The one where LindaB basically writes it for me.

As I sit here on the very squishy, weird-shade-of-green-that-is-actually-starting-to-grow-on-me couch in our rented flat waiting for Madi to wake up on this, our very last day in London, so we can go to Petticoat Market and Notting Hill and try to score some cool only-in-London clothing items to help ease the transition into her new school AND won’t break the bank because DANG, London is expensive, *takes deep breath and continues*, I can’t help but think that answering all of the questions that LindaB managed to cram into her last comment might make for a blog post all on its own. And if you just finished that whole trainwreck of a stream of consciousness sentence AND understood it AND are still reading? Then we can totally be friends.

Also? I haven’t even had a cup of coffee yet. Impressive, no?

So, in the order in which she asked them, here are some quick answers to LindaB’s questions:

Q: How are Americans accepted there?

A: It’s kind of been a non-issue, since no one has even once commented on or asked questions about us being Americans. Well, maybe once, I think the Pakistani driver that we used from Stansted Airport asked where we were from– he had been to the States. This is such a multi-ethnic city that our little Tennessee accents don’t even raise an eyebrow. Seriously, walking down any street in any part of London you will easily hear about 5 or 6 different languages– Italian, French, German, different Scandinavian languages, LOTS of different Arabic dialects… My ears always perk up when I hear another flat, nasal American accent (sorry, but compared to the lovely mellifluous rhythms of French and Italian, we Yanks kind of sound like a car trying to start) and I usually grin at them in recognition, as well as cast them a sympathetic look because they usually have a map in their hand and a confused look on their faces JUST LIKE ME. So to finally answer your question, um, yeah, I guess we Americans are accepted here just fine.

Q: Are people friendly?

A: Yes. And BUSY– friendly and busy. (The word “bustling” comes to mind. Seriously. Everybody’s briskly walking SOMEWHERE, all the time.) A smile will almost always be returned, and people have been unfailingly helpful every time I ask for directions, which btw is a lot. Madi and I did get sworn at by a taxi driver as we crossed the street once (kinda right in front of him– that whole ‘driving on the wrong other side of the street’ thing can be confusing, ya’ll!), but we were in a whole group of people doing the same thing so I didn’t take it personally. Also, that happens to me in the States all the time.

Q: How do the living expenses compare to here?

A: High. Our dollar is worth about 59 cents here– that varies a little, but that was the rate the currency converter gave me a minute ago. So, yeah, every time we get excited about something that’s only about 15 pounds, we have to stop and think, “Oh wait, that’s like $25 bucks.” So while prices on most things may look kind of similar to any large city in the US, the difference in currency really changes that. And we are staying in the single most expensive part of the city–Belgravia, which is around Knightsbridge and Kensington– which doesn’t help much, but we are all over the city every day so we aren’t limited to just buying groceries or eating out around here. Also, I have a couple of ‘Cheap London’-type guidebooks which have been helpful. They’ve given me tips that we’ve really used, like what kind of tube/bus pass to get (the Oyster card) and the fact that while you have to pay for the attractions (like Westminster Abbey the Tower of London, etc.) the museums are free.

Q: Is eating out expensive there?

A. Yes! But of course, we are eating out way more often than we usually do, and also there’s four of us. We have groceries here in the flat, but we still usually end up eating out for lunch and/or dinner. There are ways to save money, like eating in pubs which the girls LOVE– they have discovered “bangers and mash”, which is a classic English dish of sausages and mashed potatoes served in an onion gravy… GOOD!

Also, this city is rich in wonderful ethnic restaurants, which are usually less expensive. We’ve eaten Indian, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian…

Q: How is the food?

A: Very good. Not, say, New Orleans-good, where it’s almost impossible to get a bad meal, but we are eating very well. You don’t have to only eat in the fancy places to get good food, we are mostly eating in little cafes, or even a couple of their chain restaurants here like Wagamama (Charlotte’s favorite) and the Spaghetti House. There’s a great little French cafe by Kensington Palace that Madi and I have eaten at twice. The pubs often have a pretty wide variety of food, not just fish and chips (which we have had a couple of times)– they have sandwiches, soups, salads, entrees. I had a really good Mediterranean risotto in a pub. The grocery stores are fun, I’ve been shopping at Waitrose and Marks and Spencer and also the fresh fruit market on Portobello Road, where I got the best cherries I have ever put in my mouth. You can get fresh-squeezed orange juice at most restaurants which Madi and I LOVE, but you have to ask for ice in almost everything, including soft drinks. Europeans are not big ice-users, but then again, they’ve never eaten a big ol’ cup of Sonic ice, so you can’t really blame them for not knowing better.

