Tagged: vacation

The Differences between England and the USA

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.

new_york_hop London_Big_Ben_Phone_box

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36 Hours: 125 Weekends in Europe

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)

Wallpaper* City Guides: an obsession

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…

 

                                    

Venice – a beautiful (but expensive) water city

It’s true: Venice looks like a film set. That’s probably why so many movies have been filmed there – the film company doesn’t need to spend millions building a set because nothing could compare to the real thing. Every tiny ally way, every canal which to a local wouldn’t get a second glance is to a tourist just unbelievably beautiful.

Although it’s totally overrun by tourists at all times of the year, the atmosphere in the city is amazing, and its so unusual compared to so many other places in Europe. Unlike London, which can feel depressing on day during the endless winter, Venice is just as spectacular in drizzle as it is in bright sunshine.

One of the great things about the city is that the locals actually do use the canals – many people think the only boats on them are the gondolas. Although there are of course plenty of these floating around should you want to take a ride, the way to get around is by water-bus. There are stations all over Venice like there are with a regular bus on the street, and what is a total novelty to visitors is just how Venetians get to work, or get into the town centre. If you want to pay up, taking a water taxi is a really fun experience. You zoom through the city in a speedboat feeling like James Bond, then pull up literally outside the airport…

 

The main down side of Venice is the price of everything – in shops, restaurants and cafés, the prices can be insane. I went on a little hunt to find the most expensive cappuccino in Venice: in the Piazza San Marco, I found one for €8. €8!!! That’s just under £6.50, or  $10 (you could buy a whole outfit in Primark for that). In restaurants in all the main squares and shopping streets, they charge different prices for locals and tourists, so do your best to look/sound/act/be Venetian…

The gondoliers are hilarious – ours sang some traditional Venetian tunes for us accompanied by some dancing which caused our gondola to come close to capsizing (more than once). They still wear their little outfits – the stripey black and white jumper with a red scarf, and try to teach the tourists Italian (totally unsuccessfully). Interestingly, the very first female gondolier only started gondolier-ing in the summer of 2010. Hopefully someone will introduce gondolas to the River Thames – they’re an awesome way to travel.

 

 

 

Word of the Week #6 – Güle güle kullan – Turkish

I can’t think of any phrase in the English language equivalent to ‘güle güle kullan’.

Your friend might say it to you if you bought yourself a new shirt and it literally translates as, ‘use it smilingly’.
It’s pronounced, goo-LAY goo-LAY koo-LAN. By itself, ‘güle güle’ means ‘good bye’. Exacting as the Turkish language is, you have to be the person staying behind to say, ‘güle güle!’
Alexandra

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

This photo combines free AND spirit (if you look reeeally closely) – the colourful bunting flowing freely in the breeze, and the mini shrine to Jesus (in the bottom right-hand corner) is very spiritual.   

This was taken down a nondescript back street in Cefalú, Sicily.