In 1995, I was twenty-three years old and a recent college graduate. I was fortunate enough to obtain a six month work visa through a student work exchange in the United Kingdom. After that six month visa expired, I returned to the U.S., worked nine months to save up money, and returned for another six month stint with a different exchange program. A year or two later I went back again for a two week visit, and then another year or so later I visited again, and so on and so on. I’ve had a love affair with England for over twenty years.
When I arrived in 1995, the first thing my exchange program gave me was a book of street maps called the London A-Z Street Map. Here in America, we would call it A to Zee; in England they pronounce it as Zed. In the same way, they call the number 0 "naught", and two numbers or letters together are always “double L” or “double three.” Fascinating word play we have amongst the English-speaking countries.
The main thing I learned about the London A to Zed map was that it was invaluable. I’d never been a great map reader before, but I learned in a hurry. I was a suburban girl from Northern Virginia; at home I was car-bound with no need for maps. As a sudden city-girl walking everywhere and using public transportation, I found that the book of street maps was my lifeline. I never went anywhere without it, and I got pretty good at using it.
I still have my London street maps from 1995, and when my husband and I returned to London for a visit two summers ago, we were as dependent upon it as ever. While trying to use the GPS on my phone, we ended up frustrated and nowhere near our destination. The good ole London A-Zed has yet to let me down!
Do you still use street maps?