England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland
At the end of May my mother, sister, and I left to meet my father in England. My father had been working in Iraq and we thought it would be the trip of a life time for our family. Sadly it was a trip of a life time for us but not in the way we had all hoped. The roads were more confusing than we had ever thought possible, the hotel rooms were cold and small, and gas stations with no bathrooms only added to the tension in the car. I am sharing this information because it could have all have gone another way.
It all started when we got the car. We had found the perfect car to spend our two week vacation in. It had plenty of room and we thought we had done well. We were meeting my father at the hotel and in our excitement we made our first mistake. We forgot to ask for a GPS system. We quickly realized our mistake and decided to stop off at a gas station to look for a map. This did not go a smooth as we thought. First off there are things called round-a-bouts. I know we have some round-a-bouts in the good old USA but not like they have. They literally have no intersections, they only have round-abouts. Also their road signs are confusing. We had no idea where we were or where we were going. Couple this with the fact that the stick shift was on the wrong side and we were driving on the wrong side of the road we thought we were going to die. After receiving nine different confusing directions to a gas station we finally found on. We almost cried out of joy as we walked out with our map, that was before we realized the road map does not really help when it comes to the round-a-bouts. Some how we made it back to the car rental place two hours later and got the GPS system. We made the ten mile trip from the car rental place to the hotel in the grand total time of three hours.
One good thing about London was that they had no cops. Police are just there to take care of crimes not speeding tickets. They do have cameras on the road sides but these seem to matter little to the locals. When driving you must go fast. The fast lane is the lane closest to the inside of the road. When someone comes up behind you, get over! These people know how to drive and they do not take kindly to slow drivers. They will politely flash their lights when you are in their way. If you do not get over you will soon find yourself the recipient of rude hand movements, and violent verbal assaults. Also they have roads that are big enough for just one car at a time. If you are as unfortunate to find yourself on one of these roads you may have to back up a long way to let the other person by. This could also get you in an argument with a less than happy local. Stone walls on either side makes it seem as if you are going to break the mirrors off of the car. For the poor person that has to drive these roads, I ask on their behalf that no one does the typical backseat driver routine. If they do, well driver stop the car and hand over the keys. Let them drive for a few minutes and they will no longer be so vocal when it comes to your driving.
BOOK YOUR HOTELS BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE STATES! We had all but two days booked and we thought we would be fine. No my friends, we were not. A rugby game was going on and for 50 miles we could not find a room. The hotels also will most likely only allow two people to a room. So families start looking months a head of time to find your rooms. For some reason Scotland will give you the most problems with this. The rooms are very hard to find in advance and trust me, you will spend endless hours on this problem. The rooms will come with two towels only, and no wash clothes. They say it is to conserve energy but I say they were being cheap. At every hotel we went to I was cold. I could not get the heat up enough and several hotels said the heaters were broken. Maybe it is just because I am from Florida that I was so cold but my entire family took long hot showers before going to bed so that they would be warm enough to fall asleep. The rooms were all clean and nice but they just seemed to fall short next to American hotels. If you want to relax and watch some T.V. before bed, look hard for a hotel that offers that. At all the hotels we went to they all offered only three or four local channels. Luckily most of them had American movies playing all day.
Smokers be sure to pack enough smokes to make it through. Cigarettes are expensive and they are not as strong. They also have great pictures on them that almost made my mother stop smoking. If you are a smoker you will need a cigarette after trying to park you car in the tiny parking spaces they provide. At a parking garage we went to they had empty spaces, not because they had no one to fill them, but because it was impossible to park your car. Even people who are accustom to this sort of thing have problems and will, instead, park on the side walk. And I mean all four tiers on the side walk.
Besides all of this, Europe is amazing. Walking around in Bath, seeing the cliffs in Ireland, seeing the castles, the whisky in Scotland, the beer in Ireland. All of it is amazing and something you can just not see in America. History is every where and the locals are more than happy to help, especially if you are looking for a good pub. Things could have gone better if we had only known. The extra money you spend on having someone else planing your trip could be well worth it. All in all Europe is different and you should prepare yourself by doing the research. A well planed trip to Europe could become the best trip of your life.