The Retirees return to UK via Europe – Nottingham and Bristol

After collecting our luggage at East Midlands Airport, we check the Sky Bus timetable and decide not to wait 45 mins but call an Uber for the trip to the Benternick Hotel Nottingham. Our Uber driver picks us up and just outside the airport we get a tremendous fright when a car speeds past us racing pursued by a mate. The shoulders of the road are draped in other motor vehicles and the crowd watching this illegal racing. A short way down the highway we observe a Police car lurking in the bushes apparently unaware of the circus behind us.

By the time we arrive in Nottingham, the reception for the Hotel has closed but we knew this in advanced and had instructions on how to find our room. Our room is on the second floor. With the benefit of the emailed instructions, we gain access and drag the luggage up to our spacious room. We are yet to eat so we visit Tescos Express next door and pick up some sandwiches and a salad after all this is all about overnighting then catch the train to Bristol. Despite the lack of a lift the hotel has a lot of charm, is conveniently located across the road from the Rail station and has a continental breakfast included.

Photos of the breakfast room and the view of the rail station ourside our bedroom window, inside the station and the chimney stacks.

Our journey starts at Nottingham Station. We board the train which soon commences its journey passing by the power station chimney stacks which represented the land mark to identify Nottingham whether we came by car up the M1 or flew into East Midlands Airport. First stop is Derby a frequent destination when we lived in Long Eaton and then onto Birmingham. First time in Birmingham Station to change trains for Bristol. Our fears of changing platform disappear as we walk to the other side of the arrival platform to travel onto Bristol arriving in Bristol by the middle of the afternoon. We refer to our phone and google maps to locate our hotel West India House and our apartment for our stay in Bristol. The apartment is very private, and our apartment is again on the 2nd floor but this time we have a lift – smaller than the little lift in Lyon (I didn’t think it possible).


Welsh Back (the name of the road in front of our apartment) follows the canal/floating harbour of Bristol (the canal runs into the River Avon). Beside us is the Brewdog Bar – yes the same Brewdog as at Murarrie in Brisbane . We have a large choice of pubs and all quite handy but our search for the tourist information office was to prove impossible with misleading signage and then to learn that the office had closed. Last located in the City Aquarium we were fortunate to obtain a copy of a street map amongst papers they had left behind.

Our exploration had uncovered the ferry system running up and down the “floating harbour”. These ferries run the length and breadth of the canal off the River Avon. The walk from the station to our apartment left me with the impression that we were in a pocket and dislocated from the key parts of the city. This proved to be very wrong. Our first afternoon we spent checking our location with the aid of the tourist map. Distances looked very long on paper but nothing could be further from the truth. We found a bar and had a late afternoon lunch of burger and chips – in fact every cafe pub and restaurant seemed to have either burgers or pizzas – this proved rather tiring as a menu choice.

That night we continued our exploring and realised we were in the old city section of Bristol. Two streets over from our apartment we found Corn Market St and the St Nicholas markets. The Markets were closed but the street was alight with the lights from “pubs”. These establishments were nothing more than a cafe with beer on tap – every kind of imaginable beer. Two streets in the opposite direction we found a section of King street turned into pedestrian mall and beer hall. On one corner stood “the Old Duke”, across the road a pub the Llandower Trow (in Tudor style one section had a frightening lean suggesting it was going to fall into the next pub), then adjoining each pub another pub on each corner with the mall filled with bench tables and people – the hum of constant conversation filled the air and the smell of hops and beer a partnering aroma. We went back to Corn Market St in daylight and it is essentially now a second hand dealers emporium but its clock remains to evidence the position before Greenwich created mean time.

During our exploration, we learned there is a walking tour of street art and graffiti including two examples by Banksy. So, the next day we made our way to the College Green in front of the City Hall where we met our guide John and about 20 other visitors to Bristol. For twenty quid (seniors’ discount) John gave us more than a two and one half hour tour with constant commentary into an ear piece he provided. John told us that in his earlier life he had been a youth worker at the commencement of graffiti becoming a culture and as a youth worker he encouraged these individuals to express themselves through “art” and in this role he had been part of the development of the culture, met and knew many of the notable street artists and the not so notable taggers making up this culture. He explained that in many instances the street artist started out as a tagger and developed into a notable artist – Banksy was one of these. He also explained that taggers had a different view of the world and considered anything and everything a fair target and did not expect their tag to last as a piece of work. There are a few unwritten rules about exceptions to this rule. The key though is that graffiti artists do not expect their work to be permanent.

The first work he showed us is straight across the road from City Hall “the Well Hung Lover”. this is a protest piece done by Banksy at the start of his street art period after learning about avoiding the long arm of the law as a tagger. Bristol had a policy that graffiti was criminal damage of property and enforced it rigorously, but this piece changed that policy. Banksy was able to produce the piece without being observed and escape with the unveiling of his protest (he had contractors erect scaffolding and posing as a commercial painter produced the work under the cover of a mesh screen). The council allowed the piece to remain, but an anti-graffiti protestor used a paint ball gun to try and deface the work with the council cleaning off some of the blue paint.

Photos – the canal ferry, the golden hind atop a building, multicolour attached houses, the Bristol Museum, the Bristol Sailors Home, Hole in the Wall Pub, The Ole Duke and the Llandower Trow, the markets up the stairs and the Corn Market its clock with 3 hands and its front door, City Hall and the library. The last photo “the wellhung lover”

As the culture developed so John says a committee of youth workers and “artists” proposed a festival to celebrate the development of the culture. He then took us to see these works and talk about how some are done by stencils and others freehand. All of these works have been tagged in one way or another.

Photos and the final Banksy bottom right. Many expressed an object such as the protest that “black lives matter” and the Banksy protest about the Bristol riots

Many of these buildings were earmarked for demolition and the sites redeveloped but Covid changed all of that. You will note from my pictures the dilapidation in some sections and sectors. the council still actively seeks to stop and remove graffiti and paint companies are riding that sentiment with development of anti-graffiti paints whilst continuing to produce the material these people use – in fact there are specialist stores where taggers purchase their materials and he showed them to us. Bizarre! The only winners – the paint company.

