02 July 2012

Pubs: The Red Lion (Lacock)

28 May 2012 - The Red Lion, Lacock, Wiltshire

Our visit to this pub was part of a Mad Max tour from Bath to Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock, and Castle Combe.  It's been a lifelong ambition of mine to see Stonehenge and so it was really great to be able to do so, even though the weather was pretty miserable!  Avebury, a lesser known stone circle was also a really interesting site.  The tour stopped in the picturesque village of Lacock for lunch and the Red Lion was one of the suggested pubs.  We initially were going to try to go to The George Inn because it dates back to the 1300s (ridic!) but it was far too packed and we ended up at The Red Lion instead.

The Red Lion

Lacock is unique because it is made to appear as though it is straight out of another time.  You don't see utility wires or other modern innovations on the roadways because the village is often used for films and the film companies paid to have all the wiring put underground.

The Red Lion

Anyhoo, the pub itself was quite busy and we were lucky to get a table when we did.  It ended up getting packed shortly thereafter.  To eat, I had the fried halloumi and chips.  Halloumi is a type of mild cheese that doesn't really melt and is good when fried or sautéed.  I'd never heard of it before moving here, but it's fairly common and can sometimes be found deep fried on menus as "vegetarian fish and chips."  My vegetarian fish and chips were just ok.  I would have to say that this meal might have marked the beginning of my disillusionment with British pub food.  This was back in May.  It is now July, and the disillusionment continues.  It's just a lot of heavy, starchy blandness, and I'm just over it.

The Red Lion

The Red Lion

I had a pint of the Swordfish.  Took a while to get through, so not a fave.

08 June 2012

Pubs: Nell of Old Drury

24 April 2012 - Nell of Old Drury, Covent Garden, London

I visited this pub on a Tuesday prior to an American expat burger dinner in London.  I met up with a couple of expat friends right when the pub opened at 5:00pm.

The place was super cute.  The ground floor was very tiny (more seating is available upstairs) but since we were the first people in the place when it opened for its evening hours, we got the choice velvet bench by the window.

Nell of Old Drury 2

I had a pint of Wandle.  One of my friends had a super expensive cider (almost £5 I think).

Nell of Old Drury 3

We had a nice chat for about an hour.  The girls I was with are a little bit louder than me and thus sound a little bit more typically American, especially in a small and empty place, so... I think we made an impression.

Nell of Old Drury 4

This pub is neat because it apparently has an underground tunnel connecting it to the theatre across the street.  This tunnel was allegedly used by Charles II for secret rendezvous with mistress and pub namesake, actress Nell Gwynne.  Shocking!

Nell of Old Drury 5

I liked this pub.  It was a bit pricey, but on par with other Covent Garden pubs.  I think I'll be back sometime, maybe for a pre-theatre pint.

07 June 2012

Pubs: The Barley Mow

18 April 2012 - The Barley Mow, Marylebone, London

Damn, I'm behind on these!  But have no fear, I have been faithfully visiting at least one new pub every week.  I have some serious catch up blogging to do!

I stopped by The Barley Mow in Marylebone after my first visit to the US Embassy.  The Embassy was an experience in itself, but a good one overall.  Security was, understandably, a little intense.  But once I got past security, the Embassy staff was super nice and helpful.

Anyhoo, The Barley Mow was on my way back to the tube, so I ducked in for an afternoon brew.

The Barley Mow

I took it easy, it being about 3:00pm and all, and had a half pint of the John Smith's Extra Cold.

The Barley Mow

I'm always interested to see who is at a pub in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday.  Usual there's a regular or two and maybe one or two randoms like me.  That day I got a couple of stares from the regular in residence, but it didn't rise to the level of staring that annoys me.

The Barley Mow

Apparently The Barley Mow was shot at during a terrorist attack against a neighboring hotel in 1976. Scary stuff!

The Barley Mow

Although I had a nice time at the pub, and enjoyed my half pint, The Barley Mow didn't really stand out to me, and I probably won't be back.

The Barley Mow

12 May 2012

Pubs: Lamb & Flag

12 April 2012 - Lamb & Flag, Westminster, London

I met an American expat friend at the Lamb & Flag in Westminster for a pre-dinner pint.  As per usual, pre-dinner drinks take place right around the same time as the post-work pub rush, so the pub was full to the brim and spilling out into the street.


This pub is allegedly the oldest pub in Covent Garden.  Like most old pubs it has a dark and convoluted wood beam interior that can get almost oppressive when packed with people.  I procured a pint of Peroni and we headed upstairs in hopes of finding a table.


