England 40 Years Ago — December 30, 1980

Editor’s note – When I read this in 2020, I realized I must have written it by hand in the hotel room. I was afraid of forgetting details.

After Christmas 1980 We started our trip before dawn on the 27th of December and watched people’s lights come on all the way to Dover. It was lovely.

The white cliffs obediently shone for pictures – think Harold got a shot of the moon and the cliffs from the ferry. There was just enough movement of the water to make walking a matter for conscious, careful thought. We began to realize we’d left home country when the announcements were unintelligible. Harold and I had a few uncertain moments when a waiter looked at our English money and mumbled lots of French to himself.

We were thankful to have Harold in the navigator’s seat, both to read maps and to remind John to drive on the right side of the road. He only headed left once. It took six hours to drive from Calais to Rotterdam. We couldn’t believe how absolutely FLAT the land is. The roads are marvelous – wide, fast and empty. We’d be willing to trade these for a few roads in England!

The situation of the Hilton couldn’t be better – overlooking a huge round-about for cars, trams, buses and bicycles.

Tram tracks are on the inside of the circle.

Last night John got us settled in our rooms and went to the ship (the excuse for our being here). He came back around 2 a.m. The rest of us watched the drama of traffic from nine floors up. There are special lanes, slightly divided from car traffic and pedestrians, for bicycles only. The reason – they are very well-used, attesting to the statistics of bike-riding in Holland.

We watched a heated argument between a policeman and people involved in an accident. From the motions being made, we think one car nipped another in the fender and drove off. We thought the man doing most of the talking was the driver, but someone else drove off as he walked on down the street. There must have been 15 spectators on the sidelines at one time!

We ate breakfast together and then split up. I elected to keep $ close to the hotel while the others went to the ship. If everything goes as planned, they’ll be on board while the ship moves from one berth to another. I took a two-hour walk and saw where a ship is on display, saw lots of barges, ships, yachts and beautiful sailing vessels and walked in a museum that was free. I thought $ and I would benefit from that free warm air to get thawed out. One can certainly speed through a museum when the language is foreign!

After that we walked to the Euromast – a building on a needle. There is an observation place and a rotating restaurant. I might have been tempted to go in if I’d had someone to share the responsibility of $. He began looking rather red, so I hoofed it back. Saw large umbrellas set up on the sidewalk sheltering hardy fishermen. There are apartment buildings built right in the water with barges tied up alongside. Must be some way to get there because cars were parked under the buildings.

I felt I could manage a meal at McDonald’s – golly! In the hotel room, I heard a little thump, and turned to see $ crawling away from the crib where he’d been. I mistakenly thought he might sleep. Don’t know how he climbed out. Anyway– back to the hamburger story. The place was two-story, and I couldn’t manage a baby, the stairs, and the food. Luckily there were high tables on the ground floor so that I could park $ underneath and throw him morsels as I ate. He put away all the meat and cheese from a cheeseburger!! His first McDonald’s hamburger ever – in Rotterdam!

One of the buildings $ and I passed while walking

The rest of the gang came in having eaten a hearty meal aboard ship and spent time in the recreation rooms. The ship did not change berths – may do so later when John and Harold are back there.

The Dutch people decorate their homes and apartments for Christmas in a more elaborate fashion than I’ve ever seen before. Lovely. Through almost every window we saw trees, wreaths, decorative hanging things, and white frosty designs on the windows.

All of us plus one Norwegian wife rode on a tram. You pay on the honor system! No one checked tickets at all while we made the round trip on Route #5, though John said they do spot checks at random as on British rail. We were amazed at the numerous canals and waterways all over this city. Amsterdam must be something special if it is noted for canals, because Rotterdam has plenty without that fame.

A view from the tram

We ate again in the hotel restaurant. When John $ got antsy, Lisa offered to take him to the room. John left because his taxi was waiting, but Kate was still eating and I had to sign the bill. Lisa suddenly appeared without $, saying breathlessly, “John crawled out of his diaper and it’s lying in the hall. Come quickly!! THE JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD! I think she’d left him with a Norwegian boy, but I’m not sure. I sent her back with instructions on how to put on a disposable one. Rushed up to find a Norwegian teenage girl coming out of my room. She may have done the job. It was on backwards, but that covered the problem. Might add there are two other families from Gotaas-Larsen having a total of seven rooms in a row. The seven children (not including above streaker) are having a grand time. I think they’re playing Uno in the hall. Must check.

Supposed to return to Reigate tomorrow.

22 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — December 30, 1980

  1. Your letter from 40 years ago reminds me of how much easier traveling is now than it was in those days. Now we just use a credit card for everything and it automatically uses the correct currency. We also don’t use maps anymore. We just navigate. How did we ever travel in the olden days? Happy New Year!

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      1. So true. Digital cameras changed how we take pictures. We actually had to wait to get them developed in the “olden” days. Then if they didn’t turn out, it was a disaster!

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    1. We went to Rotterdam and back home. This was a business trip for John, and we tagged along. John was a ship chartering broker, finding cargoes for ships and ships for cargoes. There must have been something special, since I wrote there were two other families there from the shipping company. It was our first trip to the continent.

      Happy New Year!

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  2. It sounds like a wonderful time away from home, despite $ crawling out of his diaper! How nice you got to see Rotterdam as part of this trip. We saw the white cliffs at Dover but I don’t recall if I have a picture. We went by bus from where we were staying in Surbiton as part of a day trip and went to Kent and Canterbury Cathedral along the way.

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  3. What a fascinating trip! I’m impressed that you took the time back then to jot down some notes about your trip. It’s something I wish that I’d done when I traveled.

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    1. Usually I sat down on Sunday evening to type out two pages about what went on the previous week. John took the letter to the office to go in a packet to NY. It was unusual for me to write about things as they happened, as on the trip to Rotterdam. My brain is like a sieve now, so I often write about events within a day or two.

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