Finally, John showed us the second Banksy – a protest against Police for causing riots over graffiti. Whilst the piece is a meaningful expression of his protest (by the way this piece was done before his name was noted worldwide) it misses the underlying point that taggers have no respect for private or community property, defacing it with meaningless pseudonyms which are in turn are defaced with someone else’s pseudonym all of which is unattractive and damaging to the property. I have seen the Berlin Wall and the graffiti that now appears on it’s remains and can understand the protest so whilst it is an expression of freedom that does not make it acceptable – I don’t accept it is a limitation on freedom to respect other people’s property.

One of the other great things about Bristol is the Brunel story. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a civil engineer who is considered “one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history”. Brunel built dockyards, a series of steamships including the first propeller-driven steel hulled transatlantic steamships and numerous important bridges and tunnels. His designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering.

During his career, Brunel achieved many engineering firsts, including assisting in the building of the first tunnel under the River Thames and the development of the SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven, ocean-going iron ship, which, when launched in 1843, was the largest ship ever built. Here in the dry dock that gave birth to the SS Great Britain, the restored hulk is displayed as a museum to its designer.

She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean, which she did in 1845, in 14 days. The ship is 322 ft (98 m) in length and has a 3,400-ton displacement. She was powered by two inclined two-cylinder engines, with twin high pressure cylinders and twin low-pressure cylinders, all of 6-foot (1.8 m) stroke cylinders. She was also provided with secondary masts for sail power. The four decks provided accommodation for a crew of 120, plus 360 passengers who were provided with cabins, and dining and promenade saloons.

When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat. But her protracted construction time of six years (1839–1845) and high cost had left her owners in a difficult financial position, and they were forced out of business in 1846, having spent all their remaining funds re-floating the ship after she ran aground. In 1852 she was sold for salvage and repaired. After being repaired, from 1852 she carried thousands of immigrants to Australia until being converted by removal of its engine to all-sail in 1881. Three years later, she was retired to the Falkland Islands, where she was used as a warehouse, quarantine ship and coal hulk until she was scuttled in Sparrow Cove in 1937, 98 years after being laid down. In 1970, after SS Great Britain had been abandoned for 33 years, the vessel was raised and repaired enough to be towed north through the Atlantic back to the United Kingdom, and returned to the Bristol where she had been built 127 years earlier.


The museum is comprehensive on the life of Brunel and the details of SS Great Britain. Really worth the visit. Following a bite of lunch, we walked along the canal to the M shed (the Bristol Museum) but having been there previously we moved on. That’s when we found the “Ostrich” a pub with character and a little historic memoir about the slave trade and the glassware produced in the city. The sand needed to create the glassware was obtained from excavating under the city creating “caves” which still exist today. One of the walls in the hotel has been partly demolished to expose one of the caves. A nip of Laphraoig and a glass of Sav Blanc and we journeyed on back to our apartment to prepare for our departure tomorrow.

Photos the Ostrich, othe views of the city

Our trip to Bristol finished we returned to Nottingham by train. Our return to Nottingham has been spoiled by the news that Martin and Christine (our Rhine Cruise mates) are struck down with Covid and we will not be catching up with them. So, no plans for Saturday and Sunday. I contacted our old neighbour at Long Eaton Pam Fowler to arrange our catch up with her and to my surprise she offered to meet us at Bill’s in Nottingham Old City Market. Pam is 86 years old. Pam and John were our neighbours for the 20+ months we lived as their neighbours and when we prepared to return to Australia and knowing John had a terminal cancer, we took him and Pam to the University of Nottingham Lake for a walk around the lake. A fortnight after returning home John passed over and Pam was all alone. We have maintained intermittent contact with Pam concerned she was all alone. So, when we met for lunch, it was pleasing to hear that she was blessed with some good neighbours in our former flat. She was well and happy, and we enjoyed brunch at Bill’s.

With no plans and having seen a lot of Nottingham and Derby, we have visited many of our old haunts. My favourite “anti salesman” sign is still there – “No clowns”.

However we did find some new haunts. We found another cinema – a community cinema – in the back streets and “the Curious Tavern”. Situated in Nottingham’s oldest accomodation hotel which is operated by Mercure, The Curious Tavern’s peculiar decor the captures the essence of being the oldest hotel tavern in Nottingham. Of course we all know the oldest pub is Ye Olde Trip to Jeruselem under the site where Nottingham Castle once stood.

Situated is Georges St Nottinghamthis strange door is the entrance that caught our eye and inside the light shdes in the reception are suitcases and the staircase is the original from 1822. Some luminaries have stayed at the hotel – Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Well that ends this trip. We are back in Australia with our luggage and busy as usual. till next time (should there be one) Adieu/See ya mate.

The Retirees return to Europe – Sanary Sur Mer – France

Our Lyon stay has ended, and we are now headed to Sanary sur Mer via Avignon and Toulon on the TGV train. This time we made sure we were on time and in place to board the first-class carriage. We changed trains at Avignon and left the train at Toulon. The scenery has certainly changed from the green hills of Switzerland to the Mediterranean rugged mountains and dry looking plant life. In Toulon we made the decision to complete our journey by Uber. This was without doubt the correct decision. To catch another train then a cab would have been crazy and on arrival at the address given to us by my cousin Terri both the Uber driver and us were unable to identify the apartment.

Whilst Kerry stood in the shade with our luggage, I made investigations to see if we had a home. I saw a woman standing by her car and tentatively asked “Parley vous Anglais” to which she replied, “Of course I am English”. What a relief. This is Karen who asks who I was looking for and I answered No46 – there is no number 46. Then through a series of questions we determine that Karen is the next-door neighbour to our apartment No 60 (the street numbers have been changed by the Council) and she was expecting Terri and Mick for lunch. I introduced myself as Terri’s cousin and explain Terri had invited us to stay. Karen had been expecting them for lunch but it was clear they were not going to be there any time soon so she asked us in for lunch. And that was how it was – lunch served whilst we waited for Mick and Terri. Valerie the French cleaner was still next-door in our apartment cleaning so when she finished we moved our luggage in and waited. Despite assurances that the drive from Marseille would only take an hour all factors worked against Mick and Terri delaying their arrival. Below are photos of the apartment.

