The last time I was in the UK (besides connecting flights through Heathrow) was in 1983 on a high school theatre tour for fifteen days, when I was fifteen, over 30 years ago. I was mostly in London, but we also traveled to Oxford and Stratford upon Avon, and we saw a LOT of theatre. I saw Evita, the opening of Starlight Express, the Cycle Plays at the Cottesloe Theatre (which was the series that saved it from closure in those days), The Trojan Women in pure Japanese Kabuki, Hamlet, The Government Inspector, and a bunch of others.
That trip and this one cannot really be compared because we’ll be in different locations and for different purposes. I will not be going to any theatre while in the UK. I don’t care what AMAZING show is playing in the West End right now or which famous actors are treading the boards this summer. If I step foot into a professional theatre right now, I’ll scream. It’s too much like work, and this is a vacation!
But there are some things that I remember from that 80s trip that have changed today. For instance, the money. When I was here in 83, the pound coin had just been released and there were still a lot of pound notes in circulation. People were complaining bitterly about the new coins and how heavy they were and how the coins would wear through trouser pockets and fall down your leg onto the sidewalk and you would lose your fortune in singles. I remember hearing, on more than one occasion, “OY! These pound coins won’t last, everybody hates them, they’ll be out of circulation by winter!”
I see that they are still around, and there is now a two pound coin as well. At least the British bills aren’t made from plastic and smell like maple syrup.
There are other subtle things that I’ve noticed too. The Underground cars are different than they were in 1983, the trains and busses are more modern, and the internet has changed their landscape just as much as it has changed ours.
There is one change that I’ve noticed that isn’t such a subtle change. The food.
The last time I was here, the best meal I had was on the airplane. We had breakfast every morning at the hotel… er… I should say that breakfast was provided, none of us ate it. Everything was cold, including the barely cooked eggs. Out in the streets, things were not much better either. Lunch was provided at different locales each day and usually consisted of a very thin slice of unidentified animal between two halves of one slice of stale white bread, a soft drink, and a bag of crisps.
I remember getting to order a hamburger somewhere, and getting something that was definitely NOT a hamburger. It was, pretty discouraging.
Don’t get me wrong, the trip was lovely, and we were probably taken advantage of by the tour operator which is why we ate so poorly, but let’s face it, England was not known for their cuisine in the 80’s.
Now I don’t know if Glastonbury is some kind of restaurant Mecca, but I have yet to put anything in my gob that I haven’t liked… and there has been some bites that have been transcendent.
It all started with breakfast on the first morning which was supplied by our fantastic hosts Lynda and Lloyd at their fantastic B&B called Parsnips, (find everything about it here). I’m not just saying it’s fantastic to be kind, this is a really awesome B&B. The room I had (the Abbey) was small, but very well appointed with a comfortable bed and a view of the garden. L & Z’s room (St John’s) was larger, but equally nice with twin beds. Lynda was so kind, and so helpful, greeting us with a pot of tea and lovely cakes on our first night when we were bleary eyed and haggard from a day and a half of travel.
Breakfast was brilliant. Fresh fruit with or without yogurt, a full vegan english breakfast, a full carnivore one, or a tomato and basil omelette, eggs on various different toasts, fresh homemade preserves, fingers of multigrain bread with organic butters, various teas, fresh orange juice, and an endless supply of strong french press coffee.
I ended up having the fresh fruit followed by an omelette with fingers of multigrain toast with blackberry jam and 32 cups of coffee.
But the gastronomic delights were not limited to our lodgings. Along the Glastonbury High street, there are a myriad of eating establishments and cafés with the most delightful offerings.
So far we’ve tried the Chocolate Love Temple with many different chocolates and a “chocolate elixir” that makes your heart melt.
The Burns the Bread bakery that offers many pastries, both sweet and savoury, and a Glastonbury pasty that I think I could live on for the rest of my life.
There’s Knight’s Fish and Chips which has the reputation as one of the best chippys in the entire UK (I’m trying it today), there’s the Café Galatea where I had a fantastic americano, the Abbey Tea Room, Rainbow’s End Café (all vegan).
Everything was scrumptious and delightful. A complete surprise.
But so far, every night, we have ended up at the Hundred Monkeys restaurant for dinner. ZOMG, this food is unbelievable. Between us, we may have had everything on the menu. The flavours are just SO well balanced on all of these dishes. I had the coriander encrusted goat cheese truffles followed by the Chicken Supreme with Tandoori Cauliflower, followed by and enormous cheese board for desert. I thought I would explode, but if I did, it would have been in a coma of food bliss and a smile on my face.
I had heard that the food had improved in the years since I was in England last, but on this trip, I was really expecting the food in France to bowl me over, so this feast of edible delights is such a huge surprise.
France, so far you have a very tough act to follow from the UK and it all started in Gastronomical Glastonbury…