The traffic at the Arc de Triomphe roundabout in Paris parted like the Red Sea, as I made a dash to return my hire car, before office closing time.
My youngest brother, Stewart was back in our hotel in the foetal position, sipping on duty free spirits, after my courageous entry into Paris in Saturday peak hour traffic, following a six-hour drive from Heidelberg in Germany.
It was his first overseas trip, and, up until now, things had been going relatively smoothly, not counting the experience we had with a chap, posing as a border crossing public servant, as we entered Switzerland, for a night at Montreux.
“Mrs Kelly wouldn’t let you play with Ned,” I said to this bloke (borrowing one of my father-in-law, Kevin Donnelly’s great sayings), as he asked me to hand over a bundle of Euros in road tax, for barely 24 hours in his landlocked country.
The main purpose of the trip was to check out accommodation and attractions for my planned ‘Supporters’ Tour’ of Europe, the UK and Ireland the following year.
Those to have signed up for the trip included Brisbane Souths’ rugby league stalwarts Rod and Judy Jennings; Jim and Lesley Gibson and Doug Bell, as well as Brian and Elaine Smart and Stan and Eleanor Neave from Easts. Doug Bell, I know, was particularly looking forward to Switzerland and Paris.
Stewart had agreed to accompany me on the 28-day inspection trip, which had started in Madrid (2 nights), made its way to Barcelona (two nights), followed by one night stands in Carcassonne, Avignon, Nice, Montreux and Heidelberg.
“If It’s Tuesday, This Must be ….God knows where’. (Our adventures from Madrid to Nice inclusive are covered elsewhere on this site).
Stewart and I drove the magnificent Napoleon Way from Nice to Montreux, where we stayed in the historic Hotel Villa Toscane, overlooking Lake Geneva. After the border tax-hike, we were not in the mood for paying exorbitant prices for food and beer in Montreux, so it was quiet night. But I went to bed confident the hotel, a converted villa, as the name implies, would be loved by my group in ’98.
Not so much the hotel in Heidelberg, which was a little out of town, and basic. I needed to have a chat to Albatross Travel principal, Euan Landsborough about that one.
In Heidelberg, we did have a few beers, given it was Germany, the home of excellent ale.
After getting our hire back to Avis, Hertz – whoever – in Paris, it was time to let our hair down, and we hit a restaurant with a jazz theme, and indulged in some magnificent dishes. The highlight for me was the bone marrow.
The next day I showed Stewart all over Paris, a city I had been to four times previously.
The next step was to catch the Euro Star to England, and Stewart was excited by the prospect of hearing the English accent. But he did have reservations about the beer.
2 Stewart Ricketts