Friday, August 14, 2015

Progress update - 10 days to go!

Ten more days until take-off!

I have made a bit more progress!

Yesterday I decided to go down to the Stanford Mall to have some money exchanged.  I remember my dad taking me to Travelex to swap out our USD for yuan for my high school's music trip to China, so I figured I'd go back there to swap some cash for Great British Pounds.

Let me preface this by saying: I want some cash in my pocket in case there are vendors that don't take credit cards, or if it's just a small transaction. (I mean, who wants to bust out a credit card for something that costs a dollar?) I've also gotta pay my host back for a few items they've purchased for me, and cash seems to be the easiest way to do that.  (For everything else, I'm planning on using my BofA travel rewards credit card because there are no foreign transaction fees - heyooo.)

When looking up the price difference throughout the week, the pricing was averaging $1 USD to approximately £0.64 GBP.  The pricing I got at the Travelex was closer to $1 USD to £0.55.  I ended up paying $361.34 (plus a $9.99 transaction fee) for £200.  It was a little bit of a shocker, but I've gotta just suck it up and stick with it.  Hopefully that'll last me for a while, and then I can just use ATMs while I'm there to pull out more if need be.

FAST FACT: ATM's are called "cashpoints", or sometimes referred to as a "hole in the wall" in England.  Or at least according to Toni Summers Hargis in her book, Rules, Brittania.  Definitely bringing this book with me when I go.

I didn't get a good look at the money until I was home again, but British banknotes are really cool!  All the denominations are differently sized and colored.  My guess would be that it makes money easier to sort (and by extension, count), and it also enables people who are hard of seeing to better determine how much money is being exchanged during a transaction.

The front side of all of the banknotes depicts Queen Elizabeth II (God save the queen!), but all of the backs have different artwork.  Here are some notes on the art, as described by Project Britain:
  • £5 banknote - "The current £5 note features Elizabeth Fry, who made her name fighting for improved living conditions for women in European jails."

  • £10 banknote - "The current £10 note features Charles Darwin, the Victorian naturalist who developed the theory of evolution. Also pictured is an illustration of Darwin 's own magnifying lens and the flora and fauna that he may have come across on his travels."

  • £20 banknote - "The current £20 note features Sir Edward Elgar, a British composer whose orchestral works include Enigma Variations(1896) and five Pomp and Circumstance marches (1901–1930)." Turns out that the website is not totally up-to-date.  The Elgar note has been demoted and cannot be used as legal tender anymore.  The new note has Adam Smith depicted on it.  According to Wikipedia, "Smith is cited as the 'father of modern economics' and is still among the most influential thinkers in the field of economics today".

  • £50 banknote - "The current £50 note features Sir John Houblon, the first Governor of the Bank of England." Again, outdated.  The two men depicted on the back of the £50 note are Matthew Boulton and James Watt, who were in the business of making marine and steam engines.  They're credited with founding a firm which had a major role during the Industrial Revolution.

I'm only planning on carrying about £30-40 in cash on me at any given time while I'm out and about, so if I'm stupid and lose my wallet (or heaven forbid I get mugged or something) I'll still have some cash left over.

That's all for this post - next one will probably be about my headache trying to find proper luggage!

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