Top Souvenirs from a Trip to England
2022 is a great year to be an anglophile! Queen Elizabeth II’s history-making Platinum Jubilee, marking her remarkable 70 years of service, plus a new Downton Abbey film, have brought all things British to the forefront of popular culture.
Interest in travel to Britain is at an all-time high to experience Britain’s storied pomp and circumstance, English culture and quirk, and immerse yourself in one of the world’s most adored and copied lifestyles, from cricket to rowing, afternoon tea to a round at the pub, stately homes and quaint cottages, gardens to skyscrapers, exquisite tailoring to hand-written invitations: the good life, British-style.
You’ll want to bring some of it home to re-live your vacation and share your love of all things English.
Lynn Elmhirst, producer and host of BestTrip TV, just returned from a transatlantic crossing on the British luxury line Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, with a few days post-cruise in London during the Queen’s Jubilee year. Here are the souvenirs that made it into her bag:
English authors have made their mark on the world, from Shakespeare up to the present day, and London remains one of the publishing centers of the planet. And even most modest homes today still retain that very British tradition of having a library to be proud of.
Indulge in some time in an English bookstore. “High street” or mainstream bookstores have so many books you’ll never see at home – even though they’re both written in English! That includes books by experts sharing tips and information about traveling around London or Britain through the lens of their special interests that can help inform and shape your travels.
Then there are still treasure troves of independent, specialty bookstores – if you love books, you could get lost forever and love it!
If someone visits England and doesn't have afternoon tea, have they actually been to England at all?
That very civilized tradition of taking a load off one’s feet in the middle of the afternoon and partaking in a restorative cup of your favorite tea, along with light finger sandwiches, a perfect scone, clotted cream and jam and a sweet delicacy or two… simply makes your day. And tides you over til a late dinner after taking in a performance in one of London’s West End theaters, for example.
You may find you can’t live without afternoon tea, in which case, you’ll need a tea service. From impossibly elegant versions made by top names in British fine bone china, including patterns available in England only, to quirky versions that speak to your own personal sense of style, a tea service will allow you to reminisce about your time in England for years to come.
Start with just a tea pot you can mix and match with your own china at home, or go all the way with tea pot, milk and sugar, teacups and saucers, even sandwich plates! Many fine stores even arrange shipping.
When it comes to family, friends and colleagues, I’ve found the most-appreciated souvenirs are the ones that disappear – down your throat!
And England does consumables up right. From teas to biscuits (or as we’d call them: cookies) jams to chutneys, sweets to chocolates and more – all in high-designed tins and packages and parcels and baskets that are essential English style.
There’s no end of shops to stock up on edible souvenirs, but you won’t want to miss the grand-daddies of them all: Harrod’s and Fortnum and Mason.
Anything from Liberty’s
The luxury department store in the unmistakeable historic building – erected in Tudor style using ship timbers symbolic of the exotic emporium of its vision - in the heart of London’s Regent Street shopping area, has become synonymous with the truly unique designs of late 19th century creator, William Morris.
A keen anglophile can always spot a Liberty pattern, whether it’s on a shirt, scarf, man’s tie, or woman’s bag.
Those would be for you. To share with loved ones back home: edibles packaged in those unmistakeable Liberty designs.
While its earliest origins stem from the Netherlands just a short sail across the Channel, hundreds of years ago the English made gin very much their own. Today, a gin and tonic – or G&T, remains the essential English cocktail.
Forget everything about gins you’ve tasted at home, and start sipping unfamiliar, small-batch gins on your trip to Britain. There’s a lot more to gin today than distilled juniper berries! Combinations of botanicals, florals, and herbal ingredients have resulted in intriguing new flavors of gin, that are just as delicious sipped straight up as they are mixed with a high-quality tonic.
Image Courtesy Royal Collection Trust
Buckingham Palace now has its own gin that you can buy at its gift shop in support of the Royal Collection Trust that maintains one of the largest art collections in the world.
So does British cruise line Cunard. In fact, Cunard partnered with the well-known distillery Pickering's to create three gins with different flavor profiles: one for each of its ‘Three Queens’ ships.
If you were asked to draw an Englishman, chances are, he’d be sporting a tailcoat, a hat… and an umbrella. The quintessential dapper Englishman flourishes his umbrella, which isn’t just an affectation, but protects him or the lady accompanying him, from the English weather.
If quality apparel and accessories mean something to you, England is the place to acquire an umbrella with character. Check out the fine department stores, some specialty stores, and find yourself the perfect bespoke umbrella that will be a conversation-starter back at home – like this one above, kindly provided for the use of guests at our hotel, The Londoner (below), a stunning new luxury hotel in Leicester Square in the heart of the capital's theater district.
In addition to books, of course, every stately home’s library comes equipped with a splendid globe. Every world traveller should have one, too. Flat maps or – the horror! Apps! – fail to evoke the sense of scale of our planet, the distances between destinations, across seas and oceans… or the magic of travel in the way a globe does. Tactile by its very nature, a globe engages our wonder with travel.
And there’s one person in England making bespoke globes by hand in a studio in London. My camera team and I visited the studios of Bellerby & Co. to learn the secrets of putting a map on a sphere you can touch.
The studio isn’t open to the public, but you can order a globe online – even personalized in any way you can imagine! To have a little piece of bespoke English artisanship - and keep your travel dreams alive as you spin it at home.
Start your England Trip!
All images copyright BestTrip TV / Lynn Elmhirst unless otherwise stated.