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TRAVEL AND TOURISM - 2014 Activities

Travel Group Meeting Monday 13th January 2014

After some discussion on the plans for our Thames trip in June and comments on our Christmas lunch, we had a short session on tips particularly about holiday insurance.  After coffee we heard from Tristan Rawcliffe on his trip to Malawi last year as part of Culford School’s Malawi project.

 He was one of a party of 36 who flew from Heathrow to Malawi via Nairobi on a 3 week trip hosted by the St Andrews international school there. The journey from the airport showed the absence of towns, very sparse dwellings and many people walking along the roads carrying goods. Their first visit was to Bloomfield Day centre which cares for children while the adults are working on plantations. The children were very welcoming and very energetic, wearing out their visitors in football and netball matches.  They also visited a school where everyone not only walked in bare feet and also played football that way. The group was then split into two groups to teach at 8 different schools. They were very varied particularly in the ratio of teachers to children but the visitors were always welcomed warmly and the children had a high will to learn. The group also took a turn making bricks and helping with the construction of a new accommodation block. After some days working they then enjoyed a bit of a safari seeing elephants, hippos and crocodiles. Culford School have an ongoing relationship with schools in Malawi as they pay for school lunches throughout the year at the Bloomfield centre. Each member of the group also took out an extra suitcase with them with gifts and equipment to leave there.  It was an interesting talk accompanied by very good photos and gave a different view of travel abroad.

Travel Group Meeting Monday 14th April 2014

Our talk and slideshow today was preceded by our annual meeting. Last year’s minutes were read and approved and were followed by the chairman’s report. Tony Sear commented on our year of talks, the summer party and Christmas lunch and numbers in the group which is fairly stable at just over 40. The financial report which showed a small increase in the bank balance at the end of the year was approved and membership subs would be kept to £8 p.a.  The existing committee agreed to stand again and were voted in. It was also agreed to enlarge the committee by two to allow the chairman and secretary to delegate more of their jobs. Tony agreed to stand again as chairman to the great relief of all. This year’s trips were briefly discussed and further discussion was held on next year’s possible trips. One to Scotland looks likely but further research will take place into Berlin, Portugal, Zurich and Austria.

 After our break for coffee and biscuits Betty Brain took us through her cruise last year entitled Shores of the Emerald Isle which actually went beyond just the one island. Departing from Portsmouth their first port of call was meant to be Dingle but it proved too rough to land there so they moved on to Inishmore on the Aran islands. Although this was still very wet some passengers braved the journey on the tender but others stayed put and enjoyed their tea in comfort. Further stops were made at Killybegs for Donegal Town and Portrush for the Giants Causeway. Then Ireland was left behind to visit Oban in Scotland, then back to Dublin before trips to Lundy island, the Isles of Scilly and finally to Sark. Fortunately the weather improved during the cruise and with four lecturers on board there was plenty to do when not in port.  

Travel Group Meeting Monday 19th May 2014

 Our meeting started with a discussion of our trip next month which involves a coach and boat tour around the Thames. The trip gives us 2 nights in Reading and 2 in London and several river cruises as well as a morning in Kew Gardens and a free day in London. Final arrangements were made for parking of cars at Thurston and some discussion of things to do in London.

We then considered a suggested trip to Scotland next year involving coach to Peterborough, train to Edinburgh and coach to Pitlochry for a 5 night stay. Various included excursions were also discussed and we agreed to finalise some details and discuss it at our next meeting in July. We also had a short update on our Rhine and Moselle cruise this September.

After refreshments and enjoyable socialising, we enjoyed a slideshow of the trip to Yorkshire last year put together with appropriate music. Looking back through the pictures it is amazing just how much was covered in a five day trip!

Since our meeting we were saddened to hear of the death of Michael Peel who with his wife Daloni have been members of the group for many years. Only last year Michael gave us a very interesting talk on the role of a clergyman abroad and we will miss him at our meetings. Our thoughts are with Daloni and their family at this time.

