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Travels Through Great Britain
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I love traveling, especially to Europe!  I've made several solo trips across the pond, and diligently kept a journal of each trip.  Feel free to read about my travels and tribulations! 

Travels Through
Great Britain
(Solo trip in 1996)

I’m sitting here trying to write as my first glimpse of the English countryside whizzes past me. I’m on the Gatwick Express, the train that will take me to Victoria Station. The flight seemed long, but I was so happy to get on that it didn’t matter.

I sat next to a man from London named Raymond Morris, who politely filled me in on Britain. We talked about politics, the school system, and beer. Another plus was sitting in business class - flight attendants are definitely more attentive, and food and drink were served on real china. This is class!

The houses so far seem very brown - not much color and a lot of stucco, brick and tile roofs. I see quite a few gardens, though, and lots of flowers in the back yards. A man has just come down the aisle of the train with a rolling cart selling juice, coffee, liquor, candy and little stuffed teddy bears - and this is a thirty minute express train. I wonder what they sell on long journeys.

Finally got to my bed and breakfast. Arrived at Victoria Station, and waited in a block-long queue for a cab. As I was waiting, I saw two women getting out of a cab. (Cabs are big and black and looked like they stepped out of a 1940’s movie.) Anyway, the women had perfectly matched luggage and were wearing lovely knit pastel suits with matching hats and white gloves and heels. Standing next to them was a girl with bright green hair, pierced nose, ears, eyebrow and cheek, and a layer of black leather. The old and the new.... Well, I gave up on a taxi and decided to take the tube. It was awkward, however, as my bags don’t roll well underground. And wouldn't you know -- it started to rain. (Next time I’m packing lighter).

However, I made it - Hotel Cavendish on Gower Street in Bloomsbury (I love the name Bloomsbury). My room is on the third floor (no lift but short flights) - very bare but very clean. Breakfast is from 8-9 a.m. The toilet is on the second floor - to flush, you pull a chain.

I changed my clothes and made my way towards Trafalgar Square. Not too long a walk, but I kept making wrong turns (definitely need to get a map). Discovered that London is very noisy and stinks of gas (oops, petrol) fumes and cigarettes (everyone smokes here).

Arrived at Piccadilly Circus, which is not much to look at during the day. So I went on to Trafalgar Square. I felt like I was in the movies. I wandered around the square looking at everything - the statue of Nelson, the lions, and the masses of pigeons around. I walked over to look at a plaque that described the square, and read the descriptions of all the buildings around - the Bank of Scotland, etc.

I saw that it listed Big Ben - so I looked up to find it - and there it was...right down the street infront of me. I could feel a chill running down my spine. I was actually looking at Big Ben. I try to appear a sophisticated traveler, but at times like this I feel like just a naive tourist from the Midwest.

Decided to eat lunch at St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, an old cathedral right off the square. The cafeteria is in a crypt in the basement. My feet rested on old tombstones sunk into the floor, and the stone walls are hundreds of years old. My lunch consisted of a filled roll of egg and mayonnaise(an egg salad sandwich on a Kaiser roll), a pudding (bread and butter), and hot tea, served with a container of milk if you desire to add it to your tea. This I do - it’s very tasty this way, and there’s something very comforting about hot tea with milk and sugar.

After lunch, I walked through St. James Park - a beautiful spot of green in the middle of London. The passing architecture is magnificent - Westminster Abbey and Parliament took my breath away. Strolled past 10 Downing Street on my way down Whitehall and saw the traditional red-coated guard standing outside the gate - how impressive. Outside St. Margaret’s Church next to Westminster Abbey is a sign saying that the garden there is the oldest in England. It has been cultivated for over 900 years.

After my walk, I needed a break, so I decided on an English cream tea at Fortnum and Mason’s. All the clerks here are wearing black tailcoats, with black and grey striped trousers. However, I stole a peek at their feet, and saw a few shod in blackReeboks. My table was covered with white linen and had very heavy, ornate silverware. The tea was piping hot and served in a heavy, silver miniature teapot with a matching pitcher of hot water. Accompanying it was a small silver pitcher of cream, alongwith a strainer. On the table was a bowl filled with brown and white chunky lumps of sugar. The cream tea also came with two scones (something like biscuits, but lighter and sweeter), a small crock of heavy, Devonshire (clotted) cream, and a tiny jar of Fortnum and Mason’s own strawberry preserves. I was in heaven!

After my scones were gone, a server came around with a tray of pastries - somehow a beautiful raspberry tart lined with chocolate and dusted with sugar landed on my plate. It was delicious and almost too pretty to eat. After leaving, I treated myself to a bit more window-shopping, but jet lag was starting to catch up with me, so I headed back for my B & B. Got there about 6:30 p.m., wrote some postcards and was asleep by 7.

20 September 1996

Woke up early and made it to breakfast shortly before 8. Very cute little tables were set up with white linen tablecloths, silverware, a pot of milk, a bowl of white sugar, one of brown granulated sugar, and a crock of butter (no fat-free spread in this country!). I was first served a cup of coffee and a glass of juice, and was asked if I wanted a cooked breakfast by one of the staff. Upon my answering in the affirmative, she went to the kitchen and I proceeded to the other room to see what wasin there.

On a long buffet table were five large bowls, each holding a particular cereal, such as muesli, cornflakes, bran - one held biscuits that were similar in shape to shredded wheat but much more densely packed. I tried one and it was like pressedbran - when you cover it with milk, it immediately loses its shape. Tried the muesli and from then on, that’s the only cereal I would eat - it’s very good. Next to the cereals were brown bread, sliced cucumbers and a variety of cheeses. All of this in addition to the bacon, eggs and toast I was served (complete with toast rack). Not a good place for a low-cholesterol diet - but who cares - I’m on vacation! After breakfast on my way out, I noticed a very pretty enclosed garden in the back - something to inspect later.

Caught the tube at the nearest station - Goodge Street - to head for the Tower of London. Rush hour was in progress, so I felt like a sardine. However, I had time to read all the signs inside the train, and notice how polite the Brits are. All these signs telling you not to litter, park, drive here, etc., but they’re always accompanied by an explanation of why you shouldn’t do this. For instance: "No drinks or food is permitted on the bus as the empty containers will cause discomfort to the passenger".

Arrived at the Tower - very interesting, especially the medieval palace. Imagine standing in a room that Edward I lived in around the year 1200 AD. Won’t fill the pages with guidebook info - just to note that it was a wonderful place - all the more so because I got here before the crowds. I was moved almost to tears, however, when I was watching the screening of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. All around me were the memorabilia of countless monarchs of the English throne, and here was another, marking her place in history. I’ve never understood why the British insist on keeping the royals around until that moment.

