Wednesday, September 26, 2007

GETTING ROUND ABOUT THE UK

Neal and Olivia patiently wait in the tube for the next train to come along. Yeah, right!

Have you ever heard of a roundabout? It is an evil circle of traffic confusion. We have them here in the US, but in the UK they are even more wicked because the vehicles drive on the left side of the road!

Roundabouts are only one of the many reasons I refuse to drive in Britain. Heck, if I can’t walk on the sidewalk without running into people, can you imagine me behind the wheel, much less in a cyclonic pattern of a roundabout? Lord have mercy!!!

If you are the brave sort, rent a car. That way you wouldn’t have to depend on anyone and your schedule would be your own. However, in the best interest of my fellow man, I prefer someone else doing the driving.

Following are the ways I traveled during my first trip to London in 2006:

Rail Passes: I purchased a Britrail pass. You can only buy them online. Go to http://www.britrail.com/. They offer seven plans to suit most needs. For instance, if you know that you are going to travel to a new destination every day it is best to get a consecutive pass because they are cheaper. If you are going to a destination and staying a few days before leaving for another, then you would do better with a flexipass. If you are going to stay in the vicinity of London, then you would need a London Plus Pass. There are plans if you are going to one country and staying there, like Scotland, or if you want to visit all of Britain. Also, if you want to see all of Britain plus Ireland the pass includes the ferry ticket.

Since I was staying in the London area I chose the London Plus Pass, enabling me to travel to Oxford, Cambridge, Arundel, and Dover. For my trip coming up in October I chose the flexipass since our travels will take us all over England and Scotland.

Buy an Oyster! An Oyster Card is the most economical and easiest way to get around in the tube, on busses and trams. Go to: www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/oysteronline/2732.aspx

Taxi! I would only take one if I had no other choice. Be careful about taking taxi’s to airports. EXPENSIVE! They not only charge for the distance, they also charge for the suitcases. Proper etiquette is to talk to the driver first before getting in.

Be mindful of Bank Holidays, public holiday’s when the banks shut down. It is typically more expensive to travel during those days. For a schedule of these days go to: www.dti.gov.uk/employment/bank-public-holidays

This week I’m tagging along with my husband on a business trip in Branson, MO. We are staying at the Chateau on the Lake—a great place by the way—and I’m taking time exploring the best way to get to Ireland. Frankly, I’ve been pretty frustrated because it is expensive both moneywise and timewise. A friend had mentioned flying to Ireland on a small airline like Ryanair or Easy Jet. After looking at their websites and reading comments made by some who flew on Ryanair, I’ll admit, Iwas skeptical about this option. However, as fortune would have it, while on the Chateau’s patio looking over the lakeI met three lovely people from Ireland.

Bat and Peggy are from Dublin, Peggy’s sister, Sheila, is from Northern Ireland. Peggy said they fly on Ryanair and have had reasonably good experiences. Of course, any time you fly on any airline there will be frustrations. I went back to my room and checked the price of tickets. They are about the same as a ferry ticket, but instead of traveling ten plus hours the flight would only take around an hour (barring the normal airline delays.)

I’ll do some more thinking on this. I may just see how things go when I get to the UK and decide whether I'll go then.
So now that we’ve covered travel options, do you know how to pay for your souvenirs?
Next tip, Pounds, Pences, and where to get them.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Difference Between the British and the people from the US

My friend Linda sent this. It is funny and true!

The difference between the British and the people from the USA is this:

People from the USA think 200 years is a long time.
The British think 200 miles is a long way!

Be looking for my next "Preparing to Leave" tip this week!

Friday, September 14, 2007

First Time Trips


On October 16th, I'm leaving for a two week "backpacking" tour of the UK. It will be interesting to see how different it feels from my first trip there when everything was so new, so mysterious. Before I left, I got all kinds of advice like, wear all black, don't wear white athletic shoes, and for heaven's sakes, don't talk! (some were concerned about my melodious southern accent)

Well, when I got there I found out that all that advice is a bunch of hooey. In fact, I wore so much black that a college student that I shared a seat with on the train asked me if I was a lawyer!

