My trip to the UK

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DJ / 6 Years Ago

Being good at your job can pay dividends once in a while. Because I can do every task in my shop, and am the senior reporter, and the senior instructor, I got to go to the United Kingdom for a 3 week TDY. It was quite the adventure!

See all the pictures from my UK trip!
I woke up around 7am and was dropped off at the airport at 1:30pm. I flew to Charlotte where my connection to London Gatwick was delayed by 2 hours - over an hour of that was after we already boarded. We finally took off sometime around 8pm. The flight was nice and uneventful - I had no one next to me and the in flight entertainment consisted of really new movies on a screen I controlled right in front of me. I watched Man on a Ledge, Chronicle, and The Hunger Games (well, parts of the last two, I snoozed for an hour or so between them). I received a nice dinner and a really weak breakfast.

I landed in London around 9 or 10am and breezed through immigrations. I got lucky with my rental car - I had one through Budget and Budget was nowhere to be found. I asked about it and turns out Avis handles Budget cars at Gatwick. There was a sign, but it was small and had been knocked over. Convenient. After a while in line, I got my car. Took a bit to figure out how to get it in reverse, but relatively quickly I was on my way. Well, for a short while, anyway. Within an hour I was mired in a gigantic traffic jam. It took me around 2 hours to travel 4 miles. Several other massive slowdowns followed, but I was eventually able to paper map navigate my way to Lincoln, United Kingdom. I checked in to my hotel at 6:30pm, almost exactly 24 hours after I begun my journey and 31 hours after I woke up that morning.

I settled in, slept like the dead, and dragged myself into work the next day. I visited London my first weekend, Lincoln on the bank holiday, and York my second weekend. The trip home was even more of a nightmare than getting there. I sat in an airport for 12 hours as my flight was delayed over and over and then cancelled. Then I was taxied to a hotel, served a crappy dinner at 9pm, and had to be on the phone for an hour to work out a new way to get home that involved getting up at 4:30 the next morning. It took me 24 hours from when I woke up to get home that day. It was horrible!

Here are some random observations from the United Kingdom:

Shifting with your left hand is pretty easy. Driving on the left side of the road is harder. Doing both of those things while dealing with roundabouts, trying to figure where to go, ridiculously narrow winding roads, and lots of turns is much more difficult.

Highways are called motorways, and most exits (called junctions) do not have fuel/food/etc at them. Only once in a while the junctions have a services complex that is like a mini mall.

Hotels here generally do not have microwaves, refrigerators, or ice machines. I had to call down for a bucket of ice, and it would be pretty small.

Seems like more people smoke here - you can't walk around outside where people are without getting big whiffs of cigarette smoke.

Some things are metrics, but other things are not. They use miles, not kilometers. But fuel is done in liters. So are other liquids like soda and milk.

Whole milk has a blue cap here, 2% is called semi-skimmed and has a green cap, and skimmed milk has a red cap.

Trash cans are called bins. Movie theaters are called cinemas. Trash is called rubbish. The subway is called the underground, but an underground walking tunnel is called a subway. Thick cut fries are called chips, but thin fries are still fries. potato chips are called crisps. Hard cookies are called biscuits, but soft ones are still cookies. Trucks that haul stuff are called lorries. Quid is a slang term for pounds (British money), kinda like how dollars are also called bucks. Dessert is called pudding, even if it is a cheesecake or pie.

There are not many stop signs. Yield signs say "give way." There is no left turn (equivalent to our right) on a red light, ever. There are not a ton of speed limit signs, either, since speed limits are standardized in a lot of areas. I was on the motorway for quite a long time before I saw a sign giving a clue on the speed limit.

Driving to London or back takes around 3 hours if nothing goes amiss from Lincoln. The train takes about an hour and 15 minutes. No wonder everyone takes the train.

A house maybe 2/3 the size of ours in a town not far from Lincoln cost 30% more than mine did. I had to guess on size because they don't measure square feet. When I asked, they had no idea.

Everyone in the UK uses a knife and fork for just about every meal, and they hold on to both of those utensils every moment they are taking a drink. You can spot Americans in the UK because they are only using their fork most of the time.

I got pizza several times and more often than not the pizza would not be sliced in any way. I would have to use a knife and fork to cut it up myself.

The biggest, fairly fancy pizza chain in the UK is... Pizza Express. When I saw the name, I expected cheap quick pizza, but it was sit down table service with a real menu filled with elaborate concoctions.

Except for the higher end restaurants, you sit down somewhere, note your table number, and go order at the bar or counter and tell then your table number and they bring the food out later. You pay when you order. Also, tipping is non-compulsory and only done when exceptional service is rendered and there is no standard amount or percentage.

Overall I had a great time!


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