England 40 Years Ago — April 4, 1982

[The date is approximate. I evidently wrote a whole month at once from travel notes. Google told me the date for Easter in 1982.]

Riems Cathedral

Riems or Rhiems is pronounced something like “Reh”. It boasts the cathedral where Joan of Arc stood beside the King at his coronation. Her statue and a ratty old banner are near the altars. Another Marc Chagal window is in the East widow, visible from the rear over the altar. (The last window we saw of his was in Chichester Cathedral.)

Inside Riems Cathedral

We had been driving on fairly flat land when suddenly the road turned to limp spaghetti, and we were twisting and turning through the Alps. What gorgeous views! It was still winter up that high, with snow everywhere. $ was extremely tired and began to cry, because no train appeared on the narrow gauge tracks running beside the road. He had a keen disappointment.

We stayed overnight in Nyon, Switzerland, over-looking the lake. After the children were bedded down, we walked up the steep footpath toward the town. Beside the twisting steps were several springs delighting our ears, pouring water into troughs, basins, and pools. Looking up, we could see a castle-type building lit up against the dark sky. We certainly knew we were in Europe.

In the middle of a very long day in the car, $ began to cry when it was time to get in the car again. By the time we got to Sylvie’s house, he was full of energy and mischief. He adored that house where doors were always open to the warm spring breezes. Sylvie was the French exchange student one year while we were in college, and John had kept in contact with her.

The architecture was so different from northern France. In the north, roofs are dark, long slim windows “French windows” have dark shutters, and the houses have a clean, square appearance. In the south, things are more rounded – patios, walls, doorways, and porches.

In particular we loved Sylvie’s and Freddy’s home. They designed it themselves to suit the mountainous area. Three doors that wouldn’t look mean on a carriage house, had large expanses of glass and shutters opening onto the patio from the living-dining room. The guest room had a window and shutters on the second floor over the living room and a private bath. Lise and Kate had one of the boy’s rooms in the attic, complete with three beds and an alcove with sink and the most unusual bath we’ve ever seen. It was about half the normal length, three feet deep under the taps and a seat molded in the other end.

We noticed many open round reservoirs of concrete, shaped like above-ground swimming pools. Freddy explained it was for watering the grounds; most are at the top of the property so that you can water by gravity. Water from the mountains is plentiful.

Sylvie took us on walking tours of an old French town, the town she lives near, and Nice. Cars were forbidden in many places, and the streets were tiny. We each touched the water so that we could say we’d been to the Mediterranean Sea.

I liked the public fountains in all the little towns – water continually pouring out of one to four spouts and two rods under each spout for resting a container while filling it.

All you’ve heard about French cooking is true. Sylvie fed us course after course of superb dishes beautifully prepared and presented. Breakfast was the simplest meal – toast with coffee drunk from a cereal bowl. Lunches and dinners were hot meals! Sylvie said NO French woman would serve her family sandwiches for a meal. She served drinks before we sat down, sppetizer, meat, followed by vegetables separately, then cheeses, bakery cakes, and after clearing the table, coffee. Lots of fresh, crisp French bread was passed with every course, particularly the appetizers and cheeses. Sylvie served most of the things herself rather than passing the dishes. $ ate and ate!

I’m going to list the foods so that I don’t forget them.

  1. Radishes, chicken and mushrooms, boiled potatoes, strawberry flan.
  2. Boiled egg with mayonnaise and tuna, lettuce, tomato, ripe olives, roast beef, scalloped potatoes, ice cream
  3. Chicken in patty shells, green beans, cake
  4. Radishes and a different kind of celery cut like shoestring potatoes with mayonnaise, chicken in cream, potatoes and beans mixed, tart St. Tropez.
Sylvie and Kate

Kate showed lots of improvement in the dog department. She shrieked the first day, but by the time we left, she just stood stock still whenever the dog walked by.

25 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — April 4, 1982

  1. I love this town! If I went to France, this is the kind of place I should like to visit. One of my favorite things about South Africa was the climate was such the windows and doors were always open, with the little balconies or verandahs, and restaurants with open doors and sidewalk dining! Never saw a fly or bug in my flat, nor had any issues with them while outside…unlike Mississippi. Finally, the last picture of Kate reminds me of the poise and smile of Princess Charlotte now that she is getting older. Interesting to see how both daughters and son matured during your time there.


  2. It is amazing how $ has grown in the time you have been in the UK. He looks so cute in the bath. I love the south of France. We have windows and doors open almost all year round here in Spain too. I’m worried these letters will come to an end soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have about a month left. John found a few more letters than I had typed 10 years ago. Although I stayed in England three or four months after John started his new job, we don’t have letters from that time. I probably continued to write once a week and sent the one letter to John. He would have let his mother read it before sending it on to my mom. He doesn’t remember copying and saving them.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Chatedrals are so beautiful. Church is wonderful. Beautiful city of France. Wonderful place & very nice dinner, lunch or a breakfast Manu. I like. Beautiful you share it’s. Beautiful all photo shoot.


  4. That was a cute pic of $ in the bathtub with a big smile. I remember those baths with the flowered wall tiles from my travels as well. I think that was the first time that Kate was in a pic and she was not smiling from ear to ear!


      1. Wow on the strawbs coming soon. Lucky!! Yes on it snow. It was beautiful. They are predicting another four inches here tonight. One can always hope 🙂


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