Tuesday, December 1, 2020

My Grandmother's Journals: December, 1995 (Bonus this month: My journal entries)

My grandmother and me in Paris, December 1995.

 
When she was 80 and I was 25, my grandmother invited me to Paris and London with her. It was an incredible experience, full of moments both amazing and awful, especially since Paris was in the grips of a transportation strike at the time. And you don't have to imagine what it was like for us to walk everywhere in the freezing cold, because we each wrote about our experiences in separate journals.

That was cool.  
 
I didn't know my grandmother not only kept a diary on that trip, but a daily log of her life for decades, until she died. Then I found a stack of small notebooks in which she recorded when she woke up, what she ate, what movie she went to see and what she watched on television.
And I love reading those notebooks so much I have become a bit obsessed. Not only are they full of tiny details about daily life that I would enjoy reading even if she weren't my grandmother, they've introduced me to parts of her I never got to know while she was alive. 
 
My grandmother was not an easy person to be with. She was a strong-willed woman who could be very critical and easy to anger; even her only child, my mother, kept her very carefully at arm's length. I was afraid of her when I was a child, and remained wary of her as an adult, expecting everything I said and did to be used against me later. 
But while we had an often strained relationship, she was by far the most constant and supportive adult presence in my life after my parents exited, one by death and one by choice. She did not offer warmth or unconditional love, but did provide crucial financial support and much-needed stability. Perhaps most important of all, she was a remarkable role model of a woman full of grit, independence and endless curiosity about all the people and places in the world. 
 
I have about two dozen of those yearly datebooks my grandmother filled with her days, and I chose to publish the year 1995 because that December was when we traveled together to Europe, and I thought it would be fun to feature my perspective of our journey alongside hers.
I also love reliving that trip because it was the most time we spent alone together, and therefore includes my favorite memories of her: us collapsing in laughter after battling our way on and off crowded buses during a transportation strike in Paris, us collapsing in laughter again after misinterpreting the warning sign "Weak bridge" as the name of the span, and her looking at me mournfully over yet another stack of white toast for breakfast at our hotel in London and saying, "Let's go to McDonald's and get Egg McMuffins!"
 
Here are all her entries for December of 1995, along with mine for the days we were together. Her entries were brief, mine were not!

Friday, Dec. 1, 1995 
Awake early, cold. Up by 9.
To bank, put money in Justine's account.
To Rebecca's muffins. 
To show, "American President." Bening, Douglas. Enjoyed.
To Library, looked up Carrington and Strachey. [The painter Dora Carrington and writer Lytton Strachey.] Got two books.
To Wendy's, ate baked potato, got caeser salad to go.
Turned foggy. To Drug Emporium, got antacid, aspirin, cookies, Tums and candy.
Dinner: salad. Watched X-Files.

Saturday, Dec. 2, 1995
Up 8:30, breakfast McDonald's. 
Home, tennis. Davis Cup, doubles. USA beat Russians three sets.
Worked on girls' money. Wrote Mina & Justine.
To post office, message from Corky to watch Ch. 54 at 5 p.m.
Read Lytton's works.
Did watch "Sister Wendy's Odyssey." Enjoyed.
 
Sunday, Dec. 3, 1995
9 a.m., Sy called. Paris without food, workers drive in, park everywhere, no room for food deliveries. Philippe walking two hours to work.
Breakfast at corner. Tennis, Sampras won.
Football, Miami over Atlanta, Raiders lost to Chiefs 23-29, 49ers over Bills, 27-17.
Called Justine, told her. [I'm assuming she told me about the strike in Paris, since we were going there in about three weeks.]
Paris on 60 Minutes, watched Cybill.
 
Monday, Dec. 4, 1995
Rain in night. Up 9, breakfast Lyon's. Forgot tip!
To Trader Joe's, Drug Emporium, Penneys, got pants.
Home, turned warm. Read Strachey, got clothes ready for laundromat tomorrow.
Football, Lions beat Bears. Some TV.
Called Air France, got seats. Finished Strachey book.

Tuesday, Dec. 5, 1995 
It snowed in Paris Tuesday.
Up 8:45. Breakfast McDonald's. 
Laundromat, Lucky, checked Thrifty for tissue, none. To Shopper's Corner, got three single packs.
Home, CNN showed marchers in Paris. Cold!! Overcoats, hoods. 
Mail, letter from Mina, bill from waste management.
Fixed tuna salad, read papers. Showered, washed hair.
TV: Frost saw before, surfed: Law & Order, Frasier, bed, read.

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 1995
Slept heavy until 4 a.m., back to sleep til 9! Breakfast BK.
Mailed waste payment, put "hold" on mail. Store update, no Nixon stamps.
Home 11:45 a.m.
TV: Some Geraldo, Star Trek, Law & Order, Bio Pretty Boy Floyd. 
Bed, couldn't sleep. Watched Nightline, Tom Synder.

