We took a trip in May to London and it was a great experience but it wasn't exactly a spur of the moment trip. I'd been thinking about it for a very long time. Years, in fact.

It was our first trip to any European country and I'm pretty sure that over time I must have read just about everything about first timer tips available because I tend to obsess about details.

There are more than a few pages on the internet about how to visit the Capitol City but most of them are fairly worthless in practice. The ones that are really amusing are tips on how to blend in.  Forget it.  You won't. Be yourself.  I would say that, just like here, wearing sweats gets you one kind of treatment and dressing like you gave it some thought gains you another kind.  

The most useful website I used most frequently was this one.  Visit Britain is operated by the British Tourist Board and provides reliable information on the nuts and bolts things you should know to prepare for your trip.  It gives you options and here are some I used.

The London Pass is the subject of much discussion on travel boards. Is it worth buying? For me yes, no question.  While some London attractions, like the British Museum, are admission free there are many others that you should see that charge substantial entry fees.  The pass affords express entry to many top must-sees like the Tower of London. Considering how many people are trying to get in on any given day this feature speeds you past some long lines. The pass also includes a fun open top double decker bus tour and if Windsor Castle is on your list the pass provides transportation by train from Paddington Station as well. A stop at Hampton Court Palace is covered but the transportation is on you. Your card comes with a handy guidebook that includes maps and attraction descriptions including a handy tube map. By the way, it's "The Tube" not the subway, not the train, not the metro. But I digress. 

Does the London Pass save you money? It certainly can if you get out there and use it.  If you prefer to sleep in and call it a day early, don't bother. We stopped at three different attractions just about every day so it represented a saving for us.  It also saved us having to carry a lot of cash or use our credit card extensively.

Here's a tip I'd strongly advise.  Buy a Visitor Oyster Card. This is a must unless you plan to pay for every tube, bus, and overland train you will need to get around. 

The Visitor Oyster Card is only available to those who reside outside the UK and you need to get it before you travel to take advantage. It works like a debit card you can charge up and it has a daily maximum charge which means once you reach that maximum your travel is free until the end of the day. If your Visitor Oyster Card runs out of money you get one free trip to get you to where you can recharge it which you can do at any station. Pretty cool huh?

The Visitor Oyster Card will not get you aboard the British rail system heading elsewhere in the U.K.  That requires a Britrail Pass or an individual train ticket for your journey.  By the way, the British refer to a roundtrip ticket as a "return" ticket. So your choice is one-way or return. Visit Britain website provides information and links to help you figure out how to use the very good British rail system to go elsewhere in the Kingdom. Buying a card precharged with pounds is a time saver.

Where to stay? That's a tough one because of the incredible array of choices that will confront you.  With that said there a few differences between the typical hotel in the U.S. and those in London.  Most people are probably aware that room sizes and bedding arrangements are quite different in European hotels. The rooms are typically smaller and it's not uncommon to be offered a room with two twin beds.  Single King rooms are not common.  

Be aware that the charming hotel in central London you may find is most likely a converted house lacking an elevator and guests in several rooms share a common bathroom. It's possible you could end up in a basement room.  Bathrooms in London are usually strictly for bathing. The toilet is in a separate space. That's right! So if you ask to be directed to the bathroom in a restaurant you will most likely get a puzzled look. Ask for the toilet.  They are quite direct about this.

We chose the Hilton London Kensington Hotel.  It's all about location.  It is a five-minute walk from a large transportation hub for the tube, overland trains and buses called Shepards Bush. The rooms are more like American Hilton Hotels with en-suite bathrooms, comfy bed, big TV with odd British television shows and a surprising number of American reruns.  There is a taxi stand at the hotel which we used to return to Paddington Station for our train back to Heathrow Airport. This hotel is located in an upscale part of London adjacent to several foreign embassies and a large section of very expensive mansions occupied by British stars of stage and screen. There are several small restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops..etc in the immediate area and just north of the hotel is famous Portobello Road with its popular market.  It's the Beverly Hills of London at Beaverton, Oregon prices.  

Next up I'll post some information on airlines, how to get from the airport to your hotel and talk about how much cash you should buy before you go and what to do with the left-over pounds before you climb on the plane to head home.  

 

 

 Tom Freel

 

 

Generally speaking, government by itself isn't good at economic development.  Government is limited by it's nature and often serves the forces that lead to a broad-based economy best by what it does not do rather than by action it takes.

People who work in government jobs are expert in their fields, none of which include fundamental business principals.  Breaking even is the goal in government. Not making a profit.  It's not that the staffers don't care about these things. They just aren't trained to think like that. Elected leaders often take credit for job creation but that's only true if they are authorizing hiring more people and expanding their domain at city hall.

With all that in mind, there is one area where government can play a vital role.  Providing a public platform. Putting all the stakeholders in communication, gathering and collation of information that will provide government leaders with a clear direction to take that will encourage development in the direction most will approve and contribute efforts to create.

Most western, industrialized countries have rejected water fluoridation, but have nevertheless experienced the same decline in childhood dental decay as fluoridated countries. A majority of U.S. cities (about 70%) add the chemical to their water supplies and have been doing so for decades with the blessings of the medical establishment even though to date there have been no long-term global effects studies done. Because of this we are truly unable to talk intelligently about the long-term effects of water fluoridation.