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Christmas Gift Guide

Getting a good signal

Netflix UK trumps Netflix US

Appliance from hell

Toilet buttons baffle

High-tech beer in the countryside

Holograms glow in 3D

A switch for every plug

Cocktails at The Hobbit

Hanging with Aragorn

Warm towels on demand

The Peak District National Park covers over 550 square miles of England. Dry-stack stone walls and plenty of sheep populate the area. Strong cellular signals can be a little more elusive. I had perfect coverage in this big open field above the small market town of Bakewell, but data signals were lacking within parts of the main town.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

I saw "Breaking Bad" T-shirts, mugs and memorabilia all over England. When I told people I was from Albuquerque, N.M., the first comment I usually got was, "Oh! 'Breaking Bad!'"

Since I'm not a cable subscriber, I had yet to see the prequel "Better Call Saul." But Netflix UK had me covered. I binge-watched the whole first season while my American friends were still waiting for it to appear on the streaming service stateside.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The idea behind a combined washer and dryer is pretty clever. The all-in-one appliance saves a considerable amount of space. This particular washer-dryer, located in a cottage in Bakewell, was a bit of a puzzle to sort out. An initial experiment resulted in wet, wrinkled clothes after many hours of operation. Later adjustments to the drying cycle were more successful.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

In the US, most toilets have a single lever for flushing. In England, most toilets have a two-button system with a smaller button tucked into a larger one. It can be a bit of a mystery if you're not familiar with this system.

I was tempted to look up the buttons' functions online during my recent visit to the UK, but instead spent the time experimenting with the results of varying button pushes. I still have no clue what the difference is.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Thornbridge Brewery in Bakewell uses an elaborate computer control system to make brews ranging from Jaipur IPA to Charlie Brown peanut-butter brown ale.

Stainless-steel equipment fills the brewery at its main location in Bakewell in England. The computer system allows the brewers to track every step of the process, from measuring hops to the amount of time the beer spends fermenting. It's a surprisingly high-tech operation tucked into a traditional market town set among the rolling fields and hills of the Peak District National Park. Plus, the beers and ales are delicious.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Holograms can be difficult to photograph as light glares off the glass in front of them. This 3D blowfish is on display at a hologram museum in the town of Matlock Bath in England. It's part of a complex that includes an aquarium, game arcade and koi pool. The Matlock Bath Aquarium and Exhibitions page describes it as "one of the largest public displays of holograms in Europe." The images include a vampire waking up, a scary clown and a man transitioning into an alien.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

This electric water kettle is plugged into a socket with its own power switch. Individual switches seem to be a trend in the UK, letting home dwellers control each outlet. It may be normal in England, but it most American residences don't have similar setups. You just have to remember to hit the switch when you want to use it.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The Hobbit is a "Lord of the Rings"-themed bar in Southampton, England. The sprawling property caters mainly to college kids and hosts live music. The large beer garden out back is home to a series of dramatic murals depicting Gollum and other famous characters from the Tolkien books. Theme cocktails include the Frodo, a combination of vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and lemonade.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The interior of The Hobbit pub in Southampton, England, has plenty of nods to the "Lord of the Rings" series, including this life-size statue of Aragorn ready to go into battle. There's also a giant hobbit-hole door and a selection of cocktails and shots named after characters.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Towel warmers are another rarity in the US, but they're a common sight in England. This is an electric warmer found in a historic bed-and-breakfast in Southampton. Some are tied into hot-water radiator heating systems in bathrooms. A warm towel is a luxury on a crisp morning. I'm thinking I should get one for my home in the US.

Caption by / Photo by Amanda Kooser/CNET
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