This will come in handy for anyone traveling to the U.K. or France. I just didn’t have the time to create a new list this week, so here’s a classic from two years ago.
10. It’s just a ten minute walk: If you ask anyone in London directions to anywhere they’ll tell you it’s just a ten minute walk. Me: “Excuse me sir, I’d like to visit the Swiss Alps. How do I get there?” English doorman: “Oh that’s easy. Just go to the corner, turn left, walk a bit and then go right at the sign. It’s about a ten minute walk.”
9. The English are terrible at giving directions: No offense to my English friends, but some of your countrymen are completely barmy when giving directions. I don’t know, maybe they were just screwing with tourists for fun. When I’d ask for directions I always needed to ask directions two more times along the way.
8. It’s time to spruce up your money: The queen is on every piece of money. It’s confusing. You’re a country that’s been around forever and only one person is worthy of being on your money? How about Elton John, David Beckham, Dr. Who or the Monty Python guys?
7. Every building is important: I took a guided tour of the city in the open top of a double-decker bus with a tour guide giving information over the P.A. system. Every frickin’ building in London is at least a thousand years old and used to be something important. Tour guide: “The building on your right may be a McDonald’s now, but in the year 1237 it was the McDonald’s where William Shakespeare wrote all of his plays while noshing on a McRib.”
6. The English don’t learn: About 500 years ago half of London’s population was wiped out by a plague transmitted by fleas from rats. The English were saved when Bennie Hill accidentally knocked over a lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn and the whole city burned down, killing the rats and their fleas. Last week it was a very pleasant day as I strolled through a park and saw many, many English happily feeding squirrels out of their hands. Yes, the same squirrels that we in America regard as nothing more than rats with fluffy tails. Hello? Has it occurred to the English that squirrels can carry fleas? When there’s another plague in London I won’t be surprised.
5. The French are nice: Contrary to their reputation I found the French to be very friendly. Of course I only spent a day there and I was spending money in their shops and restaurants, but whenever I entered anywhere I was greeted with a cheerful “Bon jour!” and when I left a just as friendly “Au revoir!” Definitely nicer than going into stores in the States. The picture below is me on the second observation deck of the Eiffel Tower.
4. If you’re lactose intolerant France is not your friend: I ate at two small restaurants on the day I was there. Every item on both menus included cheese.
3. The English know how to start the day: Big breakfasts full of ham and sausage and eggs. I miss those. The English don’t stop there though. They add eggs to all kinds of sandwiches all day long too. They also eat a lot of duck. Duck eggs, I’m not sure about.
2. The American Champagne: In conversation with me an Englishman joked that Coke is “The American Champagne.” Um, yeah, so what? You want to start a war over it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
1. Bicycle, Bicycle! I want to ride my bicycle…: In England the cyclists are suicidal. The cyclists share the roads with cars, and there is no designated bicycle lane. London streets are not straight. They’re mostly curvy and the taxis, cars and buses fly around as if they’re in a Grand Prix race. The cyclists, without helmets as well, weave in and out of traffic with aplomb. What’s nice is that since cars are on the opposite side of the road over there, at most crosswalks they painted “Look right” or “Look left” for the pedestrians. I only almost got clipped by a taxi once.
1A. Hyde Park is good for jogging and snogging: London’s Hyde Park, which is akin to New York’s Central Park is good for “jogging and snogging” as my sarcastic tour guide put it. I’m not sure if the jogging and snogging are simultaneous or occur on separate trips, but it’s nice they’ve put up a sign and designated an area of the park for it.
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