TOUR DE FRANCE

TRAVEL

Recently a mate asked how many times I had been to Britain and or Europe, and, when I answered ’20, he said I should write a book.
I’m not in the mood for that, and for those who follow this website, you will be aware that I regularly post stories from those travels.
But with time on my hands, with this ‘Chinese flu’ keeping my wife, Marie and I largely housebound, I thought I would file a 20 part series on those trips, under sub-headings.
TRIP FOUR
September 1989 to November 1989
PURPOSE OF TRIP
To cover Queensland Residents’ Rugby League tour of France, and then to file stories from England about Queenslanders playing at English clubs, as well as keeping abreast of the Kiwis’ tour of the UK. The Queensland team was coached by Blackwater’s Greg Reynolds and captained by Bill Holmes from the Valleys club in Brisbane (formerly from Pittsworth, on the Darling Downs). Maryborough’s Ted Webber OAM was manager,.
COUNTRIES VISITED.
France, England, Wales.
SCENIC HIGHLIGHT FRANCE
River Lot Valley.
SCENIC HIGHLIGHT BRITAIN
River Wye Valley, Herefordshire, near Symonds Yat.
HISTORIC HIGHLIGHT FRANCE
Pont du Gard, a crucial part of the 50 km Roman aquaduct, which supplied Nimes with water.
FIRST MEAL THAT I CAN RECALL IN FRANCE
Steak and chips at Buffalo Grill, Toulouse
FIRST MEAL I CAN RECALL IN BRITAIN
Home made Indian dinner. The ‘chef’ was good mate, Paul Dobson, from Dover, England, who prided himself on his spicy curries, and for good reason. Paul played rugby union for Dover. His wife, Maggie provided desert.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL, FRANCE.
Cassolette at a restaurant in Toulouse, dining with Queensland Rugby League managing director, Ross Livermore; legendary Queensland manager, Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner, and French rugby league coaching director, Louis Bonnery, a former Test player and coach.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL, BRITAIN
Steak and kidney pie, Bakers Arms, Broad Camden, Gloucestershire (in the Cotswolds). Ran into prominent Brisbane rugby league referee, Ron Harbottle, while enjoying dinner. Ron and his wife were on a motoring holiday. It’s a small world.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP FRANCE
Bar Le Glacier, Villeneuve-sur-Lot, run by ‘Antoine’, a strong supporter of rugby league in the town, and a witty host.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP, BRITAIN.
White Horse, Dover. A 14thC Inn adjoining the ruins of the old St James Church. Details of cross-Channel swimmers adorned the walls. ‘Taylor Landlord’ was my drink of choice, from memory.
BEST PUB/BAR FRANCE
Bar Le Wembley, Canet La Plage, near Perpignan.
BEST PUB BAR BRITAIN
Foresters Arms, Tarporley, Cheshire with friends, Eric and Jackie Hughes, who lived at nearby Wettenhall.
ONE SPORTING EVENT IN FRANCE
Rousillon Province v Queensland rugby league, at St Esteve. Queensland won 22-10 in a fiery clash. A France v Great Britain Women’s match followed the men, and I can report that there was some fraternising between the men and women later on.
ONE SPORTING EVENT IN BRITAIN
Great Britain v New Zealand Rugby League Test, Old Trafford, Manchester. The Kiwis won 24-16 with their halfback, Gary Freeman the man of the match.
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT FRANCE
‘Taureau d’O at Chateau d’O near Montpellier. A running of the bulls style event.
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT BRITAIN
Quiz Night, Red Lion Tavern, Chipping Camden.
‘DIFFERENT’ PLACE FRANCE
Les Baux de Provence, an amazing medieval village on a fortified rocky site between Arles and St Remy-de-Provence.
DIFFERENT PLACE, BRITAIN
The Slaughters, Gloucestershire. Two villages – Upper and Lower Slaughter – which have the Rive Eye running through them. The grim names have nothing to do with death and destruction. They come from the Anglo-Saxon word, slohtre, which means muddy place. Roaming geese present the biggest threat at The Slaughters.
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE FRANCE
Watching Sydney rugby league in a bar at Le Pontet, outside Avignon. It was run by Queenslander, Bernie Ernst, who played locally.
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE BRITAIN.
Dinner with rugby league superstar, Ellery Hanley and his girlfriend at the home of noted sports photographer, Andrew Varley and his wife, Julie, in West Yorksire. Hanley, who was sidelined by injury, is a non-drinker. He loved setting riddles for the dinner table guests to solve, and they got more difficult as the night wore on.
FIRST THING OF NOTE ON THE TRIP (FRANCE).
‘Fan Day’ at Toulouse Olympique Rugby League Club, with Queensland players.
FIRST THING OF NOTE ON THE TRIP (BRITAIN).
Pub crawl of Dover with close friend, Paul Dobson, starting at the White Horse and finishing at the Red Lion, Charlton Green, on the banks of the tiny River Dour. The Red Lion publican was a former soccer player with Coventry. 
1 Pont du Gard, France
2 Paul Dobson (left) and Steve Ricketts at Ramsgate, Kent, Dobson wearing a Toowoomba rugby league jersey, and Ricketts that of Brisbane Brothers.
3 Bridge across River Wye, Herefordshire
4 Great Britain rugby league skipper, Ellery Hanley with Marie Ricketts (left) and Ellery’s then girlfriend (October 1989).

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