Monday, June 17, 2013

Engand-France 2013

Travel Blog England France 2013

The trip started on Wednesday 14 May.  This time we took a different way to London, flying first to Tokyo on Qantas and then Japan Airlines to London.  I love sushi and tempura, meat and picked cabbage leave me cold.  Anyway we had some yen from a previous trip and we managed to spend it all in the duty free.  I now have a five year supply of aftershave.

We arrived in London on Thursday evening to stay with Virginia and Pierre.  It was an uneventful night except for my wife tripping over, hitting her head on a side panel, becoming concussed and vomiting all night.  However there was no bruising so I deemed her condition as satisfactory.  This led to a barrage of emails from my two daughters about the necessity of going to the hospital and having brain scans which was eventually done on Tuesday morning.  It was all done in several hours, no charge and no damage detected.

The next day I had to go to St Pancreas to see if I could get a refund on my doubly booked non refundable Eurostar tickets.  I managed to get a credit note till the end of November which is not all that helpful but you never know. I then did The Secret London tour presented by Richard Jones and organised by  It was a great tour, highly recommended and augmented by the fact that I was going to spend the next two nights in the City of London area.  In the evening I ticked off an item on my bucket list which was to attend a performance in the Shakespeare Globe Theatre.  The performance was King Lear which was done by their travelling tour which meant most of the actors had two roles.  For example Cordelia and the Fool were played by the same actor.  Three things about the Globe should be mentioned.  First of all it is built to the original specifications defined in 1599.  People were smaller then and you are incredibly crammed if you are sitting in the galleries. If you choose to stand in the pit, watch out for falling bodies from people fainting particularly young women in high heels (there is a medical team ready to pounce on swooning bodies).  Finally it is an open air theatre and it was an unseasonably cold night.  In other words I only lasted the first part of the performance which was 2 hours.

The next two days were spent at the London Business School Renunion which is held every year but attended by those alumni who graduated in a 5 year multiple.  Our cohort graduated in 1973 but there were alumni from 1983, 1998 etc.  Over 1,000 alumni attended the Friday evening cocktail party at the Museum of London which like the days was brilliantly organised.  On Saturday night each alumni group then repairs to a private function.  For our group (the full time MBA students who graduated in 1973) we had a dinner for over 40 people at the Founders' Hall in Cloth Fair, EC.  This was again superbly organised by David Rose, Philip Craig and Tony Hoskins and it was a great evening catching up with old friends.

On Tuesday, two old friends, Anthony Mayer and Eric Sorenson, and I drove down to Littlehampton for a game of miniature golf (the Littlehampton course is where the UK championships are held) and lunch at the East Beach Cafe ( which is famous for being designed by Thomas Heatherwick who is now even more famous as the designer of the London Olympic Cauldron.  That night we went Annies with Ann and Anthony which is a good Chiswick restaurant.

Wednesday was even busier.  First we (Vivienne, Virginia, Pierre and I) went to the Royal Academy to see an exhibition by George Bellows an early 20th century American painter who I had never heard of but was interesting in his depictions of New York.  Then we went to Fortum and Mason for high tea.  Vivienne was ecstatic as they had gluten-free scones.  This is a London icon and a must do if you are in London.  Then Vivienne and I dashed down to Blakes in South Kensington to catch up with Peter Lampl and his gorgeous wife Susan,  We had an hour together before we then went back to the London Palladium to catch a performance of A Chorus Line. 

The next day I drove down to Deal to play a golf game with John Hamer.  We had a good game (when you win it is always a good game) on the white cliffs of Dover playing at John’s course Walmer and Kingsdown.

On Friday it was reunion time again, this time for those people who graduated from the City of Bath Boys School 50 years ago in 1963.  While the school had changed its name during 1970 Grammar School dissolutions to Beecham Cliff, it still had many of the same buildings.  The idea for the reunion was concocted the previous year in Italy over a bottle of Chianti by Anthony Mayer, Peter Arnold and myself.  I said I would come if we made it the weekend after the LBS Reunion.  Having made the major decision I then delegated the rest of the organisation to Anthony and Peter.  They did a great job and over 20 people attended from such diverse places as Vancouver, Vail and New Zealand.  We had a great lunch at the school followed by drinks at the Old Green Tree and dinner at the Rajpoot.  The next day we had pitch and putt tournament won by John Rogers who was presented with a specially designed tie I had brought from Australia.  Then we a had a great dinner at Alium followed the next morning with a canal walk and lunch at the George in Bathampton.

