It was May 3,1930 and the first time Evelyn Forrest had flown in an airplane. She and husband Richard (co-founders of Toccoa Falls College) were flying from Paris, France to London, England. Recently, I had the opportunity to retrace her steps, especially through the center part of the city. What fun it was to think about her standing in the center of Piccadilly Circus and wondering which bus she and Richard should take so they could visit the British Museum.
In an entry in her diary dated May 4, 1930, she wrote, â€œBy the time we reached the English Channel we were flying through the clouds. They are above, below, and all around us. Only dimly can we trace the shoreline. Now above, the sun is shining through a rift in the cloud. Below, we see a great steamer plowing through the water. It looks like a tiny toy boat. The sun has pierced the clouds below and a patch of gold glows and sparkles beneath us as the great ship nears the other shore. Now, we are flying over England, and the fields spread out beneath us like a crazy patchwork quilt with patches of every size and shape.
She wrote, â€œTwo hours and fifteen minutes later and we are circling over the landing fields of London. The red lights are flashing from the tall dome of a large building to guide the big ship down to safety. Three times we circled the field. Now, we are on the ground and running towards the buildings, the field is muddy. It is raining down here. Soon, we are through customs with our baggage and in the bus headed for the central station. â€˜So, this is London?â€™â€
The next day, Evelyn Forrest wrote, â€œFound a comfortable and inexpensive room at the Regent Palace Hotel.â€ She was writing about a hotel that is still located in the heart of Piccadilly Circus in London, England.
Piccadilly Circus has certainly changed since 1930. Today, the Regent Palace Hotel stands in the center of bright lights and lots of auto and foot traffic. When we first stepped off the tube, it was hard to know which way to turn. Finally, we just started taking photographs hoping the hotel would suddenly appear. We thought for sure that it was goneâ€”the disappearance due to a finely tuned German bomb during World War II, but when we sat down at our hotel and started back through the day’s photographs, there it was peeking out at us amid the city’s sunset and jolting billboard lights.
An old postcard of Piccadilly Circus
Amazingly, so much of London still remains. There is lots of new construction. But there is plenty of the old landmarks left and this is what most people come to this city to see.
The Prince of Wales Hotel is another historical landmark. Evelyn would have walked these streets wondering as she did in a letter sent to friends at home, “There are so many people everywhere. What on earth do they all do for a living?
It was Sunday, and she and Richard attended services at what had become known as Spurgeonâ€™s church. Later, they visited St. Paulâ€™s Cathedral and then went on to Westminster Abbey, where she stood in front of David Livingstonâ€™s grave as well as many of the kings and queens of England.
The following day she browsed several bookstores with windows that offered displays of their much-valued contents. While doors much like this one greeted visitors and interested clientele. Even today, rare book stores offer opportunities for a look into London’s past. Nothing is cheap and most books you pick up have the chance of being a first edition. After all, for so long, this city was a publication hub.
One of the best ways to spend a rainy afternoon in England is to find a good bookstore and go in and browse and browse and browse.
On their last full day in the city, the Forrests got up and ate a traditional English breakfast and then they headed for the British Museum where she saw for the first time many of the very artifacts that she had taught about in her Bible classes at Toccoa Falls College.
Evelyn wrote, â€œThe Egyptian mummies were queer, interesting things; one could spend many days examining just the old relics from Egypt, to say nothing of Syria, Assyria, the Hittites and all the other â€˜ites.â€™â€
A small portion of the Assyrian ruins are housed in the museum.
Famous then and now, London’s phone booths are a familiar symbol for tourists. And yes, they still work. Though most people, like Americans walk around with a cell phone.
â€” Angie â€˜88