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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

London Observations

1) Not everyone in London has bad teeth. I saw this firsthand

2) I was told all Londoners hate us Yankees. Every person I met, from taxi drivers to hotel staff to waitstaff were absolutely wonderful and very sociable.

3) Do call your bank (or credit card company) before you go there. Let them know you are going out of the country on vacation and where and for how long. A friend (who warned me about this) ended up on the phone with his credit card fraud dept convincing them he was really in London and no one was fraudulently using his card.

4) I brought about $100 in US dollars and then used my debit card at an ATM at the airport to get 100 pounds. I ended up with almost 20 pounds on my return trip to the airport and spent it at the off duty store. The best place (besides an ATM that your bank honors) to get pounds is a post office. Seriously.

5) I don't know if all hotels are like this, but mine gave me a bath towel and a hand towel. No facecloth. So pack one.

6) Make sure you have a travel converter for your American appliances. 1600 watt or higher is recommended. I had two - a 1600 watt and 3000 watt - the higher one for my laptop. The hotel had a hair dryer and iron, so I didn't have to bother with bringing those

7) Things are redundant. In my hotel room there was an iron and ironing board - yay! Set up the ironing board, plugged in the iron. Now I had to flip the switch on the wall outlet to turn it on (yes, each outlet has an on/off, like a light switch). Then I had to flip the switch on the iron board that the iron was connected to, yes, other than the wall switch. *THREE* switches for one appliance. Hellooooo?

8) My hotel made you put the credit card room key in a slot to be able to turn the lights on. I found out afterwards sometimes you can put a business card in the slot to do the same thing. I don't know why they do this. It must be a British thing.

9) Tipping isn't necessary unless you get really wonderful service at restaurants - but look at the slip first. Some restaurants automatically add 10% to the bill.

10) You don't need to worry about wearing jeans/casual wear if you're playing tourist. I got one tourist guide that claimed jeans make you appear rude to the brits. Not true. Unless you're going somewhere formal or meeting the Queen, wear whatever you damn want (within reason, of course). I found that jeans, a top, a light jacket and sneakers were the best for running around in. Undies and a bra helped, too.

11) Keep an eye on the dollar/pound exchange rate and try to remember how much you're really paying when buying things there. Something costing 10 pounds seems like a bargain until you realize it's really almost $13 (the exchange rate was $1.63 to the pound when I was there)

12) Don't be afraid to ask people for directions. I found that going into a pub got you some friendly folks, or a store or just on the street. What was funny was British people asking ME for directions (and I actually knew where they needed to go, ha ha)

13) ALWAYS cross in a crosswalk. ALWAYS look left *and* right even if you have to only look one way or the other and remember they drive on the OTHER side of the road there. The black taxicabs don't give a shite about pedestrians, so go with the crosswalk lights or make sure it really is clear before crossing.

I think I thought of everything. If you do go, have FUN - I did!!

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