The next day (Monday 27/05/2013) we took the Eurostar to Paris.  We were staying for the next five days in an apartment in Montparnasse.  It was found via which has a good portfolio of family places to stay in Paris.  The organiser, Regina Ferreira is an organisational disaster but our hosts were very friendly and nice.  We were staying between the Luxemburg Gardens and the Boulevard Montparnasse which is not a bad location.  I have put up reviews of the restaurants, hotels and sights on Trip Advisor ( but would recommend La Closerie de Lilas and Bistrot Vivienne.  Highlights of the stay in Paris were the Opera Garnier and a one man show called How to become Parisian in one hour.  It was absolutely hysterical.  Rule #1 Never stand for a pregnant woman in the metro; you have played, you pay.  Rule #2 Your attitude to other people is simple: Do I know you? Do I care?

The low light was Roland Garros.  I had booked two days on the internet.  Tuesday it rained solidly for the five hours we were there.  My current line is that I went to Roland Garros and I bought an umbrella.  After five hours we gave up and play finally started at 4pm.  Thursday we actually saw 1.5 sets of tennis but it started raining heavily again around 4pm and we left.  There was nowhere to sit as those who had got a table just sat there because they were dry and most were Parisians following rule #2.

Still of all cities to stay in Paris must rate as one the best.  The beauty of the buildings around the Seine never fails to impress and if it is raining you can dive into either a cafe, museum or church except if you are at Roland Garros where they do not allow pass-outs.

We then took the train down to Bordeaux, known previously as the Sleeping Beauty, but due to efforts of its mayor, former Prime Minister Juppe has developed a stunning pedestrian town centre serviced by modern trams.  Our hotel, Le Boutique, was terrific.  Town planners around the world should visit Bordeaux, of course given Bordeaux also defines itself as the wine capital of the world, if asked they will go.  After doing a wine tour to Medoc, we then hired a car and visited Cadillac (Entre-Deux-Mers) and St Emilion, which is a stunning village and well worth a visit.  Vivienne persuaded me to go into a wine shop that had a wood handled corkscrew in the window and 24 bottles later we finally left one very happy shopkeeper.

For the nxt 10 days we then drove though the south of France ending up at Nice Airport.

Our first stop was Biarritz where we stayed at a great hotel, Hotel de Silhouette which I recommend highly.  We visited to St Jean de Luz and had great lunch on the town square.

We then drove to Carcassone.  Great hotel with great parking but the town centre was tacky and over-commercialised mock medieval.  Then we went to Nimes where the two big attractions are the Roman ruins of the Arena and the Maison Carre.  Parking and driving to the hotel was a nightmare.  The streets are very narrow and drove our GPS crazy.  On the way to Nimes we saw the Pont du Gard (impressive) and the village of Uzez which was very impressive and has a great restaurant The Bistrot du Grezac.

Our final stop was the Royal Cottage in Cassis.  Finally we had some great weather.  We did the boat trip to the Calanques but otherwise had two great lunches at La Bada which a terrific restaurant on the beach.  Cassis has a terrific ambiance and people watching at a beachside cafe for both breakfast and evening hot chocolate and cognac takes a lot of beating.

We flew out of Nice airport on Emirates on 13 June.  The air traffic controllers were on strike – every day on the French news some group was on strike – yet somehow we left on time at 4pm.  Some poor people had been there since 6am and had no idea when their plane was arriving let alone leaving.  Goodness knows what Emirates management paid the union leaders.  We flew back to Sydney from Dubai on a 380 which has business class section that has to be seen.  I think there are 76 seats and at the rear end there is lounge bar. 

Summing up the wettest winter I ever spent was spring in Europe 2013.

My favourite comment from the reunions was a discussion about what advice you would give you children.  Charlie Penwill said “Save and invest.”  This is equivalent to Warren Buffet’s comment that you should never underestimate the power of compound interest and the more I thought about it during our travels the more I reflected how important it is.

Chris Golis Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence
mobile: +61-418-222219

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