Through War Torn Europe: An official trip after WWI told in the words of James Gordon Steese
Number Eleven
Savoy Hotel, London,
Wednesday, August 13th, 1919.
We had probably the smoothest crossing of the Channel ever made. Not a ripple on the sea, a dark blue mirror, an hour and a half. I could not imagine the ocean so smooth. I have crossed the Caribbean a dozen times. At its best it was never like that.

What a rush we had getting away from Paris! Our laundry finally came, all mixed up in a big basket; about a ton of it for the four of us. To have finally gotten it straightened out over here, though each man claims he still has a lot of his missing. The man who paid the total hotel bill had the worst time. When he saw the thirty or forty people I lined up for tips, he simply counted out ten per cent of the bill, handled it to the Majordomo, or whatever he is called, and told him to distribute it. He protested vehemently against being made responsible for it. As near as we could make out, the waiters have an established percentage among themselves, and so do the chambermaids and head floor man, but there is no differential established as between the group of waiters and the group of room attendants. The laundress is always separate and special. I had butted in by mistake and tipped  the laundress myself upstairs, so that further complicated matters, because she claimed also a part of the pool and the others claimed her special tip should go into the pool.

In the meantime, our hand baggage, which they had insisted upon sending down in the baggage lift, arrived in the court. A different set of porters were to carry it out to the taxis. As they were slow in putting in an appearance, we scandalized the whole place by grabbing our own stuff, rushing to the taxis, and leaving the whole mob still wrangling over the division. We made our train by a very slim margin.

I have seen lots of friends here. Both the Military Attache and the Chief Engineer are close friends, so everything is already lovely. Hotels are more expensive but food is less expensive and more abundant than in Paris. On the whole, living is cheaper than in New York City. In the past month I have paid for room and bath $4.50 In Kansas City, $6.00 in New York City, fr. 25 in Paris, fr. 12 in Lille, fr. 15 in Brussels, and 27 shillings in London. Of course, cheaper as well as more expensive accommodations are obtainable in all of these places, The above prices represent identical accommodations.

I have been amused lately at the peculiar traits of human nature developed by some of this party. One man who would not even allow himself to be seen in a second rate hotel in Washington or New York insists upon going to 2nd or 3rd class hotels over here because the guide books recommend them as being perfectly respectable and comfortable for those of limited means. Yet he thinks nothing of spending 100 francs for champagne at the cafes in an evening. Another insists upon taking most of his meals at Y. M. C. A. dumps and such places, especially for the overseas forces. In both cases it is not a matter of real economy but rather a mental kink. It is the same thing that permits a man to buy a dollar's worth of cocktails before dinner without a murmur, yet prompts him to kick if his board bill for the 90 meals in a month is a dollar or two more than the previous month. Personally, it has been my experience that in traveling the best is none too good. When one comes in tired and dirty from a hard trip, the extra satisfaction, convenience, and saving of time of all the little services of a first class hotel are well worth the price, part of which should be charged up to recreation or whatever the particular individual calls his profit and loss schedule.

A party of ten of us had luncheon today at the "Cheshire Cheese", where Johnson, Boswell and Goldsmith used to hold forth. The pigeon pie was very good, also their special toasted cheese. Most of the day was frittered away in changing money, getting orders, and arranging for future operations. English sounds very pleasant, but the Cockney taxi drivers, waiters, etc., are harder to understand than the French, and we all catch ourselves trying to help out with a little French. I never was able to understand cockney perfectly. I once had a Jamaican negro cook in Panama, and after six months I could not understand him if he spoke suddenly when I was not looking at him. He spoke better British English than these menials, too.

It is good to see evening clothes again, both men and women. The uniform still predominates, however. There are lots of good shows in town, In fact, this seems much more of a real town than Paris, though not so handsome. I was back stage at the Hippodrome this afternoon to see Leon Erol, Bud Fisher, and some girl one of the party knew.

As in Paris, the taxis drive like mad. It is cheaper to ride in them than to pay insurance, especially in Paris, where it is said, if run over, one is fined for obstructing traffic.

I can not possibly keep up with the present pace without writing a book.

End Notes and Bibliography