Sunday, July 3, 2022

7/2 THE END - Comments After Making it Home

This has taken me a while to write, but I wanted some time to think after making it home safely.  So, here are some good and some bad things about my long adventure in the UK:


  • Renting a car is always a good thing.  You really cannot see or experience the countryside from a train or bus.  It takes a little courage to drive on the "wrong" side of the road under slightly different rules for driving and parking, but with a little caution anyone can do it.  One tip is to rent a car in a smaller town, NOT at a major airport where you will find a lot of traffic.  It is also likely to be cheaper to rent in an out-of-the-way place.  The first day you drive in the UK will be very scary, but it does get a lot easier in a few days, and pretty soon you will become much more comfortable.
  • A really good experience was the experience with UK system of nationalized medicine when I got sick with food poisoning.  I knew the Brits had such a system, but I did not know that it also pertained to visitors or any non-residents.  When I asked the hotel people to call a doctor, I did not expect a full ambulance crew and the through exam they gave me in my hotel room.  This saved me a long wait in the hospital and the cost was exactly $0!!  Amazing.
  • How homeless are treated in London.  Almost every homeless person on the streets in London has a sleeping bag and a small tent which they pitch at night on the sidewalks along main roads.  These are not tent cities because in the morning, they take the tents down and fold them up.  I am not sure of the process of handing these out, and I am not sure of what happens in other big towns, but I was impressed with this in London.  
  • Take-out food.  Even small towns in the UK will have a small grocery or convenience store that carries refrigerated take-out food that is much higher quality and variety than in the U.S.  I cannot eat large meals and end up throwing away food in most restaurants, plug I do not always like eating alone, so I often took advantage of take-out food.  
  • Co-op groceries stores in small towns.  While you can find Tesco and Sainsbury's supermarkets in larger cities, there are often tiny Co-op groceries stores in small towns that carry essentials, and of course non-essentials such as take-out and ice cream!
  • Tablet and Thornton's Special Toffee.  These are two of my favorite candies anywhere.  Tablet is a Scottish specialty that is made of condensed milk, butter, and a lot of sugar--what is there not to like???  And Thornton's is an old chain of London candy stores, but unfortunately is almost out of business.  I was happy to find a huge supply of their toffee in a Heathrow shop and stocked up!!
  • London theatre and nightlife.  Musicals and plays are relatively inexpensive in London because half-price tickets are often available the night of or a day or two before a performance.  The old Half-Price Ticket Booth is for sale, but such tickets are still available on line.  And going out at night and coming home afterwards is very invigorating because of the crowds and enthusiasm of the crowds!  If you get lost, just follow the crowd, and it will take you to a subway station! 
  • Sheep and hairy Highland cattle.  Especially in the Moors, sheep and their lambs were everywhere.  And even in towns and cities, an occasional sheep would be found wandering around all sorts of places they did not belong.  Fun to watch.  And, there is nothing like the study Highland cattle with their long hair hanging in front of their faces!


  • Most hotels in the UK give you the option of a lower price for a pre-paid, non-refundable reservation.  I went cheap and ended up not being able to cancel a couple of hotels when I needed to change my reservations.  Next time, I will pay the higher price to get the cancellation option. 
  • I still do not understand the Brits' dislike of ice for drinks.  I do understand that in a cold country, hot drinks are preferred, but I really, really missed not being able to get ice for drinks or buy a cold drink from a machine or in a convenience store that was cold instead of just "cool."  I also could not get my favorite drink of iced tea anywhere but a Starbucks.  Hey, you Brits, give me a hotel with an ice machine, and I will be glad to pay a couple of pounds extra for the privilege.
  • The sugar tax.  The UK government implemented a tax on sugar in soft drinks back in 201 with the intent to reduce the amount of "fizzy" drinks consumed and the potential for weight gain.  This has been successful in reducing soft drink consumption by 10%, however, it has had a huge negative effect in that soft drink companies have avoided paying this tax by reducing sugar but increasing the amount of artificial sweeteners in their products.  The problem is that many regular soft drinks contain some sugar and a dose of artificial sweetener without making that clear on the labels.  Hence, a "regular" Pepsi or Dr. Pepper is likely to contain aspartame or another artificial sweetener without that being noted on the label.  You have to read the list of ingredients to find this information and need to avoid bar or fountain soft drinks entirely to avoid such sweeteners. 
  • Washing clothes in a hotel sink.  Many, if not most, U.S. hotels provide coin-operated laundromats in their hotels, but the Brits never, ever do this, to my knowledge.  So you end up surreptitiously washing things out in the sink and hanging them in the shower or on the heated towel rack.  This gets really tiring and nothing really feels clean.  It is not easy to find a laundromat in most towns and paying $25 to have a B&B owner wash and dry two pairs of pants, one pair of shorts, and three t-shirts is just way out of the budget for most people.    
  • Traffic.  England is worse than Scotland, but most British drivers drive MUCH too fast, especially on the lovely little single-track roads.  Partly, I think, this is the fault of the government that puts a 60 MPH speed limit on almost all but roads that go through villages and towns.
  • Road hazards and narrow roads without shoulders.  These include bicyclists, pedestrians, and sheep on country roads.  Bicyclists and pedestrians could benefit from at least small road shoulders.  Cannot control sheep, especially in the Moors where there are no fences, but somehow the grass always seems greener on the edge of the road.  
  • "Mind the Gap" and "See it, Say it, Sorted."  I got really sick of these warnings in the subways, so I can imagine that the British are really, really tired of these warnings.  At least someone needs to put a bit of humor in these or vary the message.    


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