Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

VIKINGS
MONDAY 17TH JUNE - ROSKILDE



The Viking Ship Museum is yet another remarkable place on an ever growing list of remarkable places we have visited.  One of us is a sucker for all things maritime anyway, but with ongoing archeology and experimental ship building using ancient techniques there was something for us all. 

We could have gone for a sail on a Viking ship as well but it’s probably some sort of sign, that these days we are content to leave the rowing and hauling of sails to others filled with more Viking-like enthusiasm.

Instead, when our guided tour of the museum was over, with important facts neatly stowed for future use, (the smallest ship on display could carry one and a half female Indian elephants), and with previous misconceptions about the life of the seafaring people corrected, we had lunch, said to have been made from similar ingredients to actual Viking fare, although we suspect a little more archaeological study might be necessary in that respect for that to really be the case.

We aren’t too far off being reunited with our own ship, which will be a far more pleasant encounter than the prospect of spending the next month and a half rowing an open boat to Ireland in company with a hundred Vikings packed like sardines. Unlike them, we have paperwork to deal with that might very well make Thor’s hammer tremble.

Seriously, the Flemish Waterway’s Website appears to be a relic from the Viking Era, and while in someone else’s country I would never ask for a translation just for my sake, if one is offered it would be nice for it to be vaguely helpful.  If the Waterway’s staff weren’t so willing to help who knows how many renewal invoices would still be in our Winkel Wagen.

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Monday, June 17, 2024

CHILL
SUNDAY 16TH JUNE - FREDERIKSVÆRK


We must confess, we’ve laughed on more than one occasion in years gone by, when on a bright sunny day we naturally migrate to the shadiest spot we can, while Birgit and Jørn sit out in the bright sunshine as if daring it to do it’s damnedest. 

Yet there we were, barely a month in Europe this year, joining them as they basked in the gentle warmth, enjoying the luxury of having a UV index of one.  It was only for a while of course, just enough time for a coffee and a small biscuit before the forecast cloud and showers arrived and we retreated.

On Sunday the roads between Copenhagen and here are choked with with people from the city visiting the coast or returning from their summer houses, and we had no plans to join them, opting instead for completing a couple of tiny jobs and generally laying about waiting for Birgit to return from the run she took on behalf of us all.

If you woke this morning to the feeling that something had changed for the better, that’s quite possibly because during the course of the day we are pretty sure we’ve solved all of the problems of the world, or at least we had a very good try.

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Sunday, June 16, 2024

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 MINUTES
SATURDAY 15TH JUNE - COPENHAGEN




The small ferry we rode in yesterday did a sterling job of fitting a five piece jazz band down its central corridor, and the jazz band did a sterling job of playing, even if their percussionist had to go home before the cruise began because he didn’t fit.

The Danish National Radio Symphony Ochestra and Choir would not have fitted even if there had been no passengers, but every one of the 140 performers had no problem at all fitting in the DR Koncerthuset (Danish pronunciation, I kid you not: [ˈte̝ˀˌɛɐ̯ kʰʌnˈsɛɐ̯tˌhuˀsð̩, - kʰɔnˈ-]), previously known as the Copenhagen Concert Hall, even the percussionist whose only job it seemed was to play a rain stick and a train whistle.

1700 others fitted in too, or 1696 if you don’t count us, every one of them in a place where perfect acoustics meant there were no inferior seats

This is not an architectural review, nor is it an entertainment critique, but its easy to see why the concert hall is renowned as being one of the best acoustically on the planet.  It is a seriously wonderful place to visit even if there is no performance happening, but when the quality of performance is so high that one starts to debate whether the performers were up to the standard of the concert hall or vic versa, one has to think that is a reasonable indication that a great time was had by all.

They said they’d take us on a musical journey, “Around the world in 80 minutes”, and while we didn’t have our stopwatches, it really seemed like 80 seconds.

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Saturday, June 15, 2024

DANISH ICE CREAM
FRIDAY 14TH JUNE - LISELEJE


We must have tired ourselves out yesterday, because none of us rose particularly early this morning.

Actually we did manage to clear away our breakfast things before midday, but only just, and it would appear that four days later we are still catching up on news of the last two years.

