Thanksgiving from Abroad.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


My fellow American Sara and I had been plotting Thanksgiving for weeks. Her second holiday overseas and my first, we were past the idea of moping around and being sad we weren't with our families and decided to focus on making the best of the holiday here in England. 

Mental hurdle aside, there were a few obstacles we were ready for...

A. It was going to be impossible to find all of the "Thanksgiving-y" supplies. Stouffers and Betty Crocker doesn't exist here. I hadn't seen anything pumpkin flavored in weeks. 
B. It was going to be expensive – we were already scraping together money for Christmas and the hope of a mini-holiday soon. 
C. We had never been in charge of the main event back home, and didn't really know what we were doing. I've been at the kids table for 23 years and no plans on budging anytime soon. 

Wednesday rolled around and we set out around town on our quest for something that looked like Thanksgiving food. Much to our surprise, several hours and several stores later, we found just about everything. Save for pecan pie and oven baked rolls, but I'll take it.

Sweet potatoes, rolls, green beans, cranberry sauce, crunchy onions, gravy supplies, misc. toppings courtesy of Waitrose and Sainsburys
Stuffing, Kraft Mac & Cheese (our personal touch to the Thanksgiving meal) from Tesco
Turkey, ham, pies from M&S
Classy paper tablecloth, plastic serve ware, don't forget the pinecones, from Wilko

With no access to Thanksgiving day football, we played a 6-year old game from our undergrad university on repeat thanks to YouTube. We Googled metric system conversions, made British people try to label a map of the US, and Facetimed home to our families to proudly show our parents that we are maybe adults – "Look look!!! It's a turkey!!! We cooked it!!!!"

We were so busy cooking, laughing at ourselves, and watching football that we didn't have any time to feel like we were missing out on activities back home, dare I say it was One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is watching the National Dog Show with my sister, but she said she didn't even have time to watch it this year, so I didn't really miss out then, did I?

It may be a little quieter than normal here on the blog, because December + the first half of January is going to be out of control. I'm so excited to be going home in a few weeks, but it is going to be a whirlwind of Christmas, family-time, multiple weddings, events, seeing friends and family as much as possible, preparing for a new term, and trying to squeeze in some work on my impending essay deadlines. The happiest and busiest time of the year! 

Foreign Flubs #4

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

1. I had never really understood the drama behind the Marmite debate. What could taste SO specific that you can ONLY love it or hate it, nothing in between? On a trip to Waitrose, I decided it was time for me to decide for myself so I picked up the teeniest bottle, spread a bit onto a rice cake, and took a bite.

Eyes-watering, face scrunched, I spit that out as fast as I possibly could and chugged some water. Got it.

If you are a person that legitimately enjoys eating Marmite...How do you eat it? When do you crave it? What is wrong with you? (jokes...but not really)

2. I need to come up with a better response to "cheers" other than "yup" and "sorry" other than mumbling "it's okay you're fine".

3. I've finally got my tea:coffee ratio and schedule down to an art form and I found decent tasting instant coffee. I'm actually really liking the process of instant coffee because all I have to do is turn on the kettle, scoop out a bit of the coffee, and fill the mug with hot water. Bam. Coffee. No plastic waste to toss afterwards like my Keurig back home, either. Wait did I just diss my beloved Keurig?

Morning: Coffee. Sorry tea, you just don't wake me up.
Afternoon: Black tea, breakfast tea...Preferably with scones and mountains of cream.
Night: Herbal tea. Teapigs Licorice and Peppermint you are da


4. I FOUND KRAFT MAC AND CHEESE AT A TESCO AND SARA SHOWED ME WHERE TO FIND MICROWAVABLE SALTY POPCORN. I may or may not have eaten an entire box of mac and cheese the next day...

*Hilary Duff voice* "This is what drReeEEEAAAMSSsss are made of"

5. Every time I ring the bell on the bus I feel like everyone is watching me or that I pressed it at the wrong time.


6. Primark, I like you but your umbrellas are crap. I've gone through 3 in 2 months. Any recommendations for a cheap, small, not-going-to-break-when-there's-a-gentle-breeze umbrella?

7. With no Thanksgiving as the unofficial barrier between seasons, Christmas is alive and well and I am INTO IT. I went to the Bristol German Christmas Market a few days ago and it made all my dreams come true.

I think I took this around 5pm. Who needs daylight when you have sugary donuts and German sausage?

Does This Castle Have Wifi?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wale, Wale, Wale, what do we have here...

Sara (you know, that person I mention in every other post) and I hopped on a mid-morning train from Bristol to Cardiff after an eye-rolling good coffee and almond croissant from Hart's Bakery by Temple Meads. Apologies for the lack of foodography, I was clearly hungry and on a mission that morning! I'll certainly be stopping there before a train journey again and will make a point to whip out my camera.

