14/6/91

Today is the 14th, a Thursday. Another month has passed and the first year of another decade has passed. I am in London at Leighton Mansions where I’ve been for a week and a half looking for work. It isn’t easy. Linda has a nannying job over in Notting Hill, about 15 minutes drive away. 

I was hoping to find work here in London and move into the flat here. But, as a second option, I placed an advert in the Farmer’s Weekly for tractor driving during the upcoming harvest and today I had a reply that sounds promising. So, it looks like I will be spending the summer driving tractors².

After spending a few days more with the nurses in their flat in Camberwell, we went down to Cortington Manor to stay for the weekend. Diana [the Duchess of Newcastle] offered me a job putting a new ceiling in her stables and so we stayed on there all week and I earned £150-00. After that, we went up to Norfolk and stayed with Heather Stevens whom we had met at John and Sally Blakiston’s before we went to Europe. We thought that we might’ve found farm work in Norfolk, or some kind of work in Norwich, but there was nothing going so we returned to London.

Before we left Norfolk, we went for a day trip around the county and called to see Brad White’s¹ parents in Thurne, a tiny village deep in the Norfolk Broads. He was very pleased to see us and gave us Brad’s address in Darwin where he is now living.

So, we returned to London. Linda got her nannying job almost immediately and I am still looking. Something will turn up. It always does.

¹Followers of this story may remember Brad from my days working at The Fitzroy Hotel in Melbourne back at the very beginning of our adventures. 

²As it turned out, I spent the summer driving tractors for the harvest at Knoll Farm, near the town of Fordingbridge in Hampshire.

20/5/91

SAPPHIRES AND DIAMONDS 

SAPPHIRES AND DIAMONDS 

We were up and away at 8AM and went into town in Eric1. We got a copy of TNT (an Aussie/Kiwi magazine which had a large Situations Vacant section) and sussed out jobs but there wasn’t much going and we soon got sick of it so we went and visited Harry and Brian at the Red Lion. We had two cups of tea with them in the cafe next door then went upstairs and yarned to Ange (one of the barmaids). On the way out we had a quick beer with Tom (the cleaner) then took Eric over to the flat where Diana and Roxy2 are staying in Kensington.

Back in town, we took Harry’s advice and went to Hatton Gardens in Holborn and looked at engagement rings. And we bought one! The shop was called Design 22 and we paid £585-00 for a ring with 3 diamonds and 2 sapphires. I gave it to Linda over beers at a nearby pub as we couldn’t wait any longer. 

 That night we had dinner with Diana and Roxy.

1Eric Escort, our car.

2Our former landlady the Duchess of Newcastle and her grand-daughter)

19/5/91

BOULOGNE TO CAMBERWELL

We left the hostel at 6:30 and hiked down to the port. We only had to wait for about half an hour before the call to board came and we set sail at 8AM aboard the ferry Pride of Canterbury.

We cashed in our few remaining French coins and got £2-38 for it which afforded us two cups of tea and a croissant each. About an hour and a half after later we docked and went through customs without a hitch.

Outside the terminal we made a sign that read LONDON and after about 10 minutes of hitching we were picked up by a Spanish truck driver. He spoke no English and we knew no Spanish but after a while we figured out he wanted us to help him find Charlton in East London where his load was bound.

So, by asking directions we got him to his destination then walked over to the BR station and hopped on a train for Waterloo East without buying tickets because we didn’t have any money. There was a ticket collector in the carriage we got into but for some reason he walked straight past us. When the train arrived at Waterloo East we walked straight past the ticket booth but we were bellowed at by an inspector to stop. I launched into a spiel in French about having no money and after about 5 minutes of pretending we couldn’t speak or understand English he let us go in desperation.  if he had been a bit bit more switched on he would have noticed that I could understand his questions. 

We snickered our way down to Caesars¹ and had a huge feed of English grease then caught a bus out to the nurses’ flat² off Camberwell Road. We spent the rest of the afternoon there and had a barbecue in the evening.

The Camberwell Crew. L-R: no idea, Sue, Dave (back), Alex, Hazel (front), Ferg, Linda

¹Ceasars restaurant was a local Waterloo eatery we had frequented during our time at the Red Lion.

² The friends we had made at the Red Lion.

18/5/91

BOULOGNE  After a breakfast of bread, jam and hot chocolate we walked down through the town to the ferry terminal and booked tickets on the P&O ferry across the English Channel for tomorrow.

With no money left and not a lot to do in Boulogne, we looked in a few jewellery shops for engagement rings and bought some fresh veggies in the market to cook for tea. We spent a couple of hours in the evening yarning to the wee Scottish girls and watching MTV.

Beers in Boulogne

16/5/91

PARIS

We caught the first train possible into the city and got off at St. Michel station.  Our first stop was Notre Dame: the Church of Our Lady. Surprisingly small, it  was nevertheless a wonderful example of Gothic architecture with some beautiful stained glass windows.

We walked along the Seine river –  a vile smelling cesspool –  and crossed Pont Neuf to the Louvre where we spent a couple of hours. The important thing we saw there was, of  course, the Mona Lisa, but there wasn’t much else of interest apart from some early Monet and Renoir paintings. The majority of the works were the familiar biblical scenes of martyred saints and hovering cherubs. The Egyptian wing, however, was very interesting.

Movin on, we walked along the Quai d’Orsay then through the streets of the 7th Arrondissement to the Eiffel Tower. We paid 18F (francs) to climb up to the 2nd level with its impressive view, then another 40 francs to go to the top in the lift. Incredible [pronounced as the French would: “en-cray-arr-ble”]. At nearly 1000 ft the view of the sprawl of Paris stretched off as far as the eye could see in all directions. A sign a fixed to a wall stated that Wellington was 18,392 km away.  At that height however, many of the city’s landmarks – Notre Dame, the Arc du Triomphe,  etcetera, blended into the uniform grey of the city. Grey squalls coming across the city from the north combined to camouflage them completely.

Back on terra firma, we walked back towards St Michele and went to the Musee d’Orsay. Oh those fabulous impressionist works! Monet, Cezanne and Renior… exquisite colours and moods on canvas. But what grabbed our attention most were the Van Gogh’s. The vibrant colours. The thick, almost violent brush strokes, conveyed the madness of the painter in an almost palpable way. They were mesmerising.

By 5:30 we were sick of trudging around Paris so we caught the train back out to Arpajon and bought some food to cook for dinner. We spent the evening talking to a couple of New Zealanders who were also staying in the  hostel.

13/5/91

DIJON TO CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE We caught a bus up to the Gare at 9:00 and bought tickets to the town of Chalon-sur-Saone, about 50km south of Dijon: a place we’d picked at random. When we arrived, we hiked in the heat for 3km to the campground and set up camp. We filled in the rest of the day with non-strenuous activities such as lying in the sun and…

In the evening, we had dinner at a nearby Moroccan restaurant called “Les Emirs.”

11/5/91

BERN TO DIJON  We left the hostel at 9 a.m. and walked in the rain up to the station. We bought tickets to Dijon in France then settled down to wait for our 11:50 a.m. train. We looked around a few of the shops out on the street but it was so wet and miserable that soon were back in the station and sat in one of the cafes writing postcards.

Our first train took us down to Lausanne where our train to France left from and not long after we got there a couple of policemen in plain clothes stopped me and wanted to see my passport. They must have been looking for a criminal of some sort and perhaps I fitted his description!

At 17:30 we caught the train to France and after about three quarters of an hour, high up in a misty mountain pass, we crossed the border into France. As with most European countries, the border formalities were perfunctory and we didn’t even get a souvenir stamp in our passports. The train arrived in Dijon at 7:30 p.m. and we walked the 1 km to to the camping ground where we pitched our tent for the first time. We have named it Vern after a character in a Far Side cartoon. It is very easy to erect and will be warm and comfy. We  finished the day with a short walk along the nearby River.

This card was the inspiration for the name Vern. We used that tent all over the world for many years afterwards and, indeed, Vern survived until early in 2021!

10/5/91

SALZBURG TO BERN We left the hostel at 9 and walk down to the station where we bought tickets to Zurich Switzerland.  While we waited we chatted to a Canadian girl who was hustling rooms at the hospital.

We found a seat in an empty compartment and settled in to munch on our salami rolls and chocolate bars had bought with our remaining Austrian change, commenting on how plush the on Austro/Swiss train was.  We left Salzburg dead on time and soon we were speeding through the countryside past green crops and plots of pine and birch. The mountains were spectacular, especially around Innsbruck where the towns was dwarfed by massive towers of sheer rock.

About midday, we were injected from our First Class cabin buy an officious train guard who obviously didn’t believe we were in there by mistake, and we spent the rest of the journey to Zurich slumming it in the second class accommodation which,  was none too shabby either. As we crossed the border into Switzerland, the Swiss customs officers came through the cars and only sullenly complied when we asked for our passports to be stamped.  The last leg of the journey was alongside Lake Geneva and a violent thunderstorm was raging when we arrived.

We bought onwards tickets for Bern (which stung us £18 each!) and caught the next train which pulled into the station. When we arrived in Bern an hour later, we tracked down the YH which was like a cross between Colditz Castle and a battery hen house run with the precision of a Swiss watch!

After we had settled in I went back to the station in the pouring rain and bought some grub for tea. We spent the evening in the common room of the hostel. 

9/5/91

BICYCLES FOR THREE I got up at 5:00am and walked over to the Old City in the hope of getting a few sunrise photos. However, a low bank of cloud kept the sun from making an appearance so it was to no avail. But I did get a few pictures of the cathedral without the crowds of people that would soon be about.

Back at the hostel, we showered and had a meagre breakfast then set off over to the hostel where Rebecca is staying. We found her sitting outside in the sun and as the hostel was closed for two hours until 11:00 we set off to walk up to the castle. The cobbled path led up the steep hill below the castle walls through a shady canopy of deep green foliage which every now and then opened to give a view out across the hazy rooftops to the Old City. Half way up we found that we couldn’t get any further without paying an extortionate entry fee so we turned and followed another path which ran around the hill. Away in the distance we could see a range of jagged mountains with a cable car suspended between two of its highest peaks.

The Austrian/German Border

Back at the hostel, we hired a bike each for 50AS and set off to explore. A smooth, level pathway ran along the left bank of the Danube River and we followed it upstream and out of the city in the direction of the mountains. After an hour or so we stopped for a drink at a pub then carried on until we reached a dam across the river where we crossed over and set off up a side stream to find somewhere to have lunch. Our picnic consisted of bread, salami, cheese and fruit, eaten beside the river on a bank of bright green grass.

After lunch, we carried on following the river and after about half an hour or so we ended up at the foot of a range of unbelievably jagged mountains – the Untersberg – beside the cable car station which serviced the cable car we’d seen earlier from a distance. We decided that the fee to ride the cable car was too expensive so we settled for photographs of ourselves with the descending cable car in the background!

The road led deeper into the tree-clad mountains and a sign told us that Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s summer residence, was only 15 kilometres away, over the border in Germany. The border itself turned out to be just around the next corner so we stopped there for photos and a cold drink before we began to retrace our route back to Salzburg. 

By the time we got back to the city, an hour and a half later, we’d had enough cycling for one day so we took the bikes back and said goodbye to Rebecca.

That night we dined in the hostel restaurant and went to bed early.