Since we had a bit of time to kill between breakfast and bedtime, and since it’s been almost a week since we had a meal which comprised only ice cream and since the sun was shining and it seemed like the perfect afternoon for a walk along the beach, Jørn and Birgit suggested that it might be time we did both.

Half a century ago, a small ice cream shop opened in Surfer’s Paradise, not far from our office.  It claimed to offer Danish Ice Cream, which looked an awful lot like any other kind of ice cream to the casual observer, but was served with a bit of panache, a dollop of  whipped cream and a splodge of jam all seated in a freshly made waffle cone.  This made them more delicious than anything we’d ever imagined, and the red and white checked napkins wrapped around them made them ever so exotic. That they cost what seemed like a year’s pay made them impossibly desirable.

Today, Hansens Flødeis with vaffel but no gammeldags lived up entirely to those lofty expectations set by the Antipodean imposter all those years ago, and even counting the cost of the airfare to get here, with substantially less impact on our net worth.

The walk along the beach was nice too.


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DANISH DESIGN
THURSDAY 13TH JUNE - COPENHAGEN

For a young architecture student in the sixties, Danish design generally was at the epitome of good taste, innovation, and practicality.  Whether as a result of cultural cringe or colonial ignorance, attaining a similar standard was thought to be pretty much well beyond the reach of mere Antipodeans, yet aspire to those dizzy heights we did.  

Achieving similarly consistent levels of quality of manufacture and design excellence is arguably still something that eludes most of the rest of the world, so a visit to the Danish Design Museum in Copenhagen could easily have been something of a pilgrimage.

Perhaps it was our inadequate preconception of what the exhibition should have been that left us slightly bemused.  The expected galleries of fabulous furniture and sensational silverware were there,  beautifully displayed, but did not quite give the coverage one might expect from a national design museum.  Where was the B&O or the Lego or Pandora we wondered?   

Temporary exhibitions, beautifully contrived and thought provoking were in what we imagined should have been their places.

Suitably provoked, we explored the Royals’ residences, which changed their guard as we passed, stumbled accidentally into (and exited purposefully) a Michelin restaurant, where the fare was a little above our lunch time expectation, took a sight-seeing cruise with a live Jazz accompaniment in lieu of the standard descriptive commentary, and managed to avoid being maimed by one of several million bicycles charging past, each in reckless pursuit of a new land speed record.  

Apparently along the way, we passed a rock with a small mermaid on it although we couldn’t see too much because it was raining and quite far off, but we we’ve been there, done that and had a jolly good time along the way.


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FRED AND CHRIS
WEDNESDAY 12TH JUNE - FREDERIKSVÆRK to FREDERIKSBORG

 

Fun fact; Since 1513, male Danish monarchs have been named either Christian or Frederik. The two names alternate, with a father named Christian generally naming his oldest son Frederik and vice versa.


Therefore if you are ever asked “who was the Danish king in 1736” you have a fifty percent chance of getting the answer correct.


It also goes a very long way towards explaining why so many places are derivatives of both of those names, and made for scintillating conversation in the cafe under the trees in the Frederiksborg Palace gardens as we munched happily on our smørrebrød and sipped on our lemon and ingefær ,or at least one of us did, while the others imbibed some pink stuff made from grapes.


Still feeling our way into our third country in as many weeks, we did not take the opportunity of discovering the vast interior of the palace, which even in Denmark, as is the case with almost every historical monument we visit, was in a state of renovation,.


Instead  we chose to spend our afternoon wandering through the vast immaculate gardens, later visiting the adjoining town where we undertook a Danish sport called “shopping”.  


This appears to be an advanced form of hide and seek in which the females in the party magically disappear for a time, leaving their bewildered spouses to sit and chat until eventually they reappear bearing parcels that they we could swear they were not carrying at the time they disappeared.

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Thursday, June 13, 2024

THE TIES THAT BIND US
TUESDAY 11TH JUNE - COPENHAGEN TO FREDERIKSVÆRK


 



It was still yesterday when we finally tumbled out of the airport into the Danish moonlight into Jørn and Birgit’s waiting arms.  

