The sky was filled with yellow and pink as the sun rose above the horizon as we left Paris for Calais to board the shuttle train that would take us to London.
The morning remained overcast with only periodic glimpses of the sun. We passed miles and miles of farmland. The further we rode into the country; Mary started to talk about the many cemeteries and graveyards that existed along the road.
These places of honor for the fallen of WWI were dotted all over the area. Mary said that some could be seen from the road and others you could only see a small portion of a monument or cross.
I found myself transfixed to the window hoping to catch even a quick glimpse of the hallowed places. I did finally capture one with my camera but the quality was not very good. While I was peering out the window Mary continued her talk about WWI and the on-going remembrances being carried out in several countries as 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI.
She also told us about one of the English projects underway. “To commemorate the war,” Mary explained, “They will be planning 888,246 red ceramic poppies around the Tower of London. One poppy for each British and Colonial soldier lost in battle”.
We would be spending several days in London and we hoped that we would be able to see the poppies while we were there.
Just before we arrived at the train station, our bus driver, Rob, made a ‘convenience’ stop for us at a rest stop. We all got off but none of us stayed long. We entered the restroom to find, no toilets, just holes in the ground. Yes, I know, millions of people still use these rudimentary facilities, but I decided I could wait.
The train that would take us under the English Channel was called a shuttle train. This big, silver behemoth swallowed our bus whole with us in it. Randy and I thought this was quite fun and very interesting. The bus doors were left open for ventilation. As we rolled along you could look down and see small windows that showed a clear view of the tracks as we flew along.
The train ride took about 30 minutes to complete. It was a very weird sensation rocking and rolling back and forth enclosed in the train as the train quickly made its way through the tunnel.
We arrived at the Cheriton Terminal in England and the first thing we noticed was a large, white symbol on the side of the hill above the station. Mary told us it was called the Folkestone White Horse and was carved into Cheriton Hill, Folkestone, Kent, South East England. The horse carving was very large and I am sure can be seen for many miles.
We drove through farmland and small towns until we reached the outskirts of London. Our buses destination, however, was a town called Golders Green. The area looked very suburban with many beautiful and quaint duplex homes and lovely gardens.
We pulled into the Best Western Palm Hotel and proceeded to register. Mary was helping the front desk hand out the keys. As soon as we got ours we made our way to the room. I could have sung, if only I could sing, when we stepped into the room.
After all the small rooms we rested our weary bones in, we were deliriously happy to see that our room was large, roomy, had a sitting area, sky lights and a shower you could dance in. We were in heaven!
There was a lovely bar and sitting area near the front desk so, we made ourselves comfortable and caught up with the members of our group who had traveled on different buses.
We made arrangements to eat in the hotel restaurant, chatted away the early evening and then returned to our spacious room for a good night’s sleep.
Tomorrow we tour the beautiful city of London.