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The Great Ocean Road in a Jucy Camper – day 3; Princetown to Port Fairy

As our plans of sunrise at the Apostles had been scuppered by pesky mosquitos, Sven and I enjoyed a leisurely Aussie breakfast in the camper overlooking the valley and reserve. As the temperatures grew we were both more than looking forward to the proposed leisurely beach day as our next overnight stop was only around 60km up the coast. Easy right?


Arriving at the first sight we learned there was far more to see here than just the signposted attraction. Setting off into the heat haze we could soon hear the low rumbling crashes of thunder cave, where the ocean has carved a perfect crevice into the limestone to send an echo of thunder reverberating around whenever a wave hits. It sounds almost sinister and must be rather alarming at night. Around the corner from here was a stunning cove which was once again being hammered by gigantic waves, sucking up huge tendrils of brown seaweed as they rolled into shore. At one point a few strands were caught on a rock, flapping and slithering around with such vigour I initially mistook it for an octopus! The next wave hit moments later sweeping everything back under the surface and my seaweed oct chum was gone.

There was also Broken Head viewing point here, but having left hats and water in the car I was a little afraid we’d be suffering our own broken heads if we stayed out unprotected much longer (it’s only spring time!) A quick drive to the next car park and we were soon descending the steps to Loch Ard Gorge, named for a shipwreck which claimed the lives of all but two. The surviving pair were trapped here by the towering cliff faces until the young man was able to climb out and get help. Seriously those cliffs are basically vertical, and I’m going to assume he wasn’t wearing boots fit for climbing. Kudos! The young lady in the story stayed in the cave at the bottom of the gorge and waited to be rescued, how the world has changed.

It was at this point we realised the beach day wasn’t going to happen. Loch Ard Gorge was point one of six, and we’d spent the best part of two hours here. Even though the next two sights were less than a Kilometer away there still wasn’t going to be much leisure time ahead.

Pulling into the next car park before the AC had even had time to fully kick in it was back out into the sunshine and down more steps to The Arch, a monumental sight. Apparently popular in the afternoon when hit by golden light, from here you can also look back to the 12 Apostles.

This amazing archway was naturally formed by weather and tides, standing 8 meters high. With the waves still crashing against the base at force I wonder how much longer it will remain standing before it collapses into the sea, much like the next stop; London Bridge.

Originally two archways spanned the distance here, giving the formation it’s name. The first collapsing in 1990, leaving two people stranded atop the second until a helicopter came to rescue them. Legend has it this was a well off Melbourne business man and his girlfriend, causing quite a bit of trouble with his wife when the story hit the news. Oops. Here we met two British ex-pats who came to Aus in the 70’s. They were exploring the GOR in reverse and full of tips for the next leg of our journey to Adelaide. We’ve met so many Australians doing similar trips along the way which really stuck with me. The UK is beautiful, but we’re so small. There’s no real concept of a ‘road trip’ like this. Sure we can visit Cornwall, the Lakes, the Peaks etc, but when you speak to a woman who drove down from Western Australia on a trip which took two weeks of driving (only) 5 to 6 hours per day you really gain some perspective!!

The final stop before lunch was The Grotto, by far my favourite spot. This charming arch, with reflecting green waters stirred images of fairy tales and magic glens. Unfortunately due to unstable cliffs and high footfall you can no longer explore the archway like you used to, but I was content enough to sit on the wall and soak it all in. Swallows were nesting in a crag just above the archway, leaving Sven poised for more than 10 minutes hoping to catch mum or dad popping in and out. But alas they were too quick for him!

We’d been lucky to have the Grotto to ourselves initially, but after a while a lady descended the steps to join us, stating her husband was also on his way. Lille is from further up the coast in Perth, whilst John hails from Lincolnshire. They met 5 years ago and 2 years ago decided to marry, travelling all the way back to England for a blessing in Johns local quintessentially English church. John spoke about his time in the navy, visiting all the continents including Antarctica twice. With a forces family background I knew enough to ask what his role on the ship had been, however I’ve always wondered what the purpose of these naval ships was outside of a war scenario. Why was that boat traversing the globe and visiting all these continents? Well in this instance John worked on the Royal Yacht, ferrying the Royal Family between their commonwealth states and taking Prince Philip on expeditions to see (and hunt, back in the day) the wildlife of Africa and Antarctica. Wow. What a life!! Had there been a cafe nearby I would have suggested lunch with these two, so easy to talk to and full of stories. His favourite involved Prince Charles and Princess Anne who needed their life jackets on for a shore visit; the young princess put hers on without drama, but Charles pouted and cried ‘do I have to wear this beastly thing?’ Bless.

