Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Memoir of Two Innocents Abroad: Part One

on September 1, 2014


Like finding a message in a bottle that washed up forty years after it had been written, I unearthed letters I wrote to my family after my husband and I took our first venture abroad. As often happens to me, I found the letters while looking for something else. They were in a red shoebox labeled “Family Treasures” that served as a time capsule for things I wanted to pass down to my grandchildren. I was curious to see what I had written so long ago and sat down to examine them. The letters were written on lined yellow legal-size paper, enclosed in tattered envelopes bearing 8 cent stamps. And then I noticed the obvious. The letters were written in what was called long-hand. My grand children are not taught “cursive”. They would be unable to read the travel log I had saved for them. And so was born my idea of writing a memoir in several installments on my blog – a medium they can comprehend.

Going abroad (that’s what it was called in 1972) came as a surprise to me. My husband informed me that he had decided we should travel to Europe. He said if we waited until we had money enough to go we would probably be too old to get around thus we should go now – in the next month or so. I was shocked that my very frugal husband had come to this conclusion and stunned to hear that he had already seen a travel agent to make tentative plans. We were to fly to London, rent a car and spend a week driving to places like Avon and Salisbury choosing our lodging from a Triple A guide-book. After a week we would take a Hovercraft from Dover to Calais, pick up another car and drive to Paris for three days, then on to Cannes where would visit friends before returning to the U.S. I said YES!! and began making necessary plans, including arranging with my husband’s willing parents to stay with our three young boys. There wasn’t time to read much about the places we intended to go. However as a college English major who had also taken two years of French I thought I knew quite a bit already. I overestimated my knowledge, which in hindsight I think is the best way to go. There is nothing like traveling in a Zen state of unknowing to open your eyes and mind, not to mention your heart, to new people and experiences. I went to Europe with the expectation that I would see places of yore – old in other words. My letters make that clear. I will copy them here with only minimal editing for clarity.


The flight to London took six hours. We arrived at 8 AM London time (3 AM Cleveland time). We got our car, a new blue Volkswagen, and headed off down the left side of the road, with my husband driving and English pounds in our pockets. We drove west of London heading for Salisbury. Within the first hour my husband, still trying to get the hang of driving on the left side of the road, sideswiped a parked car. We got out as did the English girl in the other car. She said the damage (ours was a scratched fender) seemed equal to both cars so lets forget it. We decided that England has no-fault insurance.

We started out again for Salisbury. On the way we stopped at Winchester to see King Arthur’s Round Table which I doubt even the English believe is authentic. As we continued on our way we saw lush vegetation including rhododendrons as high as our house in full bloom. We loved England at first sight. We stopped for a little breakfast in a pub and were delighted with the arrangement of arm chairs around little tables – a living-room effect we found consistent in all the hotels we stayed in except for London. The people are marvelous. They all wear tweed jackets (the men) and the ladies look less casual than in America. The children are a wonder. We never saw any Bobby’s and Jim’s age (8 and 6). All the pre-schoolers stayed in prams and didn’t try to climb out. The people in England take their babies everywhere all hours of the day and night. Babies as old as Fred (2) sleep in their prams and suck pacifiers. The big thing in small towns is marketing. The streets are always full of people in the morning and late afternoons. Finally we arrived at our destination in the early afternoon and booked a room in a delightful little hotel more attractive than an American one of its size. We felt this was not the real England so vowed to find an old-fashioned one the next night.

27 responses to “Memoir of Two Innocents Abroad: Part One

  1. Silver Threading says:

    I am loving this! Can’t wait for more! β™‘

  2. vivachange77 says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting on my story. I’m having fun writing it.

  3. Jay E. says:

    An excellent idea (if for an unfortunate reason).

  4. carolyninjoy says:

    It’s sad that your grandchildren can’t read cursive. It’s fortunate you made the discovery now so that you can rectify that. They will undoubtedly treasure it. I love your turns of phrase.

