I'll start with the cars. Over her, they have in general tiny little cars that get phenomenal mileage, and also have some get-up and go (overall...some are real dogs).
There are many reasons for all the small cars here. For one, they have tiny narrow roads that were laid down ages ago by the Romans... horses and wagons/chariots. Rock walls (hedgerows) were built on the sides, and now you have private land on the other side of those walls. To MOVE the walls and make wider roads would be a national disaster. Also, gas is crazy expensive here (around $8 per gallon tho they sell it by the litre...and yes, that's how liter is spelled here). Along with all the tiny cars, they have pretty much wide open roads. And by that, I DO NOT mean space and such. NO...it means there is a MINIMUM of required stops. VERY few stoplights, and almost NO stopsigns. Roundabouts are everywhere, and they are OH SO MUCH BETTER than stoplights or stopsigns in almost all conditions. Almost all places that WOULD have a stopsign in the states has no sign at all, meaning it's simply a yield. You come upto it and take a look (still moving if you can see oncoming traffic), and if it's clear you GO! At the roundabouts, you come in with some speed looking to your right, and if it's clear (or if there's a spot big enough to get into w/out causing the oncoming driver to slam on their brakes), you GO! There are obstacles EVERYWHERE you go on the road. Two lanes temporarily into one, cars parking seemingly everywhere, causing cars on that side to veer WAY over into the oncoming lane, busses or cars stopping anywhere to load/unload... stuff like that. Quite honestly, the drivers over here are LEAPS and BOUNDS better than in the US. They HAVE to be! There is very little cruising around not paying attention here, I can assure you! I heard they totally frown on driving with a drink in your car (coffee, soda,etc). The lady I work for here was astounded when I told her my little Nissan has a cup holder...she says most of the cars do not, and that's on purpose. I can't FATHOM driving around back home w/out my coffee or a soda, or a water.
Currency. I've found in my travels that we in the US are addicted to certain things, like the 1$ bill. However that luxury of the 1$ bill costs a TON of money every year! The lifespan of a 1$ bill is mere months. Most other countries have a coin in it's place. We USED to have a 1$ coin in the US, long ago...the Silver dollar. And it LOOKED and FELT like it was actually worth something. In recent years they have tried to replace it with the Susan B Anthony. LOSER! A 1$ coin that is almost the exact size as our Quarter? WON'T WORK, EVER! We pretty much unanimously HATE IT! Here in the UK they have the quid...the pound. A small coin but it's FAT. In a pile of change you can easily spot the pounds. And they have a 2 pound coin also...which LOOK and FEELS like it's easily worth 2 pounds! Japan has the 100 Yen coin (roughly a dollar), and it's the main coin. They also have a 500 yen coin. They have gotten rid of the 1 and 5 dollar bill! But we in the states are spoiled, and when we discuss this it's pretty unanimous that we'd hate to walk around with all that change. I don't think we will ever give up the $1 bill. But we are entitled, you see, WE are the US of A, and we get what we want, not what we need (that's certainly how other countries see us).
Beer. Oh yes....you KNEW I'd come around to beer sooner or later. THEY (and by THEY, I mean pretty much ALL of Europe) have beer done right. In the US, well...we're working on it. Japan, not so much. I won't go on and on (but OH YES you know I could if I wanted to) ...but suffice to say that IF I were a beer, I'd want to be one over HERE!
Walking around. Oh yes. They walk EVERYWHERE here. A large part of that is due to the very fact that they CAN walk around most everywhere. Things are CLOSE. In the US we are so spread out that unless you are very lucky (or in a BIG city such as NYC), you pretty much walk nowhere, except to and from your car. The grocery store is MILES away, as are most all the other stores you need. Here it's ALL w/in walking distance of the VAST majority of the people in town. At night, they walk to the pubs. And they walk home. Not a whole lot of DUI going on over here...(they take that VERY seriously btw, and they should! These roads are DANGEROUS even when stone cold sober!)
Instant hot water heaters vice the hot water tank. In Japan they had these LONG ago. They also have them here. They are WAY more efficient than a hot water heater. It heats only the water you need heated. And while I'm on the topic of hot water, in the bathroom (I think I mentioned this before but bears mentioning again): the hot water/steam radiator sitting right under the towel bar, so my shower towel is TOASTY WARM every time I pull it off the rack. THAT is an honest to goodness wonderful thing! And I'm sure the towel bar isn't there by accident. And oh, being as I just finished doing my dishes for the last few days, I MUST mention this. I think I said something about how HOT the HOT water is. Well, I'm not kidding. Out of the kitchen faucet the COLD water comes out with the pressure of a geyser. A VERY COLD geyser. Rinsing my coffee pot out I have to be careful NOT to pull the lever too high, or the blast of water will blow right out of the pot all over the place. However, when you move the lever over to the HOT side, the copious flow becomes a mere trickle. And it takes a bit, but very soon I'm convinced I have hot water coming right from the molten core of the earth. Water so freaking hot that there are steam geysers all over the world with heat-envy of my faucet.
OK..enough on the 'good/bad/ugly for now. I need to include a few pics from last Sunday. I went to White Scar Cave (about a 45 minute drive). It's the largest cave system in Britain, and is inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I've been to a few caverns back in the US (among them Carlsbad), and this can't compare to that. But it was still pretty fun, and like all caverns, you just can't believe it's right there below the surface of what is rather unassuming terrain.
It was discovered in 1923 by a guy looking for a way in where a stream comes out of the hill (assuming there was a cave system made from the stream). He finally found a small opening and the guy crawled in, wearing shorts, a shirt, and a hat with a few candles stuck on the brim for light. He crawled in almost a quarter mile that first day, until he got to a lake. He came back the next day and made it back to the lake, then swam across the lake (about 100 yards or so and around 6- 10' deep), where he came to a huge boulder blocking any further progress.
And when I say he crawled in, I mean he was lying on his belly literally crawling the entire way. Can you can imagine doing this in a cave you don't know, with only candles for light? And the swimming part? The water was ice cold. This guy was a MADMAN!
In 1991 the miners came back and made a new route up to the main cavern (that was discovered by people who swam to the boulder, then using ropes and such climbed up on top, then slowly dug a hole in the rubble on top of the boulder into the main chamber.
This is a no-flash view of the 'straws' hanging from the ceiling of the main chamber. They are called 'straws' as they are actually hollow..and the dripping water goes down the middle. On average they grow an average of 1 cm every 200 years. They don't allow flash photography as they claim it hurts the stalactites (straws). Actually, they don't allow any photography at all once you go into the main chamber (because dumb people THINK they have their flash turned off but don't, and thus have ruined it for everybody). Well...almost everybody! Yes, I'm a bad boy. A bootleg photo of the main chamber. It'll make me RICH beyond my wildest dreams! National Geographic will be calling any second now!
Sorry, but you'll have to amuse yourself while I wait by the phone.
Rats. No call. Guess I'll have to keep my day job.
OK. Another week has come and nearly gone. I've been here OVER 3 weeks now! How is that possible? Haven't done much as the weather has been rather nasty. HOWEVER, I'll be going to Edinburgh next weekend (24th thru 26th). Never been there before, so I'm eagerly anticipating that trip! Not sure what to do this weekend, but I'm thinking of heading over to York for a day. I've been there before but it's just a cool place to visit. Besides, the Railroad museum is there, and they have the Hogwarts Express train (from the Harry Potter movies). Who doesn't want to see THAT??
Happy Friday, and have a GREAT weekend!