After applying for and receiving my passport, I joined a work colleague on a trip to London, England in the 1980s. I was not a seasoned traveler at the time, so it was good to have my friend with me who had been in Europe on another occasion. It seems hard to believe, but our round-trip airfare at the time cost us each $200, a special offer, which is why we decided to go.
Our tour guide arranged to have us stay at the Forum Hotel in the Kensington area of London. I remember that the Hotel provided an Afternoon Tea each day at 4 p.m. We did attend on one day and it was a pleasant experience. Afternoon Tea is not the same as High Tea. High Tea takes place around 6 o’clock in the evening and is more of a meal than Afternoon Tea which offers only light pastries such as scones.
We visited Westminster Abbey on a cool afternoon. Many of the English Royal Family are buried here, although I remember in particular the Poet’s Corner where many famous poets are interred, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, T. S. Eliot, John Keats, William Wordsworth and many others.
We tried to schedule our visit to the grounds of Buckingham Palace when the Changing of the Guard took place but we were not fortunate enough to see it, which was a disappointment. Also, we were in a gift shop on a main street on one occasion when a lady yelled out for all to hear “The Queen is driving by in her carriage.” Again, the moment passed too swiftly for us to see the Queen.
My companion wanted to take the Orient Express so that we could visit the University of Oxford. That was an exciting little sidetrip. We found on campus one of the very narrow streets which house small restaurants and shops. I had my first taste of Shepherd’s Pie in the small student restaurant we visited.
There was so much to see. We took in the Victoria and Albert Museum which was not very far from our hotel. Upon leaving the building, dusk was settling in, but we noticed that the Bobbies (the English policemen) were very much in evidence. Their only weapon is a sort of nightstick which they use if necessary.
Of course, we spent a few hours in Harrod’s Department Store. I purchased some tote bags bearing the Harrod name and logo to bring to my daughters. We used them for several years.
My remembrances of London bring up visions of the Thames River, St. Paul’s Cathedral designed by Christopher Wren, the red double-decker buses, Piccadilly Circus, the West End Theatre District, the red outdoor post boxes and so much more.
Speaking of the West End Theatre District, it was there that I saw Les Miserables for the first time, which was then at the Palace Theatre. It was remarkable to us that prior to the show and during intermission, vendors sold ice cream and soft drinks to the patrons.
I would love to take another trip to London to revisit some of the landmarks, particularly the new London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel which of course was not there when I last visited.