The Retirees go Abroad – Tissington Hall Derbyshire

We have been planning the next few months before we return to Australia to do as much as we can in Europe as it is so cheap to travel from the UK to Europe. We even have a trip to Egypt in the pipeline. However there was one more trip to Buxton needed to buy wool. So it was on Friday July 17 we headed to Buxton and on our return we visited Tissington Hall. The Hall is an early 17th-century Jacobean mansion house situated at Tissington, near Ashbourne Derbyshire. It is a Grade II* listed building.

Wikipedia gives the following history;

“The FitzHerberts, descended from the Norman family of Norbury Hall, acquired Tissington by the marriage of Nicholas FitzHerbert (the second son of John FitzHerbert of Somersal Herbert) to Ciceley Frauncis, heiress of Tissington, in 1465.

The old moated manor at Tissington was replaced with the new mansion in 1609 by Francis FitzHerbert and remains the home of the FitzHerbert family. The current occupant is Sir Richard Ranulph FitzHerbert Bart. Both Francis FitzHerbert and his son (Sir) John served as High Sheriff of Derbyshire, a post that circulated among the county families.”

Tissington Hall:

“It is the hall that makes Tissington Hall unusual. It is one of a small group of compact Derbyshire gentry’ houses in which a central hall runs through the house from front to back. Nicholas Cooper surmises that the unusual, progressive character may be due to the influence of lodges (he counted some fifty emparked estates in Saxton’s map of the shire, of 1570) and the grand example of a through-hall at Hardwick. Behind a two-storey enclosed entrance porch the hall is entered at the centre of one end. On the left are two parlours separated by a stair hall, on the right a kitchen and buttery. Corner towers on the garden front, now linked by the additional upper floor above the gallery range, provide further rooms.

A rococo gothic fireplace in the house follows a published design by Batty Langley. The Hall is open to the public at specified times of the year and is available for commercial and private functions.” Unfortunately it was closed the day we called.

The estate includes from memory 3 farms and 40 cottages. The Hall is noted for well dressing. The week after Ascension in the Christian calendar of religious events, the residents of Tissington dress the 5 wells on the estate with placards carry a religious message. The Vicar of Tissington Church (there are two one Anglican and the other Methodist) conducts a service then the congregation go from well to well for a blessing and give thanks for the abundant water. The source of this ancient practice is not known.

Photos of two of the wells;

We walked and then drove around the village, visiting the gift shop the café and the sweet shop. There is also a butchery selling estate lamb, a nursery and a kindergarten. This really looked like the place where time has stood still but I expect that it has only survived because behind the scenes there is some clever management.

It is only 30 minutes from Ashbourne which is 15 minutes from Derby – quite accessible.

The Retirees go Abroad – A long Weekend in London – Sunday and Monday.

Our time together is drawing to a close. Sunday awaits and Monday we will bid farewell when Kerry and I return to Nottingham whilst David and Veronica stay in London with Colin and Mig at Potters Bar for the 2nd Test at Lords.

Sunday the day of rest – rest of the things we have to do. After a nourishing bowl of porridge we board the bus to go to Regents Canal. Just as there are canals crisscrossing the midlands London also has many old waterways which now serve as recreational space and moorings for narrow boats. We walked along the towpath for about a kilometre until we reached a bridge where the tow path ended. The canal disappeared under the roads and houses of Angel and into Camden Town where it came to the surface again in the form of a set of locks and further canals.

However I get in front of myself. After the canal disappeared under the road we climbed up to the road passed an inquisitive squirrel, the Clerkenwell County Court and we walked into the village of Angel in the borough of Islington caught the underground and ended up in Camden Markets. This is not a simple few tents and heaps of junk but a full on township of tents and shops with foods from around the world, silver markets, leather markets T-shirt shops and on and on. Parking is at a premium and if you don’t obey you get towed away.

The markets surround the locks and have some of the most delightful fast food stalls we have found. We had Ethiopian coffee a BIT burger and a wrap of spinach goats’ cheese and chilli beef. Then we found Roberto’s cake shop – a bit expensive though.

