Many wonderful things about quintessential English culture compelled me to study there: The fabulous accent, the double decker buses, the fish and chips but there is so much I happily discovered that I think of as “Oh so British” that made my year positively, well, brilliant (my quintessentially British new favorite word)!
1. Afternoon Tea – The first is afternoon tea and I indulged in it as often as possible. We connect tea and Britain pretty easily from characters on TV and in film with afternoon tea being the epitome of cultures life. Well I’m happy to say it’s something I would indulge in on a whim and recommend it as often as possible. In Canterbury, where I studied at the University of Kent, my favorite places were Tiny Tim’s Tearoom off the High Street (and not only is the tea delightful and yummy you also get to boast having eaten in the most haunted building in Canterbury), and in the center of the city is the charming Moat Tearooms with scrumptious sweets and the best toast and marmalade I’ve ever had. And be sure to visit their secret garden for an extra special afternoon! In London and pretty much anywhere in the British Isles you can find a tea room to rave about and if you fancy doing a spot of sightseeing while you indulge in tea sandwiches and a decadent scone with clotted cream be sure to book at B-Bakery’s afternoon tea bus tour.
2. Charity Shops – Charity shops have become a bit of a joyous obsession and you’ll find at least one if not, like Canterbury, more than 10 just in the city center alone. The charities they raise money for range from finding cures for cancer to providing housing and food for the homeless and animal protection. And because I didn’t bring very much with me when I left for England I was able to stock my dorm kitchen and room with essentials, buy rain gear and countless articles of clothing all for affordable prices while giving back to the community in my new home. For the best in Charity shops check out this article.
3. Local Markets – For more fun shopping opportunities as wells as great places to people watch I found myself drawn to local markets that ranged from pop up weekend events to daily arts and themed markets. In Canterbury there are daily markets along the High Street and in small lots behind or in between cobbled streets offering local produce, clothing, antiques and housewares at affordable prices. In London I can spend all day on the weekends going from market to market in beautiful old buildings or covered, open-air markets selling crafts and food, jewelry, vintage clothing and electronics. My favorites are Covent Garden, The Old Spitalfield and Greenwich Market. It’s a great opportunity to explore different neighborhoods enjoying the unique culinary offerings and all the different cultural venues near each one. When getting to know the City, I would customize a day or two by planning to visit a market and then explore the local museums, galleries and walking tours near each and before I knew it I’d gotten to know and love so much beyond the traditional tourist areas. A helpful article for the best of London markets go to. And if you find yourself in Britain around the Christmas holiday season you’ll be treated to even more market offerings some that will mirror German and Eastern European markets and others that will be quintessentially “Oh so British.”
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