Thames Trip 5th – 9th June 2014

Members of the Travel and Tourism group took five days out of their usual routine to enjoy following the Thames from its source to the Thames Barrier. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Thameshead, its reputed source, due to a combination of traffic and coach problems but we enjoyed instead an extra couple of hours in Oxford. The weather was good so sightseeing and lunch hunting was a pleasure as was the 2 hour boat trip down to Abingdon.

Additional excitement was generated by seeing the TV film crews at work on the riverbank filming another episode of Lewis and it will be interesting to see if our boat features in the background of one of their shots. There were three locks to go through on this part of the river and some pretty gardens just around the locks. At Abingdon our coach met us to take us to our hotel outside Reading where we were staying for 2 nights. Next day it was coach into Reading to catch the boat at Caversham Bridge. This boat was to take us to Henley, a very peaceful 3 hour trip, again through 3 locks and this time we enjoyed icecreams at Sonning lock which the boatman helped us buy. A hot afternoon in Henley allowed us to potter at our own slow speed through the town and along the river.   The coach then took us back to Reading via the scenic route for an evening of drinks, dinner and packing.

Early next morning we left the hotel in intermittent rain and arrived at Kew Gardens at 9.30am just as they opened, as did the heavens! Fortunately Kew Palace plus some cafes were near to hand and an hour later the rain had stopped and bits of blue sky were trying to break through.

Despite more than 5 hours there with stops for coffee and lunch there were still parts of the gardens not fully explored. Perhaps another trip next year.  After leaving the gardens we enjoyed a shorter boat trip down to Westminster with views of the bridges and skyline and a reminder of how busy London is. The coach took us to our second hotel beyond Canary Wharf and close to the ExCel arena, but fortunately also close to the Docklands Light Railway.

Next morning we headed back into central London on the coach for viewings up the Shard or on the Eye, after which the rest of the day was free to explore London. It was a lovely clear day so everyone enjoyed good views over London but it was also warm which meant walking was tiring. Next morning we had our last boat trip which was from Westminster to Greenwich and the young boatman was very informative about the passing sights. At Greenwich we had time to explore the park and see the Royal Observatory or the Maritime Museum  as well as fitting in lunch. Our final excursion was by coach to the Thames Barrier where we had a good view of the barrier but unfortunately the information centre was closed as it only opens 4 days a week. A disappointing end to our trip but it meant we got back to Suffolk slightly earlier than expected. Despite the minor glitches it was an enjoyable and interesting trip although more tiring than expected.

Travel Group Meetings August & September 2014

 In August we had our summer party where the ladies of the committee organised a excellent buffet meal.  The pre lunch competitions got everyone’s brains and memories working as well as being great fun. The weather was dry but more chilly than the previous year so an enjoyable meal was had inside the community centre instead of out on the patio.

In August we heard more from Roger and Shirley on their spring 2013 cruise from Australia to Bangkok. Their boat The Balmoral took them up the west coast of Australia from Sydney to Darwin and on to Komodo Island. There are no human residents who stay overnight but plenty who come to look after the tourists by day. The Komodo dragons’ bite is nearly always lethal due to the bacteria on their teeth and as they have a strong sense of smell for blood, visitors with cuts etc are warned not to land. The cruise carried on to Ho Chi Minh city which still uses the name Saigon in many places. It looked quite prosperous and most noticeable was the lack of noise from the many motorbikes in the streets. There the bikes have to be quiet or they get confiscated. They left the boat at Bangkok and stayed a few extra days in this interesting city. The palaces and temples were richly decorated  and they enjoyed seeing them and the markets.  The heat and the humidity were high but the hotels and shopping malls had air conditioning to make life more bearable for the visitor.

After our refreshments discussion took place on the interests meeting in October, the Christmas lunch and updates on the Rhine & Moselle cruise this month and the trip to Scotland next May.

Rhine & Moselle Cruise 18th – 25th September 2014

17 members of the Travel and Tourism group enjoyed a week’s cruise on the Rhine and Moselle rivers with Saga Holidays. We decided to let the train take the strain by travelling on Eurostar from St Pancras and after a very early start we were able to relax and enjoy the short trip to Brussels. At Brussels our luggage was transported to the awaiting coach and the final leg of our journey to Cologne took place. We were pleased to see our cruise ship and were shown to our cabins in time to unpack before our first meal on board. A four course dinner awaited us together with free wine, beer or soft drinks. All was very good including the service from the staff and this continued through 6 days of eating and drinking.

