Home The Mill Reflections My Recipes This and That Toute Directions And Thereby Hangs A Tale Photo Album Comments Welcome E-Mail


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 forgotten.

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 interesting people.


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 people".

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. That?s magic!

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.


The Acapulco

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 Sambuca.

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 all.

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 characters.

Previous Page Next page