Posted by: Michelle | August 15, 2011

Welcome to the City of Roundabouts and Concrete Cows

The panel in the lift

How hard is it to move from floor to floor in a hotel via a lift [elevator]? Well, apparently if you are me, it is somewhat difficult but in my defense [c’mon, you knew I would have a good reason], it was somewhat confusing. [And I was tired.] The Jurys Inn at Milton Keynes has 12 floors. I should know since I’ve seen them all at some point in time during the 48+ hours I was staying at the hotel even though I was on floor 5. Let me explain – the panel in the lift had buttons that lit up – including the one for the “bell” which was located next to the buttons for the floors. So I would press the down arrow and the lift would come and I would step on. My brain registered the lighted button so I didn’t do anything. Inevitably, I would end up going up. Seriously, something so small and dumb, drove me batty! What else can I say about the town of Milton Keynes?

A typical roundabout in the UK

A coworker told me it was a planned community; it was known around England as the city of roundabouts and concrete cows. It was the kind of comment that you shrug your shoulders at and put out of your mind. Until you find yourself sitting in a car looking for something, anything that you can vomit into as you are sure you are going to hurl any minute if you go around one more roundabout. Let me tell you something, these roundabouts are not for novices. Sure there are a few in and around Reno but they are for babies. Go to England and see how the big kids play! It’s definitely a time for your big girl panties. These roundabouts are multiple lanes converging together with at least four exits. Imagine entering a never-ending circle with cars coming from your left [remember these folks drive on the wrong side of the road] and you need to get over toward the center because you need the third exit, not the first or second. But when you come around towards the third exit, you must make your way back to the outer edge to escape the madness and proceed merrily along your way. Mind you most of the roundabouts I witnessed [meaning my eyes were open] had no lane lines so the assumption was you could fit three  cars – sometimes four – in the circular road regardless of where the driver was headed. So people were darting in and out, going towards the middle, back to the edge without slowing down. When there is no traffic and only one lane entering the circular intersection it really is a no-brainer. But add several lanes, lots of cars [god forbid you encounter someone on a bicycle] then you are asking for trouble. I’m not one to shy away from challenges but I think I watch this particular one from the sidelines [preferably in the backseat with my hands over my eyes. Keeps me from getting car sick!]. So this city of roundabouts is so confusing even the residents get lost. One wrong exit from the roundabout and you could find yourself going the wrong direction and hopelessly lost. The same coworker who told me about the history mentioned that he has gotten lost several times despite the fact he’s lived there for nine years. That doesn’t bode well for an outsider trying to maneuver around. Good thing it wasn’t left up to me. I don’t typically get lost but everything looks so similar it would be hard to navigate with no good sense of direction [GPS would be a valuable tool]. Good thing I didn’t have to find the office on my own. It is located in a rather nondescript industrial park where all the building look identical. The only differing factor is the name on the buildings – The Nelson House, The Smith House, etc. How or why they name commercial buildings as ‘houses’ I do not know. I spent the day putting faces with names of people I’ve gotten to know over the phone the past six plus years. The group was very hospitable and every time I turned around someone was offering me a spot of tea, biscuit or general inquiring if I needed anything. That evening, a few coworkers took me to a local pub for dinner and I returned back to the hotel just in time to go for a stroll before the sun set. I’m afraid the walk was very uninteresting. Just a non-descript sidewalk along side an office-lined road. Could have been anywhere in America except for the cars driving on the wrong side of the road. Oh and the roundabouts and concrete cows. That is definitely unique.

World Famous Concrete Cows of Milton Keynes

Now I can say I’ve visited all Miller Heiman locations – Reno, Denver, Sydney, and Milton Keynes. Hey, it’s can’t be all that bad … because there is even a MK app for your iPhone!

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