After we left school, a friend and I spent 6 months travelling around Europe. Nowadays it would be called a gap-year. Then, it was a road trip.
We picked grapes,busked and handed out flyers for dodgy nightclubs. Most notably, we worked nights cleaning at NATO HQ. (We were offered a job at EU parliament but it didn’t pay as well…)
During this trip I made some postcard collages some of which I have just rediscoverd.
Bruxelles. Molenbeek has of course become infamous but in 1974 it is where my great uncle and aunt lived and had an allotment. We pitched up our tent there and slept during the day as we worked nights at Nato. We would come home at 7.00am and have a beer.. I have no idea why I included sac de paie….
Paris. Over-priced drinks (we fell for it), sleeping in the rain in a park outside the Gare du Nord, camping in the Bois de Boulogne. It was francs then and Frank. The year that Zappa did not visit uk after Albert Hall case. Live at Roxy Tour. Magnificent fun. And where is the Mona Lisa? We were in our Dada phase so it would have been the Duchamp version…
Italy. I can’t comment much on this except everything seemed to be free! Memories include heating cans of ravioli in hotel sink- fine dining.
Spain. Still under Franco. But still a British colony in parts. Should have had a separate Cataloniac card. It was forbidden to speak Catalan. We were chased by youths for speaking to local girls… another story. Perhaps a sound collage.
Zurich. Tidy, clean. An incredible vending machine beneath the train station. And the home of Dada.
I made more but these are lost. They say something but not all. Reminders of stories I have.
It was to be our last evening in Denmark after a week in Copenhagen and the island of Møn. We were here at the invitation of Keld and his partner and we were having a great time despite the changeable weather.
Keld is a big Derby fan (@keld100) and it was following the Rams that had brought us all together. So it is not surprising that on that last Friday of our holidays we decided to get onto Ramsplayer, with @derbycounty on twitter to follow the game. I’d envisaged- sitting in the sun, sharing our thoughts with the other #worldwiderams following across the globe, wondering if we could hold onto our lead……
None of that happened of course. (No, I am not blaming the club for the weather……)
It must have been a desolate, desperate experience for the Rams fans who traveled to the game but spare a thought to for those of us following from afar…..
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a contributor to @derbycounty, a dcfc fans account which provides commentary on Rams games. This was started before the Derby Telegraph, radio Derby and dcfc official used twitter in any meaningful way. We have 11,974 followers and a regular group of followers who actively take part in tweeting and reacting to the game. It’s like a small group of friends, in locations across the world, who can nevertheless have a banter with fellow fans.
On Friday, as well as Keld and I in Denmark, there were fans following the game in Ireland, Brisbane, Perth, USA….just think of some of those time zones!
Then the game started. Capitulation. Keld and I are of the same opinion; you should not do down the team during the match, even on twitter. But that left us with nothing to say. There was very little commentary because there was nothing much to comment on. The relative silence on twitter (apart from the sack Rowett, “x” not fit to wear the shirt comments) spoke volumes.
I will soon be getting ready to go to the pub and then, with a heavy heart, onto Pride Park. Fan groups are already there, bedecking the ground with flags and displays. And my thoughts go to those fans like Keld, dotted around the globe, who will be getting ready to follow the game in lots of different ways, locations and situations.
I hope the players spare them a thought too.
We arrived in Copenhagen on Saturday 8th April in time to discover that the mighty Rams had beaten Birmingham 2-1. We would have arrived in time to follow the match but for a 1 1/2 hr delay to our flight, apparently due to air control problems in France.
The Rams victory is significant for various reasons but I mention it here because we are in Copenhagen as guests of Danish Derby County fan Keld aka @keld100 . Keld is a regular contributor to the @derbycounty match day commentary and part of the world wide rams who get together on match days via twitter. He has been over to Derby to a couple of games at Pride Park and we met up for drinks. Subsequently he and his wife were based at our house for a week during their extended visit to the UK. Time for us to pay a return visit.
I intend doing a full post on my return but first a few, random thoughts.
This and subsequent posts will feature bicycles. Lots of them-
Apparently, Copenhagen has over taken Amsterdam as the most cycle friendly city. One of the reasons might be the recent increase in cycle lane safety
That is the standard width of the cycle lane and other than at junctions, there is also a kerb between cycle lane and road. More on cycling and public transport in detailed blog post…
Ok, derby City Council. About the Guildhall Market…
How about it? Let’s get our act together to create a proper food hall. With bits of this too-
It is of course unfair to compare Derby with the capital city of Denmark but I suspect we will carry on doing so for the next couple of days before we move on to Møn….
