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Posted by Jessica on Nov 9, 2005
From Farmers' Fields to Fish n' Chips

When Tim and I finally arrived in Leeds for a visit to our dear friends, Paul and Caroline, we were delighted to find Caroline already waiting for us at the bus station. She told us that Paul was back at their house, busily whipping up a traditional English breakfast for us. No matter that it was two o’clock in the afternoon and quite late for breakfast, we were going to start this visit right.

Paul’s breakfast, it goes without saying, was absolutely fabulous. And we proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon catching up, having not seen one another for almost 5 months at that point. It was wonderful to spend time with them again, to hear their laughter, and to hear Caroline say “Paul” in the way she does when she’s getting ready to smack him for doing something, well, Paul-like.

And so it proceeded, the next 4.5 days were absolutely perfect and we loved every minute of them. When we’re back in the US, there will be many more posts about our time with Paul and Caroline because there is so much to share (including the story of my birthday, which we spent with them). But for now, I’d like to share with you two anecdotes.


The Yorkshire Dales

On the second day of our visit with Paul and Caroline, we all popped over to Paul’s parent’s house to borrow their car for the day. Caroline had thoughtfully planned for us to visit the Yorkshire Dales so we could see the English countryside. She had also managed to borrow a lovely book, called “Walks through the Yorkshire Dales” or something to that effect, and we planned to do one of the walks mentioned in it.

There are certain places in the world that you can picture perfectly without ever having been there. The English countryside is such a place. We drove for nearly two hours, past the rolling hills that make up England, past the tiny little hamlets with pubs with adorable sounding names, past small farms in the distance, and all the way with low rock walls on either side of the narrow and twisting road. The weather was perfect too: not too sunny and not too cold, with just the right amount of clouds and mist. It was the kind of weather that you might also picture when you think of England.

We finally reached the starting point of our walk, a little village whose name escapes me right now, and parked the car. And after a few minutes, there was nothing but green, green, and more green around us. Not even the road was visible anymore, as we started walking through farmer’s fields following the walking tour.

There was a bit of confusion at the start: frankly, all farmer’s fields look about the same, so navigating through them can be a bit tricky. “Oh, ok, maybe that’s the rock wall we’re supposed to turn at? Or wait. Maybe it’s that one?” And while we walked, Paul and Caroline reassured us (and by us, I mean me) that we would not, in fact, be shot by a farmer who might be perturbed by our walking through his land. (And they were right. I don’t want to ruin the end of the story or anything, but we were never shot at and we survived the walk in one piece.)

About halfway through our walk, we came to the highest point in the area and stopped for a bit of lunch. Paul had packed us sandwiches and cookies to nibble on, and they didn’t disappoint. I don’t know how he does it, I’m sure it’s the years of professional training he’s had as a chef, but he can transform even a simple sandwich into the best thing you’ve ever tasted. And so the four of us sat, happily munching away and admiring the hills that rolled out in front of us as far as the eye could see. And Tim and I were extremely happy to be there with them.

The second part of our walk proved as nice as the first part. We made our way down the long hill in front of us, passing between more farms and farm animals. Having crossed an adorable bridge, we found our way into a small forest. Paul and Caroline explained how in the spring, the area would be covered in blue bells. But even without them, it was a gorgeous area.

Eventually we happened across a sign with two arrows. Caroline read that the left arrow pointed us to a small diversion, and being four people who are always up for diversions, we headed in that direction. We walked for about 100 meters down a hill, still covered by the huge trees which surrounded us, and were not disappointed by what we found. The end of our path had led us to a secret waterfall of sorts, which gorgeous rocks made black and shiny from the water, and bright green trees on either side of it.

A few minutes later and we were on our way again, talking the entire time about traveling and what it was like for them to be at home again after their long trip to Mexico, South America, and the West Coast of the US. And then almost as soon as we had entered it, the forest cleared and we were in a field leading back to the village we had started from. Overall, it was a very lovely walk indeed.


Proper Fish and Chips

For years and years I have heard about proper fish and chips. Either from friends who have visited England or friends from that fair island have repeatedly told me of their importance in this world, and so their value and virtue has not been lost on me. And so it was one of the things I was most looking forward to for our visit to England. (That, and standing in one of those old-fashioned red phone booths.)

