Monday, 17 April 1978
The Belgium Atomium
Optional tour (£3.50) around Brussells. Atomium (1958 World Fair) viewed from distance. Past Chinese temple transferred from American World Fair 1900 to here. Used as a museum but not open on Mondays. Very ornate carved woodwork. Past embassies and other large buildings. Building for Courts of Justice very church-like. New Common Market building of glass. St Michael’s Cathedral – beautiful stained glass windows of 1537, 1568. Done in a process that used oil colours. Much lighter – very big. Very ornate carved wooden pulpit depicting Adam and Eve scene running from the Garden of Eden.
Special Square that is surrounded by old middle age buildings put up by the various guilds. Bus parked and we walked back. Very cold and cloudy.
Three course meal back at restaurant at 12.00. Salad, pork chop and veg and two rings of pineapple. Left at 1.15.
Travelled along motorway to German border through picturesque farming lands. Neat paddocks fully cultivated to the road edges. Very tidy houses and yards. Brownish bricks and dark roofs.
At border an official walked along the bus just to see that we had a passport. A bank and self service food shop were alongside. (£1 = 58 Bfr / £1 = 3.7 DM [Deutsche Mark])
Continued along motorway. By-passed Cologne (Koln). Turned off to travel through Bonn (West German capital). Followed the Rhine down for many miles. Occasional castles on hills. many barges, some heavily laden to the waterline. Many fine views of the river and the steep hills on the far side which are cultivated to grow grapes. Stayed at a hotel 7km out of Koblenz. Hotel is right on the river’s edge.
Castles on the Rhine
Another castle on the Rhine
Soup, steak and kidney and vegies, yoghurt.
In all the hotels you have to pay extra for drinks, tea or coffee. Tea and coffee served in china teapots (6 DM).
Sunday, 16 April 1978
Raw throat arrived. Redoxon & Disprin.
Taxi at 8.45 to Victoria [Station]. Queued up at sign for 3410 but no activity. After a while another large group came along looking for their sign. Alan Coggan, his wife Noreen and their two girls. A friend of his, Bob, his wife and their three children were travelling with them. They had had a minibus around Scotland & England.
Dover Ferry with Alan (ex-Oatley 13 yrs ago) on same tour
Names checked and moved off to the train about 9.45. Special carriages for Cosmos groups. About 9 bus loads.
Cosmos tour of Europe
1¼ hours to Dover. Through Customs to boat. Boat left 12.30. Smooth crossing 3½ hr trip.
Ostende at 5 o’clock Belgium time. About an hour before we started off in the bus. Very modern bus.
Drove along motorway through Bruges to Brussels (120km). Fully cultivated fields, very tidy houses and yards. Flemish & French spoken.
Some congestion of buses at hotel. Had tea at restaurant. Soup, chicken and chips and peas. Ice cream.
Stayed in hotel. Wit went out to change some money to buy some water £1 = 56 Bfr [Belgium Franc]. 1 bottle of spa water 50 Bfr. Dosed up with Redoxon and Disprin. Tea/coffee 45p each.
Saturday, 15 April 1978
Tube to Embankment – walked up to Charing Cross to catch the 9.35 to Gravesend. Fast train. Windows so dirty it was difficult to see out. 45 min trip. Met by Gillian and Robin and the three kids Nigel, Frances and Darren. Cortina estate car. Gillian and the kids were very excited to meet us. They have a very neat two-storey semi with spacious windows that Rob has put in. Block about 27’ x 120’.
Special dinner for us. Study of the photographs.
Elsie’s cousin Gillian and family – Elsie, Gillian, Robin, Nigel, Darren and Frances
Drove down the motorway to Canterbury Cathedral (20 miles). Cathedral dates back to 1100s. Lots of restoration work continuously going on. Window glass has been badly eroded away. The nave section is magnificent to view from the seats as you look up.
Frances and her Guinea Pigs
Darren – the Cub
Tea at Gillian’s. Kids anxious to show a movie but time ran out.
Caught 10.17 back to Charing Cross. Back at 11.40. Packed our bags.
Sore throat on right side coming on.
Friday, 14 April 1978
6oC – cold, cloudy
Tube to St Pauls [Cathedral]. There at 10.30. Waited for conducted Super Tour at 11. Taken around by the Verger who had so much of interest to show us and tell us about. The Cathedral designed by Christopher Wren started in 1675 was completed in 1710. Very light inside as it was designed not to have stained glass windows. The choir has been made out of carved timber by Gibbins and the ceiling area has been decorated in mosaic glass.