    • vivachange77 says:

      Thanks for your comments. I first thought I’d type everything in Word and print it out for my grandchildren. Then the idea popped into my head that my travels would make a fun series of posts for my blog. I read your post about essays being anything you want them to be. Great affirmation for blog writers.

  5. That’s amazing. I’m so glad your sharing your treasured memories with us. Thank you.

  6. vivachange77 says:

    I’m glad you like my treasured memories. Also I’m glad you like my theme about everything having to be enscribed across the heavens to find the one line already written within. That’s from a poem that also says ” sometimes it takes a great sky to find the small, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart.” It ends with “after the fire has gone out someone has written something new in the ashes of your life. You are not leaving you are arriving.”

  7. After spending three hours on this Sunday afternoon reading and comments on the blogs I follow in my Reader, I finally came across Part One of your three part series; after, I bypassed Parts 2 and three so that I would not get ahead of the story you are sharing. Now, I am ready to read all three. And, will share my comments.

  8. vivachange77 says:

    Thanks for reading my travel memoirs. I appreciate that you take time to get them in order. P.S. I just spent my Sunday afternoon writing Part 4.

  9. Meredith says:

    I found part one. I don’t want to miss anything. I was in London in 1980 just for two days, accompanying my husband on a business trip. I did the usual site seeing round, the Tower, London bridge, Trafalgar Square…

  10. vivachange77 says:

    Good to hear from you about your London visit. It is amazing how writing about that trip takes me right back there.

  11. JoHanna Massey says:

    Oh I do love your story. Looking forward to savoring every chapter. Thank you. 🐞

  12. Cethru Celophane says:

    What fun it is to read others people’s experience of visits to one’s own country. During my army days I had the good fortune to be stationed just north of Salisbury or a short while. You can rest assured that even I enjoyed being a tourist. I found that it did not matter how much time you could spend or how far you wanted to go, almost every bend in the road, the end of every hedgerow always held a new surprise. I still marvel today at the wonders to be found on the other side of the Atlantic ocean.

    • vivachange77 says:

      I love to visit England. I enjoy the picture of England I get from PBS, not only on Downton Abbey. I’ve been back to England several times and have spent hours at Heathrow between flights to other interesting places – mainly in Africa. There are marvels everywhere!

  13. micketalbot says:

    Hurray! Got here, nice read, I wish my parents had done something similar, my life up to my mid 20’s was spent travelling, again details can be found somewhere on one of my blogs, I will try and sort some links out.

    evoked… memory
    Salisbury cathedral
    Boy scouts parade
    Remembrance day

    Thank you Ina

    • vivachange77 says:

      Thanks, Mick. I’m glad I wrote about my trip at the time I took it. My thirty-five year old self had a freshness of outlook that I think has remained through the years but I would not write the same way about a trip today. I would enjoy reading about your Boy Scout parade. Two of my three sons are Eagle Scouts, as is their father. My other son dropped out when as a Cub Scout he was expected to go door to door selling lightbulbs.

      • micketalbot says:

        Selling light bulbs, oh dear, we had what was called. “Bob a Job week”, it also involved knocking doors, if lucky got a job for which we were paid the equivalent of 10p,, 12 pence back in the day. On the Boy Scout thingy, finding hard to remember where I was living at the time,, a lot of water under the bridge since then.

      • vivachange77 says:

        Yes, And now my son’s sons want nothing to do with the Boy Scouts.

      • micketalbot says:

        LOL Used love bob a jobbing, cups of tea, lemonade, and sometimes a sandwich.

  14. vivachange77 says:

    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Mick.

  15. Christy B says:

    I liked reading about your coming across these writings and indeed they are treasures πŸ™‚ It’s sad children aren’t taught cursive in school anymore. I was and it helped me develop a love of words. Speaking of love, sending you lots xx

  16. vivachange77 says:

    I agree a lot is lost by not mastering cursive. Writing things down is often how I remember them. Much love to you, Christy. ❀

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