 Next day we left Cologne well before breakfast and made our way upstream on the Rhine via Konigswinter, a small town with narrow, interesting looking streets overlooked by a 19th Century gothic looking castle and even higher by a ruined tower. Some people enjoyed a brief visit to Bonn and were most impressed with the sights and the guide. During lunch we sailed on to Remagen where there was a brief stop for those taking the scenic coach tour through the Ahr valley, before the boat carried on to Koblenz. The tour showed the steep vineyards bearing a heavy load of red grapes and the many ruined castles on rocky crags and allowed a short stop in the small town of Ahrweiler, still with its walls and four gates, before rejoining the boat. Next day we had free time in Koblenz to marvel at the rebuilding of much of the old town to its pre-war plans and also at the cable car over the river to the fortress on the opposite headland which gave brilliant views over the town and both the Rhine and the Moselle. The rain fell upon us after lunch as we started upstream on the Moselle but later the sun made brief forays between the rain. Sunday morning we had a short stop in Zell, a small pretty town sitting on the river bank while the vineyards rose up immediately behind it, before travelling on to Bernkastel. Despite the showers everyone enjoyed free time in the town admiring the lovely wooden well decorated buildings and fountains as well as a castle on the hilltop above.  In the evening some local musicians came on board to entertain the passengers with their songs and dances and made an interesting end to the day. Monday saw us leave Bernkastel and head back downstream to Cochem, the weather fortunately dry but pretty cool. We arrived at Cochem for a free afternoon exploring or for an excursion up to the castle and then onto a local winery for a wine tasting, both of which were very interesting. Back on board we cast off heading back for Koblenz and early next morning went back up the Rhine, through the Rhine Gorge and the Loreley rocks to Rudesheim. It was very misty to start with but by mid morning the sun broke through and so hopefully some photos will show the lovely scenery. A free afternoon was enjoyed in Rudesheim, where many took advantage of the cable car up the hillside to the massive Germania monument, which also gave great views over the river. Back down in the town were plenty of places to wander and explore including along the famous Drosselgasse filled with old narrow, decorated buildings now tourist shops or restaurants. Our last day on the boat saw us leaving Rudesheim early and travelling back downstream to Cologne. After lunch we were able to explore Cologne, the centre of which was only a few minutes’ walk away from the boat’s berth.  The cathedral was very imposing but busy with tourists and much of the old town seemed to be under reconstruction again judging by the number of building sites.

After an early start again, as we were up at 5.30am for breakfast, followed by coach to Brussels and another short trip to St Pancras. The quick coach trip back to Thurston was only marred by problems retrieving our luggage.

In all it was a very enjoyable relaxing break. The boat and its services could not be faulted and much of the Saga arrangements worked well.  I would certainly book a group trip with them again.

Travel Group Meeting October 2014

 After discussing arrangements for our Christmas lunch Ann and Tony gave us a talk and picture show of their Norwegian Cruise last March. They decided to go with Hurtigruten who have been using boats up and down the Norwegian coast since 1893 and still carry some cargo as well as passengers. After flying to Bergen they then cruised for 12 days up beyond the Arctic Circle and back again. Their accommodation was very comfortable and the food excellent but alcohol was very expensive and therefore limited. The boat made some 30 odd stops but sometimes for only 20minutes to unload and reload. One of their first stops was Alesund which had had a very serious fire in 1904 and had been rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. Visits were also enjoyed to Trondheim, the original capital of Norway and Tromso, the largest town within the Arctic Circle. They particularly enjoyed a midnight concert in Tromso cathedral. Late nights were common in order to try to see the Northern Lights. This time they were successful and enjoyed the spectacular display and tried to photograph the sight but photos do not do justice to the scene. They also enjoyed the ceremonies crossing the Arctic Circle twice and fortunately the weather was very mild compared to a normal winter. One storm however caused a delay which meant an extra day in Bergen having missed their flight home. Fortunately, having booked from the UK as one trip, an overnight hotel and a new flight was organised for them and was not a problem