Why I fell in love with the UK
I met Karin de Bruyn through our dogs' instagram accounts and we found often that we were staying in the same places in disparate parts of the UK within a few weeks of each other. Clearly sharing the same taste in holidays, I asked Karin if she'd like to write a piece about her perspectives on holidaying in the UK as a Belgian. Here she writes about how the stereotypes she had of the UK were all wrong and how the UK turned out to be the best place to travel with her dog Rufus.
Infamously dreadful weather, the never-ending rain, the grey skies and the fog. A questionable culinary reputation with oddities such as fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, lamb served with jam and lukewarm beer. A belligerent insistence on driving on the wrong side of the road and dwellings filled with strange people resembling characters from Miss Marple or Coronation Street. There were plenty of reasons to not consider the UK as a viable holiday destination.
Stereotypes? Yes! But to be quite honest, sitting here in Belgium, that was entirely our view of the UK. We could, of course, understand London as a vibrant, global city and we had romantic ideas about Scotland and Ireland. But England and Wales? Well they were a blind spot, to say the least.
But then Rufus arrived. The thought of holidaying without our adorable, strong-willed, much-loved Airedale terrier was incomprehensible and so our holidays needed to take a different shape. Through Rufus’ instagram account we started to make friends with dog owners in the UK and what we began to see was a country filled with comfortable, dog-friendly accommodation and activities, where the food was of a high standard, all within a reasonable driving distance from our home in Belgium. No one was more surprised than we were that the answer to our enquiries about the perfect place to spend a holiday with a dog was the UK. It took us a while to believe, but slowly we started to entertain the idea of spending our next holiday there.
We decided to start with South Devon, hoping its apparent micro-climate would provide some guarantees of decent weather. Being less than one thousand kilometres from home it also afforded us the possibility of a swift escape back to the continent if it all turned out to be a horrible mistake. But one surprise rapidly followed another - the British coastline was one big epiphany of beauty to us, the beaches were lively and welcoming and what was more, the sun was shining. Not just for a moment, but all of the time.
The pubs and hotels offered a wide variety of food, ranging from really delicious pub grub to refined dining with surprisingly good selections of wines. We did, of course, come across some of the culinary clichés we were dreading, but, more often than not, we had to blushingly admit that we hadn’t expected all of this. The welcome we received was warm, most especially for Rufus, and it completely won us over.
You could call us ignorant Belgians, but we’ve never cared for the eccentricity of your island. Vacations are supposed to be free of hassle, relaxing places where you can forget about your cares and woes, and we’ve always associated that with the South of France and the Italian valleys and not the seemingly indistinguishable counties of England and Wales.
How were we to know that the National Trust did such amazing things along the coastal paths? Nobody told us about the quaint cottages, or about the zillions of different types of interesting accommodation, most of them welcoming our adored four-legged family member. And, no one told us about the limitless places to eat spectacular food. (Yes, you read that right, spectacular.)
We wanted to keep it quiet, but on arriving home we became the fiercest advocates of your island. We have travelled the world, to the ‘Instagrammable’ islands and the expensive, crowded ‘bucket list’ destinations, but we have fallen in love with the wild Beautiful of the UK, where all our suppressed ideas and dreams came alive again.
And so here’s to your difference, a tonic to our basic desire to adventure. And although it saddens us that in the future the UK will less than ever feel part of the European continent, you will need to be prepared to see us every year from now.