We hit the road in the middle of London. Our goal: to make it to Colchester from London with our car, our wits, and no damage to either.
We started out just after lunch and instead of doing the sensible thing and getting lunch, we hit the road straight away.
Driving in London is obviously done on the other side of the road from what we’re used to. So that’s a thing. It’s also all listed in miles instead of kilometers. Stops for pedestrians are different. There are some differences in street signage, etc.
All of this might make you wary of driving in London, but as someone who only drives maybe twice a year when I rent a car, I can tell you now it’s no big deal. Sure, you have to reverse a lot of things. Keep left if you’re a slower vehicle (but it’s still to the outer edge of the road rather than the inner edge for faster vehicles, same as North America.)
Traffic tends to actually let you merge, which is nice. In Toronto you have to really want it. Wedging your car in between two others and hoping neither of them want the trouble of a fender bender. In London there’s none of that. First of all the congestion charge seems to keep traffic away except in some circumstances. Secondly, it seems like they’re a bit kinder to everyone on the road.
Once we were out of London, the highways to exit the city were all marked with speed limits and cars seemed to roughly stick to them. Once outside of the greater London area, it seemed to be a free-for all. When getting onto the biggest part of the major highway it said it was a speed variable zone, and I did not see a single other speed posted until I arrived at another town.
I simply did what I always do and followed the flow of traffic. It’s the safest thing to do, and I have yet to find an officer to give me grief over it.
Victoria had a message from her mother about a farm where they had stayed, so we took a little detour to go see that. It was down some single lane roads where you have to pull off to the shoulder, or back up to the next spot where you can if traffic comes the other way. Thankfully this didn’t happen, and we soon found the farm! It was just on the other side of a railway crossing. When trains cross here, it seems like they get their money’s worth for putting the sign down, about 4 trains, maybe more, passed us by before the gates came back up. At this point there was a big line of cars behind us. I pulled off left to let Victoria take some pictures. After that, we hit the highway again.
We drove for quite a few miles and went through many round-abouts. The rules seem simple. There are lights at bigger ones to tell you when to join the circle. The signs tell you which exit is which. If there are no lights, there’s a line where you wait until there’s a gap and then you join the circle, and exit whichever branch you need to.
Closer to Colchester there were tons of roundabots. Every junction was a roundabout. They must be cheaper to construct and maintain than a typical north american overpass highway crossing. Maybe not cheaper than a regular stop light, but apparently this idea is better somehow. I’m not seeing it.
That said, round-abouts are nothing to be afraid of. The one at Trafalgar square was nothing special and the ones on the distant and unknown highways seemed more daunting.
My whole day was spent driving, which is why this log is and probably will be heavily focused on driving, unless we stop for quite a while somewhere. Today it was lightly raining and there was nothing interesting to do that we knew of, except…
We had a message from Victoria’s mother about the house she lived in when she [Victoria] was 4 years old! So we had to make a detour to find out what that looks like now.
The town definitely had a slower pace than London, but still seemed built-up in some ways. We found ourselves down an increasingly narrow and precarious drive until we reached a tiny car park, where I tried to turn around.
A lady who lived there told me how difficult it was going to be to get out of there, and gave us step-by-step guidance in getting out. It was a huge help in getting out of there quickly. I would have figured it out eventually, but she knew the size of the space and exactly how to turn to get a sedan out of there. Apparently she had helped many people out of that same situation.
We told her Victoria had possibly lived in one of the houses on that street and they talked about that for a minute and we said thank-you and left, looking for a car park, which ended up being right at the end of the street. The Butt Road car park. BUTT. ROAD.
We put in 2.45 pounds and were given until 6PM to park, which we knew would be plenty of time to get something to eat. It was now just after 2 and we were getting peckish.
We found a corner store which seemed familliar to Victoria and bought a sandwich combo, just one, to share for the both of us. I’m still not really sure why we went with that when we had only had a bit of oatmeal for breakfast, and nothing for lunch, but here we are.
We then checked Victoria’s messages and her mother had clarified the street where she had lived when Victoria was 4. This was not 100% consistent with what she had said before, but it was more of an omission. We took this new information and headed for the old homestead.
It’s now painted purple and seems to be under a bit of renovation.
The cute little street seemed like a nice place to live with a young kid. We were satisfied with our photos so we headed for the town centre to see what that was like and find a place to eat our sandwich.
Once in the town square, we found many cute little shops, and a larger area with some name brand stores. Here there was also a Crepe stand.
We had our sandwich and decided that was clearly not going to be enough, so what else to do but buy crepes!
They were delicious and probably not the most nutritious choice, but we’re on vacation so we get to indulge, okay!
We took our crepes and walked along the streets and admired the stores when it began to rain. I had a hooded rain jacket from Muji with me, so I flipped up the hood and kept mostly dry until the rain picked up. Then my jeans started to get a little damp, but not much. Victoria only had a hoodie on, but since we had a car, we just returned to the car and were able to be dry again.
This is where the trip gets a little freaky. The roads as we neared our cabin got windier, stranger, and narrower. Each turn seemed to bring a new challenge and the distance to our next stop was actually about as much as the distance between the edge of London and Colchester. Maybe more. We seemed to go on so many winding paths through round-abouts and wavy roads, over a huge bridge, it seemed to never end!
We finally arrived at the cabin, where I sit now, and Victoria decided we had better go out and get dinner. I think she was getting hangry. I was ready to just relax. I had been driving all day in a foreign country, on tiny rain-slick roads, and I just wanted to have whatever we had on hand to eat and rest.
We walked about a mile down the road before we realised there was no sidewalk and the cars were passing awfully quickly. The walking was my idea, but I didn’t fully grok what 1.8 miles on a strange country road with no shoulder looked like.
We would have had to walk basically on the road so we turned back.
Along the way we had found many neat little bits and bobs, and many blackberries which were ripe and ready for the picking. Victoria picked them as we walked along. Some of them were very sweet.
When we finally had walked the mile again back to the car we were ready to go inside and cook soup or something because we still had some from the grocer in London, but I headed for the car. I gave in and drove us back along the road we had used to get to the cabin to Halesworth. We found some public parking and right beside it was a pub called the White Hart with wonderful food.
I had sausage and mashed potatoes and Victoria had fish and chips. Her meal was huge and mine was pretty big, but the right amount it seemed. We had a half pint each of a Southwold cider that was quite sweet and tasty and their stout.
Once we had sat and talked a while and had our dinner, we headed back to the cabin. A shower under the rain shower head was wonderful and we’re now both tapping away our adventures and relaxing. A rest well earned, I think.