Here he lies……….

This is a story about another of our relatives whose WWI story we followed when we were in France last month – Robert WACHMAN, David’s second cousin once removed.

Robert was born in Dublin Ireland in 1894 to Moshe WACHMAN and Seina (Sina Tzia bat Rachel Leah) JACKSON. This gets a bit complicated but Seina’s mother was Rachel Leah Wachman who married Urel Jackson. Rachel is the sister of David’s great grandmother Tsipe Wachman. If you’ve been following my blogs for a while, you’ll remember that this was the massive brick wall I had in trying to discover the link between Moshe and Tsipe. Well, we think there is a double link in that Seina is Moshe’s cousin. Anyway, as I said, that’s complicated. Enough to know that David and Robert WACHMAN are definitely cousins.

Moshe was born in Tels Lithuania in 1865 and Seina in 1871 in Memel (now Klapedia) Lithuanis. Somehow they both arrived in Dublin where they married in 1885 and started their family. Robert had two older brothers also born in Dublin – Abraham (1891) and Simon(1892). The family then migrated to Capetown South Africa where they had four more children – Edward (1899), Harry (1901), Albert (1903) and Saidie (1904).

They then migrated to Australia arriving in Albany Western Australia in May 1905. Ernest was born in Broken Hill on 7 May 1907 and Betty was born in Australia somewhere in 1909.

So, now to Robert, himself. in 1914 at the outbreak of war, he was a traveller, according to his army record. We presume that means what we used to call a “commercial traveller” and we get a further clue from an item in the Melbourne Herald on 28 May 1914 stating that he and his brother, Simon, applied for a patent (No 12757) for a “push coin vending machine”. I am unable to find further information on the success of this patent and I wonder if anything came of it.

He enlisted in the AIF at Blackboy Hill, east of Perth, on 25 November 1915 when he was 21 years 8 months old and living at 258 Newcastle Street Perth Western Australia. On 10 February 1916 he is shown as being a member of the 16th Battalion 15th Reinforcements. Blackboy Hill seems an interesting place. It was the birthplace of the Australian Infantry Force (AIF) in Western Australia and over 32 000 men did their basic training there for about 10 weeks before heading for Egypt or England. Because of the number of casualties on the battlefields, some battalions had up to 27 reinforcements of 100 men in training here, ready to head overseas. Robert was 5ft 7ins (170cm) tall and weighed 158lbs (72kg). He had black hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion and was of the Jewish faith and he noted that he was a British subject. I think this is because his father was naturalised in South Africa when he was still a minor. His next of kin was his mother, Seina who was living at 137 Lake St, Perth.

On 12 February in Freemantle he embarked on the HMAT A28 Miltiades and he shows on the Australian War Memorial Embarkation roll number as 23/35/3. He joined the 14th Battalion 16th reinforcements on 13 February 1916 and he disembarked at Port Suez on 11 March 16. On 14 May 1916 he was allotted to the 12th Training Battalion at Tel-el-Kabir and it was here that he was awarded 28 days punishment on 28 May for refusing duty and insolence to a Non-Commissioned Officer.

He was transferred to the 48th Battalion, part of the 12th Brigade 4th Division, on 2 June 1916, the day that he embarked on HMT Caledonia at Alexandria. He arrived in France at Marseille on 9 June and they went to the Nursery Sector, to an area around Bailleul, a French Flemish town close to the border with Belgium. The Nursery Sector was so named because it was supposed to be relatively quiet and an area where units new to the Western Front could be sent to get ready for trench warfare. Whilst here they visited the front line trenches at Houplines. In July they were under heavy shelling form the Germans in the Fleurbaix area and were moved by train from Bailleux to Doullens, about 100km south in the Somme.

In July 1916 there was intense fighting around Pozières in an attempt to capture Old German Lines (OGL) 1 & 2. By August 6 and after 10 days of fighting, the Australian 2nd Division had lost 6848 officers and men and it was replaced by the Australian 4th Division which included the 48th Battalion and Robert Wachman. On 8 August, they captured OG1 & OG2 but suffered heavy casualties with 102 killed, 404 wounded and 76 missing in action (MIA). Many were shell shocked and the battalion numbers were very low. They were moved to Albert on 16 August and marched to Warloy Baillon and then back to Albert but by the end of the month they were back near Pozières attacking Mouquet Farm.