Photos of the apartment – the annex where we stayed, our washing, the kitchen, the dining room, the lounge with two bedrooms on the floor above and the back yard

After a night’s rest we walked down to the village past the swimming bay, past the restaurant where our daughter married in 2007, toward the waterfront and the fishing port. There is a market on, and the place is crowded (really crowded) – even the old Roman tower is occupied. There are several Pointus in the harbour – the traditional fishing boat for Provence. The market is hectic and full of tourists – its their summer holiday.

Its around 10.00am the weather is hot and humid and with the sun setting around 8.30pm we don’t feel like eating anything at this early hour, so we struggle through the crowd past leather-craft shops, clothing, swimwear, footwear, underwear, candles and perfumes, the vegetables, the fish mongers, the butchers, the Boulanger, the Charcuterie, and of course we run into our daughter Carly, husband Vincent, and our grandsons William and Mathis amongst the thousands in the square. We expected that we would cross paths in Sanary but the sheer coincidence that my cousin Terri would be holidaying in Sanary causing us to visit Sanary at that time is amazing. Some time earlier Mick and Terri had lived in Sanary whilst Mick performed building miracles at the apartment so this holiday was a bit of payback to Mick and Terri by Mick’s sister whose husband owns the proeprty and both of whom are presnetly living in Melbourne Australia – in those circumstances it all makes sense.

After a few hours fighting the crowds and fighting for the shady spots, we give up and wander up the hill towards home. Mick has a gammy hip and needs a redo on the hip replacement, so he needs a break half way home (its about 1.1 kilometres all the way home most of it up hill). His favourite halfway mark is PB Cafe where he and Terri enjoy a beer. Who are we to break a tradition. An Aperol spritz for Kerry and 3 beers one each for Terri, Mick and me. The first beer goes down quickly and we order a second whilst Kerry sips on slowly so by the time the second beer is finished its time to move on.

By the time we arrive home and enjoy a lunch in air-conditioned comfort it’s time for a nap. Then with evening slowly arriving we adjourn to the garden and catch up on everything that happened since we last met in 2014, the progress with the new house at St Leger, kids, family and retirement.

Sanary-sur-Mer was once a fishing village, and its neighbours Cannes and San Tropez took the limelight. Whilst they still attract the celebrities Sanary attracts the tourist and the fisherman now catch tourists. It has beaches in cosy bays, long sunny days in summer and lots and lots of cafes. Nearby in the hills behind Sanary are medieval walled villages (now enclosed tourist shopping villages) like Le Chatelet, other beach resorts like Bandol and Cassis and we would do it all.

Karen our next door neighbour invited the four of us for dinner which we enjoyed in her garden along with a variety of French wines. We went swimming with the grandkids and their parents in the bay, we visited Le Chatelet, Cassis and Bandol, caught up with Mimi our son-in-law’s mother and her partner Jonathan for a very pleasant dinner by the bay at Bandol, had a thank you dinner for Karen at Bardot’s Restaurant overlooking the bay and assisted Mick to carry out maintenance on the plumbing at the accommodation. The accommodation is owned by Graham partner of Margaret sister of Mick. Mick and Terri have lived in rural southwest France for the last 23 years and Mick has made their living renovating old French cottages and converting farm sheds to holiday lets (“gites”) so when he arranged a visit to catch up with us of course the plumbing starts to play up and he ends up calling in a specialist after we found tree roots in the pipes. After a traumatic 3 days of dealing with flooding showers and blocked toilets relief came in the form of an emergency plumber with a “worm” which ground out the tree roots.

This has been our rest and relaxation from the stress and activity of our trip thus far. We even visited Castorama (incidentally Mick tells me it is owned by a UK chain), France’s version of Bunnings our Australian DIY giant to obtain some glue which Mick says from experience is the bees knees if you want to make something stick permanently. My photos follow with a brief description of what is depicted.

Photos – Le Chatelet looking over the wall, in the streets, Mick wishing he was home, hotel de ville, the church and its stained-glass window, a suit of armour and lunch with a fantastic view.

We decided to take a trip to Cassis west toward Marseille to see what we could see. Cassis is another fishing village turned holiday destination on the Cote d’Azur. Arriving in Cassis by car may have been a mistake as everyone else in Cassis had their car out that day and we found ourselves parking some distance away from the centre. After making our way into the centre of Cassis where the cove is lined with cafes Kerry noticed that one of the tour operators was offering a boat ride along the coast so we took another boat ride – yes another boat ride but the surrounding hills made it dramatic.

Photos – Cassis, the beach, the harbour, the cliffs, the coves and the beaches. I had to wonder how the locals accessed some of these coves with sheer rock surrounding them and can only be by boat.

That night we had our thank you dinner for Karen at Bardot’s. The sun did not set till 8.30pm which meant people were swimming and strolling on the beach (yes topless swim suits for women and men are popular) well into the evening and the breeze did not settle until the sun dipped below the horizon when the restaurants became lively.

Our time here has slipped by very quickly and it is time to leave Sanary sur Mer and cousin Terri and Mick. I think we have convinced them to return to Australia again and we might see them early next year. We have also got the travel bug and need to investigate what further travel we want to do before it is beyond us.

Karen is returning to the UK today also, so we bum a ride in her Fiat 500 two door. A little bit squeezy. We fill the car up with our luggage and chuff off to Marseille airport. On the way we are stopped by three Gendarmes who want to know who is in the car and continually have their hands on their weapons. But they are not looking for us this time and send us on our way with a cheery “Bon voyage” but their hands never leave their weapons.

