Tag Archives: England

What not to do in England: Part one

First things first: The Lisas had a brilliant holiday abroad. That being said, it has taken us awhile to process the experience and translate it for you, our glorious reader. There were plenty of adventures – enough for several rounds of blogging, you lucky devil.

We think the Rolling Stones got it wrong: When you can’t rolling stonesget what you want, you don’t always get what you need. This is the best excuse we can come up with for our terrorizing the people of England with a tank (in the form of a Range Rover) that we didn’t want, didn’t need, and should never, ever have been licensed to drive.

In a truly just and beautiful universe, a chauffeur in a Rolls Royce Phantom would have conducted us in a refined and leisurely progress through the breathtaking countryside of Devon and Cornwall. In the harsh real world, we went to pick up the sensibly sized and priced car we had reserved at Heathrow. A short time later we found ourselves perched in a gadget-filled Range Rover, safely ensconced against any and all road hazards, Queens of All We Surveyed!

I can’t remember the actual words Mr. Hertz Agent used to convince us to rent the behemoth, but convince us he did. What a deal! For only a few measly pounds-per-minute extra we could ride in pure luxury. And did he mention it ran on dirt-cheap diesel, not over-priced petrol? Obviously we’d be fools to turn down such a rare opportunity. Mr. Hertz Agent had a deep voice, reminiscent of Mark Sheppard who does the promos for BBC America. As his warm, gravelly tones rolled over us, The Lisas punctuated his sales pitch with breathless giggles. Driver Lisa blushed. Passenger Lisa winked. I hope he pocketed a big commission for sending us out in that hellish beast–at least someone should have profited from the deal.

Admittedly our suspicion that we taken on more than we could handle should have been obvious with our inability to maneuver the parking lot without rolling over road blocks (oh-so-easy in off-road gear!), but we jauntily waved bon voyage to common sense and chalked it up to needing to “get a feel” for things.

We started off on the M-something-or-other which should have been fine. A divided highway with vehicles all traveling in the same direction. Should not have been a problem at all. Wrong. Driver Lisa really doesn’t swear very often. Really. Except apparently while driving a Range Rover through England. Then iOops! Road Signt seems she cannot stop a steady and entirely shocking stream of profanity.

Hitting quaint rural roads only amped up the terror and the internal noise level. Passenger Lisa’s strangled cries of, “Hedge! Wall! Curb!” broke through the spew of curses at regular intervals, but Driver Lisa payed no heed to those piteous pleas. Didn’t Passenger Lisa know there were cars, trucks and buses–dear Heaven, BUSES–to be dodged on the other (Wrong. Wrong. Just Plain Wrong.) side of the road!? What was a tiny tendril of brambles or a crumbling wall compared to that? So what if there was a 16th Century church actually taking up part of the road? So what if we scratched the gold-plated armor of the Range Rover that would cost us selling off select family members into indentured servitude to repair? Innocent British lives were in Driver Lisa’s hands–which were already plenty busy clenching the steering wheel at 10 and 2. (In fact, no body parts remained unclenched at any time during the drive from Heathrow airport to our destination, charming Budleigh Salterton.)

The sidewalk which passed for a two-way street up the cliff (yes, cliff) to our B&B overlooking the seashore was the final challenge. We pulled onto a postage stamp driveway and sat, panting slightly, to let our blood pressure lower. We were alive! We had not killed or (seriously) maimed any fellow travelers! Hurrah for The Lisas!

As we exited unsteadily from the vehicle we were met by our hostess, who with one look immediately regretted ever opening her home to strangers. However, like the intrepid Sir Winston Churchill espousing the motto, “Never, never, never surrender, ” she straightened herself and pronounced, “It looks as though you could use tea.”

tea cup and saucer 1188Perhaps it is a psychological phenomenon. Perhaps our hostess slipped a powerful narcotic into the English Breakfast blend. Perhaps a little slab of sugary raisin cake, eaten with tiny forks, in a cozy sitting room, perched atop a seashore bluff, casts a magical spell on unsuspecting travelers. Whatever the case, upon consuming a Proper English Tea the Lisas were revitalized, rejuvenated and utterly determined to ditch the death-trap Range Rover at the next possible portal for the most compact vehicle available short of a bicycle built for two. Although Passenger Lisa proposed hitchhiking or hopping the rails hobo-style as alternative travel methods, she was vetoed by Driver Lisa, who had earlier been nominated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Acting Adult in Charge. But that is another story.

