It's an "Antipodean Adventure"
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Early on Monday afternoon 28/07/03 The OZ Mob again headed for their favourite camping ground at Folkstone for the night to give plenty of time on the following day to book the Dover Ferry to Calais. The evening meal was again at the Valiant Sailor up on the hill overlooking Folkstone — they were almost regulars! Tuesday morning and the YT had its first hiccup with the coil end of the HT lead completely burnt away. A quick snip and new wire was bared but a rather short lead would now need replacing. The Dover Ferry Terminal is a huge area and a hive of activity but soon a deal with Sea France was made and time to go back into town and buy a HT lead and quick look around. After a smooth Channel crossing the travellers headed North through Dunkirk and on into Belgium, camping overnight at Loppem beside the Lake amongst the Pine trees.
Wednesday morning the crew drove to the outskirts of Brugge and parked the cars at a multi-storey Park 'n' Ride and then caught the bus into the City Square. The square was alive with market stalls selling lots of lovely smelling cheeses and sausages. After a good look at the produce it was time to follow Richo who had studied the tourist map over coffee and apple strudelat one of the many cafes lining the square. The streets of Brugge were incredibly clean and tidy with beautiful old buildings. Barbara could not resist all the shops selling Lace, which Brugge is famous for as well as candy and chocolate. After walking their legs off it was time to go and find the cars and find a pub for a long cold beer and somewhere to eat. The pub turned out to be the local motorcycle headquarters and a small group of drinkers who took interest in the cars. The barman handed Richo a poster as they departed advertising the local Classic Car Show or 'Oldtimers' as they are known in Europe. After a refresh at the lakeside camp the local Pasta Restaurant was the venue for the evening meal.
Thursday and the convoy headed for the Medieval City of Gent. Again beautiful old buildings, Churches and Castles but not as pristine as Brugge. Later in the day heading for Londerzeel near Mechelen for the night a whistle stop was made at a village pub for a cold beer and an enjoyable hour or so chatting with the locals. After pitching the tents a local restaurant was discovered that looked very derelict on the outside but once inside they were welcomed like long lost friends and had a fantastic meal with very friendly people. It was here that Darryl fell in love with the girl in white! It was also here that a Koala was attached to the cord of a light hanging over the bar. Koalas were the call sign of the group and one was left clinging to curtains in a number of homes through the UK and Europe.
Friday and it was time to head further North into Holland bypassing Antwerp and Amsterdam via Gouda and finally reaching Edam (pronounced "A-dam") and the home of the famous cheese. The campsite was a great locality beside the Ijsselmeer, a huge bay protected from the North Sea by a Dyke! Saturday morning and after the long walk from the camp back into Edam they caught the bus into Amsterdam. First port of call was Dam Square in front of the Royal Palace, which was alive with locals and tourists. This was followed by a short walk to the Riksmuseum. Here the famous Nightwatch by Rembrandt and numerous other fantastic paintings were hanging. Amongst a huge collection of all manner of historical artefacts was Dirck Hartogh's Pewter Plate placed on the WA coast in 1616 and removed by another Dutchman Vlamingh in 1697. After exiting the Museum the sounds of a pipe organ attracted the travellers to the undercroft or street level tunnel under the museum only to discover that there were 3 guys with piano accordions and another on tuba creating a fantastic sound from the acoustics of the stone enclosure. Being so leg weary they decided to catch one of Amsterdam's smart trams to do more exploring but came across large crowds lining the main Canal and disembarked to investigate. They found themselves right in the middle of the annual gay Mardi Gras with everything that would float on the canals and many highly decorated. Enough is enough and it was time to cool off with a Hohengarten Weiss Bier at a sidewalk café opposite the markets — Wunderbar! The waiter was very entertaining and the passing sheilas well worth an optic nerve! It was then time to move on for a feed, an Argentinean Restaurant selling large steaks amongst other numerous sidewalk cafes in the main drag was a welcome site.
It was still early evening and the experienced!!! Graham took over as tour guide to show the group the Red Light District. It was probably a bit early as most of the cubicles were still with curtains drawn and not many girls advertising their attributes. It was time to head back to Edam but still very light at this latitude, so it was decided to check out the famous Edam Cheese Festival. What a spectacle with many in national costume and traditional dress of the cheese industry. There were guys running about carrying cheeses on traditional cheese sleds, one at each end, held by a strap over the shoulder and hands free. Others were bargaining the price with much hand slapping and gesturing — ouch! The Master of Ceremonies commentated in a number of languages and confirmed Red wrapper Cheese was for Export and Gold for home but assured the crowd they were identical product. Absolutely stuffed from a huge day it was time to make the route march back to the camping ground.
The following day started with a brief visit to Volendam just south of Edam for breakfast then back down through Holland's great flat and smooth tree line roads to Roggel a small village that was not too distant from Köln (Cologne) where it had been prearranged to catch up with the Sherrell's. Roggel was the scene of a festival that night and the whole square was under the protection of a huge parachute suspended from a crane. In Cologne the next day they all met up in front of the Cathedral as arranged and admired the beautiful structure inside and out. After a stroll through Cologne it was time to make a move and find a campsite and get out of the heat. It was decided to head for Bruhle, M & L had tried there the day before but were turned away by a rather stern Lady however, this time there was room for 3 little cars. Later they headed into the pretty village of Bruhle for a sumptuous evening meal and welcome cold Pils.
