Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

It had long been a dream of mine to go to the UK, ever since I had first seen The Avengers with Emma Peel. In 1975, at twenty years old, I was able to go there to meet my friend Mary, who was arriving from Israel, where she had been studying. We had known each other since age 12 in Seattle.

This story will be mostly taken from a travel journal I kept and from letters that I wrote and mailed home to Seattle to friends and to my boyfriend at the time.  I carried carbon paper and made carbon copies on thin airmail paper, to keep a complete record of my journey.  I finally re-read all of it last year. I will illustrate the journey with photos taken on the trip.  I have done almost no editing of the journals and letters, and I am sure there are mistakes in place names and locations.  (The photos were slides taken with a Mamiya-Sekor SLR camera; I had them scanned about ten years ago.)

Here we go:


On the plane:  I did not think this was happening to me till just now.  Read in a magazine on the plane: A book should serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us.–Franz Kafka.

On the bus from the airport into London:  Two friendly English men, Brian and Jack, gave me helpful advice about railroads and travel.  Said not to ride on the top of double decker buses or I would get carsick. I won’t follow that advice.  If all English people are that friendly, I will have a lovely trip.  When I said I was going to Wales, as well, Jack said “The Welsh are lovely people.”

7:30 AM  I can see London out the window.  ENGLAND. [I remember all the terraced houses with long narrow gardens that we passed on the way in.]

10:10 AM  Here I am in the London underground which is like a funhouse ride.  The escalators are wooden and rickety.  The train seems to go 200 miles per hour and make an enormous racket. A cold wind precedes the train onto the platform. The train door slams shut almost before you get in, and there are no rails to protect you from falling on the track.  The trains and escalators and halls are a maze!  [Being from Seattle, I had never been on a subway before.]

on the tube

In London, 12:45 PM.  Went to three YWCA hostels before I found one where Mary had checked in.  Hot! Heavy pack!  Will be staying tonight in Hyde Park Hostel in Marylebone and Bulmore Street near Wigmore.  Am going on a two hour tour of London.  This is an enormous city, hot and crowded.  I look forward to getting into the country.

There is a dog cemetery in Hyde Park, hundreds of little gravestones.

Kensington Palace is right in the middle of London.

I saw a poster for a  Fairport Convention concert at Royal Albert Hall!

There are short telephone booths for short people.

Sign: “We regret any inconvenience caused while building work is carried out.”

Big Ben, I was told, is the name of the clock inside the tower.

Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace

After having checked into Hyde Park House (hostel) and having gone on the tour, I returned and found that Mary was not there! They had mixed her up with another Mary. I did some calling (the phones are really different here) and found that instead, she was at a hostel 5 blocks from Victoria Station where the airport bus had left me.  I made a telephone reservation and was told I must be there in two hours or the bed would be gone.  I went to Oxford Street to look for a bus and there, walking down Oxford street in opposite directions, Mary and I encountered each other!   She had been out walking all day.  We were so astonished that we just stared at each other.  She is so much browner from the Israeli sun!

Oxford Street

an odd scene at a window of an Oxford street store

near Carnaby Street, perhaps

With her help, I was able to get to the hostel on time. In the evening, we took a #2 Golders Green bus out to Golden Hills Park, a lovely huge park better than the Seattle arboretum, with a zoo of peacocks and chickens and other birds, and sheep.  The weather is hot, bright, and cloudless.  The clothes I packed are too warm!  We were going to St John’s Wood but missed the stop and went much further.  On the way back from Golder’s Green, we passed a sign for St John’s Wood and then later we passed a sign pointing in another direction saying St John’s Wood.  I am confused.  This city seems to have no straight streets in it.

For dinner, we went to a seafood restaurant [fish and chips place] and had rock salmon, wrapped in white paper to take out.  Cost 33p and a pepsi cost 10p. Before bed, we went back out to get a double order of chips for the hostel receptionist, who had had no dinner.

I am worried about how long my money will last.

A friend’s mother told me I would have a good time here because everyone speaks the same language.  But they don’t!  It is a different English and sometimes very hard to understand clerks and restaurant folks.  Mary and I can’t make ourselves understood sometimes and neither can the English folk.

view from the Warwick Street YWCA, where I did get a bed


6:30 AM  One must get up very early here for breakfast, which Mary says will be beans on toast.  Last night I meant to catch up on my sleep, but we and the woman who is in our room were talking politics instead.

