As we get ready to make our way to the U.S. for a few days before continuing our journeys in Central America, it is time to wrap up our thoughts regarding the United Kingdom. So, here goes.
The United Kingdom does pork right. The pork here is absolutely out of the world. Yet, we never saw a pig farm. (Tons and tons of sheep, and cows and horses and even some donkeys, but no pigs). Where does the pork come from?
Robert is in love with cask ales. When in the United Kingdom, look for a pub that advertises “real cask ales.” Drink them. Robert says to trust him.
England is lovely, truly lovely. But Wales and Scotland are completely over the top. Based solely on the parts we drove through, England is the ugly stepsister to Scotland and Wales. I think it is because Wales and Scotland (at least the parts we saw) both appeared to be so much more wild and untamed, whereas England is pastoral and manicured.
Loch Ness is pretty. But there are plenty of pretty lochs in Scotland. Don’t think you HAVE to see Loch Ness. On the other hand, we loved Inverness (which is right near Loch Ness) so if you go to Inverness there is no reason not to see Loch Ness.
I adore the Scottish accent. I could listen to it all day. Even though I can probably only understand 7 words out of 10. Fewer if the speaker is from Glasgow. And, forget about understanding drunks from Glasgow.
One of the pubs we visited to watch a Chelsea match served pie at half-time. The U.S. pubs could take a note…
We were surprised at the different forms of currency here. Not only did we run across bills issued by the Royal Bank of England and the Royal Bank of Scotland, we also saw quite a few bills issued by Clydesdale Bank. Who knows what that is?
We ended up buying English Heritage passes when we arrived. It turned into a good investment. Lots of free attractions in England plus discounted attractions in Scotland and Wales. Give it a look if you are visiting.
One of the things we worried about before arriving in the U.K. was our lack of chip and pin cards. We were particularly worried about getting gas for our rental car. Turns out, it wasn’t a problem — the gas stations we stopped at didn’t even have credit card readers at the pumps. (Interestingly enough, some did have some sort of system where you could pay with your smart phone so maybe the U.K. just skipped a generation of technology).
The prices here are absolutely obscene. We honestly do not understand how the average person in the United Kingdom can ever afford to go out to eat. Here is an example: one day in Cardiff, we stopped into Pizza Express, which is a chain here in the U.K. Two personal pizzas and sparkling water came to $47. Trust me, that was not an outlier. We died a little bit inside every time we paid a dinner bill. (Now, there are pub chains that have 2 for the price of one specials that are much cheaper. But some days you need something other than pub food, especially from a chain…). Hotels were also obscenely expensive — we ended up going through most of the hotel points we had accumulated rather than paying the asking price for the hotels here.
The food here is so unhealthy. And, if I’m saying that, you know it must be true. And the portions here are American sized. I was so excited to have some puddings here in the United Kingdom and, as it turns out, I didn’t have room for dessert even once. (We did buy some shortbread cookies while in Scotland).
The sides of the highways are completely overgrown with wildflowers and hedges. It was beautiful. But, come the zombie apocalypse, those hedges are going to be a real liability — you simply can’t see what is in the fields on the sides of the road.
Driving here is a challenge. It isn’t so much driving on the wrong side of the road in a car where the steering wheel and shifter are on the wrong side of the car. It is the extremely narrow, and twisty roads. In many places, the road is actually a single lane. Not one lane in each direction, but a single lane. There are pullouts every so often so you can pull aside if you meet oncoming traffic.
We were stupid to think we could book hotels one night in advance in peak travel season in the United Kingdom. We quickly learned that, in many places, there simply were not any rooms available. It wasn’t just a lack of rooms in our price range; some areas had zero rooms available (at least according to the various websites we used). A real change from the rest of the places we have been visiting.
Someone really needs to have a conversation with the Brits about their love of twin beds. We hate them.
It was disheartening to learn — and learn quickly — that many pubs that appear from the outside to be independent are actually licensed by some big conglomerate. And have exactly the same menu as a pub with a completely different name in a completely different city.
Why is steak pie not a pie? Why is it a bunch of steak and gravy in a bowl with a puff pastry on top?