Thursday, Dec. 7, 1995
Up 9 a.m. Breakfast Carl's, looked for Lily.
Bought X-Mas cards, batteries; Staples, purse-size calendar. 
Lunch here, to mall, paid Penneys, Gottschalk's, Mervyn's.  
Some French, watched Star Trek, Law & Order, Bio Bugsy Siegel.
Bed, slept good.

Friday, Dec. 8, 1995
Be ready, stopped mail as of 11th. Decide re traveler's cheques.
Up 8:30, breakfast McDonald's. Credit Union, B of A, got traveler's insurance.
Called Air France, metro running pretty slow!
Called Justine, she home. To bank, $80 to Justine's acct.
Kmart, ate turkey dinner.
X-Files, news. Called Sy.

Saturday, Dec. 9, 1995
Up 9 a.m., breakfast corner. 
To Sears, glasses fixed.
Home, French two hours. 
Called Justine, talked 45 minutes? Jim/Sharon gave her books and map of Britain. 

Sunday, Dec. 10, 1995
Up 7 a.m., shower, more packing.
49ers game, 31-10 vs. Carolina.
Justine called, breakfast Zachary's at 10:45.
Lost Justine, she sightseeing. To arcade for pix.
Drug Emporium, Kmart, got duffel bag. 
Home, ran Paris tape. Justine packing.
Dinner Marie Callender's, ate 1/2 pie. 
Drove Capitola and Seascape looking at lights, back 7:30 or 8?
More packing. Rain hard 2 to 4 a.m.

Monday, Dec. 11, 1995
Much rain, roads closed, etc.
Justine and I ate at coffee shop. To AAA for travel cheques, Longs, bank.
Home, then to Trader Joe's.
Carol's electricity out, she late, called at 1:30 p.m. Didn't reset clock!
Left Santa Cruz 1:35 p.m., stopped at rest stop, arrived 3:25 p.m.
Air France 4:15 p.m., 767 plane, 2-3-2. 
Got money, forgot where I put checks!
 
Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1995
Overnight on plane, arrived 2:25 p.m. at gate.  
Called Andra from baggage, arrived Parnasse at 4 p.m.
Walked to hotel, we stopped for coffee. Got there 6:30 p.m.
Philippe there, did not ask for money.
Rested 1/2 hour, walked. Called Sy 8:30, bed 9. 
Justine liked the view from the window.

My journal entry for that day:
I think the first night was the worst. We got off the plane in Paris, dragged all our luggage thru the airport and found an Air France bus that dropped us off in the freezing cold at Montparnasse, and then began our trek to the hotel. But I had to pee like mad, so we found a toilet first, and I met my first Turkish toilet: basically a f--king hole in the ground...

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 1995
Up three times, cold. Breakfast here.
To Seine, looked for boats, found to Bercy. Could not go back, waited 35 mins for another.
To Eiffel Tower, ate at restaurant: Poulet [chicken], frites, coffee, 150 francs.
Walked, took bus. Held up in St. Germain de Pres.
Called Sy, bed.

My journal entry:
The next day started with good, strong coffee and steamed milk made for us by a woman downstairs, plus a baguette and croissant she just bought at a bakery.
My camera broke after three pictures; I tried and tried to fix it, getting more and more frustrated and depressed. We heard there were free boat rides because of the strikes, so we set out to find where they were... 

Thursday, Dec. 14, 1995
Slept very well. Breakfast early.
Found photo store, got two cameras.
Walked to Palais Royal, Justine to Pyramid.
To Marks and Spencer, Justine got body suit. My Visa refused!
Walked across to National Assembly, missed one bus, second full, third we pushed lady in fur coat to get on.
Foned Sy, he sick. Cancelled meeting

My journal entry:
We walked to the Hotel de Ville, going into Notre Dame and looking at the Louvre from the outside. We walked all the way to the Opera House, beautiful, then looked at all of the expensive shops on the way back. 
As we were crossing the bridge I saw a bus go by and said, "I bet that's ours." But we couldn't make it to the stop in time, so we stood at the corner, and it started to snow again. I have never been so cold in my life. One bus stopped and only picked up four of us, so when another came, we got brutal...

Friday, Dec. 15, 1995
Down Rue Mufftard to Andra's by 11:30, ate quiche.
Walked to Sorbonne, gardens. 
Rested a bit, ate at pizza place, spaghetti.

My journal entry:
Friday we were to meet Andra and Lutz at their place at 11:30, so we took the morning walking over and up the hill to their place, stopping at a tea place with another Turkish toilet. But I got used to them; any toilet is good when you really have to go! And once my period was over, everything was fine.
Andra and Lutz's tiny, tiny apartment was up five flights of stairs...
 
