Piccadilly Circus, London, 1969.
Tower Bridge, London, 1969.
These are postcards I purchased after I arrived in London in November 1969. I had flown in from Thailand, and spent two weeks in that wonderful city, where the 2012 Summer Olympics are currently being held. I was so happy to be there! It was one of the peak experiences of my life.
With the help of a travel guide book, titled, Europe on $5 a Day, I managed to find a cheap room in a student hostel. After the oppressive heat and humidity of Bangkok, I relished the cool weather in England. The fog reminded me of San Francisco. I bought my first winter coat and gloves, and I remember being advised by the sales clerk to learn the names of the English currency, when I handed her a bunch of coins and bills. I trusted her honesty as she picked out the requisite money as payment.
I liked the elegant hats that women wore everywhere, even on the street and in the subway. It was uniquely English. I didn’t notice those hats anywhere else in Europe back then.
There was so much to see in London – Buckingham Palace, the National Museum, Westminster Abbey, the Tower, etc. All of this made the history lectures in college come alive. For example, I could picture Anne Boleyn being beheaded at the Tower. Besides these popular tourist attractions, there was opera. I was starved for Puccini. But although I was happy to hear his Madama Butterfly sung in English, I thought it would have sounded more melodious sung in Italian.
In 1969, there were relatively few Korean-American women my age in Europe. People stared at me wherever I went. One day, a young Englishman stopped me and asked, “Are you from Hong Kong?”
“No, I’m not,” I replied. Those three words said it all.
“Oh, you have a cute little American accent,” he said, smiling.
I imagine London is more cosmopolitan now.