Visit to U.K., France, Belgium and The Netherlands (1983)

Returning from Paradise in April 1993, after hibernating from the Canadian winter for about three months, I was invited by Ron and Maureen to join them in England and, also to take in a short tour of Europe visiting Paris France, Brussels Belgium, and Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

I left Brandon at 4.50 p.m. for Winnipeg by car, and took off for London Heathrow at 8.15 p.m. by "Air Canada", in June 1993. The overnight service and flight just perfect.

Got into London at 10.00 a.m. and was met at the airport by Maureen. No problems at all with customs etc. and joined the underground train for Maureen's home in Greenford. Ron joined us later in the day after his work.

Called Sonny Barrow and chatted with him and Joyce. Called Cathy and chatted with her. Went walking around the home area during the evening, to re-acquaint myself with the old surroundings.

Today, 29th June 1993, I go to have lunch at her workplace in their restaurant. It was a "Smorg" type meal, and truly delightful. I was afterwards introduced to her supervisor and other workers in her office. Leaving her at work, I made my way home via a visit to Selfridges in Oxford Street, where I finally got some of my favourite white Cheddar cheese.  During the evening I was taken to an "Amway" meeting at the home of the Wests.

Wednesday 30th June. Visited Cathy at her home in Turnpike Lane and met her husband Cecil and her small son Christian. Spent a couple of hours with them.

Thursday 1st July. I go to Wembley Central with Maureen to shop. What a difference there is now in this once very familiar area!

On Friday Paul comes down to Eastcote Avenue to spend a couple of days with us. He cooks a really fine meal for us on Saturday, and we certainly appreciate and enjoy it. Later in the day, Maureen's friend, Esme Broumpton, visits us and will spend the night here. She is a part of our group for the six day tour of Belgium, Holland and France.

Sunday, 4th July 1993. Ron, Maureen, Esme and I take off for our trip at 10.30 a.m. We travelled by the Underground system to a collection point, where the entire group of about forty met, then we were all bussed to Dover, where we boarded the Channel ferry and crossed over to Calais. This boat was a great big "Sea-Link" (P & O) and very comfortable.

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Reaching Calais, we joined our coach "Cosmos", and travelled all the way along the English channel coast to Brussels, where we spent that night. Did not get into our hotel until midnight as the traffic was very heavy.

A good night's sleep followed by a rather excellent breakfast, after which we toured Brussels. As you know. Brussels is now the capital city of the European Community, and this was duly pointed out to us by our guide. We visited a world famous chocolate factory, and was given a demonstration of lace manufacture which was invented by this country. We further did the whole city. after which we drove into Holland and arrived at the Pullman hotel in Amsterdam at about 6.00 p.m. After a delightful dinner here at 7.30 p.m. I telephoned some old family friends of ours, the Nobregas, who now live in Enidhoven. Kathleen, born Barrow, was an old flame of mine in our teenage years, and I had a good chat with her and her husband Jules.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 6th July, 1993, we plan to do the canal ride through Amsterdam, lasting for one whole hour. Glass-topped boats with all-glass sides are used as we pass through the heart of this great city, viewing the various types of massive buildings which line both sides of the canal.

At various intersections, roads cross the canal, and we run through the created tunnel where the boat goes under the roads which cross.

We do the famous Rijksmuseum, in which are displayed some wonderful paintings of Rembrandt and Van Gough. There were several murals, many of them about 40 by 30 feet in size. One particular painting, depicting Lot and his two daughters after the fall of Sodom was brilliantly done. Along the canal ride, we were shown how the cluttered and majestic homes along the sides of the canal managed to get their furniture into their homes, via the windows, using external hooks and ropes up the many floors above ground level.

Leaving the city we visited a famous cheese factory, and sampled many kinds of cheeses and wine, and saw the well-known Dutch shoes made of wood, and how they were manufactured. On returning to our hotel, we passed the celebrated Red Light area, and even saw through an open glass window, one of the ladies, dressed in the briefest of bikinis, in an effort to attract the attention of patrons.