Having heard lovely things about Port Fairy I was keen to get there in good time, however even with the best of intentions we arrived with the sun low in the sky and shop keepers packing up for the day. Adjacent to this little town is Griffiths Island, a nature reserve home to hundreds of nesting Shearwater, black wallabies and other animals. Following a moody sky with sheets of rain falling in the distance we set off to circumnavigate the sands on a walk which should take around an hour if you’re not constantly stopping to frame photographs and wet your feet.

Information points dot the route, telling the story of the island in first person prose from the point of view of the light house keeper, forum and aboriginal tribes who lived in the area for 40,000 years before the white man turned up and changed everything. These boards spoke of a different world, where bored boys built row boats in search of occupation and dinner. Some weeks the family wouldn’t leave the island, despite Port Fairy being only a stones throw away. They were completely self sufficient, growing food, keeping live stock and requiring permission to visit the mainland.

The plan had been to camp in Port Fairy, but at some point along the route there had also been discussion around free camp sites. As all the options in the vicinity of this little town were some of the most expensive we’d come across this seemed as good a time as any to broaden those horizons. Using camper mate (a fantastic app for camp sites, petrol stations, picnic spots, toilets, ATM’s and more which for the most part works without Internet as long as you’ve checked the general area (i.e. The entire great Ocean Road) with a connection beforehand) we selected Sawpit camp ground near the Narrawong Flora Reserve. Suitable for all vehicle types, with basic facilities and promising sights of kangaroos in the morning this sounded perfect. 30 minutes later dusk was truly upon us as we turned off the main road and into the woods. If these roads are quiet during the day, they’re truly desolate at night and trundling along the final 15 minutes of the journey in the dark woods both Sven and I were quietly hoping the app was up to date and all would be well with the camp site. Soon enough campers begun appearing through the trees and we came across a clearing with BBQ pits and a sign welcoming us to the camp ground. Phew.

After a long day of adventures, driving and a lot of heat on next to no sleep we were both more than happy to crawl under the dooner for a quick game of Monopoly Deal and kindle time. A bottle of wine would have been the perfect final point to the pyramid, however within moments we were both fast asleep, games and reading devices abandoned, completely comatose until the sun reminded us we hadn’t even closed the blinds in the camper!!

And so we were onto day 4, but that’s another blog…


Jucy “El Cheapo” camper: A review

With their reasonably priced campers and hire cars, Jucy is a popular choice for an Australian road trip. They offer a variety of sizes from compact four seaters to portable hotels, and what I particularly liked is that their initial quote includes all inclusive insurance, so you know the total cost before you begin rather than it being an add on later. Psychologically this seems better to me, I feel like I’m getting a deal!

We’d chosen the smallest and cheapest model “El Cheapo” (here after known as Cheapy McCheapFace) as the road trip was only a few days, but there are some you could spend weeks in with a couple of mates. During the day our little Cheapy sits two up front with belts for three more in the back.

Under the bench there is storage which holds the bedding and towels, and the top to this becomes a table which screws into the middle of the van for lunch and games.

At night everything unfolds into a double bed, with the front seats used to store luggage. There is a cavity under the bed if you had soft luggage (as recommended by Jucy) but our larger wheely suitcase was quite happy on the passenger seat, which also meant we had access to stuff at all times. Convenient! Each window has a rolled shade which clips into place offering privacy and protection from the morning sun.

There’s also a moon roof that completely opens; perfect for star gazing and ventilation (if you’re brave enough with all the Aussie spiders)! The bed offers plenty of room for 5ft 7 me to stretch out, however Sven’s 6ft 2 had to go slightly diagonally (means he got more of the bed…swings and roundabouts!).

