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TRAVEL AND TOURISM - 2015 Activities

Travel Group Meeting Monday 12th January 2015

After some discussion on the plans for our Scottish trip in May, the Austrian trip in September and feedback on our Christmas lunch, we had a presentation by Harry and Brenda on their trip to Cuba. Their holiday took in the varied areas of Cuba from the capital Havana via some old colonial towns to the modern beach resorts. In addition to the brief history from Spanish rulers to independence we also gained an insight into the current communist regime under Raoul Castro and how that was changing from his brother’s regime. An interesting place to visit and one which will probably change increasing quickly as the barriers with America ease.

Travel Group Meetings Monday 9th February and Monday 9th March.

A chance to revisit the holidays from last year for some and for others to see what they missed with slideshows of the Thames trip last June and the September river cruise on the Rhine and Moselle .

Travel Group Meeting Monday 13th April.

After the usual updates on trips this year and more information on the probable Seine river cruise next year we enjoyed seeing and hearing about Roger and Shirley’s recent trip to South Africa. They travelled with Saga for the first time and found it an excellent but exhausting trip covering 1600 miles in total. After flying to Johannesburg they went on to Pretoria and the Kruger National Park. This is an area the size of Wales so trying to see the big 5 animals, leopard, lion, elephant, zebra and giraffe, might have been difficult but it had been helped by creating waterholes near the road. Travelling on they visited Knysna for the lagoons and more animals and also to a Zulu village. On then to the coast at Arniston and down to the Cape where they saw the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. A fascinating trip and presentation.


Visit to Austria September 2015

Brenda Last organized an excellent trip to Austria for 31 members of our Travel Group.  We left Thurston early on Tuesday 8th September to make our way to Heathrow for a lunchtime flight by British Airways to Munich where we were met by coach and transported to the delightful family run Bruckenwirt  Hotel in St Johann im Pongau.  

We were welcomed by the lady owner of the hotel who, after dinner, gave us a little history of the hotel explaining how it had been in her family for generations and how it developed from a farm into the successful hotel that it is today. Everyone was delighted with their rooms that had good facilities plus balconies offering beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Meals served by very pleasant staff were excellent and several people also took advantage of the very attractive outdoor pool which was well- heated.

St Johann is not far from Salzburg and this was our first excursion the next day.  We had a guide with a good sense of humour who showed us the sights with many references to Mozart, of course, but also to the filming of ‘The Sound of Music.’ We then had enough free time to choose what we would like to see after having some lunch in one of the many restaurants. The weather was fine and we were able to eat outside.  Some of us took the lift up to the old castle, which was interesting and afforded amazing view of the town and its surroundings.

During the week we visited Traunsee where we enjoyed a boat trip before venturing up into the mountains in a cable car. Some of us found a very nice lodge to have a lunchtime snack that we were able to enjoy outside on the verandah whilst enjoying the splendid views.

On another day we enjoyed wonderful scenery as we visited the three lakes of Mondsee, Attersee and Wolfgangsee. In the town of  Wolfgangsee we visited the beautiful church where several weddings were taking place one after another.  It was interesting to see one in particular, where everyone was dressed in National Costume. The afternoon was spent in the very pretty lakeside town of Hallstadt.

One of our days was a free day where there was no excursion arranged and Brenda had done her homework and came up with the idea of visiting the nearby Liechtensteinklamm gorge which is one of the longest and deepest accessible wild water ravines in the Alps.  Most of us chose to do this and it became quite an adventure.  With the help of the hotel staff we took taxis to the starting point of the walk through the gorge.  Some of us were unsure of how difficult the walk might be but it proved to be relatively easy even for us oldies! The hiking route meanders along a well-constructed path for about 1.5 km through the gorge. The walkways, bridges and steps are quite easy to walk on and the scenery is breathtakingly well worth it.  Those of our group who approached it with some trepidation were very pleased that they made the effort.  We all chose to spend the afternoon in different ways.  Some went walking, some went shopping and some took the Alpendorf  gondola ride up into to the mountains where once again the fantastic weather allowed us to eat out on a balcony overlooking what will soon be the ski runs once again.

This proved to be an excellent trip and those of us who took part are very grateful to Brenda for her careful and efficient organisation.

Ann Sear


Trip to the Scottish Highlands May 2015

Val Adams organised an excellent trip for the group to Scotland, staying in the attractive little town of Pitlochry. Our hotel was in the centre of the town. It was very comfortable and provided us with a good choice of excellent food each day.

In order to avoid a long coach journey to Scotland we arranged to travel from Peterborough to Edinburgh by train. The scenery, especially on the last part of the journey, was spectacular. We were in Edinburgh in less than four hours and ready for a guided bus tour of the city by 2.00pm. Our guide was excellent and we all felt that we would like to return at some time for a longer visit.

We enjoyed an interesting programme of excursions which included two trips on steam railways, one on the Jacobite railway from Mallaig to Fort William through the amazing scenery of the Scottish Highlands and one on the Strathspey line from Aviemore through the Cairngorms where we were treated to tea and shortbread on the train.

