This section is not "My holiday photographs"
nor is it the old school essay favourite "What I did on my holidays". It
is my impressions of the places we have visited but most of all the people
we met. Memories of places dim with time. I can?t even remember how many
times we have been to France, or Spain either for that matter. The place
names in some cases have gone from my memory probably never to return but
the people we met are truly memorable and will never be
The title "Toutes Directions" comes from
being lost in France, (good title for a song that), when every road we came
up to seemed to bear the legend "Toutes Directions", somewhere near Rennes
it was, if my memory serves me right.
Remember when travelling it?s the people who
make the place and the place that makes the people.
I doubt if theses pages will ever be truly
finished as we hope to continue our travels and our endeavours to meet
The Romantic Rhine
It was on our first foreign holiday as man
and wife that we learned a valuable lesson that has been the watchword for
all our later foreign holidays. "You do not go abroad to meet English
In those days our car was not reliable enough
to contemplate travelling further than the next county let alone another
country unless you were a highly proficient mechanic which I am not. So we
booked a 6 day coach tour of the "Romantic Rhine".
Having spent eighteen months of my National
Service at Oldenburg and Schleswig Holstein it was, I suppose, a touch of
apprehension which led me to choose a country with whose language and food I
was familiar and comfortable.
The coach trip in itself was a revelation due
to the couple behind us who happened to hail from Lincolnshire. In itself
irrelevant, apart from the fact he must have been England?s foremost
authority on tractors- not one was missed by our doughty tractor spotter
and having been spotted was described loudly in the minutest detail. He
"entertained" us for the whole journey and was thereafter studiously
avoided on all future excursions by the rest of the party. The other
amusement of the journey was when my wife loudly commented that the town
of "Ausfahrt" must be very big because of the number of roads that were
signposted to it.
The tractor man?s wife herself caused some
consternation later in the holiday when she announced that it was her
birthday and it was a big one. The coach "smoothie" having decided it was
her 60th congratulated on her 50th birthday only to be met by a look that
could sour milk at forty paces as she informed him she was celebrating her
40th birthday. Exit one very red "smoothie". To be fair she was the oldest
forty year old I have ever seen.
On the journey, rule one of how to survive
coach travel was formulated. When leaving the coach for a meal stop always
be last off and turn in the opposite direction to the rest of the party
who invariably head off in a herd. This way you stand a good chance of
mixing with the people who actually live there; the people who you have
come to see and meet with.
We arrived at our destination, Koblenz,
renowned for the confluence where the Rhine and the Moselle join. Join
might be a too strong a word, they share the same river bed but the waters
of the Moselle are distinctly cleaner than the Rhine and it is several
miles before the Moselle loses her virginity and allows her waters to
mingle into one colour.
Memories of the Romantic Rhine and Mystical
Moselle are memories of the mists being gradually burnt off the Moselle by
the early morning sun and the sheer size of the mighty Rhine. Of small
pretty flower decked villages kept apart by miles of vineyards. Of Bad
Emms a spa town where you could "take the waters" a few yards from the
gents subterranean urinals, an invitation we declined. It was a
picturesque setting for a wine filled relaxing holiday.
The life and soul of the trip was a memorable
retired headmistress who had decided to grow old extremely disgracefully.
This lady applied her makeup with a skill that even a master plasterer
would find hard to achieve. Each evening we would be taken to a different
beer or wine garden. Each night she would indulge in dancing, usually
alone unless there was a local clad in Leder-Hosen available, singing
raucous songs and telling jokes of a doubtful nature always at an
uncontrolled level of decibels. Later she would have to be helped back
onto the coach protesting loudly that the night was young and she wasn?t
ready to leave. At breakfast the following morning she was always first to
arrive no sign of a hangover, makeup carefully ladled on and during the
course of the meal she would go round apologising for any embarrassment
her unremembered antics might have caused. One of life?s true characters,
one I shall never forget.
We weren?t to know it then but this was the
start of our love affair with Europe
The crazy golf man
Just outside the campsite, can?t remember
which one but I think it was Estartit, was an unremarkable wooden building
similar to a cricket pavilion. In front of it a crazy golf course and next
to that golf course a couple of floodlit tennis courts. Inside the open
fronted wooden building is a plain wooden bar with a line of bar stools,
outside is parked a battered Land Rover. The owner of the Land Rover, a
man clad in denim shorts and a casual faded shirt, is the owner of the
wooden building. In this building he makes crepes, omelettes, filled
baguettes and serves drinks. It is a place where the lonely come off the
camp. But he has a great gimmick.
Those little metal puzzles beloved by
Christmas crackers manufacturers, you know the ones you have to unlink, he
has had them made up by a blacksmith into much larger versions some 12
inches or more across. When he has several lonely people seated, drinking
at his bar he casually tosses a couple of these puzzles on the bar and
with in a matter of minutes several lonely people have become friends as
they struggle to solve the puzzle. But the main puzzle has been solved for
them by the magic of these metal puzzles they are no longer lonely.
