In no particular order, here are some things that I found interesting or caught me off-guard.
*Though technically not during the trip, it was certainly something that I was not prepared for.
With all of my planning, one thing that almost gave me a heart attack was getting woken up by a message from Airbnb one morning, saying that our upcoming reservation has been cancelled by the host! People, this was 2 weeks prior to our arrival in London so I was immediately thrown into a panic mode. I sent a not-so-polite message to the host right away and the response was ‘It was out of his control due to the letting law in London’. Seriously?! Where was the protection against this type of situation as Airbnb guests? Just because a full refund was issued it was certainly not a solution. Needless to say, I spent the better part of that day in frantic search for another suitable option. And after shelling out another $400 on top of what I have already paid for previously, I did end up finding a flat that was a lot closer to the city than the original one.
Pay to Pee
I was definitely not expecting having to pay (by inserting coins) in order to enter the public restrooms in some places (it generally costs between 20-30 pence). The first time I encountered this was at St. James’s Park. A refreshment/snack stand was very conveniently located right around the corner from the restrooms. So we bought some ice cream for the kids and made sure we asked for some 20 pence as part of the change back. From that day on, we always made sure to have some coins on hand just in case.
Contrary to public belief or stereotypical thinking, I personally found that the food in England was actually quite yummy. Now, we are certainly no foodies and can not speak to the fine cuisines there. However, things such as hamburgers and sausages that we’ve eaten there were all very tasty. Whatever it is, the meat and the buns just taste better in our opinion. And the traditional dishes such as Fisn n Chips and Sheperd’s Pie were all very delicious!
There was however one exception to our eating experience. I ordered a bowl of Chili at a restaurant one day and it turned out to be completely different than what I had expected. It was served with rice and some chili flavored beef chunk. The meat was super spicy and very tough to chew so I really did not like it.
Coffee / Tea
Why do they serve coffee and/or tea BEFORE the meal in restaurants? I’m just so used to having coffee post-meal that this was really strange to me.
Instead of having stop signs, the British likes to place roundabouts in a lot of traffic intersections. Our friend told us that its purpose is to keep the traffic flow moving. I personally feel that it provides exciting driving experience in some cases. 😝
They really do say things like ‘bloody hell’ and ‘blimey’ over there, just like in Harry Potter books/movies! 😄
American vs. British English
At times, it felt like that they speak a different language over there. In many cases we use very different words to describe the same thing. Some are obvious or easier to follow because we’ve heard of them in the past, others not so much, at least in my case. Here are some of words we picked up during this trip:
Flat vs. Apartment
Lift vs. Elevator
Jumper vs. Sweater
Petro vs. Gas
Motorway vs. Freeway
Toilet / the loo vs. Restroom
Takeaway vs. Takeout
Cutlery vs. Eating Utensils
Lorries vs. Trucks
Serviette vs. Napkin *I literally had the girl staring blankly at me at a ice cream stand when I asked for some napkins. My friend had to shout out ‘we call it serviette here!’ from behind me. LOL!
Bonnet vs. The hood of the car
Boot vs. The trunk of the car
Chips vs. Potato Wedges
Crisps vs. Potato Chips
Lemonade & ‘Traditional’ Lemonade – Lemonade refers to pop such as Sprite and 7-Up alike. ‘Traditional’ Lemonade is what we Americans are used to as lemonade.
Pissed vs. Drunk
We visited Oxford during our last full day of the trip. We joined up a local 2-hour free walking tour around town when we first arrived. Our guide was very knowledgeable and funny, and it was a great way to learn about the city/university and its rich history. The plan for the day was to have lunch after the tour, and then to visit a couple of Harry Potter filming locations (can you sense a theme yet?) in Christ Church and New College. As well as a few other historically renowned buildings within this oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Literally 5 minutes after the completion of the tour, as we were walking out of the courtyard between the Clarendon Building and the Sheldonian Theater, my attention was on the Herford Bridge across the street instead of on the steps under my feet. I missed the last step and tumbled down I went. Oh the pain (and the embarrassment)…😭
I was determined to hop along and made it all the way to The Grand Cafe for lunch/afternoon tea by taking frequent breaks along the way. However, with this untimely and unfortunate turn of events, we had to regrettably call it quits and made this oldest coffee house in England our very last stop in beautiful Oxford and this overall amazing vacation.