Europe

My father, uncles and aunts, were involved in World War II and that period of history has always interested me, so I was quite excited to learn that we were to have the opportunity to visit Hitler’s mountain retreat, Kehlseinhaus (Eagles’ Nest).  Having seen documentaries which included this hideaway, I was rather disappointed on seeing the ‘real thing’

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Although attending the Passion Play was the main reason for our trip, we spent another week as a group travelling in Germany and just over the border to Austria. We left our hotel just outside Oberammegau after breakfast and headed towards Salzburg. Interestingly, from this point the whole atmosphere of the trip seemed to take on a new dimension. .

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Salzburg is a small but very attractive city having received its name from the mining of salt in the area which was at its height from 800 – 400BC. The River Salzsach which runs through Salzburg was the main vein for the transporting of the salt by barge to other towns and countries. Although these barges are no longer active there are still a couple of mines around Salzburg and there is also a salt shop in the town centre with one wall built entirely of salt.

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Gradually our first trip abroad together was coming to an end. We had just 3 days left before we flew home and we had not actually booked any accommodation for our last 3 nights, one in Stratford-on-Avon and the next somewhere near Oxford.  Although Trevor was rather concerned at no definite place to lay our heads that night and the next, I wasn’t because I had been led to understand that England is full of B&Bs. Well, it was not as easy as I had believed. Stratford, a major tourist attraction, did have lots of B&Bs but there was not always a vacancy, particularly at this time of year.  We enquired at 3 before we found a room for 2 nights. It was actually a really beautiful room and the breakfast was excellent. Having arrived in the early afternoon we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking around the town and were fortunate to see some boats use the lock in the centre of town. The next day we viewed the city from a hop on - hop off bus. When Trevor enquired about rates for Senior Citizens, they gave us each the discount without any checking fo documents. If it is not displayed and you don't ask, you don't get.

The next morning we left straight after breakfast and headed down the M4 to Oxford. I had visited this city in 1994 and fallen in love with it so I wanted to show it to Trevor. The plan was to find a B&B on the outskirts of Oxford and catch a bus into the city. Another lesson learnt. There was a real dearth of places to stay in the area and we eventually had to go into the town of Hungerford and book into a hotel there. This made it impossible to get into Oxford by bus so we once again decided to go with Plan B which was to walk around Hungerford which we found to be a quite interesting place dating back to 11th Century. Dinner was take-away from a mobile Chinese shop and it was delicious. Interestingly, the more we have travelled the more we have learned that if you are wanting the real traditional foods of a country you need to go to either an upmarket restaurant or a small town home bakery type of Bistro. 

The following morning we drove into Oxford and parked in a local parking garage using some our last few British pounds. (Another very omportant tip, do not try to finish your foreign money before you journey is over. Always keep a few which you can spend at the airport if necessary. I fell in love with the city all over again and, once again, amazed at the number of bicycles parked on every street – literally hundreds of them. Since I cannot ride a bicycle I was very glad that we decided to just walk around and absorb the senses and nuances of Oxford. In the early afternoon we took a leisurely drive into Gatwick and returned the car which had been an excellent hire. We had a couple of hours to fill at the airport after checking in so we had coffee and muffins while reading until we boarded.

We arrived home safely at lunchtime the next day tired but having had a really special trip. We learnt a lot both educationally and what to or not to do another time. I will detail these a separate article.

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Once we were finished exploring the Roman Baths, we left Bath taking the M5 to Tewkesbury on an overcast but dry morning but, by the time we were halfway there, it was pouring with rain. (You may think that my memory is fantastic but actually I got this information from the journal I kept at the time. Now I am really glad that I did).

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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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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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