Europe

It took just a couple of hours to reach Stonehenge and once again we found that Senior Citizens receive a discount. It was just £1 each but if one did a conversion, at that time it was more than R10 each. We paid the deposit to use the earphones to hear the full history and interpretations of the stone formation and that was really helpful. Our stopover at Stonehenge took about 1½ hours but it was very well spent. From there we drove to the city of Bath, the only place in England where Roman Baths have been preserved.

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Now we have to decide – do we go to the UK on the Eurostar or do we fly? At Gard du Nord there was a reservations office for the Eurostar. As it was upstairs, many stairs, Trevor stayed on the ground floor with the luggage while I went upstairs to enquire about making a booking. The cost was €200 each so that was not an option. The official suggested that we go by train to Calais, ferry to Dover and then a coach to London. We decided that, with the luggage, it would be better to fly so we took a train to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Once again, Trevor looked after the luggage while I went to find a suitable flight to Gatwick, London which was the nearest airport to where we would be staying for the next 3 days.

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Nadia’s family are really very special people whom we have visited twice since. We would love to have them visit us here in South Africa. Although they are not wealthy, they insisted on donating a tankful of diesel for our car. Yes, diesel cars were really popular in Europe but not with Trevor! I understand that this is beginning to change now in line with CO2  fumes and climate change.

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From Sestriere, we drove through some beautiful Tuscan scenery to Lake Como, a most beautiful spot in Northern Italy. Of course, the driving was hindered by lots of tolls and narrow, winding roads in the towns.  Having to manoeuvre the very large car and look at the stunning views was quite a feat which Trevor did so well. This is one time when I was really glad not to be driving.

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We spent a week in Sestrierre and it really is a beautiful place to be but very lonely in the Summer months.  On the morning after returning from Turin and walking through the snow, we found that the roads had been ploughed and all the snow was piled on the sides of the road. We decided to walk down to our car and bring it back to our holiday flat. It took us just 20 mins in comparison with the 2 hours it had taken the night before! 

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We were finally on the open road north towards Pisa. There was another unexpected shock awaiting us – tolls and lots of them! The continual need to pay a toll did not make Trevor very happy, especially as he was driving a large, unfamiliar car on the right hand side of the road. Little did he know that there was worse to come.  We missed the right hand turn off to Pisa and had to go into and out of Genoa, paying a toll each way. There was one instance which caused a little panic, but also a bit of laughter later. On arrival at one of the toll booths there was no person on duty; just a ticket ready for collection. All we could think was that when a previous motorist had gone through he had forgotten to take his card. At the next booth, the lady on duty asked for our ticket and it was a mad scramble to find it, once we had worked out which ticket she wanted. It was one of those, 'charge only for distance travelled systems. Expect the Unexpected!

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At last, it is Wednesday, 3 May 2006 and Trevor and I are leaving for our first Senior Citizen’s trip abroad. He turned 60 the next day while I still had a few years to go. I was really proud of myself for having done all the preparation for this 6 week trip, using the internet for accommodation and a travel agent for our flights and hire cars. You know that saying, “Pride comes before a fall”?  Well, it is true! One thing after another did not work out as planned.  Expect the Unexpected became a reality for us.

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About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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