The Peroni was pretty good.  What was not good was the lady at the next table who stared at me and my friend the whole freaking time we were there.  Okay lady, we're in the middle of London, is it really that unusual to hear two Americans talking to each other?  I suppressed my usual, don't-stare-at-me scowl, since I was with company.


I probably won't go back to this pub.  It didn't really stand out enough to me to warrant a repeat visit.  

11 May 2012

Pubs: King Henry VIII

7 April 2012 - King Henry VIII, Hever, Kent

We visited this pub in Kent after spending a Saturday afternoon at Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn's childhood home.  This was my first actual castle experience since being here, now that I think about it.  And it was a good one.  Hever Castle is a good starter castle, if you will.  It's not too big, but still there's a lot to see, it has beautiful gardens, it's associated with a historical figure I actually know.  Definitely a good day trip.


The pub was fairly busy at about 6:00 on a Saturday evening, so there weren't too many free tables.  My husband wanted to sit in the quieter back room area, and so we put our stuff down there before heading to the bar.  This resulted in us being chased down by a staff member telling us that the table is reserved (there wasn't a sign out).  And that's fine, no problem.  But then, as we gathered our things, the staff member continued to make several loud and overly effusive statements of explanation and apology which really just made the whole situation about 5 times more awkward than it needed to be.  It's like okay, no biggie, I'll just find another table.  No need to make a scene.


After we re-seated ourselves, I procured a pint of the Master Brew.  I can't really recall what I thought of it, but I think it was a little bitter for me... maybe.  It's been awhile, but I don't recall liking it in particular.  We had some bar snacks and a pate and cheese board, I think.  All I know is I was starving so any food would have tasted divine to me at that point.


I liked the pub overall.  It had great ambience, with tons of candles everywhere and even a dog or two (always a plus).  Doubt I'll be back over this way anytime soon, but I'd recommend the pub to anyone visiting Hever Castle.


08 May 2012

Pubs: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

3 April 2012 - Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Temple, London

The last pub on our Hidden Pubs of Old London Town walk was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub.  This pub was also hidden back behind some buildings and accessed through an alleyway.  It was a very cool and very old pub with lots of levels and dark tucked away rooms.


Allegedly Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain drank here.  I had a Samuel Smith Pure Brewed Lager.


I really liked the vibe of this pub and would go back to explore more of the hidden dungeon-y rooms and find out more about its history.

Pubs: Old Bank of England

3 April 2012 - Old Bank of England, Temple, London

The next stop on our Hidden Pubs of Old London Town walk was The Old Bank of England pub.  We entered through a random door in a back alley.  I'm hoping there's another entrance, because otherwise I may never find this place again!  The pub is, unsurprisingly, an Old Bank of England building that was turned into a pub.  A gorgeous pub.  I mean, c'mon:


I was really blown away.  It was just lovely.


Unfortunately, we could only stay for 20 minutes since we were on the tour.  I had just enough time to enjoy a half pint of Discovery and a chat with a fellow Meetuper.


I'll definitely be back if I can find it!

Pubs: The Devereux

3 April 2012 - The Devereux, Temple, London

I'm getting pretty behind on these!  The next three pubs were part of a London Tours guided walk, The Hidden Pubs of Old London Town, that I did with an American Expat Meetup group.  The walk unfortunately coincided with the first very rainy day of Spring, but no matter.  We still had a good time!


The first pub we visited was The Devereux, which was tucked back behind some law buildings.  I had a half pint of Young's because we were only there for about 20 minutes.  The pub wasn't too busy and could handle the influx of about 25 people.  It didn't really stand out to me in any way though, and I probably won't be back.


21 April 2012

Pubs: The Assembly Rooms

30 March 2012 - The Assembly Rooms, Epsom, Surrey


The husband and I visited The Assembly Rooms in Epsom on a Friday night.  We rented a car for the weekend and headed up to Epsom for something we can't get in our town: sushi!  The sushi restaurant wasn't open for dinner yet by the time we arrived, so we took a walk around the center of town and ended up at The Assembly Rooms.  This is another JD Wetherspoon pub and its building allegedly dates back to the late 17th century.  I ordered a pint of the Daleside Monkey Wrench.


As soon as I walked up to the bar and discreetly took the above picture with my phone, this old guy at the bar kept staring at me for the full amount of time it took for my husband and I to order, get served, and pay.  Which leads me to:

I find that some people here in England have a serious staring problem.  Are they not taught as children that it's rude to stare?  I don't get it.  I'm not a big, loud, draws-a-lot-of-attention-to-myself stereotypical American either, not that that would justify it.  Does my snapping a quick pic with my phone really justify that level of staring/rudeness?  I usually respond to the stares by screwing my face into a scowl and muttering "can I help you?" under my breath.  My husband says that my reaction is snobby, but I don't care.  I don't like being stared at.  /tangent 

Anyhoo, the Monkey Wrench was enjoyable and the pub was spacious with lots of light.  I don't know if I'll be back anytime soon, but maybe the next time I'm in Epsom I'll stop by.

