Observations at the Halfway Point

We’ve been in England since April 25 and are at the halfway point of our trip. In response to some queries we’ve been getting from those following this blog here as well as on Facebook and Twitter, here are some of our observations.

  1. Driving on the left side of the road isn’t difficult. It took just a few hours of driving away from London to get the hang of it. However, we do feel for the tires on that side of the car, as they have scraped the curbs of some very thin streets.
  2. There is absolutely, positively no way we could do this without a GPS. We have a Garmin in the car, and since we’re not getting service on our iPhone, Google Maps isn’t an option. Neither is a paper map. We would have to own dozens to have all the roads that we’ve been on.
  3. We knew to pack washcloths. Although they were provided in The Bloomsbury Hotel and at our bed and breakfast, The Dower House, in Rousdan, they have not been in evidence anywhere else. They are considered a “personal item”.
  4. Tipping is very different. Service charges are added to most restaurant bills, but sometimes they are not. The bartender at the pub is not expecting a tip, although you can offer to buy them a drink. And you don’t tip on pub food or take-away (carry out). In a taxi, you just round up the fair to the next pound.
  5. Despite our sister’s warnings about a lack of toilet paper in public restrooms, we have yet to find one that doesn’t have it. Even the loo at the most ancient castle, in a building that looked as if it has been built a thousand years ago, had t-paper. A few weeks before we departed home, we were removing half-rolls of toilet paper from the holder and packaging them into sandwich bags. We packed six such half-rolls. We still have all six.
  6. Gas is expensive. As is diesel. We’re driving a diesel car, which is efficient in that the engine doesn’t really run when the car is stopped, but we’ve still filled the tank. Twice. At ~£45 a tank (£1.19 per liter), we’re expecting to spend ~$200 on fuel (we have to fill up the car prior to returning it).
  7. We find ourselves cursing the Romans on a daily basis. The current roads are built atop those that the Romans put into place. They’re supposed to be wide enough for a chariot, which isn’t quite wide enough for a car. When you add hedgerows on either side of the road (with no shoulders)… well, you get the picture.
  8. We find ourselves cursing the Romans on an hourly basis. Roads going into towns and the roads inside of towns don’t follow a “block pattern” but rather are much like the spokes of a wheel. That means you have to drive to a town’s center roundabout to either stay on the same road (usually the second exit from the roundabout) or to get to the road that will take you to the next town (sometimes at an angle exceeding 300° from the one you were on). You’re rarely driving “as the crow flies”.
  9. We’ve hardly heard any British accents on this trip. Most working in the hospitality industry are from Eastern European countries like Estonia and Russia or Poland. 41% of those living in London are foreign-born.
  10. Free wi-fi has been in evidence nearly everywhere we’ve been.
  11. Fast food restaurants are few and far between, which is probably why there is so little litter anywhere.
  12. Paying for a membership in the Royal Oak Foundation was well worth it. They’re allied with the National Trust, so it means we’ve been able to get into every National Trust property, as well as park in their pay-and-park lots, without having to pay. The handbook of National Trust properties has been a great resource in determining the attractions that are available on our way to get to our next lodging.
  13. There are cameras everywhere—CCTV, traffic, security—so our entire visit is probably recorded.
  14. Despite assurances we would be swept off our feet by a handsome Britsh gent, it hasn’t yet happened. We still have another eleven days to go, though.
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