On 2 September they were moved back to Albert and from there travelled to Belgium where they had huts and tents, were able to wash and change their socks. What a relief that must have been! They had a church parade – I wonder if there was a Rabbi amongst the chaplains? In October they were at Vierstraat in Belgium at the front but were not in the action. They were billeted in Boeschepe and then moved to Villers sous Ailly where they were also billeted. They were cleaning up the streets and here they were able to attend a concert which was held in a barn.

November saw them moved from Villers sous Ailly to Berthencourt where they were billeted and underwent training and then moved to Vaux which was a good area where they underwent training and even played football. They were then moved to Dernancourt where the billets were poor and extremely dirty. They were cold and wet. Then they moved to Fricourt and then to Switch Trench at Flers which was a very bad area where they dug trenches in the mud and water. They saw action at Flers and here conditions were so bad it was not possible to give the men a hot meal whilst in the firing line. Rain was torrential and the mud was up to the men’s knees. This was the start of the worst European winter for 40 years. To move from rear camps up to the front line with full pack on, the men could take 6 hours to cover the 3 kms so bad was the weather and the mud. Sleep was impossible in the trenches and men could have to remain standing for the full 24 hours as they couldn’t lie in the mud.

The 48th then moved back to Mametz in the mud over bad roads. In December they were in Dernancourt where they were visited by General Birdwood, the British Officer who was in command of the Australian and New Zealand Forces at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. The Battalion was moved to Flesselles and then to Vigancourt and in both places were billeted.

On New Years Day 1917, the Brigade held a sports day and the 48th was the successful battalion winning most events. On 2 January, they marched to Franvillers, a distance of 14 miles in full kit in 6.5 hours. The official war diary states that the men marched well – no one fell out. On 3 January, they marched from Franvillers to Dernancourt in 3.5 hours and again, no man fell out. On the 5th they marched for three hours to Fricourt along roads that were very difficult to march on and again no one fell out. Here they were joined by the 25th reinforcements. On this day, Robert Wachman is promoted to Corporal (Temporary). On the 6th, they marched to Bazentin, back near Flers, and took up lines near Gueudecourt. They moved forward then to support the lines at Bulls Road.

The war diary for the 8th is very interesting to read. All cooking was done in Flers and carrying parties carried the two meals per day to the men in the trenches. This took 3 hours each way each meal. The men were also given hot soup at 3am. Their wet socks were sent back daily and dry ones provided. On the 9th, an easier route was found for the carrying parties and the return trip took only 2.5 hrs. There was heavy artillery fire from the German lines.

On the 10th, it appears that there was debate about how the meals should be delivered efficiently but there is conviction that without hot food helping to keep the men warm and fed, they would not be efficient. Army rations would not be enough. On the 12th enemy artillery fire is heavy and three men are killed – one is buried for 7 hours under debris. Some men are suffering from trench feet with the extreme cold even with the dry socks.

By January 12, the problem with trench feet had become worse with two men evacuated. The other sufferers go to the Battalion Rest Station where the Medical Officer is pleased with the results of a new powder they have been issued with. The porters carrying supplies leave at 5pm and finish their second trip about 5am as it all has to happen under the cover of darkness. Three men are evacuated with mumps. The 15th saw heavy shelling and headquarters was hit and a store containing gum boots was blown up. After 10 days at the front, the 48th was relieved by the 47th at 7:45pm. The men moved to Brisbane Camp and there was a heavy fall of snow.

On January 19, fatigues arrived and all men had a bath and a clean set of clothes. All rifles were cleaned and inspected. I can’t begin to imagine how good that must have felt. I imagine it took a lot of soaking and scrubbing to remove the mud from their poor tired bodies.

On 24th they moved into Bazentin Camp where it was still very cold and the snow was still on the ground. The men worked on the roads and the rail tracks. The diary of the 31st states that the Australians are not used to the extreme cold and they need sufficient fuel to allow them to have a stove to keep them warm and get them ready for their next tour of duty. The lack of sufficient food and heating is not good.

In February, the 48th continued with the railway work and moved to the Albury Camp, to the Flers Sector and then to Bulls Trench and back to Mametz.

During March the weather was still extremely cold and the men were busy cleaning arms and equipment and training. They were wet and cold. On March 17, Robert Wachman was promoted to Corporal.

On 1 April, they marched 6 miles into to an area near Bapaume with full pack and one blanket. It was wet and cold. The men then worked on fatigues. The officers undertook some training on the 5th and then inspected the frontlines at Bullecourt and Noreuil on the 6th. They arranged to relieve the 52nd and did so on the 8th. The next day was quiet and some patrols went out into enemy wire at Bullecourt and discovered that the barbed wire was strong. Bullecourt was part of the German’s defence lines known as the Hindenburg Line and the Allies wanted to break through thi s line

On April 10, the 46th and 48th Battalion were ordered to attack enemy lines on a frontage of 600 yards. The battalions were to be in position to attack in conjunction with the tanks at 4:30am. There was to be no artillery fire so as to surprise the Germans. But the tanks failed to appear and orders to retire were given at 5:30. This had to happen in daylight in full view of the enemy. There was a barrage of enemy fire and five men were killed and 17 wounded.

The attack on Bullecourt did take place on April 11. It was timed to occur at 4:20 but the tanks were late and slow at moving forward so the 48th couldn’t attack until 6:19. This meant that the men were exposed to heavy rifle and machine gun fire and the battalion suffered heavy losses – 14 Officers and 421 men. They breached the enemy position and held it for 70 minutes despite the withdrawal of the other battalions on their flanks. They retired in an orderly manner but were unable to collect the wounded and the dead. A very sad day for Australia.

Sadly, Corporal Robert Wachman was one left behind. He was reported Missing in Action (MIA) on 11 April 1917. He was one of the 3000 casualties of that battle. Another 1170 men were taken prisoner.

The field at Bullecourt where it is thought that Robert’s body lies.

His brother Simon who was in the Transport Section of the 44th Battalion was making enquiries in July 1917 to try to find out what happened to his brother.

His mother, Seina, was his next of kin and on 23 January 1918 she wrote to the army requesting information on Robert’s whereabouts as she had been informed that he was MIA. She received an answer on 30 January saying that there was no further information.

It wasn’t until the 8 March 1918 that Simon received notification that Robert had been killed on 11 April. The Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau Files contain a statement by Second Lieutenant Brockelberg that Corporal Wachman was badly hit and subsequently died at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917. It’s awful to think of those men lying wounded in that dreadful field and being left behind as their mates retreated.

His effects were returned to his mother on 21 February 1918. All she received were some letters and a book of views (postcards maybe?). She received a pension of 30 shillings per fortnight.

A memorial to the Bullecourt Digger
A digger wearing full pack at the Bullecourt Memorial

He was entitled to two medals: the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and although Seina was his next of kin, his medals were sent to his father, Moshe, on 23 January 1923 as that was the law at that time.

Robert’s name on the Australian War Memorial at Villers Bretonneux. Myriam of Walkabout Digger Tours and David Edelman are pointing to his name during our visit in April 2019.

Visiting the battlefields and war cemeteries of the Somme and learning the stories of those brave men who suffered so much in the mud and the cold under enemy fire is heartbreaking. The noise must have been deafening, the smell horrible, their homesickness overwhelming, the mud suffocating, the cold and wet intolerable….. How did they do it?

I wonder what Robert would have achieved if he had made it home? Would his patent for a push coin vending machine have been developed? What else would he have patented?

If you think about all the young men and women killed in wars and you ponder what they collectively could have achieved, it really is mind-blowing. What a waste!

One of so many young men who didn’t come home

Charles Brooke BURGESS was born in Werribee Victoria Australia around August 1893. His parents were Brooke BURGESS and Elizabeth HEATH and Brooke was the brother of my great grandfather, Joseph BURGESS. So Charles was my first cousin twice removed.

In 1914 Charles was working as a signwriter at Buckle Bros in Melbourne, having served a three-year apprenticeship. When war broke out in August 1914, the Naval and Expeditionary Forces were formed to assist the country in seizing or neutralising German territories in the Pacific and Charles joined this volunteer group on 14 August .