Pubs: The Spotted Dog

28 March 2012 -  The Spotted Dog, Dorking, Surrey


I visited The Spotted Dog in Dorking on a Wednesday afternoon for lunch with an American expat friend.  This was my first trip into Dorking and I found the town to be very quaint and charming.  We sat out on the back patio to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather (70 F!).  I had a bacon, brie, and cranberry baguette and a pint of Kronenbourg 1664.  Both were delightful.  The pub was moderately busy at lunchtime, and, as per usual, when we started up our conversation in our American accents we got a few curious looks from the locals, but nothing too bad.


The pub has tables out in a beer garden area that seems lovely.  I'll definitely be back when the warm weather returns!

05 April 2012

Pubs: The Cask & Glass

22 March 2012 -  The Cask & Glass, Victoria, London

On our way to dinner with an expat group in London, we stopped by The Cask & Glass in Victoria.  We found it following my sophisticated pub-locating technique of searching "pub" on my phone when we've arrived somewhere.  No matter where you are, there's one nearby.


The building was undergoing some type of construction, so there was scaffolding up around the front of the building and I couldn't really get a good look at it.  The inside of the place was tiiiiiny.  It could maybe seat 10 people?  We joined the throng standing outside.  I had an Early Bird, the fella had a Spitfire.  The Early Bird was a little hoppy for me, so it took me a while to finish.

flare-iphoto-export-355264116 Untitled

Ladies, if you're looking to meet a British businessman, this is the place for you.  I think there were 2 other women in the entire place.  Banger-fest!


30 March 2012

Pubs: The Plough

14 March 2012 - The Plough, Redhill, Surrey

After my afternoon at The Jolly Brickmakers I went to The Plough in Redhill for a pub quiz night.  Two pubs in one day... don't judge me!


I was concerned that British pub quiz would be totally over my head, and I wasn't entirely wrong.  I didn't know any of the sports stuff or British movie/TV references and my geography was pretty rusty.  My big contribution was solving the anagram and identifying some of the celebrities.  But it was a good time overall.  The pub was cute and quaint and the crowd was very enthusiastic.


I had a London Pride.  Not bad.


29 March 2012

Accents and Britspeak

People back home keep asking me if I've developed an English accent yet. I laugh and say no, of course not. And of course I haven't, but I recently met an American who has been in the UK for several years who has definitely developed a mild British accent. It's interesting that some people are just more susceptible to picking up accents. I don't believe I'm one of those people, but maybe I'll find out that I am in a few years.

I do find myself using more British terminology on a day-to-day basis. And it's not really a function of trying to blend in, but rather an effort to have people understand me more easily and to draw less attention to myself. For example, today I was planning to drop off a note at a neighbor's house (the neighbor signed for a package of ours). I wrote it out once in American English, and then rewrote it in British English. This involved replacing "neighbor" with "neighbour," "package" with "parcel," "call me at" with "ring me on," and "pick up" with "collect." Four substitutions in a three sentence note! I'm sure I would have been fine with the American version, but I figured it was less conspicuous to just try and write it in Britspeak.

My husband is from a commonwealth country, and so it's also interesting to hear him dropping his American English and reverting back to Britspeak. It's happening pretty fast! By the time I'm next in the US (several months away), maybe I'll be amusing/annoying my friends and family with my talk of "loos," "flats," "hiring cars," etc.

28 March 2012

Pubs: The Jolly Brickmakers

14 March 2012 - The Jolly Brickmakers, Redhill, Surrey


I stopped at The Jolly Brickmakers to meet up with an acquaintance for an afternoon pint.  I arrived quite early, and so I was flying solo for about half an hour.  The afternoon crowd was definitely all regulars who knew each other, and as such, I got a few curious, but not unfriendly, glances.  I think I had a half pint of a guest ale.  But I don't remember which one, and I felt too conspicuous to take a picture of the label like I usually do.  Here it is in the glass:


My guest arrived and we had a nice chat.  Not a bad afternoon at the pub.

24 March 2012

Pubs: The Camden Head

6 March 2012 - The Camden Head, Islington, London

I visited the Camden Head in London on a Tuesday evening.  I intended to visit The York, but due to my ill-timed train trip into London, I found The York to be completely packed by the time I arrived around 5:00pm.  There was nary an empty table or bar stool in the joint, so I did a quick 180 and scampered back out onto the cobblestones.  I figured if I continued to walk down the alley in the same direction I was bound to run into another pub.  You know, since they are everywhere.

