5 Things I Learned in England

  1. The subway in London (they call it the Tube) is more expensive and seems slower and less efficient than other European cities I’ve been (and I only used it in Zones 1 to 4…the main area where I would think the Tube would be at its most efficient).  It could just seem slower because the distance between stations is greater than in Paris, where I was right before London, but that’s just a guess.
  2. I started seeing them the first day in London, so what is an off license store?  Off license stores (liquor stores basically) sell liquor that you cannot consume on the premises. On license stores (bars, restaurants, etc.) sell liquor that can be consumed on the premises.  I put this in because stores with ‘off license’ in the name are everywhere, in every town I visited in England.
  3. Most small family owned stores/shops don’t seem to specialize in one type of service or product line.  Example: a small store in Nottingham with a name like ‘Joe’s Off License Liquor’ also sells groceries, postage, prepaid phones and phone credits, magazines and newspapers, tobacco and accessories, fresh fruit and vegetables…you get the idea.  I wonder if it’s always been like this in the UK or if the mom and pop stores are doing everything they can to attract business these days.
  4. Public Houses vs. Free Houses.  What are they and what’s the difference?  (skip to the end of #4 for the short answer)  Before getting to England last month I knew what a public house was.  It’s a bar.  A tavern.  A pub.  Whatever similar name you want to use.  But I had never heard of something called a free house.  Being a budget traveler, and always looking for cheap accommodations, I was immediately interested when seeing ‘FREE HOUSE’ through the bus window on my way to Norwich.  As luck would have it a free house has nothing to do with a cheap place to sleep.  So what is it?  Basically the name free house evolved to denote a pub not tied to any particular brewery and ‘free’ to sell whatever beer they want.  Historically public houses in England were tied to (or owned by) specific breweries.  That said, the lines have become blurred in recent decades and nowadays looking at the name, public or free, may not give you an idea of the type of bar it is.  The short answer is: for most patrons in modern times there is no discernible difference in a public house and a free house.
  5. London’s weather.  It’s always talked about by travelers and locals alike.  London and rain, rain and London…they’re kind of synonymous.  Here’s what I learned: It always seems to look like it could rain…like it might rain.  But then it normally doesn’t, or at least not much. I know my 7 day sample size is pretty small but that’s all I’ve got to go from.  And as you can see from the picture below, the ‘nearly’ raining weather doesn’t spoil your time in London…there is always something awesome to look at!
    Tower Bridge - London
    Tower Bridge – London

    Bonus thing I learned!!

  6. The lesser known cities and areas are worth the visit.  I visited several cities, from large to small, and enjoyed everyone of them.  One in particular, Whitby, is an incredible city on the North Sea coast.  There is enough stuff to keep busy for several days and I’ll go back if I get the opportunity.  For the historian, a small but fantastic museum houses many interesting items including some impressive dinosaur fossils, all found within 20 miles of Whitby, and the ancient Abbey and Church sitting above the city on a cliff are an excellent visit.  For the outdoorsman there is a beach and several different hiking trails.  For the adventurer you can go fossil hunting along the cliffs and find anything from ammonites to crocodiles to dinosaurs.  Or you can just sit and watch the tidal river as I did on my first night in town (Abbey Ruins in the top right corner of this picture).

    Low Tide on the River Esk - Whitby
    Low Tide on the River Esk – Whitby

2 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned in England”

  1. London is a very cool place to visit. When we were there 20 years ago, the little neighborhood mom and pop stores were there. Seemed to cater to their local customers, actually with a little bit of everything. AND they were always busy! And when I say little, some of them were very little, but a neat experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *