I woke up early to pack and get ready for my trip to London. I caught the subway to Gare de L’Est to pick up things I had in a locker. I ate some breakfast at a street café across the street from the train station. I grabbed all the stuff I had in the lockers and caught the subway to Gare de Nord, the train station I will be leaving Paris from. Since my Eurail Pass will get me only to the coast, I had to buy a ticket from Calais to London. The ticket included the ferry ride from Calais to Dover, England, then train to London.
As the train left the city I watched the rolling green hillsides that were filled flowers. I tried to imagine what this area looked like after D-Day. Very beautiful part of the world. The train ride was about four hours.
I boarded the ferry to cross the English Channel. Since I bought the most in-expensive ticket, I had to stay outside, fortunately this was a beautiful day. There were benches on the topside so I found a spot to spend the hour and half ride across the channel. Once we left port I started to fill out the paperwork for entering England. As I was filling out the paperwork, I noticed that there were two young ladies about my age on the bench across from me. One asked the other, “Are we British or English?” The second young lady pulled out her passport and said “British, it says Great Britain here on the passport.”
The seas were choppy and the water not as beautiful as the Mediterranean, but it was closer to home. Before I knew it I could see the white cliffs of Dover. Really cool looking!
After going through customs, I boarded the train to London. This last leg of today’s trip will be about three hours.
Once we arrived in London, I found a hotel not too far from the train station. Really nice to hear English everywhere I go, it has been a long time. After checking in to the hotel I went out to find a movie to watch. I love going to the theater to see a movie and I have not seen one in a long time. I saw ‘Goodbye Girl’. The movie theaters in London are old and ornate. Really cool atmosphere to watch a movie.
The next morning I took the train to Gatwick Airport to present my standby ticket to confirm my flight for next available seat. Once I signed up, then I show up hoping to get on a flight if someone cancels. I went back to London and once I got to Victoria Station, I took the subway to Oxford Circus section of London where there are some theaters. I saw “Battle Star Galactica” The theater was big and ornate and I think there were five people including me there. It so much fun to watch a movies again. After the movie, I just walked around London in the rain and fog. I never got to hear Big Ben since it was down for maintenance. Walking around I saw the Guards, Parliament and 10 Downing Street. I caught the subway to Tottingham Circle and found a pizza place for dinner.
I did not take any pictures since Paris since I was out of film and the meter no longer worked in my camera. At the time, I did not know a simple battery change would have gotten the meter to work again. I did not buy more film since I thought the camera was done for. Through this trip and before, my camera has taken a beating so I thought it was at end of life.
This is where I stopped writing in my journal so the rest is from memory.
The next day would be my last full day in London, or Europe for that matter. I went to see the movie “The Deer Hunter”. It is a very sobering film. I went to Gatwick in hopes of catching a flight home that afternoon, but there were no cancellations. Fortunately the hotel worked with me in that I was able to check out but held my room for 24 hours in case I did not get a flight home. My next chance for a flight is the next morning.
I got up early and the weather was nice and sunny. I got to the airport and grabbed a quick breakfast and made my way to the gate where I may be able to get a flight home. After everyone boarded, there was about 10 minutes of waiting until the counter person started calling names of those registered as standby. My name was called first! Since I was standby, I had to keep all I owned with me and had to put my backpack in an overhead bin. I finally found an empty place but it was not near my seat. I actually got a window seat on the port side of the 747. As we lifted off the runway, I knew I was finally on my way home. Next stop, New York City, then connect to Houston. I was in Europe for exactly 100 days.
As I reflect back after all these years on this adventure, I am amazed at what all I went through and how God watched over me. I was 20 years old at the time and the world was an innocent place to me.
When I was preparing to leave for this trip, my Dad gave me a book to journal my adventure. I was consistent to write down everything I did each day. The only problem in reading through that journal today is I wrote like a 20 year old with the way we talked in 1979. If anyone else read this journal, most of it would not make any sense. When I read it, the words on the page did not tell the story but triggered the memory of each day and this is how I was able to write about the events. I had wanted to do this for several years, I even started a few years ago, so in the years to come my kids can understand what I went through. Posting them here gave me the incentive I needed to continue to completion. I appreciate all the encouragement and the patience of all of you who see these, whether you read them all or not.
I went on this trip to figure out me, and how to deal with losing friends to accidents the year before. In 1978, I lost five friends to various kinds of accidents and I began to wonder when my time was. I also went to find direction in my life. At L’Abri I found comfort in learning more about how God interacts in our lives and how to live by faith. Today I still live by those principles and pray every morning that others will see God in my life in the way I live. Most times I fail, but I to strive to continue the walk.
A few years ago my daughter Allison who apparently has my passion for adventure, announced that she wanted to go to Japan. She went with a missionary group and was there for a few weeks. A couple of years later, she had a chance to go as a student with Baylor for a summer of learning and traveling across Japan. I recall sitting in a restaurant with her when she told me about her plans to go back to Japan. I mentioned that I was 20 years old, same age she was at the time, when I went on my adventure. I encouraged her to journal her adventure. I don’t know if she did or not. I hope she did.
I have not been out of the United States since this adventure except to the Caribbean. Someday I would love to go back to visit some of these places. I would love to go back to Florence to spend some time there exploring the old city. Maybe someday I will do that. I would love to take Jennifer to Swiss L’Abri, not as a student but as a visitor.