London

The ferry from St. Malo to Portsmouth was not fancy but it got us there after 10 long hours. Going past the Isle of Man was special for me because I had heard of this tiny island in crossword puzzles and always thought what a funny name it was for an island. So now I had seen it with my own eyes.

In Portsmouth, we stayed at the Y and were shocked at the bedding in our assigned room. There were 7 beds in this room and no other guests in it, so we had our choice of beds. The first had obviously been slept in, so I checked out another. This one looked made up more smartly, but when I pulled back the covers I saw that the sheets were less than clean. The third one shocked me. Dark curly hairs were entwined in the weave of the sheets. I expected to see crawlers next. By this time I was quite dismayed. Finally we chose the least dirty, least slept-in beds and slept on top of the bedding using our clothing as blankets. I didn’t sleep much.

In the morning, we sat down to the breakfast that came with the price of the room. Beans, coffee, and toast that was drenched in bacon grease. We were happy to get out of there as our taxi whisked us to the station where we caught the train to London in the nick of time.

At Victoria Station, we checked our luggage in a locker. Free of our burdens, we set off for a day of sightseeing in London.

Our first sight of a bobby called for photo time. The poor man was caught unawares, scratching his ear. When he realized we had snapped his picture, he turned a bit red, but shrugged good-naturedly as we smiled our thanks.

img059Nearby, at Charing Cross Station, I stopped in mid-stride and grabbed my husband’s arm.

“That’s GOT to be the same guy that was here five years ago when I was here with my sister. I remember his big nose.”

“Well, go ask him, and maybe we can get a photo.”

I approached the man and said, “Were you here selling flowers five years ago? Because I think I remember you from when I was here with my sister.”

“Unless I was sick that day, that would’ve been me. This is my spot. Who else would it be?”

And so it was that he agreed to have his picture taken with me. He was a very nice man.

img153From there we visited Trafalgar Square and saw the statue of King George IV on his horse. Admiral Nelson was nearby guarded by four lion statues.

img053But the highlight of Trafalgar Square is the huge flock of pigeons that are so used to people that they don’t mind perching on them. One woman (I didn’t get her photo) stood with her arms stretched out and had pigeons sitting on the whole length of her arms as well as on her head and shoulders. My first thought was where will she go to change her clothes which were bound to be full of bird droppings.

img055The old-fashioned look of new taxis surprised me.

img028And of course, thinking of Joni Mitchell, we had to go for a ride in “one of those double-decker buses” and sure enough, “there was no driver on the top.”

img054From Victoria Station to Buckingham Palace, we saw the huge gap in wealth and lifestyle. This man kept lifting a brown paper bag to his lips. It was heartbreaking to see him.

img155On the other end of the spectrum, some very important people were arriving at Buckingham Palace by horse-drawn carriage, with a mounted escort in front and behind.

img024 img025 img026 img027When we’d had our fill of culture for the day, we took the train to Gatwick Airport and took the new “Skytrain” (Laker Airlines) to New York for only $120 each. Skytrain made its first London-to-New York flight 16 days earlier. We thought it would be like a freight run judging by the price, but we just wanted to get across the pond. What a surprise we had. The service, food, and comfort level were all top quality – a wonderful flight. It was no wonder though, that sadly, they went bankrupt soon afterwards when the economy took a dive in 1980.

The trip continues from New York next time.

29 thoughts on “London

    • I think that was the worst of the sleeping arrangements in the whole five months we were away from home. Even sleeping on an airport bench was better than the Y in Portsmouth. I would hope that they’ve cleaned up the place now. That was a long time ago. But I’m not anxious to stay at another Y ever again. That was my first time at a Y and most likely my last.

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  1. I am getting exhausted just reading about all these travels! It’s a good thing you two were so much younger then and able to deal with the schedule! Go go go…whew…

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  2. I think your description here is more or less all correct. Except, Laker Air Line was bankrupted not
    because of economical down turn but the dirty destruction deployed by BA such as smear campaign
    to steal customer’s name lists. (All exposed and admitted by them during the Court trial.)
    Dirty is the second name of the “English gentleman” as dirty as that bed. (Though, I guess you took
    the cheapest, if it was the same price to a Breakfast. —– The B/B I took first night in London on ’74
    costed me 10 times of the meal. And I guess the one you took was a shared room as the number
    of the beds indicates.)

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    • I didn’t know that about why Laker went belly up. I found the date on Wikipedia and they said economic downturn, but there are always two sides to every story, right? And dirty beds – well, I suppose you can find that anywhere, especially in a Y. It wasn’t a B&B, but more of a flophouse. It was late by the time we got off the ferry and we just asked the taxi driver to take us to the Y, for lack of knowing about anything else. I bet it’s much cleaner now.

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      • Economical downturn hit BA more (naturally low cost can survive) and cornered BA took “any mean”.
        If Wiki said otherwise, the author (with his “patriotic consideration” 😀 ) was trying yet another cover-up !
        —– I’m not familiar with the condition of Y in this country. Any how, I understood, that’s why they ask
        the member to have their own “Hostel Sheets” 😉

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    • I imagine that a decent hotel in London would be very expensive. When you’re only staying a short time you put up with things you otherwise might not. I’m glad I’ve stirred up the travel bug in you though.

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  3. The first thing I noticed..blue Sky in almost all the photos. What a treat for the local folks. What a lovely surprise to revisit the flower man..I see you did sneak in a little pix of G.

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  4. I really am enjoying your trip, and I see we had a good hair day and a face was not painted out… the Y sounded terrible, and the flight sounded cheap, but as you say did not last long… well look forward to the next bit of our tour…

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  5. Oh so wonderful, joyous, life. This is lovely. Photos are brilliant. I’m really not sure I myself would remember a flower seller from 5 years previous – you’re amazing!

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  6. Glad to see you’ve got your head on your shoulders again :). And I have “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins in my head now. It’s so enjoyable to tour vicariously… And not have to brave those accommodations!

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