They were all smiles of course, as though our arrival eight hours later than we had been expected was not even a minor inconvenience, and the smiles turned to laughter as we relayed our Geneva adventure which began with an instruction in Paris that our tickets would be waiting at the “transfer desk”.   That turned out to be in the secure area of the departures lounge.   With the security people determined that we could not enter the departures area without a boarding pass we were starting to think that a week in Switzerland might be on the cards.  It took just an hour, two complete circumnavigations of the terminal, and advice from nine different desks before the old Swiss Watch mechanism kicked into gear and all went swimmingly thereafter albeit with barely four hours to wait for our flight.

It was today by the time we flopped into bed, and though we woke some time after eight, even after several cups of coffee, none of us were feeling particularly energetic.

That was perfectly alright though as they’d thoughtfully planned a lay-day, one where we could have a long and cheery breakfast, catch up on a few years worth of news, walk along the shore for a bit to gain our bearings and hang around in the afternoon with nought to do but drink more coffee and eat raspberry sponge cake with lashings of cream.

As we walked along the shoreline of Roskilde Fjord, simply content to be in each other’s company once again, we couldn’t help but wonder at the mysterious ties that bind us as we live our separate lives from opposite sides of the planet, yet each time we are reunited it’s as though we’ve never been apart.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

DANCING THE DANCE
MONDAY 10TH JUNE - AJACCIO TO COPENHAGEN


You have to be kidding!

That was our reaction when, having failed to find any suitable connection on our own volition, our indefatigable Travel Agent Fiona, advised that she had found a series of flights from Ajaccio to Copenhagen but they were so expensive that Business Class was “only” a few hundred dollars more.

With great reservation we spent the extra, reasoning that with barely an hour between flights having a priority security lane in Paris CDG alone would probably be worth the extra cost and besides, we’d pretty much be there for lunch.

The day started well enough, very much the way days like this always do, with a farewell night that went far too long, not quite four hours of broken sleep before that alarm, and a very pleasant drive to the airport in the pre-dawn.  

Carrying refrigerated medication which cannot be x-rayed always increases the degree of difficulty passing security checks, but one would assume with interconnected flights one would only have to do that one armed chicken dance once, the one that goes: knees wide apart in an effort to keep ones pants up, while trying to simultaneously retrieve belt, wallet, passport, computer, coat, camera bag and somehow reassemble them in the correct order while holding a refrigerated canister in the other hand. 

It turns out that Nice Airport is not very big, yet no one has thought of having a secure transit area, so barely an hour after the first check in we got to repeat the procedure.

Paris CDG IS a very big airport, and we though we could remain in transit until the allotted boarding time, however, in exactly the time it took to say “your flight has been cancelled” we found ourselves once again on the “wrong” side of security, this time in a very long line of dispossessed passengers. 

That extra cost that made us gasp?  Well it seems that AirFrance really does look after its business class passengers at least, almost instantly sending us a text to say we’d been booked on a flight to Copenhagen via Geneva where we would have one more chance to go through security and eat nuts and drink sparkling water in one more airport lounge.

Geneva, our airport of the month, once again reached the high bar it set for itself just a week ago, but we eventually…

... no, if you can read this, it means we made it to Copenhagen this night, and the photo of Ajaccio taken just a few days ago should remind us all that there’s plenty of blue sky to go round!!

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WHAT GOES UP, MUST COME DOWN
SUNDAY 9TH JUNE - PORTIGLIOLO

 

Today was  election day for the European Parliament and while it’s difficult for us to find any connection between some of the remote mountain villages and Brussels or Strasbourg, suffice to say that many here, including our hosts were intent on ensuring that Corsica in particular, is properly represented.

This meant we had a bit of a deadline to ensure that Julie and Dumè could be in Ajaccio in time to vote, but time was not so tight that having “spectacled” us to within an inch of our lives yesterday, they couldn’t squeeze a whole slew of new visual and culinary treats into our descent from the mountains.

Julie assured us the “back way”, was somewhat easier that the way we had travelled yesterday, being almost a full two lanes wide and therefore a somewhat less technical road to drive, and it was albeit with vast views across the ravines tempered just a little by dense forests wherever the trees could find sufficient moisture to prosper.