Charles in his naval uniform

On 1 July 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Infantry Forces 30th Battalion. At that time he was 5ft 5in tall (166cm) tall and weighed 10st 5lbs (54kg) so he was quite a small man. He had a fair complexion, fair hair, blue eyes and tattoos on both arms. His regimental number was 1047. He listed his religion as church of England. The 30th Battalion was formed in Liverpool NSW and was made up almost entirely of men from Newcastle and country NSW but one whole unit was almost entirely made up of former RAN ratings from Victoria.

On 9 November 2015 Charles was on the HMAT Beltana leaving Sydney and heading for Suez where he disembarked on 11 December 1915. On 18 March he was promoted to Lance Corporal. Whilst in Egypt the Battalion underwent training – it seems there was insufficient accommodation for them in France at this time. He left Alexandria on the HMAT Honorata on 16 June and disembarked in Marseille France on 23 June, having been promoted to Corporal on the 18.

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to be able to tour the Somme with Myriam of Walkabout Digger Tours and she took us to all the relevant places and told us the story of his war. I’d like to share it with you.

The battalion was moved to the front and its first major battle took place at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. Initially, they were involved in providing carrying parties for supplies and ammunition but were soon involved in the heavy fighting. This was the worst 24 hours in Australia’s military history with 5533 casualties on one night. Brigadier General, H.E. “Pompey” Elliot stated that it was a “tactical abortion”. The 30th lost 54 men, Killed in Action (KIA), 224 wounded and 68 missing in action. What must have that been like for Charles and all the others? I can’t imagine!

During the rest of 1916 the battalion was rotated in and out of the front but took no part in any major action. Charles suffered from trench feet which must have been horrible. He was hospitalised and on 7 December 1916 he was on the hospital ship Newhaven at Calais being transferred to the 3rd London General Hospital. He stayed there until 30 March when he was transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital. Trench foot is a medical condition caused by long exposure of the feet to damp, cold and unsanitary conditions. It wasn’t until 4 May that he was released from hospital and given a furlough. On 21 May he was required to report to Perham Downs which was a command depot for men who had been wounded or were ill and had been discharged from hospital. He remained in England and on 17 January 1918 he marched into the overseas training brigade of the 30th Battalion at Longbridge Deverill in Wiltshire.

He left Longbridge on 7 February for Southampton and then onto Le Havre in the Normandy region of France and then to rejoin the 30th Battalion on 15 February. During this month the battalion was mainly engaged in improving the trenches in the area near Messines in West Flanders in Belgium.

In March, they were involved in raiding parties & training at Wulvergham Camp and were moved to Neuve Eglise then to Hazebrouck and then to Douleens by train and then by bus to Bus les Artois, Authie and Vauchelle in Northern France.

At the beginning of April 1918 the battalion was in Vauchelle and were training. They then moved to Bois de Gentelles (Genteel Wood) via Daours on 5 April where they were reinforcing the lines at Bois de Gentelles.

Bois de Gentelles in the distance where Charles was killed

On 7 April, Charles was behind the lines having a shave and a man called Medhurst was having a wash when an enemy plane flew overhead and dropped a bomb which killed them both and another man.

On the afternoon of the 7th they was buried in the local community cemetery at Boves by the Church of England Chaplain. Padre Hicks.

Charles’ headstone in the cemetery at Boves

The Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry bureau Files, 1914-18 War for 1047 Corporal Charles Brooke Burgess contain these eye witness accounts of his death.:

Burgess and Medhurst were out on a pack guard some time in April, they were killed outright by a bomb from an aeroplane sometime in April. There was every opportunity for burial. It happened in a wood between Blancy-Trombelle and Boves (near Villers-Bretonneux). Cpl Burgess shaving at the time and Medhurst was having a wash. (Informant was Dvr. H.L.Kay 2372, 30th AIF Transport, University Hospital, Southampton on 18 July 1918.)

