Scotland Stories and Tips

Dorothy, You're Not in Kansas Anymore...

Double Decker Bus Photo,

. . . things you’ll see in the UK that aren’t in America!

We really enjoyed the cultural differences between the United Kingdom and the United States. Every day was a day of exploration and new discovery. Some days, it was sensory overload, just trying to take in all that is so unique, so... different.

The obvious must first be recognized and discussed, as it permeated every day and all of our travels. THE DRIVING! For us Americans traveling to the UK for the first time, with the hope and expectation of driving a car, there is a significant mental adjustment necessary to be able to handle driving on the opposite side of the road from the other side of the automobile. David started "pretending" around our neighborhood, in his huge mommy van, a Pontiac Montana. Every time he did it with me in the car, I simply busted out laughing. He really thought this would help him. Hahahaha. There was little that was going to prepare him for coming out of the Hertz parking lot at Edinburgh Airport! What was worse, with maps and MapQuest instructions in hand, nothing was going to prepare me for playing navigator for this two week journey.

We had both hoped to have a day or two to get used to our new respective roles before having to face the challenge of negotiating through the legendary "roundabout" – something else we don’t have in America. Ha again! We were not even ten minutes from the airport when we had to work our way through one of the nasty little beasts. Having made our way through it with no real issue, we both were overcome with over confidence. "Piece of cake" we both thought! Well it didn’t take long for us to get the appropriate amount of respect for what a nightmare these things can cause.

The other thing that took David some getting used to, was shifting with his left hand. The configuration of a five-speed shifter is the same as what we see in the USA, it just done left-handed. There aren’t many things that David does naturally with his left hand, so shifting was a bit of a joke, especially down shifting from say fifth to fourth. I can’t tell you how many times I got whip-lashed as he grinded into second.

OK so with driving out of the way, here are the other things that we saw in the UK that you don’t see in the USA...

1. Double-decker buses. We all know that the UK is known for their double-decker buses. I expected to see them in London, but I was surprised to see them in other smaller, more rural communities, including up in Scotland. Engineering-wise, I am still amazed that they remain upright when making a sharp turn. I saw one going through Trafalgar Square in London that I was sure would tip over. Nope... she stayed the course and remained upright!

2. Red phone booths! Yep, that’s right they still have them practically everywhere. In small villages and communities, you would see a lone phone booth among five or six cottages as though perhaps that phone was the only one in the whole place. Some looked simply out of place. In bigger cities like Edinburgh and London, they were practically on every other block or corner. There’s no mistaking them either as they look like the same "red telephone boxes" that were around in the UK at the beginning of the 20th century. The one attached to this review is from High Street in Skipton, England.

3. Sheep farms. I loved the sheep farms. Whether it was in Scotland where we saw the in farm pastures with traditional fencing or roaming the open hills of the highlands... or in England where we saw dozens of farms with beautiful stone fences keeping the herd within a particular area... sheep farms were a wonderful sight! We learned at the Rievaulx Abbey that the solid white sheep are the ones with the warmer course wool and the cute black faced ones have a softer wool. Who would have thought? (Please see my full journal entry on "just" the sheep farms of the UK.)

4. Dog poop depository boxes. I know you think I jest, so I took the attached photo expressly for the purpose of this specific journal entry. As a dog owner, one who loves the mutts and have adopted from shelters, I love people who love dogs. The UK was my kind of place in that every day regardless of where we were, there were people out with man’s best friend. You have to love that! So with people walking dogs in village centres and along town squares, there must be someplace to dump the dog’s dump, right? Well of course and that is where the dog poop boxes come in. The photo of the one attached to this review even had some of the "stinky stuff" inside. I then began to ponder who’s job would it be to empty the poop box? Maybe Mike Rowe of Discovery’s Dirty Jobs needs to take a road trip to the UK! After that, I wondered about the equally smelly fishy poop of cats? Doesn’t anyone worry about them pooping up the village? I didn’t see a single cat poop depository box!

5. Dungeons! Say what you want, but the people of the United Kingdom sure know how to torture their prisoners and adversaries! Many of the castles had dungeons, some used for housing prisoners and others for the ultimate death of those who threatened the future of the kingdom. In York and London, there are museums that tell the stories of torture and dungeons. The London Dungeon markets to the public more like an amusement park ride, where the York Dungeon is more of a walk-through museum. Of course, if dungeons and torture are your interest, there is no better place to learn about it than the Tower of London.

I hope you enjoyed this light hearted and "fun" journal review entry. After all, not everything about vacationing abroad needs to be serious, right?

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