We stopped to amble through the odd random village and drink the odd random coffee and to amble through one of those forests and down to a series of waterfalls connecting lush swimming holes in which the water temperature sat at least fifteen degrees below acceptable.

The only thing barely appealing at temperatures below that is ice cream, which not entirely coincidentally was exactly what we ended up having for lunch.  Several kilos of chocolate stuff lashed with indescribable varieties of cream and nuts for the boys, while the girls, ever watchful selected salads from the menus.  

Astonishing salads they were too with balls of beetroot and basil and avocado sorbet and mozzarella stuffed with cream (just to give it a bit of zip) and lettuce with curry dressing to reassure that this was indeed the “healthy option”.

Somehow, beyond sated, we did managed to get to the polling booths on time, we did sit chatting well into the night for far longer than sensible people with a plane to catch before sunrise should, and we did continue pinching ourselves just to be sure that the past week hasn't been some sort of dream. 

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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

IT’S ALL RELATIVE
SATURDAY 8TH JUNE - ÉVISA AND MARIGNANA


Spectacular!

That sums up our day really.   An hour here, two hours there, on roads that at times seemed only fit for goats, and indeed there were a few of those as well as a menagerie of other livestock to keep us company as well.

Within a few minutes which is all it took to negotiate the first dozen or so turns for it became apparent that Julie knows the roads through the mountains as well as the goats that we came across from time to time.  This is her territory, and her cousins’ as well, and her cousins’ cousins' too.  As we drove in what seemed to be every direction including up, (mostly up) Arlo Guthrie’s lyrics “on one side there was mountain, on the other side there was nothing”, pretty much summed up our day.  

We were happy that we were on the “mountain” side of the road, not sure at times how those on the “nothing” side managed to squeeze past, and completely amazed that somehow defying the laws of physics the occasional tour bus, or errant motorhome managed to avoid catastrophe, but they did, and Julie soldiered on, with us so nonplussed, that we are sure the breaks she took to visit villages en-route were for our benefit and not ours.   

At exactly the right time during one of those breaks they discovered the best pancake restaurant on the planet, a place with a simple fare so extraordinary that adequate description defies.   

Fortified, we managed the final assault on the mountain, ultimately to check in to her mother’s cousin’s hotel (with pool and extraordinary views) which as it happens is located one and a half kilometres as the crow flies (two and a half hours on foot) from his cousin’s auberge, which gave us the opportunity of travelling those very same roads in the dark, and dining with one of the cousins of those road-side goats, although he was in a splendid stew with fresh onion and mountain herbs. 

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Sunday, June 09, 2024

A RARE DAY OFF
FRIDAY 7TH JUNE - PORTIGLIOLO


Death and taxes are said to be certainties in life, but they travel in steady company with other basic tasks, like washing underwear and keeping accounts in order so that one can be reasonably certain that funds will be available to continue in the coming month in the manner to which one has been accustomed.

Julie is due home tonight and after that there won’t be any time to let the grass grow under our feet, so we had a bit of a family conference, the three of us, and decided to take the morning off.

This went so well we decided to take the afternoon off as well.   

Some time in the late afternoon, we became concerned that after all this frittering of the day we might have to do something to warm ourselves up for our evening competition.

A long stroll around the astonishing nineteenth century orangerie terraces that pretty much border Portigliolo did the trick, and we were ready for all comers by the time we arrived at the Pétanque courts.   

While the records may show that we didn’t win a game, as play continued until the light had gone, there were certainly no losers either. 

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Friday, June 07, 2024

SEEING THINGS
THURSDAY 6TH JUNE - BONIFACIO


Distance in Corsica is measured in time, and time is meaningless, which makes for interesting calculations if you want to work out how much you can fit in a day.

It does take a little adjustment, but once one understands that a journey of twenty kilometres (three as the crow flies) could take an hour if the road is particularly narrow and windy, and a journey of eighty kilometres could take two hours, as long as there is plenty to eat and drink, it all starts to fall into place.   

Dr Dumè is determined to inject as much of “his” Corsica into our souls as is humanly possible in the few days we have in his company.  

Therefore during a drive of six or so hours, we managed to visit the extraordinary village of Bonifacio with it’s limestone fortifications and sheltered harbours, inspect artefacts, bronze aged statues still standing in the spots where they have stood guard for four millennium, some of our favourite pieces of his work nestled in an estuary somewhere, all the while hugging a coastline that can only be described as spectacular.

