Driving in England

September 15, 2001

The day is finally here for us to leave the security of Fox Hill B&B to drive down to Sussex.  After hanging out in London these past 5 days, we were terrified.  Sue and Tim were also worried about us and offered to drive over near Victoria Station to pick up the rental car and then drive us out to the A23 so we don’t get lost in London.  Having never driven the opposite way before, this was a tremendous gift to us!  Marcie gamely took the first turn!

Driving in London seemed very hairy.  Most everything was built long before cars were thought of.  The streets are already narrow and yet cars are parked on both sides of them.  Street signs are either non-existent, they are up on the side of a building, or the street name changes right in the middle.  It moves pretty fast.  Then there are the roundabouts.  If you’ve never negotiated one, it’s a bit confusing.  Somehow people have learned how and when to yield and it all works for them.

Being from Southern California, we are used to very efficient freeways and almost any busy part of a city is four lanes.  We would not blink an eye if, say, we wanted to go shopping or to a restaurant 60 miles away.  You jump on a freeway and you’re there in less than an hour.  We soon discovered that you absolutely cannot gauge the time by the distance you are from something.

We left from the outskirts of London and it was nice getting out on a more open road. It is such beautiful country there.  It really didn’t take us too long before we got to Billingshurst where our ancestors left to go to America in the 1850s.  It is so beautiful and quaint and we both wondered why anyone would leave there.  Me, being the dork that I am made tentative arrangements to meet our cousin Claire.  We had been emailing back and forth for months, but never did we set a place or exchange phone numbers! I guess it runs in the family because she didn’t think of it either!

We went to a pub to try to find the number in a phone book and I couldn’t for the life of me remember anyone’s last name; except her Grandmother’s maiden name, and that only because it was my father’s Granny’s maiden name as well.  We finally gave up and headed down to Little Hampton, which is where Claire and her husband lived at the time.  Unfortunately, they weren’t listed in the phone book.   We then, as only a typical American would,  drove over to Chichester where the actual family reunion would be the next day.  Now this to me was almost as bad as driving in London.  It is a one way system, so all the traffic goes one way and once you get in that loop, it’s hard to get out.  We must have spent a couple of hours trying to find the Bedford Hotel where the reunion was planned.  We passed it once, but couldn’t figure out how to get back to it!  It would have been nice to stay the night there and then relax a bit before the reunion.

By this time it was close to 5 o’clock and we hadn’t had any real food all day.  We were starting to get a little nervous.   It had been really stressful driving all day, not being able to find anyone, in a foreign country and there was no room at the inn.  Apparently there was an old car rally of some kind and everything was full up.  We stopped at a hotel and they kindly called and got us a room in Brighton!  We didn’t know the difference, so we headed over to Brighton.  It was dark and we were tired and we drove around that city for at least 45 minutes before we gave up.

Now it’s around 8 pm, Marcie is exhausted from driving all day but we didn’t dare switch.  I haven’t yet had the pleasure of driving here and now it’s dark with lots of traffic. We thought we would just start driving west and stay away from the coastal towns,  looking  for anything at all.  We halfway joked about having to sleep in the car.  We came to this really cute town called Lewes, pronounced “Lewis”.  Narrow streets, quaint buildings and lots of tourists, but also no vacancies.  They tell us to go to a place called Hayward’s Heath.  It’s pitch black outside, nearly 9 0’clock and we still haven’t eaten anything.  We finally spot a hotel and turn in. It has two singles left, it’s kind of pricey, but at this point we are happy to take it.  Marcie ordered room service, but for once in my life, I’m too tired to care anymore.  A hot bath and sleep are all that’s needed.

Tomorrow is the reunion and I just want to sleep so we don’t look like zombies!

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7 thoughts on “Driving in England

    • We really didn’t think about it too much at the time. As you saw on your trip over, it takes 2 American women to drive there. One to focus on driving on the opposite side of the road and car and one to read the map, follow directions, spot the road signs. It was really an expericence though and having driven on more than one visit, I would definitely do it again! You have more control over what you get to see and do, and that’s why I recommend it. Just remember to always look right before pulling in or out of any where!

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  1. That’s great you just went for it. Once you’re outside the cities the roads are fairly easy and laid back. I have braved driving ‘the other side’ a few times over the years in Europe and have never regretted it for the freedom it gave me 🙂

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    • I know, the last time my cousin and I went to London, we took a bus tour down through Kent and out to Dover. Every place we stopped we had just a few minutes and literally had to run to get back to the bus on time. Never again!

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