After leaving, I headed over London Bridge to the St. Thomas Operating Theater. Here was an actual operating room of 1862, now a museum. Sawdust was in a box on the floor to collect the blood. Spectators would line the place in seats, yelling "heads, heads" whenever a surgeon got in the way of their view. Nurses were paid 32 pounds a year, and worked from 6 a.m. till dusk.

Next came a trip to the Globe Theatre - still under construction so there was not a lot to see. Headed back across Southwark Bridge to St. Mary-Le-Bow’s Church, the home of the famous Bow Bells. Those who live within hearing distance of these bells are considered true Cockney Londoners.

Walking to St. Paul’s Cathedral, I was absolutely stunned by its beauty and grandeur. Inside it got even better - so much gold and color and richness. This was Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece - and the favorite of all his buildings. Next to his tomb, which is below in the crypt is a monument written by his son, inscribed in Latin, which reads, ...if you want a memorial of his works, look around you.

Time for sustenance and as luck would have it; I was passing Ye Old Cheshire Cheese - a pub that dates from 1667 AD. Some past patrons included Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson. Decided on roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, peas and a half-pint of ale. I have decided that I love the British ales. Still can’t get used to drinking it at room temperature, but some places serve them slightly chilled.

Decided to walk off my lunch, and headed for Fleet Street. I passed the Royal Courts of Justice and Old Bailey, but didn’t go in. Also passed Hoares Bank, which was founded in 1672. Continued down the Strand, stopped at the Courtauld Institute to see their Impressionist collection. For a small gallery, the collection was impressive. It included Van Gogh’s self-portrait with bandaged ear, and Manet’s Bar at the Follies Bergiere. Saw lots of Renoir, Monet, Degas, Cézanne, and Seurat paintings that were familiar to me.

Walked up to Covent Garden next, and loved it. Dozens of little shops in the market, and buskers (street entertainers) galore. Next to Covent Garden was St. Paul’s Church, called the actor’s church, which Lynn Redgrave had told me not to miss. It was just a very small church, but with many memorials to deceased actors including Stanley Holloway, Vivian Leigh, Sir Michael Redgrave, and Dame Edith Evans (her ashes are buried here). No one was around, so it was very quiet and peaceful inside.

After leaving St. Paul’s, I headed to Soho. The streets were very narrow and curvy - lots of cobblestone and brick. It’s easy to see streets that have been here for hundreds of years. Stopped at a place on Old Compton Street for tea. This street obviously has a large gay crowd – and never have I seen so much facial piercing. Next, headed for the bookstores on Charing Cross Road, but didn’t buy anything. Took the bus to Leicester Square to see what half-price theatre tickets they had. However, I was disappointed - they didn’t have much, so I went back to my B&B (by way of a red double-decker bus - and I rode on top).

Note: Londoners are the friendliest people. When asked for directions, they immediately stop what they’re doing and show you where you want to go. Sometimes I’ve been standing on a street corner with a map looking confused, and they will come up and ask if I need any help.

My feet were killing me when I got back, so I decided to relax in the hotel lounge area, and watch a British cop show.

21 September 1996

One question that bothered me yesterday - where does all the trash go? The city looks fairly clean, yet I walked for blocks yesterday without seeing a trash container. Also I’ve noticed a fair amount of homeless people on the streets, however a good proportion of them are young (early 20’s) and in seeming good health with fairly attractive features. Wondered why they’re filthy and begging on the streets.

My day began at 7 a.m., with the same hearty breakfast as before. Got on the tube for Hyde Park, and after exiting, took a walk through the park, past the Peter Pan statue to Kensington Palace. The park was very pretty, with joggers and small boys playing rugby nearby. I also passed lots of nannies with babies in their prams.

Kensington Palace was very interesting, and the tour guide most informative. He talked about how Queen Mary and Queen Anne’s father, James II, had syphilis, which he in turn passed to both of them. Consequently, neither was able to bear children, which is how the throne passed to George of Hanover. At this time, Princess Diana, Princess Margaret, and the Duke and Duchess of Kent occupy the palace. They don’t have to pay rent, but they do pay for their own utilities.

Next stop was the Victoria and Albert Museum. What a huge and overwhelming place! I saw the most wonderful historical dress exhibit, and the rest of the museum was filled with incredible things to see. It would take months to see everything there is to see.

This time I decided to take one of the black cabs to Sloane Square, home of the "Sloane Rangers", those impeccable young matrons who count Princess Di as a member. Stopped in a few stores, but prices were so high that I left and continued down to Chelsea.

Walking through Chelsea was a delight - such charming streets and houses, including the house where Thomas Carlisle lived. I ate lunch at a very nice pub called The King’s Head and Eight Bells, where I had steak and ale pie along with a pint of ale. (No more half-pints for me!). After lunch, I walked back to the main thoroughfare and caught a bus to my next stop - Westminster Abbey.

No words can begin to describe this place. When I first walked in, Evensong was going on, so I got to hear the choir - a mixture of boys and men. What incredible music it was - the high, clear voices of the children harmonizing with the rich, full tones of the men - and the headysound filling that beautiful cathedral. It was truly a memorable moment. After it was over, I began to tour the cathedral, first stopping to buy a guide for 2 pounds. Started in the Royal Chapels - so much history - before me lay the tombs of Henry VIIand VIII, Richard II, Edward III, Edward the I, and even Edward the Confessor who died in 1042. And then to see Elizabeth I, her sister Mary Tudor, Mary Queen of Scots, and so many others.

In the Poet’s Corner is the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens. I felt overwhelmed by seeing so much history right in front of me. As I left the cathedral, I happened to look down at the stones I’m walking on, and I see several tombs dating around 1000-1100 AD, including one that contains the bodies of 32 priests who died of the Black Plague.

After leaving Westminster Abbey, I walked to the tube and traveled back to Bloomsbury where I refreshed myself, rid myself of the camera, and then caught a bus to Leicester Square. Walked around for a bit, then stopped at a restaurant called Pasta Browns in Covent Garden, where I ordered spaghetti carbonara and a half bottle of red wine. Struck up a conversation with two young women sitting next to me. They were full of questions - wanting to know where I was going,and where I’d been. They insisted I should visit Tunbridge Wells in Kent, where they both live.