Karen is a careful driver a bit different to Mick but perhaps doing 80kph on the 110kph freeway was a little too conservative. The car is hot even with the driver’s window down and the a/c belting out. So, it is a relief for me in the back to pry myself out at Marseille airport. Marseille Airport is not a bustling giant of an airport and is easily navigated. It has two terminals – 1 & 2 with 1 being a modern open hall with a nice restaurant for passengers to prepare for their flight. Of course, we are flying Ryanair – so it is rough old terminal 2 for us. Nevertheless, the flight leaves on time – with our luggage we hope. One and a half hours from now we will be in the midlands of the UK again and hopefully so will our luggage.

The Retirees return to Europe – Lyon France

Catching the train to Lyon proved stressful for Kerry. We missed our scheduled train at Interlaken Oust but caught the next one half an hour later. There was a train change at Berne and we arrived there in time to catch our original connecting train but due to the short changeover time we found ourselves in an overcrowded 2nd class cabin and no way to move through to first class. Distressing but not the end of the world. We were unable to sit together, and our luggage sat unattended in the entrance/exit of the carriage. The journey proved uneventful apart from the heavy odour of hot bodies in a tin can.

There was some relief when we arrived at Gare de Lyon Par Dieu opposite a huge Westfield shopping centre – just like home – and even greater relief when we found our hotel Best Western Richelieu nearby. The area around the train station is undergoing some significant renovation and navigating our way the first time was testing. The hotel is in an old building converted to this purpose which made me worry that we maybe dragging our luggage upstairs. Fortunately, it has an elevator. Now don’t feel too relieved. These old buildings may have an elevator, but it is retro fitted so many compromises are often made to make them fit. I can recall an old-style hand operated elevator in Paris fitted into the opening of the staircase barely fitting 2 people, the elevator in Vienna styled like a closet and barely fitting 2 people and this elevator styled on a sardine tin fitting only 2 people facing one another. Still better than dragging the luggage upstairs.

The hotel room is tiny but with modern fittings. It had a kettle and a desk in addition to the usual, so it felt luxurious. We had some ideas about what we wanted to do but needed to gain an understanding of the transport system to do it. We located the Tourist Information Centre on our phone and via the magic of the Google maps made our way there on foot – some hour long walk – to Bellcour Square.

Lyon is on two rivers – the Saone and the Rhone and we had crossed the Rhone to get to Bellcour Square. The pictures below show the river and some of the major buildings on its banks. Passing through the street toward the square we came upon a protest the purpose of which was unclear, but they had everyone’s attention.

As we entered Bellcour square 3 things stood out – the Information Centre, the underground station and the Basilica on the hill. Having obtained the information needed we decided we would visit the Basilica that afternoon. The Basilica appears below.

We had been told that we could access the Basilica via a funicular at the next underground station across the Saone in the old city. So, we purchased the day pass for €6 euros each travelled across the river or I should say under the river then exited at the 1st station to find right next door a funicular. Kerry had a little trouble with her ticket and entry into the funicular causing a minor issue with an underground official and a helpful local. Once solved we noticed two cars, one with a long queue and the other rather shorter. It seemed that the car with the shorter queue was leaving later and we chose that car. It proved to be the wrong choice. The car we had chosen took us to the Roman ruins and St Just a suburb of Lyon not the church. We returned to the Roman ruins and walked around and up the hill to see rather extensive ruins of foundations and a sign directing us to The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.

Thinking we had stumbled onto the right path we dragged ourselves up some steep hills in very hot afternoon heat until arriving at the back of the Basilica. As we started to explore, we came across a delightful little bar with views of the city and the Basilica and an empty table with our names on it. The pictures below show the Basilica, firstly from the bar the panorama from the bar, then a tour around the exterior and a carousel designed as a Xmas tree with the large pine nut carriages at the bottom. From there I visited the interior of the Basilica starting with the crypt which appeared to be for the living rather than the dead. I had left Kerry at the Bar to finish her large G & T.

The Basilica was built with private funds between 1872 and 1896 in a dominant position overlooking the city. The site it occupies was once the Roman forum of Trajan. We felt we had completed enough for today so we headed to our hotel using our new found knowledge of the underground system only to be frustrated by a line closure. Where we were to change underground line D for line B, Line B was closed and a kind official walked us out of the subway to the nearby bus stop showing us that a bus had been substituted. We travelled to Gare de Par Dieux and walked home.

We wanted to walk through the old city, and I wanted to see the “Traboules” – passageways between houses and between streets behind doors appearing to be the entrance to homes. We knew line B remained closed so we sought out the bus to travel to Sax Gambetta but missed the stop. Realising we had missed our stop occurred about 3/4 the way to the end of the line and we ended up travelling to the end of the line not knowing what we were going to do. We got off the bus and with an exchange of hand signs with the bus driver started off in the direction of the return bus stop. Not knowing any better had we stayed on the bus the next stop was the terminus and the bus would then return to Lyon Gare de Par Dieu. So, we tracked down the bus station as best we could (about 1/2 hour) and got the return bus to Sax Gambetta then the underground line D and the old town. The following photos show Lyon Cathedral. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Lyon. Begun in 1180 on the ruins of a 6th-century church, it was completed in 1476. Beside the cathedral are the ruins of either an earlier church a Roman ruin or an extension which has been destroyed. We followed a map given to us by the Tourist Office to locate the Traboules and the photos show the Palais des Justice, the oldest street in Lyon, timber facades on 15th century houses in a lane off that street, scenes of the old city and our hunt for the Traboules.

We finally cracked it and found our first Traboule and inside some old doors and about 3 courtyards on different levels all giving access to residences formerly the homes of weavers. We were now looking up at the timber facades in the alley behind which we had visited a short time ago. We then found about another 4 or 5 traboules which the public can access. One lead to the back of a functioning cafe and some had elevators installed for the residents. One had been converted into a hidden magic shop. We found Soleil’s House and it’s history and had coffee at Soleil’s House. Returning via the cathedral we past a mime different from others in that on making a donation he did a routine thereby changing his position.