We arrived in a packed Cardiff Central Station to learn that not only was there an international rugby game taking place in the city, but Comic Con was also happening. There were makeshift gates, security officers, comic book characters, and spirited rugby fans galore. We quickly weaved our way through the crowds onto another train 25 minutes northwest to Caerphilly – which we got a kick out of saying like "carefully" with a horrendous twang.

Plopped right into the middle of the town, is this.

If you need a size reference, look to the bottom left and find the tiny human. And this is just the front entry.

The second-largest castle in all of Britain, and largest in Wales.

You heard the man...

This tower was hit by a bomb and leans a lot. But don't worry, this guy's got it covered.
For a mere £4.50 entry fee, you certainly get your money's worth. The castle and grounds are deceivingly massive as we spent over two hours climbing towers, crawling through low-lying door frames, watching the most hilariously gory cartoon educational film, and pretending to be in Game of Thrones.

Everybody loves a good catapult. 

Other than the two employees in the gift shop/entrance, you are left to your own devices in exploring the area. The worn down spiral staircases have no handrails, the flooding towers are left with no warnings. In America this would have lawsuit slapped all over it, but here it's "Use your common sense and deal with it." Love it. 

Wellies to the rescue.

Caerphilly ticked all boxes when it comes to what you want out of a castle. 

My impression from my first trip into Wales is that you visit for the castles, the countryside, and the history. On our way out we had to stop in Cardiff and I wanted to walk around since I had never been there before and we were hungry for lunch – Caerphilly didn't have a ton of options for food. Although Cardiff had a lush shopping district (did I use that word correctly yet?), everything is pretty new and corporation-dominated. Not that I'm a snob nor anti-chains, but I was hoping for something classically and uniquely Welsh. We ended up eating at Jamie's Italian, which we have here in Bristol but neither of us had ever been. It's hard to dislike pasta and bread. 

On the train ride home, aside from getting stuck in the under-ocean tunnel due to maintenance, we learned that Will and Kate were actually at that rugby match in Cardiff. We laughed and slammed our heads down at our missed opportunity. Where's Wifi when you need it?

Cathedrals, Clocks, and Castles.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

After our mad dash around Somerset visiting Glastonbury and Cheddar, Wells was the perfect way to wind down our day. The cathedral is truly spectacular from the outside and like I've mentioned before, I can be difficult to impress when it comes to churches. I like 'em medieval and gothic, the more obnoxious looking the better. Extra points for gargoyles.

Entry to the cathedral is free, but in order to take photos you must buy a photography pass for £3. No one actually checked and asked to see our passes, but ya know – it's a church so depending on your beliefs someone has their eye on you...

Pretty ceilings get a thumbs up.
Astronomical clocks are the coolest. This is considered to be the second-oldest clock in the world to survive in its original condition.
That cool clock is connected to this guy who bursts out of the wall when the bells ring upon the hour, inducing a few "Christ" like phrases from my mouth.

After leaving the cathedral we hunted for the Bishop's Palace that Sara had seen from the top of Wells Cathedral on a private tour she had previously gone on. I don't know what makes a place a palace vs a castle but it had a drawbridge so I'm going to call it a castle.

Swan Princess anyone? I still know every word, like a champ.

Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who am I to diss a brie?

Stop #2 on our Somerset day trip was Cheddar. If you don't like cheesy puns, you feta leave now.

The village was charming to say the least and we spent several hours popping into the shops and cafes that were open (most were closed for winter), hiking to see the gorge, and touring the local caves.

Upon entering Gough's Cave, we were greeted by this charming chap!

Who happens to be Britain's oldest complete human skeleton. Upon further research, I discovered that the inhabitants of Gough's Cave not only ate each other after they had died, but turned their skulls into cups! What are friends for?

It's now home to much happier things, like cheese!

Kudos to anyone who knows how to take a non-icky picture of a cave.
We then breezed [wheezed] 274 steps up Jacob's Ladder and onwards to the lookout tower to take in the views.

Cheddar Village actually reminded me a lot of Switzerland, but the cheese connection may have been floating around my subconscious.

Speaking of, when in Rome/Cheddar...

We popped into the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company and saw the process of how cheese is made and prepared for selling. In the main area you can buy freshly packaged cheeses, jams, books about cheese, and most importantly – take advantage of the free cheese samples until you're positively sick. I was a fan of nearly every bite, particularly their mature/mellow/blue cheese samples, but could have done without the nibbles of the cider infused and stilton cheese. All that was missing was a bottle of wine.