So we continue to journey around the markets until we found Cabbie Coffee (a converted London cab now coffee machine) and Cyberdog an alternate world of darkness metal and loud music. Worn out and broke we headed home via Chalk Farm.

Monday we have breakfast and drive to Potters Bar where we say farewell to David and Veronica.

The Retirees go Abroad – A long Weekend in London – Saturday.

However the feature event was intended to be the races at Royal Ascot on Saturday. We set off at 10.30am for a 1 hour trip to the course only to find that roadworks and traffic was to turn the trip into 2 hours. Even so the day was great. We all had a few wins and met and spoke to a number of different punters some sober and others beyond saving. The trip home was equally lengthy but did not spoil the day. Here are some photos.

On the way from the carpark we saw jockeys and handlers with their horses. These turned out to be ponies which ran in some earlier competition before the main card.

On entering the course we were once again astounded by its size and design, with its beautiful mounting yards and parade in front of the course grandstand. Inside looked like a shopping centre of some 6 floors. We had Premier entry so we got the run of the fourth floor.

The track was a verdant green – pretty as a picture. There were 7 races apart from the ponies and all races were strongly contested. In one case No 16 had thrown his rider before the start and ran back through the finish line only to be caught (very easily – he just walked up to one of the officials) whilst the jockey ran back down the track to get his mount. It ran in the race but had no luck. We travelled all over the grounds taking in the atmosphere.

Here are some pictures of all the action.

The Retirees go Abroad – A long Weekend in London – Thursday

It’s Thursday. If we do nothing else but have dinner at Sarastro and see the Carol King story “Beautiful” we will have achieved our goal for today. But for this morning we are each going our own way – we are going to the Tower Bridge and David and Veronica are meeting old friends.

The traffic is more horrendous than usual because of the Tube strike. Our bus came to a standstill around St Paul’s so we got off to walk the rest of the way. The first thing we stumble upon is the ruin of Christchurch Greyfriars Garden. We visited this spot as part of a London Walk on all things Shakespeare. I could never remember the name of the old tower that had been converted into a million dollar flat and here it was. We were trying to make our way to the Thames but this was harder than it seemed. I saw a sign to the central criminal courts and the “Old Bailey”. I could not resist perchance to see Rumpole or visit Pomeroy’s.

We were now certain that we needed a better map of London than the back of the tube map so we headed toward the information centre across the road from St Paul’s near the Millennium Bridge. As we passed St Paul’s we called into the coffee shop in the vaults – great space, quiet and clean toilets, for a comfort stop. Always worth a visit for that quick drink and something to eat. As we made our way to the Millennium Bridge, the phone rang and Kerry became involved in a bedtime conversation with two of the grandchildren so I took photos of the Bridge and surrounds, – St Paul’s, the monument to the Firefighters of WW2 London, the Bridge, and the Globe Theatre.

Having finished saying good night to the boys, I informed Kerry that we were at least 20 minutes away from Tower Bridge and to be back at Hackney by 1.00pm we would have to skip the Tower Bridge this time. In the distance we could see the Towers of the bridge and it appears Kerry had confused London Bridge which was nearby for the Tower Bridge. Resigned to this setback we walked along the southern bank of the river past the Globe, the cranes of the financial district on the north bank and some of the more notable modern erections, to the ruins of Winchester Palace and the Golden Hinde, passed Southwark Cathedral and across London Bridge. The bus stop on the south bank was choked with people awaiting the next bus – walking to Hackney appeared the only solution. So across the Bridge up King William St through Princess St and into Moorgate St we trudged until we could see the traffic was easing and the buses more frequent.

Back at our apartment we lunched and rested to be ready for the next big adventure. We left the apartment at 4.30pm to get to the restaurant for 5.30pm and our timing proved to be impeccable. Dinner was interesting. The restaurant is set out like a Turkish bazaar and we even got to inscribe our names on the walls.  The pre-theatre menu was our choice so that it was not too expensive and we got out of the restaurant in time for the show which also left time for Kerry to photograph some of the theatres for her Facebook page.