On our final full day, we decided to visit the country and visit a medieval village called “Perouge”. Told we could catch a bus to it for €2 euro each and a journey of 20 mins, we thought this would make a nice change. It was a challenge again to find the right bus at the right bus stop, but we did it but then after 20 mins travel, no sign of Perouge and a driver who did not speak English panic started to creep in. I was able to inform the driver we were a little worried and he reassured me that it was still some distance away. 1 hour 10 mins later we were dropped off in the new Perouges with the old town 1.5 klms away. Putting on our walking shoes we headed off arriving shortly after 10.00am at the Lower Gate. Following are photos of our first sights after getting off the bus and sights of old medieval Perouge.

We made our way to the Upper Gate, where we found a small information office, which lead us to the church beside the old City gates (interestingly it had entrances outside the city walls as well as the inside and the village. In 1792 with the commencement of the French Revolution, the Revolution committee presented the town with a lime tree to plant in its main square. That tree survives and is now a National listed monument. There is also a niche with a statue of St George in it on the square and an old olive press. I found the Lower Gate once again and made a reservation at a restaurant. Before going to lunch we visited the local museum and learned that the village had been in decline until a committee of residents was formed to save the village. One of those families was the Thibault family and long serving Mayor of Lyon Edouard Herriot who owned a house in the village and they organised the renaissance of the village.

We dined at the restaurant operated by the younger generation of the Thibault family. The lunch was wonderful. Fine dining and period costume worn by the waitress, we were treated as special guests enjoying steak in mushroom sauce for me with potato au gratin and Kerry enjoying a fillet of a local river fish with season vegetables and potato au gratin. We followed this with a dessert which included the house specialty a galaterre which is in the shape of a large pizza base made of bread and brioche coated in sugar and the sugar seared as with creme Brulé. A celebration of our 34 years of marriage. After lunch we visited the museum in the old tower. They have preserved some of the equipment that made the town prosperous but it was time to walk back inot the 21st century and back to our hotel.

The Retirees return to Europe – Interlarken

We are travelling between Luzern and Interlaken on the 9.06am train to Interlaken. It is a very busy line even for a Tuesday with families taking biking expeditions and hiking expeditions to places in between. Since leaving Luzern we have been surrounded by mountains and following the shores of lakes with spasmodic agriculture and an urban sprawl which hugs the rail line. Timber is one obvious industry, but it all appears to be pine trees/logs being cultivated and farmed. Some cattle and small acre farms with crops of what I think may be wheat or oats. The journey is likely one- and one-half hours duration and we wonder whether the cost of CHF66 2nd class could have been lessened with taking another day on our EUrail pass.

Luzern station

The train climbs rapidly up into the mountains and some hastily snapped phone shots are attached to show the change of scenery and altitude. Kerry has pointed out that behind me are peaks which appear snow-capped and most likely around our destination of Interlaken. Stunning scenery and I am amazed the trains are climbing the mountains like goats. Still, we climb. Sheer rock walls give way to a suburban scene whilst on the other side of the train sheer drops – we are now going down the other side and views down the valley are surprising as to the greenness and the sheer height of the mountains overlooking the valley.

We arrive at Interlaken Ost and investigate getting to our accommodation at Wilderswill. It’s on the outskirts of Interlaken and somewhat rural with a noticeable smell of cows on the air – rather nice after the smell of the cities. A quick train trip and we arrive at the Bahn and Kerry quickly spots the hotel across the rail line and we walk to our hotel within a few minutes. We walk past a train with an ominous snow shovel on its front.

Whilst checking in our hostess provided us with regional passes for the trains and buses which would prove very useful. After settling we used our pass to return to Interlaken Ost and then travel to Interlaken West. The town is split into two and we found ourselves crossing two rivers which ran into Lake Thun to visit the west. Not a lot to see but here are the photos. We strolled along what appears a residential street coming upon a square where the Tourist museum of Interlaken stands opening at 2.00pm week days. We took a rain check and moved on to a church with an older steeple than the rest of the building but immediately at the back of the church just past the cemetery a solid stone wall rose directly creating a sheer cliff face. In this region this characterises all settlements sheer mountain faces abruptly rising from the valley.

We returned to our guest house for an evening repast (you will all have seen my post on Facebook of Kerry and I relaxing with an Aperol Spritz and a Rogan Brau Dunkel). We struck up a conversation with our hostess about a visit to Jungfraujoch and she tipped us off that we should check with the information office at the rail station about the various options (our previous enquires left us so confused we thought we were going to have to purchase a 3 day pass for CHF249.00). We did that and low and behold if we got up early (6.40am to be precise) we could purchase an early bird 1 day pass for CHF170.00. For the two of us this was a saving of $150.00 but we could only purchase it on the day.

Next morning at 6.30am we were standing in the information office purchasing our tickets then jumping on the train which would take us to Gremwald where we would catch the Eiger Express cable car for a fifteen-minute trip to the eiger station where we would catch a train with all the workmen up to the top of Europe through a tunnel cut through the mountain in the 1890’s. More on that later. We met two Americans on the cable car and seemed to bump into them all through the trip around Jungfraujoch. You may notice the same faces in the following pictures.

Of course, we were too early for the connecting train and had to wait but this gave us a good opportunity to take in our surroundings at 2900m. Above us huge sheets of dirty snow and ice clung to the mountain and the breeze was strong and chill. Fortunately, the train was not long in coming (all of these trains are cog trains) and we entered the tunnel to the top. This journey would last 21 minutes – no wonder it took the tunnel builders years to dig through the hard rock. Arriving at the terminal you would not know whether you were in a modern subway or at the end of a tunnel carved out in 1890 – electronic sliding doors and ticket readers had replaced whatever had been envisioned by the builders.

The terminus is set up as a series of exhibits called “the Tour” and it commences with a long tunnel leaving the warmth of the gift shop and cafe behind. The tunnel is wet and cold and steadily ascending to a giant surround cinema showing film of the mountains Eiger Monch and Jungfraujoch in all seasons and the Sphinx (which is the name given to the building constructed at top of Jungfraujoch) – truly awesome.

