Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Three Cheers for the English Pub!

I’ve shared with you my wacky observations about both the Tube and Toilets.  I’ve been planning a post on some of my favorite British things.  But, I thought this one deserved its very own post.   


There just aren't many things that are more British than a pub.  

In Texas, we spent a lot of time with friends at The Lion & the Rose British Restaurant & Pub.  They claim to have captured the true British Pub experience.  They serve beer and have Pub Quiz Night each week. (Go, Diamond Dogs!!) But, that’s about where the similarities end. 

No wonder, TE was always a little sad the next day.  I just thought it was a mild hangover from the bitter grog he insisted on ordering.  But, he was really just pining for a proper English pub.  

They are definitely one of the best things about the UK.  This website refers to them as the “neighborhood’s living room.”  I love that and it’s so true.  Once you find the one…your “local,” you expect to hear the Cheers theme song when you walk through the door.  

There are chain pubs that have popped up in recent years like The Slug & the Lettuce or All Bar One.  We visit them often.  We know we’re going to experience decent food in a nice, clean setting.    They are the closest to a US restaurant/bar, like TGI Friday

There are also brewery-owned pubs.  A brewery might own dozens of pubs in a region all with similar furnishings and menus that serve that specific brand of brew.   They are kind of like a Chili's but without waitresses.  

But the best is the traditional old pub.  They each have their own character and a lot of it.   Some of them date back hundreds of years.  "See that wall?  Its' older than America."  (Yes, TE actually said that to me once.)

Be sure to read about the history whenever you visit a pub.  It’s usually on the menu or in a frame on the wall.  You may be drinking where Shakespeare, Charles Dickens or Jack the Ripper used to drink. 

Pubs are as common as churches around here.  No matter where you live, there will likely be a few within walking distance. 

When we were in Notting Hill, our go-to pub was the Prince Edward.  We would go several times a week to sit outside and read, watch a game or have dinner. 

We quickly became known as regulars and were always greeted warmly.   They have great food, by the way.

I just love the feel of a pub.  People are relaxed and friendly.  You will often find a dog sitting patiently under a bar stool.   You’ll hear a lot of good-natured teasing and laughing. 

Families are welcome and you’ll see strollers in the corner.   They are usually filled with fun and interesting chotchkies.  No smoking allowed, so please go outside to enjoy your hand rolled cigs or Cuban cigar.  

But, you won’t find waitresses in a pub.  No barely-legal-girls-in-skimpy-tops-and-short-kilts to flirt with.  Just belly up to the bar and pay cash for your drinks.  Some might take a credit card or let you start a tab, but don’t count on it.
Order a pint (or a half pint) of some great beer.  There are so many wonderful brews on tap at the local pub.  They are usually very specific about the glass that it will be served in.  If you order a Fosters, it will be served in a Fosters pint glass.  London Pride?  Here’s your beer in a very special London Pride glass.  No chilled glasses, btw.  And, no you can't take it home. 

And that whole thing about the beer being served warm…  not true. 

They will serve it at whatever temperature best suits the brew; room temperature, cold, ice cold or even super chilled. 

If you look in the little fridge behind the bar, you might even find a bottle of Budweiser or Corona.  But, you will be the only one in the pub drinking it.  So, go sit in the corner.  

Oh, and if you order a “Sex on the Beach” expect a blank stare.  You’ll be drinking beer, cider, wine or basic mixed drinks.  None of that frou-frou stuff.   If you want more than one ice cube in your drink, you should ask for extra.  And then you’ll get two. 

I’ve even seen a wine tap in a bar.  Pinot Grigio on tap?  Yes, please.   And I’m not even ashamed to admit it.  I might even sneak in an ice cube when no one is looking.  (I’ll be over here in the corner with my Budweiser drinking friend.) 

In the UK, weights and measures are highly regulated.  So don’t expect a heavy pour of rum in your diet coke just for batting your eyelashes or whatever else you got.  It’s illegal to serve anything less or more than the standard pour. 

Most of the liquor will be hanging upside down behind the bar with auto-measured pourers.  Or the bartender will be using a little, legal metal measuring cup. 

Wine, too.  That wine glass will have a little “fill to here” line.  But, feel free to order a double. 

And, don't tip your bartender.  I'm not completely sure, but it might even be rude.

Eating at pubs can be hit or miss.  You can easily get fish & chips, a meat pie or some starchy dish with a side of starch.  More in the mood for a salad or some vegetarian fare?  You are probably out of luck. 

Some pubs only serve munchies or only a limited menu during certain hours.  But, we have had some great pub meals.  We’ve been to several that specialized in Thai food.  Not sure of the correlation there, but it was good food.  

Again, you’ll order and pay at the bar.  Give them the number on your table if there is one.  If not, they’ll give you some numbered item to display at your table until the food is delivered. 

 Expect a bucket of condiments and silverware to arrive soon after your order. 

And don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot, foreigner.  Just eat your food and stop being so high-maintenance, will ya?   (And , yes, that is a chamber pot holding our ketchup.)

