This is a preview to the chapter United Kingdom from the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Paul Allen.
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American author Mike Harling moved to the southern English town of Horsham, in Sussex, after falling in love with a woman from the nearby town of Crawley. “We decided on Horsham because there was no housing in her local area and we both liked Horsham; it was small and quaint, yet had all the amenities we could want, and it has good rail and bus links.”
Indeed, one of the aspects Mike loves about living in Britain is not needing a car: “I take a bus to my office in Brighton, and when I travel for work I generally take a train. Aside from that I like being able to walk to restaurants, pubs, the cinema, etc. It’s a nice, compact little country and, although well populated, has many areas of outstanding beauty.”
Sussex, my home county and Mike’s adopted one, certainly presents a chocolate-box picture, with its flint-walled houses and village greens, its hedge-lined lanes and rolling farmland. Other notable areas of beauty across the country include such national parks as the New Forest, the Norfolk Broads, the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, the Yorkshire Dales, Peak District, Lake District, and the Cairngorms.
There is an omnipresent sense of history too. The parish church in the village where I grew up is listed in the eleventh century Domesday Book. The city of Bath, a designated World Heritage Site, goes back even further, when it was a spa resort in Roman times. York too still shows its Roman beginnings.
And being so familiar with the capital it’s easy to forget what an amazing place London is. There’s history galore of course. There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London, parts of which were built by William the Conqueror after his victorious invasion in 1066 AD; the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and the medieval Church of Saint Margaret, which is the parish church of the House of Commons; the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew; and the park and buildings at Greenwich.
There are the royal residences of Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace, and the royal parks (along with all the pageantry that goes with the monarchy).
And there are museums and art galleries by the score – including the world renowned British Museum and the National Gallery.
As a cultural centre London boasts the West End theatre district, ballet, opera, dance and a vibrant music scene that spans the gamut of classical and modern styles.
There is sport, in the shape of famous football teams like Chelsea and Arsenal, and the iconic home of football itself, Wembley Stadium. Cricket too, at Lord’s and the Oval. And let’s not forget the Wimbledon tennis championship.
More than that, London is brimful of life and interest: from the pub on every corner to its restaurants and shops, its acres of parks and squares, and miles of broad avenues and hidden streets.
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