For two countries which share the same language, England and America can sometimes seem like a world apart (well, they are an ocean apart, I guess). I noticed this most acutely on my recent trip to New York with two friends from London. Whilst in London, shop assistants acknowledge you briefly if you’re lucky, or watch you through narrowed eyes suspecting you of shoplifting if you’re not so lucky.
In New York, it was a completely different story. Everywhere we went, we were greeted by friendly staff asking us about our trip, and recommending things for us to do. The friendliness extends to people on the streets — someone found me the name of a restaurant in Williamsburg and then actually called up for me, and a couple stopped to Google the nearest subway station for us when we got slightly lost. Of course, not everyone is unfriendly in London, but New York seems so much warmer in terms of customer service at least.
This being said, the tipping culture stateside seems crazy to me — in London I wouldn’t hesitate to leave a cafe or restaurant without tipping if the waiter had been especially rude. In New York, one waiter went out of his way to follow us as we left the cafe, muttering “You’re unbelievable” under his breath. It’s not like we hadn’t left any tip at all — it wasn’t 18 percent, but we’d only had a small snack and he had been unfriendly and brusque throughout.
The most fascinating difference between England and America for me as a British visitor lies with the language (ironic, given we’re meant to be speaking the same one). From foods (“Aubergine? Wait, that’s eggplant right?”) to clothes (“Trousers? Do you mean pants?”), there are different words, different pronunciations and different expressions. We say “lift,” you say “elevator,” we say “get in line,” you say “get online.” The weirdest of these for me is “restroom” — why restroom? You don’t exactly go there to rest… “toilet” seems like a much more logical word.
New York and London are two of the world’s most visited cities, and it’s not difficult to see why. The fact off the matter is, both England and America are great countries, and it is their individualities which make both so intriguing to visit/live in.
The official flag of Europe’s main purpose is to represent the continent of Europe (obviously), and it is also used to indicate Eurozone countries. It was designed in 1955 by Arsène Heitz and Paul Lévy with the intention of becoming the symbol for the Council of Europe. Heitz came up with the initial idea for the 12 yellow stars on a dark blue background, and the design was later finalised by Lévy – both worked for the Council of Europe.
Despite the many rumours, there isn’t really any significance in the number of stars on the flag – when it was being created, there were argument over having a star for each member country of the Council of Europe, but then there were more arguments about the number of member ‘countries’. One rather interesting rumour is that the number of stars is inspired by the Virgin Mary’s star halo described in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. The authorities at the European Union have said all the rumours linking this with the flag are just myths, but they’re interesting nonetheless. The official European flag has even inspired the flags of newer countries like Kosovo (below left) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (below right), where the European Union has had a lot of involvement.
My latest travel-related obsession is the website http://www.12hrs.net, which basically offers you a selection of itineraries for when you’ve got 12 hours to spend in a European city (they do/ are starting to do cities outside of Europe too, but this is the EUROphiles). Not only are you saving money by not buying a travel guide (although if you are going to do that, check out this post), but the suggestions are unusual and generally things only a local would know about. In the creators’ own words:
We love to travel. We also love design, and music, and fashion. And we were missing a website full of travel tips for people like us. Somewhere between the backpackers and the luxury hotels. With tips that aren’t about money, but about great discoveries from all around the world. So we built 12hrs. To keep it simple, we organized them in itineraries. 12 hours per trip. Sweet and short. With the best to see, do, eat, dance we could fit in one short stay.
Living in London, it was encouraging to see that many of the suggestions (including Dover St Market and Borough Market) are places that I’d take friends who are visiting me to – hopefully this means that I’d like the places suggested in other cities… The site’s tagline is what really speaks to me – the suggestions are “collected by us, for you, from locals, friends, and fellow travellers”. The touristic places are always easy to find, especially in big European cities used to visitors who don’t speak their language, so sites like this are so useful for finding the really special places, the places that might just make your trip. My number one place to visit this year is Copenhagen… It looks amazing, judging by the photo below.
Even though I live in London, England, and therefore do not have much contact with America, I like to read the New York Times. As travelling the world would be the first thing I’d do if I won the lottery, I LOVE the NYT book “36 Hours In…” which offers itineraries for weekend stays in various places. Naturally, the most interesting one for me is “36 Hours In Europe”, which was published in 2012.