We stopped for coffee at a place called Lion Rock, but when I remarked, I thought privately, that in my view it looked more like a pussy cat, a deadly silence descended on the cafe where we sat.   

Dumè whispered that offended Corsicans have a particular methodology  for dealing with those who cause offence,  which involves cable ties and boat anchors and a short voyage out to sea.

Perhaps it really does look like a lion.    


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EASY AS
WEDNESDAY 5TH JUNE - AJACCIO to PORTIGLIOLO


Can it really only be this morning we were walking to the airport in Geneva an almost balmy fourteen degree pre-dawn at four am?  Is that tingling sensation on my forehead really just a touch of too much sun, or did some part of me stay behind during the teleportation?  

As soon as we landed Dumè as always, did his utmost to erase any memories of the last few days, by guiding us on a whirlwind highlights tour of his Ajaccio.  He took us in short order, to sample the best coffee in Corsica, then the best pastries in Corsica then to the market to stock up on the best produce in Corsica, followed rapidly by a tour of the Citadel, lunch, and visits to a couple of galleries, all in an attempt to cram experiences of as much of his life into ours as time would allow, while allowing just enough time for a short nap before setting off again.

We felt nothing but sympathy for the packs of day trippers descending like soldier crabs from the giant cruise ships (that sadly dominate the views of the city centre from every direction for the duration of summer), trying their best to see as much as we did in the few hours of shore leave they were allowed, without the benefit of his expert guidance.

Just like them we wish we had more time, but we have places to go, things to do, people to see. 

Which is how, in the cool of the evening an hour or so to the south, we came to be sitting on the balcony of Julie’s parent’s place in Portigliolo, watching the sun slowly make its way down to that point where the light blue sky meets the Mediterranean Sea, pinching ourselves and wondering at all the circumstances that have brought us to this place in time and space. 

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Wednesday, June 05, 2024

CHAPLIN’S WORLD
TUESDAY 4TH JUNE - INTERLAKEN TO GENEVA

Chaplin’s World is a museum dedicated entirely to the life of Charlie Chaplin, constructed in the grounds of his former residence and including the house in which he once lived which has rooms spectacularly reconstructed so personally that it felt as if we were intruding at times.  It’s an unmissable treat, and it turned out to be a perfect setting to farewell the other four until fate, birthdays or simple wanderlust reunite us.

Geneva Airport on the other hand could easily be missed.

We have visited dozens of airports in an equal number of countries and neither of us can think of a time when we had any difficulty in navigating the vagaries of check-in, immigration, customs and so forth,  but we had this nagging feeling about tomorrow and decided to do a preview tour.

We have not yet discovered what the big sign which says “Terminal 1 - EasyJet” actually means, but it was pretty clear when entering what looked something like an abandoned office building, that our flight was not going to be leaving from there.

So we progressed to Terminal 2, a progression which may have been smoother had there been any actual signage giving the merest hint of where that might be.  

After finally discovering an array of departure counters, disconcertingly none of which were marked “EasyJet”, we enquired at the “Geneva Airport Assistance” office, where a nice man declared “Oh you need to go to the French Side” with a wave of his hand and a nod towards the East.    This was all well and good, but our documents warned in no uncertain terms that we must drop our baggage before going through security, and the man on duty directed us to the EasyJet counter at the opposite (very far) end of the terminal.

Miss Easy jet was friendly in a budget airline kind of way, and told us that no, we really did have to go to the “French Side”.   Puzzled, we stopped by a SwissAir counter who told us we’d have to drop our bags in the “French Side” then check in upstairs.   While returning from upstairs on the “FrenchSide” which turned out to be an array of public conveniences, a sweet young security guard seeing our plight, directed us downstairs to the “FrenchSide” where she assured us a bag drop off would appear by magic about three hours before the flight.

To make sure, we popped down to where we thought all this might happen, and chancing upon another pair of security people, once again shared our life stories.   “Oh, said the senior of the two.  The system has changed today - just come in to the “FrenchSide” in the morning and if they have told everybody all will be like a Swiss Clock.

