Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Diary of a Seasoned Traveler - Part Two
Now that I've been in the U.K. for almost 24 hours, a lot of people (roughly nobody) have asked me the question, "what are some fun and exciting things to do over there in jolly old England, mate?"
Thank you for asking and you definitely came to the right person. With a little poor planning ahead, a vacation or business trip here can easily be modestly unterrifying and mostly injury free. Here's a couple important things to keep in mind:
- Plan well ahead of time for the jet lag, preferably until the last minute and you are Googling "jet lag" in the airport. The 2 most helpful suggestions are to sleep on the flight over and the other is that whatever you do, don't sleep on the flight over. I put them together and tried to sleep on the plane and could not.
Jet lag is so bad an issue because the flight is 8 hours from the east coast of 'Murica and yet here in the U.K., they are already 5 hours ahead of New York. And that means they are 8 hours ahead of the west coast, where my body and internal clock are from.
So, with some basic math and a handy conversion chart they do not provide (British Pounds to Celsius), you quickly can calculate that you will get here exactly some time after leaving America.
And you want to be plenty groggy and seeing things that aren't there by the time you land, because:
- No matter how far away your hotel is from the London airport (mine is in Bristol, which is 2 hours and over 100 miles away) you do not want to miss out on renting a car and driving yourself across the beautiful countryside.
In retrospect, I would not have traded it for anything, except possibly a cab ride or hitching a ride with a drunk serial killer who at least had a cockney accent.
And you do not need to worry at all about renting a model and make car that you prefer, because they do not have it. Every single car is a make and model you have never heard of. I believe mine is a 2011 Defibrillator by the manufacturer Dragonfart. I think it is Norwegian.
I was dreading the steering wheel being where the glovebox is supposed to go, but that was not that big a deal, actually.
That's because my not having driven a stick-shift in 20 years and trying to do it with my left hand was by far more scary. Between here and London, I terrified and angered roughly 15% of the population and set back our countries diplomatic relations at least 10 years.
(Note: in England, most of them do not "flip the bird" with the middle finger like we good, Christian Americans do. Most use both the middle finger and index finger together, like a backwards peace sign. But a good number actually do it both ways. Roughly 16 people between London and Bristol.)
Now, unless I completely lost my depth perception somewhere over the Atlantic, they build their curbs much closer to the left side of the car here. If you've driven 25 years using the steering wheel as a gauge of how close to hug the left side of the lane, you will take out several mailboxes.
If somebody used a time machine to grab a 12 year old from the year 5 B.C. that had an eyepatch and forced him to drive the Dragonfart, he certainly could not have scraped the left tires any more than I already did.
In my defense, the roads in Bristol are the original ones. They are exactly wide enough for two people to easily pass each other with plenty of room to spare, on their respective horses.
Luckily, the car came equipped with a GPS, which here they call a "SatNav". They're actually very accurate and since they know full well you might have to drive 2 hours, they will already have it charged up and ready to last for an hour before dying. And speaking of things that go beep, boop and run down:
- As Americans, a select few of us have actually purchased and own an electronic device and may even take them abroad. In the rarest cases, some of us even own two or more electronic devices.
Fortunately, none of them will work here, because their cell towers recognize you and I are filthy Americans. But this shouldn't get you down, as the batteries will quickly drain and you will not be able to plug them into anything except your suitcase.
- People all over the world will travel here to England from hundreds and even thousands of miles away, just for a chance to make fun of their food. I think this is a little unfounded, as I had one of the best steaks ever last night. Also, at the small hotel bar last night, in their small selection they had 1/4 of the bottles - an entire shelf - devoted to very good scotches.
This is because Scotland (which is French for Scotchland) is only a few miles north and actually part of England's Kingdom (which they call "United", blatantly trying to copy us). I think Ireland is tossed into the mix, too. And a place called "Whales", where they produce Corgis.
If it means good scotch selection in every English bar, I am perfectly OK with Scotland's continued serfdom. But I have to admit that even though I'm no history major, it does seem that all the careful and hard work done by Mel Gibson and William Wallace in Braveheart was apparently for naught.
That's it for now, as I have to get ready to head into the office. I don't have to be there until 9:00 this morning, so I slept in until 2:30 a.m. My body's internal clock is just making fun of me at this point.
I may write more later, as I still have have 4 more days here on my business trip and 85% of the motorists left to frighten.