to get to this hide-away. By the way, driving on the left takes increased concentration and produces some anxiety, but is very possible. I’m not a huge fan of the word quaint, but Porlock was quaint in the best way possible.
I loved England, and can’t wait to go back. England has so many wonderful small towns and vibrant, bustling cities, so I know there is much more for me to see. If you’re heading out on your first trip to England, hopefully these tips will be helpful.
Featured photo credit: Julia Travers via jtravers.journoportfolio.com