Taken down to the crypt – Nelson, Wellington. Wellington’s funeral carriage designed from melted down guns from Waterloo was built in 18 days.
Walked up to the Whispering Gallery on the inside of the dome. Up to the circular area where the stone work supporting the cross begins (607 steps) through continuous circular stairway and iron spiral stairways. 3½ [hours] in cathedral.
From the top of St Paul’s Cathedral
Very nice lunch in snack bar nearby.
Walked down Ludgate Hill to Fleet Street to Aldwych Bank. To Oxford Street and a Shetland shop where Elsie bought a skirt & jumper. Looked through some shops and then tubed back.
Tea in small neat restaurant at Gloucester Street. Packed one bag to see if we could fit our gear for the European trip. One bag and the shoulder bag.
Thursday, 13 April 1978
Seemed slightly warmer this morning. Weather forecast – cloudy but no drizzle. Set off to Tower Hill. Drizzle when we came out of the Underground. Turned much colder. Bag inspection etc for bombs.
9.45 joined a tour with a Beef-Eater. Rather gruesome commentary on the history of the Towers and the number of people who had their heads removed from their bodies.
Bloody Tower, Beauchamp Tower, White Tower (Norman), Oriental Display, Fusiliers Museum, Chapel. Lots of suits of armour on display. Raining steadily. Very cold.
Tower Bridge from the Tower grounds
Came out about 1 (3 hours looking). Raining. Beautiful and warm in the Tower Restaurant outside of Tower area. Had three-course meal to warm us up.
Caught tube to Westminster. Joined a super tour at 2.45 (£1.50). Had a delightful guide. Took us around the old [Westminster] Abbey section and cloisters. Around the various chapels. Tremendous amount to see. Famous people everywhere. Some very beautiful chapels (1½ hour tour).
Too wet to walk around. Sat in Abbey. Later walked up Victoria Street to Victoria Station. Air very cold. Tea at Victoria. Too cold to stay out so returned to room. Forecast of cold night and day to follow.
Wednesday, 12 April 1978
Very cold, cloudy
Walked up to bank – very crisp. Jennifer and Jeff came to pick us up at about 10.40.
Drove into town. Walked into Whitehall past Cenotaph, into Downing Street and stood outside No. 10. Up past the Horse Guards – 2 mounted sentries on beautiful black horses. To Trafalgar Square, up Haymarket, Piccadilly Circus (Statue of Eros) to edge of Soho, St James Square, Waterloo steps across St James Park back to car.
Jeff, Elsie and Anthony
The Cutty Sark
Drove along Thames – southern side down to area where Cutty Sark is moored. Walked in cold rain to Greenwich Observatory. Magnificent display of navigation and time clocks, old telescopes. Walked along and astride of Greenwich Meridian. One foot in the East and one foot in the West. Headed out to where Jennifer used to live and the house that J & G lived in until 11 yrs of age.
Heavy clouds as we arrived at J & J’s place. Very comfortable place. Big tea. Wines – parsnip, rhubarb, elderberry.
Timothy (Sheffield Uni), Michael (application for job with tube makers), Anthony (can’t get a word in). Timothy showed some slides of Kent and his trips.
Caught 11.25 train (from Sidcup) – ½ hour trip to Charing Cross. Caught taxi £1.25. Back about 12.25.
Tuesday, 11 April 1978
The gardens area and trees are heavily covered with snow. It’s the coldest April day since 1940. Aren’t we lucky! Elsie couldn’t help laughing about coming to England in the springtime and having it snow so heavily.
From the hotel balcony the morning after we arrived in London
Big walking day:
To Aldwych to the bank (£100 in traveller’s cheques) – Wind very cold.
Down the Strand to Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square.
Down The Mall to Queen Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace.
Queen Victoria’s Monument near the Palace gates
Visited Guide shop and Scout shop (all very warm inside).
Cheap fish lunch in Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Called at Cosmos to pick up tickets and tour notes.
Back to Victoria Station to find Platform 7 in readiness for Sunday.
Tube to Knightsbridge and walked around shopping centre. Harvey Nichol’s – very expensive. Arrived at Harrods only 10 minutes before closing – will have to go back – appears to be a very big store.