They really should charge admission!


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BOATS AND TRAINS
MONDAY 3RD JUNE - INTERLAKEN


It was a funny in-between kind of day for us, as we tried to get our heads around getting ready to move again after a week with our feet so firmly planted in the Lazy Rancho soil that we remain at risk of putting down roots.

The weather hadn’t really done anything at that point to convince us that we would enjoy being out of doors, so it seemed like a perfect day to enact our Rule of Ten - our own little guideline that dictates that we should not get out of bed until either the temperature or the time is in double figures.  

We were in the throes of considering whether there was any way that we could construe going out anywhere as “fun” when we received Erika’s message to ask if we  wanted to reconsider our plans for the afternoon.

We didn’t have to be asked twice, particularly as a little dicky bird had told us that Christian’s newly repaired steam locomotive was due to arrive mid afternoon, so we quickly made plans to meet at “theirs” for the evening.   

While we were once happy to confirm that there is “absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”, we can also confirm that “simply playing with trains” might come a very close second.

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Monday, June 03, 2024

Across the Thunersee
Sunday 2 June - Interlaken



It was hard to describe our collective mood as the new day dawned, “Boxing Day Chill” perhaps; that sort of settling rosy afterglow in which one wakes the next day, wondering if it really happened or was it just a dream, before spotting the tiniest scrap of wrapping paper under the couch as evidence that it was not.

We sat around as old friends do, with the accompaniment of Christian’s CD player (I didn’t know they were still a “thing”) making a sterling job of Graham’s “Jim Crisp the Plumber” classical guitar on CD (they must be!).  To my great relief I discovered that the inimitable Mr Crisp has a YouTube Music account and I therefore won’t have to scour the thrift shops for a tape player to create a bootleg version (for future academic reference.) 

At some point, someone implied that we were in danger of wasting the day, and perhaps we should take a turn around the block, venture into the great outdoors, which after a brief investigation was equally as chill as we were, and a lot wetter.   

Suitably attired, we made our way to the ferry, which bore us across the Thunersee, into the heart of Thun itself where we strolled and re-caffeinated before returning to Christian and Erika’s lair and made plans to do exactly the same thing tomorrow. 

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Sunday, June 02, 2024

Mission Accomplished
Saturday 1 June - Kemmeriboden Bad

 

Fifty-one years ago, Graham and the other of us conspired to surprise their respective partners with a party to celebrate our birthdays.  That event served admirably as Graham and Jill’s first date which turned out pretty well, and if we weren’t already, we weren’t far off being betrothed ourselves, which also turned out pretty well It probably doesn’t need to be said. 

In the intervening years we’ve  always been separated by great distances, at times on opposite sides of the globe, with some invisible bungee cord joining our families, banging us back together from time to time as our lives took their separate paths, forming mutual friendships along the way.  

We met Erika, in this story formerly known as “E”, the grand conspirator in today’s tale, and Christian almost decades ago in Latvia as fellow guests at the wedding of one of Graham and Jill’s progeny and as these things happen, have been in touch ever since.   When she enquired in January as to our availability for a small soiree to be held in Switzerland to celebrate Jill’s biggest birthday to date, we naturally replied in the affirmative, and once again that bungee cord began to do its thing.  

When she suggested that perhaps we could make it a surprise for them, we underestimated the effort that would take, but during six months of visits and telephone conversations and reunions with family and friends, not a single word of this plan was leaked.  

So it was that when we turned up at the Hotel Kemmeriboden Bad, exactly on time (this is Switzerland after all) at the table at which they were already seated, with two extra places set, every emotion that could be experienced moved over all of us in great waves.  I suspect that actual tears might have been shed but I had something in my eye at the time and couldn’t see clearly enough to tell.   

Erika’s plan had worked flawlessly.

Hours later, in the midst of C & E’s family, still not fully recovered but with our moods as mellow as the evening light over the Thunersee, it was impossible not to be grateful for our friendships, and for every twist of fate that over the past half century had ultimately led us to this very place.

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By boat
Friday 31st May - Interlaken to Giessbach



Since all good spy stories seem  at some point to involve,a boat on a lake in Switzerland, and we have just one more day of laying low, a nice little joint in a paddle steamer to an ancient hotel where Sherlock Holmes once battled with the dastardly Moriarty seemed entirely appropriate. 

