Having escaped Florida just before Hurricane Irma hit, we enjoyed a pleasant few days in London and then a long planned cruise around the United Kingdom. Having never visited there before, we were pleasantly surprised. Here are some take-aways about life across "the pond."
1. We had surprisingly good meals in London, but they were at ethnic restaurants; notably Italian, Turkish and Chinese. British food in my opinion remains mediocre at best.
2. London, and all other cities we visited, was very clean and their highways had far fewer billboards than we have.
3. Despite Shakespere describing "brevity is the sour of wit," the Brits seem to use more words than necessary; like "Baggage Re-Claim" and "Give Way" instead of yield.
4. Everyone in the UK was quite friendly and helpful to tourists.
5. After another bombing, we avoided the tube, (train or railways).
6. British Airways has the best customer service. Arriving sleep deprived, jet-lagged and exhausted from our flight over, I forgot my backpack with medications and other important stuff in the baggage area. While having a cup of coffee, a BA agent called my cell, (fortunately I had a tag on it with my number), to tell me she had it and had I left the airport yet? I said no and she walked in over to me in the main terminal. What other airline does that?
7. Scones are great as well as their jams and clotted cream, which I think is their form of cream cheese.
8. Scotland is beautiful but I was not adventurous enough to try out Haggis. (If you don't know what it is just Google it and you'll see why).
9. Northern Ireland was beautiful and the dairy foods excellent. I think their cows eat nothing but grass and the milk, cream, yogurts, and ice cream are much smoother and tastier than what we have here.
10. The wages are low in Northern Ireland, but they only have three tax brackets- 20, 30 and 40%. But they also pay a VAT or sales tax. Although their healthcare system is "free", in reality it is not. They have a tax while they work of 20% that funds their care after age 65, like Medicare. And funds are now short so many citizens pay extra for private supplements to get good care and get to the head of the queue.
11. Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England are part of the UK and use the British Pound and no metric system. Ireland is part of the EU and uses the Euro, the metric system, and worst of all a 20% Euro sales tax.
12. There are more miles of green countryside and gorgeous cliffs and beaches than I had ever imagined.