After they left, the couple on the right started chatting. They were from Scotland (he is a member of Scottish Parliament), and were asking me my opinion of London. He said he hated London and found it filthy. They both were emphatic in saying that I should visit Scotland; in fact, he made it plain that I should have made Scotland the focus of my trip, and not England. They were both extremely nice - people over here seem very fond of Americans and go out of their way to talk to them.

Leaving Covent Garden, I hopped on a bus for home - however, either I missed my stop or the driver did, because I found myself on the way to Hempstead Heath, a suburb of London 15-20 minutes north. Note: this is where Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branaugh live. I kept thinking he would turn around eventually, but I was wrong. He just stopped in the middle of the square, turned off the motor, and proceeded to get off the bus. I panicked and ran after him, asking him how to get back to London. Upon learning another bus would be along in about 7 minutes, I went back to wait. Finally found myself on the way back.

The bus system is very confusing, because it’s so hard to see where to get off. They don’t have street signs like the USA does. Instead they put plaques on the sides of building - if you’re lucky. Sometimes they don’t always have them in the same place - sometimes they don’t have them at all. It’s very easy to get lost. Even walking around with a map is confusing. London streets aren’t laid out like a grid like most American streets. They veer off in any direction. So it’s very easy to walk one block, turn right, walk one block, turn right again, and repeat - and be a half-mile away from your original starting point.

22 September 1996

This morning, I caught the tube to Paddington station where the train goes to Windsor and Eton. It seems I can’t get from Windsor to Hampton Court Palace as planned by train, due to construction. But I’ll deal with that later. As I got off the train, I spotted Windsor Castle right away. It was opening about then, so I entered - along with many, many tour groups. Somehow I managed to avoid them most of the time, by speedingup or slowing down as needed. I first went through Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, which I had especially wanted to see. It was very interesting, but somewhat disappointing also, as you couldn’t get very close to see the detail work - plus the tour groups kept crowding me. Passing through the staterooms, I saw two Rembrandts, several Rubens, and the famous Hans Holbein portrait of Henry VIII. Such an incredible amount of wealth here. And the palace was huge! I saw part of the restoration work going on from the fire of 1992.

Leaving the castle, I stopped at the town of Windsor - very cute but very touristy. Had some tea and got information on the train to Richmond, where I’ll catch a bus to Hampton Court Palace. Walked over the Thames River to Eton, home of the famous boy’s school. The town is very pretty, with long, narrow, winding streets. Saw lots of Eton students, dressed in their black tailcoats - some were obviously waiting for parents to pick them up for a day out.

Headed back to Riverside train platform, where I found I had just missed the train to Richmond. Had to wait another 30 minutes for the next one. It arrived, transported me to Richmond, and I proceeded to transfer to bus #68 which will hopefully take me to Hampton Court Palace, homeof Henry VIII (unfortunately, due to time limitations, I had to forego Kew Gardens).

What a magnificent place! Much more impressive than Windsor! The first thing I did was walk through the garden maze. I'm so good - I only got lost once... Next I walked through all the gardens - every gardener in the world should see these. They were so beautiful. I saw the Great Vine, which is the oldest grapevine in the world. It’s been in existence since the 1700’s. Henry VIII’s apartments were huge - I couldn’t believe it. I was walking on the same stone steps that he and his court used to walk on. Toured the Tudor kitchens, and the other apartments. I hated to leave - if I ever come back to England, I will definitely come here again.

I was so tired when I got back to the Cavendish that after washing out a few things I just fell into bed.

23 September 1996

I got up before the sun on Monday. I wanted to see Smithfield Market and I knew it opened at 5:00 a.m. London is very quiet at that hour, although there was some activity going on around the market.

It took me a few minutes to find the building, but when I walked in, I was awestruck. Row after row of hanging sides of beef, pork, and every variety of meat filled the aisles. Men walked up and downthe aisles wearing white coats stained with blood. It’s ironic that this was built on the site of a field used for executions. In fact, I found out that William Wallace of "Braveheart" fame was killed here. There was a tiny little restaurant open, so I stopped in for a cup of tea. The room was filled with men who all looked and sounded like Stanley Holloway in "My Fair Lady". When I asked for a "cuppa", the woman poured it out of a huge vat into a cup that already had milk in it.

Time to get my rental car, so I hurried to the tube, and was back at the Cavendish for breakfast. After settling up and getting my luggage, I grabbed a cab and made it to Lancaster Gate, where I was to pick up the car. It was a good thing I’d gotten there early, however, because I realized I’d left my voucher, showing I’d reserved the car, back at the B&B. So I had a quick trip back and forth again.

I finally had my car, a cute little red Micro, and proceeded to humiliate myself by locking my keys in the boot. The man from the rental agency had to climb in and show me how to open it from the inside. I gathered they don’t have extra keys. Probably wouldn’t have hurt to have an extra one made, but I thought I’d trust to luck. Finally on my way, slightly panicky at traversing the London roads, although the woman at Eurodollar had given me good directions, plus a map. I managed to find the A40, and from there the M40, without any mishaps and soon London was behind me. So I was on my way. I had thought about stopping in Oxford, but decided that I’d had enough of cities and I could use some country air. Plus I could hear the Cotswalds calling my name.

The country was so lovely - I felt like I had stepped back in time. My first stop was Great Tew (which I liked just for the name), which is a quaint little town that Helene Hanff had described in "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street". It consisted of about 10 to 15 thatched houses, along with a few shops. I stopped for a while and took a picture of one house that was having a new thatch put on - fascinating!

I finally tore myself away and drove on. It was heaven to get off the main highway and travel the backcountry roads. I couldn’t wait to turn another corner and see rolling hills, farmland, thatched houses and old churches, and of course, the fields filled with sheep.

I finally found Sezincote, which I had really wanted to see, but unfortunately it was closed. So I went on, and stopped at Stow-on-the-Wold and had lunch at "The Royalist Inn", the oldest inn in England (according to them), dating back to 947 AD. I had a cheese and tomato sandwich and a half-pint of bitter ale. I was somewhat disappointed in the town, as it was very touristy - although most of the larger towns seem to be. While I was eating my lunch, two American women came in and started finding fault with the menu. One woman kept moaning about the tea, and the other was upset because she couldn’t get a light beer like they have in the states. No wonder Americans get a bad name - although most people here seem to enjoy the fact that I’m from the US.

Next stop was Stratford-on-Avon, which I reached after many scenic detours. Very disappointing - the town is one gigantic tourist trap. I did enjoy Anne Hathaway’s cottage, which was quite picturesque. The guides were women who obviously enjoyed talking about Shakespeare and his wife. When my guide found out I was from the states, she couldn’t stop praising the US - she said that many historical areas in Britain are sustained through monetary donations from Americans.

