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.