We arrived in the UK first thing in the morning. We settled in where we would be living temporarily and received a mini-tour of the area. We were also taken to a local grocery store to pick up items we would want. We are not in a large area, so there are larger grocery stores than our local one, but on average the stores here are not as large as in the United States. Most even have a small clothing department or aisle and a housewares aisle. What shocked me the first time we went into the local store was the eggs on the shelves. I have learned since this surprise that it is quite common in other countries. In the U.S., it is required that the eggs be washed, which strips a natural protectant from the eggs that prevents spoilage. They aren’t washed here. I remember my father teaching me about the natural barrier, but he still refrigerated the eggs, so I did not realise they could be left on a shelf.
I also have found that there are a large number of sweets in a UK grocery when compared to the rest of the food. I love sweets, but if I could eat wheat and gluten, I would have gained a lot of weight since moving here! It all looks so wonderful–even the foods that aren’t sweets: sausage rolls, pasties, etc.
During the first two weeks, we began driving around. It is a bit odd at first, switching sides of the road and sides of the car. Then we had to take a driving class where we learned the different signs, how to navigate a roundabout, and speed limits. The instructor also told us of all the accidents in the local area to scare us into driving safely.
Suffolk and Norfolk are the Fens for those who don’t know. The Fens are reclaimed swampland that is used for farming, so there are stretches of road with deep ditches on either side. When it rains, those ditches swell with water and a car running off the road may not be seen in some seasons. It can be a scary thought. The speed limits are upper limits, but as a driver you are supposed to use your judgement, which means that on a narrow road with no shoulders and a 15 foot ditch to your side, you might have a car zoom by at 70 mph. If anyone ever finds themselves behind me, I rarely go the speed limit unless the road is great or I am on a motorway!
The first few weekends here, we picked up Layla (our dog) and took her to Ely. The British often take their pets with them different places, and you often see owners walking their dogs or sitting outside (sometimes even inside) a pub while they eat. The waitresses will even bring you water for your dog.
Just to say, I love Ely. It’s a quaint, beautiful town. All towns have market days which can have everything from fruits and vegetables to books and household supplies. Most larger towns have a market day on Saturday as well as one during the week, so we often walked around the market. We also walked up and down the river and let the children play in Jubilee Park. The river is a lovely spot and it is neat to see the ducks come up on the walkway or see the swans swimming near the boats.
When in Ely, there is Oliver Cromwell’s house as well as the Ely Cathedral. I had one gentleman here tell me that he preferred the Ely Cathedral to Notre Dame. I have not been to Notre Dame yet, but the Ely Cathedral is incredible. Perhaps one of my favourite things since moving here was my birthday lunch that we had at The Almonry behind the cathedral. There is a lovely walled garden and as you sit outside you can see the rear of the large building. There is also a park nearby with a lovely view of the upper portion of the huge building. There was a service inside when we went, preventing us from taking photos, but there was a fair across the street for different charities. We had a wonderful time touring the different booths and meeting some of the people.
Parking can be a bit tricky in Ely. There is a nice car park near the centre of town, but on certain days there is a time limit imposed. If you don’t mind a bit of a walk, there are other car parks to the outside of town that are free and are unlimited parking.
Next up…Bury St. Edmunds