It’s been ages since I’ve blogged and even longer since we’ve been out of Australia but over the last couple of days we have safely, but wearily, travelled to the UK and we are now very comfortably settled into our home for the week in Freshford, a beautiful little village in Somerset. It’s just over the border from Wiltshire; which is why we are here.
Also with us are my Canadian cousin Kay & her husband Ben and my niece, Georgina (George as she likes to be called) and her husband Graeme from Geelong in Australia. They are all from a ‘Victoria’, just not the same one.
So why are we here? We three women are all descendants of Frederick Ernest ALLEY and Rose YORK and we have traced the ALLEY and YORK families back to somewhere around 1750 in Wiltshire. We are on a pilgrimage to go back in time and to visit the places where they lived and died. More of that in the following days.
George, Graeme, David & I travelled by train from Paddington to Bath Spa on the Bristol line on the Great Western Line through Swindon which was very relevant to our current search. There we met up with Kay & Ben and since our hire car wasn’t ready we caught taxis to our home for the week.
We have a delightful 6 bed home in Freshford and the whole area is so pretty. Here are the Victorians chatting (the men about football and the women sharing family pics) meanwhile David was catching up on the news from home
This is “The Freshford Inn” where we had a refreshing ale and a delcious dinner last night. David and I were very weary so we came home to bed (only 200m or so but very steep) and left the others to party.
It promises to be a wonderful week and we are all looking forward to tomorrow when we meet some of our relatives who still live in England. What fun!
It’s lovely to be home and we are so lucky to live on Brisbane’s Bayside. It’s a great spot. We’ve enjoyed catching up with our kids & grandkids who live locally and will have to plan a trip south to visit those in Sydney and Tasmania.
We are very glad we did the trip even though it was hard work in places. We had looked forward to it for so long as we booked it in 2019 for 2020 and now we have wonderful memories and beautiful photos to enjoy.
If only the jet lag would pass. I’d like to sleep my full eight hours in one stretch. Maybe tonight…
I’m writing this sitting up in Business Class on SingaporeAir. We left Zurich at 11:45am and it’s now 7:20pm in Switzerland and 1:20am in Singapore. We are somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed my glass of champagne before take-off and another when we were airborne. We had a delicious lunch served on board: Singapore Chicken Satay, followed by Marinated Shrimp with Pickled Melon. For the main course I had Gaeng Kiew Waan Talay (Thai style green curry seafood with vegetables and rice) and then for dessert, Apricot Tart with Balsamic Mousse. I hope it reads as good as it tasted.
Now we are meant to be sleeping and I’ve had two tries but my mind just says that I don’t sleep in the afternoon so I’ve watched Where the Crawdads Sing. I really loved the book and I enjoyed the movie. I’m also half way through Elvis and am enjoying that too. We missed them both at the theatre. I brought a book to read but when I started it, I realised that I’d already read it. Now that’s frustrating. I have plenty of books on my iPad so I could be reading them but it’s not the same.
This is such a long flight. It’s not much fun here but I can’t imagine what it’s like in economy. We still have another four hours to go. Ugh! Were the 30 days we had in Europe worth the pain of the flights? Of course they were!
I hear you asking what were the highlights. Without a doubt, the best part was the week we spent in Wiltshire with my cousin, Kay, my niece George and our patient men who gladly came along and participated in our family history quest. Then we had that wonderful day in Swindon when we caught up with cousin Wendy and our wonderful genealogical friend, Fran and met cousin Christine and many other cousins. I still haven’t sorted out in my mind who is whom in some cases. I’ll have to ask Wendy and Christine to put a name to all the people in the photos for me.
We visited all those beautiful places where our ancestors lived- Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Lacock…. It was wonderful and now I’ve got lots to do to record it all on my family tree.
The Swiss Mountain scenery was everything I hoped it would be and riding the trains through that scenery was great. It even snowed for us in St Moritz – the first snow of the season. I loved all of that. Every bit of it. It was stunning.
However, we were very disappointed with the Travel Marvel Alpine Train Tour. It was not run by Travel Marvel. They have an arrangement with Great Rail Tours who actually organise the tour. Our itinerary stated that Travel Marvel promise luxury travel of the highest standard and premium accommodation. Some of our hotels did not provide premium accommodation and the organisation of the tour left much to be desired. It was not luxury travel.
In the past, we’ve organised our own travel. In 2015, we travelled around Spain by train staying in appartments for six weeks and we had a great time. Managing your own luggage is difficult when you’re getting off on on trains, some with three steps and limited luggage storage aboard. We could do it then. But we are older now and have a few issues we didn’t have then. We were worried whether we could manage. So we booked a luxury tour with full porterage, thinking we’d pay someone to do the hard work for us. Except it wasn’t luxury travel and a lot of the time we had to manage our own luggage. It was very difficult for us. Other guests on the tour were very helpful and took care of us but we weren’t their responsibility.
