A Dreamy Little English Town
Shai booked a last minute flight to visit a few friends in Norway and was leaving Thursday afternoon. This left me on my own for a few days. I contemplated what to do and where to go and eventually decided to train up to the little English town of Royal Leamington Spa. A girl I had met on her visit to Canada lived there and was offering a place to stay and a day of company. I remembered her describing this place when she was in Canada – a quaint but lively little place with a large local music scene, specifically this little pub she used to work at with a live jam every Thursday. I packed up my little day bag (which by the way was so refreshing after previously bumming through Holland with my massive, barely usable suitcase that is officially out of commission after this trip), paid my 27 pound return fare and off I went.
Leamington Spa. Arriving into Leamington Spa, you know you’re in England. It’s what we, out west, imagine English towns to be like. Lush greenery everywhere. Little brick houses that have had generations of families live in them. Three or four story off-white buildings with crown moulding and big bay windows. The ground floor lined with cake shops and quirky pubs, the upper floors – spacious apartments where locals are doing crossword puzzles with their morning tea. Or their post-breakfast tea. Or lunch tea. Or mid-afternoon tea. Or after-work tea. Or tea before dinner. Or tea with dessert. Or perhaps even their tea just before tucking in for the night. Never in my life have I drank so much tea. Obviously we all know the English like their tea, but really, I had no idea how much.
Beth showed me to my room. A big white bed and a window looking into the garden (where we would sit the folloiwng afternoon enjoying a cup of… yes, tea). A quick a hello to her parents, the loveliest, most welcoming people in all of England perhaps, and we were out the door. As we walked through the town (yes, walked – you can walk everywhere here – dreamy right?), Beth pointed out all the history surrounding us. Here’s a bit of history for you (www.warwickshire.gov.uk):
In 1814 the Embedded Link to an external siteRoyal Pump Rooms and Baths were opened close to the River Leam, which runs through the centre of the town. This grand structure attracted many visitors, hoping to soothe various aches, pains and ailments by bathing in pools filled with the salty spa water. Leamington soon became a popular spa resort which attracted the wealthy and famous, and construction began of numerous Georgian townhouses to accommodate visitors.
Leamington’s reputation spread and the town gained its “Royal” prefix in 1838, following a visit by Queen Victoria to the Spa. Queen Victoria’s statue still stands in the town and was almost destroyed by a German bomb during World War II. It was actaully moved by two inches on its plinth in the blast and has yet to be returned to it’s original position.
Today the pump rooms act as a culture and heritage centre, featuring the Leamington Art Gallery, a museum and library as well as a Tourist Information Centre and café. Spa water can still be sampled at the museum.
She also mentioned that nearby was Shakespeare’s birthplace and two English castles: Warwick and Kenilworth which we planned to visi the following day but a lack of vehicle and a serious lack of energy made that just not feasible. Next time. 🙂
Something else that made my stay in Leamington – or in England for that matter – particularly interesting was the election was held May 6. The town was buzzing with political discussion and a little healthy debate. What a way to learn more about a country. From what I gathered, the hottest topics were immigration policies and welfare. The red party (liberals) had been in power up until this point but the blue party (conservatives) had a quickly growing following with promises of less handouts to the unemployed and tighting up the laws around immigration. We found out just before noon the following day that the blue party had secured the most votes, although not quite enough for a majority government. It’s still yet to be determined who will form coalitions and ultimately, who will be Britian’s next prime minister (even if only for a years time until another election can be held in hopes of a more definitive outcome). Mom and Dad, you must be just so proud of me right now. Not just drinking pints and sleeping late out here now am I?? Haha.
We went into the Clarendon. The pub that Beth had told me about back in Canada – packed with the friendliest crowd of locals, hands wrapped round pints overflowing with ale and a pack of mostly self-taught musicians overflowing with talent. We had dinner there (the most delicious veggie burger of my life) and was introducted to about SIX THOUSAND new people – all who greeted me with a warm smile and a kiss on the cheek (kiss greeting! my most favorite thing about it here). Everyone knows everyone in towns like this. After we ate, the jam began. They played mostly blues songs and Beth (proud owner of of the most stunning voices I have ever heard in my life – seriously, check out the video I have posted on Facebook where she sings Wicked Games and you’ll surely agree) sang a few songs. I sat and watched it all with an espresso martini in hand (compliments of Rob the bartender/great friend of Beth’s) – not wanting to be anywhere in the world more than there in that very moment.
A little later on we said goodbye to the Clarendon and walked over to one of Beth’s friends places in town where they were drinking wine and watching the election. Again, a room full of friendly locals. (This is honestly the friendliest town I have ever been to.) We spent the next 7 hours or so (getting us home at 630am) watching the votes roll in, discussing politics... and Canada’s grizzly bears. Haha.
The following day we ate fish and chips for lunch and watched Babel, all cuddled up on the coziest couch in the universe. And yes, had tea. I was meant to head back into London that afternoon but plans had changed and my night with Jody and Sophie had been moved back to a later date, so I stayed another night. 🙂
Beth’s friend, Junior, was performing with his contemporary dance company in Birmingham, so we decided to go see that. We met up with Beth’s friend Kirsty and Rob and caught the 30 minute train into Birmingham. We didn’t have time to see much of Birmingham, although they did point out a large shopping centre called the Bullring.
The show was at a place called MAC and it was amazing. The piece was just over an hour and featured 7 dancers. It was sort of about water – although with contemporary it can sometimes be up for interpretation. Ther ewas a large curved screen on the stage that pictured the most incredible animated graphics and the dancers used it as their interactive backdrop. Climbing along the top, dangling by one arm, sliding down, hanging from draping fabrics. The dancers were outstanding – all in absolutely impressive shape.
After the show we realized how starved we were and jogged frantically to catch the last train home. Once back in Leamington, we settled into the most budget-friendly curry house in town. A bottle of beer was only 75 pence!!! (I may have had a few… you know me, can never turn down a bargain!) We ordered more food than we could eat, although we made a great effort. My goodness, it was delicious. Naan bread, rice, curry. Dreamy. I thought I was so full I wouldn’t need to eat for a few days, but I managed to squeeze in some more English food today!
Next stop, Moo. One of the three local dance clubs. Junior met up with us for a quick beer and a bit of a dance, although I found it nearly impossible to move let alone dance after all the food I had just consumed. It’ll be a wonder if I don’t come home a stone or two heavier (1 stone = 14 lbs). I’ll have to make up for it in Morocco. I’ll just fill up on bottled water.
We went around to Rob’s (he stays in a flat above the pub) for some tea (an obvious choice after an evening of drinking?? haha) and Public Enemy before heading home to bed.
Lovely Leamington Spa. I can’t wait to go back.