We are now 5 weeks into life as “Englishters” and I am slowly starting to feel settled. Granted, there is still a lot of organizing that needs to be done in our house but at least we have a permanent home!
It’s been a long and tedious transition but we’ve managed to do a few fun things as well. We spent the first three weeks here staying in temporary lodging on base. I’ve never lived on base before and I really didn’t care for it during our short stay. I can’t pinpoint it exactly but it all felt very depressing. That could also be related to the fact that it rains incessantly in this country and the sun is only up from 8am to 4pm. Also, I was having some severe homesickness and was missing my NC folks. The Sarge’s to-do list filled an entire folder and it felt like we would never get through it but somehow, it all worked out. Two steps forward, one step back; seems to be the way it goes with the military.
We rented a little car and took advantage of some free days to explore the nearby towns. Bury St. Edmunds was first and was a beautiful old town with churches on every corner, cobblestone streets and Christmas lights everywhere. We ended up being there in the evening when most of the shops were closing up for the day but it was still fun to look in the windows.
We stopped in a little pub for a bite to eat and the Bacon Bit went wild. They were playing music and she was in the mood to dance. I’d never even seen some of the moves she busted out and she had everyone laughing. We weren’t quite sure how to go about ordering so we ended up looking extremely awkward at first. We just stared at the menu, halfway walked to the bar, then back to the table. Finally, the Sarge decided he would order some cokes then ask about food. Even though this is an English speaking country, it’s not always easy to understand what’s going on because the expressions are much different than what we’re used to. We managed to order dinner – meat and potatoes for The Sarge, veggie tikka massala for me – but it wasn’t the tastiest thing we’ve ever eaten.
Our next trip was to Ely as we’d heard there is an amazing old cathedral in the town. It didn’t disappoint and I had fun taking pictures with our new camera.
Unfortunately, they charge to tour the cathedral during the week and it would have cost close to $40 for all three of us to get in so we just admired the exterior. We decided to try out fish & chips at a small store on High Street (it’s what we would refer to as Main Street). Not too bad; it reminded me a bit of Southern fried seafood but not quite as greasy. They pair it with vinegar and salt and same for the French Fries or “chips.” It was a freezing cold day however, so it ended up being a short trip.
On our attempt to leave town, we ended up going the wrong direction and passed a giant supermarket called Sainsbury. Oh my word. We decided to go in as we needed some groceries and I thought The Sarge was going to piddle himself. Rather than having a special section for antibiotic, hormone-free foods and organics, it’s simply the norm here. So basically everything you buy tastes amazingly delicious. Much of it is locally sourced as well so it tastes incredibly fresh. We decided to do a veggie roast for dinner with a fresh baguette from the bakery. I can’t wait to feed our friends when they come to visit!
We managed a quick day trip to Cambridge with our friends, The Gilleys. They lived near us in North Carolina and got orders here about 6 months before us. It was nice to see familiar faces and have a little taste of home. Cambridge is a big university town with huge shopping centers, historical buildings and numerous museums. We visited the Fitzwilliam Museum as it was free and I felt like I was back in college studying art history. They had works by Degas, Renoir and Matisse, to name a few, and it was fun to think back on some of what I had learned.
After the museum, we wandered back towards the town center and stopped at a place called Fitzbilly’s. We’d heard they have delicious pastries and wanted a snack. I went out on a limb and tried minced pie since I kept hearing that it was a traditional Christmas treat. It was basically a mini pie filled with some sort of fruit/raisin concoction. I didn’t care for it so it must be an acquired taste that you grow up with. I also have some issues with mushy fruit so maybe it was just me. The Sarge got an eclair which was delicious. After browsing the local market as well as the large shopping center, we stopped in an Italian restaurant for some lunch. They had outdoor seating despite the fact that it was all of 30 degrees outside. However, the sun was shining so I think it was just a special day. The Bacon Bit did great and even managed to eat a big portion of my mushroom soup. She won’t eat sweets but she killed the soup – what a weirdo!
After two weeks in temporary lodging, we finally signed a lease and were ready to move into our new house. We hired an agent to help us find a place and it was money well-spent. She basically took care of everything for us including setting up utilities and helping us navigate the military side of things. We moved into our place on December 14th and are loving it so far. More on that to come!