Recently – well, not that 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.
Here is the last of those trips. Heaven only knows when we will do another one.
My wife, Marie and I had been scheduled to cruise the Norwegian Coast this year, as well as undertaking a River Seine Cruise. Bloody Covid. Worst of all, travel restrictions mean it could be ages before we catch up again with English friends, such as Andrew and Sandy Varley; Maggie Dobson and Tony Kriehn; Martin and Barbara Richards; Paddy Hart and Allen and Beryl Olive; Scots, Elliot and Linda Gibson; Irish relatives, the Kellys of Fantane; and our French comrades in Villeneuve-sur-Lot and Villefranche de Rouergue.
PURPOSE OF TRIP
The ultimate European river cruise – from Amsterdam to Budapest, as well as a southern France motoring holiday, with a three-night stint in Paris to finish off.
Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, France.
FIRST THING OF NOTE I CAN RECALL
THE RIVER TRIP
The amazing red sun, as our flight landed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
A walk around Lyon.
Cruise through the stunning Wachau Valley, Austria.
Gorges du Tarn.
A tour of the Nazi rally grounds in Nuremberg, Germany.
Notre Dame, Paris. Even though it has been fire-damaged, it still fires the imagination.
FIRST MEAL I CAN RECALL
Gnocchi (moi); cod (Marie) on our vessel, Scenic Crystal. Dine with four Canadian ladies, three of them retired teachers.
Dinner at Le Bouchon des Filles, Lyon, sitting beside Michel from Marseilles, who said rugby league is the real rugby. Great man, great food.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL
Dinner at Budapest’s oldest restaurant, with John and Lyn Borszeky from Perth. John has Hungarian heritage and he was in his element. Our waiter, Roberto Bader, was excellent.
Lunch at Ricette, Rue Cardinal Lemoine in the St Victor area of Paris. Marie and I dined on artichoke salad, white fish with tomatoes, plus pasta.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP
Canalside Haneker’s Boom Cafe/Bar, Amsterdam. The beer and tacos were good.
Dam’s Pub, Place Sathonay, Lyon.
MOST MEMORABLE BAR/PUB STOP
Quirky, Szimpla Bar in Budapest’s Jewish quarter. Excellent beer, Rose and live music.
Wine tasting and buffet dinner in a wine shop in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, owned by former French rugby league skipper, Olivier Elima, who has vineyards in the Pyrenees.
No sporting events during the river cruise, but there was plenty of sport talk, with the likes of fellow Australians, Michael Montgomery, Peter Long and James Regan, all rugby league men, from Atherton (North Qld); Nundah (Brisbane) and Parramatta respectively; as well as an Englishman, who was once a talent scout for Nottingham Forest.
Lotus car rally in Gorge du Tarn
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT
I must mention two events. The first a Sound of Music show at Zistelalm in Austria. The music was quality and cast, charming. The second, a private, classical-music concert at Palais Liechtenstein, Vienna. The music of Strauss and Mozart was beautifully presented.
Climate change protest march in Aurillac
Little Venice area in medieval Bamberg, Germany. The local beer certainly was different – a dark, smoked beer.
Le Marais area of Paris. Once the Jewish quarter, it is now the base of the LGBTQ community.
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE
Seeing a male flasher operate from his home in Amsterdam, with the approval of the authorities. He was in his own home, so no problem.
Staying at a Chateau. Well, we were in separate wing, away from the Chateau (de Le Caze), in the Gorges du Tarn, but we were still at a Chateau.
1 Peter Long and Marie Ricketts on Scenic Crystal
2 Nottingham Forest talent scout and his wife
3 The view from the balcony of Chateau de La Caze, back to our accommodation
4 Gorges de Tarn
6 Olivier Elima’s wine shop, Villeneuve-sur-Lot.