Saturday, Dec. 16, 1995
Four Metro lines running 1-4-7-13. No 2, no Père Lachaise. 
To Gore de Nord, closed. Back to Concorde, tired. To hotel, slept.
To Charcuterie, got 1/2 chicken and veggies, custard. Nice.
(Man at McDonald's asked for hamburger, frites).
 
My journal entry:
A few Metro lines were running, but not the one we needed to go to Père Lachaise Cemetery (where Jim Morrison of The Doors and Oscar Wilde are buried.) So we went back to the Place de Concorde, saw some more ritzy shops, and got tired just walking around.
Grandma bought me some scrumptious food at a rotisserie, and another day in Paris was over and I was exhausted. 
 
Sunday, Dec. 17, 1995
Awake at 3 until 5, slept until 7.  
Foned Air France, made reservation [in case the Chunnel wasn't running the next day.]
Met Lutz at 9:45, walked to Hotel de Ville, no 2 bus. Back to Le Defense, got coffee.
To Louvre, Mona Lisa, Caravaggio.
Back to hotel 3 p.m., got Quiche Lorraine. Foned Sy, Yvonne.
Justine stayed with Andra and Lutz until late.

My journal entry:
Lutz woke us up at 9:30 and said we could have lunch with them, and actually he would meet us at 10 and go sightseeing with us. We again tried to go to the cemetery, but the 2 wasn't running. We went to La Defense instead, boring, and it was too foggy, and I hate grandma with them. She doesn't know them very well and is not relaxed.
The Louvre was open so we went inside, and we found the Mona Lisa, and the Winged Victory and the Venus de Millo. Really snore -- there was so much else to see.
 
Monday, Dec. 18, 1995
Lucky, Strike over, Eurostar running! Tried to cancel flights, couldn't, computer down.
Got 9:09 a.m. train, change clock one hour.
Got to hotel, terrible! But had to pay 3 nites, so stuck!
Went to Harrod's, got travel pillow. Justine lost one on plane over.
Leichester Square, many students. 
Hotel 6 p.m. Me sleep, Justine TV.
(Note to herself at the top: Before leaving Victoria Station, buy "What's on in London," or "Time Out.")
 
My journal entry:
I was fearing the worst, but grandma spoke to me right off in the morning, and I avoided mentioning Andra and Lutz because she changed the subject immediately. So not to stoke the fire, I tread carefully and it was never mentioned again. She sulked and got over it, I guess.
We had gotten up as early as possible that morning because we needed to get to London. Grandma had made flight reservations for us at 2 p.m. in case the Chunnel (Eurostar) wasn't running, but we went to Gare du Nord first in case it was. 

Tuesday, Dec. 19. 1995
Awake 2 a.m., sat in toilet doing money. Bed til 4, up, shower, dressed.
Breakfast 8 a.m., post office, wrote Sy, Yvonne. Justine got camera.
To Victoria Station, Justine took tour, me to Buckingham Palace. 
Got postcards at National Gallery, met Justine for lunch there.
Justine back on tour, me to Wallace collection.
Ate at Pub, "Kings Head." Back 7:30 p.m.

My journal entry:
The next day we found out what breakfast was like. We got coffee right away -- Nescafe, of course -- and some Tang! The orange juice was Tang. Then, all the toast you could eat. Just a pile of jams, butter and hot toast. Grandma reached for her knife and it was stuck to the tablecloth! But, anyway, it was food, and you didn't have to go out into the cold to get it. More.
 
Wednesday, Dec. 20, 1995
Up early, washed t-shirts. To London Dungeon, power out.
To Southwark Cathedral, beautiful. Got cards.
Back to London Dungeon, still out of power.
To St Paul's, just looked. 
Ate at pub "Finch." Good, dinner 4.50 each.
To London Dungeon, problems with Tube, bank out.
Hotel at 5:30, out for money, again to call Sandra. Out, recording.
Called again at 8 p.m., she home.
Justine met Rebecca, me read paper, slept.

My journal entry:
The next morning it was toast and coffee and we set out for the "London Dungeon." We found it easy enough, but when we got there they said they'd had a power failure due to "too many executions."
So we took a bus to the Southwark Cathedral, and it was very interesting. Some of the plaques for the dead people were incredible, especially one for a 12-year-old girl: "She came, she saw, she didn't like it," and a shrine to William Shakespeare. And we got to hear some Christmas carols being rehearsed with the organ, beautiful.
But, of course, grandma continued to bombard me with tales and questions, even though it was obvious I was listening to, and enjoying, the music. I have never wanted to be in my own thoughts more, and have never been denied them more, than on this trip.
 
