Think driving in your hometown is challenging? I recently had a chance to take some driving lessons in Lincoln…a medium sized town in the UK. You’re probably thinking it was the “driving on the right” that was a difficult experience, right? Well, that certainly takes some getting used to, but read on to hear what really makes it difficult.
Here in the U.S., we tend of thing of things that are more than a hundred years in age as being “old” or “antique”. The “oldest” pieces of infrastructure, like bridges and roads are, at most, two hundred years old, and there’s certainly not many of them to speak of.
Now, get a on plane an hop over to the U.K. When I landed in Lincoln, I was told that the town harks back to the first century, B.C. Well over two THOUSAND years ago. That was certainly an advantage when it came to sightseeing, but in some cases, it added a bit of challenge to driving. Check out this third century Roman gate, situated smack dab in the middle of the road:
Now, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate history and sightseeing as much as the next guy, but it wasn’t just this arch. The roads seem to have been original Roman work as well. Cobblestone everywhere, and it was a rare treat to find a road wider than my rental car (a piece of crap Fiat, by the way).
One thing I did appreciate….the locals were absolutely courteous drivers. Wasn’t my experience in London, but once I got my tiny Fiat out into the country, it was amazing to see how drivers were willing to forgive an uncouth American learning to stay on the correct (not right) side of the road.
There was also one area where I almost lost my cool, but recovered when I saw what the structure was. Approaching on the right side of a canal, I saw what appeared to be some sort of insane draw bridge:
Turns out it wasn’t a drawbridge after all, but rather a sculpture from 2002 called “Empowerment”. Perhaps my artistic tastes aren’t sophisticated enough to discern art from a damaged over water bridge.
Finally, to top it off, the entire town is built into the descending side of a sloping cliff, with the north end of the town some 200 feet higher than the south. It’s not an exceptionally steep slope, so there’s no over the top inclines like you would see in San Francisco. On the other hand, it rains here quite a bit more here. And, as you would imagine, the south end of the town takes the brunt of it. Guess where my hotel was? My trusty rental Fiat actually did quite well with the minor flooding, though it did have a musty smell when I turned her back in.
All in all, it was a terrific trip, despite my unhappiness with driving around the town. The people were wonderful, as were the local pubs!