Now Tuesday 5th Aug. and another very hot day. The day started badly with Mike having another flat tyre and more fuel pump trouble but after a number of ferry crossings the convoy followed the Rhine from Linz bypassing major cities such as Bonn and Koblenz and eventually selected a campsite on the banks of the Rhine at Loreley. It was so hot the proprietor had sprinklers on the roof of his building. After throwing down a coldie it was into the river to cool off. The current was incredibly strong and a rocky bottom. Swimming with thongs on against the fast current was nigh impossible, Graham had to rescue Lorretta and her Minnie Mouse thongs. The best trick was to prop against a rock in the shallows — it was so refreshing. The scenery along the river and the next day was fantastic picture post card stuff. Hills on either side covered in grape vines, old castles, fast trains on the opposite bank and barges on the river. Richo said it was model railway scenery and reminded him of pictures on train sets in toyshops. The convoy wound their way between Wiesbaden, Mainz and Frankfurt and a pretty drive through the hills from Dieburg and finally finding a caravan park not far from Heidelburg. Again it was too hot to go any further but unfortunately the river wasn't suitable for a swim. That evening they enjoy a meal on the balcony of an outdoor restaurant and shared a table with a friendly German couple and a their friend.
Thursday morning they arrived in Heidelberg and after a stroll up the mall arrived at the funicular for a very steep ride up to Heidelberg Castle. The castle is well worth the visit and the views of the city excellent. Barbara was waiting for the Student Prince to appear alias Mario Lanza with a rendition of the beer drinking song!!! (Probably the heat even at 10am!). It was again time to move to reach their next goal the Romantica Strasse. This is a stretch of road that runs from Tauberbischofsheim to Fussen near the Austrian border through some very old picturesque and well-preserved towns. On the way to their camp site on the Tauber River they stopped of at Sinsheim Motor Museum but not only was it again very hot but so were the entry fees so after a brief look around they motored on. One thing that did amuse our travellers was parking bays specifically for old cars and the signs read — Exklusiv Für Oldtimer.
Friday morning dawned with the nearby church bells stuck on 6.00 o'clock and a good opportunity to get moving early, as it was only a short drive to the walled city of Rothenburg. This is a beautifully preserved little town because its perimeter wall and the buildings within are still entirely intact from times way back when. A couple of hours were spent here strolling the streets, admiring the buildings and exploring the battlements. The bird's eye view of the town whilst walking along the covered wall walk behind the battlements was most enjoyable. Back at the cars it was time to continue on down the Romantic Road. A short stop was made at Dinkelsbuhl and Harburg Castle and although interesting did not compare with the completeness and beauty of Rothenburg. By mid afternoon our friends had had virtually completed the Romantic Road and had had enough of the heat so pulled into a camping ground near Schwangau 5kms from Fussen. They had to wait until 6.00 before they could set up their tents but that gave them time to sink a few coldies then straight after that it was into the lake to cool off. This was a large camping ground and was equipped with kitchens selling a range of foods so a great meal of pizzas and beers was a great finish to another enjoyable day.
The flat land was now disappearing and the Ammergauer Alpen were towering over them on one side. The next morning they drove into the lower reaches of the mountains to get a closer look at Neuschwanstien and Hohenschwangau Castles. The former was built by (Mad) Prince Ludwig and was the inspiration of the Walt Disney fairyland castle. Already hundreds of people were milling around and it was not possible to drive right up to the castles. The cost of parking then coach or horse drawn buggy plus entry was over the top and quite frankly to admire the castles from a short distance was enough. Back on the road and through Fussen they began to climb into the mountains crossing the border into Austria and passing through Innsbruck. Continuing on through the mountains via passes and tunnels the scenery was absolutely bloody awesome.
Beautiful little villages nestled in the valley floor that looked like they had been built on a billiard table. They continued on past mountain lakes and the incredible Krimmler Wasserfalle and finally into Kitzbuhel and overnight camp at the Bruggerhof Hotel, which to our friends was affectionately called the Bugger Off Hotel. Over the evening meal they talked about the fantastic roads and scenery and thought about doing it all again but further adventures awaited them.
Come back for the next episode as our travellers head for Salzburg, Praque back through Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxemburg and France. I need another Weiss Bier!
Sunday 10th August the Aussies went through more scenic alpine country crossing the border into Germany and arrived in Salzburg. The cars were parked in an underground car park and they entered the city via one of the catacomb tunnels. They began exploring the city walking past Mozart's home and entered one of the large city squares. Here they decided they would see and learn more by taking a guided tour on one of the horse drawn carriages, which would also be easier on the legs. The buggy ride was just the ticket and after a short stroll they found a nice sidewalk café for lunch. Well refreshed they headed back to the cars and headed off towards Wels then Linz for the night. The camping ground near Asten was a little elusive but finally found and after erecting the tents it was off to swim in the lake with all the weed and cool off.
The next morning Darryl spent some time under the dash of the TC looking for an electrical fault in his ignition switch, which was cutting in and out. This was put down to the heat and became such a pain that it was easier to put a couple of wires across the regulator and bypass the switch. Once underway the first mission of the day was to purchase more camping gas but the screw in gas bottles were becoming difficult to find so they opted to purchase a new push 'n' twist stove and gas bottles as these were sold everywhere. Back on the road they were soon at the Czech border. They presented their visas they had arranged back in OZ, got another Elephant stamp in their passports, picked up some local currency and pushed on. Soon after crossing the border there were very attractive girls standing on the side of the road, it was soon obvious they were not waiting for the bus and the less attractive ones were flashing their boobs to attract customers. Barbara and Richo managed to keep Darryl and Graham away from temptation until they reached the next village where they bought rolls, ham, cheese, tomato and beers for lunch in a shady spot. Entering Praha (Prague) they got quite lost looking for the camping ground and found that their maps were inadequate. They stopped at a service station for petrol and a decent map and got some helpful directions from and English speaking German guy. Eventually they found the camping ground, which is actually an island in the river and set up their tents overlooking the river and settled down with some well-earned cold beers. It was a good thing they did not make this trip last year (2002) because there were severe floods and evidence of this was still lodged in the chain wire fences which would have made the island at least a metre underwater.
