London and Paris, 1985

This was our first trip together and the one that gave us the traveling bug. Well, that and my Aunt Rosella, who traveled the world, has been to every state, and made an around-the-world trip many years ago. We traveled with some Sisters and students from our Alma Mater, Immaculata College, now a University. The following story is what I wrote in my journal on our trip, a diary of our day to day adventures. Yes, I wrote while Margaret was sleeping. :) Before London and Paris, the farthest I was ever away from home was Pittsburgh and that was with my parents as I was growing up. Both sets of Grandparents lived in western Pennsylvania. So for your first trip, and your first plane ride, just fly across the Atlantic Ocean! I didn't realize as I was putting this page together that we didn't take that many pictures. Turns out I only took four rolls of film. Eeeesh. But hopefully I've included enough interesting links for you to see the highlights of these two incredible cities.

My Dad had a great sense of humor. He gave me many photography tips before our trip.

Thursday, January 3 and Friday, January 4, 1985
Our European adventure began when Aunt Rosella, Mom, Margaret, and I left for the Hilton Inn about 9:15 AM. We made a brief stop at Aunt Pauline's house so I could say good-bye to my Grandmother. We arrived at the Hilton about 9:45. Of course, the Salem limo that was supposed to take us to New York didn't show up until 11:00. We finally made it to Kennedy airport about 2:00 PM after making four stops along the New Jersey Turnpike to pick up more passengers.

When we arrived, we spent some time locating a restroom, the first order of business after that long trip! Then we tried to get something to eat. What a challenge! There were restaurants upstairs so I went up the escalator first and Margaret sent up the luggage. When we got everything up there, we found out we couldn't eat until we had checked in with our luggage! We were supposed to wait for the group from college, so we headed back down the escalator. It was a much harder task getting down. What a pain! Luckily, a gentleman came by and carried some of it down. Margaret thought sure he was walking away with her luggage! She kept motioning for me to do something, but thank goodness he just put it down at the bottom. I would've had a hard time wrestling with him to get the bag back.

We settled down and ate the ham sandwiches we brought. Margaret managed to get a couple of sodas upstairs at the restaurant. We played cards for a while and finally met our tour representative about 4:00. He called us the Immaculate group and the other people we met called the representative Bob. His name's Bud. Anyway, we went upstairs to check in, then sat down to do some more waiting. It was funny listening to the announcements for boarding. They kept repeating row numbers, but you couldn't get in line until your row was called. There was so much noise around us, we could barely hear the numbers being called. Some lady asked us to watch her stuff while she went to look for her daughter in the ladies room. More waiting. Margaret finally ordered a glass of white wine. The Immaculata bus didn't arrive until 5:00.

We finally boarded the plane about 6:30, but didn't take off until 8:00. It was my first plane
ride. The take-off was neat, but the flight seemed so long and cramped. That's the way it is in coach. We could see the wing outside even though we were sitting in the middle of the center section. We played cards, ate a little dinner, tried to sleep, but didn't have much success.

We arrived at exactly 7:10 AM London time. Heathrow was another challenge. We managed to follow the signs around to customs. What a wait - a line that snaked around three different ways. Sister Marie Albert waved at us after she had gone through and motioned for us to go to stair 11 to claim our luggage. She made such an effort, but all we had to do was read the monitors to know where to go!

We finally made it through customs after a million questions about how long we were staying and if we were traveling on our own or with a group. There were a lot of people at the luggage carousel. I stayed with the bags as Margaret took them off the conveyor belt. One young man asked if he could help move our luggage. Very nice!

We finally made it to the bus. We waited a bit because luggage was lost for two people in our group and they had to fill out forms. Not fun, especially at the beginning of a trip. At least when you're on your way home, you have other clothes and supplies. The airline did give them a small amount of money to purchase essential items.

We arrived at the hotel - the Royal Scot Thistle - about 10:00. We were in room 271 which was pretty small. European toilets are very strange, but the tub was big. We caught a little nap and got up around 12:00 so we could get ourselves together for our half-day tour of the city at 1:30.

We saw some great things on the tour. The first was St. Paul's Cathedral where Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married. Awesome! We saw a replica of her bouquet inside and two pipe organs. Very beautiful cathedral. We also saw Hyde Park, 10 Downing Street, where the prime minister lives, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus (decorated with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck), Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Parliament, US Embassy, a statue of FDR, and the Curiosity Shop. It was strange seeing things from the left side of the street. We drive on the right back home.

We arrived back at the hotel about 4:30 and tried to have dinner. The people at the front desk said they accepted traveler's checks, but the restaurant didn't. We didn't want to exchange the currency at the hotel. The rates are much higher than at a bank. We had to make due with the little money we had. Luckily, we had some left over from the purchases we had made earlier in the day. Anyway, we both tried the chicken and rice dinner. Not a good choice. Then we made phone calls home. The connections were clear.

Back in the room, we watched some interesting shows on television. There was Superman II, TV's Bloopers hosted by Dick Clark, and some strange English comedy. We tried to get some sleep, but couldn't. Jet lag is not fun. We ended up playing cards for a while. We finally drifted off around midnight.