There’s a stove, sink with pumped water, cool box and storage for all the cooking utensils you’d need for a mini adventure, all packed into a vehicle small enough to fit into the average parking space. Not bad!! Jucy gave us three gas cylinders for the ride and a hose in case the 10l water tank needed refilling.

We brought our own aux cable, but you can buy them for $5 from the Jucy office, as well as a car adapter for charging phones and USB devices. The radio has been pretty fun for roadtrip tunes, and if you were organised enough to bring CD’s then that’s an option too. There’s also AC which proved invaluable on the second day when the weather hit the mid 30’s.

On the other hand there were days where the heating was useful too!!

Australia drives on the left (as a thousand road signs will tell you), which was great for me hailing from the UK, but the automatic gear box means an easy transition for those who may not be used to it.

Being the cheapest model you do get an element of ‘you get what you pay for’ as El Cheapo is not as shiny and modern as some of the other options. Our sliding door is a tad creeky and stiff, some of the poppers for the blinds have seen better days and the whole ambience of the van says “well used” with its stained ceiling, rusting bumper and non-opening sun roof (the moon roof works like a dream) however despite these few negatives Cheapy has earned a place in my heart as a throughly good adventure home for our trip down the Great Ocean Road ❤

Great Ocean Road in a Jucy camper: Day 2 – Lorne to Princetown

An orange sunrise peeked through the curtains of the camper so temptingly the next morning I was in agony waiting for Sven to wake up so I could get out and see it properly (there is no way to creep out of a camper). Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long and we were soon up, dressed and ready to explore. Our camper was parked within walking distance of the beach across a footbridge at the end of a riverside boardwalk frequented by herons, swifts and swallows.

A short hop across the dunes from there and the sights, sounds and smells of Lorne beach greeted us, beautiful in the early morning light. We joined the runners, walkers and people with their dogs already out and about despite the early hour. What a joy to live by the sea like this, I’d be there every day. Though maybe not quite swimming like one lady we saw, as the water was freezing and there were more stunning blue jellyfish littered here too.

An hour or so here was enough to work up an appetite, but with a camper on your team you can take your meals on wheels anywhere you choose! An Aussie breakfast of smashed avo and tomatoes on bread (no one had the patience to fry toast!) with watermelon juice and coffee on the picnic tables in front of the bay followed. It seemed there’s endless places to picnic, or public BBQ sites along this road, all well signposted and used by tourists and locals alike.

Time was ticking along, so after a quick stop to buy hats (when in Rome) we hit the road again. Having enjoyed the beach this morning we’d used up our waterfall time so decided instead to continue along the coast to Apollo Bay. What a coast! I was so jealous of Sven being able to lean out of the window and enjoy it without concentrating on the road. However with the current ongoing GOR restoration project creating roadworks every few kilometres I had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the view during traffic. Many of the signs were in Chinese as well as English as tourism increases. We later discovered this was also the reason for all the ‘Drive on the left in Australia’ signs we kept seeing around the place.

Stopping frequently to get out and stretch our legs at places like Sunshine Drive and Petticoat Creek it took most of the morning before we were parked up in the Paradise By the Sea that is Apollo Bay. At each stop we tested the water in the hope that it would be miraculously warmer than the last one and we could swim, but it was icy on the skin even in 30degree weather! Even the water from the creek was more than refreshing as Sven and I added to the piles of stones already standing there. Ours is the tallest, but also the most unstable…hmm.

We’d been advised by many friends and forums to stop at Apollo Bay, a seaside town with surfing and paddle board lessons and a number of beachy shops. But with so many tourists around it lacked the charm of Lorne so we only stopped long enough to enjoy an award winning ice cream and a stroll along the super soft sandy beach before rolling on into koala country! Dan had prewarned us that if you spy someone parked on the side of the road looking up, there’s probably a koala. So when not long after Apollo Bay we pulled up alongside a beautiful viewpoint on the right, and a couple under a tree on the left, it was worth pulling over. Sure enough there was a chubby fella stuffing his face with eucalyptus leaves. They’re quite spritely compared to the sleepy guys I met in the blue mountains, leaping from branch to branch at speed, but still taking the time to pose for a photo.

