It was our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary which occasioned the trip of a lifetime, two weeks in Great Britain and France. From the theatre in London to the Tattoo Festival in Edinburgh to the highspeed Chunnel train transporting us to five magical days in Paris, it was simply unforgettable. With all of these amazing experiences and more, the one that stays with me most was discovering the wooded area behind C.S. Lewis’ home called “Narnia” in Oxford. Walking the pathway by the pond, seeing sites which were reminiscent of scenes in the movies, and sitting on the log bench said to have been the place of deep contemplation and conversation between Tolkien and Lewis, I was in Heaven. Walking through Lewis’ modest home and enjoying fish ‘n chips at The Eagle and Child made the experience complete. Like many, I have been an avid fan of Lewis’ writings so walking through his world was somewhat surreal. I imagine what it would have been like to sit in the corner and listen to the Inklings discuss literature and any other topic they would broach.
Our second trip to England took us to Daventry to speak for a conference and a few add on days in The Cotswolds. Being the planner I am, we took a daring risk and decided to just drive and find a place to stay. A word to the wise, always reserve a room in the English countryside in the summer months ahead of time! We drove and looked and drove and looked and there was no room in the inn. Finally, as I was about to panic and imagined us sleeping in the rental car on the side of the road, we came upon a quaint working farm that also served as a bed and breakfast. It was seemingly in the middle of nowhere and turned out to be our most enjoyable stay of the trip. It was an alpaca farm with a historic farmhouse with one room left in the crow’s nest which was a beautiful room at the top of the house. The views were amazing, the feather bed divine, and the breakfast delicious.
My last trip to London was just a few months ago for a layover from Morocco. My assistant had never been to London so we determined a few hours in the city was necessary. We booked the ultra-tourist thing to do and took the City Light Tour experiencing all the main sites from the upper deck of a double decker red bus. It is always enjoyable to experience something through someone else’s eyes who is seeing something for the first time.
Reading Culture Shock! London by Orin Hargraves and Culture Shock! Great Britain by Terry Tan brought back many memories in my mind’s eye and September 26, 2019 cannot arrive quickly enough. I look forward to purchasing an Oyster card to hear, “mind the gap” on the Tube and must remind myself to walk on the opposite side of my normal pattern. I so appreciate the expectation to say “please” and “thank you” and find the sense of “order” and “respect for privacy and common decency” quite refreshing.
As my husband is fond of saying, “London is my favorite city!” Even though it is English speaking and Western culturally, it is still quite different from the U.S. and these guides are excellent reminders in order to appreciate the differences and enjoy the area to its fullest.
 Orin Hargraves, Culture Shock! London: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2009), Kindle Loc. 240, 242.