The moral of this story? There is nothing, nothing, a proper tea cannot fix, and never, never be seduced by a British car salesman, no matter how big his motor.



The Lisas take London …and the Brits jolly well want it back

BattleofLongislandBe afraid, People of Great Britain, be very afraid. Thelisas are coming to invade your island. Casting aside all domestic and professional cares (nothing new here), we’re crossing the pond for a girls-only holiday filled from start to finish with tea shops, stately homes and gardens. Our husbands have already run and ducked for cover, breathing sighs of relief at dodging our chintz-filled itinerary. That leaves only the population of southwestern England to worry about this adventure.

Because once outside of London, our motto will be “Keep Calm and Careen On”.top gear

Our advice? For the love of Heaven and St. George, stay off the roads of Devon and Cornwall from early to mid-September. Roundabouts, driving on the wrong side of the road, navigation…these are just a few of the many grave concerns for us. And they should be even graver to the populace we may be endangering at every charming village or green-hedged road we careen through in our sensibly priced mid-sized rental car with the steering wheel firmly affixed to the passenger side.

We will most certainly be a danger and a menace to motorists, pedestrians, animals, fences, hedges, signposts and the TARDIS, should it have the misfortune of materializing in front of us. We can promise sharp, unexpected turns and sudden stops. We brake for cream teas. We would like to believe a GPS will keep us from getting lost, but we admit with deep shame that it will not. We may forget to use it, manage to misinterpret mind-numbingly simple instructions, or simply be talking too loudly to hear them.

tea crumpetsAlas, People of Cornwall and Devon, if it were only the roads that were unsafe. Even out of the car we will disturb the rural bliss. Individually Thelisas are loud, even by American standards. Tag team us and we never–never–stop talking. If you seek sanctuary in your quaint tea room or traditional pub, you shall be horrified to hear the clash of our Midwestern accents as we cackle our way through pints of beer and pots of tea.

Shutter your windows, lock your doors. We urge you to take a leaf out of the American history book and hang a lantern in the belfry of your church when you see the whites of our headlights. Remember, it’s ‘one if by land’.

The Lisas are coming, The Lisas are coming!

My Happy Place

Congestion caused by a road accident, Algarve,...

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Everyone should have a place they go when life is too stressful. A vision to indulge in while trapped in a traffic jam or a windowless meeting room. A shining beacon of hope for those weary of their children’s algebra classes. It doesn’t have to be realistic, in fact, that would spoil the fun.

Mine is a small cottage in England. The Cotwolds, I think. A high, vibrantly green hedge separates it from the country lane.  White roses tinged with pink arch over the door. The mellow stone of the house gleams in the sun. Inside there are whitewashed walls and thick beams in the low ceiling. The wide planks of the wooden floor are covered with a faded oriental rug. The furniture is a mix of priceless antiques and comfortably squishy sofas and armchairs.

The house is always perfect. There are never leaky faucets, or flooded basements. Mornings start with a pot of tea and a full English breakfast. (I mysteriously lose weight despite eating eggs and fried bread every morning.) I, of course, never lift a finger to cook or clean. Perhaps I have someone from the village who comes in to do the dirty work? Better still, I could go all Disney Princess and have kindly British animals make the bed while singing cheery songs in their squeaky, comically accented voices. A cadre of sweet little stoats sweeping and dusting and frying up my breakfast–overseen by a dignified badger as butler.

Most days, I travel to stately homes and gardens. My chauffeur (I call him Conrad) picks me up after breakfast. “Good Morning, mum,” he says as he helps me into my 1936 Rolls Royce Phantom III Sports Saloon. I settle into the plush seat, setting my jaunty cap at a more becoming angle and smoothing down my tweed skirt.  Although on particularly beautiful days, Conrad would be behind the wheel of my ’38 Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio Cabriolet with the convertible top down. On those occasions, I wear a crisp linen dress, a chic scarf wrapped around my head, and enormous sunglasses. I look stunning.

The gardens I visit are always in the peak of their blooms and there are never hordes of tourists in the houses. I occasionally indulge in a light flirtation with the aristocratic owner who just happens to be at home on the day I visit. He  is captivated by my brash American ways.

After Conrad drives me home, I toddle down to the local pub, the Red Dragon. I drink a pint or two before heading home to sleep in my downy bed.

Another perfect day in paradise. Somebody pass the clotted cream and polynomial calculator.