Thursday, Dec. 21, 1995
Up 8, breakfast. Talked to American from Kansas City. His son goes to school here.
Foned for car, not available. Called travel agency, Hertz manager, made reservation.
Raining, to Metro, to Heathrow. Got Fiat Punto.
Made reservation for B&B, got there at 2:15 p.m. Roundabouts.
Nice place, made reservation for 26th. Walked to pub for dinner.
 
My recollections: 
I don't have a journal entry for this day, but I remember that drive from the airport as being very frustrating, what with driving on the left side of the road and trying to navigate the roundabouts. I very much wanted the signs to have the names of the city you were heading to, but they only had the names of the roads, which were useless to me. 
 
Friday, Dec. 22, 1995
Justine woke ILL. To Oxford at 9 a.m., got there at 10.
Walked around, lovely grounds. Had coffee and pie. Justine got Mechele a tea pot.
To Sandra's, Justine found way. Called from Texaco Station, "Weak Bridge."
Many cars, day off. 
Had salmon for dinner, watched "Red Dwarf.
Bed 9:30, slept til 3:30.

My recollections: 
I woke up with a cold and did not want to get out of bed. I remember staring out of the window in misery and my grandmother being annoyed. "I certainly hope you're not too sick to drive." So, I got up and drove us. 
The day got much better, though, because when we were trying to find her friend Sandra's house, I pulled over at a gas station to call her and said we were at "Weak Bridge."
"You're where?" she said, sounding very confused. Then I burst out laughing.
"Grandma, that's not the name of the bridge. It's just telling us it's a 'weak bridge!'"
We both laughed so hard the clerk at the gas station thought we were crazy. That is my second favorite memory of her. My definite favorite was later that day at Sandra's house, where she became a woman who giggled, a woman with flushed cheeks and shining eyes, a woman who patted my leg like my mother had.

Saturday, Dec. 23, 1995
Up 7:30, shower, washed hair. Fixed coffee, toast. Balanced money.
Sandra down, talked a bit. Justine down, more coffee.
Sandra called many places, settled on one in Costwold, Old Nelson Premier Lodge.
Near Tesco store, large, well-stocked.
Ate at restaurant, washed some things. 
Bed early, TV, "Sleepless in Seattle."
Redid suitcase, pressed pants. 

Sunday, Dec. 24, 1995
Up 7:30, breakfast, bath.
Got petrol first time, 9.66 litres. 
To hardware store, got padlock.
To Bath 11 a.m., walked to Roman Bath Museum, got mementos, etc.
To Hole in Wall. Expensive. [Hole in the Wall was a place my grandfather recommended.]
Tea at Pump Room, got plate, tea and oil lamp. Justine got mug, plates, key ring.
Started back at 4:30, foggy, dangerous, 30 mph.
TV, Secret Garden, Mrs. Doubtfire.

My journal entry:
It's Christmas Eve. We're right above the bar, I can hear everyone laughing and celebrating, grandma snoring.
I deserve a bloody medal for my driving today. We drove home 30 miles from Bath in pea soup fog. First, I had to find the parking garage, then find the way back to Stroud, then lead 25 cars over the hills when you couldn't see your hand in front of you. Scary. Every time cars came the other way, the road disappeared. It was f--king hell.
Then I had to figure out where our hotel was, without a map or any signs to help, just by memory, and when we got back grandma said, "You're a wonder."
 
Monday, Dec. 25, 1995
Breakfast 9ish, walked to park. Stratford.
Car windows all frosted, man from Houston in car park had scraper; he here to visit mother.
He scraped windows, we drove to Bristol and back. Stopped at one pub, no room.
To hotel, got big dinner, two glasses of wine.
TV, La Boheme. 
 
My recollections:
I remember we had nowhere to eat that day because it was Christmas and we had not made reservations, but the hotel graciously squeezed us in and we had a very nice dinner with sparkling wine and crackers to pull. 
I remember feeling so happy and relieved, but I'm sure it was much more than grandma wanted to spend for a meal! 
 
Tuesday, Dec. 26, 1995
Up 8, repacked. Had frost again.
Checked out 10 a.m., got gas and food in country, nice inn.
Took M4 to Windsor Castle, closed for Boxing Day.
Cold, ate soup, fish and chips.
To B&B, Justine found OK. 
Watched TV, cold then too hot. Slept fitfully, 3-4 hours in all.
 
My recollections:
Unfortunately, we had trouble finding food the next day, too, because we didn't know that the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, is also a holiday in Great Britain, and that morning all we had to eat was a box of biscuits grandma bought at a grocery store earlier in the week. But the struggles on trips create the best stories, and the most satisfying feelings afterward when you overcome them. 
I am so grateful for that trip with my grandmother, the good times and the bad. And now every time I travel, there is always extra food stashed in my purse!
 
Wednesday, Dec. 27, 1995 
To Heathrow, return car, plane at 1:15 p.m.
Me up 7:30, Justine up 8. Breakfast at 9, served by man of the house.
I cleaned off car, light snow.
To petrol, 10.99 litres, £6.06
Checked car in 10:10 a.m., airport shuttle 10:40. 
Checked bags, got coffee. Waited.
Plane's carriage improper, changed planes, given 8 francs for drinks. 
Carol met us at 8:20, home 10 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 28, 1995
Awake 4 a.m., Ray T. Poet's Notes.
Worked on money, all balanced.
Breakfast Zachary's [She only ate there with me].
To post office to get mail, to bank to deposit unused traveler's checks.
Got gas, to Clothes Closet, check for $53.50
Walked to beach with Justine, she to meet Mechele.  Me to sort mail, do checkbook, etc.
Tired. Bed 6 p.m. Justine called at 10:30, arrived SLO.

Friday, Dec. 29, 1995
Ray T, Band Note. Listened 1 - 5 a.m., good sounds.
Breakfast BK, to Kinkos, took pix, Visa and Chunnel tickets. Also court reply.
To bank, crowded. Home, sent $513.33 to Justine, cashed $53.50.
To Albertsons, home, lunch.
Then bed in front [the pull-out sofa I slept on].
Slept, up occasionally, 9:30 to 12:30 a.m.

Saturday, Dec. 30, 1995
Up 1 a.m., ate some soup, toast. Wrote this.
Watched "Death of a Nation," worked crossword. No sleep but rested a bit. 
Up 6:15 a.m., got sheets from front for wash, Justine's towel and nightgown.
Ate McDonald's, laundromat.  
Home 8:45, wrote Justine. 
Some football, Bills over Miami, Lions vs. Eagles, high score.
Cleaned lawn of mushrooms.
Watched Star Trek, taped Mozart.
 
Sunday, Dec. 31, 1995  
Slept til 3 a.m., dressed, ate cereal, banana.
Wrote two letters, to post office. Also ate at Jefferys.
To lighthouse, sea was beautiful.
"Wally's" board loose, into rocks.


Travels with grandma: Paris and London, 1995


Eating with grandma in Paris.
When she was 80 and I was 25, my grandmother invited me to Paris and London in December of 1995. 
I think she preferred traveling alone, as she had done for many decades, but age was finally limiting her abilities, and she wanted me to drive us into the English countryside to visit one of her friends and the city of Bath.
Of course I couldn't pass up the chance to see Paris, a city I had seen and heard so much about, and while traveling with my grandmother definitely had its challenges, getting to see new places, and meet new sides of my grandmother, made all the difficulties worthwhile.
That trip also created my favorite memories of her: us collapsing in laughter after battling our way on and off crowded buses during a transportation strike in Paris, us collapsing in laughter again after misinterpreting the warning sign "Weak bridge" as the name of the span, and her looking at me mournfully over yet another stack of white toast for breakfast at our hotel in London and saying, "Let's go to McDonald's and get Egg McMuffins!"

That was cool.

Below are my only slightly edited journal entries from that trip. Read my grandmother's here.
 
Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1995 
My first squat toilet.
I think the first night was the worst. We got off the plane in Paris, dragged all our luggage thru the airport and found an Air France bus that dropped us off in the freezing cold at Montparnasse, and then began our trek to the hotel. But I had to pee like mad, so we found a toilet first, and there I met my first Turkish toilet: basically a f--king hole in the ground. 
I had a long overdue pad (with no wastebasket to put it in) and hovered there, trying to keep pee off my underwear, shoes and everything else. It was not looking good. 
Then we dragged the bags through the streets, grandma at a snail's pace, my arms falling off and the sidewalks barely wide enough, with a steady stream of people rushing in front and behind; wet streets, cars rushing by, it was hell.
Every corner my suitcase tipped over and we were the conversation piece and annoyance for everyone for eight blocks. Halfway there, we stopped at a cafe and squeezed, I mean squeezed, ourselves inside. We were all bulky jackets and sweaters and scarves and gloves and huge bags cramming past the people at the bar and dragging our bags up the steps to these tables built  for dolls. 
Finally, we got to the hotel, and I sat up on the table at the window, put my legs on the radiator, and ate my first baguette in Paris, watching the endless stream of lights and traffic below.
Grandma wrote in her journal that day, "Justine liked view from window."

