Last month, I went for a holiday in the UK with my family. We had a great time. My youngest daughter, who was studying in Edinburgh, joined us in London where we spent two days. In London, we watched the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Unfortunately, my daughter’s good friend, who is studying at the Imperial College in London, could only get tickets for Friday evening (at a very special price apparently), the same day our plane landed. Tried as I did, I could not keep my eyes open throughout the whole show. As I was sitting near the centre of the second row, I fear that the ‘phantom’ and his colleagues must have spotted me dosing off and thought; “Stupid China-man. Why come here when you don’t know how to appreciate beautiful English music”. Actually, I enjoyed the show tremendously; especially the life orchestral music and the two well-known songs, Music of the Night and That’s All I Ask of You.
Besides viewing a few of the usual tourist attractions like Big Ben and London Bridge, we also attended Sunday worship service at the Metropolitan Tabernacle which is pastored by Dr Peter Masters. Many years ago, as a young Christian, I had already come to know of Dr Masters through his articles in the publication Sword and Trowel. I was surprised that he was still preaching and was so glad that at least, I had the chance to listen to him preach in person. As my wife and son are avid plant lovers, the Kew Gardens was another compulsory stop for us.
After London, we drove north in a rental car, stopping in Cambridge and York to visit my friends Brian Mitchell and John Harper who had been blogging regularly here in Goodmorningyesterday; and who I have already met in person here in Singapore. Unfortunately, due to time and geographical constraint, and the fact that I had four other members of my family with me, it was not feasible to meet up with other blogger friends like Tim Light, Mike Robbins, Derek Tait, Geoffrey Pain, Stephen Harshaw, and Tom O’brien. I had arranged to meet Tom Brown in Edinburgh where we stayed in my daughter’s rented flat, but due to communication problems, that meeting did not materialize. Anyway, I hope that Tom and my other UK friends can make their way to our shores one day, and we can still meet here in tiny Singapore. Singapore’s smallness has its advantages after all.
|With Brian and Tessa Mitchell at their home in Cambridge|
|Being taken for a ride by the Mitchells ..... down the River Cam.|
|With John and Ann Harper at the York old city wall with the River Ouse behind us.|
From York, we drove westward to our next stop, the renowned Lake District detouring on our way to see Malham Cove in Yorkshire Dales National Park. After spending two nights in Lake District, we proceeded to Edinburgh stopping briefly at some sections of the Hadrian Wall. After a couple of days’ rest in Edinburgh, we drove to the Scottish Highlands visiting places like Inverness, Loch Ness, Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Loch Lomond and the Wallace Monument. Of course, in Edinburgh, we visited many places, such the Scottish National Gallery, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh University, Carlton Hill and Arthur’s Seat. We returned to London by train before boarding the Emirates flight back to hot, humid and hazy Singapore.
The driving was surprisingly easy as the UK drivers were generally quite disciplined, and their system was similar to ours. I was particularly happy with the car allotted to us by Sixt, our car rental company. It was a Skoda that came with a very user-friendly navigation system. I had always thought that Skoda was a lousy car, and was surprised that it was such an easy car to drive; and the diesel engine was very powerful. One strange thing about the car that took a bit of getting used to, was that the engine switched off by itself every time you stopped the car at a junction or traffic lights; and then automatically started when you took your foot off the brake pedal. I think this must be part of the effort to reduce air pollution. There must be a way to override this auto-off function, but I did not bother to find out. And of course, having been driving Japanese cars most of my adult life, the position of the indicators and wiper switches took quite a bit of getting used to.
By the way, if you intend to go on a similar holiday in the UK, please note that you do not need to get an International Driving Permit. Prior to the trip, I had visited many websites which all said the same thing; as long as your driver’s license was in a language that used Roman alphabets; such as English, you do not need an IDP. But, being a kiasu Singaporean, my wife checked with the agent who booked our rental car, and she told us that we needed the IDP. And when I went to the Automobile Association office in Kallang Leisure Park to purchase 2 licences at $22 each, the lady there said the same thing. However, when we collected our car at Sixt, we were informed that had we checked with them directly, they would have told us that we did not need the IDP to drive in the UK. There you are … $44 plus time and petrol down the drain through no fault of ours.
Anyway, all in all, I have really enjoyed my two weeks in this lovely country that I already knew so much about. I loved the beautiful scenery; especially the lakes and mountains (In Chinese, we say, 山明水秀). We were also blessed to have fine weather with the sun out on most days, although it was surprisingly cold for summer – at Fort William it was down to 12 deg C. Even though I generally disliked crowded cities, I enjoyed seeing the ancient architecture of the many heritage buildings like churches and castles; such as the Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie and the Urquhart Castle in Loch Ness. Last, but not least, the beautiful flowers that we saw everywhere were a joy to behold. You can view the photos that I have uploaded to Facebook here.
I was very happy to be able to see the Urquhart Castle looking exactly like what I remember from documentaries of the Loch Ness Monster I had seen years ago.
Another interesting surprise was this train station. Readers will probably recognize this as the famous Waterloo Station from the movie, the Bourne Supremacy. With my two 千金’s.