Burgess and Methurst were together in the transport lines at Gentile Wood between Villers-Bretonneux and Boves when I saw them killed by an aerial torpedo about 11am on April 7th. They were buried that afternoon in two graves side by side. The service was taken by the Padre of the Battalion. A small cross was put over each grave but as far as I know not a battalion cross. I was quite close at the time and attended the funeral. Description: Corporal A Coy 1 Platoon. Came from Melbourne and been in Naval Reserve out there. Always called “Charlie”. (Informant was Pte Charles Edward Ellis, 2nd Platoon A Coy 30 AIF, Tapsbury St Albans. July 22nd 1918.)

In his will, Charles left his worldly goods to his mother. His effects were sent home to her,

Details of his effects from his war service record.

Wouldn’t I love to see those diaries! I wonder if Elizabeth kept them. Could they still exist in someone’s collection? I have so many questions. Who were the photos of? Did he have a girlfriend somewhere? Did he meet someone in the 14 months he was in England being treated for his trench feet and recuperating? I wonder did he use his signwriting skills to do directional signs for troop movements in France?

Searching on Trove, I found the following entries in the family notices of the Argus under the heading: DIED ON SERVICE

Family Notices (1918, April 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 1. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1653387

BURGESS.- Killed in action April 7, 1918, Corpl. Charles Brooke, dearly beloved eldest son of Brooke and Elizabeth Burgess, and brother of Clara, Mary, Harry, Jack, Jim, Maggie, and Annie, aged 24 years, after 3 years and 7 months active service. (Inserted by his loving father, mother, brothers, and sisters, 164 Melbourne road,North Williamstown.)

BURGESS.– In memory of our dearly loved nephew and cousin, Corporal Charles Burgess, killed in action, April 7, 1918.There is a link death cannot sever;Love and remembrance live forever.–(Inserted by Mr. and Mrs. J. Burgess, Tib, and May.)

BURGESS.- In loving remembrance of Cpl. Charles Brook Burgess, killed in action 7th April, 1918.”Underneath are the everlasting arms.”–(Inserted by George S., Lydia, and Amy S. Wilkinson, 36 Alma terrace, Newport.)

Thus, he was mourned by his family who received the following medals on his behalf after the war: 1914/1915 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Star.

A poor substitution for a loved son, brother and cousin!

If you can’t beat them, join them!

And so today we wandered La Ramblas with all the other tourists!

I loved the flowers – roses, orchids etc and herbs as well. We were surprised to see a couple of Australian native plants. Can you spot them?

Many people wander the streets trying to sell items to tourists but they don’t appear to have much success. You see a variety of people dressed as characters and posing for photos with the crowd, hoping for donations and these seem to be more successful. Standing still all day in the costume and war paint must be difficult.

There were two demonstrations in the street. One around the statue of Columbus appeared to be part of the feminist movement and the other was something to do with Russia. Not being able to read Spanish particularly well, we weren’t really sure.

Here we are doing the ultimate tourist activity – lunching in La Ramblas with a huge glass of sangria and watching the passing parade.

Our last full day in Europe! We’ve had a wonderful time and we feel very lucky to have been here. Will we return? If so, when will that be? Who knows? But we have loved being here.

Tomorrow we begin that long flight home.

The Basque Coast of Spain is so pretty

We are still in Bilbao’s port, Getxo and this morning I went for a beautiful walk along the waterfront. David wasn’t feeling energetic so he spent the morning reading.

It is quite cool and there’s a very strong wind blowing but thankfully it is sunny. My new bubble coat has come in very handy these last couple of days.

The tourist information lady said there’s a lovely old fishing village to walk around and I thought I’d do that. When you see the steps up to it, you’ll see why I just walked along the promenade below. Life wouldn’t have been easy for the fishermen here, as it wasn’t for my ancestors in Port Isaac.

Hills surround Getxo on three sides and they are covered with lush green vegetation. The beach is wide and sandy but I didn’t venture onto it as the wind was blowing up a lot of sand.

The Marina is a lovely ship. It takes around 1200 passengers and was launched in 2011. Later this year it is going in for a refurbishment so it will be all spruced up. We love travelling on it and all of the crew are superb.

Those are the steps to the fishing village. Too much for my old knees, I reckon!

See that red and white house on the top of the cliff. I reckon that would be a great retirement home for me. Great see views! And it’s red! But look at those steps to get up to it! Oh well, never mind.

