England, a country of patchwork landscapes: from the rugged coastlines and golden beaches of Devon and Cornwall, to the craggy mountains of the Peak District, the ancient forests riddled with folklore, to the picturesque Lake District, to great cities and to centuries-old villages of heart-warming charm. Woven into its fabric lies a right-veined ‘Englishness’, earthed in a heritage of stone circles, Arthurian legend, Shakespeare, the triumphalist ego of a crumbling aristocracy, and the cocky independence of an island nation. Vibrant, multicultural and contradictory, contemporary England is a place of extremes yet, at times, fiercely united. From the essential glories of London, Stratford, Gloucester and York, to the quirky delights of Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester, England’s cities are lively, buzzing places, where a love of nostalgia strains against a spirit of inventiveness. Enjoy the unrivaled beauty of the Cotswolds and the Dales, but travel the byways of Northumberland, and church-laden Lincolnshire too. With time to spare, escape the tourist trails and wander over peaceful countryside, savor ‘real’ ale at a country pub, visit a traditional town market, or sample England’s ‘new-wave’ wines and a cosmopolitan cuisine that rivals any in the world. England today is welcoming, friendly, fascinating and fun, where pomp and circumstance balance the often bizarre idiosyncrasies of its people, and a sense of humor is the passport to certain acceptance.
Area: 242,514 sq km (93,788 sq miles)
Geography: Much of the countryside is relatively flat, consisting of fertile plains and gentle hills. Mountains, moors and steeper hills are found mainly in the north and the west; the Lake District and the northwest are divided from the Dales of Yorkshire, and the northeast, by the (relatively) high-rising Pennines. The eastern part of the country, particularly East Anglia, is the most low-lying. The coastline is varied, and ranges from long stretches of sandy beaches to steep cliffs and isolated rocky coves.
Currency: Pound Sterling (£)
Credit Cards: MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and VISA are all widely accepted.
Travelers Checks: Widely accepted
Banking Hours: 9:30am-4:30pm Monday to Friday. Some branches of certain banks are open Saturday morning; some all-day Saturday; some are open on Sundays for limited hours; and some offer 24-hour services.
Currency Exchange: Money can be exchanged in banks, exchange bureaux and many hotels. The exchange bureaux are often open outside banking hours but charge higher commission rates.
Air: The principal national airline is British Airways (BA) (tel (0870)850 4850, (www.britishairways.com).
Approximate flight times:
New York to London is 7 hours
Chicago to London is 8 hours 35 minutes
Los Angeles to London is 10 hours 30 minutes
Heathrow (LHR) (www.baa.com/main/airports/heathrow): Located 24km (15 miles) west of central London. The airport is linked to the entire Greater London area by the underground railway network. Extensive bus and taxi service available.
Gatwick (LGW) (www.baa.com/main/airports/gatwick): Located 45km (27 miles) south of central London. Gatwick Express operates a non-stop service from Victoria Station at 15-minue intervals throughout the day (journey time 30 minutes), seven days a week. Speedlink luxury non-stop service links Gatwick with all four terminals at Heathrow. Services depart every 15 minutes to 1pm, every 30 minutes in the afternoon and the evening until 10pm (travel time 1 hour 15 minutes). Taxis are available. Travel time to central London 1 hour.
London City Airport (LCY) Located 10km (6miles) east of the City of London. This airport, situated in the Royal Docks in the London Bourough of Newham provides frequent scheduled air services linking the City of London with Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Lille, Strasbourg and Brussels. Train, bus and taxi service available.
Birmingham (BHX) Located 14km (9miles) southeast of the city center. The terminal is linked to Birmingham International Station by bus, which is free of charge. Birmingham International Station is connected to the Intercity network and regional lines and has a fast service to London Euston (1 hour 20 minutes).
Manchester (MAN) Located 16kim (10 miles) south of the city center. There is a train station linking the airport to Manchester city center, departing every 15 minutes Monday to Friday, every 20 minutes Sunday (travel time 23 minutes).
Social & Business Customs
Every region has its own specialty. In general, the north of the country offers more substantial, traditional food, at more reasonable prices than the south. Britain is still more reasonable prices than the south. Britain is still the home of puddings: spotted dick; plum duff; and syllabub. The English cream tea is still served in tearooms. For those who want variety, London offers every type of ethnic food imaginable, Indian and Chinese being particularly popular.
The British pub is a national institution and even the smallest village in the remotest corner of the country will usually have at least one. There are about as many beers in England as cheeses in France. Wine and cocktail bars are now common in the larger cities and towns, and the latter will often have a “happy hour”. Many pubs are open typically 11am; sometimes a pub closes for a period in the afternoon. On Sundays, hours are 12N-3pm and 7pm-10:30pm.
The main cities, London in particular, have a vast range to choose from; theater (including open-air in the summer), opera, ballet, concerts, films, restaurants, nightclubs and discotheques, as well as, of course, pubs.
Woolen and woven goods such as famous Harris Tweeds are famous. Printed cottons and silks and fashionable ready-made clothes are to be found. China and porcelain Wedgwood, Crown Derby, Royal Worcester and Royal Doulton are good buys, as are luxury food and chocolates. Antiques are to be found all over the country.
9am-5:30pm Monday to Saturday. Larger shops are open 10am-4pm on Sunday.
Tipping is not compulsory and it is up to the individual to pay the 10% service charge often added automatically to bills.
People are generally expected to dress smartly (suits are the norm). Appointments should be made and the exchange of business cards is customary. Office hours: 9am-5pm or 9:30am-5:30pm Monday to Friday.
The climate is temperate with warm wet summer sand cool wet winters. It is variable from day to day and throughout the country as a whole. The West Coast and mountainous areas receive the most rain; the East Coast, particularly in the north, is colder and windier. The southeast is sunnier than the north with less rain and a climate approaching the continental. The southwest has overall the mildest climate.