7 Lies "Friends" Told Me About England

Friday, 26 September 2014
As hard as it is to believe, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Friends this year. To this day I watch the series on repeat, thanks to my DVD collection, and I can still remember crying over the phone to my best friend as we watched the series finale together. It's been ten years since Rachel got off the plane, which is equally hard to believe!

What does all this have to do with my life as an expat and England? Well I'm getting to that. Not only has it been ten years since the series finale of Friends, it has also been ten years since my first trip to London which I talked about in my first travel throwback post. What I neglected to share was one of the reasons why I went to London in the first place was because of Friends

It was a few months before my sixteenth birthday and I was watching one of my favourite episodes of Friends, "The One With Ross's Wedding". You know the one when the whole gang, apart from a very pregnant Phoebe, go off to London to watch Ross get married. My mom wanted to do something special for my birthday and asked me what I would like to do. I blurted out that what I would really like to do is go to London. If you read my travel throwback post, you'll know that's exactly what we ended up doing.

A few weeks back I was watching "The One With Ross's Wedding" again and picked up on several lies that the Friends gang told me about England. It's time to set the record straight..

1. Everywhere in England is London.
In an earlier episode, Emily's uncle says, "She's from London, well Shropshire really, but you know.." No I don't know. Can you please explain to me how Shropshire = London?
How Most Americans View England

To be fair I'm pretty sure most of my family still think I live in London

2. All Londoners wear Union Jack hats.
Sir Richard Branson lied to us, all Londoners do not walk along covered in the Union Jack. In fact, unlike Americans, you'll be hard-pressed to find many English people covered in their flag unless it's the World Cup or something.

Richard Branson as The Vendor on Friends
Richard Branson as The Vendor | © Warner Bros.

3. You will meet royalty on the street.
Not once in my four years of living in England have I ever just casually met a royal à la Joey's chance encounter with Fergie.The closest I ever got was seeing the Archbishop of Canterbury going into Westminster Abbey to deliver a service to the Queen.

Sarah Ferguson (Fergie) on Friends
Sarah Ferguson (Fergie) | © Warner Bros.

4. Everyone has live-in housekeepers.
Friends isn't the only perpetrator of this lie. Remember Martin from the 1998 adaptation of The Parent Trap? Sadly, not everyone in England has a live-in housekeeper, but it is a nice allusion.

June Whitfield as The Housekeeper on Friends
June Whitfield as The Housekeeper | © Warner Bros.

5. Phone etiquette is very important.
I've never been hung up on and asked to call back with the proper phone etiquette. Perhaps my etiquette is too impeccable to fault. However, I think it's more likely that people don't take phone etiquette quite so seriously as the snooty housekeeper.

6. Everyone has a posh accent.
Living in England you will quickly learn that not everyone speaks like the Queen. Shows like Friends often use English actors who have a standard or posh accent as they are easier to understand for us Americans. However, the variety of accents in this country is unbelievable! 

Just listen to my hubby, when he says "beer can" it sounds like he's saying "bacon" in a Jamaican accent.

7. The English will give advice to strangers on their life.
While many Americans will happily chat to complete strangers about their life and the issues they are facing. This is every Englishman's worst nightmare. The Gentleman On The Plane, played by Hugh Laurie, would never have told Rachel his thoughts on her life... ever.

Hugh Laurie as The Gentleman On The Plane on Friends
Hugh Laurie as The Gentleman On The Plane | © Warner Bros.

In closing, although "The One With Ross's Wedding" may have gotten a few things wrong, it remains one of the most iconic Friends episodes of all time! Happy 20th Anniversary Friends!

Q: What is your favourite Friends episode?

Erin x


How to Make Damson Gin

Friday, 12 September 2014
It's September and in England there is a slight chill in the morning air that can only mean one thing, autumn is coming! Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. In America, it means Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Halloween festivities and Thanksgiving. In England, it means knitwear, Bonfire Night and some fantastic seasonal food. Coming into season in September are figs, beetroot, apples and damsons - to name a few.

Before moving to England, I had never tried a damson in my life. I don't think I'd even heard of one. So for those of you who don't know about damsons, they are a small fruit similar to a plum. I actually thought they were a type of plum but have since discovered they are a member of the rose family. They have a juicy texture similar to a plum but are slightly tarter. Damsons are typically not eaten raw but instead are used in chutneys, jams and a variety of desserts. However, my favourite use for damsons is in gin!

I tried damson gin for the first time last year from a batch made from Luke's aunt's damson tree and loved it. Imagine my joy when I discovered in our new house we have not one but two damson trees in the back garden. A few weeks ago we were overwhelmed with damsons from our tree, so we used the opportunity to make several bottles of damson gin. It was such fun that I decided to share the recipe, so that you too can take part in this quintessentially English tradition!