Thought about spending the night in Stratford but decided to push on. On the way out of town, I spotted a sign for Warwick’s Castle. I remembered Lynn Redgrave telling me not to miss it, so I changed course and went on to Warwick.

What an incredible place! Huge and medieval, it has remained in the same family for hundreds of years. The first place I went was the dungeon. My flesh crawled to think of people being held down there. They showed me a tiny 2x2 room beneath an iron grill where prisoners were put to die. Old irons were set into the walls; a man’s punishment was to be chained until he died. I can only imagine the thoughts that must have gone through a person’s head as he was being measured for the iron.

After touring the rest of the medieval section of the castle, I walked through the staterooms, the chapel and the portion of the castle that was used in Victorian times. There was a special room that was used exclusively for the Prince of Wales when he visitedaround the turn of the century. One of the guards told me that the present Earl of Warwick’s father had sold the castle to the National Trust eighteen years ago. How sad he must have felt when he sold a property that belonged to his family for 800 years. Then I almost cried when I heard that the present Earl is a farmer in Australia. And probably much happier without worrying how to pay the castle’s electric bill, but still....

When I left Warwick, I started looking for a place to spend the night. I headed for Coventry, but about halfway there I spotted a town called Kenilworth, so I drove there. Had to pass through the town several times until I saw a B&B called Michael’s, fortunately with a parking lot. I went in to check, (it looked very "posh", so I wasn’t hopeful), but not only did they have a single, it was only L30. The owner led me to a wonderfully large bedroom decorated in pink and cream, complete with TV, and all the makings for tea. After settling in, I went downstairs to the restaurant for dinner. There I was treated like a queen. The waiter called me madam, held out my chair for me and made me feel like royalty. He was very nice and talked about Glasgow where he was from. The dinner was delicious, and served on a silver platter.

As I sat at the beautiful table covered with linen, sipping coffee out of fine china, and munching a piece of rich, dark chocolate torte, I was in heaven. I thought it would be perfect if only someone could share it with me. Traveling alone can be wonderful - but sometimes company would be nice.

24 September 1996

Next morning I had breakfast in the same pink and white dining room. Again, the decor was elegant - linen, fine china bowl filled with cornflakes, a pitcher of rich cream (has no one in thiscountry heard of cholesterol?), and curls of butter on a china plate. I had fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee, plus bacon and eggs. The eggs seem to be cooked the same way all over the country - over hard.

I left about 7:30 a.m. and headed towards Bakewell and the Peak district. I cannot get I left about 7:30 a.m. and headed towards Bakewell and the Peak district. I cannot get over how cars park in these small towns - in the middle of the road. Every town I’ve come to has a sign saying "Caution - vehicles parked in middle of road" - and they ARE! Other cars just dodge in and out.

I reached the village of Ashbourne and decided to stop for tea. This is rapidly getting to be my favorite meal - especially with scones and clotted cream. On the road again, the scenery started getting more and more attractive as I moved along - andthe villages were incredibly quaint. I found one by accident. Turned down a little unmarked road and happened upon a collection of incredibly old stone cottages in a village. I parked near the church and graveyard (no town is complete without one!) and took a walk through it. It’s called Tissington and is very tiny. One the left, as I was walking, I noticed an incredibly long building with a sign saying Tissington Hall - Private. The building looked very old and immense. About the size of a castle but without the height. This aroused my curiosity, so I walked to the only shop I could find (a local crafts shop) and asked the girl behind the counter for some history.

It turns out the hall belongs to Robert Fitzherbert, and has been in his family for over 500 years. Not only that, but he also owns the whole village. Each family pays rent to him for their dwelling. It’s only because he hasn’t sold out like so many other families, that the village has remained unchanged for so many years. The Fitzherbert family still occupies the Hall - I saw one man walking the grounds (don’t know if it was the owner or a caretaker) carrying a brace of pheasants in one hand and a rifle in the other. One interesting fact about the Fitzherberts - one of the women in the family had an affair with King George - they had 5 or 6 children while he was wedded to the Queen.

As I was walking back to my car, I met four people from Sheffield who stopped to chat. They were two older couples and were filled with questions about the US - the driving laws especially seemed to hold a fascination to them. One man thought that Ohio had all the cowboys...

I stopped again in Bakewell to get some tourist information, but also for more food. I bought a Cornish pastie and a Bakewell pudding tart for the road. The pastie was good and filling - somewhat spicy, but hot and delicious. And the pudding tart was manna from heaven! An incredible taste! The recipe was discovered by accident about 100 years ago when a servant put the egg filling on top of the strawberry jam instead of adding it in. Congratulations to the servant - it was pretty damn good.

After Bakewell, I decided to get off the main road and proceeded down an unnamed road. For the record, larger roads in Britain are lettered and numbered – smaller roads aren’t. The M roads are major motorways (similar to our expressways), the A roads are similar to our state routes, B roads are busier roads, and unnamed roads are obscure local roads. For a while, I didn’t see any cars at all. It was a very beautiful and peaceful drive - at one point I stopped a little bit before the Strines Inn and just stood there by the side of the road gaping at the scenery. All around me were hills covered with purple heather and gorse and green valleys as far as I could see. I felt like I’d stepped into a picture book. I was so glad I’d left the beaten path even if the driving is a little harrowing. The roads only hold one car comfortably, and anytime another one comes along, it’s every man for himself. Of course, playing chicken, I always lost - the British drivers generally seem to have nerves of steel, zooming along back mountain roads as if they were major expressways.

After awhile I came to an intersection and headed on a "A" road towards Haworth, hope of the Bronte family. I traveled through Halifax and Huddersfield, where I got lost. Stopped to ask directions of a young woman, and wound up giving her a ride into the city. Where she was waiting, there was a humorous sign outside an inn saying "Rather Large Car Park". The British are so definitive.

Made it to Haworth and saw where the Brontes lived, but decided to push on to Skipton to spend the night. Haworth is on a very high hill, and some of the houses stagger down - it reminds me of San Francisco but on a much smaller scale. When I left, I took a road that was supposed to take me aback to the main highway - ha! I kept driving and driving, up and down hills, and never getting anywhere. It was beautiful but made me feel soisolated. I finally stopped at a tiny store in the middle of nowhere and got directions - well, as much as I could understand of his broad Yorkshire accent. I did gather that I was going in the right direction. I had a slight delay at one point when Icame upon 6-7 sheep in the middle of the road. I tapped my horn and slowed down, hoping they’d get off the road. Instead they turned and started running down the road in front of me with their tails wagging vigorously behind them. A lovely sight! Finally, one of them, in the dim recesses of his brain, must have realized I wasn’t trying to run them down. He slowed down and wandered off the road with the others following him. So I was able to resume speed and get back to the business of being lost. When I finally came to a town called Colne, I almost cried. At last - something I could look at on a map! When I did, I realized that I had driven completely across one of the large, desolate moors.

