Life in the Posh Lane: International Reflections

Word travels fast across the Atlantic, and I hear Frostburg has had the first snowfall of the season. I must admit, I’m a bit jealous. One would think that England, a country infamous for its dreary weather and fog, would be cold and wet. However, much to my surprise, it has only rained three times in two months. Additionally, it hasn’t yet dipped below forty five degrees. The locals tell me that this is unseasonably warm, and are quite surprised at how “balmy” it’s been. Various Brits also inform me that snow is something of a novelty on the British Isles. Exempting Scotland, Britain is lucky to get a few inches of snow per winter. Even more depressingly, an Australian friend tells me that snow in Australia is measured in millimeters.

Bistecca fiorentina in Florence (Nick DeMichele).
Bistecca fiorentina in Florence (Nick DeMichele).

I will miss the snow at home this holiday season. There’s many things about America that I already miss – besides my family, of course. Most of all, I miss American food. Italy was a glutton’s delight. I would go back in a heartbeat to indulge in more gelato and primi piatti. England, on the other hand… not so much. I have an uncle that extensively travels the world for his job. He’s lived internationally many times and he told me that I “did not come to England for the food.” While he is correct, I was hoping to sample some traditional English dishes since I would be living in England for an extended period of time. I thought that it would enhance the cultural experience. I was wrong. Do you know what would enhance the cultural experience? Salt. Seasonings. Sauces.

Fish and Chips from Tynemouth. (Nick DeMichele)
Fish and Chips from Tynemouth. (Nick DeMichele)

From my experience, English food is rather bland. Take, for example, the crown jewel of British food. The pièce de résistance of British heritage. The cornerstone of the entire bloody British Empire: fish and chips. Now, I do not like fish. A childhood with occasional lunches at Long John Silver’s seems to have relinquished me of a taste for the things. I can, however, occasionally stomach cod. So, when Ms. Wilson and I ventured to the Northumberland coast, at Tynemouth, for the renowned fish and chips, I asked for the cod deboned and descaled. I repeat, deboned and descaled. Without the mushy peas, which often accompanies fish and chips in England. I concede, the establishment that served said fish and chips gives you a very generous portion of the crispy devil, with what seemed to be half a sack of potatoes. It was a fine meal, all in all. Mostly because it did not taste. I find that flavor is simply absent from much of British food. In a vain attempt to stimulate my taste buds, I doused it all in vinegar, as I often do here.

Ms. Wilson and I both miss American food. Buffalo wings, mostly. Aside from food, Haylee constantly states that she misses driving her car. I don’t miss paying for the gas that must fill up the car – although I do hear you are all enjoying a welcome dip in gas prices. The transportation in Europe is refreshing. The trains are divine. This winter, I am going on a rather extensive tour of Europe to see the Christmas markets and much of Central Europe. I will be going to France, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic all by train. The metro in Newcastle is cheap and easy. Even better was the metro in Rome, which costs only one and a half euros for any ride. I truly wish that we had a comparable system of mass transit in the states. I know that we have Amtrak, which is somewhat used up and down the I95 corridor. Even this pales in comparison to the trains that run constantly in and out of Newcastle Central and London King’s Cross.

Speaking of King’s Cross, I had an interesting case of déjà vu recently when leaving London. This summer, I was lucky enough to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando with my family. For those of you who have not been there, there is a quite impressive replica of King’s Cross, complete with Platform 9 ¾. Well, at the actual King’s Cross, they also have a Platform 9 ¾. However, it is not exactly between platforms 9 and 10, but rather set off to the side to accommodate the huge line that forms on a daily basis. Visitors can don a Hogwarts scarf and pose with the luggage rack half lodged into the brick wall. It’s nice to see that both sides of the Atlantic have something to offer Potterheads.

Here I am at King's Cross in London. (Nick DeMichele)
Here I am at King’s Cross in London. (Nick DeMichele)

I miss America more than I thought I would, actually. Bits and pieces, really. There are American traditions that I will be missing this year. Like fall. I never really considered this, but living in a city limits one’s amount of hay rides and pumpkin patches. And much to my dismay, the celebration of all things fall and, more importantly, pumpkin, seems to be a purely American invention. I have found no scarecrows or décor in England. A very limited selection of pumpkins exists, and the Halloween festivities here were rather dismal and mostly occurred at the larger clubs throughout the city. The fanfare of the pumpkin spice latte is absent, and stores displayed miniscule Halloween sections which were already being devoured by the Christmas displays. Most unfortunate, however, is the utter black hole in the British holiday season that is left by the absence of Thanksgiving. It breaks my heart that these people have no idea what they are missing. When Haylee’s mom visited recently, we even tried to find ourselves turkey to have an early Thanksgiving dinner. Alas, only turkey steaks were to be found and we had to make do with chicken. It was an exceptional dinner, all the same.

It’s interesting to find out what you miss when you are away from home for so very long. Late night nachos at Denny’s with your best friends. Knowing exactly where everything is in the LaVale Wal-Mart. The scenic autumn drive to Frostburg via 936. Even siblings. However, through the grace of Snapchat, I have been able to maintain communication in that department. I think I’ll be ready to come home when the time comes on January 16th. It will be a bittersweet moment. I’m convinced that I will come back to my favorite haunts in Europe and entirely new places, as well. In January, however, you’re more likely to find me at the Outback Steakhouse, where Ms. Wilson and I will be catching up on four months’ worth of A1 steak sauce and ranch dressing. See you there.

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