It’s always hard to say goodbye to England. Knowing that we won’t be seeing friends and family again for a little while is never a pleasant thought.
These are our last few days in the UK before we head back to the short, chilly days of the Australian winter. There’s still time to get a few more good meals in, see some cool things and spend a bit more quality time with a few special people.
In this Weekly Edition, Christina gets in one more quick trip to London, we go deep into the beautiful Essex countryside and we strap in for our flight home.
While Jim’s getting some quality time in with his mum and dad, I’ve popped into the city to catch up with my dear friend from school, who lives in London.
I do love London and I always make sure I get into town as much as possible when Jim and I are in the UK. There’s something about this great city I just can’t get enough of.
Perhaps it’s scenes like this. Double decker buses, and a huge corner store for walking sticks and umbrellas. Is there anything more British?
First stop on this trip to London is to the Tate Modern. A new exhibition by Olafur Eliasson is on and ever since seeing his installations in Sydney, I’ve been curious about his work.
This current display covers his early work as well his his exploration on society and climate change. It’s interactive and great for all ages though it can get busy at peak times, which can impact the experience of his art.
You have plenty of time to catch this as it’s on until January 2020 and well worth a visit.
The Tate has a range of bars and restaurants and if you head to the Kitchen & Bar on level 6, you’ll get this sweeping view of the Thames and St Paul’s. It’s a venue we’re definitely adding to our list of unique perspectives of London.
My friend and I take a seat in the restaurant and plan our next move.
The food and drinks options in the bar here are surprisingly good. So often, the offerings at such popular tourist spots can really let a place down. Thankfully, not with the Tate.
London in the summertime is one of the happiest places on earth. With blue skies above, we head out on foot to explore nearby Borough Market and mingle with the tourist crowds.
I’m definitely putting together a post of some of our fave London spots but if I can suggest one thing it’s to explore on foot. The tube is efficient but you end up coming across the best finds when you just wander.
All too soon, my London jaunt comes to an end though. Thankfully, there are good things waiting for me back with Jim, east from the city…
Now that Christina’s back from her trip to London, she’s keen to get a bit more of the countryside before we head home to Sydney. Where my parents live in Suffolk, the fields and woodland here are beautiful.
Early this morning, Christina’s decided to go for a wander and has discovered these sheep, all standing in a row watching her. It’s somewhere between being quite picturesque and a little unsettling.
Perhaps these sheep have heard that there’s a pub nearby called the Shoulder of Mutton!
It’s our last full day with our amazing friends Clare and Dave. Unfortunately, Dave’s had to go to work today, but we’ve brought Clare out for a spot of lunch at the Wooden Fender. This pub, near the village of Ardleigh in Essex, has been here forever and has always done good food.
My Sausage and mash is delicious, made with all locally sourced ingredients. The Wooden Fender’s menu is great, but its weekday lunchtime specials are a real win.
We somehow convince ourselves that dessert is a good idea even though all three of us are stuffed.
It turns out we’re right though, especially when Clare’s creme brulee comes out looking like this, still flaming and sizzling.
As if we haven’t eaten enough, I’ve decided to make moussaka for dinner with my signature rosemary roast potatoes and a Greek salad.
The reason for the moussaka is that Dave roasted a 2kg leg of lamb on the charcoal barbecue for dinner last night and there’s still over half left. I’ve chopped up the meat into fairly small pieces then cooked it for about 3 hours in a tomato base recipe by Rick Stein.
The result is the meat is still in chunks, but when you touch the pieces, they fall apart. It’s better than the traditional mince method and really worth trying… the next time you happen to have a kilo of charcoal barbecued lamb leg hanging about!
We leave Clare and Dave’s – our home from home – feeling quite sad. But our mood lifts when we get to my mum and dad’s place, where we’ll be spending our last night.
We’re driving deep into the countryside for lunch. The country lanes through Suffolk and Essex are just so beautiful. My dad calls this the tunnel road – and for good reason. The embankments either side of the road are over eight feet high and the trees knit together above us.
Even more amazing is this is a two-way street. Thankfully no cars are coming the other way today.
And here’s our lunch spot – The Henny Swan in the hamlet of Henny on the Essex-Suffolk border. I haven’t been back here since I was a boy, and it’s still as pretty as I remember.
Mum and Dad both say the pub’s changed a bit, but not for the worse, which is usually the case. It’s a curse my dad suffers from all the time where he takes us to a pub he loved going to years before and it’s either shut or has been turned into a McDonald’s.
Not The Henny Swan though. This is still a wonderful place to come for a bit to eat next to the river, deep in the Stour Valley.
The food at The Henny Swan is still excellent. Mum’s garlic-roasted flatfield mushroom with a herb crust and stuffed with toasted goat’s cheese is a work of art. The drizzle of pesto and balsamic really mades the dish.
My dad has the chargrilled polenta steak with a capsicum coulis and chips, and Christina goes for the chickpea and felafel burger with sweet potato fries.
They’re both good, but are they as good as my juicy 6oz smoky cheeseburger? The paprika mayo and hand-cut chips make it a worthy contender for some food envy at the table.
After lunch, we wander around by the river and the pub’s unique beer garden.
From here you can catch a ferry along the Stour all the way to Sudbury. Even better, there’s a kayaking trip you can take – a round trip of about four miles – to Sudbury. I think Christina and I might have a look at that next time we’re here.
It’s been a lovely trip back to the UK. We’ve managed to spend some real quality time with my mum and dad.
All aboard. The time’s finally come for us to fly home to the winter. Our first flight from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi is only around seven hours, but is not very comfortable.
The plane is cramped and quite old, and the service, quality of food and entertainment options have really taken a hit on what must be budget cuts at Etihad Airways. Perhaps the second leg will be better.
Whether it’s because we’ve slept more this flight – the 13 hours from Abu Dhabi to Sydney – or the fact I’ve got a window seat, the second flight is a bit better.
The service, food and entertainment are the same (even down to meal options) and the plane is if anything even older than the first. Either way, I don’t think we’ll be flying with Etihad again.
It’s good to be home, in spite missing our family and friends already. Arriving early in the morning has meant we’ve had to fill the day to stay awake.
Christina’s been to her hairdresser Stevie English for a cut a colour, while I’ve been shopping a running errands.
Now we’re regrouping at our local – the East Village in Balmain – for a couple of beers and dinner. Steak, salt and pepper squid and a bucket of chips. Perfect!
This morning, the jet lag begins its tiresome routine of waking me up too early. Christina has slept well though and makes me come out to look at Sydney Harbour in the daylight.
It’s good to get some fresh air, but now I’ve done that, it’s time for the sofa and my new binge-watch on Netflix: The Last Kingdom. Christina doesn’t like it, but that’s ok.
If you’re interested in Britain’s early history, vikings and Alfred the Great’s efforts to unify England, this is your disco.
We hope you’ve enjoyed following us round the UK and Europe through our Weekly Editions. There’s more to come and, of course, what we get up to now we’re back in Sydney.
See you next time.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx