The Journey Abroad

Then in their late fifties, this was my parents first ever holiday abroad.  I had just bought a new car and ran it in by chauffeuring them around Europe.  In just over a month we visited France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria (Vienna & Salzburg), dipped in to the then Yugoslavia, and finally Italy (Venice and the Lakes).  My father, typically, didn't want to go!  He was eventually cajoled into agreement by my mother, but he did enjoy it!

My parents, Lily & Alf, at Grindelwald, Switzerland with the awesome Eiger in the background (Easter 1972).  This is a rare photograph of them together.

Anecdotes of the journey:

We visited the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.  Unaccompanied tours were then (and probably still today) disallowed, so we waited at the ticket counter for the next tour to begin.  A few minutes we were told, but time did seem to drag on.  After waiting some while, a guide arrived and she was rapidly surrounded by the many other visitors waiting in front of us.  Undeterred by the group size and determined not to wait any longer, just to be first for the next tour, my father ensured that we joined the assemblage clearly made up of mainly German speaking members but also French and Italian.  Being the last to join the group and therefore at the back, my father, being quite small, couldn't see or hear anything of the tour and, not to be intimidated by the somewhat taller gathering, in an uncharacteristic manner, pushed his way to the front with my similarly petite mother in tow (I'm six feet tall by the way).  Hearing us conversing, the charming young lady guide apologised to the gathering for not realising that she had an English speaking contingent and continued her guidance in all four languages (I knew I liked her).

At the end of the lengthy and fascinating tour our group was ushered to the exit.  We still had the magnificent gardens to see and many photographs to take so my father said we’re not leaving yet.  Since, clearly, their charming guide was leading the group to their coach, it dawned upon us that we had joined a private party and embarrassingly slid off to the side, rapidly disappearing to the rear gardens.  I always wondered how long that coach-load had to wait whilst their guide tried to find her English speakers. 

Our last night before sailing from Ostend home was spent at a café in Brussels.  I had deciphered the menu to an extent and, having the year previous been to Belgium and the Netherlands on business, knew of the delicious Belgian staple diet of Waterzooi  (chicken soup, but made with whole pieces of chicken served as a main course).  I was about to order for us, but my father listening to the waiters conversing in French, was determined to ask the waiter a question about the menu. "You won't understand this" he said "but can you tell me......." "Sure I understand you buddy" said the waiter, quickly interjecting to save further embarrassment; "I'm French Canadian!"