Tuesday morning, bright and bushy tailed Darryl, Graham, Richo and Barb walked out of the camping ground leaving the cars behind and heading for the tram and short journey to the Metro then into Prague. After a brief look around they decided to book a 2 hour bus tour of the city which included the Palace up on the hill, St Vitus Cathedral then back into the city and the four towns, New and Old Towns, Lesser Town and Jewish Town, all known as towns because they were never divided by walls. The tour was well worthwhile and very informative. The four were very taken with Old Town and decided to find there way back on foot to the town square for a closer look. The very ornate Horologe was a particular attraction. After the square they continued on foot to the river and King Bridge. They were now very leg weary and headed for the nearest Metro Station and managed to catch the right train and tram back. That night they decided to go the yacht club at the other end of the Island for their evening meal, not all that salubrious but pleasant all the same. Back at camp the crew sat back with some cold Czech Plzen watching the restaurant boats go up and down the river and the big golden moon shimmering in the bow wash.
Wednesday 13th was to become lucky 13 as our travellers headed for Plzen and then the Czech - German border back into Germany at Folmava. They continued on towards München (Munich) heading for a camping ground near Pfaffenhoffen. Well the four were well and truly faffing around in Pfaffenhoffen. Darryl needed fuel and the servo would not accept credit cards and he had no cash. They managed between them to come up with the money and also established that the camping ground they were heading for had closed and next site was some distance away in Inglestaat. There was also a light shower to dampen their spirits. They now all needed cash so into Phaffenhoffen to find a hole in the wall machine and get some Euros. While Richo, Darryl and Graham were trying to get the teller machines to part with some money a gentleman had wandered over to the cars and was chatting to Barbara about the cars, where they had been and were heading. He returned a few minutes later and said that he and his wife would like to invite them all to their holiday home nearby in Hoheuwart because thunderstorms were forecast. Despite not knowing them from a bar of soap he insisted they join he and his wife for the night and put the cars in a neighbours barn. He (Peter) asked the crew to enjoy a beer at the hotel and he would return in one hour so his wife could prepare the house as they themselves had only just come down from Frankfurt.
Well true to his word Peter reappeared this time in his wife's Z3 and the crew followed him back to their beautifully restored, two storey 300year old Rectors House — Some holiday home! The inside of the house had beautiful timber floors and large roof beams and all the metal hardware such as window fittings restored with original tin plating. That evening Peter took the crew to an Inn for a traditional Bavarian meal. Unfortunately Peter's wife Renata had to stay at home with the grand kids but they all enjoyed a rather nice German Red Wine on their return. That night our weary travellers enjoyed sleeping in a proper bed. The next morning Renata had gone to unbelievable trouble to lay out an absolutely sumptuous breakfast, which was enjoyed by all. Late morning Peter and Renata wanted to show us the nearby Benedictine Monastery where the monks run their own brewery.
Unfortunately the brewery was closed so they took the time to walk the grounds of the monastery and admire the beautiful baroque ceilings of the chapel. It was then time to savour morning tea Bavarian style with Weiss Bier and pastries. Eventually it was time once again for our travellers to make tracks and they headed for Wiess. Peter and Renata had told them about a beautiful church with very ornate baroque ceilings, which on arrival was full of people attending a concert in the church. Our travellers soaked up some of the singing and the absolutely amazing ceilings for a time and then headed for their overnight camp at a very nice camping ground in Oberammergau in the shadows of the mountains. That night they enjoyed a great meal at the local restaurant which was owned by the cook as they found out latter chatting to him who also happened to be a Tasmanian from Bicheno. He was born there of German parents but returned with his mother after his father died.
The following morning the heavens opened up and it absolutely poured accompanied by some good lightning and thunder. Later in the morning the rain eased long enough to get the hoods up and they got under way. The rain continued off and on during the morning but of more concern was that all the villages were closed and no food available for lunch. They later found out being a Friday it was the start of some European holiday weekend. Eventually they found a lovely little restaurant in a typical Austrian village nestled on a valley floor that from the pass looked like a bowling green or billiard table. After a fine omelette and a couple of beers it was time to go and the skies had cleared so the hoods could go down again for better viewing of the scenery. There is nothing like driving through the Austrian Alps in an MG with the top down. That afternoon the scenery through the Alps was again absolutely awesome and camp that night was made in Liechtenstein. Here and the next day in Switzerland was a huge shock to the pocket. The caravan park for the four was 59Swiss Francs near enough to 100 Aussie dollars. That night they could not find a restaurant or pub as the town was in festival mode so Richo and Barb enjoyed a very expensive meal at the Golden Arches AU$45 but Darryl and Boothy could not be tempted so went back to camp for a cup of Hot Vegemite.
Saturday morning 16th August they left Liechtenstein and again up into the mountains driving into Switzerland towards Konstanz. It was not that long and they arrived into the village of Unterwasser and parked out front of the local Hotel Sternen was a very impressive display of 49 Ferraris. They just had to stop and have an optic nerve! Just before they departed a group in national dress walked passed with a herd of cows with bells around their necks some as large as their heads and the clanging of all the bells was quite loud. Later in the morning after more wonderful mountain roads they reached Bodensee (Lake Kontanz) and continued around the lake on the Swiss side eventually finding a spot where they could park the cars and walk to the lake for Baguettes with ham, cheese and tomato and a beer each.
They continued on around the lake to the German side and finally found a campsite at Immenstaadt beside the lake and a welcome swim to cool down. There was plenty of water to swim but the lake level was at a record low and many of the fixed keel yachts could not get out of the pens. They ate that night at the Hotel in the camping ground and chatted with a German guy dinning with his parents and young family. The plan the next day was to make camp just outside Colmar in France, which would put them in easy reach of their next goal. During the day they climbed and twisted along more of those magic MG mountain roads — perhaps you may have guessed — yes they were in the Black Forrest! For lunch they found a café at Schluchsee overlooking a beautiful lake — what a hard life it was. By mid afternoon in near 40-degree heat they made camp at De L'ill just outside Colmar and with only ankle deep water in the river they just flaked out in the shade. Well after all it was Sunday.
Monday and that goal was Mulhouse, the location of the 'Musee National De L'Automobile' better known as Collection Schlumpf. In brief the Schlumpf Bros were in the textile business but had a passion for Bugatti's and other exotic machinery. They squirreled away an obscene number of cars in warehouses but finally the business failed and the workers discovered the hoard only to be denied their rights, as they saw it, by the French Government who confiscated the lot and created the museum. The number of Bugatti's of all different Models is incredible, not just one example but several. There were 4 of the magnificent Bugatti Royales, only 6 were made, also there were enough racing cars to create two mock starting grids — indescribable!
That night they drove the short distance into Colmar for a pleasant evening meal in the old part of town at one of the many sidewalk cafés. The next morning they returned to Colmar to see more of the old town in the daylight and the area known as "Little Venice". Later in the day they headed towards Molsheim via the Alsace wine district. This is a truly beautiful area this time of year as all the villages are in pristine condition and beautifully decorated with window flower boxes and hanging baskets on poles and flower pots at street level. There are numerous villages and most very small and often only a very short distance apart making it a truly beautiful spectacle.
They camped that night in a camping ground a bit off the beaten track between Mutzig and Molsheim but had a very private spot behind some hedges overlooking farmland. That night they returned to Mutzig and the town square which had come to life with restaurant activity and again dined alfresco. Next morning it was into Molsheim to soak up some more Bugatti History and visit the Bugatti Foundation Museum. Here there was all manner of Bugatti memorabilia with tributes to Ettore himself and Types 35 and 57 Coupe on display. They drove past what was the Bugatti factory and the family Chateau with the letters EB back to back on the entrance windows.
That afternoon they drove north to Thoinville just outside Luxemburg. The caravan park was completely full and so they thought was the park keeper who took a shine to our Aussie friends and suggested they park their cars and camp in the garden near the entrance and leave their car keys with him — not likely. That night for tea Barb, Graham and Darryl had decided it was time they had Escargot. Richo definitely was not going to be tempted and when he saw the 3 serves arrive he likened the appearance to snails in green Defender soup. Defender is an Aussie bright green snail killer. The three musketeers tried in vain to convince him the snails and the green garlic sauce was delicious!
We are now up to Thursday and awesome foursome were off to explore Luxemburg. They bid the camp manager farewell, who they had nicknamed Jean Paul, and still seemed to be in the same happy inebriated state but he would not accept any camping fees so Boothy gave him a bottle of Hardy's Merlot as thanks. They then drove the two MG's into the centre of town and an underground carpark. The main part of the city is just like any other modern city but the fascinating part is in the gorge that divides the city. This consists of a sunken village and beautiful gardens. Towering over the gorge and connecting the city are two beautiful masonry bridges.
Pont Adolphe once was the largest single span masonry arched bridge and the multi arch Passerelle Viaduct is equally spectacular. After baguettes and a cold beer for lunch they recovered the cars from the carpark and headed for Epernay via Reims to view the spectacular Cathedral. The Cathedral has an ongoing restoration program but is in fantastic condition considering the damage it sustained during World War II.
We are now up to Friday 22nd August in the Town of Epernay and home of Moet and Chandon so the awesome foursome could not pass up a chance to tour the 28kms of caves (cellars) where millions of bottles of champagne are stored. The guided tour started with a video that gave them an insight into both the modern and traditional methods of making champagne. Some of the interesting things they learnt were champagne is made from 3 grape varieties not one and one of these is a red! Dom Perignon Champagne is only made in a vintage year and the last one was '95.
Napoleon was a friend of the Moet family and gave them a beautiful oak barrel to store their best wine. The tour ended with a drop of the bubbly stuff and a browse through their shop. The four then followed the tourist route through the Champagne district including a stop off at St Peter's Abbey at Hautvillers where Dom Perignon looked after the monastery cellars and began the Champagne tradition; his tombstone is set in the floor of the church. The villages through the Champagne District are all very well preserved and neat and tidy but not as pretty as the floral decorations through Alsace. The vines were all very neat and tidy also but all was revealed when a tractor was spotted mowing them like hedges. In one village our travellers found a mobile seller packing away his spit-roasted chickens so they all had La Chook for lunch but he had run out of Pomme de Terre.