The show was playing at the Aldwych Theatre and we were in the grand stalls way above the stage so that the music could rise to meet us – anyway that’s my story. Excellent production. Carol was played by a young actress Jessie Mueller who just jumped out of her skin with excitement playing the part. The music was not only that of King but her early work in collaboration with her husband Gerry Goffin (the villain in the piece) and throughout they competed with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. We were delighted and excited as the show moved through the hits up to the tragedy of Gerry’s infidelity and their divorce followed by her recovery and creation of herself as a talent finishing with her appearance at Carnegie Hall. Marvellous night – even the hour wait for a crowded bus home could not dampen our spirits.

Aldwych Theatre

The Retirees go Abroad – A long Weekend in London – Wednesday

We are approaching the end of David and Veronica’s visit. They plan on being here in London for the 2nd test at Lords so we have come down with them for a few days. After the intense heat in Europe and Britain after we returned Kerry convinced me that we needed to fix the air conditioning in the car. The forecast for the weather is not that good and the forecasters usually get it right. As we travel down there is intermittent rain and blustery winds. Summer has been and gone. Of course the installation of the new air conditioning pump was enough to have the weather change dramatically to cold wet and windy.

We had no trouble finding our digs in Hackney (north London). Fullwood’s Mews is a set of flats which have been renovated as holiday apartments and are very well located for access to the West End and the theatres. One of the truly amazing things is the brilliance of the geraniums here and in Europe.

So after arrival in London we learn that the tube train drivers are striking from 6.00pm Wednesday until Friday. Therefore our first task is to learn how to use the buses. Off we go to the Old St. Tube station and get a bus map??? David jumps right in but the damn thing is as big as a table cloth.

There are some interesting buildings around here with a lot of regeneration occurring. The strangely angular building is a new Five Star Hotel M by Montcalm London.

Navigating the buses proves to be relatively easy and the trip on the bus to the West End is far more enjoyable than the tube with lots to see. But the problem is the traffic. A trip that should have taken 10 minutes takes us 30 minutes and 60 minutes to return. On the way to West End, we miss our first stop and end up at Waterloo station and then struggle to find the bus stop to get back. Waterloo is huge as the arrivals board shows you. We will have to work something out if we are to continue to use the buses.

We find the correct stop and very soon alight to make our way to Aldwych and the theatre presenting the Carol King musical “Beautiful”. We have shouted David and Veronica tickets to the show as a late sixtieth birthday present for Veronica and a soon to be sixty birthday present for David. They are both excited about it. On the way I spot my first Brompton – the folding bicycle made in London and proving to be a great success. We find the theatre on the corner of Drury Lane and I remember a restaurant I have wanted to visit. So I drag everyone to Sarastro a Turkish themed restaurant for a pre theatre dinner tomorrow night.

We are also booked to see “Sunny Afternoon” a play about the Kinks recommended to us by David Reyne when we bumped into him at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. So we decide to walk through Covent Garden Markets to the Harold Pinto theatre but it is over at Leicester Square so we stop for a drink and watch a street performer. It’s getting cold so we returned back to Fullwood’s Mews and a round of cards.

The Retirees go Abroad – A long Weekend in London – Friday.

Kerry gets her wish to see Selfridge’s and do some shopping. Here is the store to the rich and famous Londoners. I discover a stuffed T- Rex toy and when I check out its £850 price tag the bloody thing moves and give me a minor conniption. It is animated. Then there was the toy car – £16,000, the stuffed African animals and the life size Yoda made out of Lego. They even have a tailor to design and make your jeans! Time to lock up the wallet. We stopped for a cup of coffee at “Lola’s Cup Cake Store”. After Selfridges it’s down the road to Debenhams then onto John Lewis. The phone rings and its David. It’s on we are doing the Sherlock Holmes walking tour so onto the Embankment Station to meet Richard our tour guide.

