Toddling About England~ Christmas 2013

When in England, do as the Brits do and drink lots and lots of tea, then try a British accent, throw in words like “drop, splash, dribble” and eat everything in sight until your stomach hurts!

It was going to be hard to swing a trip back to the States for Christmas so I spent my first holidays away from home at Jenni’s in Droitwich, England. It was hard being away from my family over the holidays (especially my mom’s amazing cooking) but they made me feel like a long lost American cousin. haha!

Obligatory Red Phone Box England Picture… I want to be an honorary Brit!

Red Phone Booth-Bourton on the Water2

My journey started with last minute pretrip planning with the Frenchman over gingerbread men with missing legs and heads, and the very important decision of how I would get to the airport. Very important in the fact that I’ve missed my fair share of flights. Going on 5-6 perhaps, maybe more? I’ve conveniently lost track. So in this case we decided the best plan since my flight was at 8:30 and the metro would get me there at 7:30 was to take a taxi.

I think I double checked that I had my passport about 10 times. But around 1am, I was ready!

Day 1: Up at 4:30am… The taxi arrived at 5:15am, the driver did a double take bahahahaha, loaded up my suitcase and I was on my way listening to Louis Armstrong watching a sleepy Paris wake up. Good morning! 🙂

The airport looked dead until we got to my terminal. I could see lines of people through the glass windows. I called ahead the day before after trying to check-in online and getting a warning message that my booking didn’t exist. I swear. Something always happens! haha!

I had booked through flybe but because of their merger, I was actually flying with AirFrance and there was some sort of disconnect taking place. The customer service though assured me that I was on the flight and just needed to check-in at the airport.

But at the airport, the electronic check-in machine wasn’t finding my ticket either… hmm I was kinda glad that I was a little more than two hours early. I was soon ushered to the longgggg bag check-in line and ended up twiddling my thumbs and inching forward for an hour.

At the counter, the lady asked for my reservation details and gave me a weird look, she wasn’t finding my reservation either. A long chat with headquarters and I was good to go! Thank god she didn’t weigh my bag though. hahaha! I’d repacked about 6 times the night before to get to the size requirements and there was absolutely no way I was meeting the weight requirement. I whizzed through security and was left with about 30 minutes to spare before boarding where I watched not 1 but 6 people run up to a gate that had just closed. ugh!!

A short hour plane ride later and I was in England where they say crumbly and nom nom and twissels (ok I made the last one up).

Apricot Crumbly

It was rainy, cold, windy, and oh so Englandy. haha! Jenni assured me about 3 times that it was not normally rainy (I naturally didn’t believe her) and it proceeded to rain for about 4 of the 7 days I was there. tehehe!

Jenni’s dad, the most awesome dry stylish British man I’ve ever met carried my bag to the car, and after the usual amount of laughing in the car with Jenni in the backseat he turned around and said “Now we are not going to have this giggling all week are we?” tehehe And then we proceeded to hear about the history of Droitwich, Birmingham (not pronounced like the one in Alabama) and Worcester for the next 30 minutes, complete with a driving tour of the itty bitty town that took two minutes, a description of a French chateau that was built for someone’s French wife on the outskirts of town years ago and the man-made (emphasis on man-made) landscaping to go along with it.

Highstreet in Droitwich with slanted buildings because the salt from the ground was removed causing the buildings to sink a bit and slant!

Droitwich HighStreet

First order of business after a tour of the house, TEA! How did I take my tea? Well I learned to drink tea from Jenni so I insisted- you are the experts!

Sitting at the ridiculously cute Cath Kidston tablecloth I was brought British specialties to go along with my tea for breakfast. Each came complete with the same question- Do you have this in America! No? Try it! Which I enthusiastically replied- Yesssss!!!! Which meant a mini mince pie, two types of biscuits (aka. cookies- one chocolate marshmallow and one ginger…or multiple ginger), toast (after a debate on which bread I should have), and chocolate for breakfast. My tummy was happy!! tehehe 

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For the ginger cookie, I was given a demonstration for how long to dunk it in my tea and warned that this was not the correct tea for this biscuit which meant that the flavor of the tea would probably change. 😀 Zut! I didn’t find out what tea the gingersnap cookies go best with though!!! You totally should try this!

An amazing lunch, some apartment drama, and the two pastry chefs were in the house (Jenni had told me her dad was looking for a lot of baking this week)! It was time to make a log cake!

But first… more tea!

tea break

With tea there was always two choices, regular tea (Breakfast- the tea maker gets to choose the type) or green tea. Pick green tea and choose from three options (vanilla, almond, lemon).