How to make Damson Gin

I'm so excited to try our homemade damson gin! It should be perfect in time for the holiday season. A small glass of damson gin goes perfect with a cheese, especially a nice mature cheddar.

Q: Have you ever made any treats using damsons? 

Leave a comment below and don't forget to follow 
Quintessentially English on Facebook and Twitter!

Erin x

Travel Throwback #4: Brussels

Friday, 5 September 2014
Let me start this travel throwback by saying there is no doubt in my mind that Brussels, or Bruxelles in French, is the most confusing city to navigate in the whole of Europe. I can only assume that the Belgians designed their capital in the hopes that any foreigners who managed to invade their borders would not be able to escape.

"...but sometimes you are." - me

I took a day trip to Brussels in February 2009 and can safely estimate I spent 70% of that time lost. Between my travel companions and I, we had five maps and were still unable to find our hostel. We wandered the streets asking shopkeepers and passers by. The locals gave such different directions it seemed they didn't even understand their own city. A local guy confirmed this theory later when he said he had lived in Brussels his whole life and still got lost. 

After a taxi driver told us the hostel was too close and not worth the fare, I decided it was time for some official help. I found a police station and cried « Je suis perdue » (I am lost) to the countless policemen standing around and before explaining in French about our desperate attempts to find the hostel. Next thing I know the bags are loaded into the boot of the police car, we're in the back seat and being driven to our hostel. Why pay for a taxi when you have the police?

Grand Place in Brussels,Belgium
The most important tourist destination in Brussels - Grand Place
Grand Place in Brussels,Belgium
Grand-Place in Brussels,Belgium
Maison des Brasseurs in Grand-Place
Statue of Charles-Alexandre de Lorraine (Maison-des-Brasseurs) at Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium
The statue on top of Maison-des-Brasseurs looks like he is giving the bird
Museum of the City of Brussels in Grand Place
Museum of the City of Brussels
Town Hall in Grand Place - Brussels, Belgium
Town Hall

Grand Place is the central square in Brussels surrounded by guildhalls and the Town Hall. The square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and perhaps the most memorable landmark in Brussels. Unless you count Manneken Pis, a small bronze sculpture dating back to 1618 that depicts a naked boy urinating into a fountain's basin.

Manneken Pis in Brussels, Belgium
Manneken Pis in Brussels, Belgium
 Street art in Brussels, Belgium
John Lennon street art in Brussels, Belgium
Bob Dylan street art in Brussels, Belgium
The answer is blowin' in the wind - Bob Dylan

A visit to Belgium wouldn't be complete without trying one of its best street foods - waffles. There are over a dozen varieties of waffles in Belgium alone!

Waffles in Brussels, Belgium
Waffles in Brussels, Belgium

Q: Have you ever gotten lost during your travels?

Be sure to read my previous travel throwbacks to Disneyland, Windsor Castle and London.

Erin x

2 Signs You're Turning English

Wednesday, 27 August 2014
It's been four years since I first arrived in England and a lot has changed in that time. I've been married, bought a house and started a successful career. All of this while learning about the habits and the customs of the English.

The culture shock has subsided and with each passing year I find the amount of words getting lost in translation dwindling. Instead of 'eggplant' I now say 'aubergine' and u's are creeping into the spelling of words such as 'colour' and 'neighbour'. Even my accent is becoming slightly muddled.

On my commute into work this morning I found myself wondering if perhaps I am turning English. There have been two recent signs that have led me to this theory.

2 Signs You're Turning English

 Exhibit A) 

Whilst driving past a pub with my colleagues a few weeks ago I stated, "what lovely hanging baskets." My fellow passengers turned to me in surprise because I, for one, had never expressed an interest in gardening. And for another thing, the statement was such a quintessentially English phrase that I'm sure it sounded quite bizarre to be coming from me.

I don't envisage becoming an avid gardener any time soon, but obviously the English's love of gardening is starting to rub off on me.

Hanging baskets
Hanging baskets at The Windmill. Taken by Leonora Enking under a creative commons licence.

Exhibit B)

A week or so ago, one of our neighbours decided to put their rubbish bag over our garden wall, which we promptly returned to the street in front of their house. A day or so later, we found the rubbish bag back and once again promptly returned it. This carried on for several days and by Monday last, my husband and I were quite sick of it.

In a strop, I marched into the pouring rain and placed the two rubbish bags right behind the neighbours' car in a passive aggressive attempt at leaving a clear message. In the morning, the bags were back.

