Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Driving on the Other Side of the Road

by Gale Sears

I had the opportunity recently of traveling with five friends to England. Cheers! We rented two vehicles with steering wheels on the opposite side from those cars driven in Utah, or for that matter most cars of the world. My sister-in-law drove auto # 1 with her two friends as passengers, and I was the designated driver in auto # 2 with my two friends. We were on our way to the Cotswolds! We’d rented a 300 year old cottage with most of the expected necessities and oodles of charm. (I swear our private English garden came complete with pixies and Beatrix Potter bunnies). The Cotswolds is an enchanting area of England about 100 miles North West of London where one discovers lovely little villages with names like Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold.

We spread out the atlas, mapped our course, and away we went! Oops! First obstacle: finding our way out of the rental car lot. Second obstacle: remembering to look left and then right (or was it right and then left)? Third obstacle: DRIVING ON THE LEFT! Forth obstacle: not losing heart when negotiating Round Abouts! Somehow we found our way onto the freeway and headed—north? Yes, indeed. It was here we discovered another glitch. When you can’t see the sun because of cloud cover, and there are no mountains to serve as mighty unchanging compasses, one tends to lose one’s sense of direction. To be perfectly honest, I never knew which direction I was going. And, if truth be told, it was that way most of the time as we wound our way on the wonderful winding roads of the Cotswolds. Simply put—I got lost—a lot. It actually became a running joke to see how many times we stopped to ask for directions. Often we would stop in one little village just to ask the way to the next little village. On our grand excursion to Stonehenge, I think we calculated 22 stops. At one stop we asked a lovely elderly couple, Richard and Evelyn for directions—and one of us (we won’t say who) used their facilities. It was an emergency.

It actually was a lovely way to meet the charming, gracious, and very funny British people. I think they sort of got a kick out of us too. There are things to learn from driving on the other side of the road and getting lost—a lot. One learns patience, and humor, and the value of good friends who laugh their heads off and don’t make you feel like an idiot when you’re going south and you think you’re going north. We actually found some very interesting and beautiful places during our misadventures. Maybe that’s the best lesson of all. Enjoy the journey!


Michele Ashman Bell said...

The jealousy I feel about your trip is oozing from every pour of my body! Your pictures are breathtaking, charming, magical, enchanting. I loved your misadventures on the other side of the road and imagined myself being just the same way, or even worse. Thank your for sharing just a snippet of your wonderful trip to England.

Stephanie Black said...

Oh, Gale, what a wonderful vacation! And what beautiful pictures!

When we moved to Ireland for a couple of years, I was very intimidated at the thought of driving on the left side of the road (and of all those roundabouts!) But I discovered it wasn't nearly as terrifying as I'd feared, thank heavens.

Jennie said...

Sounds like a great trip. Love the pictures.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Gale, your pictures are everything I imagine about England. I'm like Michele- so jealous it hurts!

And Stephanie, I didn't know you lived in Ireland! Wow. Very cool.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Gale, what a wonderful trip! And your pictures are gorgeous. =)I loved your shots of the English countryside, complete with the enchanted garden. And Stone Henge, no less. I agree with everyone else, I'm way jealous.

Jeri Gilchrist said...

Gale, the pictures were incredible!
This is a whole different side of England than I ever imagined. I loved your blog. Thank you for sharing. Except now, I am just so jealous! :)

Anna Buttimore said...

Gale, this explains something I had wondered about for years. Whenever, in America, I would ask for directions, the person would say "Head North for three miles, then turn west...." and I would wonder how it was that Americans - even the women - knew which way was North. We Brits never give directions using points of the compass, it'll always be "follow signs to Birmingham until you se the sign for Barnsley, then turn left..."

Now I know it's because we don't see the sun often enough to be able to use it to navigate. In fact, I have no idea how I would navigate using the sun even if I could see it.

So now can someone explain why American weather forecasts include humidity factors, and ours don't? Is Britain at a constant humidity?

It was so great to see you during your trip. And I'd be hard pressed to find Stonehenge too!