Note: The photos you will see were scanned from 26 year-old Kodachrome slides. They show the effects of age. I was able to clean them up somewhat, using software to remove scratches and spots, and to restore color balance, but some colors are still not completely accurate.
I experienced my first guided tour abroad in the Fall of 1977. This was a 22-day Globus-Gateway tour of parts of Western and Central Europe. There was no high-speed train under the English Channel in those days, so we had to fly from London to Rome, to begin the bus tour of the continent. How did prices compare back then? The tour cost $1145, including airfare. That looks like a real bargain compared to today's (2003) price of $3100 for a comparable Globus tour beginning in late August. But the U.S. inflation rate changes the picture considerably. Prices have risen 180% since 1977, so that tour would have cost approximately $3200 in today's dollars.
However, the airfare definitely was more expensive back then. It was $661 in 1977 dollars, which would be about $1850 in 2003 dollars. You can actually fly the route we took for about $700 today. (Does this give you a clue as to why the major airlines are in deep financial trouble?)
Here is our tour route, beginning in London and ending up in Paris.
My Aunt, who was also my travel agent, and a local family friend accompanied me on this tour. We flew from Pittsburgh to Kennedy Airport in NYC, and then took an 10:00 pm British Airways 747 flight to London, arriving six hours, 40 minutes later at Heathrow Airport (9:40 am the next day, local time). By the way, airline food was much better back then. We even received nice menus! Here is mine. (Click on image to make larger)
Our hotel was an old-style building a short distance from Kensington Gardens, and that's where I headed after lunch. Here are some of our tour group outside the hotel, and some pictures I took in the gardens. The dark-haired young fellow at the far right in the photo in front of the hotel was our English tour director.
The hotel was really quaint - the elevator was out of order most of the time, and most of us were on the upper floors. It was fun carrying luggage down the stairs when we left. The hotel we stayed at, Inverness Court, is no longer in business. The next morning, we set out on the city tour. We saw the usual sights - including St. Paul's Cathedral, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, and the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We also had a treat that doesn't seem to be available on tours nowadays - we went inside Westminster Abby, a beautiful place indeed. We could not take photos inside, but here are some postcards showing Westminster Abby. They depict the structure at night, the "Battle of Britain" chapel, the Rose window, the choir section and the choir screen and organ loft, and finally, the Henry VII Chapel.
At noon, we were turned loose in Trafalgar Square, with nothing else scheduled that day.
Several of us had lunch at the Sherlock Holmes pub, shown in a photo below. We then went out various ways. I hailed a cabbie and went to The Tower of London to take that tour, then I walked the considerable distance back to Trafalgar, seeing many nice parks and homes along the way. I stopped for some bad American-style food nearby. By the way, the English made terrible coffee in those days. It is better today. It was early evening now, so I walked down to Piccadilly district and looked around, then took a cab back to the hotel.
Here are some photos I took near St. Paul's, Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the pub where we had lunch.
There was an Air Traffic Controller strike taking place in parts of Europe at the time, so we had to get up at 4:00am the next day to get out to Gatwick Airport in hopes of catching a flight to Rome that morning. We had breakfast at the airport. Our plane did leave, and so we were on to Italy.