My husband wrote a note, asking them to please stop putting their rubbish into our garden and passed it through the letter box. That evening the rubbish was gone and the neighbour came over to speak to me. It transpires that the rubbish wasn't theirs either. It had magically appeared on the path in front of their house and they believed it to be ours. We had both been playing a game of pass the parcel with someone else's rubbish.

They agreed to stop putting the rubbish into our garden and we agreed not to put the rubbish behind their car. The quintessentially English custom of bickering with the neighbours has come to an end. Now, I can focus on the other quintessentially English custom of peering out the window in an effort to discover who put the rubbish out in the first place.

The front garden, the scene of the crime!

In conclusion, I could never be fully English but I suppose it's only natural after spending so much time in England to pick up some of the habits and customs of the English.

Q: Do you find yourself picking up habits of your host country?

Erin x

Cruising On The River Thames

Tuesday, 29 July 2014
For anyone visiting London for the first time, or just looking for a unique perspective, I thoroughly recommend a cruise on the River Thames. Cruising on the River Thames offers a fantastic view of the best of London, stripped free of the crowds of tourists and traffic. It is a fantastic way to spend a few hours and see the sights!

Two weeks ago, I did just that when I joined a group of my new colleagues for a tropical-themed sunset cruise. And not just any old cruise down the River Thames, this was aboard a luxury yacht, The Silver Sturgeon.
The Silver Sturgeon

We boarded The Silver Sturgeon dressed in Hawaiian shirts and maxi dresses from the Savoy Pier to the sound of a live calypso band i(t was a tropical-themed after all). We set sail at 7:00pm, with mojitos in hand, in the direction of Battersea, passing the Houses of Parliament and MI5 as we went.

Cruising on the River Thames - London, England
Big Ben from the River Thames - London, England
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from the River Thames - London, England
MI5 from the River Thames in London, England

While cruising down the river, we were treated to a fantastic BBQ catered by Jamie Oliver's  Fabulous Feasts! This was no ordinary BBQ, it included hot smoked salmon and roasted butternut squash which were to die for! Our delicious BBQ was finished off with a sweet stall which included the best salted caramel ice cream I have ever tasted!

We turned around just before we reached Battersea Power Station and headed back along the River Thames. This gave us the chance to get another view of Big Ben which I still get goosebumps whenever I see. We also passed perhaps the oldest building on our route, the Tower of London, and the most modern with St. Mary's Axe (more commonly known as the Gherkin), The Shard, as well as The O2.

The Shard from the RIver Thames - London, England
The Tower of London from the River Thames - London, England
St. Mary Axe "The Gherkin" from the River Thames - London, England
Tower Bridge from the River Thames - London, England

One of the things I love about London is the blend of so many historical buildings interspersed with the modern. Never is this more apparent than when you're viewing these buildings from the Thames. Our cruise along the Thames was a wonderful experience!

Q: Have you ever been on a River Thames cruise?

The River Thames Map

Erin x

Sherlock Returns!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014
It's official, the boys of 221b Baker Street are back! Today BBC One announced that their hit television show, Sherlock, will be returning to our screens for a special and three new episodes. Sherlock's return was announced via Twitter at 2:21pm:
The fact that Sherlock is returning for a fourth series will not shock any fans of the show, but this is the first time dates have been put to the series. Filming starts in January 2015 with the special airing in Christmas 2015. So in short, yes we did miss you Moriarty.. but will still have to wait over a year to see Sherlock Holmes on the case!

BBC One's Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

 The game is... ON

Erin x

Travel Throwback #3: Disneyland

Thursday, 26 June 2014
One thing people might not know about me is that I'm a certified Disney freak! My mom took me to Disneyland for the first time when I was two-years-old, and after that I went to Disneyland two or three times a year, most years I even had an annual pass. As one can imagine, I have a lot of Disneyland memories with my mom and my fellow Disney girl, Amy.

For this travel throwback I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of these with you. I dedicate this post to my fellow Disney girls, my mom and Amy, who made so many of these memories with me!

Disneyland Girls in New Orleans Square
Disneyland Girls in New Orleans Square (April 2010)

First off, let me start by saying that one of the things I love about Disneyland is that everyone has their own unique traditions when they visit The Happiest Place on Earth!

One of my Disneyland traditions starts the night before, when I would watch Disney's Sing Along Songs' Disneyland Fun. My mom bought me the VHS before one of my trip to Disneyland to help explain where we were going. Later on we bought it on DVD and now you can watch it here in all its 90's glory thanks to YouTube!

This tradition still stands, I even made Luke watch it with me before our first trip to Disneyland together in April 2010.

