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.
October 1990 to December 1990
England, Wales, Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland.
PURPOSE OF VISIT
To lead the Souths (Brisbane) Rugby League Supporters’ Tour (33 people), followed by a family holiday with my wife, Marie and three children, Melanie (11); Damien (10) and Lliam (6).
SCENIC HIGHLIGHT BRITAIN
Lake District, Cumbria, England. My father, Jon, and Souths’ treasurer, Tony Davidson and I did a lovely walk into the hills, from Ambleside, at the northern tip of Lake Windermere.
SCENIC HIGHLIGHT IRELAND
Ring of Kerry.
SCENIC HIGHLIGHT EUROPE
Heavily wooded Vosges Mountains and Route de Vin, Alsace/Lorraine region, France. Marie and I and the three children explored this region, while staying at a gite’ (furnished holiday cottage) in the tiny village of Rosenwiller, Lorraine.
HISTORIC HIGHLIGHT, BRITAIN
Warwick Castle. It has to be the quintessential British Castle.
HISTORIC HIGHLIGHT IRELAND
Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, the ancient royal site of the Kings of Munster.
HISTORIC HIGHLIGHT EUROPE
Eiffel Tower. The views from the top are breath taking.
FIRST MEAL (THAT YOU RECALL) BRITAIN
Fish and chips at Wellington Pub, Portsmouth, next door to the departure point of the First Fleet in 1787.
FIRST MEAL IRELAND
Chinese takeway, Waterford. It ended up all over my jacket.
FIRST MEAL EUROPE
Snails, Restaurant de La Commerce, Paris.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL BRITAIN
Fresh asparagus, followed by Dover sole at Onslow Hotel, Queens Gate, dining with Yorkshire Post league writer, Ray Fletcher.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL IRELAND
Steak at Halpin’s Deli, Cork. The deli didn’t sell beer – only wine – but you could get pints of Murphy’s from the pub across the laneway, and bring them back to the restaurant. Very civilised.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL EUROPE
Sausages and sauerkraut, Obernai, France.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP BRITAIN
Hindhead Hotel, Devil’s Punchbowl, Surrey, where members of Souths’ supporters group asked for ice to be put in their warm beer.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP IRELAND
Quayside Tavern, Waterford.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP EUROPE
Le Royal Cambronne Brasserie, Paris.
BEST PUB/BAR STOP BRITAIN
Toss up between, Queen’s Arms, Plymouth (also known as Miss Piggy’s) and Zetland Arms, South Kensington (London). (See ‘Ring Ring Why Don’t You Give Me a Call’, this website, for more on Miss Piggy’s).
BEST PUB/BAR STOP IRELAND
BEST PUB/BAR STOP EUROPE
Golden Brown Bar, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
ONE SPORTING EVENT BRITAIN
Second Rugby League Test, Old Trafford, Manchester. Australia 14-10 over Great Britain, with Mal Meninga scoring the match winner, after a Ricky Stuart break, in the dying seconds. What a finish. One of the best.
(We did not attend any sporting events in Ireland or Europe. Our group did go to a rugby union match in Swansea, Wales, between the local team, and Newbridge – see ‘Ring Ring Why Don’t You Give Me a Call’ on this website. Rod Jennings will never forget it).
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT BRITAIN
Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace. The Queen was home, and gave us a wave as she left in the Royal vehicle. I told my group I had arranged it. Well, I had met the Queen in Australia in 1970 (true story) and I am sure She would have remembered me.
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT IRELAND
Traditional music, International Hotel, Killarney. My mother, Lola and her best friend, Pat Sorenson (nee Bindon), who were on my tour, had the night of their lives.
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT EUROPE
Traditional Tarte flambe night in Rossenwiller, Lorraine, France. Our hosts, the Hucks, were having a party, so we babysit their kids and they delivered this regional speciality (thin pizza) to our door, along with local white wine.
DIFFERENT PLACE BRITAIN
Giant of Cerne Abbas, Dorset. A 60 metre outline of a naked man, cut in the chalky turf, overlooking the village of Cerne Abbas. It is a pagan fertility figure and gets straight to the point.
DIFFERENT PLACE IRELAND
Irish Stud and Museum, County Kildare, as well as the adjoining Japanese Gardens!
DIFFERENT PLACE EUROPE
The Maginot Line, north of Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France. The Maginot Line is a series of fortifications built by the French in the 1930s, to deter German aggression. Worked a treat!
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE BRITAIN
A private tour of a 16th century coaching inn at Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. A friend of mine, Frank Kennedy and his wife, Jane owned the establishment. They even put on morning tea, which included a cake made in the shape of a rugby league field, with the colors (black and white) of Brisbane Souths. Frank, a former bricklayer, had played rugby league at Widnes in Cheshire. I met him during his Australian travels in 1974. I had wanted him to play with Brothers that year, under the coaching of Milton Whybrow, but Frank headed to Sydney before the season began. They didn’t pay bricklayers enough at Murwillumbah, he said. It’s a shame, because Frank and our Maitland import, Greg Grainger would have presented a formidable pair in the forwards.
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE IRELAND
A night out with the editor of the Irish Field, Valentine Lamb – at Mulligan’s Pub, with a host of other journalists. (See ‘Like a Lamb to the Slaughter’, this website).
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE EUROPE
Driving through a blizzard, from our holiday cottage in Lorraine, to catch a train from Paris to Calais, for the ferry crossing back to England.
FIRST THING OF NOTE ON DAY ONE BRITAIN
Walking tour of historic old Windsor, a mellow town on the banks of the Thames, with the home of England’s monarchs, Windsor Castle dominating from its site on a chalk bluff above the river.
FIRST THING OF NOTE ON DAY ONE IRELAND
Tour of Waterford Crystal Factory.
FIRST THING OF NOTE ON DAY ONE EUROPE
Walking tour of Paris.
1 Ladies View on the Ring of Kerry. (From left) Jon and Lola Ricketts; Ray and Pat Sorenson.
2 Frank and Jane Kennedy with their son, Edward outside their 16th coaching inn at Chipping Campden. They are flanked by Lola and Jon Ricketts, with Steve Ricketts in front. That’s Pat Sorenson in the doorway, while the three men on the left are (from the left) Alan Pilling, Gordon Wright and Athol Neilson
3 Jon Ricketts (left) and Tony Davidson walking in England’s Lake District.
4 Marie Ricketts and two of our children, Melanie and Damien walking at Mt St Odile in the Vosges Mountains, France.
5 Mr Huck pours Steve Ricketts a Riesling at Rossenwiller in the Lorraine region of France.