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 1995
The next day started with good, strong coffee and steamed milk made for us downstairs by a woman at the hotel, plus a baguette and croissant she just bought at a bakery.
Then my camera broke after three pictures; I tried and tried to fix it, getting more and more frustrated and depressed. 
Dressed for the cold in front of the Seine.
We heard there were free boat rides because of the strikes, so we set out to find where they were... After walking back and forth from bridge to bridge, over and back, we finally found a stop, missed the right boat and got on one going the other way. It took us all the way to Bercy, then we had to get off because the men were having lunch. We had to go out into the cold, get behind this huge crowd, wait 45 minutes for them to eat lunch, and a new boat to come. Finally, after starting out at 9 a.m., we got to the Eiffel Tower around 2 p.m. But it was beautiful. 
We walked across to the Palais de Chaillot, and I ached for my camera. And it was FREEZING! It was windy and incredibly cold, and we stopped for tea and coffee on the way, and luckily the Arc de Triomphe was only a few blocks away. We saw the Arc and all the traffic, very impressive, and caught one of the free buses that drove us right to our hotel, straight down the Champs Elysees with all the trees lighted -- breathtaking -- and through the Place de Concorde, with all the lights and statues, really beautiful.
 
Thursday, Dec. 14, 1995
We walked to the Hotel de Ville, going into Notre Dame and looking at the Louvre from the outside. We walked all the way to the Opera House, beautiful, then looked at all of the expensive shops on the way back. 
We got to the Place de Concorde again, and as we were crossing the bridge I saw a bus go by and said, "I bet that's ours." But we couldn't make it to the stop in time, so we stood at the corner, and it started to snow again. I have never been so cold in my life.
There were lots of other people waiting, too, and cars would stop and pick people up randomly. One bus stopped and only picked up four of us, so when another came, we got brutal. Grandma just plowed on, so I had to really push to get on or I would have been left there alone.
We were all packed on the bus like sardines; the woman behind me was holding onto my parka. It got dreadfully hot and I felt sick and claustrophobic; the windows were all steamed and you could not see out. Then more and more people got on and sometimes the bus would barely move, the traffic just crawling, and finally when we got to our stop, it was impossible to get off! No one else was getting off, but more people were squeezing on, and I pushed, and got stuck between a man and a round woman -- I literally could not move. But I pushed and pushed and finally popped out, my stuff all squished and twisted, and grandma slowly squeezed out, and we collapsed into the hotel lobby, laughing so hard we had to sit down in the chairs.  
Every night in Paris I slept like a baby, falling asleep almost instantly, couldn't read one page.

Friday, Dec. 15, 1995
Friday we were to meet Andra and Lutz at their place at 11:30, so we took the morning walking over and up the hill to their apartment, stopping at a tea place with another Turkish toilet. But I got used to them; any toilet is good when you really have to go! And once my period was over, everything was fine.
Admiring all the sweets.
Andra and Lutz's tiny, tiny apartment was up five flights of stairs. Andra makes us all quiche, and grandma seemed so stiff, talking about lame stuff like Steffi Graff's father, changing the subject, interrupting, bringing up random stuff.
"Well, it was nice to see you both," she said.
"Are you in a rush?" Lutz asked.
But Andra takes us out, shows us the Sorbonne, we go to an adorable little pastry shop. But it's very cold and Andra leaves. 
We went to an Italian place and I had this wonderful pesto spaghetti. Mmm, mmm! :)

Saturday, Dec. 16, 1995
A few Metro lines were running, but not the one we needed to go to Père Lachaise Cemetery [where Jim Morrison of The Doors and Oscar Wilde are buried.] So we went back to the Place de Concorde, saw some more ritzy shops, and got tired just walking around.
Grandma bought me some scrumptious food at a rotisserie, and another day in Paris was over and I was exhausted.
 
Sunday, Dec. 17, 1995
Lutz woke us up at 9:30 and said we could have lunch with them, and actually he would meet us at 10 and go sightseeing with us. We again tried to go to the cemetery, but the 2 wasn't running. We went to La Defense instead, boring, and it was too foggy, and I hate grandma with them. She doesn't know them very well and is not relaxed. The Louvre was open so we went inside, and we found the Mona Lisa, and the Winged Victory and the Venus de Millo. Really snore -- there was so much else to see.
After walking around with Lutz, grandma was exhausted so she went back to the hotel and I went on with Lutz. Finally, freedom-- I was floating. I could breathe, laugh, sing, swear, walk fast! Walk fast!
Parisian I snuck a photo of in a cafe.
That morning I had reveled in a brisk, hour walk along the Seine, all alone in Paris, admiring and being admired by the tall, lean, dark men with their beautiful black coats, jeans and boots, scarves around their necks, making love to their cigarettes. I loved their faces and jawlines, fingers and eyes. They were beautiful.
... At Andra and Lutz's apartment, we had great Greek sandwiches she bought, she showed me her pictures and
I showed them how to play Gin Rummy. Then she went to work and Lutz taught me a dice game and I taught him Hell (double solitaire), and he was frustrated because he was terrible at first, but then he won a couple.
Then grandma called around six and Andra said she sounded upset and that I should call her, but I didn't feel like it because I knew she'd be a pill and Lutz said, "It's your holiday, too."
But I did call, and it rang and rang and rang, and after the desk guy broke thru she finally answered, all cold and brisk, saying it was my business how long I stayed but that "four hours was a bit much," and that she was doing her crossword and to ask Lutz what "over" was in Berlin. When I hung up I thought, "f--k it," and stayed a little longer, waiting for Andra because we were supposed to go dancing. 
But we just walked down Rue Mouffetard, got crepes with Nutella and saw these girls hanging a note out of a second-story window. Lutz read it and said they were bored and heard me talking in English, and that one of them had been living in Florida.
Andra and Lutz came up to say goodbye to grandma but she was sleeping and didn't say a word to me. My last night in Paris...