The second of my traditions is getting a picture taken in front of the White Rabbit from Alice In Wonderland's door. The door is located to the side of The Mad Hatter in Fantasyland. My earlier photographs prior to age fourteen are unfortunately still at my mom's house but I do have a number from my trips throughout high school and beyond.
Alice In Wonderland's the White Rabbit's Door at Disneyland
Selection of photographs in front of the White Rabbit's door in Disneyland
Now, you don't become a Disney freak without learning a few secrets about Disneyland over the years. Rather than keep these secrets for myself, I decided to stop being so selfish and share some of these secrets with you! So here are my top 5 Disneyland secrets:

1. There is a secret members-only club in Disneyland known as Club 33. Walt Disney had it built to entertain his guests.

Disneyland's members-only Club 33
Dining at Club 33 in Disneyland

2. In the nursery on Peter Pan's Flight, the blocks on the floor spell out "Disney" and "Pan" but look quickly, you'll soon be flying off to Never Never Land!

Peter Pan's Flight in Fantasyland, Disneyland

3. If you are visiting Disneyland for the first time or celebrating a birthday there, then pop over to City Hall in Mainstreet U.S.A. to receive a "Disneyland 1st Visit" or "Happy Birthday" badge!
Disneyland First Visit Badge
My step brother proudly showing off his "Disneyland 1st Visit" badge!

3. The statuettes in Snow White's Grotto were gifted to Disneyland anonymously. All the statuettes are the same size but thanks to a little Disney magic (forced-perspective) Snow White appears bigger than the dwarves.
Snow White's Grotto in Disneyland
Visiting Snow White's Grotto during our 8th Grade Disneyland trip!
4. Walt Disney reportedly wanted to use real animals in Disneyland's Jungle Cruise but was advised against it. As a special BONUS secret, apparently Kevin Costner (one of my mom's favourite actors for some reason) used to be a Jungle Cruise Skipper! I'm assuming this was before his Dancing With Wolves days.
Disneyland's Jungle Cruise in Adventureland
Disneyland's Jungle Cruise in Adventureland
Disneyland's Jungle Cruise in Adventureland
This Jungle Cruise photograph would be so different with real animals.
5. There are dead bodies in Disneyland! There have been reports of several families attempting to scatter their loved ones' ashes in the Haunted Mansion. Well, they did say there was "room for one more".
Disneyland's The Haunted Mansion
Disneyland's The Haunted Mansion

Q: Have you ever been to Disneyland? Do you have any traditions or fun facts?

For more travel throwback fun, be sure to read my previous travel throwback posts to Windsor Castle and London.

Erin x

Welcome Summer!

Monday, 23 June 2014
BREAKING NEWS: Summer is officially here! 

The past few weekends have been lovely but unfortunately Luke and I have not been able to enjoy them as we've been stuck inside decorating and doing DIY fun! It has been worth it but both of us are tired and going to take a break for the summer. This weekend was the first weekend where we didn't touch a paintbrush and man did it feel good!

Milton Keynes Rugby 7s Beer and Cider Festival 2014

On Saturday we spent the day the Milton Keynes Rugby 7s Beer and Cider Festival. Luke's team, The Convicts, had entered nearly ten weeks ago and he has been looking forward to it ever since. Seriously, he was like a child on Christmas morning! 

The Convicts Milton Keynes Rugby 7s Team
Milton Keynes Rugby 7s Social Tournament Champions 2014: The Convicts
Milton Keynes Rugby 7s Social Tournament Champions 2014: The Convicts

Luke was confident that his team would win the social tournament, in fact he stated "if The Convicts don't win, I'll do a lap of the rugby pitch naked." Thankfully The Convicts did win and he didn't have to treat the nearly 1,000 people to a laugh! Their winnings equalled £100 in beer money plus a package of beer from Marston's Brewery. Considering most of the team couldn't stay at the club late and they still had £80 left over from the kitty that meant a lot of celebratory drinks to go around.

Milton Keynes Rugby 7s Social Tournament Champions 2014: The Convicts

Sunday left some of us feeling a little worse for wear, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the day.  Luke and I headed to our friends' new house for the first official barbecue of summer! This was not before a group shopping trip to Aldi. For those of you who aren't in the "know", Aldi is a supermarket that sells cheaper alternatives to name brands. I'll admit it, I've been a bit of a snob about going there, but in the past few weeks have found it amazing! You can find such great bargains, like Luke found a neoprene rugby ball there yesterday for £2.99 and he's already gotten his money's worth of use.

Sorry I digressed a bit there on my love of Aldi. Anyway, the point is we had an amazing barbecue filled with sun, sausages and a few gin and tonics. After our barbecue we went for a walk around the neighbourhood through the parks and around the lake. The perfect ending to a lovely weekend!

I leave you with this parting question...

Q: Who wore it best? Luke with his blue shirt and plain t-shirt or Pete with his blue shirt and print?

Who Wore It Best?

Erin x

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