So I made my way to Skipton, and when I got there, couldn’t find a place to stay. Got back in the car and drove to the next town called (get ready for this) Blubberhouse. Thank God that Blubberhouse had some nice rooms in the Hopping Lane Inn. I love this about England. Almost every rural pub has rooms for the night. What a way to end drunk driving!

That night I had a nice chicken dinner served with peas, new potatoes and cauliflower, along with a pint of bitter ale, which I’m rapidly becoming addicted to. Then a pleasant sleep.

25 September 1996

Next morning, I turned on the TV in my room as I was getting dressed, and lo and behold, on a morning show called "Good Morning, Britain", I spotted the man I’d met in London at the restaurant Pasta Brown’s in Covent Garden. He was the one who was in Scottish Parliament and was talking to the correspondent about the bid for Scottish Independence.

Went in for breakfast, and had my first breakfast in Yorkshire which consisted of: two slices of fried bread, two fried tomato slices, two pieces of bacon, grilledmushrooms, baked beans, one fried egg (over hard), one piece link sausage and black pudding. And here’s my commentary on that: fried bread tastes exactly like it sounds like; eggs and bacon were fine, grilled mushrooms great, link sausage was very mealy (and I found this to be the case all over England), and black pudding (which is made with blood) should be outlawed. UGH is the only way I can describe it.

Got back in the car and headed for Fountains Abbey outside Ripon. I got there about 9 a.m., and found they don’t open till ten. However, they were kind enough to let me in early. I bought a guide and walked down a lovely path through forested areas, then turning to pasture. At one point, I passed through a gate into a meadow filled with sheep. Wejust stared at each other as I walked along. I also saw hundreds of pheasants scurrying along the ground. I felt like I was the only person on earth.

The walk to the Abbey was about a half mile - near the end, I turned a corner and wound up gazing into a beautiful, green valley. Sitting dead center were the ruins of the 12th century abbey. As I walked down to see it, I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was here. The only sound were pheasants brushing through bushes, and birds chirping. As I put my feet on the stone steps, it felt awe-inspiring to be able to walk the same steps that these twelfth-century Cistercian monks walked.

I then continued on past the Abbey towards the water gardens. More exquisite scenery - grass so green it seemed artificial, and mirrored pools of water mixed with Greek style rotundas and marble statues. I got to the end near the deer park, and bought a National Trust membership. Any group that can keep a place like this going deserves all the help it can get. In the gift shop, I chatted with the sales clerk and a couple from Baltimore, telling them about my breakfast. The sales clerk then informed me that she also hated black pudding.

Onward to York! Everyone had been telling me not to miss it - and they were right. Everything was there - from 2000 year old Roman Bath remains to medieval walls and fortresses. Unfortunately York Minster, the cathedral, was encased in scaffolding, but it didn’t prevent me from seeing the grandeur of it. The city is so incredibly old - I’m getting to the point where I automatically pass up anything that isn’t at least 500 years old. I’m becoming such a historical snob...

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay too long in York, as I wanted to get to Whitby before 6 - and I still had Castle Howard to see, which was about an hour away. Castle Howard is something like the Disneyland of castles - all fantasy with a touch of realism. But what a setup! Turning off the main road, I followed a long drive to a high stone arch. After passing through several of these arches, I finally arrived.

The castle is very touristy - lots of gift shops and welcome maps that proclaim "Castle Howard!", but it’s still absolutely magnificent and huge. I found out it was used as the mansion in the PBS series "Brideshead Revisited". I visited the gardens first - complete with topiary and a maze - and the inevitable pheasants and peacocks running throughout. Inside the castle (which has been owned by the Howard family since it was built in the early 1700’s) isa collection of Roman art, dating from the first to the third century. Evidently the second earl to live there went on a world tour and fell in love with Roman art - so he collected masses of it. The work exhibited there is exquisite. I then traveled throughout the castle, gaping at ornate halls and massive curving marble staircases. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to live here.

After I left I was beginning to get worried about finding a room in Whitby, since it was getting on towards late afternoon, so I decided to stop at the Tourist Info Center in Malton, and use their "Book-a-Bed-Ahead" service. The woman in charge was extremely nice. While she was making the arrangements for my bed in Whitby, she started talking about a visit shemade to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches from WWII. Evidently one of the villages had a carved figure placed on a church roof, in honor of an American who, after parachuting down, was caught amidst the bells of the church. He had to lie there the whole time the Nazis came by on patrol, and finally managed to get down and escape, but was deaf for the rest of his life from the bells.

There is a booking agency; Milestone Tours that specializes in tours of famous WWI and II sites. Must remember to tell Chris and Michael. I think they’d be interested. Anyway, she found a single in Whitby for 14 pounds. After a few wrong turns (I’m getting better all the time!) I made my way out of Malton towards Whitby. After driving for about 15 minutes, I suddenly came upon several hikers making their way up from the moors. I stopped to look, and came upon a breathtaking panorama of the moors encased in a deep valley of purples and greens.

One thing I’ve notice is how many more people walk over here. I spot hikers all the time - in fact, England has a law protecting the hiker’s right of way through private lands. Walkers are welcome anywhere they go. Even older people - during the day, a lot of the hikers I spotted were in their 60’s and 70’s.

My room at the Prospect Villa in Whitby was very cute and charming. Pink sprigged wallpaper and an old carved wooden bed. I decided to take a walk and check out the town. The old part was wonderful with very narrow, winding cobblestone streets. Eventually I found myself walking up the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey, an old monastery built in the 6th century and now in ruins. Caedman, the first English poet, lived here, and, according to local legend, the ruins were the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s "Dracula". As I stood at the top, I could look for miles out to sea. With all the colorful fishing boats lining the harbor set against the backdrop of this quaint fishing village, it made for a very picturesque view.

I was pottering around in an old cemetery nearby when Imet an older gentleman who came up and started a conversation. His wife of 55 years had just died ten months before, and he seemed very lonely. He had very strong opinions, however, on various subjects - some of the items we covered included royalty, child raising, and celibacy among the clergy (not sure how that one got in!). A very interesting person - he wound up giving me a lift back into town, which turned into a rather hair-raising ride as he started talking about his heart condition while he was careening around curves.

