A less than auspicious arrival in England (August 30, 2018)

A less than auspicious arrival in England (August 30, 2018)

London England (August 2018)

  • Author: Adele Grunberg
  • Date Posted: Sep 5, 2018
  • Address: London England (August 2018)

So Juliet and I arrive at Gatwick Airport near London. We’re planning to drive around the countryside in England for nine days before dropping the car off in Inverness, northern Scotland, where we will meet up with a group and hike for fifteen days. 

We get to the rental desk where I expect to pick up the midsize car with automatic transmission that I had reserved. The first surprise is when Kareem, the very personable agent, announces that I had not arranged to drop the car in Inverness, but rather, to return it to Gatwick. I’m told the drop-off fee is an additional 30 pounds. I’m not happy but I can deal with that. The second surprise is when Kareem states I had  arranged for a car with manual transmission! How could this be? Juliet had volunteered to drive because I hadn’t ever driven on the left side of the road and wasn’t keen to do so. But she hadn’t either AND she hardly knows how to drive a car with a stick shift! 

This is a horrifying development. Kareem then declares there are no cars available with automatic transmission unless I want a premium car that costs an extra 50 pounds per day! This is ridiculous and, to make matters worse, Juliet repeats over and over again a kind of mantra “this will be fine. I can do this.”

At this point, Kareem’s eyebrows elevate quite a bit, his eyes grow very wide. Is it disbelief? amusement? I say I need some water and he returns with three cups, apparently needing one as well. I am thinking I need something much stronger than water! Being such a kind man (or simply out of his mind), he offers to drive around the lot with Juliet while she “practices.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

Kareem then disappears again and comes back with a set of keys in his hand saying he “found” an automatic for us. I think he’s kidding. Where this car suddenly materializes from, I haven’t a clue. Maybe from some unfortunate tourist who hasn’t yet arrived and will be in for the shock of her life when she finds out the only car available is one with a stick shift!

We get in the car, an enormous SUV, a further complication. The last thing Kareem warns us about is the pole that stands extremely close to the front of the car. After several maneuvers back and forth, Juliet is able to extricate the vehicle from its tiny space in the under-size parking lot, wend her way around the many tightly packed-in autos and pull into the travel way. She merges into one round-about after another, slightly on edge as round-abouts are always a challenge especially when seeming to drive the wrong way.

There is much traffic going up to Northamptonshire, a three-hour journey, where we will be staying with friends the first few nights. But Juliet gets us there without a hitch: on time, without getting lost, and in one piece, a heroic accomplishment. Mercifully, we weren’t subjected to the prospect of her driving a car with a stick shift!


  1. But you made it ! Wish you were here to hike the Carter Ridge this weekend…can’t find a ‘buddy’. Linda

  2. I was meant to be there to take care of you 2…I can drive a standard butId never drive a right steering wheel car.! Have a blast girls! I’m hoping to get frequent updates. Weather looks phenomenal!

  3. Well as “they” say travel expands one’s boundaries and I guess also one’s talents. Way to go Juliet!! On a more prosaic level,the A’s took 2 of 3 from the Yankees and for that I thank you. Have a great trip.

  4. LOL – wait to go, Juliet!!!! <3

  5. Way to stay cool, both of you! Hope the rest of your trip is a breeze!

  6. Yay Juliet! Yay Kareem! Yay Adele! Glad it worked out.

  7. I am sure the rest of your trip will be ‘eventful’ in a positive way! I look forward to future postcards.

  8. I thought stick shift cars were all antiques! Are you sure they didn’t want to charge you sooo much more than a normal car?
    Have fun ????
    p.s. Let’s get together when you’re back – I’m in Berkeley

  9. Next time invite me – I haven driven stick shifts all my life – the only way to fly!

  10. I am laughing and loving this so much! I have been in your shoes and so know how frustrating the driving is. But you get to see beautiful countryside and can stop whenever you feel like it so all is worth it. Sounds like a wonderful trip.

  11. OMG how fun!!!

  12. Thanks for the laugh, Adele! Hope you’re continuing to have a great trip – I look forward to hearing all about it.

  13. Ii feel your pain but it sounds like it all worked out great! Have fun and keep us posted!

  14. Just hilarious!! Loved picturing this scene playing out. Hopefully the driving has gotten a little easier now.

  15. My dad made me learn to drive on a stick shift and take my drivers license using the stick shift. Very scary. Can’t imagine how difficult this was for you.

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