Sunday, August 17, 2008

Todd's Fabulous UK Adventures

I asked Todd to be a guest blogger and write an entry about his adventures visiting England on a business trip in July. Below is his personal account. :) *** Last year listgirl and I nearly traveled to jolly old England for the first time to attend her cousin's wedding. That trip did not come together for a few reasons - not least of which was the cost due to the failing US dollar. Happily for me, last month my company decided to send me there for a full week. Going on their purse alleviated the dollar problem, at least for me. Now I've been invited to share some impressions from that trip here on her blog. I'll try to include at least one list. We (my boss and I) flew on Virgin Atlantic direct from LAX to Heathrow. Direct is good but it's still a long 10 hours in an uncomfortable seat. Too bad those Concordes never became financially viable! At least I cranked though a solid 700 pages of the books I'd brought. I recommend Virgin, BTW. They have nice service, good food, and a nice entertainment device right at your seat. Look, my first mini-list! Our destination, Winchester, was about an hour ride away. Winchester was the capital of England several hundred years ago. In the middle of town is a statue of King Arthur.
It's also well known for the historic Winchester Cathedral. Parts of The Da Vinci Code were filmed at the cathedral a couple of years back. Photobucket We were confined to being on foot much of the time which worked out fine. It's the norm over there. Of course, we were there in July when it was 65-70 degrees and sunny rather than the rest of the year when the weather is crap. One of the guys over there, Kevin, visited our office a few months back. On that trip, his hotel was about 3/4 miles from the beach as the seagull flies. With the gears in his British mind turning, he thought he'd walk over. Heh. Our pedestrian unfriendly roads made his walk more like a mile and a half with some harrowing street crossing thrown in. We showed him! Another time he wanted to check out the scene downtown. He again utilized (I should say utilised) British logic and hopped on a bus for the 20 mile trip. Double heh, 2 hours and 1490 bus stops later he finally arrived. USA, USA!! That difference in mindset is one thing I noticed. Most offices had no parking. Commuters either came in by train, or parked at the edge of town for £5 and walked to work. Want to eat lunch out? Time to walk again. There was lots of walking. And smoking. And wearing of fashionable clothing. I felt a bit like a simpleton wearing my t-shirts. Even my cool shirt that says, "Come to the dark side, we have cookies." On Saturday, we took a train into the city. The train cost £28 for an overnight round trip but only about £18 if we had returned on the same day. I never got a good explanation for that. It was raining when we arrived and I feared our day would be rather grim. But within an hour it cleared up and we bought some tour bus tickets (£24). On board and on foot we saw the sights of London and Westminster including... Westminster Abbey Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket The London Eye Photobucket Many shoppers at the Oxford Circus Photobucket House of Parliament (including Big Ben) Photobucket Photobucket the Tower of London Photobucket We rode around town on a bus that looked like this. Photobucket (List requirement now fulfilled!) Our hotel that night was right by Soho, which is a happening nightlife / gay neighborhood. My boss had a favorite pizza place ("the best pizza in London") that we patronized. I liked it but I have to say I did not prefer it to Bongiornos. We also found a fresh cream puff shop which was super yummy. After dinner we walked around for hours and enjoyed the drag queens and other wacky folks. Then on Sunday we hopped into a rented car. Incidentally, not only do they drive on the left but our car was a manual transmission. That means that the stick was in the driver's left hand. I'm not sure if the pedals were reversed too. Luckily my boss is from South Africa and was right at home with all the oddity. I could probably handle driving on the left side. But I've driven a manual transmission maybe twice in my life outside of video games so I would not have been eager to deal with all that newness. The above is not to mention the different wording on signs. Photobucket Or the road lines apparently laid down after a long trip to the pub. Photobucket Our first destination was Stonehenge. We paid about £5 to get in and were given a self-directed audio tour with admission. It told of all the interesting history and funny superstitions over the years regarding the place. I'm sure you can read all the same info on Wikipedia if you're interested. I had recently watched This Is Spinal Tap so I had extra reasons to chuckle during this visit. Photobucket Photobucket From there we headed to Bournemouth which is on the southern coast. The clouds of the early part of the day cleared and we were treated to a very pleasant afternoon at the beach. Photobucket We walked up and down the path and also out on the pier. I was shocked to learn we'd have to pay 50p to traverse the pier. Photobucket Before leaving we could not pass up eating the traditional British dish of fish and chips. £4.50 including drink, yummy. Photobucket It's been said that the US and UK are divided by a common language. I certainly enjoyed listening to the (what were for me) idiosyncrasies. On Friday night I enjoyed a pudding (dessert) after dinner. BTW, my particular pudding was a brownie. I read in the newspaper about some folks who received the elbow (were laid off). It was surprisingly difficult to find litter (garbage) receptacles in public. The fruity (frisky) guys were not just in Soho but could be anywhere. Fortunately, I never noticeably blew off (farted) in public. And on and on... All-in-all, the trip left me eager to go abroad again. It takes a bit more adventurousness than going to Santa Barbara, but it has different rewards. It's a bit embarrassing that I have not yet been to either China or Taiwan. I hope that will be my next international destination. If it happens, a report will no doubt appear right here including a list comparing west and east. Cheerio!


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