Q: Do you watch much English TV? What’s that like?

A: A lot of it? Is SUCKY! Our tv here gets about 6 channels, almost all of them BBC stations. We usually aren’t home during the day, but at night Russ has been able to find some kind of CSI re-runs, which makes him happy. There are British versions of some of our shows like Big Brother and Funniest Home Videos, but rarely any movies. There was an old Paul Newman one on the other night, that was good. BUT, there are some great documentaries, which we love– one of their BBC channels is kind of like our PBS and it had a great one on the other night about Phillipe Petit, and also a live concert from Royal Albert Hall that was an evening of music from all of the old MGM musicals. The girls were bored senseless, but it was pretty good.

Q: How does their humor compare to ours?

A: (Hopefully by “ours” you mean America’s and not the Taff’s because I’m sure this family’s humor would baffle them completely… ) I love British humor! There’s always this wonderful contrast between their staid, dignified persona and the absolutely wacky stuff that can come out of them– like Monty Python! These days the world is so much smaller because of the internet, etc. that it’s hard to find humor that is truly British– there are a lot of British version of American-type comedians and silly game shows.

Q: Is the economic downturn we are experiencing here evident there in the British Isles?

I’m sure it has. I have been reading their papers and watching their news and they have very similar stories of people losing their pensions (retirement funds) and how the rising cost of living is especially affecting seniors and the middle class. There is definitely poverty here, we have seen some pretty bad neighborhoods. There is also a lot of talk about how immigrants are taking jobs and services away from Brits– there’s a lot of heated discussions about that!

Q: Do Europeans drive little cars like we hear that they do? Have you ridden in one?

A: We’ve seen a lot of Smart cars around, like these: (Yes, even some of the police!) Probably won’t ride in one unless, you know, I get arrested or something.

Q: Have you seen any English cottages yet like the ones we see in movies and pictures surrounded by gorgeous flowers?

A: Actually, we’ve stayed pretty much in the city, and most of the kind of cottages I think you’re describing are out in the countryside, especially the Cotswalds. Before we got here Russ walked around a wonderfully quaint little town with Stuart and Betty, and also took a train on his own to Cambridge and Oxford, so he saw some great little towns. The four of us did take a train to Hampton Court Palace and walked around town there… We have seen formal gardens at the palaces that are absolutely gorgeous, as well as little tiny gardens behind people’s houses. Lots of flowers blooming everywhere. This is the sunken garden at Kensington Palace.

Q:  Seen any English royalty?

A: Not a dang one.

Q: Has the Queen asked you to tea yet?

A: Maybe she doesn’t know we’re in town. Yes, I’m sure that’s it.

Q: Do you even like tea?

A: Very much, especially Earl Grey with milk and two sugars. We all had a full English tea at the Cavendish Hotel one afternoon, and Madi and I had a lovely tea at The Orangery next to Kensington Palace yesterday.

Q:What do you drink mostly while in London, aside from the pub?

A: We usually all order ‘tap water with ice, please’ (you have to say tap or they bring you Perrier) and Charlotte and Russ always order Cokes (they taste SO GOOD here, they use real sugar instead of corn syrup), Madi likes fresh orange juice and also experimenting with new drinks like elderflower soda. I usually just drink water, but I did have a half pint of Fosters in the pub! Hey, somebody had to.

Q: And my husband would like to know if you’ve seen any MGBs?

A: Sadly, I wouldn’t recognize one if it hit me so yeah, maybe I did…? I tell you what, though– since we are in the hoity-toity part of town and there are incredibly wealthy Arabs EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, I have seen more Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Bentleys while walking down one single block on Sloane Street than I have seen in the entire rest of my life!

Q: Oh, and one more question–ask some Londoners on the street (or the pub) how they like their health care system.

A: Haven’t had time to do that, I’m usually too busy asking them if we’re standing on the right platform in the tube station to get where we need to go…

Well, that’s it, then. Thanks for the questions, LindaB– Way to go, you should have your own talk show!

OH, one more really important thing: There’s a new kid on the blog named “junebug” who just delurked in the comments of the last post. AND GUESS WHO THAT IS! It’s June Smedley, Russ’ beloved ‘other mother’, and the best other-mother-in-law a girl could ever have. Be sure and make her feel welcome, OK?

