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.

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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.