For all of you who are thinking about going to the UK for the first time, I will spend the next few postings on giving PRACTICAL TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST TIME TRIP to the United Kingdom

I'll start with some ideas for you to do in preparation for your trip. Today I'll address planning.



  • Go to your fav local bookstore, buy a cup of coffee (or whatever) and grab a travel guide book like Let's Go (for the budget minded traveler) Frommers, or Lonely Planet. These are the ones I have used. There are many more. Just go to the travel section. Enjoy the moment and read about all the places you want to go. You will find a treasure chest of information. What to see, how to get there, where to eat, sleep, entertainment, tourist traps to avoid, what to do to protect yourself, and much more! The books will list attractions in surrounding areas. You may find more "must see" things.

  • Go to http://www.picturesofengland.com/ That is a GREAT sight for planning your trip.

  • If you don't have one, get a MySpace account. I didn't want to miss a thing on my first trip to the UK, however, no one can see all of England in the span of one week! For that matter, a year! So I knew I had to make the most of what little time I had, and who better to ask about the "must sees" than the locals? So I went to my MySpace and hit the "browse" button and indicated I wanted to see all the women with pictures from the UK who were between the ages of 40-70. I figured this would help weed out most of the crazies out there! Then I read their profile and if I was comfortable with them, I emailed them this note: Hello, I'm Linda Apple from the United States. I will be coming to your country in a few months. If you have time, would you mind writing me your opinion of the sights that are a "must see?" I'm interested in history, architecture, gardens, and I am a writer. I got a lot of great responses. Two of the ladies were particularly gracious and we continued to communicate. By the time I got to England, I had two tea dates! Now, two years later, I still keep up with them!

This is enough to start with. Next post I'll give more Planning Tips.

How about all of you who have traveled to the UK? Do you have any tips to share?

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to send them.





Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You Say Biscuit, I Say Cookie



April 2005 my dream of going to the home of C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austin, came true! My first trip across the big pond to the United Kingdom, where history was layered a thousand centuries deep, all waiting for me to explore.

As I walked along the sidewalks with my face to the sky marveling at the amazing architecture a curious thing kept happening. Even though I was on my side of the walk people kept bumping into me. I apologized like any polite Southern Gal should, but really, couldn't they stay on their side? Then it occurred to me that they walk on the same side as they drive and so do I. Ergo the problem.

Another thing. How is it that the people of England and of the USA both speak english, but different languages? For instance, while asking for directions to a bus station the kind lady at the subway (they call it a tube) replied, "You go to the zebra and turn right."

I thanked her and walked outside looking for a zebra of some sort. I looked for a sign--nothing. Maybe a plastic model? Nope. The real thing? No zebra. So I went back to her. "I don't see the zebra." She said, "At the end of the road, the zebra with the hump."

Hmmmm, the animal got stranger. A cross between a zebra and camel perhaps? Anyway, a creature like this shouldn't be hard to see. But try as I might, not a sign of a zebracam. By now I was almost too embarrassed to ask again. Almost.

The lady was really frustrated with me. "Look on the road, the strips are right there!!!"

"Ohhhh, you mean a pedestrian crossing with a speed bump?"
Then she looked confused.

That was my introduction to the British language. I learned that they call cookies, biscuits. Can you imagine what a visitor from England thinks when he reads "biscuits and gravy" on the Cracker Barrel menu?

What they call bacon looks like ham to me. And if you ask for jelly for your toast, you'll get gelatin. Chips are french fries and crisps are potato chips. A vacation is a holiday and mum is mom. An apartment is a flat, the trunk of a car is a boot and the hood is a bonnet.

Sakes! And people think Southerners talk funny!

What about ya'll out there? Do you have funny stories about American vs. British terms?