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London or Oxford in Your Future? Tips on Traveling to Britain, Especially for the Royal Wedding

Jordan Lorence
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I wrote about my visit last week to London and Oxford University in England.  Some of you might be traveling to England to study at Oxford or in London.  Therefore, as an extra special bonus to the readers of this blog,  I want to share a few tips on traveling to England that may help you in the future. London especially will be brimming with activity next month for Prince William's and Kate's wedding:

      Walk as much as you can in London.  One of the best ways to see a city is by walking.  London is filled with beautiful buildings, gardens, etc.  Use the Underground (aka, "Tube" which is the subway) when you get tired.  

     Crossing the street can be deadly unless you realize that Brits drive on the other side of the road.  When you walk in England, remember that people drive on the other side of the road than Americans.  That means that oncoming traffic comes from the opposite way that you are used to in the U.S.   Be careful, or you can look the wrong way and step right in front of a fast-moving car.

      Beware of inadvertent price deception with the British pound.  When I was in England, a British pound was trading for about $1.62 U.S.  If you are not paying attention, English prices can look like U.S. prices.  So a small coffee for 2.0 pounds is really about $3.24 U.S. But your brain thinks, "2 dollars, what a bargain!' rather than "$3.24, I'll have to think about it."   So make sure you are correctly figuring how much the price is in dollars, or you can end up paying more than you realize for things.

      Free things to do in London - see the British Museum.  After you have mistakenly spent extra money in London because you misread the prices, you can find solace in the free things to do and see in London.  The British Museum is free and is very interesting.  For example, the Rosetta Stone is there, and it is much bigger than I thought it was.  The British Museum has tons of Egyptian and Babylonian artifacts, as well as two of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. 

    How to see Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral for free:  Attend an evensong service  during the week or Sunday service there.  The two premier churches in London, at opposite ends of Central London are Westminister Abbey (on the west side, hence the name, "Westminster") and St. Paul's Cathedral in the eastern part of Central London.  Both charge admission for tourists, unless you are coming for a worship service.  Those churches have Sunday services, but they also have services on the weekdays, like the evensong service in the late afternoon.  Check out the schedules.  Many famous people are buried in Westminster Abbey.  While waiting in line to be seated for the evensong service,  I saw William Wilberforce's tomb.  Then I realized that I was standing on Charles Darwin's final resting place in the floor.  Isaac Newton's tomb was nearby. Prince William and Kate will be married in Westminster Abbey. 

           English food is terrible.   Great Britain has dominated the world in so many areas.  Cooking is not one of them.  You know something is wrong when they name one of their national dishes, "toad in the hole."  Was their quest for empire really a drive to find better cuisine?  To find good food, look for ethnic eateries, like Italian or Indian. 

    Accents from Great Britain can be quite diverse.  In the U.S., we think there is one generic "English Accent" that one can break into. It was amazing to me to hear the regional differences in speech in Great Britain.  And how the British actors can nail the American accent (like the lead doctor in House) is pretty amazing.

      Go see the Tower of London.  One of the most interesting places to visit is the Tower of London, where kings and queens like Henry VIII lived (and where Anne Boylen was executed).  This place is filled with history, as well as the Crown Jewels.  You will have to spend about $30 to get in, but it is worth it, especially to hear the lectures by the often-humorous Beefeater-garbed guards.  

    Bring an umbrella, but there is sun.  Yes, it rains a lot in England, but the sun does come out, and stays out late in the summer.  London is farther north of the U.S. latitudes,  so the daylight hours last much longer there in the summer months than in the U.S. 

   Date to avoid London: April 29.  You don't want to be fighting the crowds in London the day Prince William and Kate get married.

Jordan Lorence
Jordan Lorence
Senior Counsel, Director of Strategic Engagement
Jordan Lorence serves as senior counsel and director of strategic engagement with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role with the Strategic Relations and Training Team.