England was attracting visitors -- most of them, especially the Romans and Vikings, unwanted -- long before William the Conqueror and his invading Normans crossed the Channel.
That invasion continues today, with millions of foreign visitors winging or boating in to see what all the excitement is about. They are joined by thousands upon thousands of poor immigrants, who have decided that their hope for a good life lies in these great islands whose people once conquered a global empire -- two-fifths of the world -- on which the sun has long ago set.
The charismatic Princess Di is still a cherished memory. The Beatles are half gone or else paying off crushing divorce settlements. The queen herself is still presiding with grace over a dysfunctional family. In her post-Di humiliation, she's even had her privacy invaded with an intrusive movie and has had to open the doors of Buckingham Palace in August to raise extra funds from those willing to pay her hefty entrance price.
That legendary stiff British upper lip isn't so stiff any more. You get that impression if you visit an English pub, some 5,000 of them in London alone. In some pubs you'll wonder where those famous English manners went, especially if you encounter lager louts ruling the night after too many pints. Some of the clichés remain. The English still consume, on a daily basis, oceans of fish, served with their soggy chips. However, with the influx of immigrants in the past decades, almost an equal number of curry dishes are devoured as well.
As Victoria and her quaint morals lie sleeping in her grace outside Windsor, London -- and England in general -- have become cutting edge in music, fashion, culture, art, and even architecture, the latter much too daringly avant-garde for the likes of tradition-minded Prince Charles.
The fading English aristocracy, to pay the tax man, is even opening its castles or manor houses to overnight visitors. So far, the queen isn't running a B&B at Windsor Castle, but many dukes or duchesses are sharing their royal abodes with hordes of tourist invaders.
As you tour this England with its 60 million people, you'll encounter "Brit ego." The people have a lot to be proud of, along with some shameful scars in their colonization. They did give the world the Magna Carta, and almost everything viewed as "Western," even law. They spearheaded the Industrial Revolution and won nearly all their foreign wars in spite of their Mickey Mouse size.
Before Tony Blair was sent packing from 10 Downing Street, he said, "We Brits are now living in the post-Industrial Age, and we may not quite have reinvented ourselves. But we're doing so every day, and I'm sure our future generations will have many marvelous surprises to spring upon the world."
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