The Brit's family was from Leicester, a large city of about about 300,000 people in the East Midlands. We spent most of our time staying with his grandparents, a lovely, sweet couple named Maurice and Vera. I just loved them - Maurice called me "luv" and Vera made us mince pies and lemon crepes. They lived in a charming duplex with a beautiful English garden in the backyard.
FYI - this picture of their home is from my second trip, in July 1997. It wasn't nearly this sunny and green in December!
After a couple of days in Leicester City, we drove back down to London for the day. I was beyond excited to see some of the places I'd only seen on TV or read about in books, such as...
Big Ben (Parliament! Come on, you know I said that line a few times!)
That's me on the left, with The Brit and his sister, Anna, on the right.
Trafalgar Square, including the pigeons! (back when there were TONS of pigeons in the Square)...
Hey, 1995-self: nice wallet chain!
A real, authentic red London telephone booth (with a real, authentic pay phone! Remember those?!)
The Tower of London, including a real Beefeater:
Tower Bridge (aka "London Bridge" - this is a shot of the tower as I'm riding over the bridge on a double-decker bus):
And many other cool places, like Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, and St. James Park. This is also the trip when I got my rockin' shiny red Doc Martens boots, which I still have, and still wear! I'll put a pic of those in my next England post :)
We spent Christmas Eve day in Bath, a city founded by the Romans in southwestern England. The city was gorgeous and looked so beautiful with its holiday decorations, and the Bath Abbey was spectacular.
We spent Christmas Eve night, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day with The Brit's aunt and uncle in Somerset, a lovely county in southwestern England. I had never seen or heard of Christmas crackers before (those gold tubes at each seat), so I thought they were quite cool!
I remember having the Christmas dinner being wonderful, with lots of traditional English foods like plum pudding, mince pies, roasted potatoes, ham, and chestnut stuffing. It was definitely a neat experience to share a holiday meal in another country!
However, if there is one food memory that truly stands out for me, it was the first time Anna's grandmother served me up a plate of mushy peas. I can't even remember what else was on the plate, although I suspect it may have been fish and chips. I just remember taking a bite of those mushy peas (with a douse or two of malt vinegar, per Anna's instructions) and thinking ooooooohhhhhhh yesssssssss. Mmmmmmm.....
Okay, so now I have mushy peas on the brain, thank you very much. I decided to take matters into my own hands. Yes, I googled "vegan mushy peas" and found this recipe. She's right - it's not authentic, but it was tasty, and that's good enough for me. With some Tempeh in Hearty Mushroom-Lager Sauce and mashed potatoes, it was good old pub-grub for dinner!
Tempeh is cubed, browned, and then cooked with some mushrooms, beer, and dijon mustard. I was having a bit of a rough day with my son, so I took a few nips from the measuring cup of beer to take the edge off.
It definitely helped!
Along with a pint of porter (not Guinness, although it was in a Guinness glass), it was a jolly good meal to remember jolly old England.
If only I had some mince pies for dessert :)