I have been enamored with England and its people ever since I can remember. I think the reason is that I have always been interested in genealogy, even as a child. Most of my ancestors were from England. My Dad was raised by his maternal grandmother whose parents were both English. Growing up in the 60s, I was also in love with the British invasion, movies with Haley Mills and her Dad, English novels, etc.
Having said that, and being of an age when you really start to want to explore your family’s past, I went searching, via the internet for all things British. Thank God or Technology (whichever way you lean) for the internet! I started searching in earnest in 2000, using Family Search.com and Rootsweb where I found my cousin Claire from England searching as well. I emailed her and she got right back to me with a photo of an envelope from her however-many-great- grandfather in England to my however-many-great-grandfather in the little town of Greyville, Illinois where my dad grew up. She invited me to a family reunion in the south of England and voila, my obsession with all things English really kicked in!
My first trip over was in 2001, in fact, my first full day in England was 9/11! I asked my cousin Marcie from San Diego to go with me to the family reunion. She hadn’t been researching the family, but being a student of life she was more than happy to come along and meet the rellies. I confess that I was naive on my first trip and I made my fair share of mistakes and assumptions. My first being that I was from the big city of San Diego and wanting to show off a bit I took small films of our downtown, Lindburgh Field, the traffic, the urban sprawl, etc. to show to my cousins there.
Wow, after a long overnight flight in which not much sleep was had because of the excitement, we landed in Heathrow at about 10 in the morning on 9/10, made our way through customs and to an awaiting car. We had arranged this in advance with the people who ran the B&B that I booked in London. They were amazing, but more about them later. Riding through London to get to the suburb of Crystal Palace, we were both stunned at the size and population. Seriously it was jaw dropping!
9 Million people in one place, the roads were built hundreds of years ago, so there is enough room for one car to pass in many places with cars parked on both sides of the road. I was impressed with how it all worked so smoothly and politely. One car stops and lets the other by with a quick wave of the hand and then it weaves in and out like a choreographed dance, awesome.