Although we meet at the station we moved to Embankment Gardens to start the walk. Richard explains that in Conan Doyle’s time that we would have been standing in the river and shows us the only remnant of that period – the River Gate. From there we move into Buckingham St. where Conan Doyle maintained an office for writing whilst still practising as a doctor on the south coast of England. It is also where Samuel Pepys lived when writing his diary about Charles II. We moved off over the Strand into the forecourt of the Charing Cross Police Station but in Doyle’s time it was the Charing Cross Hospital and featured in one of his novels as “CCH”.

From there we moved to Bull Lane and the side of the Adelphi Theatre, the theatre hired by Doyle for the presentation of his first play. In the lane is the Nell Gwynne Pub (Nell Gwynne being a consort of Charles II) an original gas light of London, and the story of Doyle’s first success as the author of a play.

At the end of the lane we turned right and proceeded down to the former offices of the Strand magazine (just near Queensland House) and important part of Doyle’s success. The magazine was first published in the late 19th century and its point of difference was that it would have more illustrations than anyone else. It was like the Woman’s Day of the 19th century and it picked up Doyle’s short stories on Sherlock Holmes making him and his detective famous and a household name. Many of the characteristics associated with Holmes were developed by the artists of the magazine despite what the stories described.

Back onto the Strand, Richard shows us Holmes favourite Restaurant, Simpsons (at least he visited it twice in different books) and it is still running today. Here is an extract of the history given on its website.

“Originally opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house – The Grand Cigar Divan – Simpson’s soon became known as the “home of chess”, attracting such chess luminaries as Howard Staunton the first English world chess champion through its doors. It was to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress that the idea of placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests’ tables first came into being, a practice Simpson’s still continues today. One of the earliest Master Cooks insisted that everything in the restaurant be British and the Simpson’s of today remains a proud exponent of the best of British food. Famous regulars include Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and his fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes), Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.”

Up another lane we see the original offices of the Strand and the office where the features of the detective Sherlock Holmes were discussed and decided. It is also beside the Lyceum Theatre another theatre to host productions of Sherlock Holmes on stage. The rebuilt section commemorates two famous actors of the time and a famous producer – Bram Stoker (Yes Dracula’s creator produced Sherlock Holmes plays in the Lyceum). Then we move over to the Covenant Garden Markets which are very different today to Doyle’s time except for the National Opera Company which features in two off Doyle’s novels as a pastime that Holmes adores. Whilst we are at the Gardens we notice that a bee hive has started on a gas lamp post.

We then walk down Henrietta St and visit the Colosseum theatre and the Duke of York Theatre. Both theatres hosted productions of Sherlock Holmes performed by a very famous American actor William Gillette. The walk is nearing its end. We are nearing St. Martins in the Field which also features in one of the stories and then onto Craven St. which Richard says has not changed since Doyle used this as the lodgings for one of the criminals contesting wits with Holmes. This leads us to Northumberland St where once stood the Northumberland Arms and the likely lodgings of Lord Baskerville whilst in London consulting Holmes. Alas it is no more but the Sherlock Holmes Pub and memorabilia museum is there in its place.

As you would expect this is where the tour terminates and we availed ourselves of its fine ales and human comforts. Quaint hotel but the bar prices are rich. We then continued our travels as we were due to see a production of “Sunny Afternoon” the story of the Kinks at the Harold Pinter theatre that night. We found our way through the lanes under Charing Cross Rail Station into the welcoming surrounds of the cafe in the vault under St Martins in the Field Church. Dinner was simple but cheap – roast chicken and veggies and lashings of it. I can recommend it for a cheap and wholesome meal and the drink prices are at the lower end of the scale also. We then visited Trafalgar Square took some familiar pictures and a not so familiar wall mural.

I had made a last minute booking for the theatre to see Sunny Afternoon after meeting David Reyne in Liverpool. He strongly recommended the show and apart from our seating we were electrified by the music and moved by the story of youngsters giving it ago and making mistakes that probably cost them the fame of the Beatles. No photos of the show but here is a photo of our seating. I felt we had returned to the Glacier in Switzerland we were so high up.