After the cinema we found the lifts to the Sphinx – elevators taking us 80m up to the viewing platforms gift shop (Tissot is well represented) and restaurant. The cloud cover is dense but not a complete white out at this stage (the early bird catches the worm). The wind speed is 32kph and the temperature -2 degrees C. There is ice on the platform which is metal grill suspended over metres of air. We find a quiet side and I duck down the stairs carefully until I can go no further due to my freezing to death with the cold. We both then duck back inside to catch our breath (we are 3500m above sea level) and warm up.

We wandered round looking for a clear view, but none were found. The clouds were piling in and sleet was falling. We decided to return to the Tour and check out the Ice Palace and Ice Caves. The Ice Palace had some enjoyable features but moving on we found an exhibit to the man who had the dream of tunnelling to the top of Jungfraujoch. Following that exhibit is a tunnel honouring the men who lost their lives building the tunnel. Very sobering.


We came to the Ice Cave. I entered and went several metres but that was it I was now unable to bear the cold anymore and we agreed to give this a miss and return to the start of the Tour. We had packed a thermos with hot coffee and now seemed the appropriate time to drink it. We found a bench with a view which today was a pile of white cloud and poured 2 cups – still very hot and a great way to warm up. Another way to warm up was to purchase gloves and a scarf at the gift shop. I noticed a bottle of single malt whisky and was told it was distilled right here on the mountain and I could see the distillery in the Ice Cave. I bought a small bottle to try. Warmed by the coffee and insulated by the gloves and scarf we returned to the auditorium showing the movie of Jungfraujoch in brilliant weather and snowy blizzards and returned to the Sphinx in the hope of kinder weather but unfortunately the rain clouds were set in for the day. We ventured outside on the Plateau – too bloody cold even with our new armour. We made our way back to the Sphinx and were surprised to find perched on handrails and wires on the Sphinx a group of birds also feeling the chilling effects of the weather. I was really surprised to find any bird life this high up. Reassured that we were fully protected against the cold, we returned to the Ice Cave to look for the distillery. Here are the photo results.

One of the conditions of the early bird tickets is that you must return to the Cable Car station by 1.17pm. With the weather against us we decided to return earlier to Gremwald and see what was in the village. After returning on the train then the cable car it was close enough to lunch to find a place to eat and determine our next step. That next step – to look around Gremwald was a mistake – long uphill walk to find nothing of interest.

Our trip to Gremwald finished with our return to Wilderswill and the hotel. We had heard the chimes of a local church regularly and we could see the steeple from our lounge room window so we went exploring to find that church that chimed on the half hour morning noon and night. Less than 100m metres from the hotel is a small park with some history boards concerning local events and within in 50m a covered bridge giving crossing over the stream running through Wilderswill.

We crossed the bridge which is wide enough for 1 car – pedestrians have to shelter on one of the bridge cross members whilst the car passes through. Bike riders present a different problem for car drivers and with a blind corner at one end of the bridge I am sure there have been contests for right of way. After crossing the bridge Kerry found a very friendly grey Tom cat sunning on the top of the rock wall/fence atop the bank of the stream whilst I kept watch for the cars and cycles. The offending chimes commenced as she stood stroking her new friend. The local information had spoken of the many different nationalities buried in the graveyard behind the church and from where we stood, we could see headstones littered across the hill rising suddenly from behind the church. Curious we went into the churchyard to investigate.

As we entered the graveyard in front of us was a low wall which seemed to hold niches for the cremated with small graves for a few buried. Strangely all the buried seemed small graves and we speculate that even the cremated were buried with a headstone. A set of stairs divided the low wall and gave access to the slope of the almost sheer wall climbing before us. Walking up the hill was strenuous, but we wished to find the early graves mentioned on the park information board. The higher we went made no difference – the dates of death were mixed and none earlier than 1900. The big difference here was the arrangements of garden beds and the mix of flowers. Well maintained all flowers looked healthy and well tendered all the way up the hill.

Part of the secret of the lovely garden was that seedlings were on sale at the foot of the graveyard – a big tray and an honesty box for the cost of purchase. Even the gravestones were different – some utilised old stones which readily weathered giving the appearance of an old grave, one or two had old stones with stained glass ornamental panels attached to the stone and others were “caged rocks” formed in a monument. I will let my pictures finish the story.

After the graveyard visit we returned to the apartment rain was commencing to fall. It was still overcast and drizzling when we arose the following morning. Fortunately, we visited Jungfraujoch yesterday as today it is raining continuously. Overnight we had looked for some further place to explore and Kerry had found St Beatus Caves. I then did some bus route investigation and determined how we might travel there on our bus pass. Voila our day was planned. So, we caught the local bus into the station at Interlaken West then caught the bus to Thun hopping off at the Caves – all free so far. However, the caves are located in the side of a mountain and the walk to the caves in a straight line would need climbing gear but there was a zigzagging path sometimes breathtakingly steep crisscrossing the stream flowing from the cave. It is still raining. By the way the road below was scratched into the side of this mountain and at least 100m drop to Lake Thun. This would have a part to play in a later scene we witnessed.

We arrived at the entry to the old monastery now converted to a tourism gateway to St Beatus caves. The caves are named after an Irish missionary who arrived in the 2nd century to spread the Christian gospel or so the story goes – a missionary possibly an Irish missionary that is questionable as there were no Irish pubs in Interlaken at the time. Further investigation required. The legend says that he lived in this cave system and hence once beatified it became St Beatus’ Caves. They have a rather prison like cell displayed with a forlorn St Beatus and later in the museum (halfway down the hill) there were various paintings on the life and death of St Beatus.

After the cell the cave system starts, and it gradually climbs over a distance of 900m by 84 metres. Although it resounds in places with falling water and there are pools and streams all the way through, it seemed dry to me compared with other cave systems of this type we have visited. The stalagmites all appeared stunted or new if the legend is that the cave system has been active for 1800 years or longer. After climbing to the “Ende” we turned around and went down again until we reached a bridge back to the entrance. My photos follow.