Later you will see them playing crazy golf
and arranging to meet again all because of a few bits of bent metal.
I saw the owner in the local town one day,
smartly dressed and getting out of a shiny new looking Porsche and
commented on the change. He shrugged and said it?s all about ambience I
have to look like a beach bum or it just doesn?t work.
An Englishmen abroad at peace with his world
making money curing people of the curse of loneliness.
It was on a camping holiday at Ca?savio that we met Marco, Lorenzo and Dimitri.
On the first night of our holiday we strolled
into the small town seeking somewhere to have our evening meal. We passed
several restaurants, posh and beyond our pocket, before we came across the
Acapulco, the delicious aromas coming from the kitchens enticed us in.
After a while a waiter sauntered over
"I am Marco I am your waiter" he said in English with a heavy Italian
accent. We explained we were having trouble with the menu. He suggested a
glass of wine while we went through it together. The wine was brought and
he pulled up a chair, I offered him a cigarette which he excepted and he
patiently went though the menu with us. Order completed he enquired about
wine, I asked for a favourite of mine Barolo. Marco expressed regret
Barolo is hard to get and the Acapulco hasn?t any, no matter we settle for
a Chianti Classico. The meal was superb and later as our coffees are
brought to us Marco asks have we ever tried
We confessed we hadn?t. He fetched two glasses
of clear white liquid each with a coffee bean in it and each flaming. With
some trepidation we tried the liquid which will never be one of our
favourites but was drinkable in a fiery sort of way. We sat with Marco for
a while drinking coffee smoking my cigarettes. He told us of his life, how
he had learnt English whilst waiting at a restaurant in London. How he now
spent the summer at the Acapulco and the winter at a restaurant in
Cortina. He told us how knackered (a word he picked up in London) he got
and no that wasn?t a hint. My wife told him in England we said cream
crackered. We heard him during the week telling various customers, with a
smile on his face, how cream crackered he was. Funnily enough when the
bill eventually arrive neither the initial glasses of wine or the Sambuca
was on it, when we mentioned the oversight Marco merely shrugged. We knew
we had found our place to eat for the week we were there.
The next night as we entered the restaurant
Marco pointed us towards a table. After a while he approached us with a
bottle of wine and three glasses sat himself down, poured three glasses of
wine and helped himself to one of my cigarettes which I had laid on the
table and again went through the menu explaining and guiding us. On his
suggestion we left the choice of dessert to him. The meal was again superb
and the pudding he had chosen was a confection of cream, nuts and Amaretto
which again he had set fire to. It was delicious.
We explained we wouldn?t be in the next
evening because we were off to Venice. He looked horrified, "Venice much
expensive" he exclaimed and summoned another waiter, there was much
shrugging, gesticulating and rapid Italian before he told us the other
waiter Lorenzo was a Venetian and he would help us. Another wine glass was
fetched and amid much doing and don?ting sketches were produced which
resulted in a truly wonderful day in Venice seeing all the tourist
attractions as well as some of the less grand parts where the Venetian?s
live, eat and shop. We were the only ones not complaining on our return of
the expense of Venice and the cost of meals.
Marco had told us that Thursday was his day
off but when we arrived he was there, minus his white apron, again he
showed us to what was now "our table", fetched a bottle and three glasses
sat down lit one of my cigarettes and we went through the menu ritual.
After we had eaten another excellent meal an oversized champagne bowl was
brought from the kitchen containing lashings of cream and what looked like
a small mountain of strawberries topped of with lit sparklers. Marco
produced three spoons and we proceeded to demolish this calorie filled
confection of delight. At another table a party of finger clicking
Americans sent over a large loud man to find out why wasn?t Marco serving
them, they had made it obvious they were demanding attention. Marco stood
and told them it was his day off and he had come in to look after his
friends and then sat down and ignored them.
After the meal Lorenzo joined
us and enquired of our day in Venice. We told him how much we had enjoyed
it and how much better his guidance had made our day. Talk somehow got
round to the chef. Marco and Lorenzo, amid much giggling and waggling of
their little fingers said you mean Dimitri the Pizza cook. Some time
later, long after the official closing time, Dimitri who was tall, very
thin and the colour of his own uncooked pastry joined us and we talked of
life in Italy, favourite and hated customers, the pace of life in other
countries, how much better Italian cuisine was than anywhere else,
including France in their opinion. This was the latest night of the
holiday, by the time they let us go it was hardly worth going to bed at
Our next visit was our last. it was time to go home. The performance
with Marco was as before except for one final act of kindness. When he had
brought our main course he produced a bottle from behind his back. It was
Barolo. He explained it had "fallen off back of lorry". Later he told us
his brother worked in another larger restaurant and he had uhm well
liberated it. We reluctantly bid our farewells to three thoroughly nice
Italians and thought how much we had learnt about ordinary Italian life
and how much you miss if you don?t try to be friendly.
Marco, Lorenzo and Dimitri three memorable