So I love the Basque Coast of Spain. San Sebastián and Getxo are both so pretty. I’m sad we missed seeing the French Basque Coast but still we are so lucky to be here.

Frank Couch, The Titanic and Southhampton’l

My maternal great grandparents migrated from Port Isaac in Cornwall (Port Wen of Doc Martin fame) to Melbourne Australia in 1862. Elizabeth Couch and Isaac Hawker had just newly married and had a baby son when they boarded The Accrington. They had worked as farm labourers at Roscarrock farm but all the males in Elizabeth’s family were fishermen, mariners or master mariners.

Elizabeth’s father was Francis Couch and her brother, Francis had a son, Frank Couch, making Frank my first cousin three times removed. Sorry, that became a little complicated. Anyhow, I claim him. He was born in 1884 but he died in 1912. That’s right. He was Able Seaman Couch which means he was an experienced sailor, as you would expect growing up in Port Isaac with his background, and he was in a lifeboat of The Titanic. The lifeboat sank, he died and is buried in Halifax, Canada.

Hence I’m interested in all things Titanic.

In Southampton, there is a both a park and a museum dedicated to The Titanic.

David didn’t want to explore and I thought the museum would be closed on Good Friday. We even had breakfast in the hotel because we thought everything would be closed. Anyway, I asked at the desk where the park was and the guy sent me off around the corner and up the main road. I don’t know if I misunderstood his accent or what but I ended up walking through a footpath of weeds which included nettles trying to grab me.

A couple of ladies who were at reception had said to head for the old church tower so I retraced my steps and headed for the tower. Thankfully it was at the museum.

To my surprise, Sea City Museum was open so in I went. I found Frank’s name on the list of crew. I had a quick walk through and took a heap of photos. (We are currently moored off St Peter’s Port and the internet is weak at the moment so I can’t seem to load photos. I’ll post them later.)

I then wandered through the old town which was lovely. All the shops were open and it was market day. With four ships in port, I guess they couldn’t afford not to open. I mislaid myself at that stage but eventually found David at the Ibis

Then we checked out and caught an Uber to the Gate 10 where we boarded the Oceania Marina, our favourite ship for our fourteen night cruise to Barcelona.

We’ve had a lovely first night – great dinner & a very enjoyable performance by one of the ship’s entertainers singing and dancing to some of the tunes from musical movies.

Shortly we will ride the tender across to explore St Peter’s Port. I’m looking forward to it.

The secrets of The Marais, the old Jewish Quarter

We’ve wandered the old Jewish quarters of quite a few European cities and we always find them interesting. Today we did a walking tour with a young man named Emmanuel who grew up in a Jewish Family but is not a practicing Jew. His grandparents managed to escape Paris to America in 1942 because he was a physicist. Emanuel is a film maker & photographer and he personalised the tour by talking about specific people. It was very interesting.

Firstly we noticed the beautiful cakes in the window of the shop where we met. There a family from San Francisco joined us for the tour. We returned to this shop at the end of the tour to catch our metro but, of course, we took home some goodies to have with our cup of tea when we got home.

There are many beautiful old buildings in this area. Originally Dukes & wealthy people lived in them but during the revolution many escaped or were killed, leaving their homes empty and they became neglected and dilapidated making them cheap to rent. Jews migrating from Eastern Europe came to France as it had a policy of freedom of religion and they took up residence here.

The plaque above is a Memorial to the family who lived in this house in 1942 but were deported and exterminated because they were Jewish.

We were permitted to enter this synagogue which was used by Jewish people during World War II when they were not allowed to worship under the Occupation of the Nazis. It was a secret synagogue and is still used today. A young man was there studying the Torah.

It was lunch time and there were long queues at some shops which all sold kosher food.

During the occupation this was a Jewish school but the students were not taught any traditional Jewish learnings. One of the teachers was Joseph Migneret who assisted 252 of his pupils to escape from the Nazis and this plaque honours him. I think that number is right but I could be wrong.

The street below had its name changed to honour non Jewish French citizens who assisted Jews to escape the Holocaust and did this without any prospect of payment. As you can see there are many names on the wall of the street which honours them. It is the Street of The Just.