Red light district

Before leaving Holland, we visited a famous diamond factory where we were given a demonstration of how diamonds are cut and polished. It was explained how diamonds lost 50% of their size in shaping and cutting, and interesting to learn that each cut and polished diamond has 57 facets.

We also visited an area in which several working windmills were installed, and how picturesque they were.

At this time of the year, the world famous tulips were not in bloom, but our tour of Holland was most rewarding. We certainly enjoyed every moment of it.

On the following day we took off for Paris at about 9.00 a.m. and arrived there around 3.00 p.m. Our hotel here was very modern, and we helped ourselves to breakfast in their self-serve cafeteria. We then toured a few of the many outstanding features of this great city such as the "Eiffel Tower", "Place de la Concorde", Site of the "Bastille", "Napoleon's Tomb", the "Louvre", the "Opera House", "Cathedral of Notre Dame" etc. etc.

In Paris

We also enjoyed a one-hour ride on a special tourist long boat (of which there were several) on the River Seine, from which we could see all the magnificent buildings lining both sides of this famous river. We were shown areas on which, during World War I, the battles of the Somme and Verdon were fought, and in which over one million lives were lost in the then trench warfare of those days.

During our stay in France, we were given a demonstration of how perfumes were made. It included using tons of flowers in melted grease, adding fixatives to hold the scent.  A farewell dinner was provided for our group of 44 people and this was held at a most impressive spot overlooking Paris from a high hill. The dinner was a great success. It was a full-sized meal with everything provided including cocktails, red and white wine and champagne. We were then given a ride in an open type glamour train which circled the illuminated hilltop area, on which the restaurant was situated. After rejoining our coach we returned to our hotel where we would spend our last night.

Boarding our coach at 9.00 a.m. we took about three hours to reach Calais where we embarked on the P & 0 ferry for Dover. The weather was fine during the greater part of our holiday, but when we got to Dover it was really pouring rain and many of us got soaking wet. "Even the heavens were weeping with joy to see us return".

Before we left Paris, and I have especially left this bit for the last, most of the tourists in our group decided to attend a cabaret. We chose one called "La Novelle Eve" (the New Eve) which was being performed at a music hall just across the street from the world-famous "Moulin Rouge". Before the show started champagne was served in individual glasses to the little tables around which we sat.

There was a blaze of glory and the girls came on clad in the briefest of bikinis with a few feathers for decoration beneath which they wore form fitting body suits with a few who were completely topless.

Of course they must have been carefully selected for shapes and sizes, and they were all extremely supple and acrobatic. They certainly reminded me of the "Rockettes" whom I had seen perform many years ago at the "Radio City Music Hall" in New York City.

Many glamorous formation dances were done, and the lighting helped considerably to produce the desired effect. They appeared several times doing different routines, and this was interspersed with comedy acts in which the comedian would appear in different national costumes, displaying how each would re-act on finding an American dollar bill in the streets. The Japanese dressed comedian provided us with the biggest laugh, when on seeing the money, he simply unslung his expensive camera, took a picture of the money, and sublimely left it where it was.

There was, also, a very wonderful display of juggling where two performers did some of the most unusual feats I have ever seen. There was also an acrobat who really entertained us. All in all, it was a wonderful performance, but after all, we were in the gay city of Paris, France.

Before I close this six-day holiday in Belgium, France and The Netherlands, I would be remiss if I did not mention what wonderful ships the ferry boats of the "P & 0" lines are. To board them, one goes up six ramps and I figure there must be at least five separate decks. These boats are fully equipped to serve every possible need, and on both crossings, I found them very stable indeed in spite of the very turbulent waters of the English Channel.

Thus ended a wonderful six days of enjoyment, and we finally reached Dover at the base of those forbidding White Cliffs of which we've heard so much.

We reached home - 115 Eastcote Avenue late that evening very tired indeed.

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