After completing the journey, we used the facilities bought a cup of coffee and something sweet – it was still raining. Our €10 umbrella was getting a workout. So down we went to the museum which did not excite me other than the sketches of St Beatus and his funeral where he is shown being buried with one of his followers – I was uncertain if the follower was also dead and if he was whether he was some sacrifice – 2nd century Christian sacrifice that is?

After watching some of the visitors to the museum (particularly a Muslim mum trying to get a cup from the attendant for the bottle of water she had brought with her) we went to the bus stop. We had arrived first thing and no one was around. Now by 11.00am the road is a traffic jam with people fighting over the limited car parking spaces available (there is an off-road car park a little distance from the entrance, but everyone wanted the spot beside the front gate). The traffic jam delayed our bus and watching the performances would have been humorous if we had not been delayed.

Once on the bus we were quickly transported to Interlaken West. Carly our daughter and her family were in France at the time, and we expected to run into them in Sanary sur Mer. She invited us for a swim at her mother in laws house with our grandsons. Now we have lost our luggage which included our swimwear, so the hunt was now on to buy some swimwear. All efforts in Interlaken West failed so we went to a Restaurant Hotel we had passed for lunch – it was still raining, and we were now damp for the 2nd or 3rd time. Lunch was interesting. This was a little bar with a small menu likely only to appeal to the locals with simple accommodation above and our waitress had lived in America for part of her life, so she had some comprehensible English. It is here that Kerry was given the tip where to buy swimwear cheaply. It required that we go to Interlaken Oust (East) and go to a particular bargain centre close by. It was still raining.

The journey between west and east was a regular journey for us and presented no difficulty however to find the bargain centre meant walking in the rain for almost a kilometre through semi-industrial buildings (so no shelter) and then we were wet. After purchasing the swimwear and a rain poncho we returned to the station and returned home to dry out. But on the bright side I purchased a bright yellow pair of swim shorts made in Australia – how’s that!

Our last day in Wilderswill ended with a very enjoyable repast. The staff had made us feel welcome and the apartment is large and commodious, so it was very restful while we were “home”.

Next is Lyon the 2nd largest city in France.

The Retirees return to Europe – Luzern/Lucerne

Our trip by train to Luzern was uneventful save for the surprise that Euros are not accepted in Switzerland due to the exchange rate for the Euro against the Swiss Franc instability. We have had to convert our euros to Swiss Francs and the exchange rate is almost par at the moment. Our lost luggage and the money spent to replace the essentials has reduced available holiday funds and Switzerland is more expensive than I had expected.

Luzern rail station is the ideal station with a tourist info centre within the terminal and a terminus with all possible destinations lined up across 14 platforms. No problems collecting our luggage – love these trains – and we can just stroll over to the Tourist Info centre to locate our hotel and obtain some other valuable information on things to see and do. Then its off to Hotel Rossli. The hotel is a doorway off the road in the old city on the northern side of the Reuss River and the reception is in another hotel across the road – in the short space of time it has taken to walk here we have learnt to be aware of cyclists who flash past pedestrian in all directions. After registering at reception we return to the doorway and enter up two flights of stairs to our room which is quite tidy and serviceable with a view over the adjoining roof to river glimpses.

Various photos – the train station, the front door of our hotel the view from the window in the hall and some of the art features in the hotel

Luzern has a long history and the most notable is the Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge. Part of the bridge complex is the octagonal “Wasserturm”, which translates to “water tower,” in the sense of ‘tower standing in the water.’ The tower pre-dates the bridge by about 30 years. Over the centuries, the tower has been used as a prison, torture chamber, and later a municipal archive as well as a local treasury. Today, the tower is closed to the public. The bridge itself was originally built c.1365 as part of Lucerne’s fortifications. It linked the old town on the right bank of the Reuss to the new town on the left bank, securing the town from attack from the south (i.e. from the lake). The bridge was initially over 270 metres (890 ft) long, although numerous shortenings over the years and river bank replenishments mean the bridge now totals only 204.7 metres (672 ft) long. It is the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. The bridge almost burned down on 18 August 1993, destroying two thirds of its interior paintings. Shortly thereafter, the Kapellbrücke was reconstructed and again opened to the public on 14 April 1994.

There is a second bridge of this type a few hundred metres up stream called the Spreuer Bridge. The first bridge was constructed in the 13th century to connect the Mühlenplatz (Mill Place) on the right bank of the River Reuss with the mills in the middle of the river. The extension of the bridge to the left bank was completed only in c. 1408. This was the only bridge in Lucerne where it was allowed to dump chaff (in German: Spreu, therefore the name Spreuerbrücke) and leaves into the river, as it was the bridge farthest downriver. The bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1566 and then rebuilt, together with a granary as the bridge head, called the Herrenkeller.

Photos of bridges – Spreuerbrücke then Kapellbrücke and the dam whereby they manage the water flow and generate some hydro electricity

Our accommodation being very close to the Chapel Bridge and old town made it easy to explore however we chose the remnant of the old city wall as our first target. We passed over the foot bridge closest to our flat and into the old town and in the distance saw Chateau Gutsch high on a hill within walking distance of the old town however we did not know that at the time. Passing through the streets we came upon a square with restaurants and hunger took hold so lunch first and explore later. Did I mention that Switzerland is expensive. We shared a pizza Kerry had a soft drink and I had a small beer – 39 Swiss Francs about AUD$55.00.

Without any plan we followed the road which gradually climbed up to the city wall passing an old workers hut. We must have walked about ten minutes uphill before finding a set of stairs which we climbed thinking this would get us onto the wall but no it brought us to the base of the wall but it gave us a good vantage spot to take some pictures including the clock tower in the wall. We entered through the modern door which contained a “spare” clock up some narrow wooden stairs to the wall – no interest in climbing to the top. we ventured out onto the wall for some grand views over the city. On the other side of the wall (the outside I presume) is now parks and sports grounds. Attached to the wall is a house with a metal deck leading to its roof (an Italian style “altana” ). There are a number of towers remaining with connecting walls leading almost to the lake and we walked as far as we could before leaving the wall to follow a road and visit a large church “Peters Chapel” in Kapellplats. And of course, there was a confessional.

