I knew that all too soon I would be driving on the left-hand side of the road and didn't want to be sleepy when we hit London. Max had said that his favorite part of flying is watching the plane approach the ground and land. Unfortunately, after staying awake for the six+ hour flight, he fell asleep as we circled Heathrow and landed. We landed at 9:00 AM London time, which is 4:00 AM New York time.
Wow, we're in England!! And better yet -- this is where we're staying for a week!! Walton Hall, a manor house built in the 1700's on 65 acres.
|A little over an hour's drive and we're at Walton Hall in Wellesbourne. It's near Stratford-upon-Avon, which is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. It's also just 2 miles from Loxley, (as in Robin of Loxley), and 70 miles from Nottingham and Sherwood Forest.|
|Our 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment is great. Beautifully furnished and just down the walk to the main house. 200 years ago these were the stables -- they must have had a lot of horses.|
|So what's it like to drive on the left-hand side of the road, you ask? At first it's a constant battle between subconscious habits and logical thinking. Draw a "figure 8" on a piece of paper and try tracing over it three times while looking only in a mirror. It's a similar experience except you can't mess up. The easiest for an American-just-arrived-in-England is just to follow another car. That works great until the car in front turns off in another direction in the middle of a busy "roundabout".||
Note from Cheryl: Though we've driven on the left side before, (in Antigua where it's mostly country roads and nobody really pays attention to driving rules), England is very structured and fast. Our first hour of driving was a combination of a video game (because you're in control) and a thrill ride. I keep subconsciously scooting my left leg in to avoid parked cars, which can fill half of our driving lane on most side streets.
There was no manual in the car and we have yet to figure out how to turn on the dome light, and fully work the radio. To read the map after dark we stop and open a door so the light will come on. Last night, in London, while stopped at a red light Cheryl opened her door to see the map and nearly took out a guy on a bicycle.
|Our first outing was to Birmingham about twenty miles northwest. It's a medium sized city with many cultural attractions -- museums, galleries, theaters and a National Indoor Arena. Two canals meet here and wind though the area.|
|Though Venice is tempting -- only a long day's drive from Southern France, we just won't have enough time. Birmingham will have to due for our canal experience this year. Birmingham's canals journey for more than fifty miles in both directions and pass through many locks. The canals, (and hence the boats), are only about six feet wide. The boats are long and skinny, some thirty feet or more in length. With modern roads and highways many are now floating homes or restaurants.|
|This picture provides a feel of the downtown area. Here, shops and eateries line the canal and streets. Most of the buildings are either brick or rock and would be considered very old by western USA standards.|
Budwiser appears to be the #1 import beer and possible #1 over all. A hardware store is an "iron monger", butchers hang meat in their storefront windows, the soda pop aisle in big grocery stores are labeled with signs that say "fizzy drinks", ground beef is called "mince beef" and the cooking instructions state that is should be cooked until the center is "piping hot". The traffic radio announcer stated that "a lorrie had shed its load and traffic is stationary" (a lorrie is a trailer, but is also what they smei-trucks), and shopping carts are called trolleys. One of the best was when we purchased tickets to go on a sight-seeing bus and the fellow we bought them from pointed across the street to "the toilets -- in case you want to have a sprinkle before the trip". Too funny.
We've seen very few Mexican restaurants, some pizza places, but pubs and eateries with names like the "Rat & Parrot", "Earl of York", "Shakespeare's Inn and Pub", "The King's Inn" or "White Castle" are plentiful. So far, the boys and I have had pizza, English fish and chips, sausage and potatoes and curry. Cheryl has been more adventurous in ordering more traditional English meals. We've yet to select shank of lamb with mushy peas.
|Mitch had a gammon and salad torpedo for lunch, (ham
and lettuce sub), and the strangest, (but most popular pizza here), is
with tuna, onions and corn. Music, television,
and theater are a mix of Britain and Hollywood, but mostly weird.
There are lots of game shows -- some identical to ones in the U.S., only
with different hosts -- (you ought to see the British Bob Barker).
Here, for example, we came across an audition for a Budwiser commercial.
In London, a policeman could not tell us where we were on our map and gave us instructions to drive further on and to stop often and ask for directions. He also didn't know which way was east or north, etc. We went the opposite direction he told us and came out where we wanted to be.
It's like driving in a large computer game; lots of fun,
like a logic puzzle unless it's late or we're in a hurry.
||Next Adventure (Warwick Castle)|
copyright Nodland 1999