Thursday, July 31, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - recurring themes

"Check the manual"

Since Alison alluded to it in her comment, for the purpose of planning and ensuring that we had all information on hand at all times (since it would be difficult to find connectivity and printing services, etc.), I had printed out a "manual" that included items such as:
- our planning timetable document, replete with post codes of all destinations which we would set into our Satnav GPS system
- all hotel, train, and ticket confirmations and contact information
- Google maps of all destinations throughout the trip..

Anyway, it was useful information information in the case that we needed any telephone number, etc... it was in there. I referred to it quite a bit (or, my response was always just "check the manual") -- so fine, you can say that it's kind of anal. :p

Stupid GPS!

My parents brought a Tomtom device for which they purchased and downloaded Europe maps. It was very helpful at the beginning (though the very first leg of driving into Rhinefield House from Heathrow was a miracle we found the place without it), but we ended up having a VERY, very frustrating relationship with this little device.

Every so often, we would hear some direction such as "stay right... turn left". WHAT?? Impossible now!... ok, it rerouted us. Or, "after 300 metres, turn left"... (after 2 seconds) "turn left". WHAT?? Missed it again... ok, rerouting.

**new!** Alison reminded me of another recurring example:

GPS: Ahead, cross the roundabout and take the fifth exit.
[approach the roundabout, there is a gas station on the corner with a driveway]
GY: This [driveway] isn't an exit right?? Right??
AH: The GPS just says 5th exit.
[I skip it, we count five exits...]
GY: What?? We missed it! The GPS doesn't know how to count, THAT'S NOT AN EXIT!
GY (on walkie talkie to my dad following me from behind): We need to go around again and take the 5th exit!
AH: Haha, the GPS says that's an exit!
GY: The GPS is wrong! THAT'S NOT AN EXIT!
GY/AH: Stupid GPS!!

[This example was especially funny because AH and I complained quite a bit to Janey, who just laughed at us.. but she was here to witness this incident!]

After a very short time, I instinctively distrusted every direction it gave me, and Alison, my poor navigator who really was just relaying the directions to me, would simply repeat it to my "comfort":

GPS: Ahead, cross the roundabout and take the 3rd exit.
GY: [to Alison] 3rd exit? Seriously?
AH: 3rd exit
GY: Seriously? Are you sure??
AH: Seriously!! Take the 3rd exit!

Hahaha... I guess I am a "need to know" type of person, and I think Alison and I worked out an effective communication style by the end of the trip. :p

And finally, the GPS always gave us the shortest routes to places, for which we found ourselves on numerous 'unnamed roads' (especially when we were staying in the forest)... these roads went on for 15 miles sometimes... in the end, we finally worked out an effective system which found us finding a 'parallel solution' that conformed the GPS directions to our roadmap as well as the Google map directions in the Manual.

Independence Day

We were fortunate to have a few good days of sunshine, though it is inevitable that we would be rained upon in England. We just found that the clouds were very ominous at many points in time, to which we felt like we were under a huge round disc of 'cloud' -- similar to the alien spaceship in Independence Day. The picture in Dover kind of shows it, but this one of my parents in Brighton is *really* prominent! The focus is not totally on the cloud... it is also on the rest of the sky that is completely clear!

On driving...

While not really a recurring theme, driving on the left side of the road was very interesting, since I had not done so before! I think I only veered into the "right" lane... twice... haha (of course, there were no cars there at the time!) The first couple of days were most challenging, of course, but also because we stayed in the forest where the roads were essentially like single lane roads but meant for two cars, and the other cars would be driving really fast! So often time I would go on the dirt to avoid them. I think it took me about 3 days to get used to it, and by the end, I was quite enjoying the curvy mountain roads in my manual car.

The roundabouts took a while to get used to, but after reading a driving manual in a bookstore that told me how I was supposed to signal, it cleared the protocol up a bit. :p I think the weirdest to get used to was shifting gears while signalling -- which is both done by the left hand, as opposed to Canada/US where you would signal using your left hand and change gears with your right. It allows for smoother communication and control that way, practically using two hands, as well as using both sides of the brain, which allows for smoother multi-tasking! Bet you never thought of this?? :p

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - The Creation Tour

OK, creation was just an allusion to the breathtaking sights that we saw throughout the country. When you compare to a big country like Canada, England is actually really small -- the drive from London to Edinburgh in Scotland is probably only 8 hours (for the non-Canadians, say, Toronto to Quebec City... going west, you can't even get out of Ontario in that time!) You can traverse the 'width' of England's north end in under 2 hours. But within this small area, there is a varied landscape, so here are some of the spots that we hit:

Dover white cliffs - the white colour is because of the chalk - southeast corner of England

The Lakes district - of course, you can hardly compare to the thousands of lakes in Ontario, or the size of the (5) great lakes, but in England, this small area houses all of the major lakes (and mountains) -- northeast corner of England

The Cotswolds - rolling hills and plains - best on horseback! -- west-central England

The New Forest - Well, it's a big forest, and this is where we stayed for the first week -- in the forest. :p Rhinefield House is the name of the 'hotel' (the word hotel doesn't do it justice) -- it was a beautiful estate -- southern England

Sunday, July 27, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008

Precursor - Though going home to Toronto to see family and friends is a considerable joy and pleasure every time, this was my first 'long' vacation since coming to Hong Kong, and especially special since I actually planned this one! The original reason for going to England was to attend my cousin's convocation from Sheffield. However, since the university could not fix the date well enough in advance, it turned out that my flight plans -- which I booked in January -- would completely disallow my attendance, and this became fully a personal vacation. I was to travel with my parents, auntT (from Toronto), auntHK (from HK), and auntM (from Montreal -- mom's old friend, not really my aunt). Very thankfully, for the sake of my sanity, Alison availed herself to come along for the ride -- my car ride -- on this English roadtrip on the other side of the road. ;)

While I do enjoy travelling, I realize that I am generally too lazy to plan for anything. Therefore I would be perfectly content if I never saw some of earth's most awesome sights during my lifetime; this is because I am certain of my salvation (some personal theology for you. :p) And looking back, I realize that every single vacation has been planned by those more anal and particular than me -- which has worked out perfectly fine for me! Nonetheless, this time, at the four-weeks-left-to-go mark, my lack of planning threw me into a obsessive panic, and I planned most major details in one week, replete with estimated mileage and petrol budget analysis. I was very pleased! Google docs is also great!

So, allow me to share my journey -- we will start with... creation!

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

For those who can read and/or listen to mandarin (though with a heavy "curl tongue" accent).. this is pretty funny!