Everything seems expensive here.  Today we will see if I can get discount tickets for the “Green Line” country buses.  I would like to take a bus to Elephant and Tooting just because of the name.

I bought a big bottle of orange drink, thinking it was fruit juice.  It was so sweet! I later realized it was supposed to be diluted with water.

Later: Today I went to Hampstead and Hampstead Heath, Woodgreen, Hammersmith, on an all day bus pass.  [I think that Mary was exhausted and wanted to rest for the day.] I saw some of the northern suburbs and villages and some of London city.  Met a nice man, a pensioner, on the bus, and he gave me more information about old London than the tour guide yesterday.  The Bank of England, he said, used to be called The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.  I met a friendly conductor on the #12 bus who gave me his stepfather’s number to call if we’re in London on Friday, to reserve a place on a Sunday tour to the coast—only 40p!  Big Ben just chimed two o clock…Good night.

from the scrap book of my trip


Today we went to St Albans and Hitchen and Hatfield on a Golden Rover bus pass which permitted us to ride the country coaches for only 95p.  We saw churches and cathedrals and forgot to go to Petticoat Lane for the street market.

[So many options:]

[I am pretty sure we went north of London to visit a junior high school friend who had moved from Seattle to England, some years before.  Perhaps Mary will remember if my recollection of sitting in a green garden is a true one.]


On the train to Edinburgh!  This morning, Mary got her hostel card  and we left London.  The heater is broken in this train car—stuck on HOT!  When the train conductor came through saying something about “No ‘eat”, I thought he meant we couldn’t eat our lunch here!  Two nice Scottish women shared their barley sugar candy and crackers with us.

Our destination was the Larbet, Scotland, home of our pen pals Maureen and Jean and their parents.  We don’t think we will get there today—will probably stay in Edinburgh.

The English countryside viewed from the train is all different shades of green.  Lovely houses, lots of pastures with horses, cows, and shaggy sheep, many patches of woods.  In northern England, we went through some industrial areas, not very attractive—rows of lookalike houses, smokestacks, smog.

The men in Northern England seem to have longer hair than those in London.  In London, the young men and women wear fashionable clothes and platform heels.

Just now, the conductor walked through the car, calling “Serving afternoon tea and high tea now, please! Serving afternoon tea and high tea!”  It’s 4 PM.

[When Mary and I saw the sign, below, in a Scotland train station, all of a sudden I became “Inter City Kitty” and she became “Ursula”. We decided that we were the traveling Van Heuton sisters, Ursula and Kitty. To this day, she sometimes calls me Sister Kitty.]

A Scottish train station


9 PM: We still have not made it to Larbert.  We were tired when we arrived in Edinburgh so decided to stay two nights.  Our hostel room is a beautiful bedroom on the top floor of a townhouse overlooking parks, houses, cathedrals or churches with towers, and in the distance, high hills and water (The Firth of Forth).

in Edinburgh

Incredible sunset tonight.  And the back gardens between our row of houses and the next row are tidy and colourful.  [I was not a gardener then and so my photos rarely capture the beautiful gardens.] The morning I got up at 6:30!  and watched the world awake, and I think I heard a cuckoo bird.

Our hostel was on this street.

our view

another view from our hostel

I had a thing for “Number 12 buses” because of a Donovan song that went “I saw you today, on a number 12 bus, you were going my way.”

Today, we took a bus for 40p, through Edinburgh’s New Town and along the Firth of Forth.  Then Mary went shopping while I went to Holyrood Park and climbed to King Arthur’s Seat—825 feet.  I was terrified but am very proud of myself for doing it.  I don’t think it was really dangerous—but there was a sign saying DANGER and that the park department would not hold themselves responsible for accidents.

somewhere on the way

from the Salisbury Crags

from Salisbury Castle

Holyrood Park

The sheep looked shorn.

A photo that I cannot quite place, probably Edinburgh:

In the evening, Mary and I walked on Portobello Beach till 8:30 PM.

It was beautiful.  Lots of little snails crawling around and areas with smooth pinkish grey rocks.

[I know that the next day we walked the Royal Mile and went to an excellent Children’s Museum, but sadly I have no more photos of that day. I had a limited amount of film, and I think I was trying to conserve money by not buying more.]


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