Walked back to South Kensington. Lots of licensed restaurants but could not find any cafes.
Back to room after tea as it was very cold outside. Forecast of 0oC overnight.
Monday, 10 April 1978
Up at 5.30 – breakfast in snack room at 6.15. Started to get the porter to hail a taxi at 6.45. Many of the taxi’s were off the road and not so many about. Took about 25 minutes before we got one. Just as well we were up for an early start.
Plane was delayed one hour by a technical fault and we just sat in the plane. Sat next to a fellow from Bulgaria.
Arrived London 11.45 am. Captain had said earlier there was some sleet in London and the air temperature was 2oC. The plane circled to come in to land through broken cloud and quite a lot of sunshine. We could see the Thames [River] below and the Tower Bridge. It was COLD with some sleet.
Heathrow Airport is HUGE with three large terminals. We had to transfer by a free bus to another terminal to catch a coach into London (£1 each). This was about 25 minutes through a lot of open fields with brown brick houses in the villages every so often.
Taxi from Victoria Station to Hotel. All taxis are black, the same shape, all Austins and noisy diesels. The houses are a grander version of our terrace houses. Our room is quite large with a terrace in front that overlooks a large garden area.
We put on our winter woollies and ventured out into the crisp (very crisp almost frozen) air. Walked to South Kensington and then the tube to Victoria Station and took a two-hour London discovery bus that goes right around and past the important places of London. Traffic seemed light. Most interesting. Sunny with occasional sleet falling.
As we walked back from South Kensington it started to snow heavily. By the time we arrived back Elsie’s coat was carrying quite a few flakes.
By about 7.30pm the ground and trees were covered with snow. Overall about 2½-3 inches fell.
Sunday, 9 April 1978
Sunny all day
Guards outside Greek parliament house
Late start after the taverna night. Walked up to see the ceremonial changing of the guard which was for 10.30 but we had the wrong time.
Accompanied by a large band the two guard groups dressed in the Greek ceremonial dress – frock, coat, fez and tassle, stocking pants and hard shoes marched into the square in front of Parliament House. At one stage the two new guards run up a couple of steps. One fellow lost his footing and almost dived over head-first.
We walked around past the Museum of War. Elsie was delighted to see some scouts and gave the salute through the window to them. The scouts had come by bus from Corinth. The leader understood and spoke some English.
Slowly we walked up all the steps to the funicular railway that goes to the top of the Lycabettus Hill. A cable type car (30 passengers) goes up through a tunnel that has been dug through the inside of the hill. A wonderful vantage point to see the whole of Athens – 360o view.
Had dinner in the restaurant at the top. Came back down through narrow streets and large blocks of units.
Took train from Omonia to Kifissia (13 stops). Trains quiet and quick. Kifissia is an outlying residential suburb about 25 minutes out [from Athens city]. Lots of people just seemed to be walking. There were some horse drawn open carriages. Elsie wanted to go for a ride but I reneged.
Back to the hotel about 4.30 and had a couple of hours sleep.
Saturday, 8 April 1978
Fine high cloud, some sun
Walked around the market area. Lots of small fruit stalls selling direct to the public. Large meat halls with many individual holders. Meat out in the open. Men cutting up the meat. Somebody had bought a sheep and it was cut up, put in plastic bags and dumped near the gutter side of the footpath. Large boxes filled with live snails, the size of our snails.
Open air meat!!
Had a shoe shine (15Dr). Elsie was photographed by a tourist with a movie camera.
Purchased a small purse 50Dr for Bruce, a blouse 200Dr, a shawl 300Dr and another shawl 280Dr. Also bought a cheese pie – a square flaked pastry with a cheese mix inside.
Left hotel 7.30 pm – Sound & Light Show on the Pynx Hill looking towards the Acropolis. A special recorded production given to Greece by France tells the story of Athens as music is played and parts of the Acropolis are lit up. Music and story were heavy but lighting up of Acropolis was very good.
At 10 pm went to a Greek Taverna. Music loud, lights low and flickering colours – tables crowded together and the prices high. Reasonable floor show but spoilt by the lights and noise. Meal served. Not our cup of tea.
We heard that the taxis will be out on strike on Monday, the day we leave for London. The trolley buses have been out for the last 4/5 days. There may be fun getting to the airport!