By law, most pubs close at 11pm.   They have started issuing licenses for some to stay open until midnight or 1am.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.  You’ll need to head over to the local nightclub for that “Sex on the Beach.”  Hear that bell?  It means last call.  Drink up, Pilgrim.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a fun game that TE taught me when we were exploring the English countryside last summer.  It was fun.  And, if I recall correctly, I kicked his butt.  It’s called Pub Cricket.  It’s kind of like the License Plate Alphabet game we used to play as kids on a US highway road trip. 

Rules for Pub Cricket

1.  Each player get 3 “wickets” per turn.

2.  The first player “bats” and for every pub
     you pass, that player gets “runs.”   
     And it’s all about the pub name.  As you pass
     each pub, you add up your runs. 

3.  The number of runs for each pub
     corresponds with the number of legs
     that are found in that pub name.   
    But, only up to a maximum of 6 runs per pub.

(So, for instance, the “Prince Edward” would be worth 2 runs, because a prince has 2 legs.  If you pass the “Dog & Duck” you would get 6 runs... 6 legs.  And for “The Fox & Hound” you would still only get 6 runs, not 8, since 6 is the maximum for each pub.)

4.  When you get a zero you lose 1 of your 3 wickets.   

(For instance, “The Cheshire Cheese” or  “The Barley Mow” would be worth zero, since they have no legs.  And, for “The King’s Head,” you also get zero because the head of a king has no legs.  Get it?)

5.  Once you lose all 3 of your wickets, record your total runs and it’s the next person’s turn.  
    If you’re really lucky, your turn could last for miles.   

6.  Whoever has the most runs at the end of your road trip is the winner!!!  The loser has to buy the next round. 

I hope you have fun playing PUB CRICKET!   

What's the name of your "local?"  What makes it special? 

See you down at the Pub!  Cheers!!


Friday, May 18, 2012

I Spy Friday featuring Calais

On Wednesday, we decided to take advantage of the sunny day and
pop over to Calais for lunch.

(I can't even type that with a straight face.)  

How cool is it that we can go to France for lunch?

Pinch me!

We caught the P&O Spirit of Britain ferry in Dover for the 90 minute trip across the channel.  


The ferries are a great way to travel.  They are large with shops, bars and restaurants.
You can take your car over or just walk on like we did.  

Goodbye, England. 

Bonjour, France!

There is a bus to take you from the ferry terminal into the town center, 
but it isn't very far and you could walk it if you're so inclined.  (I picked the bus.) 

Calais used to be a very popular spot for Brits to visit to stock up on inexpensive beer and wine, but the Euro has changed all of that.  There were just a few tourist scattered about.

There was a little market that was just closing down when we arrived about noon.  
But I managed to pick up this scarf.  

I love it because it has the US and UK flags together.  Just like me and TE.  
(Cheesy, I know, but France is known for it's fromage, right?)

First order of business was some grub at Cafe de la Tour.  (It must be blasphemous to call French food "grub.")
We may or may not have ordered three entrees between us.  But we'll just pretend one was the starter.  
TE had mussels and we shared the other two...
fresh bread with walnuts and roquefort cheese, toasted with sliced pears
 and steak au poivre (with pepper sauce).  
The gorgeous salad and fries rounded everything out.  
It was so good!  How do you say nummy in French?

  After lunch we strolled through town.  
You have to switch over to European time and plan accordingly.  

Most of the restaurants only serve lunch from noon until three and then reopen for dinner after six.
(Cafe de la Tour is one of the few places that doesn't close for the afternoon and serves all day.)
And most of the shops were closed for about two hours for lunch.  

The main road through town was also under construction.  They've completely torn the street out so we had to dodge some trucks and jackhammers as we walked through.  
It's going to be beautiful once it's done.  

We walked down to the town hall and through a local park.  
We spent some time at sidewalk cafes soaking up the sun.  
I'll talk a glass of white wine and some vitamin D, please.  

We admired The Burghers of Calais by Rodin.  
It is gorgeous, but I'm distracted by their feet.  Is it just me,  
or has anyone else noticed how disproportionately large their feet are?


And we couldn't resist one last stop at a patisserie for some sweets. 
The pain au chocolat avec creme anglaise was Ah-Ma-Zing! 
Croissant with chocolate AND creme! Heaven in a little paper bag.

Calais is the perfect place to play I Spy, don't you think? 

  We stopped to watch these gentleman play a very competitive game of Boules.

Wouldn't you love to spend a few hours in a cafe with these lovely ladies?  
I can just imagine the stories.

And I spotted this French rogue hanging out by the trash bins.
 He asked if I wanted a peak into his treasure chest and then challenged TE to a dual.  

We had a terrific, relaxing and refreshing day.  Vive la France!
 Thanks for joining me for I Spy Friday and have a wonderful weekend!!


P.S.  We're back to London tomorrow and Sugar Bear will be here in 6 days!!  Holy cat, I am so excited!!