Most people make their first trip to Europe to England. Since it is the one place in the world outside the U.S. where we know they speak English, it provides a certain comfort factor to the novice traveler. Whether for the first time traveler, or the frequent pond hopper, England provides a safe and interesting place to visit.
The first order of business is planning the trip. Whether for business or pleasure, you want to make sure you get the most for your time and money. Some of the old reliable, travel books, like Fodor’s or Michelin are still the standard (and are online, if you prefer). If you have an idea of certain things you want to see, use a map, paper or digital, and put together a rough itinerary for each day. Of course, make sure you leave some time to just wander around, which can be the best part of the trip.
Because London time is five hours ahead of Mt. Lebanon, allowing for jet-lag, is a necessity. Over the years, I have learned that there is no magic cure for jet-lag. One possibility, however, is to take a daytime flight. You can leave Pittsburgh at 6 a.m. on United Airlines, and by connecting through Washington or Newark arrive at London’s Heathrow Airport at 9 p.m. London time the same day. By checking into a hotel and getting 8 hours of sleep in a real bed, the jet-lag is virtually gone, and the rest of the trip is very pleasant. The alternative is to fly at night and arrive in London at 7 a.m., (2 a.m. Pittsburgh time)—too early to check into a hotel, with your brain asking your body why you are being tortured.
The famous highlights of London are well worth the effort to visit. Places like the Tower of London, the National Gallery, Covent Garden, The Eye, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace, should be on everyone’s bucket list. A few less-well-known places such as Shepherd’s Market, with its collection of great restaurants, The Grenadier Pub, which was the Duke of Wellington’s Officers’ Mess, and Speaker’s Corner where the idea of free speech was first construed, are also worth the time.
The most practical way of getting around is the Tube, or underground rail service. By buying a day pass, you can visit as many places as your legs will allow, getting on and off at various stops, at a fraction of the cost of taxi’s, and lot more convenient. Central London offers world class restaurants of all types, as well as sandwich shops on every corner, where you can lunch cheaply and quickly. Central London is also one of the safest places on the planet. You may see a Bobby walking his beat, but you are also in almost constant view of the cameras found on most lamp posts and building corners.
- Finally, after buying all of those wonderful things at Harrod’s or Pringle’s that you cannot buy in Pittsburgh, remember to save your receipts so that you can get a refund at the airport on the VAT (sales tax) of 17.5 percent on everything you buy.
Jim Cannon, an International Marketing Consultant for more than 30 years, continues to do business on every continent other than Antarctica. He is primarily involved with the marketing and sales of heavy industrial equipment, specifically related to the steel, mining and railroad industries. He has lived in Mt. Lebanon for more than 30 years. He can be reached at email@example.com