Through War Torn Europe: An official trip after WWI told in the words of James Gordon Steese
Number Thirteen
Regent Palace Hotel, London,
Saturday, August 16th, 1919.
We returned late tonight, a day sooner than expected on account of the uncertain train service on Sundays. We could not get into the Savoy again, but were lucky here and expect to stay for a few days.

The most interesting thing around Edinburgh to me was, of course, the cantilever railway bridge across the Firth of Forth. Broadside it looks exactly like the pictures in all the engineering books. It requires a head on view, however, to got a true appreciation of the size and spread of the towers and the enormousness of the complete structure.

Yesterday was a most interesting day by train, boat, and coach, from Edinburgh to Glasgow, via Stirling, Callender, the Trossachs, Loch Katrine, Stronachlachar, Inversnaid, Loch Lomond, Balloch, and all the rest of the Sir Walter Scott pilgrimages. My throat is quite closed up from trying to imitate the Scotch pronunciation. On one of the coaches was a driver with a delicious brogue. He could say "Stronachlachar" without an effort, but I noticed he always immediately took a drink of Scotch to keep his throat open. All the attendants, even the stevedores at the boat landings, were either very old men or girls. I had never before seen women stevedores in a white man's country. The shipyards on the Clyde at Glasgow were very impressive.

At Stirling, we ran into an American who was stranded in Scotland with a convalescent wife. Apparently he had plenty of money, but he could not get a passport back to the States and had a long tale of discourteous treatment at the hands of the American vice-consul in Glasgow. I advised him to run down to London to see the Ambassador about it. He was quite cheerful, however, said he met the morning train at Stirling every day and rode along to Callender just to talk to any Americans who might be on board. I really think he was simply a crank and was enjoying meeting so many people on the trains that he had not made a serious effort to get a passport. At any rate, my advice was too direct and my sympathy not sufficiently discursive to humor him, so he drifted along to the next group.

At the Railroad Station Hotel at Glasgow, we had another American fall on our necks. He was traveling for a machine tools and equipment concern in the States, was enthusiastic about everything, and helped much to brighten up our evening. While waiting for the Liverpool night express. He also got us into the dining room of the hotel just as the doors were closing and over the protest of the headwaiter that we were not guests of the hotel. It seems to be the rule that, in order to get a dinner at a hotel between trains, you must register and stay over at least a day.

Our troubles were not over, however, as our guardian angel then had to leave to keep an appointment down town. The first waiter took our order, including drinks, and then apparently went home. We finally got the headwaiter to give us another waiter, who finally got us some food, said the drinks would follow, but later informed us it was too late. We protested that our order had been given before the closing hour to the other waiter in the hearing, of the head waiter, but to no avail, until a Colonel of Royal Engineers, sitting in mufti at an adjoining table, came to our rescue and directed the head waiter to get us anything we wanted, as he was a guest of the hotel and it pleased his fancy to see us comfortable.

A night train to Liverpool and a three hour auto tour of the docks, Manchester Ship Canal, etc., made us content to return to London this evening. We had no sleeping car on the train, but for a shilling one of the guards at Glasgow reserved a first class compartment for the two of us. It was a four passenger compartment, so by folding back the middle arm we got comfortably asleep but were awakened at Carlisle by a great commotion. Finally several drunks were put off the train, but four people, two men and two girls, crowded into our compartment and tried to make themselves comfortable, but only succeeded in making us uncomfortable, for several hours until they finally got off an hour or so before we reached Liverpool.

Our evening Journey to London by train was uneventful. We shared a compartment with several British Naval Officers, one of whom discovered in the evening paper that he had been gazetted, so that event had to be suitably celebrated. There are so many wonderful things to see and everywhere, one finds historical and literary associations so thick that it is hard to have to rush on to the next centre of interest. There are thousands of things, note of which should be omitted, in London, so that, with only two days, one knows scarcely where to begin.

Food, except fruit, is very reasonable in price and abundant. In Paris a peach at breakfast costs five francs, here five shillings; and a shilling is worth about one and two-thirds francs. The peaches at both places, however, were excellent. This morning at the Liverpool Station Hotel, I had my first try at an English seven course table d'hote breakfast. I had to fall out on the fourth course. Finally the waiter came in with some scrambled eggs and explained it was a little extra that we simply must try and we had to submit to avoid a scene. They were really delicious, better than I had known scrambled eggs could be. The whole bill for about ten pounds of food was about 50 cents apiece.

As I write this in a little writing room just off the main cafe in the basement, Reisenweber's orchestra, Just Over from New York City, is raising the roof with the latest cabaret Music. This is one outfit, apparently, that is not going to be caught by prohibition in the States.

End Notes and Bibliography