That afternoon they were heading for a camping ground just out of Paris, Le Parc de la Colline at Torcy. Next morning they caught the camp bus to the station and arrived in Paris at a metro station not to far from Notre Dame. After a good look at the Cathedral they walked up to the Louvre and through the Palace Courtyard and past the glass pyramids, which are the modern entrance into the Musee Du Louvre. They continued on through the Jardin De Toulleries passing the Ferris wheel and Arc De Triomphe Du Carrousel (the mini version) all the way to Place De La Concorde and then the 2km up Des Champs Elysees passing all the sidewalk restaurants to Arc De Triomphe. By then the legs were starting to get weary but you haven't been to Paris if you haven't been to the base of Eiffel so they pushed on. Standing on the bridge over the Seine (Pont D' lena) between Trocodero and Eiffel they saw in the distance the brilliant white of Sacre Coeur illuminated by a shaft of sunshine through the cloud. Even though they were tired, Graham who had not been to Paris was told he wasn't going home until he had been to Sacre Coeur.
So off to the nearest metro and some navigation to get them to Mont Martre and from there a steep walk and stairs up to Sacre Coeur. Barb and Richo were pleased that this time they could see the beautiful ceiling obscured by scaffolding on a previous visit. By now they were absolutely stuffed so coldies all round and then caught the train back into Paris and some tea at a sidewalk café, they then caught the train back to Torcy. On arrival at Torcy they rang the camping ground for the camp bus to come and collect them. While waiting for the bus a vender was selling beautiful fruit and vegetables so they bought some rock melon, grapes and cigar each to celebrate a great day!
Sunday morning and they had talked themselves into a drive-by of Paris, they just had to drive up the Des Champs Elysees and around the Arc and then past Eiffel, so they did, with some pictures of proof for those at home. Fortunately being Sunday morning it was quiet so not as frightening as they anticipated.
Later in the morning after leaving Paris they passed Chateau Versailes and realised why it was so quiet in Paris, they were all at the palace for the day, thousands of people cars and tour buses so they motored on to their next goal Chartres Cathedral. The countryside is fairly flat in this part of France so the spires of the Cathedral could be seen for some distance away. As with all the other Cathedrals they had stopped to visit, Chartres was equally beautiful and in particular the stone carving around the altar. That night they camped at Saint Laurent Nouan in the Loire Valley beside the Loire River but found the village locked up like Fort Knox, no hotel so no cold beers and it appeared nowhere to eat so the crew were a bit grumpy. A few enquiries and it appeared a local restaurant might open at 7.00pm.
On queue they arrive at Le Rhinocéros, well they were welcomed at the door, cold beers arrived quickly and there was a beautiful smorgasbord at a very reasonable price. They had discovered the best restaurant in all of France and four grumpy old men were now content with full tummies and again had smiles on their dials.
Monday 25th and the reason for being in the Loire Valley was to visit a couple of the famous chateaus or palaces in the district. First was Chateau de Chambord famous for it's central twin spiral staircase entwined like a DNA molecule and supposedly designed by Leonardo de Vinci. The twin spiral stairs enable people to start on opposite sides at the same level and climb separate stairs arriving at the next level at the same time but still opposed — fascinating. Construction of Chambord was commissioned in 1519 by Francois I and subsequently occupied by various nobility including Louis XIV who saw its completion in 1685. The architecture and décor of the whole affair is quite stunning and well worth a visit.
The next palace was Chateau Chenonceau which also had a very chequered past. Starting as a fortified mill the Chateau coming later and then at the back of the chateau were the twin level long rooms 60m long and 6m wide built on the bridge over the Cher River. The long rooms were earlier on, scenes of balls and lavish parties, during World War I a hospital, and World War II an escape route to the Free Zone across the Cher and the draw bridge to the left bank. Again the décor and furniture were very ornate and faithful to the era. In the front and either side of the chateau were two quite different but beautiful gardens designed by the two women who at different times ruled the house, Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers.
For lunch they again bought long bread sticks, cheese, ham and tomatoes and a couple of bottles of Vin de Table and found a nice shady spot by the river — life was hard! Camp that night was at La Fleche and again difficulty finding somewhere to eat but finally they got a feed of crap crepes! Next time, if there is a next time, they will avoid rural France in August.
Now Tuesday and the mission was Mont Saint Michel a Monastery perched on an island just off the shore in the tidal zone. On arrival the car park had hundreds of cars, camper vans and caravans and a huge crowd trying to get in. It was quite a climb up many stairs to gain access and within the monastery to reach all the different parts of the building. The monastery was also for a time a prison and it's monastic and penal history quite interesting and the views from the highest points looking over the tidal flats fantastic. Lunch that day was again breadsticks with fresh filling and the obligatory Vin de Table and they were in luck this time for the evening meal being at a very popular tourist spot with plenty of seafood available. Wednesday was an uneventful day as all they had to do was get to Cherburg and make a booking for the ferry crossing back across the channel. They followed the coast as best they could but it was fairly ordinary scenery and had lunch at a small fishing village of Gauville sur Mer for a feed of Mulles (Mussels). That afternoon they reached Cherburg and made their booking for the ferry. They ate that night in the town in an upstairs restaurant overlooking the action in the harbour and the bridge opening to allow boats in and out. Camp was just down the road from the docks handy for the 8.00am departure.
