After 4 days in London I decided it was time to experience small town, country England.
My godfather recently moved back to England into a small town called Overton. His daughter Lizzie, lives in the next town over called Whitchurch. I had seen a handful of photographs and read a handful of descriptions about the two towns before I came, they were absolutely charming.
To get to Overton I made my way to the London-Waterloo train station (which thanks to closures on the Underground, took twice as long as it should have). Waterloo is an interesting building. Like the British Museum, it is a series of buildings that have been covered by a glass roof to make it one building. The station is bustling with people going anywhere and everywhere. From London-Waterloo people make their way to cities and towns all over the United Kingdom.
The English train system is faster than the system in the US. A trip that would have taken me at least 2 hours here took me just under an hour. I barely had time to finish one chapter in my book. To make the trains even more impressive is that the food trolley, rather than just being a booth in one of the cars, is actually pushed through the train stopping at each row to ask you if you’d like anything. It’s reminiscent of what old fashioned trains use to do across the world.
Overton and Whitchurch are tiny towns in comparison to what I’m use to. You can walk from one end of central Overton to the other in about 10 minutes. Everyone knows everyone. It’s this quintessential small English town. Within a few blocks of each other are 5 pubs. Which when you walk in, everyone knows everyone, the bartenders are pulling up a person’s favorite drink before they’re even in the door.
I spent three days mulling around Overton and the surrounding area. I went to church with my godfather on Sunday, as he sang in the choir. The building dates back to the 13th century, with these huge creaking doors and stone floors. The pub across the street from his apartment was equally as ancient. The towns are full of little shops. While London was full of every ethnicity possible, small town England is almost 100% Caucasian. It’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just how it is.
On Monday my godfather had to run errands in the town of Andover. Lizzie and her husband were disgusted that he didn’t take me somewhere older. I had to remind them that to me it was old. To the English anything that was made after the year of 1800 isn’t all that old. It’s a complete contradiction to how Americans view old. Americans view old as anything older than 1900. So walking through Andover, a town with buildings founded in the 1800s, I was in heaven. To the average person from England though, they may recognize the oldness of it, but they do not think it is nearly as fascinating as a tourist accustomed to a younger environment does.
Besides when we were in Andover I had the opportunity to see a real life gypsy, or traveler as they call them, playing the violin.
My time in London was so independent. I spent my time watching people rather than talking to them. Overton provided me with a chance to actually get to know the English. They are nice and kind, and at times very interesting. I was consistently jabbed at for being American, but generally the comments were good at heart. It was making fun of American football, or laughing at my accent or words I used to explain things.
I had quibbles here and there with some people about American politics and interference in the world and while I sometimes thought they were a bit harsh in their judgments, I couldn’t deny their accuracy. Beside which, in the same conversations where they complain about American involvement, they advocate their reasoning for re-electing Obama.
I ended Monday, the day of my Andover trip, having dinner with my godfather, Lizzie, and her husband at one of the pubs in Whitchurch. Pubs in England, I should point out, are not just drinking destinations, they actually serve really good food. In fact, some of the best food I had while I was in England I had at pubs.
It was nice being able to take a few days in Overton and relax after the busy city. It allowed my jet lag to fully subside. It was also nice, despite how much I enjoy being by myself, to actually have company and have someone to explore with and provide me with anecdotes. Because, the reality of it is everyone needs and wants at least one person to share stories with and inside jokes with when they’re travelling. It makes the entire experience more real, because you have someone else to share it with.