Visiting Newark, Lincoln, and Southwell: Short Trips from Bleasby

Going to a tiny town has its perks: there is a never-ending source of quiet and relaxation. But there comes a point where I long for a coffee shop, a bookstore, and seeing a hint of city life. We didn't do any research about what was around Bleasby, which turned out to be totally fine. Locals gave us recommendations, and sometimes, that's just the best way to travel!

Did you know that the Magna Carta was signed in Lincoln, England in 1215? Yeah, me neither. (Or maybe I'm alone on that one?!) The owner of The Red Lion Pub recommended this day trip to us, and it was a surprisingly easy city to reach by way of Newark, which we stopped over in long enough to get some tea and walk around a little bit. 

Our day began in Newark, which is (thank goodness) very different from its neighbor in New Jersey. We sat at a sidewalk cafe and enjoyed tea and coffee, and then wandered around a little bit before catching our train to Lincoln. There was an outdoor market where we bought some raspberries, and John got his hair cut while I sat on a bench and tried to figure out what the well-meaning but impossible to understand older British woman next to me was saying. (I did a lot of nodding. It amazes me that it's sometimes so hard to understand people even when you speak the same language.)

Next was Lincoln. We did some window shopping on High Street, and I resisted (believe it or not!) buying any books at Waterstones (even better than Barnes and Noble). We then began the climb up Steep Hill, and yes--it's incredibly steep! But the way is lined with adorable shops and cafes and we were sucked into Bunty's for a quick snack (chocolate peanut butter cake). 

About halfway up Steep Hill.

About halfway up Steep Hill.

Once you reach the top, there are still more cafes and restaurants, as well as the cathedral and the castle. We decided to buy a ticket to the castle that allowed us to walk the walls, see the Victorian prison, and see the Magna Carta. What a cool experience to see such an old, important document that is still celebrated 800 years after the fact!

Southwell was another small town (though larger than our super-small town) a few miles away from Bleasby that was accessible by bus. We caught the bus one evening and went to Southwell for dinner and had a lot of pubs to choose from. The weather was perfect, and The Hearty Goodfellow was a great spot to sit outside on the green lawn and enjoy a plate of fish and chips.

Beautiful church in Southwell.

Beautiful church in Southwell.

Now That's English! Part 19.

But no, really...it is English. It's British! 

I love Spain. I really do. But the drop-the-please-and-thank-yous way of talking throws me a little bit. At a cafe I want to say, "Hello, how are you? [Wait for response and potentially make small talk.] Could I please have a coffee?" when really, all the waitress wants to hear is "Ponme un café con leche," or "Dame un café con leche." Literally translated, we're looking at something like "Put a coffee in front of me," or "Give me a coffee." Most of the time, there's very little interaction after that. She returns with the coffee, and that's it--until I have to spend 10 or 15 minutes flagging someone down for the check.

It's not that Spaniards are rude, necessarily. But for an Anglo like me, especially one who has spent the past 10 years, más o menos, in the southern U.S., please and thank you are important words to throw into conversation, especially transactions in stores and restaurants. I also kind of expect that a store or restaurant is going to thank me for my business when I leave (but they do say "hasta luego" religiously here, so I'll take that!). Here it is just different: people are more direct, throw in fewer fluff words, and get to the point (for the most part). Customer service isn't top of the priority list. And if something comes out of the kitchen not exactly how you ordered it at a restaurant, you are likely to blame, and no apologies will be made. (I know this is a generalization, but it holds true in many cases.) There are so many friendly Spaniards, but sometimes it takes getting past the gruffness and hard exterior to uncover the friendliness.

Going to England this year was always a pleasant cultural surprise. "People are so friendly!" we always remarked. I was shocked when I ordered a steak pie at a pub, and was approached by the manager shortly after ordering. He crouched down, getting eye-to-eye--this was serious business--and apologized profusely: they were out of the steak pie, but would I mind very much if they brought out a chicken and leek pie? "On the house, of course," the man continued, "and once again I am so very sorry!" The frequency of "please" and "thank you," and "excuse me" when bumping into someone was music to my ears. And it felt a little bit more like home. There is such a nice attitude of helpfulness that we encountered everywhere we traveled that was so refreshing, too.

The following signs aren't all about politeness (though some of them are), but are just signs that struck me as being so British. We love England and can't wait to go back!

Always a "please." Also, "pram" is such a better word than "stroller." Say  stroller  to yourself 10 times in a row and you'll see why.

Always a "please." Also, "pram" is such a better word than "stroller." Say stroller to yourself 10 times in a row and you'll see why.

Not only does "please" seem to appear everywhere, reminders about being careful, not hitting your head, etc. abound.

In case you forget, the Brits are there to remind you.

In case you forget, the Brits are there to remind you.

I've never seen a sign in Spain that has promised to make ANYTHING easier for me. Just sayin'.

I've never seen a sign in Spain that has promised to make ANYTHING easier for me. Just sayin'.

First of all, they call pooping "fouling," which is awesome. Then they continue by adding "please" to this command.

First of all, they call pooping "fouling," which is awesome. Then they continue by adding "please" to this command.

"Lovely Lollies." This sign says it all. 

"Lovely Lollies." This sign says it all. 

The Brits apparently call crossing guards "Lollipop Ladies/Men."  So. cute.

The Brits apparently call crossing guards "Lollipop Ladies/Men." So. cute.

"No dumping. Please take your rubbish home or to the Tidy Tip located in Eaton Green Road."  So many British-isms here: 1) rubbish, 2) Tidy Tip (I feel like only Brits would call a trash dump by this name), 3) "in" instead of "on", and 4) continuing to say "please."

"No dumping. Please take your rubbish home or to the Tidy Tip located in Eaton Green Road." So many British-isms here: 1) rubbish, 2) Tidy Tip (I feel like only Brits would call a trash dump by this name), 3) "in" instead of "on", and 4) continuing to say "please."