Monday, Dec. 18, 1995
I woke up fearing the worst, but grandma spoke to me right off in the morning, and I avoided mentioning Andra and Lutz because she changed the subject immediately. So not to stoke the fire, I tread carefully and it was never mentioned again. She sulked and got over it, I guess.
We had gotten up as early as possible that morning because we needed to get to London. Grandma had made flight reservations for us at 2 p.m. in case the Chunnel (Eurostar) wasn't running, but we went to Gare du Nord station first in case it was. 
We had breakfast as soon as they served it, 7:30, and managed to get a taxi. I said "Eurostar" to the man which managed to keep him until grandma got across the street -- quite a feat, really-- and we were leaving Paris.
Amazingly enough, Eurostar was running and the trains were practically empty. It took three hours, including 20 minutes in the Chunnel, surprisingly painless, and then we were in England. It was amazingly green and pretty, full of green fields, stone houses and sheep everywhere.
Then the lovely business of getting our luggage onto the Underground trains and finding our
hotel. We figured out the way to Earl's Court Station easy enough, but standing there at the mouth of this station, looking at the busy, wet streets, I was instantly depressed; it looked like a bad area. Luckily, Hogarth Street was right there, and our hotel was not far: just like they said, "a minute from Earl's Court Underground Station." Yes, and it was gross.
To get to our room we scrambled down this maze of five doors and stairs to a room that was stifling. The windows were shut and curtained, and when I found a door to open for some air it got much worse! The door, with plenty of locks on it, opened up to this filthy patio, with beer cans and trash everywhere, soggy mattresses and god knows what else. Right behind that were the trains; they clamored by every five to ten minutes, shaking the building and making an incredible racket. But yes, we were 1 minute from the Earl's Court Station.
[Grandma's journal entry describes the hotel as "terrible!"]
 
I was seriously depressed. But, we rested a bit and went to Leicester Square near Piccadilly Circus. We walked around, went to a Haagen Daz Cafe and had some very expensive, but very good, Bailey's Cream ice cream and coffee.
We walked a bit to catch a bus, got on the wrong one, then got off when the bus driver said, "you want to get off here, love," and walked butt far in the cold! Grandma was about to fall over, but we made it.

Tuesday, Dec. 19, 1995
The next day we found out what breakfast was like. There were quite a few other people in the dining room, and we got coffee right away -- Nescafe, of course -- and some Tang! Then, all the toast you could eat. Just a pile of jams, butter and hot toast. Grandma reached for her knife and it was stuck to the tablecloth! But, anyway, it was food, and you didn't have to go out into the cold to get it.
We took the Underground to Knight's Bridge and I got one of the sightseeing tours. I got on top and saw a few sights, then got off at Baker Street with the intention of walking to Sherlock Home's house. But instead I went down Oxford Street to Marks and Spencer (a huge, glorious department store) and went into the lingerie section -- big mistake! Bought underwear, a bra, and chips. However, they wouldn't take my credit card, so I could only buy the chips. 
I found an ATM, bought my clothes, went out and caught another bus, this time with a covered top, all warm and cozy up top. I didn't want to get off! I was the only one on, listening to the woman talk to the driver about her husband/boyfriend and baby, "the poor little sausage," and then into the speaker about the parks and the buildings. I got off at Trafalgar Square to meet grandma, and got mad at her because I stood outside forever, and then we had coffee and soup inside. I didn't really want to, but it was good.
When we got outside, it had started to rain. We agreed to meet at Victoria Station, and I set out to the corner where the buses were, but none stopped, or opened their doors. I finally walked to a different corner, and stood there getting soaked as several of my buses just passed me by. Finally, I walked up to the sign and saw that it was a "Request Stop," meaning you had to wave at them. Sure enough, the next one stopped and I got on. Unfortunately, it was an open top so I had to sit downstairs, but it was warm, and I finally saw Big Ben, and the Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. And we went over the bridge and I saw the Tower of London, and soon we got to Victoria Station. 
The station was incredible -- all these people, the destinations and arrivals. I stood there, awing at all the people crowded around, watching the signs flip and change, listening to the announcements and watching all kinds of tired, hurrying people dragging bags and suitcases. I felt for them; that would be us soon, trying to get out of London.
I found grandma and we decided to eat dinner at the pub near our hotel. I got lasagna, which was good, and a pint, which helped me sleep. The guy at the table next to us was asleep before his food came; the waitress had to wake him up.
 