They arrived at Poole in the UK just after midday and headed for the Dorset Steam Fest. What an unbelievable show. All the paddocks as far as one could see were full of cars, campervans and caravans. In the middle was a huge collection of steam driven traction engines. Many were generating electricity to run numerous carnival organs all beautifully restored. Another 33 in a line were all chuffing away generating more electricity to run a large carnival of Merry go rounds, Ferris wheels and all manner of fun rides.
Centre field were more steam engines pulling heavy loads up the hill and just generally having a good time. Many had Granddad at the controls with wives, sons and daughters and grandchildren all aboard in their colour coded overalls and coal blackened faces and hands — a real family affair. There was a real tradition happening here and to be really in one had to have a Scammel or Foden low loader to cart the steam toy around. After a wonderful afternoon breathing in all those great smells of a long past steam era it was time to head for the camping ground at Hudson Field on the outskirts of Salisbury.
The next morning they woke to grey skies and rain so they decided to leave the tents and make a day trip. First stop was Amesbury for brunch and get some more camping gas then on to Stonehenge. Although at Stonehenge you can no longer walk amongst the stones there is a path around the perimeter and an excellent personal audio giving lots of interesting information about known and possible facts on the purpose of the stones. Next port of call was Avebury, a small village that was once completely encircled by a Henge of large stones set on end, there are now only just over half remaining of the outer circle. The original circle was over 350m across but a large embankment and deep ditch still exist.
Later that afternoon they went to the pretty little village of Castle Coomb, the scene of the Dr Dolittle Movie and also the location of a very active motor racing circuit. Finally back to Hudson Field and the nearby pub they found so enjoyable the night before. During the day they passed a number of large white horses painted on the hillsides. A fine sunny Saturday morning dawned and the ritual of packing the tents and gear performed. They drove into Salisbury and walked through the town to the cathedral. Here they took a tour that was very informative about the world's oldest mechanical clock, how the church sank when the spire was built some years later etc.
They had lunch back in the town by the river and then headed for Bath and the old Roman Baths. It is quite incredible that the baths still exist and that the natural spring is still running and the water quite warm. It is fascinating what excavation has revealed under the city that has overgrown the area and the displays to show how the baths were in Roman Times - very interesting. It was time to make tracks and head for Weston Super Mare for the night via the very enjoyable A368 — another great MG road.
Next feature was the very steep Portlock Hill with a 1:4 gradient and was quite a test for the TC and YT. A little further on were the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth, the later down on the waters edge and the other up on the hill. The two were connected by a water ballast operated funicular that ran the 500ft to the top on a 1:1.75 gradient and spectacular views of the coast.
At the top the four decided Cream Teas were in order and a stroll of the village. It was here that Boothy purchased a Deer Stalker and he really did look the part. Later after returning back down to Lynmouth to the cars they then drove the steep climb by road back to Lynton and continued on some more great roads to Mortehoe and stayed in a caravan park just out of town with the strange name of Damage Barton. Tea that night was at the Chichester Tavern high on a hill overlooking the coastline.
Monday 1st September and the four started the day with a short stroll onto the property behind the park for a glimpse of the old homestead and the coastline. They then headed off down the A39 and finally reached the village of Clovelly built on the side of a very steep incline down to the water. The lane twisting down through the village was still surfaced with cobblestones and partway down some of the Donkeys that were used to carry people and goods up and down the lane were tethered for people to pat. All the way down were shops and cafés to cater for the tourists and at the bottom was a small man made harbour behind a high seawall with the fishing fleet of small boats high and dry.
The tide always seemed to be out during the day. The view from the seawall looking back up through the village confirmed how steep it really was, so much so that Barbara took the easy way back in the back of a Landrover for the fee of £2. The next village they called into down the west coast was Tintagel. There are castle ruins here down near the water purported to be the home of the legendary King Arthur. Our tourists didn't bother with this but instead visited the very old shingle roofed post office that had some interesting history. It was here that the four had there only altercation on the whole trip. A local was trying to explain that the parking ticket machine would only issue a 30min ticket for 50p or two hours for £2 and nothing in between. They ignored him but on return the friendly local was now the narky parking inspector and was putting a ticket on Darryl's TC. He would not accept that they had paid £1 for a ticket that registered an hour. He became very stroppy and abusive so they just got in the cars and drove off. That night they stayed at Tregurrian near Newquay.
Next episode more of the South West, Goodwood, T Register Autumn Rally.
It is now Tuesday September 2nd and the awesome foursome continued down the South West Coast from Newquay calling in at a few Villages and Towns on the coast such as St Ives with its rows and rows of identical homes like little boxes. Finally they reached Lands End and walked along the cliff between the two headland lookouts and soaking up all the history and myth of the area. They continued on through Mousehole, a steep village similar to Clovelly, passed Penzance and then stopped briefly to view St Michael's Mount which, is similar to Mont Saint Michel in France, built on an outcrop just offshore and accessible via a causeway at high tide.
The later part of the day was spent on more of those wonderful narrow twisting English lanes and included King Harry's Ferry to finally reach a camp site at Veryan. That night for tea Richo discovered Cornwell Cream an absolutely delightful drop that he likened to a sweet version of Guinness, but unfortunately it only came from a local boutique brewery so they were not able to enjoy it again. The following day they drove the short distance to Truro and the adjoining Village of Kenwyn to visit the church of St Keyne where some of Darryl's ancestors hail from. From Truro they headed back out to the south coast calling in at Looe looking for lunch and ended up driving through the shopping mall. The crowds of people just stepped back out of their way to admire the cars as they drove slowly by. Try that stunt in your normal car and you would cop an earful of abuse. They finally found an accessible pub up on the hill where they could park called the Snooty Fox. That afternoon was one of the worst as they passed through Plymouth and then got caught in dreadful holiday traffic through Torquay but finally made Honiton for the night and pleasant evening meal at the Red Cow!
