Day Trip to Stamford, England
Officers as far as the eye can see!
Act I: Morning train and Stamford.
Out of king’s cross station (and the good folks at the ticket counter will know what to do and set you up just right if you tell them you’re going to Stamford by way of Peterborough for the day), trains leave regularly for Peterborough and get there in less than an hour, give or take, depending on how fast of a train you want to pay a few extra bucks for, give or take. King’s Cross may be where platform 9 3/4 departs, but don’t forget that means there’s also a platform 9 and a platform 10, so once at Peterborough Station, step outside and a line of cabs is waiting, each driver with a smirk that translates roughly into, “Child’s play,” if you ask if they know how to get to Stamford. Stamford is about a fifteen minute cab ride from Peterborough, give or take, and Stamford is in part a commuter town to London for people who work in London but cannot afford it because their inheritance did not include the country of Saudi Arabia.
If on this day you happen to be looking for a place where Joe Wright filmed Pride and Prejudice, Meryton is Stamford. And Stamford is Meryton. It explains the initial confusion when you step out of the cab and wonder why the cabbie has wrapped you in an old English medieval tapestry. But this is no weaved scene of a medieval town like the ones you’re used to in museums. It is a medieval town.
I start Stamford off at the Cozy Club, because it’s bright and refreshing and you can’t help but feel that way in Stamford with its green parks and stone buildings. Outside of cozy club, walk the cobblestones of High St. (just ask anyone who works here the way to High St. It’s just east and it’s a minute away, like everything in Stamford.) Browse the cobblestones. Live the cobblestones. Love the cobblestones. Walker’s Books is here in a Tudor building. A real one, which is cool. They have a wonderful selection of classics. I picked up Pride and Prejudice because what’s better than reading about Meryton of Pride and Prejudice than reading about Meryton of Pride and Prejudice in Meryton. Kevin on the office would appreciate this when he was eating a pig in a blanket, in a blanket. This isn’t London. This is England. Treat it that way and enjoy it that way. Slow it down, pal. Slow it way down.
Then, of course, where St. George’s Square and St. Mary’s St. meet is the general area that they filmed the militia marching in for Pride and Prejudice. Which of course, to Lydia and Kitty and co. means officers! According to Lydia, if you drop your handkerchief, and an officer picks it up, then you’re introduced! It’s win all around. Give it a go. Find your own colorful Mr. Wickham. I hope you have half of Lydia’s good luck.
Oh, and there’s stone bridges and parks, too, of course. Remember, in Europe, weather is your guide.
Act II: Tea at The George.
Cross the River Welland, on whose banks it’s rumored that the poet Sir Walter Scott said about Stamford that it was the finest view between London and Edinburgh. Old man Scott must never have had tea at The George, though, because The George Hotel is that old and he didn’t mention it and trust me he would have. Tea here is why I come to Stamford comma England.
Tea at the George makes my what’s your top ten of the world answer. The building dates to the Knights Hospitallers (the N’Sync if the Knights Templars were The Backstreet Boys), and it’s just one of those moments in life that makes all other moments of similarity seem to be silly recreations. Everything that is good about England is in the old walls and the ivy and the scones and the clotted cream. The shelves at your favorite hobby store are engineered to look how this place really is. Fair warning. Once you do tea here, tea anywhere else that tries to imitate traditional tea will be fake and kitsch imitation.
Act III: The Mad Turk and The Wine Bar
It used to be that the sun never set on the British Empire. Good thing that’s changed because England after dark is one of my favorite places in the world. And Stamford is no exception. The only thing I love more than walking along cobblestones of British towns is walking along the cobblestones of British towns at sunset and coming across a window looking down into a dimly lit place with exotic, low hanging lamps swirling like – is there anything that swirls in turkey other than dervishes? I’m fighting it but I’m really scared I’m going to use that tiresome metaphor. I can do it.
Although, The Mad Turk is not exotic, because remember England was an empire that spanned the globe and though turkey was never part of the empire, many parts of the Middle East and Asia were, and so it’s not really exotic but I should say unexpected, especially to come across something like that while walking along cobblestones that have spent more time pushing and shoving against wooden carriage wheels than rubber ones. The service is fun and enticing and the food is as mesmerizing as the low hanging lamps swirling like…. no! Don’t do it, Johnny. You use the swirling dervishes metaphor and I will quit.
I recommend getting the mixed mezze appetizer plate. Whoever coined the catchy phrase the sun never sets over the British empire was surely inspired by this mixed mezze for two and it’s ten dishes of Turkish food that never ends. I mean where else but in England. God save this beautiful country.
Next door to The Mad Turk is The Wine Bar, if you’re in the mood and when is anybody ever not for a little chair of tuft and coziness and a sommelier slash bartender who can go toe to toe in terms of wine knowledge with the sommeliers of the Michelin restaurants of France. I said I wanted a rosé and we couldn’t decide between wet or dry so he gave me a glass of each and, come on, find it in the world where you can stub your toe on a cobblestone, then bonk your head on a low hanging Turkish light fixture swirling like dervishes (f*&k it), and then alternating sips of wet and dry rosés. Oh by the way you took a total of three steps to get to all of it. Only England.
So cab back to Peterborough and London is fifty minutes back on a relaxing train ride. Beat it. Anywhere in the world. I dare you. Just make sure you know when the last train leaves back to London. But then again.