Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Observations from a Traveler

Guide Book Index!

My guide books suck. Why do they suck, you ask? They're organized geographically, so you're supposed to say, "what do I want to see in the west of London" or "what do I want to see in Wales?"

That's fine as far as it goes, but it assumes the traveler has a sense of the geography enough to know what counts as west of London or Wales or whatever. And for the traveler who doesn't have this sense (and I can't be the only geographically challenged person around), it needs a good index, an index that lists pretty much everything one might wish to find. And that's where this guidebook is seriously lacking. It has an index, but it doesn't show lots of stuff.

And keys to maps should be on the same page as the map, so you don't have to flip pages.


I have two really helpful travel apps. One is CityMaps2Go (I think it was $1.99). It lets you download maps of cities, etc (I have a county map for home downloaded, since my city is too small, and it works fine) ahead of time, so that you can pull them up on the go, without wifi access.

The resizing feature isn't perfect, because just when I can read street names without my reading glasses, it resizes them smaller. But mostly, it's really helpful. Okay, and for London it needs little underground signs!

The other really helpful app so far is a tube map. I got a free one called TubeMap) and it's really helpful. What's especially cool is that when it's got wifi it checks different update things to give information about what lines are doing what, and that's been really helpful with weekend closures!


I am clueless about the specifics of the off-prime and so on train travel. I have a feeling I'm looking for tickets and the website thinks I really want only the cheapest (which would be fine, but not necessary), and says there are none when/where I want to go.


The "I'm an idiot" section: I got something called "fabric conditioner" rather than detergent when I went to get stuff to wash clothes with. Fortunately, I'm more rinsing out the clothes than trying to get out deep stains or mud or whatever. Still, I didn't take time to get out my reading glasses to read the fine print. :(

(I've been handrinsing my clothes since the original three hours to do laundry if the machine is ever free thing. I wash/rinse some clothes just about every day, and hang them and in a day or two they're dry. And well-conditioned, apparently.)


I've been here a while now, taken trains to different places and stuff (and looked out the window), walked around the city and others, and in all this time, I think I've seen one gas station (on the way to Stonehenge).

Where to English people go to gas up?

When I was a kid, I read a second book by the guy who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull about this pilot who was flying around in company with this other pilot, doing air shows, whatever, and he finally realized that the other pilot didn't need to buy fuel for his plane. (And that was supposed to take you to the revelation that the other pilot was the second coming or something? I was a kid, I don't remember.) Anyway, maybe English people are like that second pilot?


I would totally read a blog by a Yeoman Warder or a London Cathedral/Museum worker, like WaiterRant except for folks who deal with tourists in London.


  1. The book you're talking about with the pilot that doesn't have to fill up is called "Illusions: Tales of a Reluctant Messiah." I read it when I was younger and really loved it. I wonder if I'd still love it now that I'm older and don't identify with Christianity anymore. Hm. Not sure.

    Anyway - your observations are really great. I think that part of our problem when we were in London was that we didn't even know what we were looking for. And like you, we didn't have a sufficient guide book. But also, back then, we didn't have iPhones!

    I spoke to my chair today and told him about your adventures in London. I said, "I want to take some students to London. Maybe not this year, but next. Think I can do it?" He said, "Absolutely." :) I'll have to pick your brain about it once your trip is done. Next time I'm in London, I want to know what I'm looking for!!

  2. I think most petrol stations in the UK are on the side of motorways, which means if you are mostly walking around in London and/or taking public transportation, you probably won't see them.