Left to Right: Wellington Arch; a plane filling up with passengers at Heathrow airport; A picture of the map on the plane charting our progress.
Note about the last picture: I really wanted to know what Google would say over the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently it just says the date. Such a letdown. Everywhere else, it creepily tells you exactly the town you’re over. Learned this gem on the way back from Florida.
Spending the Excess Money
A visual representation of what happens when you leave me in the airport with twenty-two pounds when I’m headed back to America.
I must have checked out three times in that convenience store. It had all sorts of goodies from giant bags of gummy bears to hats to key chains and other souvenirs in case you somehow escaped the other few thousand gift shops in the city of London. Maybe I just like playing with self-checkout machines. Though I must say, scanning the boarding pass repeatedly got old.
In-genius idea: They had donation boxes around the airport where you could donate whatever excess currency you had. I didn’t, but I love the idea. Wonder how they deal with that. Must be on great terms with the exchange people. Who am I kidding, they probably are the exchange people.
Waiting in the Airport
At Heathrow, they waited a really long time before announcing which gate one should go to. That is a very large place. They probably just wanted you to be in the area where you could buy stuff for a longer amount of time. Also, it sort of works because you have to hustle to get to your gate, then you’re only there like fifteen minutes before boarding. Thus, there’s no time for huge lines and impatient crowds. By the way, I really like their signs everywhere that tell you how many walking minutes you’re away from the gate area.
US vs. UK – A Random List of Comparisons and Observations
Note: When comparing cities, I was envisioning New York City vs. London.
Second Note: My experience in England was limited to London, so keep that in mind when reading the observations. I’m still going to use UK even though I didn’t venture far from the city.
Consumer taxing – UK; it’s nice to have the price you see be the price you pay. Never really thought much about value added tax before, but I kind of like it.
Pigeon Size – UK; the London pigeons were bigger than designer dogs
Money System – US; Yes, I know that the pound is worth more, but in terms of physical money, they have way too many coins. It also weirded me out that the money changed size, but I’m told that’s the way it is everywhere except the US. Counterfeiting measure or not, it’s still somewhat annoying to have four different size notes. Though I will admit, those new five pound notes are adorable.
Use of the word brilliant – UK
Queue vs. lines – UK; Windsor Castle aside, the Brits generally know how to set up a proper queue.
Safety warnings – UK; See it. Say it. Sorted. The implication is that they’ll take care of it. In the US, the safety message is: If you see something, say something. There’s no promise to take care of it.
US = penny, nickel, dime, quarter, occasional dollar (pretty much not in general use)
UK = one pence, two pence, five pence, ten pence, twenty pence, fifty pence, one pound coin, two pound coin
Back to the Random List
Subway (NYC) vs. Underground (London) – UK; The Underground is much easier to learn. Most cars are cleaner. The directions of where you should go are much clearer. Here’s the major difference: the Underground (tube) tends to hit every stop along it’s line all the time. There’s no such thing as an express train. There are electronic signs with three pieces of information: the next arriving train and two later arriving trains and sometimes a safety message.
Subway vs. Underground Pricing – US; The Underground is set up by zones, so the farther you go, the more you pay. There’s really no other way they can set up that system and make it feasible, but it’s still annoying to have to pay more while staying on the same train. In the subway, you swipe in once and can transfer as many times for the same price. In the Underground, you have to tap in and out everywhere.
Accent – UK; If you want to get boring about it, I’m told there are studies that show the British accent makes people sounds smarter. Hollywood’s version of the British accent isn’t representative of all the accents that exist over there, but Americans in general (me included) are obsessed with the British accent.
Weather – US; usually not quite so cloudy, though I will say the coolness was appreciated. I love seasons with snow, just not a lot of it.
Locks – US; Pretty sure I’d die if there was a fire. You have to use a key to unlock the complicated thing. Pull up on the handle, insert key, turn key left and if that doesn’t work try turning it all the way round to the right. At least at home I just have to flip a deadbolt.
Speed limit signs – UK; They actually smile at you if you’re going the speed limit. I think if you speed you get a frowny face and possibly a ticket.
Public restrooms/toilets – draw, cleanliness – UK; water pressure – US (Sinks here turn off when you tell them to.)
Driving – draw, though I will say the US drives on the right side 😉
School Scheme – draw. There are some older schools with deeper traditions, but overall, the system’s just different not necessarily better.
Food variety – US
Mug size – US. If you’re looking for cute mugs, go UK, but if you’re looking for functional mugs of a decent size, definitely US.
Fashion Sense – draw
The ten-day trip I took to London was a once-in-a-lifetime awesome experience. There are tourists everywhere, but Having the London Pass helped me navigate. Also, it helped that I had friends there, but even if you go alone, there’s a ton of great stuff to see and do. I took a grand total of three hundred and fifty pounds with me and spent roughly thirty of that a day. I had to top up the Oyster (travel) card a few times, but I believe in the eight days I really used it, I spent about sixty pounds total.
As much as I loved the trip and would do it or something like that again in a heartbeat, Dorthy had it right. There’s no place like home.
Need to Catch Up?
Part 1: Preparation, Planning, Cost
Part 2: Arrival and First Day in the City (The London Museum)
Part 3: Getting into Tourist Mode (British Museum)
Part 4: Windsor Castle
Part 5: Buckingham Palace and More Museums (Natural History and Science Museums)
Part 6: Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, Shakespeare’s Globe
Part 7: City Cruises, Greenwich, and Church
Part 8: Kensington Palace, Curzon Bloomsbury, and a Pub
Part 9: Westminster Abbey, Namco Funscape, Churchill War Rooms