The Retirees go Abroad –  2 Nights three days in Liverpool

Since returning to Nottingham we have taken it easy. David and Veronica have arranged to visit friends Anne and Dave in Preston and before too long Kerry has planned another trip – this time to Liverpool. Now Liverpool is not very far away provided that there is no road work on the M6, and no delays at the Manchester Airport turnoff. Of course we encountered both. Fortunately the hot weather has finished (we decided to fit a new air con pump to the car and so the weather goes from sub-tropical heat and humidity to chilling gale force winds).

On arriving at Liverpool we have some fun and games finding our apartment so David and Veronica head off for Lime Street Station and a train to Preston while we try to find our apartment. Soon we work out that it is a doorway off the mall with reception on the 1st floor. Tidy apartment but there was little natural air flow and the apartment was somewhat stifling. After dumping the suitcase we head off for Albert docks the restored dock area of Liverpool. We quickly spotted some pretty startling buildings and some canal boats. The weather was treating us kindly. Although there was a strong breeze it was delightful in the sun.

We found the tourist information centre by accident. I wanted a hot dog and Kerry was not prepared to wait while one attendant tried to serve too many people. That brought us to the Tuk tuks and that in turn lead us to the Tour Centre. We learned that Liverpool was celebrating 175 years of Cunard history with a visit from the QM2 (RMS Queen Mary 2) and there would be all sorts of entertainment food and people including 2000+ from the ship wanting the attractions of Liverpool. This made us decide very quickly to take the 4.00pm Magical Mystery Tour of the history of the Beatles with free entry to the Cavern Club at the end of the tour. Perfect we will do the tour and have dinner at the Cavern club and walk home.


The tour started on a bus with the guide proclaiming a connection to the lead singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood – he is his brother. So he says this makes him well qualified to guide the tour. We will see.

Throughout the tour we had music by the Beatles of course and the groups that inspired them and a track by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. So it was a swinging time. First we hear about the unfortunate Pete Best and how Ringo got the gig, Ringo’s life growing up and see the derelict housing estate in which he grew up (still preserved whilst people fight about one of them – Ringo’s house.).

Next is Penny Lane. The Beatles wrote about where they lived and came from so Penny Lane is a story of the community the different occupations and buildings.

After Penny Lane we visit the house where George grew up. He was the youngest Beatle and probably from the poorest background. His house still exists but it is one of a number of unremarkable house down an alley called Arnold Grove fronted by a car repair shop. By the way “Unadopted” on the street sign means the Council did not have responsibility to maintain any of the services. That has changed to day but it shows the impoverished circumstances from which George became famous.


From there we went to the hall where the Beatles first started to perform as the Beatles and the graveyard containing the grave of Eleanor Rigby. Down the road we stop at the gate of Strawberry Fields which in the early sixties was a girls’ orphanage which John used to visit to spy on the girls from a tree. The orphanage has closed now of course but the song reminds us of the boyhood adventures for John.

We move to John’s house where he lived with his Aunt. It now has a blue plaque as John has died and it is deemed to be a significant site. Paul’s house is nearby as the crow flies and has been bought by the National Trust and can be visited by appointment. It is said that Paul returns there each year for Xmas to remember his mother Mary.

On the way back to the city now we pass the art school in Hope St attended by Paul and John which Paul has purchased and established a trust to run the school for future students. Nearby is the Liverpool Philharmonic, the Anglican Cathedral and the RC Cathedral.

As promised we were dropped at the Cavern Club and given free admission. It is 3 stories below Matthew St and it is where the Beatles played 274 times before stardom. The Club continues to promote new talent and of course the Mersey sound. The night we were there a Kinks tribute band was playing so for £10 each we stayed for the entertainment and entertained we were.

Although after midnight we had no trouble walking back to our apartment and sleep.

