harry potter
Why visit Britain? I could think of a hundred and one reasons to do so. You have fish and chips, the River Thames, the London Museum, and more. According to Lost Weekend, however, the biggest attraction drawing people from all over the world to the UK these days is none other than the wizard boy, Harry Potter. Of course, we all know that he is a fictional character. That does not change the fact, however, that Harry Potter fans want to visit his country of origin.

Visit Britain conducted a poll among people from other countries to find out what the top reasons are for visiting Britain. Would you believe, number 3 was this:

Harry Potter
The boy wizard is attracting people of every nationality, in record numbers, to sights all over the country. Weren’t we looking for a new statue in Trafalgar Square a while back? Who’s a better-known war hero than Potter?

Other items (or people) that made the list are Clarks (the shoes), Full English (what better way to start the day), the seaside (I don’t know why!), and Jamie Oliver (yummy!). Interestingly, none of the attractions I mentioned above made the list. Apparently, visitors to our shores have a different perspective as to what makes the UK interesting. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

Oasis
Oasis may not be the household name today that it was many years ago but a recent vote propelled them to the top of the charts once again. The UK Press tells the story:

Britpop veterans Oasis have demonstrated their place in music lovers’ hearts by securing first and second places in a new chart of the best British albums. Fans voted the Manchester group’s first two LPs ahead of established classics by The Beatles, The Clash and The Stone Roses. The Gallagher brothers’ 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe, came top in the poll by music magazine Q and retailer HMV to find the 50 “Best Ever British Albums”. The follow-up, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, came second and another two Oasis records made the top 25.

Despite the Gallagher brothers’ tendency towards controversy – or maybe because of it – they have captured the hearts of music fans all over the world, most of all their fellow British. According to Rudy Osorio, HMV head of music, “most album polls of recent years have tended to see the likes of The Beatles, Radiohead and Stone Roses vie for the top five spots. However, as our perspective changes, it looks like many more of us are starting to recognise the iconic appeal of Oasis and the brilliance of Definitely Maybe as an era-defining album.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

London people
Most every major city in various countries all over the world is the same in this respect – they host people from other countries and as a result, become cultural melting pots. London is no different in this regard. In fact, it could be safe to say that London is even more special when it comes to being the crossroads of the world.

People from all over the world come to live in London and bring their culture with them. I ran across a blog entry that presents an interesting perspective on this. This is what MTaylor of ModernBritish has to say:


This collision of culture has made London into the vibrant city it is today. Step into any neighbourhood in the city and there will be cuisine’s from around the world, shops selling fruits from the tropics and spices from the east. No other place in the world reflects the diversity of London. This is in part due to its geographical position. The Pacific Ocean is the antipodal point for the UK and so all land masses are in equal reach of the city. Added are its status as a transport hub and its position as Europe’s leading financial centre, the mix only seems certain to grow.

What is amazing is how the demographic changes, when leaving the city’s boundaries. On leaving London and crossing to the commuter towns of the surrounding Green Belt, it feels like another world. The shops are all neat and tidy, the accents are less rich in slang and none of the exoticness of the city seems to have made an impact beyond its borders. Traditional England has held sway despite the rapid change that has occurred in the city just a few miles away. The faces are also different from that in the city. Not just homogenised, but also different in their outlook. The frantic pace of the city has been replaced by the sedate calm of suburban contentment.

So if you are looking for a unique multicultural experience, I suggest a visit to London. You surely will not be disappointed.

full English breakfast
Are you? Then I suggest going out of your comfort zone (I am assuming the cities) and foray out into the countryside. There is no doubt that you can find a lot of good food in the cities – many of which may come from other cultures due to the large number of immigrants. However, if you want a real taste of British cooking, you may want to try going outside of the city.

If you think about it, the same thing applies to many other countries. The cities become melting pots of a large number of different cultures. As a result, the cuisine is also affected. However, when you go out into the countryside, the traditions are kept more solidly and you get a true taste of that country’s cooking.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises – pleasant at that – that you will stumble upon is the English breakfast. If you think that nothing can be heavier than your breakfast at home, then visit and English bed and breakfast and order their fare. You will be served hefty dishes of fried bread, fried eggs, fried bacon, and even fried tomatoes! It may not sound healthy but it sure does taste great! Of course, the traditional English breakfast tea will be part of the deal. You can always opt for coffee but I suggest that you do it as the English do – with a hot cup of tea mixed with milk and sugar. Oh, before I forget, be ready to ingest potatoes in one form or another – they’re part of the whole package.

Valentine Appeal

valentine appeal
I know this is one day late but I just became aware of a Valentine’s Day campaign in Britain for this year. Though it is a day after Valentine’s Day, I am sure you can still do something to help out this cause. So what is it all about?

Arena Flowers, one of Britain’s leading flower shop, has teamed up with the British Heart Foundation and came up with the concept of selling flowers for a cause. The idea is simple and has been around for years – for each Valentine’s tulips bouquet that the flower shop sells this year, they will be donating £1 to the BHF’s cause. By the way, there are four different types of tulips bouquets available. In addition to this, they will be donating 50p for each Heart of Chocolates and Large Heart of Chocolates products that they sell.

If you are not the type who buys and gives flowers on Valentine’s you might want to make a change this year and do so – for any other reason! More than that, you can actually go straight to the BHF’s web site and make a direct donation. A mere £24 can pay for one hour of a BHF Heart Nurse’s time. It may seem little to you but it will make a world of difference to someone else! There are also many other ways that you can help the BHF’s campaign. If you want to know more, I suggest that you visit their web site and do your part in this worthy cause.