He dropped me off in the middle of town where I stopped and had a pint of bitter with fish and chips. The fish was absolutely delicious (well, yes, I’m staying in a town by the sea). Very flaky and good and HUGE! I could not finish it. It came with french fries (but no ketchup), vinegar, and a plate of buttered bread.

And of course I had dessert - something I’d been dying to try since I saw someone eating it one a British sitcom. Sticky toffee pudding is the most wonderfully sweet dessert I’ve had in a long time. It’s good I’m doing so much walking, because I’m certainly not watching the calories. But hey, I’m on vacation!

After arriving back at the B&B, I met four other residents - a couple from Leicester, and another from Blackpool. One of the men bought me a pint (this B&B has a license to serve alcohol), and I chatted with them for about an hour in the lounge before turning in.

26 September 1996

Next morning at breakfast, I decided to bypass the black pudding (along with the baked beans - I like beans but not for breakfast). Tried the sausage again, but I just don’t like it - too mealy.

Back on the road again - this time headed for Alnwick. By this time, I had decided I wouldn’t be able to get to Scotland - very disappointing but I just don’t have enough time to do it justice. I’ll have to save it for another trip. So I drove up the A1 to Alnwick, leaving the moors behind me with regret. At this time of the morning, their beauty is incomparable.

Alnwick was another castle town, which I briefly saw, along with the Cross Inn. This is the inn that has an arrangement of dirty bottles in the window that has sat there for over 150 years. Legend has it if they are ever moved catastrophe will strike.

It was starting to rain and becoming very gloomy, so I got in my little Micro to head for Carlisle and Northumbria. What gorgeous country! Craggy hills interspersed with green valleys, sheep, and the occasional burst of heather. I stopped along the way at Wallington House, a majestic manor with a collection of art and a beautiful garden. It also had a particularly interesting dollhouse collection. The National Trust owns Wallington. It’s hard not to respect this wonderful organization. They buy properties from owners who can no longer afford to keep them up, and then restore them so that the public can enjoy them always. One of the guides informed me that a daughter still lives here in private quarters with a life interest, but once she dies, the entire property reverts to the National Trust.

Driving towards the west, all of a sudden I spotted a low brick wall with a placard in front of it. Sure enough, it was Hadrian’s Wall. It took my breath away (not to mention the breath of the driver behind me when Islammed on my brakes!). Poor guy - British drivers are probably spreading word of my driving all over England.

But I had to stop and see it. It’s hard to imagine this wall standing here for two thousand years. Well, not all of it, though. Evidently, bit’s and pieces of it are in farmer’s houses and barns all over the area. It must have been convenient for them - a ready supply of stone at hand.

So that’s what I did the whole way to Carlisle - stopped and pulled over to look at Hadrian’s Wall. I couldn’t get enough of it. Once in Carlisle, I stopped at the TIC where I received a booklet listing accommodations. I made it just in time - they were getting ready to close. (I really hate driving in cities - it’s impossible to park conveniently). SoI found a phone booth and proceeded to call for a room. I keep forgetting that pay phones in England make you pay 10p by the minute - even for local calls. I was constantly getting disconnected - the beeps would start and only then would I start frantically searching for pence.

But I managed to find a room in a lovely red brick Victorian house in the center of town. A nice young married couple who are expecting in about 2 months owned it. The room is wonderfully quaint and charming - lots of dark wood and white eyelet lace - and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in - including my own. Strolled around the city for awhile - however not much was open in the evening, so I had to settle for Pizza Hut for dinner. The pizza tasted the same - just the names are a little different. A cheese pizza is called a "margarita" - a cheese and tomato pizza.

27 September 1996

Next morning I got up early to take a walk to the cathedral in Carlisle. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful Catholic cathedral and was built in the 12th century. The interior was filled with many old tombs surrounded by ornate gold trim and huge stained glass windows. On the way back I walked in the direction of Carlisle Castle just to see the outside of it. It looks like a huge fortress - unfortunately it was closed. I wish the United States had buildings like this. But I guess if they did there would be no reason to travel to other countries to see them.

So now I begin the long drive to Wales. I traveled first through the Lake District, which is incredibly lovely. (By this time, I’m starting to feel like a walking superlative!). I took a break in the town of Keswick, where I bought Mike and Michele a hand-made teapot at "The Teapottery".

Soon I was heading through Ambleside and Windermere - two very pretty but heavily touristed towns in the Lake District. They both sit right on Lake Windermere. On my next trip, I’d love to spend some time in this area and do some hiking. I feel like I’m not really getting a good look at some areas - one of the drawbacks of trying to see everything in too short a time. But at least I’m getting a look - and I definitely will be back. I have fallen in love with this country.

After passing through the lakes, I hit the heavy industrial areas - Liverpool, Blackpool, and Manchester. By this time I was on the M6, so I just pressed down on the gas, and tried to get through all that as quickly as possible.

Finally made it to North Wales where my first stop was Llandudno, a very clean city with a beautiful bay right on the ocean. Found the tourist center, and got them to book a bed for me in Porthmadog, which was about an hour and a half away. Started the drive down going through the Snowdonia mountain range. The scenery just keeps getting more and more breathtaking, plus it was a gorgeous, sunny day! I was in heaven - the weather has been extremely good to me. The only day it’s rained has been the first day in London. The mountains here seem higher than the ones I’ve seen in England - and the grass and pastures seem greener. It’s amazing to me how history is all around you here. I was driving along, when off to the right I spotted a castle. It was called Dolwyddelan and was built in 1240. And it was just sitting there in the countryside like an old cow barn.

Arrived in Porthmadog, but had a little trouble finding the B&B. The British have a strange way of numbering houses. They don’t always follow numerical order, as we know it. Consequently, I became very familiar with this particular suburb as I drove down every single street looking for the house. I eventually stopped two young women and asked for directions. As I came up to them, I realized that they were speaking Welsh. It is a very lyrical language - I’ve been listening to it on the Welsh National Radio station.

The B&B is a home owned by a retired couple - very friendly. They were serving tea and invited me and two other guests from New Zealand to join them. We all sat around and chatted for awhile. The owners were veryproud of the fact that they had been to the states six times - each time to Florida! The couple from New Zealand had stopped in Malaysia first to visit her parents. They are in the UK for one month, another month traveling in Europe, then back to Malaysia for two months. It must be wonderful to have so much time to travel.