Tea time

I thought log cakes were more of a French Christmas tradition (Buche de Noel) but we had three log cakes that week and ours was by far the best. bahahaha! Just wait for the final picture. You would be impressed at our pastry skills and patisserie diploma. 😉

Jenni and her sister Jo had decided to snaze up the usual log cake this year and instead of the normal chocolate and vanilla roll, ours was going to be black forest. yummm!

Chocolate sponge cake…! Molly-Log Cake

Folding! I did not wake up at 4:30am! Tea is re-energizing!

Sponge Cake

Baked! and Filled with whipped cream and cherries!

Log Cake pre Ganache

It’s a wrap! or a roll! Or a log!

Chocolate Ganache - Log Cake   IMG_6556

That chocolate ganache is not flowing over the sides! I told you, we’re professionals! hahaha

Then we were off to the first of what would be four massive Christmas dinners… Christmas Eve Eve at Jenni’s friends house! Ah they were so cute! The four of them have been doing this for almost 10 years now!

Christmas Eve Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve Eve with Jenni2

and oh my gosh Sara is one heck of a cook!! Three or four types of canapes then turkey, roasted veg, mashed potatoes, pigs in a blanket! Cocktails! oh and Uno! 😀 tehehe We might have left before her parents got back home, but we were party animals!

Day 2: Christmas Eve!!!

I think I slept in a bit? haha because by the time I got downstairs all of Jenni’s family had already had breakfast. But what did I get? A choice of two different kinds of butter and 5 possible jams! So of course I tried them all on one piece of toast! with tea. Loved the lemon curd and honey. 😀

breakfast-england

Then we went to Stratford Upon Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace because you just have too! and the town is crazy cute. We took ridiculous photos in front of Shakespeare’s family home (well I did) and then strolled about the cute streets doing a bit of shopping!

Shakespeare's Birthplace-Stratford

Stratford Stratford-Knitted Tree

Knitted patchwork on a tree! Stratford-Swans Jenni and Joe-Stratford Canal

Stratford-Fish and Chips Spot   Winter Warmers-Stratford Santa Window Display-Stratford Christmas Tree-Stratford Stratford Christmas Lights Jenni -Stratford Store Window

When we got back to Jenni’s house, Christmas Eve dinner was in full prep mode! Gammon, potatoes, green beans…! Whoever said British cooking was not good, has not tried Jenni’s moms cooking! whoa! Now I could never say it was better than my mom’s cooking (the blasphemy!) but wow! so delicious. I think I was in a food coma the entire trip.

Christmas Eve Dinner

Then we drank mulled wine and watched Christmas Vacation… 😀

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Day 3: Christmas Day!! I think Jenni and I were the last ones up again. oopss!! Jenni’s dad was playing Christmas songs on the piano, Jo was super excited about opening presents, Jenni was rotating spectacular Christmas jumpers, and of course there was tea out of the cutest teacup.

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Jenni’s parents were so sweet and had put together a stocking for me! and then it was round and round as each family member opened a present~ such a great tradition! There were tons of British TV DVD sets that I’d never heard of but that cracked me up.

A bit of a break and it was time for Christmas lunch!! The third massive meal in a row. Jenni had prepared me before I left and I think my stomach had stretched because I was starving at this point! haha! Jenni and I’s stomachs had started making super weird noises every night at this point.

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Turkey, potatoes, green peas, yorkshire pudding (this was taken pre-gravy), brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, and of course Jenni’s British stuffing! I’d never had Yorkshire pudding but I LOVED it!! It’s a light batter (almost like pancake or waffle batter) baked in a bowl shape, and then filled with gravy. Jenni’s dad is from Yorkshire so they are absolutely necessary at Christmas dinner. 😀

oh and did I mention the torte I’d heard about every day since arriving in England? oh ya… that good! There was mince pie of as well.

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A late night present opening with the fam via Skype 😀 then, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey Christmas Special watching at Laura’s with Snowballs and mulled wine!

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Please note my older sister’s hairband. haha!

Day 4: Boxing Day!! I forgot to ask Jenni’s dad were this came from, especially after being told that I was absolutely not allowed to ask him while any siblings were in the room, pending a very long story. So I looked it up. And of course the American in me first thought boxing, as in two guys in a ring boxing. oops It comes from a tradition with a box. There are a couple of different possible meanings but essentially a Christmas present in England can be called a “Christmas Box.” It possibly came from when servants were given the day off after Christmas to go home to their families to open “Christmas Boxes” or it could have to do with sailors who for good luck put money in a box on board which would be opened on Christmas and the money inside given to the poor if the voyage was a success. The other possibility is a box put in churches on Christmas to collect money for the poor which was then opened the next day.

