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Silver Threads: London calling

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Bettye Anding

Traveling across an ocean has always been trying for sight-seekers from New Orleans, since it has involved a tiring change of planes in at least one airport much, much larger, confusing and busier than Louis Armstrong International.

So it was with great pleasure that I read the lede story in today’s The Advocate, and learned that the British are coming — again — and this time they’re welcome.
The first British Airways flight direct from London to New Orleans landed here Monday, and there are many more to come — and go the other way.
I just may book a trip with BA now that one doesn't have to struggle through JFK or the humongous Atlanta airport or even the relatively formidable ones in Dallas or Houston to get to one of my favorite cities. That’s if I can figure out an easy way from Heathrow to my hotel (or rented flat if the dollar is struggling against the pound).
You see, I used to just grab my suitcase, follow the signs to the underground tube, hop on one and finally disembark in South Kensington no more than a couple of blocks from the Aster House
Hotel, to which I could just roll my belongings. It’s much cheaper than taking one of those cute London taxis.
The last time I made the trip, with two friends, I was in my 70s — just slightly senior to Joyce and Sandy — and we began the same procedure. But that was after I’d — ahem! — allowed my hair to turn white, and things were different. When I’d approach any of the several stairways to be climbed to leave the tube, a guy walking behind me would take the bag gently out of my hand, run up ahead of me and deposit it at the top. Each time, my benefactor was gone before I could say “Thank you.”
But you can’t always depend upon the kindness of strangers, so if you’re me — old but healthy, slowing down and not as spry as I used to be, not exactly doddering but certainly dithering — you may need to hookup with the program that used to be known as Elderhostel. Today, it’s called Road Scholar, and the program offers 5,500 learning adventures, serving more than 100,000 participants annually. The programs combine travel and education to provide experiential learning opportunities featuring an extraordinary range of topics, formats and locations, in every state in the United States, 150 other countries and aboard ships on rivers and oceans worldwide.
My husband and I took trips with Elderhostel when we were barely 60 and 65 to Machu Pichu in Peru — an excellent outing along with interesting folks — and then one to the maritime provinces of Canada, where he learned about some of his ancestors — the Richard family.
But into seniorhood we mostly traveled with a group of retired newspaper food writers, my friends from younger days with The Times-Picayune. One of them — age 83 when I last saw her — zip-lined exuberantly through the jungle in a South American country. I didn’t do it; I was scared to.
And when I asked if she thought we should go to Libya, rich in history and artifacts and which had just opened again to tourists, she told me she’d already been there recently.
If you love seeing the world, you don’t lose that appetite as you grow older. But it does get harder for you. British Airways has just made it easier for all of us. When you’ve seen Westminster Abbey, the Tower, gone to Greenwich and taken the Jack the Ripper tour, walked along Hardrian’s Wall, done what you came to do in London, you can take a Chunnel train to Paris. To Rome, to Venice, to the Alps … who knows where else?

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at bta7735@icloud.com.