I have to stop for a minute to note some interesting things about the British living quarters. First, the outlets are 240V, but each outlet has a little switch on it that you have to turn on so the electricity can flow. It took me awhile to figure that one out! The sinks and tubs all have rubber stoppers - no metal levers like we have to stop the flow. Not too many places have central heating - it’s mostly room heaters - of course their climate is more temperate than ours. Most rooms with ceiling lights require pulling a chain by the door to turn on. There’s several ways to flush toilets - push a button on top of the tank, or pull the chain that is connected to an overhead tank. Everyone over here drinks tea - and they all have electric teakettles. I almost bought one for myself, till I realized that the plug and voltage were different.

28 September 1996

This morning I decided to head for Portmeiron Village - a fantasyvillage on the West Coast of Wales. I was the only one there, so I had the village to myself. And it was such fun! A lovely, colorful Italianette village designed by an architect who loved fantasy. The town has steps that taper off to nothing; there are huge Grecian statues in the middle of a street, and wonderful towering strange topiary. During the 1920’s, George Bernard Shaw used to come here and stay in the resort hotel nearby, and Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit here. They also sell the beautiful Portmeiron pottery here, which I have seen in the states.

After leaving, I was once again driving through the beautiful Welsh countryside. I passed an interesting ruin called Harlech Castle, but it was unfortunately closed. I still can’t get over thenumber of castles around - they are literally on every corner.

I just meandered around the country for awhile, stopping for tea in Rhayader. When I was leaving, I accidentally got in the wrong lane, facing oncoming traffic. I quickly moved to the correct lane, then proceeded to turn left at the corner, noticing a man watching me from the corner. When he saw me start to turn left towards him, he took off like a bat out of hell, evidently thinking I was either a lunatic or was driving with one too manypints in me – or both! I laughed for the next couple of minutes – especially when I remembered the look of terror on his face.

Finally arrived in Chepstow and stopped at the Tourist Info Center to book a B&B in Bath, my next stop. On leaving, I was horrified when I realized I would have to cross the highest bridge I’ve ever seen. With my fear of heights, it was a nightmare come to life. But I made it over safe and sound and continued on my way to Bath.

Trying to find my B&B, however, took some doing. I drove down every street in Bath, trying vainly to follow the directions and street signs. I was totally lost, though. Finally, a kind soul directed me to a nearby street that he said would take me there. So when I arrived, I was exhausted. But I did manage to walk down to a local pub for a dinner of steak and Guinness pie. I had some interesting conversations with several of the locals before getting back to the B&B. I proceeded to wash out a few things, fix a cup of tea, and watch a rerun of ERon BBC4.

29 September 1996

Woke up the next morning and had breakfast with beans again! I keep forgetting to ask them to leave them off. Before I ate I stole a look at the kitchen – noticed that most refrigerators over here are about half the size of the ones back home. And everyone seems to keep the washer and dryer in the kitchen.

While eating, I started talking with a young couple from Warrington near Manchester. We were discussing the British driving habits, and they told me of their experiences in Rome. Not only did they get 3 traffic tickets in one day; they had their car towed to boot. Sounds like a harrowing experience to me, but they seemed to take it all in stride.

After breakfast, I checked out and went to find a place to leavemy car while I toured Bath. Not too much later, I was wandering through this stately town while a slight drizzle fell. The first stop was at the Roman Baths and the Pump Room. I have wanted to see this place ever since reading Jane Austin and GeorgetteHeyer. The Pump Room was absolutely exquisite, but the Roman Baths took my breath away. I just couldn’t believe how old it was, and how many historical pieces were on view. When I first went in, I was given an audio tour in the form of what looks like a cellular phone. You punch in the number that’s listed next to an exhibit, and it plays back a description and history. We all looked like bankers from Wall Street hugging portable phones to our ears.

After that I stopped for tea next to the house that Sally Lunn lived in, and proceeded to the Assembly Rooms. I also stopped and viewed the costume exhibit that’s on display – although I prefer the Victoria and Albert’s. Again I started off with the cellular phone audio tour, but I got too distracted and so I left it behind.

After a few more stops, I headed back for my car. And of course I couldn’t find it… I thought I had been so careful in checking landmarks. Eventually after wandering around in circles, a man helped me pin down the area. So I made it out and on the road to Salisbury.

I was so glad I stopped here – what an absolutely breathtaking cathedral! It was a very quiet time of day without too many tourists around so I was able to tour at my leisure. I saw many old tombs – plus a display of ancient banners that had been carried out to battle. The oldest of these was over 500 years old. Next I wandered into the Charter House and saw one of the four remaining Magna Carta documents. To think that I’m looking at a document that was signed by King John in the 13th century. In another section, I spotted a book written by John Graunt who is a character in a play I’m designing for U.D. The book was a tally of plague victims in England in the 16th century.

After spending a few moments in the gift shop, I headed back to my car, then grabbed a sandwich at Burger King to eat on the way to Stonehenge. First, though, I had to maneuver my way out of Salisbury onto the right road (Amesbury) which took a minor miracle and a good bit of time.

Once I got on the road, however, it was a very pleasant drive. I was peacefully gazing at the scenery when Stonehenge appeared out of nowhere. I was so surprised I almost ran into a ditch! It’s almost a shame to have it this accessible. The impressive majesty of the stones are almost spoiled by the constant passing of cars on the road. I parked across the road and walked up, deciding to forego the admissions fee of 3 pounds.20 since I could get almost as close as everyone else, and didn’t really needthe background info they were giving on the pseudo cellular phones. I just stood and looked at it for a while. I would have liked to see one of the Druid ceremonies that some people still hold close to Stonehenge, but I had to content myself with imagining what used to happen here centuries ago.

Back on the road again, I couldn’t decide if I should stop at Winchester Cathedral – however I was getting worried about the time, and I still needed to find a place to sleep – so I moved on. That meant getting off the A303 and on to the A30, a nice highway that connects a lot of the smaller towns outside London.

Nearing London, I spotted a pub called "The Queens" that advertised itself as a B&B, and was only 20 pounds for a room upstairs the pub with 3 beds in it. I told the barmaid that I’d be leaving early, around 6 a.m., so I wouldn’t need breakfast.

On closer examination, the room didn’t seem too clean, but I was tired, and it was only one night. However I didn’t reckon on the loud music coming from the pub below. Finally got to sleep, but it took time and a couple of Tylenol PM’s to do it.

30 September 1996

So next morning I woke up at 5:45 a.m., showered and dressed, packed up my stuff and prepared to hit the roads. Walked downstairs to leave and SURPRISE!!! I’m locked in! The doors over here don’t have deadbolts or anything like that. They all have locks that must be opened with keys – and I don’t have one! I started to panic, especially after seeing a notice posted that there is a large Rottweiler parading the building.