English tea
Here is more of Miss Scribbler’s list on why she is proud to be British. Let’s see which of these we can relate to.

Tea-drinking. A Canadian once said to me that she thought it was a joke that all we drink during the day is tea. She thought it was hilarious just how much time we set aside during the day for tea and how much we ritualise it. I love tea, it is a very special time of day when you have your own special mug and a biscuit or a slice of cake at your desk at work. It does the job much better than alcohol.

I believe I do agree. Tea does give you a warm sensation that is hard to compete with. It is something that makes you feel, for some reason, that everything will turn out just fine. Oh, have I mentioned that tea is good for your health as well?

Chippy chips. With curry sauce, with mayonaise, with red or brown sauce, with chilli con carne or with cheese – you know the best chips you will EVER get at 3am anywhere in the world is the UK. Freedom Fries? Reclaimed potatoe bits? No thanks, Yanks.

Ha ha. I think she said it best already, don’t you think? To be honest, though, sometimes I do get a hankering for French (or Freedom, whichever you prefer) fries. Still, nothing beats the good old chips from the UK.

curry
I ran across a very interesting and funny post about being a nationalistic Brit. I never really realized it but there just might be truth in what Miss Scribbler says in her blog – that “the UK is probably the very least patriotic country in Europe.” I am sure that many will disagree with this but her thoughts on being proud about being British should be shared with everyone, in my opinion. Here are some of her points:

Curry. You cannot deny that the best place to have a curry is in the UK. You know wherever you go they’ll have your old favourites; chicken dansak, lamb rogan-josh, prawn bhuna and chicken tikka masala top the list at any reputable curry shop.

Interestingly, these are dishes that have origins from other countries – and no doubt about that, the UK is an interesting melting pot of a lot of various cultures. So why not be proud of being able to have the best curry in the UK? Now I got myself a craving for some curry…

Being given affectionate names by people you have never met before such as bag-packers in the co-op chatting away to you calling you “duck” and “love” when you could be a drug-pusher fall all their sweet hearts know. It warms your cockles, admit it!

Indeed, in many other countries, you do not even talk to people in certain ways unless you know them very well. Only in the UK can one appreciate pet names from people you barely know.

(to be continued)

Britpop

Britpop
Music is something that is common to all cultures. It is an element that, for some reason, is very important to people. One of the best things about music is that it is not static. Though there will always be constant elements – that which we dub as the classics – changes in music over time is inevitable.

One of Britain’s contributions to the world music scene is Britpop. This musical genre can actually be categorised under alternative rock and was borne out of the indie (independent) music scene way back in the early 1990s. How does one distinguish Britpop from other musical styles? There was really no single, binding sound to describe band making Britpop. However, the bands making Britpop were largely influenced by guitar music – British, of course – of the 1960s and the 1970s.

Britpop, in fact, was a reaction to the popularity of grunge music, which was making waves back then in the United States. Britpop, in a way, was the answer of the UK artists to that movement across the sea. They utilised British guitar music and incorporated more “Britishness” in their lyrics.

Some of the most famous Britpop acts include Oasis, Blur, Lush, and Suede. During their heyday – and even now – it was not uncommon for these bands to be recognised in other parts of the world. By the end of the 90s, however, personalities and other factors contributed to the decline of the movement. Oasis and Blur, in particular, were the leaders of the movement and led to the decline of Britpop as well.

In any case, whatever happened in those years has left a lasting mark in the international music scene, making Britpop part of history.

Buckingham Palace

buck house
When I think of London, I cannot help but think of Buckingham Palace as well. In fact, it is a must for any visitor to the city. Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Royal Family in London and is the venue for state occasions and other royal events. Of course, it is one of the major – if not THE major – tourist attractions in London.

Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham (yes, hence the name). It was originally dubbed the Buckingham House but succeeding extensions and improvements of the building prompted its becoming the official royal residence of the British Monarch. The first royalty to occupy the palace was Queen Victoria in 1837.

Today, Buckingham Palace is normally closed to visitors, though of course, anyone can stand outside and try to catch a glimpse of the royal edifice. There is some good news for the general public, though, as from March to April of 2008, guided tours will be carried out. What is in store for those who want to take these tours? Well, an expertly guided tour of the 19 State Rooms. Visitors can feast their eyes on masterpieces created by renowned painters, antique English and French furniture, and the architecture of the palace itself. To end the tour with a bang, champagne will be served at the Grand Entrance.

If you are interested in taking the tour, contact the Royal Collection at (0)20 7766 7322 or send them an e-mail at specialistsales@royalcollection.org.uk.

UK Fullers Pub
Now that we’ve looked at the background of the English pub, let’s look at modern day English pubs and see what they have to offer. Again, I have Jed to thank for the particulars in this post.

Closing time
If you are looking for an all nighter, the English pub is not the place to go. Most pubs close at 11 pm – this has always been the tradition. Recently, though, a legislation was passed that allows pubs to open later than this time. However, most pubs still close at the customary time of 11 pm.

Ordering food and drinks
In many other countries, when you go to an establishment that serves food and drinks, you can normally expect to be served at your table. In an English pub, however, you have to go directly to the bar to place your order. Try sitting at the table and you will find out, however long you sit there, you won’t get any service at all. This is not to say that the English are service-oriented. It’s just how things are done.

Do you need to tip?
The answer is no. Some visitors may feel the need to do so but it isn’t really necessary. It might even bring about an awkward moment if you insist on tipping your server. A suggestion would be to say something along the lines of “get yourself a drink on me.” Though this is acceptable, it rarely really happens. So save yourself an awkward moment and refrain from tipping.