The picture above is of The Raven, a pub not far from the hotel in which I lodged for the first two weeks of my sojourn in Bath. The Raven is known for its pie. The one time I went there it was packed. I created a space for myself at the bar by grabbing a chair that was sitting against the wall, placing the chair between two other chairs at the bar, and planting myself in the chair. I ordered a pint of their ale and a pie.
“Pie” in England isn’t quite the same as it is here. Generally, English pie has a raised crust, i.e. it’s a cylinder rather than a disk, and it’s usually made with hot water pastry rather than with our pie crust which in England is called “flaky pastry”. Pies are usually savory—beef, pork, chicken—and served with mashed potatoes and gravy.
The last time I was in Bath was nearly twenty years ago. Since then the town has been tidied up quite a bit, it’s more cosmopolitan, and it’s bustling with visitors. Twenty years ago it had a somewhat dilapidated, rundown look and most of the restaurants and tourists in it were English. Now there are Thai, Italian, Turkish, even American restaurants and in addition to the English and American visitors there are European, East Asian, and South Asian visitors as well as many, many East and South Asian residents.
That’s consistent with the trend we saw in London when we visited there 20 years ago, a trend that has apparently spread to the rest of the country.
I think it was Chesterton who said that the great advantage of foreign travel is the gift of returning to your native land as though it were a foreign country. This was the first time I had been abroad in 15 years. Customs was, if anything, more onerous than it had been fifteen years ago. The lines were vastly longer, the security was not appreciably greater but it was tremendously more officious and harsher.