Jenni and I ran to the store to get veggies in the morning and just missed a hunt going through the village. Yes.. a hunt! Like red coats, hounds, horses, possibly chasing a fox? Everyone was in wellies, outdoor coats, and those crazy cute flat plaid hats the older men in the UK always wear that I love so much.

In England, Boxing Day is a time to spend with family, so that’s what we did complete with more tea, and more amazing food (chicken curry and rice~nom!) and stories about an Aunt’s chickens called Betty and Doris.

Now might be a great time to say that even though I speak English and love to speak in a British accent when I’m around Jenni to prove that yes I should have been invited to see the Duchess of Cambridge with her, I was struggling sometimes with understanding the Brits. Particularly funny was learning new words like toddle.

Before I left, Jenni and I discussed the different meanings of pants in England and America. America=trousers, England=undies bahahaha So I made sure I said “pants” as many times as possible while I was there.

The night ended with me looking at maps of England with Jenni’s dad and pictures of a sword designed by Jenni’s grandparents. Oh and getting a history lesson on several different small villages near them that we would be visiting the next day. tehe

Day 5: A Trip to the Cotswolds~ My parents were SO jealous! They are huge Britophiles and before I’d left had looked up where Droitwich was and told me you have to go to the Cotswolds!!!  The Cotswolds are small oh so British looking villages in west-central England. Umbrella in hand Jo, Jenni, and I set out. ps- I had to say all of the town names multiple times in a British accent.

Up first Bourton on the Water, known for it’s canals through cute little houses and often called the “Venice of Cotswolds” as I learned last night. It is also the home of the Model Village, an exact replica of the town at 1/9th the size that was even visited by the Queen.

Bourton on the Water- Map Bourton on the Water-Canal Model VIllage- Molly Joe and Jenni- Model Village Model Village Bourton on the Water- Me and Jenni

Next up! Stow on the Wold – Say it with me in your best posh British accent. tehehe

We stopped and had tea and lunch. I had a pasties (which I still think I’m pronouncing wrong- haha!). So good!!

Pasties- Stow on the Wold

Then we decided to see a castle, which was really a tower, but I’m calling it a castle because castles are cool.

It was really windy, and cold, and wet, and we almost got blown away.

Tower- Cotswolds Tower- Cotswolds- Close up

Sheep-Cotwolds

And there were sheep and English countryside. 🙂

Then on to Broadway which ended up being my favorite village we visited with stone mushroom stools, horses, and houses covered in vines.

Broadway- Cute house Broadway-houses Broadway-Mushroom Stools horses- Broadway Broadway Broadway-Veg Stand Broadway- Horse and Hound Broadway- Sleeping Dog

Later that night we met up with Sara, Laura, and Vickie at a pub, drank three bottles of white wine, and then went into Worcester and well it was a typical night out if you know my nights out… somehow I passed as a Brit for a bit? hahaha

Which lead to Day 6 and a very late start. j’ai mal a la tété! Jenni’s dad, sister, and brother headed to a rugby match to root for the Worcester Warriors (rah rah rah) decked out in multiple layers and carrying hand warmers. Jenni and I tagged along to do some shopping in Worcester.

This is how Worcester looked to me.

Worcester-Lopsided

hahaha!

Worcester

Lots of fresh air, lots of stores, and we wandered into the Worcester Cathedral where Christmas trees sponsored and decorated by different companies lined the atrium.

Worcester Cathedral Worcester-Cathedral Christmas Trees

erm I think we easily shopped for five hours and probably could have stayed longer.

Back at home we made some cupcakes in our PJs! Ate leftovers and watched British comedies.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Decorated Cupcakes

Fish & chips for dinner with every imaginable sauce. 😀 So much better and greasier than the Sunken Chip in Paris (I do love that name though!!).

FishandChips

Day 7 and it was off to do more shopping and visit family in a nearby town. Jenni and I managed to buy the same shoes, after buying the same bed sheets the day before, and almost the same dress. We could have had matching outfits! On the way to her relatives, I had a driving tour by Jenni’s dad of nearby sites and an explanation of where the word “football” came from which I took notes on but now I can’t make sense of them. I thought every church was a castle, there was a homestead, and lots of hedgerows. We saw the cutest niece and nephew and cousins and then I was on a plane to head home to Paris!

It was a brilliant trip!!! I hope to be back soon!!



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