Reading its publisher Taschen’s description of the book makes me want it even more:
Culture, history, natural beauty, fine cuisine, artistic masterpieces, cutting-edge architecture and style—Europe overflows with so many riches that a lifetime seems too short to appreciate them. But with the right guidance, you can go far in a single weekend. Stylishly written and carefully researched, this updated and expanded collection of the popular New York Times 36 Hours feature offers you 125 well-crafted itineraries for quick but memorable European trips, accompanied by hundreds of color photographs to fire your imagination. Explore the expected: the Renaissance in Florence, surfing in Biarritz, flamenco in Seville. And discover the unexpected: Sicilian mummies dressed in their Sunday best, a dry-land toboggan ride on Madeira, a hotel in Tallinn with a KGB spies’ nest on the penthouse floor. World capitals, ancient nations that once ruled wide domains, tiny countries with big personalities—it’s all Europe, and all fun to read about (whether you actually go or not) in this handsomely designed and illustrated book.
All I need now is lots and lots of money, and I’m off. (The book has also inspired me to invent my own 36 Hours In London… for teenagers)
The Tate Britain is one of my favourite places to visit in London, mainly because it is mostly free, but partly because the building is so beautiful. There are, of course, paying exhibitions on all the time, but it’s not always worth it. The Gary Hume and Patrick Caulfield exhibitions are on at the moment, and while they’re great to see if you have a pass which lets you in without paying (as I do) I wouldn’t recommend paying £14.50 to go. Probably the best thing to visit at Tate Britain is the “BP Walk through British Art” – and this is what the gallery has to say about it:
The BP Walk through British Art offers a circuit of Tate Britain’s unparalleled collection from its beginnings to its end. This ‘walk through time’ has been arranged to ensure that the collection’s full historical range, from 1545 to the present, is always on show. There are no designated themes or movements; instead, you can see a range of art made at any one moment in an open conversational manner.
Basically, it’s a collection of British art from the past 500 years, laid out in a way which means you’re walking through time. It’s so interesting to see art curated like this – it’s so easy to see how the styles evolved over the centuries, and how everything from painting techniques to subject matter has changed. As well as paintings, there are also sculptures on display, by leading artists like Henry Moore. The great thing about the Walk Through British Art is that it’s so massive, you don’t have to spend much time on each painting. And because you haven’t paid to get in, you don’t feed bad zooming through until you see something which really catches your interest…
These things are amaazing. I must admit, I love everything about them: their size, their layout, their colours… The Wallpaper* City Guides just look so nice stacked up on your bookshelf. According to the company who publishes them (but verified by me), the City Guides “provide the savvy traveller with a need-to-know checklist of the best a location has to offer, whether you are staying for five days or 48 hours”. As I am, naturally, a savvy traveller, these books are my new obsession. The best thing has actually been buying the London edition – I live here, and it gives really cool and unusual suggestions of where to eat/shop/go. As only one small section is about hotels, it’s definitely worth spending £6.95 to buy one for your hometown…
Koninginnedag, also known as Queens Day, is an annual celebration in Holland that all Dutch citizens, as well as many foreigners, clubs, bars, and beer vendors, look forward to. Celebrated on the 30th of April (besides the one off 29th, which happens when the 30th is on a Sunday), everyone dresses in their bright orange attire and heads out onto the streets.
The tradition first was first celebrated on the 31st of August 1885, as Princess’s Day. This was to celebrate the popular Princess Wilhelmina’s 5th birthday. When she inherited the throne in 1980 it was named Queen’s Day. When her daughter, Queen Juliana, took the throne, the day was moved to the 30th of April, her birthday. The next generation of the royal family, Queen Beatrix, kept the current Queens Day as a tribute to her mother. This year, 2013, will be the last Queens Day for a while, as Queen Beatrix will be abdicating from her throne and passing it on to her son, the first king of The Netherlands in over 100 years, King Willem-Alexander. Therefore, from now on Kings Day shall be celebrated on the 27th of April, his birthday.
The celebrations start off with Koninginnenacht, or Queen’s Night. This is basically a pre-party to Queens Day where many nightclubs and bars have special events going on. After a long night of partying, many head out and try to sell, or buy, junk on the free market. This is the only day where people are allowed to sell on the street without a permit and having to pay the extremely high tax rates. Others go to one of the many concerts organised throughout the country. In the capital, it is also common to find the canals filled with long queues of boats trying to get into the city centre. Miraculously, despite all the terrible weather forecasts, Queens Day always seems to turn out like a sunny and warm summer’s day; but maybe it’s just because everyone is dressed in the bright national colour: orange.
By many, Queen’s Day is no longer seen as a celebration of the Dutch monarchy, but more a day to unite, drink, have fun, be loud, and just have one massive national party.
– Michelle, Amsterdam