Random Thoughts from the UK

Back in September we got back from our trip to the UK about 12 hours before we needed to be back at work. I’ve still not finished going through the 700+ pictures, but here are some observations from the trip.

Scotland:

  1. I saw more sheep in my first two hours in Scotland than I had in my entire life up to that point.
  2. The history is amazing. The first day in Scotland we went inside a building that was 200 years old when Columbus sailed to America. We got to see iron-age ruins and more castles than we could count.
  3. Diesel was $6.76 a gallon. Renting a car for four days cost us £63 (about $95) in fuel.
  4. They do not require that you pay before pumping fuel.
  5. Driving on the left was not as bad as I’d feared. I did have to think about intersections and roundabouts before I got to them, but after the first few minutes I was cool with it.
  6. Staying to the left was easy, but it did take some time to get used to sitting on the right side of the car while driving. I kept wanting to put my (right) side of the car on the left side of the lane, sticking Sue out in the weeds.
  7. Roads are for the most part incredibly narrow. Once off of the main highways there are a lot of single-track roads. We had a few adventures backing down cliff-side roads or slamming on the brakes around a corner to let oncoming traffic past.
  8. I am a huge fan of roundabouts. I wish we could install them all over the place here, but if we did I would stay indoors for three months until natural selection had some time to work on people who cannot drive.
  9. Eddie Izzard was right. There are castles everywhere.
  10. The Isle of Skye was never on my radar before I met Sue. I wish I could go spend a few months there. It is magical.
  11. I saw more beautiful sights in a week than I could ever hope to photograph.
  12. Haggis is actually really good.
  13. We would usually get a couple of complimentary glasses of whisky when checking into a hotel.
  14. Scottish accents outside of Glasgow are music to my ears. They are more of a challenge in Glasgow, but I got better at understanding Glaswegians after a few days.
  15. Glasgow has the simplest underground map in the universe.
  16. Cabs in Glasgow and Edinburgh are magical. We once had to wait about five minutes for a cab when we were well outside of the Edinburgh city center, but other than that one time I don’t think it ever took more than a minute or two. Most of the time we would ask for someone to call us a cab and the cab would be pulling up to the curb as we were walking out the door.
  17. Pub culture, at least where we went, was much more enjoyable than our sports-bar dudebro culture. Almost all of the pubs we visited (we tried for a large sample size) were really chilled out places.
  18. Seeing the scenery all around Britain made me truly understand the settings for almost every fantasy novel I’d ever read. Except for Michael Moorcock. That stuff is just weird.
  19. Returning our rental car, the guy at the rental place asked where we were off to next. I said London. He told me that I would wish I was back in Scotland. He was right.
  20. If you like ciders, there are many more cider options available in Britain. They are not super-sweet like most US ciders.

London:

  1. Do not attempt to drive in London. If you think you might need to drive in London for some reason, you are wrong.
  2. I love cities, and if you love cities at all you NEED to see London. It is one of the greatest cities ever. We had a week there and just barely scratched the surface.
  3. If you like history at all, go to Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and the British Museum. Now.
  4. The London underground is amazing. I don’t think it ever took more than about 20-30 minutes to get where we needed to go, and we didn’t need to use cabs.
  5. There are lots of phone apps you can use that let you plan out a route on the underground. We pretty much always knew where we were.
  6. If you visit London, get an Oyster card ahead of time. Arriving in town with pre-paid transit cards in our pockets made everything super-easy.
  7. Pubs in London seemed a bit more generic than the ones in Scotland. There were some really good ones, but they all seem to be owned by a few big chains and they have deals with different breweries. Ex: If you are tired of Greene King beers, you are out of luck if you visit a pub that only serves Greene King products.
  8. A surprising amount of people in both Scotland and London would just drink Budweiser and eat McDonalds.
  9. Scaffolding was the theme of the trip. Glasgow University’s tower was shrouded in scaffolding. Same with Westminster Abbey and many other locations. When Google maps said we’d arrived at a pub we were looking for, but we didn’t see it, I said “look behind that scaffolding over there.” Sure enough, there was the pub.
  10. Dinner in the Shard, the tallest building in London, was a memory to last a lifetime. The entire wall is glass, and we sat next to it looking down on the Thames and the Tower Bridge while the sun set. You will need to make reservations months in advance. If you ever go, make sure to visit the restroom.
  11. For a good trip off of the beaten path, check out the Saturday morning market on Brick Lane. There is a lot of incredible street art in that neighborhood as well.
  12. The train to Gatwick airport took much longer than expected. Glad we left early. I thought it would take about two hours but it ended up taking around four.
  13. Calling Gatwick a London airport is a lie. It is halfway to the southern coast from London.
  14. British Airways rocks. That was the best flight ever. For some odd reason though, the GPS map on the video screen in front of me gave the locations of nearby shipwrecks. At least they weren’t airplane crashes.

First thing I ate when we got back to the US: A Publix Sub.

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