Posted by: marykfurness | June 18, 2013

Fun and Fabulous Facts About Travel in the UK

ImageIn our journey lo, these several weeks, we have learned many things. I bestow upon you now this knowledge.

Renting a flat is a great thing, but it is a crap shoot. Never rent a flat from someone who wants the balance in cash or traveler’s checks. We were able to deal with that, but next time I will look at the contract much more closely.  The other flat rental was much easier–all done by credit card, as was the B&B.  Also, always double and triple check reviews on several sites–I did that, and all places turned out well, some more than others.

Make sure your flat is within walking distance of a grocery store, since the first things you will need to buy are paper towels and toilet paper. Then coffee, beer or wine (if you are so inclined), and groceries. Of course, if you’ve rented a car (we relied completely on public transport) the walking point is moot. Directions, however, are vital.

See that chromed, multi-bar thingy in your UK bathroom? That, my friends, is a heated towel rack. Yes a *heated* towel rack. Once you’ve used one, you’ll want one. How I’m going to afford one and install one in my miniscule bathroom in Missouri, is something I have yet to figure out.

Sometimes a flat comes with a washer…which is also a dryer. The dryer part never gets things really dry, thus necessitating draping and/or hanging items all over the flat. Or, as here in Edinburgh, there is no dryer, but a “clothes horse” (aka drying rack), which means it takes a full 24 hours for clothes to dry.

There is the electric shower. Really. Electric–adjust for water pressure, for temperature, push a button, and presto! Shower. Whoa. Do not turn off the wall switch, however; no electricity…no shower.

Need to plug something in? Charge up the Ipod, laptop? Every outlet…EVERY outlet…is on a switch.You don’t turn on the switch, you get no electricity.

Moving farther afield….need a quick, free bathroom? Starbucks. No, don’t buy a coffee… just nip in, look for the bathroom sign, do what needs doing, and nip out. Nobody will care– they are all looking at their laptops, phones, or how many people are ahead of them in line.

However…be prepared to pay to pee some places.  Like at Waverley train station in Edinburgh, where it cost me 30 pence! I only had a 50 pence piece–there was a change machine just before the turnstile.  Also, at the Tower of London, by the ticket offices, it’ll cost you; however, the ones inside the Tower–well, those seem to be free with the admission.

The trains….ah, the trains.  Ridiculously on time. Comes with a coffee and sandwich shop. Pretty efficient, too. When I mentioned this to a gentleman, and how nice it would be if we had a system like this in our part of the US, he launched into a (mild) diatribe about how much better the service was in other countries, how much better it had been years ago, etc., etc.  When I mentioned this to our B&B host, he laughed and said, “if an Englishman isn’t complainin’ about the weather, he’s complainin’ about the trains!”

Some pubs will allow dogs inside, especially in the rural areas. I’ve never seen such well- behaved dogs in my life. It’s also not surprising to see leashed dogs boarding the trains, and behaving beautifully. 

Of course, there are food items–I mean, who serves haggis, neeps, and tatties in the US? And it was quite good; the best version had the tatties (mashed potatoes) on the bottom, neeps (creamed turnips) in the middle, and haggis (like a spicy sausage) on top, in a sort of cylindrical mold, surrounded by a savory brown sauce, and topped with sprouts. I had haggis stuffed in chicken, wrapped in bacon, drizzled with a creamy peppercorn sauce; talk about taking the dish to new heights! My friend Amanda made us BBQ chicken one night, with a side of barley risotto, and we finished up the meal with a marvelous cheese platter admidst great conversation. In Brighton, there was fish and chips at Harry Ramsden’s, with fish pieces the size of the plate! (It was a really big plate)

Wherever we go, there is music; wherever we look, there are flowers. The music might be a single instrument, a trio, or a recording….the flowers might be a field, a window box, or a single plant literally growing out of a stone wall; but it is there. And it is good.



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