We had thought that we might do a similar trip on the trains of New Zealand but we won’t be doing another Travel Marvel tour anywhere.
The weather was not kind today. I found a couple of warm, dry places to visit but neither opened until 2pm so we had a lovely restful morning in our room. Then we wandered out to find a lunch venue and we found a good one. David opted for a beef burger and I had pumpkin soup with lovely bread.
Then we wandered on in the rain to visit the police station. No, we were not in trouble. We went to visit the entry hall because, in 1927, Augusto Giacometti was commissioned to paint the walls and roof. It was amazing. We had to hand in our passport to be able to visit which was interesting but I had them with me because I’d read up on it. I thought it was great. David was not fussed. What do you think?
How could I not like it with all that red and orange?
There seem to be some lovely little alley ways but with the relentless rain,we didn’t dawdle.
The other place I wanted to visit was the Beyer Clock and Watch Museum underneath the Beyer shop in the Main Street. I love old clocks and this was the history of mankind’s efforts to measure time. The explanations were all in German but they give you an iPad to wander with and you can choose your language so we missed nothing. Very innovative and it was very interesting. Fascinating really but no photos to show you. I could have spent quite a few hours there.
To celebrate our last night in Switzerland, we went to a very pleasant restaurant called The King’s Cave, just down the street from the hotel. David chose the steak and a baked potato. I had the fish and ratatouille. Everything was very tasty. Interestingly on the menu they say where the food was sourced. The beef was all from Ireland and my fish, bass, was from Turkey. The shrimps (or prawns as we call them in Australia) came from Vietnam. We were serenaded by a pianist singing jazz songs. All in all, it was very pleasant.
Yesterday we left our very comfortable apartment in Bern and caught the Intercity train direct to Zurich. The journey seemed to be similar to the one between the Gold Coast and Brisbane- built up nearly all the way so it wasn’t as pretty as our other train trips here but it took only 52 minutes.
It’s wet and chilly here in Zurich. After we checked into the Hotel Bristol, we wandered off in the rain to find lunch. The cafe we chose looked just like a coffee shop but turned out to be a Sri Lankan Restaurant. David was not impressed but the lovely waitress took special care of him and he had samosa, rice and vegetables and was very happy. I had a madras curry so I was also happy.
We went wandering through the streets after lunch. It was wet and miserable but we did find another amazing chocolate shop where we treated ourselves to a couple of delicious Swiss chocolates.
After a nap (sorely needed as we have head colds – not Covid) we went looking for dinner but it was so cold and wet we went into the first place we came to. We had kebabs, quite tasty too. We can’t really complain about the weather as it was kind to us in the mountains – even giving us some snow.
Really starting to think about home now. We are ready and keen to get home to the family, including our lovely little dog, Snoopy.
Our landlord, Jürg, sent us codes to access tickets on my phone for free public transport around town for the duration of our stay. With that and Apple Maps we have been able to navigate our way around and go where we wanted to.
Today we set out to ride the fenicular up to Gurten Klum . It’s just a little hill and the ride is only about one km but it is quite steep. We planned to find a coffee and a sandwich but, no such luck. The casual dining was closed and we weren’t ready for another formal meal.
So we went back down and found a Chinese restaurant which was more what we felt like.
We’ve both had a nap this afternoon and I’ve almost completed the packing as tomorrow we catch the train to Zurich for a couple of nights before flying home on Thursday.
A couple of simple things annoy me when I’m travelling. I hate this idea of having a heavy quilt and no top sheet. Here, the rooms are heated anyway so you don’t need a thick quilt- not now anyway. I wake up in a lather of perspiration. Just give me a top sheet please. In hotels and appartments, you are given two towels, both identical in colour and design. There’s one small towel rack and not enough space to hang them. How are you supposed to tell who is using which one? Surely they could be different colours so you could tell which one you’re using. Two simple things; so easy to fix! Hotel Managers and AirBnB hosts please take note.
Yesterday we caught the bus to the Zenter Paul Klee, an art museum. We’d never heard of the artist but thought we’d have a look. It was not our cup of tea. It’s housed in an interesting building and we had a pleasant sandwich there for lunch.
On arrival back in the city we found more fountains.
And a Swiss Chocolate Shop. Switzerland is a very expensive place. Check out these few chocolates we spoiled ourselves with:
It was a day of extravagances! We had dinner at the Rosengarten Restaurant just near our AirBnB. It’s up on a hill and is renowned as the place to see the sun set over Berne. It had been raining on and off all day so we were a bit worried. Would there be a sunset? We were lucky.