A rare failure of management, the result of which was that we found ourselves in steerage class on the steamer all the way to Giessbach at least allowed us to watch the workings of the ancient steam engine as we chuffed along, but it did keep us nicely warm while outside conditions could be most aptly described as  somewhere between “it would be much nicer tucked up in bed”, and “abominable”.   With a maximum temperature of three degrees, the kind of visibility you get when you put a paper bag over your head, and the sort of rain my mother would have described as “set in”, standing next to the engine for a bit was really quite pleasant.   

On arrival at Giessback,  Europe’s first Funicular transported us to the Hotel Terrace where aforementioned management redeemed itself, having had the presence of mind to have booked an indoor table for luncheon the day before “just in case”.

Normally a highlight of any visit here (apart from lunch) is an exploration of the pathways that lead one beside, across and beneath the monster waterfalls that traverse the site, creating the perfect location for bad guys to lead good guys on a merry chase.  

Today, given the conditions, it seemed much more sensible to simply take a photograph of others undertaking that particular activity before ducking back into the warmth for dessert and coffee .


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More reconnaissance
Thursday 30th May - Interlaken to St Beatus-Höhlen and beyond

 

They are arriving this evening, and that’s when the cloak and dagger stuff really begins.  We wouldn’t be E for quids.  She’s been plotting this since New Year’s Day and they’ll be staying with her and C so it will be a monumental effort not to slip up in conversation.

We, on the other hand, simply need to be wherever they are not, setting off in the trusty ASX or whatever exotic letters suit a spy mobile (there must be an “X” we think), in search of appropriately exotic adventure.  

The weather forecast is for conditions continuing to deteriorate, so it was surprising to say the least to arrive at the Trauffer Museum the home of traditional carved wooden toys in bright sunshine and twenty seven degree heat.   The museum could have been a splendid hiding place too with its delightful mazes and rooms and possibly the best hot dogs in all of Christendom and everywhere else to boot.

While we were congratulating ourselves on our accidental culinary win, the actual weather moved closer to the forecast, with the temperature dropping by seventeen degrees and cold wet stuff tumbling from the sky.   We headed to another prospective hiding place, this one not nearly as pleasant, but it served poor old St Beatus well in times long past.   The caves that bear his name were spectacular and cold and damp and noisy with rushing water for company for the entire kilometre we were able to traverse, if that’s what moving inside a cave is called.

A good time was had by all, despite them not making caves tall enough for modern humans.  If push came to shove, and if one had to choose between hiding in a cave or a toy museum, I’d have to say the cave would come a very distant second.

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The Secret Hideout
Wednesday 29th May - Interlaken

 

When one of us woke to find herself at Camping Lazy Rancho 4, so improbably named that no one would believe us if we told them we were here, she smiled.   Then she peeked out of the window beside her bunk to discover the mountains were still there, smiling back. 

With our targets still in the UK, there was little chance of them hearing her gasps as the mountains revealed themselves to the new day, although everyone in Switzerland probably did.  To be fair, she’s a sucker for mountains, particularly ones with snow on top. Had the weather been more predictable we would without doubt have travelled to the “top of Europe” on the Jungfrau, but it wasn’t and the chances of seeing anything from the top were “iffy” at best.

Therefore we settled for the much less ambitious “top of Interlaken” and the funicular ride to Harder Kulm where the views were more predictable and taken at a leisurely pace as was indeed lunch, before returning home on the 104 bus in mid afternoon.   

All other plans for evening exploration (reconnaissance?) were abandoned in favour of a late afternoon dose of horizontality, in deference to that overwhelming desire that one’s body has to sleep at peculiar times after traversing the world by jet plane.

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The Secret Mission
Tuesday 28th May - Zurich to Interlaken

 

Proper spies never have to work out where they are and when they got there, let alone how they got there.  

For reasons that will have become obvious by the time this has been posted, even if we did know any of those things, just like proper spies, we weren’t allowed to tell anyone until Saturday and thus it was that an embargo was placed on this publication by those “higher up”.

