In the library of my high school was a collection of travel books from Time Life. The Great Britain book left the most indelible mark and featured nostalgic (not intentional) photography from the 1960’s. Captions accompanied the riveting photography included:
-Young people dancing the night away at a London flat
-Regent Street decked out in lights.
-Swinging London (on Carnaby Street)
It made the U.K. into a place of dazzling fantasy and an obvious exodus for someone curious about the world. In high school, I wrote a report on Great Britain and received an A. Eventually; I visited the UK when I was fifteen. I remember the excitement and the same thought raced across my brain cells, ” I am gonna see London, it’s really gonna happen.”
On the day of our trip to England, we took the ferryboat from Calais to Dover. The skies were unusually blue like Frank Sinatra’s eyes. As the ferry sailed, English Channel also reflected the intense hue. The boat was filled with English people laughing, conversing and eating sandwiches. I stepped out to the deck and spent the first forty-five minutes daydreaming.
“Would London be like the Time life photos of the Swinging 60’s? Is there music on every corner, accompanying the rain? & Is Buckingham Palace as big in person?” These were the questions I pondered.
The White Cliffs of Dover emerged from a mile away. My eyes starred into England from a distance. “I’ve always wanted to see Britain,” I declared to one of my classmates. He smiled and said ” You’re dream has come true.”
The boat arrived at Dover and I went through customs. Then our classmates & I boarded a bus to Canterbury. I kept thinking, ” We’re going to crash, we’re going to crash,” since it was my first time driving in the opposite side of the road. However, we didn’t. After an afternoon in Canterbury, exploring its very English charms, it was off to London.
Two hours after dozing off on a winding highway, I awoke and found myself in London. I remember seeing the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, while reveling in the austerity of some of Britain’s most fascinating sites.
London became one of my favorite cities. The pictures from Time Life couldn’t compare to actually being there. I fell in love and became obsessed with all things British. Throughout my life, I ended up visiting England more. However, nothing compared to the memorable encounter with the British Isles with the White Cliffs of Dover welcoming my youthful imagination.