One of our more unusual excursions was off road from Aberfeldy in a fleet of 4x4 vehicles. We were driven by very entertaining and informative kilted Rangers high into the mountains in search of wildlife. We did not see a great deal but we found the scenery breathtaking and the Rangers gave us a real insight into life in the area. They took us to a mountain bothey where we enjoyed a hot drink, shortbread and a wee dram before returning to civilisation.

We also enjoyed an informative tour of Dewer's whisky distillery as well as a visit to Blair Castle during the week.

Our hotel was close to the Salmon Ladder and we were able to walk there in only a few minutes. Unfortunately, the weather had been too cold for the salmon to start moving up the river in great numbers in order to spawn. The counter showed that only 322 had so far passed through. The number expected in the season is between four and five thousand. The famous National Theatre was also close by and worth a visit as were the Explorer Gardens.  

We did not waste our last day in Scotland. Before catching the afternoon train home, we visited the Royal Yacht Britannia which we all enjoyed. It was good to be able to have something to eat on board before leaving for the station and our journey home.

Thank you Val for organising a most enjoyable trip.

Travel Group Meeting Monday 18th May 2015

Just back from our Scottish trip we had our AGM starting with a report from the retiring chairman Tony Sear and a review of our accounts with treasurer Sally Rands. There are now 45 in the group and a small waiting list but it is difficult to work with a larger number and keep the ethos of the group. Good trips were had last year as well as interesting talks from a number of our members. Finances are still healthy and there has been a small increase in the end of year balance. It was agreed to re-elect the2014 committee en bloc and Mike Bergdahl was elected as chairman for the coming year. Tony and Ann Sear were thanked for their hard work over the years with a small presentation. After refreshments Sheila Miller showed us photos of a trip she made to the Azores, stating that the photos could not do justice to the amazing scenery. The plant life was very prolific and the volcanic landscape fascinating. She had very much enjoyed her trip and while the sun had not shone a lot the weather was warm and dry.

Next month we shall be discussing Austria as many of the group will be going there in September.

Travel Group Meeting Monday 14th September 2015

Just back from our Austrian trip which will be reported on later this year we enjoyed an interesting talk and slideshow by John Sutton on his and Dominque’s Route 66 trip. Between May and June 2011 they did over 3000 miles in their hired car from San Francisco to the Canyonlands and back again. Although not a fan of cities they enjoyed San Francisco and did the usual tourist things of riding on cable cars, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf and the seals and watching cars negotiate the zig zag road that is Lombard St.

Heading due south to Los Angeles they visited Hearst Castle, a fantasy home furnished with European antiques and then on to Beverley Hills and Universal Studios. In LA Route 66 starts its west- east journey though it is now called Route 40. Much of the old road died when the new interstates were constructed and some communities are now just derelict towns. Some have now been revived by the tourist trade and give the impression of life 50 years ago. With interesting diversions to the Grand Canyon with a view from the skywalk platform, a helicopter and a boat ride, then Monument Valley, Brice Canyon and Zion Canyon we saw some wonderful photographs of the scenery. Las Vegas was a very different sort of scenery and quite amazing in its own way.

 The route back west across Death Valley and the Yosemite national park gave rise to the question of how the pioneers ever made their way across the country. The side information on cars, trains and catching up with Billy Connolly was very entertaining and the tip for visiting US National Parks, that an annual pass for all parks is much cheaper than buying individual passes for 3 or 4 parks, might well come in useful for anyone’s future visits to the USA. Many thanks to John for his talk especially as he like many of us had only returned from holiday the night before.

 Monday 12th October 2015

As we had quite a bit of business to discuss this month we had a shorter talk than usual as Brenda offered insights into living in Switzerland. More than 30 years ago her sister married a Swiss and went to live near Zurich and Brenda had many visits out there and also dealt with the clearance of her estate after she died. The subjects of housing, planning, transport, recycling and health provision as well as officialdom were all touched upon and made an interesting and different short talk.

Monday 9th November 2015

Tony and Ann reported on their trip to Costa Rica, which was a Jules Verne holiday enticingly entitled Garden of Eden and Bird Watching. This meant less culture and more wildlife than their standard tour. After arriving at San Hose airport they toured by coach and boat to the north and south of the island and then west to the Pacific Ocean. The country is about the size of Wales and 60% of the population live in the central valley around San Hose which is a coffee growing area. They also export a lot of pineapples and bananas. About 25% of the island is in nature reserves which enabled them to see a lot of wildlife including hummingbirds and a Resplendent Quetzal once described as “the most beautiful bird in the world”. Also lots of monkeys and turtles were around and they took part in a night walk and an interesting crocodile safari. The island has very different areas depending on whether near the coast or the mountains and a big lake – Lake Arenal which provides hydroelectric power. In all an interesting and colourful holiday.

Monday 14th December 2015

The group enjoyed a Christmas lunch at the Bury Golf club which was very good and a first visit for many of us. Brenda provided a table quiz to keep everyone occupied between courses which was a bit of fun even though she forgot the prizes which were substituted by packets of nuts from the bar.

The group is looking forward to another interesting year next year.