Steve's Random Thoughts

- Cost of Living: The prices in London and everywhere we went in England were unbelievably high. In London, most prices were what we'd expect to pay if the currency were U.S. dollars, but with an exchange rate of $1.75 per pound, it was hard to see how the local people can afford to live. We asked about this, and learned that people generally spend all their disposable income - there is very little focus on retirement planning, and the expectation is that the government will cover this. Also, income tax is generally in the 15% range and there is no property tax - this obviously makes a difference for the local residents. However, as a tourist, this is a very expensive place to visit.

- Traffic: London is not an easy city to drive or walk in. The cars never seem to stop for pedestrians, and they certainly like to drive fast in the city. I had no problems driving from Salisbury to Stonehenge and Bath, but was happy not to have tackled driving in London.

- Education: We were surprised to hear how much of a problem the public education system is here (they call it the "state education system"). Middle class families are looking more and more toward private schools, largely because of what they see as a governmental failure to deliver quality education. The cost of private school averages 10,000 pounds/year (that's for a day student - doesn't include boarding costs), so this is becoming a huge burden for families.

- Bath: We enjoyed seeing the Roman Baths, but the city of Bath is pretty overwhelming. We were there on a Saturday, which brings out the crowds - this may have had something to do with it. However, if it weren't for seeing the Roman Baths, we probably wouldn't go to Bath again.

- Things We Missed: One week definitely wasn't nearly enough time to spend in the U.K. We'll plan on coming back. The places we'd like to go when we come back include Oxford/Cambridge, the castles in the Southeast, the Lake District and perhaps another trip to Scotland and Wales (Paula and I were there in 1985). In London, we didn't get a chance to see the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and Greenwich. We also didn't get enough time to enjoy London's parks (the weather wasn't great).