Wednesday, Dec. 20, 1995
The next morning it was toast and coffee and we set out for the "London Dungeon." We found it easy enough, but when we got there they said they'd had a power failure due to "too many executions." [The London Dungeon is a museum featuring interactive displays of torture devices like the guillotine and other ghoulish stuff. We went there because I wanted to, not because my grandmother did.]
Southwark Cathedral.
So we took a bus to the Southwark Cathedral, and it was very interesting. Some of the plaques for the dead people were incredible, especially one for a 12-year-old girl: "She came, she saw, she didn't like it," and a shrine to William Shakespeare. And we got to hear some Christmas carols being rehearsed with the organ, beautiful.
But, of course, grandma continued to bombard me with tales and questions, even though it was obvious I was listening to, and enjoying, the music. I have never wanted to be in my own thoughts more, and have never been denied them more, than on this trip.
We then decided to go to St Paul's Cathedral and walked out on the bridge to catch a bus in the cold wind. The number we wanted never came, and finally a woman told us that the bus we wanted was "quite rare," so we began to walk. We saw an Underground station, then signs for St. Paul's Cathedral, so we went downstairs and walked, and walked, and walked for f--king ever. Anyway, we got to the church and it charged £4 to get in -- right! 
So we decided to eat and found this pub nearby and went downstairs and ate; very good food, actually.
I went upstairs to call Becky. [I met Becky several months earlier in Chile, where she was working as a radio reporter for the BBC, and writing for the newspaper I was interning at. She happened to be back home in London for the holidays while I was visiting.]
She agreed to meet me at the Embankment Station at a quarter to nine. Grandma made like she was going to go out because she "had a free evening," but of course she didn't; she was always crashing at 4 or 5. After she called Sandra and talked forever, I got back to the station and rushed to the train that was sitting there. After checking it was going in the right direction, I hopped on. But not only was it not going in the right direction, it was the wrong train. Everything was yellow, not green, and the stops on the map were all wrong.  I was on the Circle line, not the District, and I was already late, it was almost nine. I got off, got on the right train, and watched my watch in agony as it crept past nine, about a minute per stop, and I still had five or six more stops.
I looked at the empty train and wondered what it would be like to come back around midnight. After spending hours in the London Dungeon, in the dark and cold, looking at boiling people and the Black Plague and Anne Boleyn and doing the "Jack the Ripper Experience," the thought of the trek back to the hotel from the station was truly terrifying. 
Finally, the train got to Embankment and I dashed up to the "Way Out" and Becky was there.
"Hey, kid," she said, and soon we were up in the night air. She took my arm and again I felt free and happy. We walked fast and talked fast, there was no way to tell everything.
 
Sunday, Dec. 24, 1995 
It's Christmas Eve. We're right above the bar, I can hear everyone laughing and celebrating, and grandma snoring.
I deserve a bloody medal for my driving today. We drove home 30 miles from Bath in pea soup fog. First, I had to find the parking garage, then find the way back to Stroud, then lead 25 cars over the hills when you couldn't see your hand in front of you. Scary. Every time cars came the other way, the road disappeared. It was f--king hell.
Then I had to figure out where our hotel was, without a map or any signs to help, just by memory, and when we got back grandma said, "You're a wonder."

I stopped writing after this, but I remember the next day we had nowhere to eat dinner because it was Christmas and we had not made reservations, but the hotel graciously squeezed us in and we enjoyed a very nice dinner with sparkling wine and crackers to pull. 
I remember feeling so happy and relieved, but I'm sure it was much more than grandma wanted to spend for a meal! 
Unfortunately, we had trouble finding food the next day, too, because we didn't know that the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, is also a holiday in Great Britain, and that morning all we had to eat was a box of biscuits grandma bought at a grocery store earlier in the week. But the struggles on trips create the best stories, and the most satisfying feelings afterward when you overcome them. I am so grateful for that trip with my grandmother, the good times and the bad. 
And of course now when I travel, there is always extra food stashed in my purse!