The next morning we ventured off to see the QM2. It was only 10 minutes walk away and we became celebrities posing for the Liverpool Echo taking a selfy in front of the ship. We also met David Fawkner one of the official artists for the Festival doing a water colour of the ship. David spoke freely about his life in the Merchant Marines before trying his hand late in life at maritime drawing and painting. He said he had some little success and mainly did it for his own enjoyment. He allowed us a photo and told us of his family connection with Australia. The Fawkner’s were one of the early settlers in Melbourne (which I remembered from my grade 6 Social Studies) and later Harry Hawker (another of the Fawkner family he said) returned to the UK to work as chief design engineer at Sopwith and when that company failed and the owners reformed to design the Hurricane for the Brits during WW2, they named it and the company after Harry – Hawker Hurricane by Hawker De Havilland.

We continued our walk and some days later we followed the QM2 out to sea and watched the fireworks farewell.


We saw the three Graces – three buildings of note one of which was once the Cunard HQ and visited the food festival the antiques festival and the Museum of Liverpool.

It was a full on 3 days and we finished by picking up David and Veronica and driving them back to Long Eaton through the Derby Dales.

The Retirees go Abroad – Basel and the return to Nottingham

Saturday morning, we are packed and ready to leave our villa in the vines and Villeneuve. Our time here will be fondly remembered and never forgotten.

We are off to Basel to visit Angie and Urs who have hosted our fellow travellers David and Veronica for the last week. After two days with them we will drive to Troyes and then to Nottingham via Calais.

Our first day in Basel we visit the city just to stroll around and take in the sights. They have a great tram system with different coloured trams to help determine where you are going and coming from.

Our stroll took in a street side dance group, and the markets. Dotted around the city are various fountains and these were welcome as the hot weather had followed us to Basel. We walked to the Rhine and watch the party boat and the taxis and the river crossing boats that use no motor just the force of the river itself.

There was a wonderful variety of buildings and other sights to behold – Three kings, a cheeky bather, and Helvetia. Helvetia is the female national personification of Switzerland, officially Confœderatio Helvetica, the Swiss Confederation. The allegory is typically pictured in a flowing gown, with a spear and a shield emblazoned with the Swiss flag, and commonly with braided hair, commonly with a wreath as a symbol of confederation but here she is shown in a contemplative posture. Unlike the cheeky bather who is – well just cheeky.

We then made it into the old city (whilst Kerry and Veronica rested) to see the Munster and the old Abbey with its sculpture displays relating to their Carnival.

We had a treat for dinner. Angie and Urs prepared a raclette grill for dinner and invited Anastasia and Erich over to join us. It was great to see a genuine Swiss raclette in action and the dinner was most enjoyable. Anastasia prepared some traditional cakes (she is Slovakian so I don’t know if it was Swiss tradition or Slovakian tradition). Between raclette and cake Urs received a phone about a fire which apparently was getting out of control and as a member of the volunteers Urs was requested to join the fight. I heard him come home somewhere between 1.00 am and 3.00 am so he was a very tired boy the next day.

On the second day we visited “Schlossruine”. This is a ruin of a medieval castle overlooking the city and its borders with France and Germany. In fact the next day we would visit the point where the three borders intersect.

One of the interesting views was the Goetheanum. The Goetheanum, located in Dornach (near Basel), Switzerland, is the world centre for the anthroposophical movement. The building was designed by Rudolf Steiner and named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It includes two performance halls (1500 seats), gallery and lecture spaces, a library, a bookstore, and administrative spaces for the Anthroposophical Society; neighbouring buildings house the Society’s research and educational facilities. Conferences focusing on themes of general interest or directed toward teachers, farmers, doctors, therapists, and other professionals are held at the centre throughout the year.


It was a beautiful day with warm sunshine and a light breeze. Time for an ice cream and nearby is a hilltop restaurant with shady trees and fantastic vistas of Basel. We are not the only ones who know of this oasis. Here is an Aston Martin and a Tesla.