I tried several doors, but they all lead to the one main door that is locked. Spotted a board with keys on it and frantically tried them all, but to no avail. After throwing them on the floor, I turned and spotted awindow in the kitchen. YES!! One small problem – I’d have to step out onto a dumpster. But that’s ok, since at that moment, I hear far off dog rumblings coming closer, and near my feet is a bowl filled with dog food, obviously a sign that this room is accessible. Before I climb out the window, a feat guaranteed to take a few minutes since it was obviously NOT designed for easy access, I rush over to lock the two doors coming into the kitchen. One has no lock, however, which stumps me for a minute. But wait – let me set this very small fire extinguisher that wouldn’t stop a french poodle in front of it – that will hold off the very large Rottweiler who’s sniffing on the other side. I made a run for the window, throwing my bag out over the dumpster, then tried to heave my body out over the same spot. Finally with a bit of maneuvering and straining, I get halfway out – I really don’t want to have to step into the dumpster, but at this point, it’s a distinct possibility. However I made it out with very little garbage attached to me. Cursing the inn, I left it for the heavenly sounds of London rush hour.

And it was some rush hour – not only did I have cars to deal with, but trying to follow a map is impossible. Streets end suddenly, or turn left, or change names and you have no idea of where you are and why you can’t turn right like the map indicates. But I finally got the car turned in to Eurodollar after first dropping of my luggage at the B&B, and I decided to go shopping at Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Both stores are incredible and lush and amazing to look at, but horrendously overpriced. And my senses were being thrown into overkill from all the wares, so I decided to head for the British Museum.

First stop was the Museum Tavern across the street, where I had a ploughman’s lunch (delicious and cheap) with a pint of ale. Sat next to an older couple from north London, and had a wonderful conversation with them. After that I bought a wool sweater from Westaway and Westaway for Katie, then went to the British Museum. And talk about overkill… it was the most enthralling museum I’ve ever been in. Every relic in the world seemed to be here. I saw the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon, tons of Egyptian mummies including "Ginger", a man perfectly preserved from the year 3400 BC. There was also the Lindall man, a prehistoric man found preserved in a peat bog in Britain.

There also have the Sutton Hoo treasure, the Rosetta stone and countless other treasures – plus two original copies of the Magna Carta. I saw documents written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Daniel Defoe, the Brontes, Jane Austin, Jonathan Swift, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Ben Jonson, et al. It was truly amazing. I could have stayed there for weeks and not seen everything. And the best thing is that it’s free – it’s totally subsidized by the British government.

After that I went to the National Gallery and visited some famous paintings – lots of Rembrandts. I also tried to get to Sir John Sloane’s museum, but it was closed on Monday. Very disappointing – I’d been looking forward to it.

So I headed back to the Café in the Crypt of St. Martin in the Fields Church (I love this place!) and had a bowl of bread pudding with custard sauce, a bottle of sparking mineral water and sat around and read the tombs on the floor. It was raining by then, so I headed back to Gower St. and started packing up for my departure in two days.

1 October 1996

Next morning was a beautiful day, so I decided to head for an Original London Walk after breakfast. I started down Gower and veered towards Fleet Street where I stopped at Twinings Tea Shop. It was here that disaster struck. I discovered my money belt had disappeared! It contained everything – my passport, credit cards, driver’s license, money, etc. I retraced my steps with no luck, reported the loss to the police, cried a lot, and in general, spent the day traveling back and forth between the American Embassy and the American Express offices, trying to replace my passport and get some money. It was doubly hard because I had NO identification. Luckily, I had photocopied the identification page of my passport, which helped me at the Embassy.

Finally, by 4:30 p.m. I had a new passport and $300 from American Express. I didn’t want to end myvacation on a bad note, and since I was starving, I decided to go and have a nice dinner. I found a great restaurant on Old Compton St. in Soho called the Stockpot where I proceeded to plow through chicken, vegetables, apple crumble in custard, and a half bottle of red wine.

Feeling nicely intoxicated by this time, I walked up to 84 Charing Cross Road, the site of Marks and Co. It was very sad – I saw a gold plate that said that Marks and Co. used to be here and it mentioned Helene Hanff’s book, but the store is empty and there’s a large "To Let" sign in the window.

From here I took the Leicester Square tube to the Temple station where I was to start the Original London Walk – "Pubs in Old London Town". I had a wonderful time. The guide, Douglas, was perfect – very informative and witty. He took us down some old dark historic alleys that I would never have found. We started off at the Deveraux Arms, then went to Ye Old Cheddar Cheese Pub, the Cartoonist, and another whose name I can’t remember. We were told wonderful stories of historic figures of London like Samuel Johnson, Queen Elizabeth I, and so on.

At the first pub I struck up a conversation with a man sitting there by himself who lived in Wimbledon. He was very nice and friendly, and told me lots about day to day living in England. I also had some interesting talks with others on the tour– there were two women from Germany, a man from Jerusalem, a couple from British Columbia and 5 pilots from Vancouver.

After the first pub I switched to half-pints since I didn’t want to get too drunk, but by the time I left I was definitely feeling my liquor. I was supposed to be at the Tower of London for the Ceremony of the Keys by 9:35 p.m. and had to grab a cab to make it on time. And when I got there, I had to pee so bad that I asked one of the Beefeaters where I could go. He was so nice - he took me to one of their apartments so I could use the toilet. I found out that to be a Beefeater, you have to have been in HM service for 22 years with good conduct.

I don’t think I will ever see anything as momentous as the Ceremony of the Keys. It has been going on continuously since 1322 – every single night for over six hundred years! It was a very reverent and moving spectacle – all the more so since there were only 70 people allowed in each night. I was so glad I came – and especially on my last night in London. What a way to end a holiday…it made me appreciate everything I’d seen all the more.

After that, I took the tube back home and went to bed.

2 October 1996

This morning I got up early, ate breakfast one last time, and checked out after a few good-byes to the staff. I caught a cab to Victoria Station and grabbed the first train to Gatwick. The process of checking in, showing my passport, and innumerable other procedures, seemed to take forever. But I finally boarded, and got settled in. I found out that a friend of mine is working this flight, so we chatted quite a bit back in the galley.

My British holiday is at an end – however, I’m glad to be home. Besides, now I can start planning the next one!

Note: I found out the day after I got home that a student had found my money belt and turned it into the police with everything intact. They sent it to me that same week.