Friday, April 03, 2009

For Those Who’ll Soon Visit Britain (Post 1)

JinC Regular cks has won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for five weeks of study this summer in England and The Netherlands. You can read more about her NEH program here.

Both cks’s frequent comments at JinC and her selection for the highly competitive NEH grant suggest she’s a pretty smart person.

Nevertheless, she's sought my opinions concerning her travel related activities.

Well first, cks, you and anyone else who reads here is warned.

Readers, you’re invited to join in with your recommendations and cautions.

And let’s expand cks’s time horizon and think in terms of folks who’ll be visiting Britain and The Netherlands between now and Sept. 15, 2009.

I’ll run a series of posts which will include my suggestions to cks and others. I'll also move from the comment threads to main page posts the tips, cautions, links, etc which many of you offer those visiting the two countries

With “consumer beware and investigate” always a useful reminder, let’s begin.

In the rest of this post I’m considering cks’ situation and the time of her visit, July.

Now to cks - - -

Since you’ve not been to London in 30+ years, you’ll notice a lot that’s changed as well as some things that are the same.

You’ll still find, thank God, those big, black taxi’s with the friendly cabbies who know London’s streets and whose cab rear doors open to the back, thus creating a big opening into which you can pitch your luggage and still have room to stretch your feet after a cramped transatlantic flight?

But there are now mini-cabs in London, too.

I skip them whenever I can.

If you never found a good cup of coffee back in the 80s, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

And it isn’t just because there are Starbucks all over central London and many other places in Britain.

The Brits themselves in hotels, restaurants and other places on the whole serve good to very good coffee.

You can even now get good coffee (and pastry, too) in the heavily trafficked, inter-city train and coach stations in London, Birmingham, Oxford, Edinburgh, etc.


They tell important parts of the story of social change in Britain these past 30 or so years.

That quiet place where you had a pint and, depending on your preference, were either left alone or welcomed into a civil, mirth-filled conversation, maybe later to be invited to join a game of darts or draw your pick in tomorrow’s betting pool -- that kind of pub is for the most part gone, especially in the principal cities.

When you want to find a pub like that, ask for “a traditional pub.”

Most pubs today have the TV on loud. There are also gaming machines in many pubs; and they, too, are loud. So are the conversations. How else to be heard?

Don't let the last few comments discourage you.

I love visiting Britain and will say more about that in succeeding posts.

The next one will be tomorrow.

Between now and then, I hope some readers will comment as well.


Anonymous said...

I too have not been to Britain in over 30 years. As a young teenager, I did not visit many pubs. I also despise coffee. Needing the caffeine to wake up to the time zone change, I learned to drink tea in London. My wife and I are going to London in May for our 25th Anniversary. I hope it is still as friendly and as British now as it was then.

Anonymous said...


Congratulations on your 25th wedding anniversary. London is where my husband and I (we were students at the time) knew that we would spend the rest of our lives together. I would echo your sentiments that the British are very friendly - my son, who is currently studying in London, comments frequently on the friendliness of all those he meets.