UK summertime

Summer holidays in England – 5 highlights of an English summertime

As a hard-working expat, I generally only travel home once a year and these visits normally tie in with special occasions – weddings and big family birthdays being the main ones. With the difference in weekends (in Dubai it’s Friday-Saturday, in England it’s Saturday-Sunday) plus the time differences and the length of flight, I normally end up taking around 2.5 weeks to really make the most of the time and see all the people I care about in one trip, and it can be thoroughly exhausting (not to mention expensive for car hire and petrol!) I’ve often been advised to base myself in one place and see if people would come to me, but with my loved ones so spread out, it’s really not that practical.

As I approach my ninth year of leaving abroad, I really relish these trips and the quality time with people, and never more so than if I am back during the summer in one of the (few) weeks where the sun is shining. Happily, the trip last week was one of those weeks and it reminded me of the things I miss most about England during the summer:

1. Country pub beer gardens
Some of my fondest memories, both as a child and as an adult, involve long summer evenings spent with family and friends in the gardens of various country pubs. There’s nothing more relaxing than enjoying a nice cold drink in the sunshine at the end of a day (although on this trip, I had the luxury of doing this over several long lunchtimes and afternoons too!) which leads me on nicely to…

2. Refreshing summer beverages!
I love the choice of refreshing summer drinks available in the UK, every time I come home, I amazed at the number of flavours of cider and coolers that fill the wine fridges – half of which have never even been seen in Dubai! This is in addition to the jugs of Pimms, overflowing with fresh fruit and mint – it just isn’t a summer holiday in England without a Pimms or two!

3. Walks in the countryside
I’m not sure if my appreciation for nature and green spaces has increased with age, or is as a result of me living almost a decade in a city in the middle of the desert, but I certainly appreciate the countryside even more now.

Whilst most of my family and friends do not live in villages or countryside locations, most of them have access to green spaces fairly close by, and when I am home, I love getting out and going for picnics, long walks, rides or runs so that I can really appreciate these and soak up the fresh air and natural sights and sounds of fields, woods, rivers, hedgerows, before heading back to the sandpit!

4. BBQ’s
It’s not like we don’t have BBQ’s in Dubai, those people living in villas with gardens or in flats with large balconies seem to have them fairly frequently during the winter months, but somehow they’re not quite the same.

In England, possibly due to the unpredictability of the weather, BBQ’s seem much more of an occasion – if you’re lucky enough to have a warm, dry weekend, you jump on the opportunity and really make the most of it! Plus the UK supermarkets are bursting with BBQ ideas and extras to create the ultimate outdoor get-together, and with the sun not setting until 9.30-10pm, you can really create long evenings to remember.

5. Fresh strawberries
These deserve a category on their own because there really is nothing quite like a bowl of fresh British strawberries with cream. I’ve tried them in other parts of the world, but they just don’t taste the same – they don’t smell like strawberries, they’re not plump and juicy, and the bright red colour doesn’t seem to reach the centre of the fruit.

I remember lots of family trips to ‘pick-your-own’ farms during the summer where we would come back armed with baskets of sweet fresh fruits, and mouths stained tell-tale red. Knowing how much I enjoyed these trips, I’m looking forward to taking friends’ children for similar trips in the future.

As with anything that you only experience in small doses, you do remember only the best parts, and I do tend to romanticise the English summertime, and the one thing I block out every year is the summer plague – hayfever! But I’m not going to ruin my lovely fuzzy reflections of a lovely week’s holiday back home, I’ll save the hay fever survival tips for another post!