Oct 12 2012

Travel Stories – London

When we returned to Sacramento we decided to cool our world travels for a while.

Our next world adventure was to Europe in the summer of 1989. We only had 30 days and we could not wait for a military flight. We bought tickets to England and a 20 day Euro train pass which activates the first time you use it. The Europass was not usable in England.

London, England, Len and Erin's Bus

Our bus.

Our destination was London and on to Mendenhall Air Force Base.

When we landed at Heathrow, there was a hot humid heat wave. 5 other planes landed at the same time and customs was very slow, still not having yet to learned our lesson, we packed all the travel books on Europe we could find. Four heavy overstuffed suitcases. Woe was me. (I now travel with carry on luggage with wheels. I am now first in line at customs.)

Erin caught diarrhea on the plane so I was stuck in line for two hours pushing bags forward at a snail’s pace. While Erin stayed close to the water closet.

After standing for two hours we finally left the terminal. You guessed it, Murphy was on a roll.

The tubes (underground subway) were on strike. Everyone was using the double deck buses, after standing in a queue (line) for quite a while and Erin making her infamous trips we finally got on a bus, the only seats were on top. The attendant wanted down and we wanted up the stairs with our bags, the woman won.

We were heading for the train station so we could get out of London. You guessed it again, Erin had to get off the bus. Now we were stuck in the middle of London, we finally found a McDonald’s that had a bathroom. It was hot and the food smelled nauseating.

Having left there, we wandered for a while looking for a bus stop and I stumbled upon a sidewalk cafe that served beer. Now I was in heaven, even though the beer was hot.

After getting another bus, we finally arrived at the train station. Murphy was waiting, he was very smug and I knew we were in trouble, right again, we were at the wrong station.

We got in a queue that circled two blocks to catch another bus. Finally, we arrived at the correct station and caught the train to Mendenhall, we thought. The train was air conditioned and we had cold beers and a very good meal.

We asked the conductor to let us know when to get off; I found out Murphy bribed the conductor.

The next thing we heard at 10 o’clock in the night was, “Everyone off the train.” I asked what was going on and we were told he had forgotten us and now we were at the end of the line for two days. We were able to leave our dear bags on the train. Thank God.

Where in the world were we now? Kings Lynn in Northern England. Okay, now what? We wandered around and found a pub that was open until midnight; that suited us very well.

We were directed to a bed and breakfast that was close by. It was very nice and finally we could rest, after a few warm ones in the pub, I slept like a well nursed baby.

The next day we tried to figure out what to do, after seeing the sites and visiting a flea market, that’s all we needed – buy more stuff to carry.

Finding out we were close to the Queen’s castle in Sandringham, England, we decided to take the tour. We then caught a bus with Murphy, after a 15 minute bus ride we arrived, only to find out it was the Queen’s birthday and the tours were cancelled.

There was only one thing left to do – spend the rest of the day in the pub. Damn!

The next day we boarded the train, right after Murphy had gotten to the engineer. The engineer told us they cancelled all stops at Mendenhall several years ago. That was great news. What to do now?

After knowing our dilemma, the engineer radioed a northbound train and arranged a meeting place where we then swapped trains. Because there was no scheduled stop, he let us off on an empty platform that was barren as far as you could see. (I felt like Cary Grant in “North By Northwest” in the middle of a corn field.)

Being stuck with our four wonderful bags we started walking on a dirt road, not knowing where we were going.

Finally, I saw a building in the distance. It looked like an oasis. It was very hot when we arrived at a country store with a bar. That was great. There were no taxis around. Finally there were two men going to the base and they gave us a ride. (Try fitting four big suitcases into an English car.)

After checking in at the flight terminal to sign-up for a flight to anywhere in Europe, we checked our bags and went to the base store and found out we couldn’t shop there. Erin being desperate pocketed some five finger discount diarrhea medicine.

The only place we could get anything to eat was at a fast food place on the base and they served beer. I bought two six packs and we left the base looking for lodging. Close to the base we found a hotel. Finally more rest. Murphy left us alone the rest of our time in England.


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