Down the alley I went.  It was a charming alley that had a pretty neat Diagon Alley-esque quality.  


I soon ran into The Camden Head.  It wasn't nearly as crowded as The York, but it was still pretty busy.  It took a hot minute to get served at the bar, even though there were only a couple of people in front of me.  I looked around for a food menu or menu board and didn't spot one, so no food for me.  I ended up ordering an Old Speckled Hen. 

The only seats available downstairs were at the bar, and I actually had a bit of writing to do, so I went upstairs to find a table.   Upstairs it was pretty much me and my beer, and a couple who were having a heated discussion at a low volume in the opposite corner.


I nursed the hell out of that beer.  It took me forever to make progress on it, I don't know why.  In the meantime, the couple in the corner made up, and then proceeded to silently hug for a good 5 minutes.  It was bizarre.  I'm pretty sure they would have been making out if I hadn't been there.  Sorry y'all.


My husband eventually met up with me and helped me finish my beer.  Then we headed off into the lamplight.


05 March 2012

Making Friends, UK Style

Ahh friends.  I miss having friends.  Things have been fairly slow in the friend-making department.  I moved here from the US not knowing anyone but my husband and my dogs... and my social circle still pretty much consists of my husband and my dogs.  I've been here less than two months though, so I know that I'm still very new, and I can't expect to just instantly have a group of girlfriends.  But, not gonna lie, it would be nice.  I do miss having friends you can call up at the last minute to join you for a margarita or glass of wine and/or other silly stuff like at-home manicures and reality TV.

In the past few years in the US, we moved around a lot.  I think I've become fairly adept at meeting people and making new friends.  I know that it takes time.  Making friends is a lot like dating.  You don't want to come on too strong, or be too pushy and freak the other person out.  But you still have to show interest and put forth effort.

As an adult, it can be hard to meet people who are open to new friendships.  The easiest avenues for friend-making, school and work, aren't happening here either.  My formal school days are long over, and I'm not working here yet (a subject for a future post).  But I'm doing what I can.  I'm joining Meetup groups, taking an adult education class, and volunteering.  Meetup.com has been very good to me in the past.  I've met some really wonderful people through that site, and hopefully that will hold true here as well.  I've joined some American expat Meetup groups in London, and I've started a couple of local Meetups, so we'll see what happens with that.

Hanging out with Americans has been nice, but I don't want to only have American friends here.  That would kind of defeat the purpose of moving to another country.  Plus, there aren't very many Americans here in my small town, and I really would love to have some local friends.  So I'm trying to factor British reservedness into my friend-making approach.  Don't want to freak them out with my eagerness and my super friendly Texan-ness.  That's kind of a joke, because back home I'm considered pretty quiet and reserved.  I usually have to consciously make myself more open and assertive when I'm meeting new people.  Hopefully I'll figure out how to strike the right balance here.

04 March 2012

Pubs: The Good Yarn

1 March 2012 - The Good Yarn, Uxbridge, Middlesex


My husband had a business meeting up in Uxbridge, so I took a late morning train up to meet him.  I'd never been to that area, so I had a wander up Uxbridge's High Street and stopped at The Good Yarn for a late lunch.  The place was completely packed when I arrived.  I attribute this to the "Thursday Curry Club" and the fact that it was St. David's Day, which meant there were some specials.  The crowd was quite mixed, ranging from kids in their late teens or early twenties, to some very old folks.  I found the only empty table and claimed it with my jacket before going up to the bar to order my food (no table service at most pubs).  I'm ashamed to say that this was the first time I have ordered my own food or drinks at a pub since arriving in the UK.  On my other pub trips, I've been with my husband, so I'm the table claimer, while he's the orderer/payer.  The informal system of waiting at the bar is interesting.  It's kind of just an honor system for whoever is supposed to be served next.  I must say, even in this packed pub, it worked pretty well.  I ordered a sweet potato, spinach, and chickpea curry and a Tuborg.  Not too shabby for £5.59.  It was all quite good actually.  I was amused by the mango chutney that came in its own pre-packaged little tub.



This pub is another J D Wetherspoon pub (like The Sun in Redhill), and so it has the same crazy drinks menu I described in my Sun review.  I took some pics this time, though.  :)




Eventually my husband joined me and partook of some naan and poppadoms.  By the time our leisurely lunch came to an end, the pub had emptied out considerably.  I don't know if we'll be back, but I had a nice time.