THIS IS THE SECOND INSTALLMENT OF A TWO PART STORY. A rather dramatic first trip overseas led to the writing of BAD DAY IN BARCELONA. In her original guest post, Lorraine Bendall told of how she fell victim to a pickpocket. The incident had serious repercussions. Without her passport, she and her teenage granddaughter Shelbui were stranded. The Mediterranean cruise ship they were booked on sailed from Barcelona without them. I wanted to publish this second piece as a tribute to Lorraine’s complete lack of self-pity and her inspiring resilience. I’m sure Shelbui deserves great credit as well. As for Lorraine’s son Peter, well I’ll let her use her own words about him as she continues the story.
A LITTLE BIT OF ‘SON’ SHINE CAME INTO OUR WORLD
Next morning I started to feel heaps better. My amazingly wonderful son Peter, back home in Melbourne, had booked us another hotel, near to the Australian Consulate. We would be able to move there the night before my new passport arrived, so that I could collect it as soon as their doors opened.
Even more emotionally overwhelming and exciting was that Peter had booked us a return flight to London for a week, with accommodation organized in the heart of the city. He had also transferred extra money for us. What a wonderful son I have. Wow, things had started to take a turn for the better.
LONDON; A PLACE TO LIFT THE HEART
That first day in London we didn’t really do much; we were quite drained and unsure of our surroundings. Having arrived at such short notice, I hadn’t researched anything prior to leaving home. I received a message from Peter asking what we’d planned for the next day, and realized I had to pull myself out of this feeling of fear. Peter has travelled extensively and was so keen for us to have fun.
OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS LORRAINE AND HER GRANDDAUGHTER HAPPILY EXPLORED CENTRAL LONDON. THEY VISITED THE NATIONAL GALLERY, AND MADE A PILGRIMAGE TO THE PRINCESS DIANA MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN IN KENSINGTON GARDENS. THERE WERE SEPARATE ADVENTURES AS WELL SHELBUI ATTENDED A VEGAN FESTIVAL WHILE LORRAINE VISITED ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL. A BOAT TRIP ON THE RIVER THAMES TOOK THEM FURTHUR AFIELD; DOWNSTREAM TO GREENWICH.
AS LORRAINE EXPLAINS, THERE WAS A LOVELY MOMENT ENROUTE TO BUCKINGHAM PALACE WHEN, AS IN BARCELONA, A TAXI DRIVER SHOWED THEM KINDNESS AND EMPATHY.
CHANGING OF THE GUARDS – The taxi driver was a really nice fellow. He was very chatty and asked about our holiday . I mentioned our dreadful experience in Barcelona, and how relieved and happy we were to now be in London. He drove us right up to the main gates of the palace, and was reprimanded by a ‘Bobby’ for doing so. He took it all in his stride, and when I handed him the money to pay, he refused to take it. He said, ‘No, you keep it; you deserve to have a free ride.’
HARRODS – We had a most wonderful time in Harrods, it was the ultimate opportunity of a lifetime, and we had tea and scones in the Tea Room. It was so worth it.
We then did a little shopping, buying (within our budget) small items for family gifts. I found a lovely little heart shaped handbag mirror covered in navy blue suede decorated with a tiny gold metal bow in the centre, just perfect for my daughter Jacqui. I also found a pencil with a Royal Guards head & hat, a packet of four pens marked Harrods that I could split up to go further , a special block of chocolate for my Peter and a pack of five for $10 that again could be split. That was all I could afford in Harrods, but I was more than satisfied with my lot. We must have spent about four hours in Harrods.
ST PAULS Even though I struggled a lot from time to time with my walking, I continued to push on and try new things. By now my legs were beginning to feel a lot stronger, it was just my left foot that was a bit of a problem, but I knew if I didn’t give up it too would improve. So I climbed the spiral stair case in St Paul’s all the way to the top of the dome. I wanted to be able to do it in my lifetime at least once. I wanted to look down from the high dome into the cathedral below. I did it at a fairly slow pace and took extreme care the entire way and made it to the top. I was so pleased I did.
On our final day of sightseeing we went to Trafalgar Square, and also spent a few hours in The National Gallery. As artistically minded people, my granddaughter and I both loved it. I found Peter a nice Leonardo da Vinci tie in the Gallery gift shop…..he deserved it!
We also went to see Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately the entrance fee for the Abbey was too expensive for our budget, so we had to be satisfied with seeing the building. We were both happy with that; after all we had covered a heap of things, and seen some truly wonderful sights.
I felt sad about leaving London, it was such a beautiful city. I thought about how lucky we were to have been given the opportunity to come. I thought about my son Peter having visited, and other people dear to me, such as my sisters-in-law Paulie and Robbie and my dear mother-in-law, Myra. As I boarded the plane I felt I was leaving the most wonderful, warm place on earth. I wondered why the English migrants I’ve met here in Australia ever left such a beautiful place.
It’s a long, long way to go again, but as my Peter said; ‘In twelve months time you won’t think it’s so far.’ He was right, I’ve already had thoughts of it. If I ever win money, I’ll go to London again and continue the adventure.
EDITOR’S NOTE – I have known Lorraine since we were both teenagers. I was heartbroken when I heard about her dreadful time in Barcelona. When she flew to London I suggested she write a couple of pieces for me. I thought it would be a distraction from those horrible memories. I never imagined she would write about the theft and all that ensued. How brave, and how generous of her to share the story in the hope that other travellers might avoid the same fate. I am amazed that someone on their first overseas trip was able to cope so well in circumstances that would utterly destroy many of us.
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