From Honiton they navigated pretty much due East across country and along the coast bypassing all the large towns, Poole, Bournemouth, and Southampton to find the camping ground at Graffham that they had wisely booked a few days before. This would be home for a few days and was selected because it was close to Goodwood. On arrival the park managers were expecting them and led them way down the back of the park. The manager said, "leave your cars here", which was a small parking area "and follow me". They wondered where they were going but after a 50m walk down a little narrow path through bracken they came to a beautiful wooded clearing they would have all to themselves — idyllic! That night the evening meal was spent with another coloured animal 'The White Horse' and Steak and Kidney Pie washed down with the odd pint — way to go!
We are now up to Friday and a day trip to Brighton was the plan. They walked Brighton Pier and looked through all the fun parlours then had the obligatory Fish 'n' Chips with a pint on the foreshore and all those pebbles, it should be called pebble beach not Brighton! More of Brighton was explored and inspection of The Royal Pavilion built by King George IV. Although a beautiful building it looked out of place in Brighton and more like something from the Middle East or India.
Back to the clearing at Graffham and the White Horse that night. Saturday was the day they had been looking forward to, the day of the Goodwood revival. It was only a short drive to the Estate and along excellent tree lined roads to the circuit. On arrival they were directed straight into the pre '66 car park driving across the paddock on Aluminium boards laid out as a road. It was here the others noticed Graham was having a good laugh to himself and once in control again told of the conversation he overheard from a young couple who climbed out of a nearby Roller. She asked of her companion "do you think you will be warm enough Darling?" He replied, "Oh I should think so, I have my Pulley!" You had to be there but if you repeat it with a very proper British accent and clinch the cheeks of your arse you will get the picture. The smiles on their faces were temporarily removed when at the entrance they had to part with £30 each — ouch. Inside the circuit they enjoyed watching all the exotic machinery on practice laps and racing with none of them holding back and many without roll bars or seat belts racing as they would have in their day. One of the highlights of these races was watching Sir Stirling Moss, pudding basin helmet and all! Overhead WWII Spitfires, Hurricanes and Corsairs were doing their thing. In the public area was an assembly of exotic machines referred to as 'Brooklands Heroes'. In this collection was the huge Napier Railton and an M Type and very rare R Type MG's. It was in this area that our travellers were on the look out for two other MG enthusiasts from home and amazingly caught up with both Peter Callaghan (TCOC) and Ian Mawson MGCC Vic. Later the four went into the centre of the circuit to see the cars close up in the pits. Famous Aussie Wayne Gardner was there for a Tribute race to Barry Sheene so they had to chat to Wayne and get his autograph. Wayne rode one of Barry's old Bikes, a Manx Norton and won the race. As part of the atmosphere Murray Walker did the commentary — magic! Also in the pit area was Laurel and Hardy and another group that you had to blink and take a second look, yes it was Dad's Army — incredible! One of the traditions of Goodwood is that you go in period dress and most do, the outfits are excellent and the ladies very glamorous. Another interesting vehicle display was ex-police cars and all these owners were in period police uniform. The end of the day was a disaster as it took them nearly two hours to get out of the car park; the less said about this fiasco the better!!!
Sunday morning they decided to do another day trip rather than move on so first visited the Roman Villa at Bignor. These are a collection of buildings that have been erected over original Roman mosaic tile floors discovered by a farmer ploughing his field in 1811. Further excavation revealed the remaining floors including a heated floor in the bathing area supported on piers to allow the heated air to circulate. Next they went to Arundel for lunch and later a walk around Arundel Castle which is still occupied by the Duke of Norfolk and has been for over 800 years. That was a very easy day and a sign our travellers were starting to slow down.
Monday they sadly left the clearing that had become home and made their way to Portsmouth and the Naval Base Museum. They crawled all over HMS Warrior and had a guided tour of Lord Nelson's HMS Victory both beautifully restored. In a covered in enclosure is the hull section of the Mary Rose still undergoing preservation with Ethylene Glycol and still another 10 years of the process to go. That afternoon they headed for Southampton and an overnight stay with Andrea nee Simpson a member of the TCOC in an earlier life. That night they also caught up with the Sherrells and all enjoyed a great meal and looking through Andrea's TCOC memorabilia.
Tuesday August 9th and a unanimous decision to go across to the Isle of Wight. On the way they stopped off at Bucklers Hard for Coffee and cream scones. This was once a very famous ship building area and had an interesting museum. Later they found out it was also where Cecil Kimber kept his yacht. They drove the short distance to Lymington to catch the ferry and after 20 minute £60 journey they were on IOW.
First stop was to call in and see Ian an old mate of Darryl's who was not at home so they adjourned to the pub for lunch. They later returned to Ian's who was in a state of turmoil with new carpet being laid and after coffees headed across the Island to a camping ground at Adgestone. Tea that night was at the Hare & Hound Roadhouse, Downend up on the ridge road as they called it and Ian and wife Jo joined them later for a pint.
