If you are an Anglophile and long to visit the places of British influence, know that there are places world-wide from which to choose. By 1913, 23% of the population were under British rule of some sort. Currently, the Empire consists of 54 sovereign states and 14 British Overseas Territories, so you will find British influence, and perhaps a cup of tea, in any direction you travel.
Britain began sending convicted felons to the continent of Australia in 1786 who had to either make their way in this isolated territory or perish. The relationship between the nations is now much more congenial with Queen Elizabeth as the ceremonial and symbolic head of state but having no power at all to govern. The British influence is great in Australia because English is the primary language which makes traveling throughout the country a breeze from cruises from Sydney to explorations of the backcountry.
Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize didn’t get its new name until 1973 and its full independence until 1981. The country’s long history with Great Britain began formally in 1783 with the Treaty of Versailles that gave logging rights to the Crown. British troops subsequently defended the border when Guatemalans threatened annexation. Although English is the official language of the country, Spanish and Creole are widely spoken especially along the borders. The people of this beautiful laid-back country are descendants of Mayans, British adventurers and more recent immigrants from all over the world.
Aside from the obvious similarity in name, British Columbia has some very English inspirations. This Canadian province has both a mountain range and an ocean to make it a feast for the eyes. An excellent place to start your visit is the colonial city of Victoria on the tip of Vancouver Island. Its charming old-world architecture and color-filled gardens will remind you just a bit of Downton Abbey. Do not miss tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Scones, local honey and a pot of Earl Grey will make you feel the need to glance around just in case the Dowager Countess makes an appearance.
Perhaps an unlikely place to find British influence, this barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico is home to a yearly festival called Dickens on the Strand. Begun in 1974, this celebration of all things British takes place the first weekend in December each year. Costumed revelers line the streets to mix, mingle, shop and watch the Queen’s Parade. You can take in a reading of A Christmas Carol, enjoy a traditional English breakfast with the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens himself, listen to a Highland pipes and drum band or head over to Fezziwig’s Beer Hall. The usually mild Texas winter might make this festival more enjoyable than in its adopted home.
The East African country of Kenya has the distinction of being the place where Princess Elizabeth learned that she was Queen due to her father’s death in 1952. Although it became a fully independent nation in 1963, Kenya still hosts an infantry training facility for British troops. Blessed with the “Big Five” African game animals and a wondrous wildebeest migration, Kenya welcomes tourists to its 60 national parks and game reserves for photo safaris and other activities. Watch elephants head to the nearby watering hole at the Treetops Lodge in Aberdare National Park just as the young Princess Elizabeth did almost 70 years ago.
Once a trading post for the British Empire, Singapore is now a fully independent city-state. Somewhat abandoned by the overburdened British military during World War II, Singapore was occupied by the Japanese until their surrender in 1945. The country now maintains friendly relations with many countries and keeps its own tech-savvy military. The tiny country is frequently listed as a “best place to visit” on several tourist outlets.
It used to be that the sun never set on the British Empire. While not true today, there are still over 50 countries with ties of varying strength to the old guard.