The restaurant is quite lovely and we really enjoyed our meal. Our waiter was very pleasant and very professional and we would recommend it. After dinner it was a ten minute walk down the hill to bed. perfect!
It was raining quite heavily this morning when we woke so we had a lazy morning. We have a pass for free public transport so about 10 we caught the Number 10 bus into the city to the farmers markets, always a favourite of ours. We were particularly looking for white asparagus which David loves, but there was none to be found, sadly. I think the markets in France are more impressive than those here but the flowers were beautiful.
The markets were held in front of this lovely old building which was decorated with more pretty red geraniums.
Since Bern is known as the city of fountains, I’ve been taking pics of some of them. Apparently they all tell particular stories.
The weather chased us home again after we had salad baguettes for lunch. Just relaxing now!
After our shopping yesterday, I came back to the appartment looking forward to a cuppa but there was only coffee. Now I love a coffee or two in the morning but mid-afternoon I just want a cup of tea. So today when we arrived home from our wanders I went out to buy some English Breakfast tea and it tastes so good that I might have another.
The forecast is not looking good for the rest of our time here so we went to the Rosengarten this morning. It’s a very easy stroll from here and gives lovely views over the old town of Bern. Not many of the roses were in flower at this time of year but it was still an enjoyable walk.
There’s a lovely restaurant in the gardens and Jügh, our landlord, told us that it’s a wonderful spot to watch the sun set over the old town. We may not get the chance if the days are rainy.
We walked down into the old town very carefully over cobble stones. It was very steep. At the bottom of the hill is The Bear Pit. Legend says that Bern is named for the bears which have been here for centuries. They feature throughout the city; on walls, fountains and hanging from phone lines. The live ones look well fed but I’m not really in favour of caged animals.
Bern sits astride the River Aare which is fast flowing. Apparently once a year people jump in and float down stream. I’m not sure it would ever be warm enough for me to do that.
Einstein spent some time in Bern and the house he lived in has become a museum.
There are many beautiful buildings in the Old Town, some with flower boxes of red geraniums. They look so pretty.
I’ve never eaten fondue so we decided that today was the day. Jürg had recommended to go to Arlequin and we found it easily but we’re a bit worried as there were no other customers. It was OK but I can’t say it’s my favourite meal.
David was sorely in need of a haircut. His eyebrows were resembling those of a certain ex-prime minister of Australia so we’ve been on the lookout for a barber without much luck. Today we found a lovely young lady with time to make him presentable again. Only CHF70 or about AUD105. At home he pays $25. The two coffees we had at the restaurant at the Rosengarten cost us CHF12 or $18. Switzerland is certainly not a cheap place to visit. But it certainly is beautiful.
We managed to get ourselves to Bern quite easily. It’s just 52 minutes from Interlaken by train and we took our time at the hotel this morning. We dawdled over breakfast, had a wander up the street, finished our packing and caught a cab to the Interlaken OST train station for our midday train.
We had lunch near the station and caught a cab to our AirBnB where our landlord, Jürg, met us. It’s quite comfortable but there’s no washing machine and no TV. We haven’t had the TV on in our hotel rooms so we won’t miss that but a washing machine would be useful
David had a nap while I unpacked and then we walked around to the Coop where we stocked up. So tonight we had our first home cooked meal since we left Wiltshire. Tasty, it was too.
Early night tonight, I reckon. This time next week we will be up in the air on our way home. We will be ready for it.,
Yesterday evening we wandered down to the station at Interlaken Ost to buy our tickets for Bern and then Zurich so we are organised now for our remaining eight days in Switzerland. On the way back we went into a Chinese restaurant called Bamboo. It was very busy and we enjoyed our prawn dishes.
Today we decided to go for a wander through the shops in the old town and, of course, we stopped for ☕️ and 🍰 at the famous pastry maker, Schuh’s.
We then caught the funicular up to Harder Kulm which is 1323 m above sea level. It took about eight minutes to reach the top and seemed to go straight up. We had a perfect day for it! Actually the weather has been wonderful the entire time. We had lunch at the restaurant there – a burger for David and fish and chips for me – both true to form. Both very nice.
The view of Jungfrau from there was incredible and I loved it .
Being someone who finds going down on an escalator scary, I was worried about coming down in the funicular. I didn’t get a seat but I gripped the railing very hard and even managed to look down as we slowly moved back to ground level. I was very brave!
I let David go on ahead and went to spend a few minutes of calm in the Japanese garden next to our hotel. It is lovely and if we open our window we can hear the waterfall.
Rest time now before our final dinner with our friends on the tour.