Emmanuel had planned to finish the tour at Notre Dame but all the streets are closed off. I imagine this is to allow investigation of the fire and to begin the clean up and rescue of whatever can be saved. David and I went as close as we could to get the following photo

And I’m very happy to report that I found a very delicious, traditional onion soup and now I feel we can leave Paris happy tomorrow. We’ve been to Giverny to see those spectacular gardens of Monet. We’ve seen his wonderful work in Musée de L’Orangerie and his work as well as that of the other impressionists in the Museé D’Orsay and at the Foundation Louis Vuitton. We’ve had our incredible day in the Somme with Myriam discovering the story of our family members who fought in WWI.

We’ve bought and eaten delicious food from the markets and restaurants. We’ve wandered some interesting streets and laneways. We’ve loved our cute little apartment and tomorrow it is time to move on. Will we ever return to Paris? Who knows. But I can tell you that I love Paris in the Spring time – in fact anytime!

Cruising with Oceania Cruises

We love cruising with Oceania! The food is amazing and the crews are so helpful and so friendly – always up for a joke – and they call you by name which is just so nice.

We have cruised on three of their beautiful ships, the Regatta and the Sirena (two of the smaller ones taking 684 passengers) and the Marina which can take 1250 passengers and has 750 crew to take care of you.

Our first Oceania experience was cruising the Baltic on the Marina in 2016. Previous to this, we had done several river cruises and cruised the Mediterranean on the Queen Elizabeth in 2012. We wanted to cruise the Baltic and we were looking for a cruise that visited the ports of Riga in Latvia and Klapedia in Lithuania because David’s family migrated to Australia from that area around 1888. How lucky were we that the ship we found on that route was the Marina? We had a wonderful time. The crew were so much fun and they made us feel that they were enjoying the cruise as much as we were.

In February 2017 we cruised on the Sirena from Papeete in Tahiti to Sydney in Australia. Unfortunately we encountered some unpleasant weather but the crew were very helpful and we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the cruise.

Last year, our cruise to Alaska on Regatta ended very prematurely because I became ill and was taken off the ship at Ketchikan & flown by air ambulance to Bellingham in Washington State. The lovely doctor and nurse on the ship looked after me so well as did all of the medical staff and ambulance staff that took care of me. Even the passengers on the ship were amazing. I was bleeding internally and may have needed a blood transfusion so the doctor put out a call for passengers prepared to give the right type of blood to come to the surgery and, even though it was 9:30 on a Friday night, many people came and donated their blood. I found this very humbling. If you read this blog and you were one of those people, I thank you very sincerely.

You’ve probably heard or seen Oceania’s claim to “The Finest Cuisine at Sea” and you may be wondering if it’s true. Well, as I mentioned earlier most of our ocean cruises have been with Oceania so we can’t really confirm the truth of that claim. But what we can tell you is that we love the food and the total dining experience. We love that there is no extra charge for eating in the speciality restaurants. We love that we can go on line a few weeks before a cruise and book our nights in those speciality restaurants. We love that you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Grand Dining Room any time you please during the hours it is open. We love that you can sit anywhere and choose to share your table with friends or with strangers or sit by yourselves and have a romantic dinner for two. We love that they cater to people with particular dietary needs without fuss.

Lobster in Polo Grill
Dessert in Red Ginger

Unless we have an early excursion, we love to have a long leisurely breakfast in the Grand Dining Room where David loves to order the grilled lamb chops. We love the grilled lobster served in the Polo Grill. What I really love is anything on the menu in Red Ginger, the Asian Restaurant. The decor is red and black and the food is simply amazing. That’s my favourite! We tend to have lunch in the Waves Grill so that we can have a smaller snack rather than a big meal but there are so many delicious choices in the buffet that we do still have a larger lunch that we planned. This is why we have never made it to afternoon tea which is highly recommended by others. On Oceania, Barista’s serves great Illy flat whites and all tea, coffee and soft drinks are included.

On 19th April we will be back on the Marina for a 14 day cruise from Southhampton to Barcelona. We’ve booked our restaurants and sorted out our port days and are counting the days – but before that we have seven lovely days in Paris. How lucky are we?