I’ve had fish and chips before, the most notable time when Tim and I visited San Francisco and took a road trip along the coast. And naively, I had thought it couldn’t get any better than the fish and chips I had in a little restaurant on the water there on the West Coast of the US. How silly I was.

Although Tim and I had been in England for over a week by the time we visited Paul and Caroline, we still had not had proper fish and chips. We were told by our other friends who we had visited in England that it was of the utmost importance that we should get our fish and chips from a “chippy” and not a bar. Now, being from the US, I have absolutely no idea what a chippy is, and so I simply nodded and smiled when all this was explained to us. And then I figured if anyone we knew would be able to direct us to a proper chippy, it would be Paul.

Paul accepted his new mission with gusto, and so it was on our third night of our visit to Leeds, that the four of us found our way to a local chippy. This was a new place for Paul, he had not sampled their fish and chips before, but he felt confident that the quality would be excellent. And so in we went.

Now, if you’re like me, you think ordering fish and chips is a simple affair. “Yes, I’ll take some fish and, um, yup I’ll take some chips too.” Short, simple, end of story, right? Yea, not so much. It turns out that at a proper chippy there are not only several sizes of fish to go with your chips, but there’s also extra sorts of things that you need to have in order to fully experience your fish and chips.

First, the sizes. It appeared from my investigation of the menu that the fish came in about four sizes: normal, large, pretty damn large, and bigger than a baby. And then there’s the extra things to go with your fish and chips. It seems that not only do you need your flaky fish and salty chips, but you also need vinegar, buttered bread, mushy peas, and tea. Confused? Yup, I was too. Up until I had my first bite.

I had always assumed you’d drink a pint of beer with fish and chips. I mean, it is England after all. But it turns out that tea goes much better with the fish and chips. Because it’s quite a filling meal, the beer would overwhelm your taste buds and your stomach. But the tea? The tea added just the right flavor to the whole event.

And the mushy peas and buttered bread? Really, now that I’ve had them with fish and chips, I am puzzled how I didn’t know about them before. Although the mushy peas look more like baby food than grown-up food, they beg to be eaten with fish and chips. And as a great fan of bread (the Atkins diet will never be my friend, oh no no no), I was delighted to find out that making little sandwiches at the table with fish, chips, and mushy peas is not only ok, but it is encouraged. And to this I say, go England!

And so Tim and I experienced proper fish and chips (they must be proper after all as they were from England and from a chippy), and our stomachs have never been happier. And the company was pretty darn nice too.

Now, about that pint….

Amie a.k.a. Koreen's sister
November 9, 2005 at 1:12pm
I'm pretty sure my thighs got fatter just reading about the chippy meal. Seriously mushy pea's lost me for a second, but it does sound delicious. Now not only did this post make me insanely jealous it also made me hungry! The country side looks beautiful, just as I imagined it would be…good thing you guys took that long hike to make caloric room for your fish and chips…I bet your thighs made it though unharmed.
Shana
November 10, 2005 at 1:21am
yum! i can't get past the yum part… but really, the other parts were quite nice to read, too.
daddy
November 10, 2005 at 4:45am
just remember its not your birthday woof meow chirp and binkies
Broken Weebel
November 10, 2005 at 11:32pm
Mushy peas?! *YUCK!* However, the fish n' chips, bread, and tea sound absolutely fabulous. *YUMMY!* I don't suppose Timmy could stuff some into his pocket now could he? Nah, I suppose you can only do that at Clarks in Lewiston when you're like 6 years old or something.

*Different Topic* I gotta tell you that your talk of the green hills suddenly made me think of the one scene on Sesame (or however ya spell it) Street where Grover is sitting on a hill singing "the hills are alive…" and the hill starts dancing. God only knows why I have flashbacks of Muppets singing! Anyway, glad you're enjoying your trip and I cannot wait to see you when you get back. *Huggy-hug-hug* ~~~~ Me

Heady chef
November 16, 2005 at 5:08am
great, really took me back, the 5 days we spent together will forever make me smile. Come back!

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