Maria’s Beer Balcony in Germany

Yesterday evening, we enjoyed a short visit with friends from Nottingham. Jeannette had been on the beer balcony once before, but this time, we got her husband for the photo as well.

For some reason or another, I am fond of Nottingham. Our son spent three years at university there, so I got to visit the city a few times. He is no longer there (now in London), but Nottingham is on my travel list.

The perfect place for a cup of mulled wine is the beer balcony.

Jeannette & Clive

Jeannette and Clive from Nottingham, U.K.

They also brought a stash of assorted beer along.

What to See in Nottingham

I have just returned from Nottingham where I helped our son clear out of student housing. Took a flight with Lufthansa to Birmingham and continued by train to Nottingham.

We (had my brother and niece in tow) stayed at the Mercure Hotel on George Street. Service and breakfast were really good, but I found my room too small. I would stay there again, but I’d make sure I get a bigger room. And yes, the original floorboards have a slope (the hotel was built in 1822) and the corridors creak. My room (#211) felt like a ship cabin at times, which was the case even without beer.

Full English Breakfast

Full English Breakfast

We enjoyed some really good beer around town, such as Day Tripper, Acorn, etc. I want a pint!

beer

A sight to see is Wollaton Hall and Deer Park. We arrived in the late morning and there were so many deer in the park. Wollaton Hall, an Elizabethan mansion is quite a site. It also hosts a natural museum of stuffed animals, set in a natural landscape. I did not care so much for this, but enjoyed its architecture more. We also had a very pleasant lunch in the courtyard cafe.

Wollaton Hall

Wollaton Hall

Wollaton Hall provided part of the setting for the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, released July 2012.

Wollaton Hall and Batman

Wollaton Hall and Batman

Next was Nottingham Castle, which is situated right in the center of town.

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle

From our hotel on George Street, it was only a 10-minute walk to the castle with the neighboring Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (the oldest inn in England).

Looking down onto the Jerusalem pub

Looking down onto the Jerusalem pub

Nightlife in Nottingham is quite interesting. The city was just teeming with people on Friday night.

Cosplay

Cosplay

We ended up in a rocky bar…

Salutations Pub

Salutations Pub

I had to try new English food such as this one. The photo does not do the wrap justice. It was so big! Too much for me.

Hot Roast Beef Yorkshire Wrap

Hot Roast Beef Yorkshire Wrap

That’s me stepping out of a smelly phone booth, but I enjoyed the photo opportunity. Just held my breath.

phone booth

I found this English rose at the Nottingham Castle. It smelled wonderful and my iPad camera was able to capture the color beautifully.

English Rose

I like Nottingham. The best part were its people. Whether we looked confused at the bus station or had to figure out what to do next, so many people offered to help. This was truly amazing.

I opened my umbrella once in three days. Friday evening we sat outside in warm temps and it almost felt a bit like being in a southern European country. The Brits know how to party and have a good time. For Germans like us, we were surprised when even a pub’s security guards had friendly lines for us.

5 Best Ways to Keep Taxi Drivers Honest

It’s that time a year again when some of us not so seasoned travelers have to hit the road again. From past experiences and based on current inquiries about local taxi fares, I decided to come up with a list of pointers to look out for.

1. It is best to hire a taxi through your hotel or local friends. We hired a taxi through the hotel while we were in London last month. The fare was 10 pounds more than a street taxi, but at least the price was fixed. This proved useful as we encountered an accident on the main road and our driver had to take quite a detour. Nobody enjoys the feeling of doubt whether you have just gotten ripped off or not.

From Leadenhall Market in London (the banking district) to Heathrow Airport, most quoted a fare of 60 pounds. Our taxi was 70 pounds and it was worth it!

2. If your cab hire is not done through the hotel, get the driver to commit to a price. If you are in the U.S.A., e.g., don’t forget to ask whether this includes taxes, service charges, etc. Some taxi drivers do not mention the total charge and surprise you at the end of the ride.

If you are with fellow passengers, repeat the agreed upon total price, and name them as witnesses. A cunning driver might insist after the ride that you had misunderstood the quoted price.

3. Take a photo of the taxi before you get in or note down the license plate. This knowledge might also prove useful in deterring him from overcharging.

4. If your arrival by taxi is at night, remind the driver to turn the interior light on all the way. Here comes the important part – ask your fellow passengers to watch you pay the money as they are your witnesses. Then count out the notes in a strong voice, ask for confirmation of how much you have handed over, before he puts it away.

I have learned this from my New York cab driver who insisted I had not given him the full amount (which I had), but my tired fellow passengers in the back seat were no suitable witnesses either. We were just not prepared for this kind of deception.

5. Somewhere along the ride from e.g. the airport to the hotel, ask for the local police number in a casual way. Then store it in your mobile phone. Make sure the taxi driver takes notice of this.

I know it is difficult after a long flight (sometimes even a short one), when you have to deal with locking up your home, getting to the airport, checking in, waiting for your delayed flight, picking up your luggage, dealing with immigration, and finding your way to your destination.
But you have to stay alert up to the last minute until your feet hit the sack or your elbows hit the hotel bar.

New York City

I will be making use of my own list in Nottingham quite a few times next week. But besides keeping taxi drivers honest, I also intend to visit the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (England’s oldest inn), say “Hey up me duck” to the locals, and I also hope to catch a glance of our son while his farewell partying ends for the semester break.