We are also, inevitably talking about brexit and Stokholm.
In this very European and self confident city I feel very much the Little Englander. And on terrorism and security after the Stockholm attack? I asked Keld if I needed to take my passport as means of identity with me as we went out to celebrate the Rams win. No, of course not.
I hadn’t intended writing about our Brussels stop over in this series of posts on our rail trip to Berlin. The events of this weekend however changes things.
I stated on twitter that I was saddened by the lockdown in Brussels and I was asked why…
I was born in Brussels but never lived there. To me Brussels was a holidays. A stop over with my Gran before we travelled on for a 4 week stay in the Ardennes. I have an old postcard some where of the old Place de Brouckere pre tram. Where we waited for trams, saw Dr Zhivago (and, yes, it was cold)
The trams went underground and now the cars are going too.. We stayed at the Metropole
and sat at the terrace drinking beer.The next morning, we walked down the Boulevard Anspach
Street society… And had breakfast at the Grand Place
The Grand Place, where my mum and dad got married.Which is currently in lock down. So yes, I think it is sad that this city, my place of birth, is in lockdown. Molenbeek for me is summers, picking wild strawberries from the allotment. Here is a story of a Christmas tree
.Later, as a teenager, it was where we pitched a tent and worked nights at Nato during a year off before university. Working nights, we lived the weekends at night,
I remember coming here at night and listening to Frank Zappa whilst drinking a Stella or two..Another reason I am saddened by Brussels lockdown…
I know all the arguments- that we we should care about the quality of life and the deaths of all across the world. I have followed and retweeted events in many countries since the Arab Spring.
That doesn’t stop me from feeling sad that my birth place is in lock down does it?
We had decided in early Summer that we wanted to visit Berlin and we determined that we would do this during October half-term. For some reason though, we decided we would only do this if we could travel by train. There is something very different between landing somewhere and arriving somewhere. Something about putting the time and effort into the travel, glimpsing people’s lives and environment through snatched pictures through the window.
(Perhaps my most memorable rail trip was as a teenager, travelling overnight from Franco’s Madrid to revolutionary Lisbon….)
After some research, and consulting regular euro rail travellers, I headed to the Deutsche Bahn website. I would recommend this site to anyone travelling from UK to anywhere in Germany. It is easy to use, very flexible and easy to find the bargain tickets. The ones to look out for are the London-Spezial tickets- these include the Eurostar from London, meaning you only have to book the one ticket.
That’s 127 euros out (about £90.00) and 227 euros return (about £162)- we could have had a cheaper return but we wanted a few hours in Brussels. The price seemed right to us (that’s for the 2 of us btw) though we still had to add the fare from Derby to London- more of that later.
Stage 1 Derby to London.
The train was crowded and included several people travelling for the Rugby World Cup final who hadn’t reserved their seats. Chaos ensued and it took awhile for things to settle down and find seats. Meanwhile the extensive 1st class carriages were relatively empty….. Otherwise the journey was uneventful….
Stage 2 London to Brussels.
I’m always impressed by St.Pancras station and proud of it’s links to Derby. Increasingly however it feels like a luxury shopping mall with station attached.
We were a bit concerned as to how we would get through the Eurostar barriers as DB had only issued one ticket for the two of us but the staff are clearly used to DB tickets and we went through a staffed barrier. Why the had to print out two boarding passes I don’t know…
The departure lounge was busy but not full; mainly French and Belgians returning home..
On rail trips like this, I am an inveterate starer out of the window. H on the otherhand got her Kindle out at the earliest opportunity…
though to be fair, she did look out for more interesting views…
The most depressing sights during this leg of the journey are the rows of additional fences and barbed wire being erected, protecting our island from the “swarms.” How scared are we that we have to build these things? And I think what it might be like if we withdraw from the EU, from the continent with which we have so much in common…
We arrive at the Gare du Midi, Bruxelles, home of Tintin and my place of birth. I have not been back in Brussels for a while but, despite all the changes, it is a place where I feel at ease, at home…
We stay the night in a nondescript chain hotel whose main advantage is that it is 10 minutes walk to the station for our 6.25 am train in the morning.. Breakfast is a Belgian pastry and a proper coffee at the station.
Stage 3. Brussels to Cologne.
