Thursday, July 20, 2023

London Town


So, I ended up going to London a few weeks ago.  My son Josh and his wife Shelby went along.  Josh and I went to see the Cardinals play the Cubs but we did a lot more while there.  While we were at it, we headed over to Paris for a few days.  I figured instead of giving details here (I’ll be glad to personally discuss with anyone who wants), I’d just enumerate the differences I found in London and “the States”.

First, there is the obvious fact that Londoners drive on the other side of the road.   You might say (like I did) “Well, I’m not going to drive so I don’t care.  Think about it though when you cross the street.  You are supposed to look “left, then right, then left again”.  Not in England, you do the opposite.  Josh drove us once in a ZipCar.  I flinched every time he made a left-hand turn – which is akin to a right-hand turn in the US.  Also, their gas prices look great until you realize gas is sold by the liter in London.  It’s over six dollars a gallon!

Second, their mass transit system is the best I’ve ever used.  The red double-decker buses are wonderful and between those, the “Tube” (subway) and trains, getting around London was very easy (even for a mass transit neophyte like me).  You can get an Oyster Card or simply use any credit card with a chip.   You can use Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Third, most places don’t have air conditioning.  I was told that it rarely gets warm enough to need it.  Of course, the week we were there, it was in the 80s.  We had one fan in the Air B&B we stayed in.  We ended up getting another one at a place called Argos. It reminded me of a modern-day Service Merchandise where you requested what you wanted at a terminal and they bring it out to you.  We ended going to a couple of American restaurants (McDonalds and Slim Chickens) strictly because they had air conditioning. 

Fourth, there is no such thing as all you can drink soda.  Even at McDonalds they don’t have this.  The only place that did was Slim Chickens.  Interestingly, they only had diet soda.  Self checkout is even more prevalent than here.  If you want plastic bags (and didn’t bring your own), you pay for them.  There also seems to be a mini grocery store on every block that has more than our average convenience store (like produce and baked goods).  Tesco, Iceland and Sainsbury were the main brands we saw.

Fifth, the words used there for various things are different.  Lift is elevator, nick is steal (as in “they keep nicking the Abbey Road sign”) and biscuit is a cookie.  You’ll figure this out when you go to McDonalds looking for a sausage biscuit and they don’t exist there.    The ground floor on an elevator is zero not one.  And if you want to go to the basement, that’s -1.   They also use the pounds as opposed to euros like the rest of Europe.  We rarely used cash though, we used Google Pay.

Finally, they are on the Metric system.  It’s kilometers, liters, Celsius and kilograms.  You’ll learn to do approximate conversions in your head.   I guess the US is going to stay independent and stay on the Imperial system forever.  The power plugs are even different (than both the US and the rest of Europe).  You’ll need a British adapter.

We saw Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the British Museum, the Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath.  And I had to take a Beatles Tour.  The history in London is so interesting (at least to me). 

If you get the chance, go.  The people there were very accommodating to us “Yanks” as they called us.  People said they loved my accent; I don’t know what they were talking about 😊.

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