Britannia Rules July 18, 2005

Amber and I just got back from England and we had a great time – it was the perfect blend of getting a lot done and yet not being stressful, and of seeing things and seeing people. Thankfully the bombings, tragic as they were, didn’t seem to affect either our trip or London itself, other than to make for some extra news coverage.

In a short week, we

  • Toured Southern England (Leeds Castle and surroundings)
  • Toured London (Tate Modern, Greenwich: {Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory (including the incredible Harrison Clocks)}, Boat Trip on the Thames, London Eye)
  • Birmingham, including Cadbury World Gift Shop
  • BnB in Bath
  • Fabulous Dinner in Cardiff
  • Beach day in Goring

While there, we managed to bust some common England Myths – and I’m going to create few new ones.

  1. The food does not suck. Every meal we ate there, both in homes and pubs and restaurants – both English style and import food – was wonderful. Apparently there has been a foodie revolution over the past few years, but quality and pricing and everything was great, across the board.
  2. The weather is not always nasty. Granted, we hit a good week, but our temperature was 32 C (89 F) almost the entire time, with accompanying cloudless skies.

For the flip-side:

  1. It is the most challenging English-speaking country I’ve ever driven in. Lots of one lane hedge-covered roads, roundabouts with signs directing you towards only cities you’ve never heard of, speed cameras, streets changing names once a block, etc. (Note that I said challenging, not “bad”.) This is mitigated by two things – first, the public transport system is capable and great. Second, we had a GPS system (or in the English dialect, “SatNav”) thoughtfully loaned to us by the Skinner family which made it all totally bearable. If you’re planning a trip to England in which you’ll be driving, pay the extra and get one. You can thank me later.
  2. We could have just had bad luck, but the radio seemed fairly uniformly not to our taste, as far as music is concerned. (News is top-notch.) We seriously scanned the dials for an hour at one point and could not find any song on any station which had been recorded within the last 25 years. Occasionally Virgin radio came though, but (and I know BBC radio can be fantastic at times) the rest of it, while we were listening, was dismal. Verdict: bring CD’s or an Ipod.

Anyway, it was a perfect, blissfull trip. Thanks to all the family and friends who made it that way! A week was clearly not long enough, and we can’t wait to come back and spend some more time. As soon as we go to Japan.