Not heard of a Tesla? Tesla Motors, Inc. is an American automotive and energy storage company that designs, manufactures, and sells electric cars, electric vehicle powertrain components, and battery products. Odd to see one in Switzerland. Along with the other “rich” people we had ice cream at our oasis and then went back home to prepare for the journey to Troyes Calais Dover and Nottingham.

As it was a Monday Angie and Urs were up early for work and we departed with Angie who showed us the way to the meeting point of the three countries before leaving us to travel on. Our trip to Troyes was the first time we encountered trouble with Thistle. It became pretty obvious that all the hill climbing in Italy, Austria and Switzerland had finished off our brake pads. So we had to call the RAC for road side assistance once we got to hotel. When a tow truck turned up at the hotel I got slightly nervous. The driver spoke little English but he soon determined that it was the brake pads and he let me know that there was a Hyundai dealership down the road and he would lead us to it.

Around a kilometre down the road and there it was. The driver introduce me to the Service Manager who spoke less English but made it known that we could have the brakes fixed that afternoon if we would like to wait. So David and I cooled our heels and within one and a half hours it was fixed. Whew we were going to make it to Calais.

So the next day started with a strong sense that we could overcome anything at all. We would be tested. We had heard and read about the strife at Calais and the traffic problem fir trucks crossing from the UK but we did not have the finer detail otherwise we would have not played cards along the way to kill some time. The wheels started to come off our plans when I noticed one of the overhead electronic signs say “ Calais Port – Ferme”, Calais Port is closed.

I immediately made a call to My Ferry with which we had booked our return passage. The Port was closed til Friday and My Ferry had ceased trading. Well, that threw a cat amongst our pigeons. I immediately tried to book passage from Dunquerke. I rang and waited in a queue for some time but could not speak to anyone to try and get a booking that day. We decided to try the Eurotunnel which we knew would be three times as expensive but if we had to stay overnight that cost would be eaten by the accommodation and meals we would have to buy.

I booked online using Kerry’s IPhone but I could not get a train before 4.50pm, so we decided to stop have lunch and play cards for a couple of hours. Wrong decision because as we approached the French terminal some French port workers were setting fire to tyres in the tunnel causing mayhem which delayed our likely departure til 10.00pm with a five hour wait in our car in blazing sun along with thousands of others and hundreds of cars. Not to mention the 10 kilometre long queue of trucks seeking passage to the UK.

We sat in our car with screen shade and umbrellas raised – the temperate was approaching 40C and no one knew how long we would be there. Motor Bike riders appeared to be pushing to the front of the line and some pretty hostile car travellers confronted them. The Austin Healy Club had returned from a tour on the continent and one in particular was having considerable trouble controlling the temperature of the car. David would end up pushing the car through the immigration gate. We also made acquaintance with a couple in a Ferarri which with its V12 motor found it hard to idle waiting for the booking gates to be opened. Then like pulling a plug in a bath everything started to move. We made it through relatively quickly only to find that with the luggage on the roof we were over the height limit for the double decker cars. So we lined up with the vans etc.

There was no space for us as we had not identified that our vehicle was higher than 1.85 metres when booking. So we pulled to one side unsure when we would get on the train. We decided to get out the remainder of the food supplies as that was going to be dinner. No sooner had we done that then we were called into line (2 hours earlier than our expected departure). On board the train we found the ride to be smooth and unexciting – 35 minutes later we were on the road to Nottingham and apart from a diversion on the M30 we made good time and arrived home at 0015 the following day.

The Retirees go Abroad – Montreux Switzerland – the Queen Museum and Casino

The day had started out as a very pleasant day even perhaps a bit chill but by the time we arrived at the Casino the temperature had risen and the welcoming doors of an air conditioned smoke free casino beckoned. We have seen a few Casinos around the world and quite often these Casinos are no bigger than an average Footy or RSL club and a bit worn at that. But not so in Montreux – modern clean and a variety of ways to take your money without you even knowing it. After a cup of coffee we ventured off to find the Queen museum. After a couple of false mis-starts we made it. Here in a couple of rooms was a detailed history of one of the world’s most popular and prolific sellers of their art.