13 Responses

  1. jonny

    Uh, I think the ice thing may be British only, not european. At least in isn’t an issue where I’ve gone out in other european countries = / And thanks for all the filling in! Hope you have, & have prayed you’d have, a safe & enjoyable flight back!

  2. jonny

    And yes, LindaB is pretty amazing, special. Too bad she’s taken.

  3. auburn60

    Wow Linda! ‘Amazing’ and ‘Special’. Followed closely by ‘Taken’.

    Tori, knowing my penchant for Tudor History (and my ability to make a whole group of people’s eyes glaze over with boredom by talking about it incessantly) did you absorb enough to make even me happy?

    And are you going to reconstruct that garden at home?

  4. trishARKANSAS

    WOW!! Everything is so pretty. In India you have to ask for ice. They thought I was a sicko for drinking iced tea.

    Junebug ty.


    Way to go, LindaB! Between you & Tori, I got the big picture, I think! You need to be in journalism. Those pics were awesome. Oh, and WELCOME JUNEBUG!!!!! GREAT TO HAVE YOU JOIN US!

    So, I guess you are on your way here by this time? Safe travel mercies and extra angels accompany you. Love, Johnnie

    PS – Your hubbie isn’t as punctual on replying email as you are!


    OK, yep, I had to come back – just went to the previous blog and saw the pics of you & Russ! Oh, they are the BEST! Does he always wear black? Ya’ll are so beautiful together, and I could see the squishy green couch that you were talking about! This calls for another one of those “AAAaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwww……….s” I even forgive him now for not returning my email! I told you he would think I was psycho! Johnnie PS – who took the pics?

  7. LindaB

    Hey Junebug! You’re as welcome here as a glass of iced tea on a hot day in the south! How nice that you have joined us! And we bless you for taking in R.T. and making him one of your family! You really are something special!

    And thanks, Tori, for taking the time to answer my questions. You’re the best! Come home now. You’ve been gone long enough. We need you to brighten up the U.S.A.

    I had “bangers and mash” at a “pub” in Savannah a few years ago—–Six Pence, I believe, was the name of the place. And I liked it too.

    (Jonny, you are crackin’ me up! Ya know I am probably old enough to be your mother! It’s been forty-two years since I have been referred to as “taken”! Most the time, it’s “why isn’t that woman ‘taken’ away”!)

  8. auburn60

    Yes,Ms. June–welcome to the conversation.
    I also had one of those ‘other mothers’ like Russ, so I know how special you must be.

  9. themema

    Oh, yes, Junebug. Welcome. Those of us who know what you mean to this family are so thankful to you.

  10. Barbara M. Lloyd

    June Bug, you are as welcome as the flowers in May. And, you are loved and appreciated for just being there. Thank you

    Well, Tori, when I read Linda B’s questions, I hoped you would answer them…and you did, as only you could. Now I have a question…well, two questions: what is the best part of Madi’s vacation and what is the best part of Char’s? Shucks, let’s go for four: and Russ and Tori’s?

    Gracious, I’m on a roll….did you explore any cemetaries?

    By now, all of the Taffs are back home in their nest…and that’s nice.

  11. Hev

    I’m so pleased you’ve enjoyed your time in London and you are very generous with all your comments.
    Don’t worry there are plenty of people who would have stopped you in the street and had those special hugs from both you and Russ if we had managed to see you in London. Unfortunately we were no where near London.

    Its so nice to hear a visitors’ view of London, even if it was so expensive for you, I must say you couldn’t have found a more expensive part of London, but a most beautiful part.

    I noticed you managed to get a picture of a POLICE Smart Car, where we are we get Paramedics on bicycles.

    Did you get to shop in Harrods? Did you buy anything there?

    I do hope you arrived home safely and are rested, you probably need another holiday now!

    I must ask Barbara, what is the fascination with Cemeteries? there is a very interesting one in London and if I’d know I’d have given Tori directions

  12. Sheena

    Thanks for the blogs Tori! And good questions LindaB! As someone who lives here it is really interesting and enjoyable to read your visitors’ view of London. I did look out for you guys, but didn’t see you anywhere :(
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those police smart cars before!

  13. Leisa Hammett

    Hmmm.That last sentence in your post makes it sound like you’ve got a tribe of followers here. And, I guess you do. Funny, I’ve only read blog interviews where the blog writer conducts them, not the other way around. And that first sentence? Totally get it.

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