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, having had time on my hands because of the ‘Chinese flu’ and its associated restrictions, I thought I would file a 20-part series on those trips, under sub-headings.
PURPOSE OF TRIP
The principal motivation was the wedding ceremony, in London, for our eldest son, Damien and Emma (nee Parker). But it also was a chance to holiday, and catch up with English and French friends.
England, Portugal, France.
FIRST THING OF NOTE THAT I CAN RECALL
A walk on beautiful Hampstead Heath, in London.
A walk along the Garonne River, Bordeaux France, stopping to look around, at a carnival.
Noss Mayo, South Devon. Marie and I had a lovely walk along the wooded fringes of the River Yealm, and then the coastal headlands to the east, with friends, John and Glenda Tapp, from Galmpton, in Devon. We had lunch (haddock and chips) at ‘The Ship’, Noss Mayo, overlooking the river.
Cliff-side village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, France, overlooking the River Lot. It’s hard to imagine there is anywhere more beautiful in the universe.
St Alban’s Cathedral, where Evensong was taking place.
Tomb of the great explorer, Vasco da Gama in Monastery des Geronomis, Lisbon, Portugal.
FIRST MEAL I CAN RECALL
Pea soup at 17thC Kenwood House, on Hampstead Heath, London.
Steak and chips at Central Pub, Bordeaux, France.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL
Dinner at Flying Pizza restaurant, Leeds with friends, Andrew and Sandy Varley. I had sardines, followed by cassoulet, while Marie tucked into the mussels.
Lunch at Le Parlement Des Graves, Bordeaux, where we were served by very efficient ‘Hassan’, who had a lovely nature. Marie had seafood soup, followed by fish of some sort, while I tucked into an offal salad, followed by duck. We shared creme brulee.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP
The Spaniards, next to Hampstead Heath, where the French barman was after a visa, to work in Australia. UBU Amber ale from Warwickshire is my beer of choice. The pub was reputedly frequented by highwayman, Dick Turpin.
Petite Bistro, near Garden for Resistance Martyrs, Bordeaux, France.
BEST PUB/BAR STOP
Hunter’s Inn, Heddon’s Valley, North Devon. An expansive building in a beautiful setting, and boasting lovely gardens, with peacocks. Remote, but well worth seeking out. First beer – St Austell’s Tribute.
Bar Tropical, Porto, Portugal. Our waiter said he couldn’t live in Australia because of all the crocodiles, spiders and snakes. When we told him, we were last in Portugal in 1978, he said he wasn’t even born then.
ONE SPORTING EVENT
Half marathon in Hyde Park, with our daughter-in-law, Emma a competitor. Amazing number of runners, some of them so inspirational.
Boules at Beauville, France, with locals watching on, drinking wine in the sunshine. I bought a Kanterbrau beer.
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT
Our son’s wedding in Queens Park. Such a beautiful ceremony, and it attracted a lot of interest from other park users.
National, ‘pre-elections’ in France. We accompanied our hosts, former rugby league player, Gilles Fleuret and his wife, Marie from their home at Ambeyrac, to Villeneuve Rouergue, so they could cast their votes. Marie’s father, Francis De Nadai, who was born in Limoux, played 32 rugby league Tests for France between 1967 and 1975, and became technical advisor to the Rugby League Federation.
Sir Colonel Campbell Pub, London. A little bit of Ireland on the Kilburn High Road, where we had a farewell drink with our son, Damien and his wife, Emma. ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ was played as we sat down. A female patron says, as she rolls her own cigarette: “Is this your choice of music, Mary?’ to the barmaid. I’m not sure whether the patron approved or not.
Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, rated by local tourist operators as the ‘world capital of pre-historic times’. Certainly, it was here that pre-history began to be built as a science.
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE
Helping our friend, Glenda Tapp collect stones at Slapton, Devon, for her rock collection. Here we walked on Slapton Sands and Glenda’s husband, John told us all about the D Day rehearsals, that took place here, sometimes with disastrous results.
An afternoon as guests of La Reole Rugby League Club, south east of Bordeaux, in France. Club president, Luc Sonilhac took us to the local TAFE College, where agricultural studies and rugby league went hand in hand. Afterwards, Marie and I went back to La Reole’s club house for a committee meeting, then to a local pizzeria for dinner. (The pizzeria was a sponsor of the club). We met local players, including Aussies Peter Savage and Nick Walker, and Kiwi Scott Hurrell. The town hall in La Reole is the oldest in France.
1 Noss Mayo, South Devon
3 Hunters’ Inn, Heddon Valley, North Devon
4 Emma Parker running the Hyde Park Half Marathon
5 The wedding of our eldest son, Damien and Emma Parker in Queen’s Park, London
6 Damien and Emma Ricketts enjoy a Guinness in the Sir Colin Campbell
7 La Reole Rugby League club house, France
8 A market in Porto, Portugal.