Links of Interest:

John F. Kennedy International Airport

Heathrow Airport

Saint Paul's Cathedral's_Cathedral

Saint Paul's Cathedral Part 1

Saint Paul's Cathedral Part 2

Saint Paul's Cathedral Part 3

Hyde Park

Hyde Park London by White and Wong

10 Downing Street

Buckingham Palace Official Website

The Queen's Palaces
Buckingham Palace Part 1 of 2 -

The Queen's Palaces
Buckingham Palace Part 2 of 2 -

Piccadilly Circus

Picadilly Circus - Central Londond's Times Square

Tower of London Official Website

Tower of London Guided Tour

Saturday, January 5, 1985

What a long, but fun day! We woke up about 8:00, but decided to go back to sleep until 8:30. We had a "delicious" continental breakfast - orange juice, croissant, and roll. It was fun figuring out how the toaster worked. It takes about 10 minutes to toast something. Good grief! We watched some "Scooby Doo" on television along with a weird English cartoon and "The Littlest Hobo." We tried to use our blow dryer, but it turned bright red and hot and the converter clicked off. Then it wouldn't work at all. We decided to talk to the porter later.

We set out about 10:15, walked downstairs, and stepped right into a taxi waiting outside the hotel for customers. The chap was so nice. We asked him to take us to Buckingham Palace so we could see the changing of the guard. We arrived about 10:30. He only charged us three pounds. We tipped him a pound and he shook our hands twice!

We stood outside the front gate to take some pictures, then had to move behind the barriers. British police officers, or bobbies as they are called, were posted around the palace. Some of them were really cute. One of them was teasing a
group of girls. They were asking whether it started at 11:00 or 11:30. He said, "Yes." Big help. The ceremony did begin at 11:30. By then, we were freezing, but it was worth it! The pageantry began with marching bands entering the courtyard from the street on either side of the gate. We couldn't see what went on in the courtyard too well, but they sounded great. At the end, they all marched out of the front gate. We were able to get a good view of them then. Afterward, we took pictures of each other, and the ducks, at the Queen Victoria Memorial across the street.

Margaret and me in front of the Queen Victoria statue in London across from Buckingham Palace.

We flagged another taxi - fast service. They're certainly prepared for tourists because the driver knew where we wanted to go before we said anything - Harrod's Department Store. He told us they were having their big after Christmas sale. It only cost two pounds to get there and we gave him a pound tip. Harrod's is huge, probably ten times as big as Macy's or Bloomingdale's. There were so many people it was hard to breathe, let alone shop. Guess this is their annual tradition. We walked all over the place, looking through LPs (I have to interject here for the younger folk who are only familiar with CDs and iPods, LPs are the big black discs that you played on a record player that used a needle to read the disk. They ran at 33 1/3 speed. There were also smaller disks called 45s that only played one song per side. And before that, there were 78s that were thicker and as big as LPs that only played one song per side. Just in case you need a little trivia.), clothes, food. I looked for the Nina Ricci L'Aire du Temps perfume that Mom asked me to buy. She wanted a bottle with the crystal doves on it. They wanted 32 pounds for a small bottle. I decided to try somewhere else. Margaret lost a glove while we were there. We never did find it.

We took a lunch break at the Altman Steak House. It was a very pretty restaurant, but the waiter was grumpy. He seated us in a booth with two English girls who were friendly, thank goodness. It's interesting how they seat you with total strangers. Margaret and I both had chicken soup. It was pretty good. The waiter wasn't too happy that we didn't want anything else. Oh, well. We chatted with the girls about colleges and coins, and other interesting things. After lunch, we tackled Harrod's again and found some lovely gifts. I bought a little November violet in Aynsley china for Mom, a couple of Bunnykin Royal Daulton cups, and a little bunny with a guitar for Eileen.
Then we took another taxi (it was a little more difficult to get this one) and went to Piccadilly Circus for three pounds. We walked our feet off going in and out of the stores. I bought a Shetland scarf and a wool scarf at the Scotch House. The saleslady thought we were funny. We wanted to use our American Express traveler's checks and she asked to see our passports. I had to dig mine out from the pouch underneath my sweater. Good thing I was also wearing a shirt under that. We also bought postcards. The guy we bought them from thought we were funny. We told him we thought he had funny money!

Dinner was at a Pizza Hut - a medium, thin pizza with pepperoni inside and two Pepsis. They even put lemon in them. When the waiter first brought our food, we thought he had forgotten the pepperoni until he told us it was inside the pizza. Tricky, tricky. We were seated at a table with a couple who were not interested in food at all. They were more interested in each other. And they weren't afraid to show it right there in the restaurant. That was a bit embarrassing!

We walked around a little bit more then decided to return to the hotel. We asked someone for directions to the hotel and he told us to take the number 14 bus. He couldn't help us beyond that so we took a double decker bus to King's Cross. It cost eighty pence to ride and we were dropped blocks away from the hotel. There we were - at night - in a strange city. We had to stop and ask for directions several times, but we finally made it back about 7:30.

Sister Marie Albert called our room to let us know about Mass and their plan to go to Hampton Court.. We watched some TV. There was "The Price is Right" - English style - and "The Four Seasons" with Alan Alda and Carol Burnett (which is a really great movie, by the way. It still stands the test of time). Then we tried to get some sleep. No success. We were still wide awake at 12:30. Anyone for a game of cards?

Links of Interest:

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard Winter Uniform

Victoria Memorial, London,_London

Harrod's Department Store

Harrod's at Wikipedia

A Look Around Harrod's