Having arrived in Zurich tired but inarguably happy, we were in short order made less happy and more tired by the discovery that payment for our hotel using the special credit card issued specifically for overseas travel, had been declined.  It turned out after a rather stressful hour waiting without success on an internet service chatline (“we’re here to help, expect a response within five minutes”) and a further fifteen minutes on a phone call to Australia (“your call is important to us, please hold”), that the whole problem came about because we were overseas!   

The lovely lady we eventually spoke with resolved the problem in a few seconds, and in exchange for a swipe of that very same card, a nice man at the airport gave us a car suitably equipped for our mission.   

After just a short drive we were met by E who not surprisingly was with C, who provided us with a rundown on our secret mission, the workings of their caravan and provided a dossier of things to do and see while we waited, cameras in hand for the cloud to clear from the  tips of the Eiger and Jungfrau.


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Monday, May 27, 2024

The Waiting Game
Monday 27th May - Brisbane to Dubai



There are lots of ways of calculating how long a journey like this really takes, and there’s plenty of time en route to let those numbers twirl in all sorts of permutations and combinations.  Waiting is after all, one of the joys of travel.   On this journey we have a ratio of about one waiting hour for every two in the air.


I usually like to calculate P2P or “pillow to pillow” - the time it’s taken from rising from one bed to sinking thankfully into another in some far distant corner of the world.    I will do that tomorrow, but it feels like cheating this time because we have been travelling thus far somewhat further forward in the aeroplane than is our custom.


The result of that is that in this one fourteen hour flight sector alone, the writer has managed to achieve a total amount of sleep equal to or greater than the total of all the sleep amassed on previous flights this decade and is desperately trying to become accustomed to NOT having the feeling of having just emerged from a washing machine on a spin cycle.  


For the first time in memory, the other of us is not asleep while we sit for the five hours it’s going to take for our next flight to depart, and it’s decidedly odd having someone to talk to.

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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Of course we'll miss you all.
Sunday 26th May - Dicky Beach to Brisbane

 


Today we might have gone for a walk along the beach if we hadn't been so busy  squeezing an ever-growing list of last minute tasks into our schedule before our nine PM pickup.

After a long absence from our travels, we are a little out of practice, and perhaps as a consequence a little older.  So we've packed as lightly as we can, tidied as well as necessary, and launched ourselves in the direction of the big smoke.

Perhaps by the time you are reading this we will be blissfully asleep on an aeroplane whisking us through the night.  

Most likely we will be eating snacks and watching one of as many movies one can condense into twenty one hours of flying time, having declined the airline's kind offer of WiFi (when available) perhaps with some vague notion that we can recapture some of the romance of travel in a bygone age when sleep was deemed unnecessary.

We are not completely anti-technology of course.  This post was written yesterday in a haze of procrastination, and scheduled for now in the hope that romance of travel in a bygone age doesn't involve some last minute misadventure!

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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Once more into the breach.
Saturday 25th May - Dicky Beach



My father never explained why, but used to often remind me that "a boy should always carry a piece of string, a shilling and a pocket knife", and so it is that for going on three quarters of a century I have always followed part of that advice.   


I followed the bit about the pocket knife at least.  I have a small one on my key ring which is undoubtedly doomed like its predecessors to meet its end in an airport security bin on that one day I forget it's there, and a second, checked-luggage multi tool with pliers and longer blade in a leather pouch goes where ever we do.  This second knife is I think, an attempt to make up for the absence of the shilling and the penny.   


That knife, when it is not travelling on a boat or in a checked-in bag, has a home in the door pocket of the van and although I had a vague Idea that I'd got it out to stick in the bag, it's whereabouts were not apparent.


It seems that these days, a journey across the planet begins with at least two trips to visit the van, to pat it's little slumbering nose, ready loaded so it can be ready to take off at a moment's notice on our eventual return,  to retrieve a couple of things we'd forgotten we might need.


That knife it turned out was hiding, not in the van, but on my desk under the mound of papers that life in this paperless age dictates are necessary to travel across borders.   


The van resumed it's slumber, and with just one sleep to go until we depart, one of us sat about thinking about what he might need do next, printing eTickets and gathering paper, while the other simply got on with it, as is her way.

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