Nov 06 2009

Sami’s UK Travel Tips/Photo of the Day

Category: photos,travel,unsolicited adviceSami @ 6:46 am

1) If driving, get a GPS.

Unless you’re going for a very short stay, buy it; hiring them appears to cost ten pounds a day, and if you buy it, you can get used to it and put in principal destinations in advance.

Some Brits will make snarky comments about how they just use maps, but they’re used to this country and its sodding awful road design. The reasons you want a GPS if you’re not from here are as follows:

i) The road signs here are bloody awful. With a GPS you will STILL sometimes go astray, because you’ll find that you have five metres warning that the lane you’re in approaching a roundabout is right-turn-only, or left-turn-only, or go-straight-only – and there are an absolutely stupid number of roundabouts, and their design has zero consistency. The Magic Roundabout in Swindon is no longer even in my top ten Most Horrible British Roundabouts.

i,a) Don’t even try to work out what they were thinking. Only a sadist or someone who had never, in fact, driven a car would think that combining a roundabout with traffic lights, or having two roundabouts in immediate succession, with traffic lights between them, could possibly be anything other than a terrible idea. Welcome to Britain.

2) You don’t know what time it is. Wear a watch.

When I arrived at the farmhouse in which I’m staying for the next several nights, it was dusk. Naturally, this makes it late evening… except it was a quarter to five. That’s late afternoon. Your subconscious calculations of light levels and ambient conditions to tell you what time it is are wrong.

3) The papers are as bad as their stereotypes say they are.

An example is clear in today’s headlines.

The Times: “A bloody betrayal”
The Daily Star: “FIND THE BASTARD AND KILL HIM”

I only wish I were kidding.

The Daily Mail’s entire front page is dedicated to two headlines. A smaller panel: “Why yesterday was a sorry day for Britain, democracy and the Tories”. The bigger panel has a photo and: “THis is the bloodied flak jacket of one of the five British soldiers murdered in Helmand. Their killer? An Afghan policeman they trained and trusted. What kind of war IS this?”

I couldn’t bring myself to buy the Daily Star or the Sun, and I can’t remember the Sun’s headline, but it was pretty histrionic. The Afghanistan deaths were the front page of all but one paper – that one was about MPs.

4) Irn Bru tastes better in Scotland.

I don’t know why. It just does.

5) Some of the best places you will see are the ones no-one told you about.

Today, on my way south from Edinburgh, I stopped in Coldstream. The museum was closed, but I needed to pee so I stopped by the Town Hall/Library, then, on the purest of whims, I wandered down to Walk the Walk, a government/military surplus and memorabilia shop.

Which, it turns out, is also the building where some of the Coldstream Guards officers were billeted during World War 2, and down a narrow flight of stairs, there’s a miniature WW2 museum that surprises you as you come around the corner. At which point the sound system starts rotating through WW2-era songs and radio broadcasts, like Churchill’s speeches.

I bought three things there. One of them was not, originally, for sale, but he invited me to make an offer on it, and accepted my offer. The reason? We’d been chatting about my grandmother, and it turns out he had a framed set of maps and army print releases from the time and place where she was stationed.

Had. Now I have them.

Today’s photo:

This is a small bridge over the Leithen Water, in the town of Coldstream.

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