We continued our exploration through the streets of the old town finding the restaurant we had stopped at in 2015 on the way to Basel. We decided to enjoy a dessert for dinner and unfortunately the occasion was not as good as our remembered occasion. We then crossed the river and passed what has to be the oldest extension to any building in Lucerne on our way to our flat.

Lucerne is on the banks of Lake Lucerne and one of the tourist musts is a boat trip on the lake. The experience in Bregenz made us wary of just taking a boat trip so after some research we found that a visit to Mt Rigi included a boat trip but the price was eye watering. The other mountain trips on offer were even worse. We had decided to suck it up and do the trip to Mt Pilatus. But when booking it at the Tourist Info Centre we learned that because we had an EUrail Global pass we got the tickets to Rigi at half price. Woo Hoo! But the ferry left in 10mins and we had to get on the boat before then. Handing over the folding, we got the tickets and ran to the wharf which fortunately was only across the road through the park from the Tourist Info Centre. Jumped aboard just in time and went straight to the top deck as the boat was jam packed with other tourists and locals. Ticket Inspector came along and pointed out we were in 1st class on a second-class ticket – so we got kicked off the top deck but not off the boat. The boat appeared to be a restored midship panel steamer only the engine was no longer steam powered. The restorer had exposed and polished the large diesel pistons and created a window into the engine room and the wheel chambers so the visitor could observe the pistons and the paddle wheel and the clean neatly arrayed tools of the diesel mechanic.

We travelled east across the lake stopping at various ports including Weggis and Vitznau. We left the boat at Vitznau to catch the cog train to the top of Rigi. We could then return by cable car from one of the train stops on the return journey and pick up the boat at Weggis.


The train was a modern electric powered vehicle rather than the historic looking tram advertising the trip. It climbed rapidly up the mountain side and at times appeared at risk of falling off sheer drops. As we climbed postcard pictures were available of rural homes and panoramas of the larger towns in the valley on the shores of the lake. After several stops at stations for hikers to alight, tourists to make their way to accommodation and locals going home, we made it to the last station some 30m below the summit. Then to my surprise a 2nd train appeared. Apparently, there is another line running to the other side of the island and the blue train was a whole different bunch of tourists. We ascended the summit some 1700+ metres high. Took some fabulous photos including some panoramas and these are following.

The summit is the site of the first survey point for the Canton of Luzern and this is highlighted by a raised concrete peg and a type of tepee over it. Just in case you are not familiar with cog trains I snapped a shot of the under carriage on the blue train (it was more obvious than on our train) to show you the centre rail and the cog wheel that fits into to it to give the train traction up the hills.

After filling our lungs with fresh air on a rather warm day at the summit and avoiding any of the numerous cow pats along the paths we joined the train for the return journey getting off at Rigi Kaltbad where we could use the cable car to travel down to Weggis. We captured some beautiful views of the lake and its towns travelling down. Those photos follow.

We had not seen everything of Lucerne its statuary and tattooed buildings, so we took a walk with the plan of visiting the Wounded Lion Monument. Here are a few photos of the interesting things we saw.

The Wounded Lion Monument recognises the sacrifice of the Swiss mercenaries employed by the King of France as his bodyguards and their massacre at the hands of revolutionaries of the French Revolution in 1792. From the early 17th century, a regiment of Swiss guards had served as part of the Royal Household of France. On 6 October 1789, King Louis XVI had been forced to move with his family to the Tuilieres Palace in Paris. In June 1791 he tried to flee to where troops under royalist officers were concentrated. On 10th August 1792 revolutionaries stormed the palace. Fighting broke out spontaneously after the Royal Family had been escorted from the Tuileries to take refuge. The Swiss Guards ran low on ammunition and were overwhelmed by superior numbers. A note written by the King half an hour after firing had commenced has survived, ordering the Swiss to retire and return to their barracks. Delivered in the middle of the fighting, this was only acted on after their position had become untenable. Around 760 of the Swiss Guards defending the Tuileries were killed during the fighting or massacred after surrender. An estimated two hundred more died in prison of their wounds or were killed during the September Massacres that followed. Apart from about a hundred Swiss who escaped from the Tuileries, the only survivors of the regiment were a 300 strong detachment which, with the King’s authorization, had been sent to Normandy to escort grain convoys a few days before August 10. The Swiss officers were mostly amongst those massacred, although the Major in command at the Tuileries was formally tried and guillotined in September, still wearing his red uniform of the Guard. Two surviving Swiss officers achieved senior rank under Napolean.

Mark Twain is said to have commented that this was the saddest monument he had visited. It’s location in an English garden is now out of the generally trafficked areas but worth a visit to view the extraordinary workmanship of this monument carved into a cliff face.

So, having viewed the monument and read all the information boards in the park we toddled off “home” and on the way discovered that the lane next to the front door of the hotel connected us directly with the River Ruess. It has been joyously decorated and not vandalised with graffiti.

You may recall my mention of Chateau Gutsch and the desire to visit the white palace on the hill. It turns out the palace is now a 5 star hotel with a funicular to take visitors to the hotel (of course there is car access also). With nothing better to do we donned our best clean clothes put on our thongs and tracked down the hotel which happened to be literally 5 minutes from our place. Finding the funicular proved to be no challenge at all and riding up in it gave us an outstanding view of the city wall and its towers, as well as views of the River Ruess, the lake the whole panorama of Lucerne. Inside the entry foyer is an elegant pictorial history of the Gutsch and from the lower balcony theses extraordinary views.

We were the only visitors at this time and had the deck to ourselves. The kitchen was not open, but they could offer coffee and a croissant. The cost was no more than we would have paid at a grubby street cafe – a pleasant surprise.