Saturday, December 20, 2014

London Tips - Final Thoughts

I arrived home in the USA last night. It was a long flight home! But, I wanted to share some final thoughts before I close this chapter on my visit to London.

Overall, he people in London are very friendly and really wonderful to tourists! Even the cab driver who took me to the train station on my way to the airport to come home was going above and beyond to make sure I enjoyed London.  Hearing that I was an American, he asked how I enjoyed the trip and asked what sights I'd seen. When I told him that my touring was somewhat limited because I was visiting on business, he took the opportunity to make sure that I saw a few last things on the way out.

To the dismay of the traffic behind us, he drove very slowly past Buckingham Palace so I could get a few pictures. First he explained that one can tell if the Queen is home or away based on the flag that flying from the top of the Palace. If the Union Flag is flying, the Queen is not home. When she is home, her flag flies. As we passed, I saw hat the Union flag was flying, meaning that the Queen was not home. This explains why I never received my invitation to have tea with the Queen as I'd expected :).

He also told me some of the history of the surrounding area including how London was built out in various directions from the address Number 1, London which was the home of the Duke of Wellington called the Apsley House (or Wellington Museum today) and stands not far from Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, the picture I got is very poor quality and not worth sharing (the car was moving and the pic is a mess).

As we drove a little further, we passed the location of the Tyburn Tree, which today is simply a circular stone plaque embedded into the pavement. Many executions by public hanging were carried from the 1100s through the late 1700s. According the the cab driver, it is from the executions at the Tyburn tree that we have the phrase today to "take one for the road" (getting one more of something to take with you when you leave a place). Apparently, when a prisoner was on the way to the gallows at that location, the captors would ask the prisoner if they wanted "to take one for the road". If the prisoner said yes, they would stop at a pub for a last beer "for the road" to the execution site. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a picture of this, but I enjoyed hearing the history!

I simply cannot say enough about how friendly the English are. If you are looking for a vacation destination in Europe where they love tourists - London is the place. I was absolutely overwhelmed by how wonderfully Londoners treat Americans tourists.

Going backwards a little, I stayed at a discount hotel chain called the Premium Inn. Let me start out by explaining that I am a complete hotel snob. I consider it camping to stay at anything less than a 4 star hotel. I have been lucky enough to stay at some of NYC's finest hotels including the Ritz Carlton. While the Premium Inn didn't have the amenities of a Ritz Carlton, I was very pleased with this hotel. It was immaculately clean, modern, quite, and the service was excellent.

As with everything I experienced in London, the staff at the Premium went above and beyond. One night, coming in late from site seeing and not having eaten, I found that the hotel restaurant was just closing. Rather than turning me away, they reopened the restaurant just for me. Another night, I brought food at Harrods that needed to be heated. Despite the fact that I wasn't buying food from the hotel's restaurant, they heated my dinner for me, put it on a plate, provided utensils, napkins, condiments, and a glass of water. All I asked for was if they had a microwave I could use. And, when my hands were full, a person at check-in would rush ahead to push the elevator buttons for me. These aren't big things, I know - but little things make a HUGE difference in the quality of one's stay. I would definitely stay there again and recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable hotel in London.

I learned a lot about business in London too. The English are very direct and no where near as politically correct as American business people. This was refreshing. Rather than beating around the bush, the English get right down to business. They tell you like it is rather than trying to pad everything to avoid offence. This is certainly not meant to imply that they are impolite or mean. Rather, they recognize that time is valuable and get to the point. Business meetings were faster and more productive.

The English find American human resources and employment rules/regulation ridiculous. They sometimes make off-color jokes or use phrases that an American business person may find shocking. This, too, was refreshing! There is nothing that I hate more than constantly being on guard for fear of offending. to that end, some of their jokes were specifically at the expense of the American human resources. I particularly enjoyed those :).  The English openly wish you a merry Christmas rather than American's more inclusive but evasive "happy holidays". They will openly speak about going to church, religion, racial matters without concern that anyone will be offended. And the best part, the English are not so easily offended. Though nothing anyone said was truly offensive (or shouldn't have been, in my opinion) - just having such conversations above a whisper in the USA is completely taboo.

Overall, I loved the culture - from touring to business, England was wonderful and I am going to miss it! I have a couple more trips lined up. Next I am off to San Francisco in January and after that Oslo, Norway in February. I am sure Oslo will be another exciting adventure. February in Oslo (as I'v read) it will be very cold and very dark. That will be my first trip to a country where English is not the default language. It should be quite an exciting experience!


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