On Wednesday they had arranged to meet up with Jean Cook (nee Kimber) at her yacht club in Cowes. Jean was still as bright as a button and we all enjoyed her reminiscing of her visit to Perth and stories of her father. They got some pictures of Jean with their cars and bid her farewell. They then drove back across the Island to meet up with Ian who talked them all into a walk out to the Needles, these are spectacular limestone outcrops off a point. Ian may have regretted suggesting they walk as the foursome were pretty fit after all the walking they had done and set a brisk pace.
Also of interest at this end of the island are gun emplacements and large concrete structures used to test fire Black Night and Black Arrow rocket engines between 1956 and '72 before they were sent to Woomera in Australia for firing. Also nearby is an obelisk to commemorate Lord Tennyson. Later that evening they met Ian, Jo and daughter Harriet at the Sportsman's Rest for Jo's Birthday, yes it's a pub and they had more pints!!!!
Thursday was their last day on the Island and they decided to check out a café they had been told about at Godshill with a thatched roof and adorned with a Kangaroo known as the 'Roo on the Roof'. They parked right out front and walked inside to be welcomed by an unmistakable expression "G'day". With introductions they discovered he was a Perth boy and lived down in Rockingham the same suburb as Graham. Rick had married an English girl and they purchased the derelict cottage, spent heaps restoring it to serve cream teas and now spend their summers back in Australia or IOW for the Northern Summer — way to go! On the way back to the ferry they diverted for a quick look at Carisbrooke Castle and then dropped by to say a final Hooroo to Ian.
Back on the mainland they drove to Ower and a predetermined meeting with the Y Type Webmaster Paul Barrow. Paul then led the crew in his ZT-T to Saxon Service's workshop where Gary Evans had just recently finished respraying his Y Saloon: it was looking very smart in original formula Almond Green (metallic). From there they again followed Paul to his home and met with wife Sara then inspected the rest of the MG fleet. It was then off to the local for an enjoyable meal and conversation. They spent the night with Paul and Sara and the following morning again followed Paul who set them on the way to Beaulieu. It was only Friday but they had managed to secure traders passes so they could have a look at all the goodies for sale before the crowds. Many of the traders were still setting up but the area was huge with hundreds of stalls.
There was another reason for going Friday rather than the next two days. By early afternoon they had to again move on, this time up to Tintern in Wales to meet up with the T Register Folk for the start of the Autumn Rally in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. They arrived around 6.30pm just in time to freshen up before dinner. They enjoyed catching up with friends from a few weeks before and meeting some new faces.
Saturday Morning and the first duty was to assemble with all the entrants and their cars in front of the Tintern Abbey ruins for a group photo. See T-Type Newsletter Jan '04 Safety Fast. The run proper then commenced heading for Hay-on-Wye for lunch with a coffee stop part way at Llanthony Priory ruins. Hay-on-Wye is famous for its numerous bookshops and a few were visited before lunch. The afternoon was a leisurely drive back to Tintern via the Golden Valley. The Rally and Presentation Dinner that night was a grand night and a huge surprise to the Super Six who were awarded the T Register Montague Burton Trophy for the effort and distance travelled coming with their cars all the way from Australia. They had to hand the beautiful Cup back but had been given some plaques to commemorate the win that they could take home. From then they referred to the Cup as the T Register Ashes, quite how either side will compete for the Ashes again as they do at cricket is unknown but the Aussies have laid down the challenge that the Poms should venture to Australia with their cars in 2006!
On Sunday Morning they headed for the Dean Heritage Museum for coffee and view the interesting Museum. They were then heading for Symonds Yat for lunch with a diversion to view a large stained glass window hanging in the forest — that was different! The view from Symonds YatRock was truly a bird's eye view of the meandering river below. The afternoon run continued through the beautiful Forest of Dean with an afternoon tea stop at the old Tintern Railway Station. That night they ate at the Abbey Hotel??? with David and Gil Butler. Monday morning and they were following a convoy of TA's led by Brian and Rosie Rainbow back to their house near Stratford. On the way the other cars gradually peeled off and finally they reached Stratford to buy a spare TA crankshaft from Brian for a member back home who needed one to get his car back on the road. Brian graciously gave them two cranks for the price of one, which was very fortunate because the first one turned out to be cracked. That afternoon they eventually made it back to Catford Manor via the dreaded A205 South Circular.
The next couple of days were spent cleaning the undersides of the cars to avoid any quarantine problems on return and repack luggage they did not need.
On Thursday 18th September they drove the cars to Rainham to pack them into the container for the trip home. The guys detailed to do the work did not have much of a clue so it was a good thing the boys were there to advise on what was required to chock and tie the cars down. The next day Darryl and Graham went off to Stevenage to spend the last few days in the UK with friends Bob and Mary while Richo and Barb stayed with Daughter Rachael and Son in Law Michael at Catford Manor.
On Tuesday 23rd the Awesome Foursome flew back to Australia having spent 4 Months of the hottest summer on record in the UK and Europe. They had covered over 9500 Miles (15,500km) on some fantastic roads through awesome scenery and met some wonderful people. They got to drive that dream of narrow country lanes and pretty little villages without a single day of sickness and only a couple of very minor problems with the cars. What more can I say — it was huge!
The cars arrived back in Australia a month later safe and sound and smelling as sweet as roses! They were not sure what the container had previously carried but the cars smelt very sweet for weeks after.
Mike and Lorretta left the UK the following day and had a stopover in Hong Kong for a few days with an old TCOC member.
If you have a dream like we did then my advice is do it, and do it while you can, don't wait until you can't!
Cheers, Richo YT 3208