With hindsight, we might have carried onto Cologne before having a stopover on the way out. We still have a way to go to Berlin- the rail trip makes you understand just how far East Berlin is….
The train arrives. The least crowded train so far..
The train is spacious- the luggage racks over the seats actually accommodate…luggage…
These carriages are built by Bombardier… if only they used the same specifications when building carriages for UK use…
It doesn’t take long to travel across Belgium to Aachen- memories of a previous visit there, as a teenager with long hair, being tormented -and then being bought drinks- by a group of Belgian soldiers on national service. Borders cannot be discerned by looking out of the window. The landscape merges, blends and then becomes different.
These wires transport us across the landscapes… linking towns and cities…
Cologne Station in the mid morning autumnal sun. A brief stop and a platform change for the final leg..
Stage 4. Cologne to Berlin.
The longest stage and the one were we move through different zones…
More crowded but no less spacious.
Across on the next platform, commuters are boarding their double-decker regional train..
The journey from Cologne to Berlin is long. Plenty of thinking time. Different landscapes, history. Autumn..
Crossing the Rhine at Cologne…
Staring out of the window at the landscapes, the autumn colours.. day dreaming now….
- Is this where the pied Piper stole the children? (No.) There was a Treaty of Westphalia wasn’t there? (Yes) What was it about… research when I get back….
And then, almost suddenly, but after so much time, we arrive..
I hope I have conveyed some sense of journey, of time taken to arrive….
Next up- Berlin: City of layers, echoes and trompe d’oeil….
This is the first Easter holiday we won’t be going away since forever. One of the many reasons is that, frankly, we couldn’t wait and went away during the February half- term instead. We went back to our favourite haunt, Anstruther where we have been during October half term (and last year, at Easter) for many a year. Previous Anstruther posts include:
I’m going to pick out a few themes and thoughts from our holidays rather than give an “and here we are on our holidays” type blog….
This year we weren’t sure what to expect as it had recently been snowing. Our stop on the journey up was at the wonderful Tebay services and hotel and the snow was still piled up on the sides of the car park-
But it soon cleared up- and we only had 1 day of gloomy weather which we spent in the relatively urban St Andrews (more anon…
Our cottage was on a rocky beach looking out to the Isle of May with Anstruther Harbour to our right. We saw some glorious sunrises and sunsets and hopefully I caught the magic of some of these in these photos-
It has always disappointed me that I have never found a good bed of mussels to harvest and cook, along this stretch of the East Neuk. Collecting mussels has always been a highlight of our holidays in Wales (we will be back!) especially Fishguard. You can read my mussel collecting Fishguard post here. Finally I found some along the coast at Elie….….but I reckon I might have to wait awhile….Actually it is probably a good thing I didn’t find any as, at the end of the walk from Elie to Leven, I saw this sign:-
The Dreel is a river that flows into the estuary at Anstruther and there is a pleasant, short walk along it’s banks until you reach an estate- perfect stroll while my partner had her nails done (the amount of local gossip and information H picked up from her brief session was priceless….) Anyway
That scarecrow can also be seen from the riverside terrace of The Dreel Tavern, by far the best of many pubs in Anstruther..
……which seems a good place to end part 1…. Cheers
(in part 2…. gulls, rocks and arty stuff..)
On the first day of our holiday in the Limousin, France, we were innocently shopping in the local village when a woman parked up her van and hailed us. She brought out two large courgettes and came over, pleading with us to take the courgettes-nearly marrow-sized- as she had had enough of the things. Apparently her freezer was full of variously prepared courgettes and she could take it no more.
I couldn’t think of a polite way of refusing, so we took the courgettes off her hands.
We did what we could in the limited confines of a holiday cottage but we still only managed to get through half of one courgette. We even tried to pass one off to the owners of our cottage but they too had a glut.
In the back of my mind I was thinking of our own courgette plants in Derby and, knowing that our house guest would probably not be harvesting our crops, I feared the worst.
And I was right to-
This is the crop I came back to… Now at this stage they are too watery to do much with so I will have a goat making some soup.
But the incident reminded me of the good old EEC days when we were regularly (or so it seemed) regaled with stories of European food mountains; mainly milk and butter. But we should now revive the mountains and add a courgette mountain. I’m sure some of British papers could find a way of blaming faceless EU bureaucrats for the excess of courgettes- or would that be making a mountain out of a, well, pile of courgettes?
More posts on our French holiday to come.