“Memories are the bricks with which we build our life.” Judith Baxter
I was in Sussex in the UK and it was just a just a couple of weeks before I was due to return to New Zealand. One day I got an email from a friend in NZ who had been left by her live in man for the second time. She was very upset and thought she would take a trip. She asked would I like to have a few days in Europe before I came home. She had a friend she would stay with in the UK and then go to Europe.
I agreed and it as decided that she, Jean, would give some thought to where we would go. My only request was Rome. In all our travels I hadn’t ever been there.
I left to spend a couple of days with my friend, Jean and her friend. The first hiccup was that Jean had done nothing towards planning the holiday. That should have been my first hint. The second came when her god-daughter said at lunch ‘Are you really going away with Jean?” Warning bells should have rung.
Anyway after lunch we went back to and organize our trip. We would leave London by Eurostar going under the English Channel and our first stop would be Paris, then in to Interlaken (Switzerland), Florence and Rome all in a very few days. We made phone calls to book accommodation, rail rovers and the train to Paris. That done I left to spend a few days with my sister in London.
We were to meet at 9.15 am on the Monday to take the Eurostar at 10 am.
9.15 came and went without any sign of Jean. 9.30 and 9.45 also came and went and I as getting worried. I called her mobile but it wasn’t on. I called her friend – Jean had left there hours ago and certainly in plenty of time to be at Victoria on time.
The train tickets said “Not Transferable” meaning not only date of travel but also time. I went off to one of the staff members and explained that my friend hadn’t turned up and we wouldn’t make the train at 10am. He was very good when I explained that Jean was a New Zealander and not used to travelling on the underground. He would allow us to go on the train when Jean eventually turned up. I had her paged but didn’t realize this would be heard only in the Eurostar area.
So I decided to go up to the main concourse and there she was. Standing at the top of the stairs under a sign that read Eurostar. She had been standing there for an hour but hadn’t thought of calling me on my cellphone.
So we were a couple of hours late in leaving. The train trip was uneventful. We knew we were going under the Channel because we were advised of this over the intercom. It was an interesting and the last uneventful time before we returned to the UK.
I had suggested, read insisted, that we make our onward train bookings as soon as we arrived at any place. So we stood in a queue on arriving in Paris and made our onward booking to Interlaken.
We only had two days and nights in Paris – now reduced to 1 and a bit days because of the hold up at Waterloo. We found our little hotel. It was great and within walking distance of a variety of cafes and bistros. We decided to have an early night so that we could have a full day sightseeing on Tuesday. The next morning we had breakfast early and got on the metro (underground) to go to the Louvre. I was particularly keen to see the glass dome that hadn’t been there the last time I had been in Paris. What we didn’t know is that the Louvre is closed on Tuesday.
The Louvre at night
Musee de Orsay
We did manage to go to Musee D’Orsay but the queues were horrific. It was holiday time. We made our way to the front of the queue and were allowed into the shop area. From there we got into the Museum without waiting in the long lines with others waiting to gain entrance.
We wandered around and did some people watching which I loved. Around 5pm we found a little bar and took seats outside to continue the people watching with a drink in hand.
The night before we had found a lovely little restaurant for dinner and returned there that night.
Early next morning we boarded the train for Interlaken. This was a lovely journey – our rail pass gave us first class travel in Europe. The train trip took several hours and then we were in Switzerland. Jean was really excited then. as she had lived and worked in Interlaken for several years when she was younger. We left the train and went to book our onward journey to Florence.
We were standing in the booking hall when suddenly Jean realized she had lost her ‘bum bag’. Jean had been on and on at me to get a bum bag as it would be safer than having my money and passport in my purse.
She rushed out of the booking hall and disappeared. I hung around and took a seat in the waiting area. Suddenly a man appeared and asked whether I was Madame Baxter and I was told that my friend wanted me to go to another part of Interlaken where she was with the police. Apparently, she had boarded the train before it left the station and on telling the guard what had happened was told to get off at the next stop and make a complaint to the police. So I grabbed a cab and went off to meet her.
Having made the complaint we enjoyed the rest of our truncated time in Interlaken.
Then on to Florence. Uneventful except we were booked into a Palazzo in the centre of town and when we checked in were told that they only had a room with a double bed. After much arguing, we were put into a room with two beds.
Problem 2 in this hotel was that the air conditioning unit leaked onto a beautiful antique chiffonier. The clerk was unphased when I told him and produced a towel to catch the drips. Problem 3 – the room had not been checked and the hand basin waste was not connected. So water gushed all over the floor.
However, I got a good laugh about it. All terribly Fawlty Towers. Unfortunately, my friend and travelling companion didn’t.
And the promised replacement Visa card hadn’t arrived so more telephoning to New Zealand to sort that out.
I revisited ‘David’ and was once again in total awe of this statue.
Then to Siena but only on a day trip.
I had read and heard much of this medieval city. The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site.
The next stop Rome. But this was marred by the fact that we had to spend half a day at the New Zealand Embassy to sort out passports and travel papers.
But we did have time for some sightseeing much to my delight. Still no sign of the promised replacement card. And my friend was becoming increasingly embarrassed at having to rely on mine.
And I shall certainly be more selective about travelling companions in future.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. ~Mark Twain