Personal Impressions

The "Personal Impressions" section is a collection of thoughts and personal experiences.

The One Way Ticket

Our initial concern was arriving to London on a one way ticket. Immigration in some countries want proof that you're going to leave. London was no trouble. We were asked how long we expected to stay and were promptly given an entry stamp valid for 6 months.

My, These People Are Courteous - The Singapore Comparison

A day in London made us realize that Singapore had in fact affected us. People were shockingly courteous to each other. People standing on an escalator would stand to the right to let those in a hurry pass on the left. People on a train or tube platform would wait for others to alight before boarding. Drivers would stop for pedestrians crossing the road. People would wait their turn in line.

These behaviors may be natural to most of you, but after 18 months in Singapore, we were overwhelmed by, and quite enjoyed, the common courtesy in the busy city of London.

Now That's Service!

Over the next few days, we realized that we continued to make comparisons to Singapore. In Singapore, it was often the case that you wouldn't be told unless you knew to ask, and when you asked, you often received false or worthless information. Getting a simple list of regulations for a particular type of bank account, when you're talking to the bank teller, at the bank, can be daunting in Singapore. London must be the opposite extreme. Countless times in London, we were informed of a cheaper option or a better method without having to ask. For instance, when renting a car in London, the sales representative took some extra time to ask where we were staying. He immediately suggested that we rent from a different branch office and have the car delivered to our address for less than the cost of a train ticket were we to find our way to the rental car office ourselves. In addition, he looked up the daily and weekly rental rates without prompting to help us decide the most economical cost. And the entire transaction took place over a pay phone. Would we rent from Europcar in London again? Definitely.

Wes: I'm a true believer that the level of service is the difference between building a customer base and going out of business (well, unless the service sucks everywhere like one place I've already mentioned). I intend to be customer focused in whatever profession I pursue in the future.

Note: Canadians and Americans can rent Europcar cars at a significant discount (often 50% or more depending on the European country in which the car will be rented) by contracting through Maine, USA based AutoEurope. Order online at and also see our France - Facts for the Visitor page for details.

Road Race and Roundabouts

Some people told us that English people don't work extremely hard. You'd never guess that watching them drive!

After a few days in London, we rented a car for 2.5 weeks. Day one on the road was frightening. The road speed limit seemed to be how ever fast the car could go. Wes drove with the trucks moving a slow 65 miles per hour in the slow lane of the motorway. The other drivers? Their speed must have been off the speedometer.

Combine a road full of drivers competing for first place to everywhere and lots of roundabouts and tourist-unfriendly road signs often covered partially by trees and bushes, and what do you get? A very stressed out Wes and Masami. One of us drove. The other navigated. We both got lost.

The funny thing about road signs in Britain is that they assume the driver is familiar with the immediate area and all the surrounding town names and locations. There's never a simple route number and direction like A40 North. There's a sign that reads A40, A43, B4038, B4289 (A42) with a whole lot of place names. There's no indication of where they lie in relation to where we are. Now throw in a roundabout with 6 intersecting roads and a huge complicated unfriendly sign half covered by a tree. It takes some time getting used to.

Our first week, we learned to drive to the center lane of each roundabout and circle around 2, 3, 4 times as the navigator matched place names on the map. This at least saved lost time from driving the wrong direction several times per roundabout. By the third week, we were professionals. Wes adjusted his driving speed to the average British speed (read: dangerous) and Masami learned to shout all the possible city names in the direction we wanted to go before we reached the roundabout. Yes, driving in Britain requires team work (and lots of patience with your stressed out partner).

Wes' Dream
Ever since graduating from college, Wes had a recurring dream about skiing. The dream, with several alterations, persisted while living in Tokyo, California, and Singapore. The dream would start with preparations to go skiing, sometimes with Evan (Wes' brother), sometimes with school friends, and sometimes alone. He would reach the ski resort, but then something prevented him from skiing. Sometimes the ski boots wouldn't fit into the ski bindings. Sometimes the ticket line was so long that the lifts stopped before his first run. Sometimes Wes would make it to the lift but it would go backwards! Invariably, Wes never skied.

One morning in Scotland, Wes woke up excitedly. "I finally went skiing! The snow was powdery, the moguls were perfect, and my form was excellent. I shushed through the moguls and flew through the air - just like when I was 20." A few nights later, Wes did ski acrobatics in his dream.

This dream confirms it. Wes is FINALLY doing what he's always wanted to do - travel around the world.

Can't Get Enough Of British B&Bs
In Britain, stay at a Ben & Breakfast. Forget the hotels and hostels and park benches. Stay at a B&B. We had such great experiences at each B&B we stayed. It doesn't matter if it's cheap or expensive, spacious or cramped, private or shared bathroom. B&Bs give the opportunity to really talk to someone local and to get a feel for the environment. We had 2 absolute favorites:

Location: Capel Garmon, Wales (closest town on a map is Betws-Y-Coed)
Owner: Eirian Ifan
Address: Llannerch Goch, Capel Garmon, Conwy LL26 0RL
Tel: +44-1690-710261 (01690-710261 from within the U.K.)

Location: Boat Of Garten, Scotland
Owner: Elizabeth Matthews
Address: The Old Ferryman's House, Boat Of Garten, Inverness-shire PH24 3BY
Tel: +44-1479-831370 (01479-831370 from within the U.K.)

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