Saturday, March 29, 2008

England Travelblogue: Final Thoughts

This will be the last of my posts about England, even though I probably could write a lot more. This was my first time making an international trip on my own and I have to say I'm really glad I chose this as my destination.

Simply put, England is one of the most tourist-friendly places I've ever been to. This applies especially to parts of London, where even the crosswalks are painted with instructions to look right first when crossing the road. Everyone seems happy to help, regardless of what their own personal opinions of tourists might be.

Here, I recall my first day traveling in London via the Underground. Much to my dismay, my day pass stopped working at the turnstiles after the first time I used it. Now usually, there are attendants around to help you in these situations and I was able to get their help during most of the day. But when I arrived at my first stop — Tower Hill Station — and saw no attendant in the vicinity after realizing I couldn't use my pass to let myself out, I felt a mild sense of panic.

When I spotted a woman pausing to get her Oyster Card out, I approached her and explained my situation (American accent and all), showing her my day pass. When she saw I genuinely couldn't get through, she used her own pass to help me out.

In other situations, I didn't have to ask for help. The next time I bought a day pass was during peak morning hours. I had asked for a Zones 1-4 pass to avoid any problems with my travels that day. The man selling me my pass told me it would be £10, then paused to ask me where I'd be going. When I told him my final destination for the day, he told me that it was still within Zone 3, so that would be £8 instead. He could probably tell that I wasn't from around the area, accent aside since there are Americans residing in London, but I was still grateful. After all, he certainly wasn't obligated to tell me which ticket would be best.

Honestly, the public transportation system — Underground, Overground, and buses included — is something that really impressed me. As a veteran of the New York/New Jersey system, which can confuse people at first, I loved how simple everything was. Tube maps were everywhere and it was easy to decipher where I needed to transfer. People remained polite even when the trains were packed with commuters. While the trains did get stuffy and it could sometimes be difficult to find a seat, there was no pushing or shoving involved. I have to admit that I found this a pleasant change from my usual experiences as a commuter.

I'm sure there are parts of England that may be somewhat unpleasant because no country is perfect. But overall, it really is a place where you can have a wonderful time, jam packed with activities, delicious food, and gorgeous sights. I think it's the sort of destination that is pleasant for experienced and inexperienced travelers alike. As a result, I fully intend to go back someday for a mix of additional sightseeing and a chance to just relax and immerse myself in everyday life.

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