From the museum – “Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1970, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals. Queen enjoyed success in the UK with their debut and its follow-up, Queen II in 1974, but it was the release of Sheer Heart Attack later in 1974 and A Night at the Opera in 1975 that gained the band international success.

By the early 1980s, Queen were one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world, with “Another One Bites the Dust” their best-selling single, and their performance at 1985’s Live Aid is regarded as one of the greatest in rock history. In 1991, Mercury died of bronchopneumonia, a complication of AIDS, and Deacon retired in 1997. The band have released a total of 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles, and 10 number one DVDs. Estimates of their record sales generally range from 150 million to 300 million records, making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists. They received the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award from the British Phonographic Industry in 1990, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.”

One of the experiences is to remix one of their tracks in their mock-up of the old studio. Fans are able to leave a tribute on the glass wall framing the picture of the band.

Oh we did get to the Casino and I won – by accident but I won.


The Retirees go Abroad – Chateau Chillon

This is our last day in our idyll paradise amongst the vines. We re-organise our suitcases and fold the washing. It is pleasant just to be here watching the sun rise behind our rock lifting the shadows off the mountains we view out our window every morning.

For our last day we plan to sail upon the lake, then walk to Chateau Chillon along the foreshore and then walk on to Montreux. There is a Casino in Montreux which also houses the Museum of Queen (the band) memorabilia which sounds very interesting. The day starts off rather cool but promises to become hot with little cloud or breeze and we continued to fuss around until lunch when we reappraised our plans and decided to skip the boat ride. The 72 Swiss francs would be put to better use at the Casino.

We walked down through the vines to the foreshore and commenced toward the Chateau. Kerry noticed some more sky divers above us but one in particular seemed to be well off course and headed for a watery landing in the lake. This must happen regularly as I could see a rescue boat standing by awaiting the arrival of their first customer.

As we walked along we discovered there are beaches along the lake and people swimming and sun baking – should have brought our togs. Kerry tests the water – the verdict warm enough for swimming.

Our first sighting of the Chateau comes as we pass the swimming pool and clear a small headland. The chateau looks out of place with the modern town behind it, the jets in the sky above it, the steam powered ferry on the lake in front of it, the electric train racing between stations behind it and the expressway funnelling traffic between towns above it.

As we make our way toward the Chateau, we see a crested egret with its chicks and partner enjoying life on the lake. The chicks hide from the camera on their mother’s back.

We arrive at the Chateau after about half an hours walk. Our pace had been slow due to all the distractions. We crossed the bridge and dispensed with the audio guide but followed the guide trail. A very helpful posting in English French and German gave details of the points of interest. The first section was the dungeons. They were used to hold prisoners and produce.

After rising from the dungeons we entered the castle keep and the rooms once occupied by the Constable of the Duke of Savoy and the Dukes of Bern. There was a collection of chests in one of the rooms. I had not realised the significance of these chests to people of the 14th to 19th century. They held everything and were knocked about through the travel form one castle to another. Some were pretty raw and crude and others decorated with grand carving. As transportation became better and travel more secure the chest changed from itinerant to a piece of furniture. One of these pieces (counting from the left picture 7) was recently found in the church at Villeneuve and contained the accounts of Chillon from the 15th century. We also found a door with the largest key hole I have ever seen – the size of Kerry’s hand.

The rooms were fitted with furniture from the period of Bernese occupation and early Savoyard occupation so it was utilitarian and functional. It was also very obvious that it was very cold in winter as attested by the large stoves in bedrooms and the fireplaces in all rooms.

The tour through the Chateau twisted and turned upstairs to the top of the tower above the keep and through dining rooms bedrooms bathroom toilets – there was a room for everything.

Once we finished viewing the chateau we continued to walk along the lake toward Montreaux. Moving at a leisurely pace we walked from the Chateau in under 1 hour enjoying some of the prettiest views Switzerland can offer. A panoramic view of the lake back to the Chateau makes the point.