“When the weather’s good, there’s no better place to be than the British countryside.” –Ross Kemp
Usually when I travel to the U.K., I stay in a “suburb” of London with our longtime friends, Keith & Donna. This visit however, I was lucky enough to escape to the country for a few days of rest & relaxation. My good friends, Steve & Mary live in the small village of Stanfield (pop. 162) in the county of Norfolk. Norfolk, located in East Anglia, is a low-lying and predominantly rural county 90 minutes by train northeast of London & is a leading producer of fruit, veg & much to my chagrin, animal products (beef, pork & lamb).
After inviting myself to stay, I felt it was necessary to let them know that I was now vegan (you can read about my journey here) & wouldn’t be eating any animal products. I figured that this would cause some “discomfort” with my hosts but didn’t want to surprise them once I arrived. Since their village is so small I was sure I’d see some kind of banner announcing “Warning: Crazy vegan Californian coming to town”! Turns out I was half right as everyone we ran into had, indeed, heard about me.
As expected there was a bit of panic from Mary about what to feed me but she was quite gracious & bought me a few staples – almond milk for cereal, soy creamer for coffee & FreeFrom buttery spread for toast. She even bought a coconut-based “cheddar” cheese which was so delicious that even they both liked it enough to eat it! (Another small victory for our side!) I was so touched by their thoughtfulness as it seems that a lot of people not familiar with “what vegans eat” can be completely flustered when standing in their own supermarket. This fact was proven to me when I heard the story about when Mary was standing in her local Sainsbury’s staring blankly at shelves when an employee walked by. Clearly at her wit’s end, she asked him “what on earth do I do with a vegan?” His answer, “shoot them!”
Fortunately for me, he was the only bump in an otherwise beautiful, idyllic & accommodating setting. One evening we were invited to a friend’s home for drinks & appetizers (most meat & dairy free) & the lovely hostess was very keen to tell me that her daughter was a vegetarian! When she passed around some yummy little homemade pastry’s she whispered, “you can eat these, they’re meat & dairy free”! Then the next day we returned home to find that a copy of the UK’s alternative wellbeing magazine Natural Health had been left at the door with a note “for your vegan friend!” And then there was the pub where Steve & Mary had previously made dinner reservations for my last night. They had advised the staff that I was coming & were told “oh yes, the chef does like to be warned!”
My eating & lifestyle habits aside, they chauffeured me around to some pretty awesome places & introduced me to some really nice people. The internet service was sketchy at best so I really was forced to relax.
I loved everything (Sainsbury employee excluded!) about my visit – the peace & quiet, even the terrible internet service – and could have stayed for weeks. I can’t wait to go back to Stanfield & the Norfolk countryside!
Have you traveled to the English countryside? Leave me a comment.
Thanks for reading!