We found ourselves with an unscheduled return to England following our deportation from Finland. Without a plan, we decided to put our remaining hotel and credit card reward points to good use and mapped out a course that would eventually lead us to Scotland where we intended to conclude our trip. It was good to be back in an English language country again. However, the British accents were so thick and the slang so different that we often failed to comprehend what people would say. There seems to be a different term in use for everything that we’re accustomed to. Here are just a few simple examples: “Way Out” is the Exit; “Barrier” is a Gate; “Lorry” is a Truck; Fringe are Bangs (hair). Needless to say, we were both puzzled and amused and shared many a laugh with the locals. For the most part, we avoided the major tourist attractions and tried to get more of a local taste of the country. This led us numerous inquisitive conversations with the bewildered locals who would often ask us why we were in such places. In the end, we learned a lot more about England and how to speak English.
We swung by Stonehenge on our way to the town of Tewkesbury that is found at the confluence of the River Severn and the River Avon. This was a bustling little town in the countryside with lots of tearooms and cafes. The Abbey in town dates back to the 1300’s.
We spent a few days in Birmingham, which is England’s 2nd largest city. The locals don’t seem to have a very high opinion of the city but we sure enjoyed it. The vibrant city center was colorfully decorated with flowers throughout. There were lots of shops and sidewalk cafes lining pedestrian-only streets. The city is home to lots of festivals and we caught the tail end of a talented youth music festival.
Using Doncaster as a base, we did some moorland hiking, or rambling as the locals call it, in Peaks District National Park. We had plenty of goats and sheep to keep us company and the views were astounding in all directions.
The Open Championship (formerly known as the British Open) is the only one of Golf’s 4 major tournaments held outside the USA. This year it was held at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club on England’s northwest coast. We took advantage of the opportunity to attend the 1st round on a gorgeous day, which is a rarity for golf’s oldest championship. We were able to see some of golf’s past and present stars. The shot of the day for us belonged to former champion John Daly who hit a monster drive that outdistanced his competitors by at least 30 yards.
We strategically planned out our stays in England so that we could take full advantage of any points remaining in our Hotel reward accounts. We spent our first night at a Holiday Inn in Worth using IHG reward points as it was cheap and close to Gatwick airport where we arrived following our deportation ordeal in Finland. The a/c was good but the wifi was poor.
We spent 3 nights at the Hilton Puckrup Hall in Tewkesbury where we pretty much drained our Hilton Honors account. The hotel was situated on a golf course out in the country. There was no a/c, which came as a surprise, but an oscillating fan helped out. The wifi was expensive. So, we topped up our T-Mobile-UK sim card for our iPhone and used it as a hotspot. The gym was nice but undergoing renovations that restricted usage.
We spent 2 nights at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham where we emptied our Hyatt Gold Passport account. The location was excellent as everything that we wanted to see and do was in easy walking distance. The a/c was fair. The wifi was good and the fitness center was very nice.
We spent 3 free nights at the Holiday Inn Express in Doncaster by once again taking advantage of an IHG PointBreaks deal. The location was on the outskirts of town next to a large supermarket. There was no a/c but we could open the window. The wifi was ok. There was no gym but we scored a free 7-day pass to the fully equipped Fitness Village within the “Dome” in town.
We moved onto the Thistle Haydock Hotel for 2 nights as it was close to Liverpool where The Open Championship was being held. There was no a/c leading us to request a fan on our 2nd night. The wifi and fitness center were decent. They also provided a better than average breakfast buffet.
Food & Drink:
There’s nothing like a traditional English breakfast to fill up your tank in the morning. England is known to have some of the best Indian food outside of India and we agree. The diversity continued as we enjoyed some good Turkish and excellent Thai food.
It was only appropriate that we order a couple of Gin & Tonics but we were surprised to see how they were served. One of our favorite beer and ale brewers is Sam Smith’s but they only ship bottles to the USA. So, we headed for Sam’s “Angel and White Horse” Pub in Tadcaster to try the refreshing draft versions.
We rented a Peugeot 208 Diesel with manual transmission from Avis that we’ll have throughout our visit to the UK. We drove close to 1,000 miles with minimal tolls, which was a welcome relief from most other European countries. We also used Liverpool’s Metro system to attend The Open Championship.
We must thank the British soccer broadcasters on the BBC and ITV for their candid and witty commentary of the FIFA World Cup knockout round soccer games that we watched in England. At times, they were hilarious. We wish that we could have British commentators for all of the sporting events that we might ever watch.
For Your Amusement:
We watched many World Cup matches and were surprised to bump into Uruguay’s Luis Suarez in Birmingham.
Only in England can you find chips like these.
Highlights: Birmingham and Peaks District National Park.
Next Up: Scotland