If you haven't caught on by now, it's not an Elle/Sara trip until there is some transportation issue. After chasing down an epic full rainbow following a rain shower, we sat at the bus station waiting and began to accept that we were once again stranded. Eventually it showed up (30 minutes late) and made it to our last stop of the daycation with minutes of daylight to spare.

Raise your hand if you have been personally victimized by the English bus system. 

Glastonbury Vibes.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sara and I had been wanting to plan a weekend getaway for yonks. Her boyfriend had to work, she had a weekend off, and I had reading week – we had all the time in the world! Where should we go? Manchester! Edinburgh! Liverpool! Cambridge! The isle is our oyster!

We sat at a coffee shop for hours researching train times, accommodation prices, tour bus dates, and ran into an issue with each and every location. Closed for winter, too expensive, sold out, no vacancy, the list goes on. We stared at a map of Great Britain and went city by city asking "Is there anything here? Does a bus go here? I think I heard about this town one time?"

Eventually we decided on a two-day marathon of day tripping. Day one to consist of the Somerset countryside and day two was a visit over to a castle in Wales.

First up on the menu not-so-bright but early was Glastonbury.

I had heard of Glastonbury the festival, aka the Coachella of England, but didn't know much about the actual city. It seemed like a pretty typical English town with a high street and lots of cute little shops scattered throughout, but unlike lots of other towns these window fronts advertised everything from witchcraft supplies to Alice in Wonderland themed tea rooms. I don't know much about Paganism or Wiccan other than bits and pieces I've read, but it had a really unique and quirky feel to it. We didn't explore the town centre too much other than grabbing a cup of tea, as our main goal was seeing the abbey – or what's left of it, should I say. 

Sara is the history buff and probably has much more eloquent things to say about the visit, but I was having one of those moments were I was just in awe of how old it was. Living in England I've become used to buildings that are hundreds of years old, but this was in a league of its own. Established in 712 AD, these walls have seen more history than I can wrap my head around.

Up away on a hill in the distance is the Glastonbury Tor, home to a host of myths and legends, including a claim that the Holy Grail is buried deep within. Sara mentioned she had read that the doorway at the tower is said to be a gateway into the underworld. 

"Let's let our legs rest and stay in this world instead."
Glastonbury is also *debatably* the resting place of King Arthur, as explained below.

There was a curious number of people walking their dogs around the area, which includes acres of land with benches and water, which made us think that not everyone necessarily goes through the main entrance and pays the admission fees. The fence around the area is more of a hedge, so understandably some locals may wander in for some peace and quiet.

Definitely worth a visit if you are into mind-melting amounts of history. Bring a friend who can break it all down for you.

The Magic of Lacock.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I hinted in my previous posts about Stonehenge/Avebury and Castle Combe that I was saving the best bit from my day trip around the countryside for last...

Okay, here it is.
My favorite village in all of England thus far.

Boasting a grand population of around 1,200 people and 4 main streets is the most picturesque and secretly quirky village in all the 'shire. The only thing holding me back from ditching grad school and selling all my things is that in order to live in the village, you have to have proven family lineage of living there.

Dream crusher.

The National Trust actually owns the entire place therefore none of the residents own their own homes, but are registered and pay rent to them. How's that for a landlord?

If you're into big name bloggers/YouTubers, you may also recognize this as the place that a particular sibling duo calls home...if you're like me and have paid close attention to that corner of the interwebs, you can probably give it a good guess.

Like Castle Combe, visiting Lacock is akin to stepping in a time machine and is a Hollywood director's dream. Lacock has been a filming location for big name movies such as Pride and Prejudice, The Other Boleyn Girl, Emma.....oh and a few little films called Harry Potter.

They called this the "heating room" but let's be honest, we're all going to call this the potion's dungeon.

Yes, thats right – I visited Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Godric's Hollow, and Budleigh Babberton all within a few hours.

As a put it lightly...I've been to my fair share of magical places. Leavesden Studios in Watford, Platform 9 & 3/4 in King's Cross, the Wizarding World in Florida, you know the drill.

Lacock Village and Abbey is definitely up there as a top location for any Potterhead to visit, as you get to literally roam the corridors of Hogwarts, get sniffly eyed staring at the Potter family house, stand on the spot that Dumbedore and Harry apparated to, with little to no other people there.

It's not impossible to get to by public transport although it takes a bit of maneuvering, and I am definitely planning on returning. Hopefully I won't run into too many public transport mishaps when I do, so let me know if you'd like the inside scoop on getting there once I get it down!

Ohhhh Lacock how I love thee.

Any Potterheads out there recognize a few backdrops pictured above?

Latest Instagrams

Disqus for

© What the Elle. Design by Fearne.