Family travel with flair

11 British gifts to give Americans

TweetA couple of years ago I wrote a post about the 8 British gifts to get Americans (that I would never give to a Brit). Whoa! People went crazy for this post. It was the Strictly Come Dancing, the hit record of posts. Styles and tastes move on, so this year I’ve updated my (modestly) blockbuster post. These days so many gifts are the same no matter where you are. Living in London, that means I’m exposed to a whole different range of gifts that really feel novel and different to my American giftees. Only the most patriotic of Brits would want these under the tree, but Americans love them. 1. Revels – These are on my brother’s Christmas list every year. I once forgot them and he pouted for half a day. British chocolate is different from the American kind. I think it’s something to do with the sweeteners and pasteurised milk. In the UK, it says, “I got three packets of these for £2.” But in America, a gift of Revels says, “Have a Merry Christmas with this treat you only get once a year.”   2. Beach hut artwork – These sweet/twee/pastel images on this side of the pond sometimes bring up uncomfortable observations about the people who buy eye-poppingly expensive ones and commute to them via their vintage style VW vans. Yet for the vast majority of Americans, they are incredibly exotic. In the U.S. you have mere beaches, but in the UK you have the seaside, which is full of charm, 99 Flakes and these little beach huts. Also for Americans, the idea of a tiny hut on the beach, sitting check by jowl with a bunch of nearly nude people is utterly incomprehensible. Especially if it sits on a beach where cold weather and rain is a given for most of the year. Only the British would do this kind of thing, and do it with aplomb. Images available in posters, trays, tea towels, bird houses and other things they’ll find absolutely essential.   3. British-style toiletries – There’s nothing quite so lovely on a dressing table or in a well-appointed bathroom than an elegant bottle or container with olde worlde style writing that harkens back to the heyday of the British Empire. For real hardcore lovers of the English image, I’d love to give Penhaligon’s Maduro Leaf Candle, which fills the home with “a scent reminiscent of a smoking room in an elegant gentlemen’s club… wood panelled walls, soft leather armchairs, a fire...

Are American men more handsome than Brits?

TweetNow that science has solved the question of the Higgs Boson particle, it can move on to the really pressing questions, like “Who is more handsome – British or American men?” Usually my response to hard-hitting questions like this is, “Gentlemen, please, don’t fight – you’re all gorgeous.” But I happened on a scene this week that made me revisit this issue. A friend organised a Fourth of July dinner at The Big Easy on the King’s Road – an incredibly kitschy, loud slice of Americana among the Sloanes. There were huge platters of ribs and chicken, cocktails served in jam jars and a couple of guys on guitars singing every bar standard going, from The Eagles to the Spin Doctors. At one point, I looked up from my macaroni cheese around the room and noticed something that made me lean in close to my friend J and comment: “Have you noticed how many handsome men there are here?” Crowded into every table, sometimes in groups of four or six sat men with impossibly glossy looks, tousled hair, outfits that looked slightly unkempt yet put together. You could see the muscles rippling underneath their shirts and their faces glowed with healthy tans. They were all swigging beer from bottles and tearing into big platters of meat. I mean, you’re kidding me, right? It was Being Matthew McConaughey, at every table in the restaurant. Now, Matthew may not be your thing. He’s not really mine. But there was no denying the sheer amount of male beauty in the room. And it was all 100% American in some way that you can’t really put your finger on, except you know it when you see it. As a class I find men on this side of the pond enormously appealing. I love the style, charm and manners of British men – after all, I did marry one. But this latest piece of research has thrown up all kinds of questions. Such as, Do those biceps come standard? and Does that tan wipe off? In this case, the landslide of new data may have edged my home country fellows a bit ahead in the handsome stakes. Undoubtedly more research is called for. What does your data gathering tell you?  ...

What Brits really think about the royal wedding

TweetIt’s turning out to be a week of my culturally insightful gems re: Brits v Americans. My latest is a piece I wrote for an American website started by veteran newswoman Leslie Stahl, Whoopi Goldberg and other high-flyers. I give my fellow Americans the low-down on how Brits really view the royal wedding.   So what do you think? Did I get it right?...

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