The drive to Otway lighthouse was one of the most fragrant I have ever enjoyed, as the air was filled with the scent of pine and eucalyptus. Sven craned his head left and right as we wound our way through miles of forest looking for more koalas, but as Julie had warned us of the need to be at camp sites prior to 6pm we didn’t have time for further stops.

Otway lighthouse is probably the one part of this tour I wish I’d researched. I’d expected a lighthouse, a stop which would take 30 minutes at most, but instead we found an extensive park with dinosaur fossils, aboriginal walks and historical tours and talks. I could have easily spent half a day speaking to the lighthouse keeper alone, and was more than disappointed to tear myself away from his stories. Sven on the other hand was fascinated by the wind speed, as it was more than blustery at the top. The keeper kindly demonstrated how to measure the wind using a little gauge, 48km…glad we left our hats inside!! However I can tick something else off my bucket list…climb a lighthouse, check!!

Despite thinking we’d planned a quite leisurely tour there have certainly been parts we’ve had to rush. Otway lighthouse and the Gibson Steps are two examples, and for the latter I also wish I’d thought to check tide times as the sea was rushing in when we arrived leaving little room for exploration. Being that we were pushed for time this was probably blessing in disguise, but I would have loved to have spent a few hours nestled under the towering cliffs, enjoying the first of the Apostles whilst protected from the wind. As sunset at the 12 Apostles is definitely one for the bucket list we found a cute little camp site in Princetown rather than press on to Port Campbell and checked in by 5pm (if only Julie could see our progress!) Visiting the GOR out of season has been fantastic for winging it, as camp sites and tourist spots are next to empty and we’ve had no troubles with crowds. This was particularly fortuitous at the Apostles, where we spent most of the evening meandering back and forth between viewpoints which would no doubt be packed to the rafters in high season. The view was stunning in all directions, I could have done with 3 tripods and eyes in the back of my head!

As the skies darkened we returned to camp and quickly realised leg of Sven is a mosquito delicacy. They just can’t get enough! Despite not using any lights, and cooking in the kitchenette rather than out the back of the camper we ended up with a van full! Pesky buggers kept us up all night buzzing around our heads and poor Sven was covered in red welts by the morning. First on the list for today is bug spray, yeulch!!

Great Ocean Road in a Jucy camper…let’s go!

Reunions!!! I never realise exactly how much I have missed someone until we’re reunited, and it was a good long while before I let go of Emma this morning. Over breakfast Sven and I were introduced to Patrick, the latest edition to the Wellman clan; those eyes man! Melt your heart. (Hilariously Dan likened him to a White Walker, the things you can get away with when you’re the dad!) Despite a good number of my friends now having babies I’m still never prepared for seeing the inevitable face smash in these new little humans. Patch has Jeffs eyes in a Wellman face, and as Dan said “I know I’m biased, but he’s just not an ugly baby!”

We met at Momma Bear; the breakfasts and coffees were so good, if you’re in the Melbourne area I highly recommend a visit. Svens pulled pork waffle was a little strange for me, but a halloumi stack hit the spot quite nicely. Emma chose the signature breakfast, and I’m amazed it all fit on the plate!

The rest of the morning was a jet lagged blur of traffic and paperwork as we picked up our Jucy Camper and made our way back across the city to Emma and Dans for a quick shower and catch up before starting our adventure down the Great Ocean Road.

As I had managed to lose Sven’s driving licence in England (well done Katy!) this trip meant me donning my chauffeurs cap for a little “Driving Miss Svenni”. I had been prepared to do my share of the driving on this trip, however fully intended Motor Home Driver extraordinaire Sven to do the scary city parts as I’ve never driven anything that big. Luckily Cheapy McCheapface is a dream boat to handle, and with Welly expertly navigating the first stint I soon got my van legs and we were off down the M1 to Torquay.

From the very beginning Australia is distractingly beautiful, even on either side of a city highway however the hour long drive to Torquay is nothing compared to what lay ahead. We picked up a few essentials in this seaside town which hails itself as the start to the Great Ocean Road, then continued South to Bells Beach in search of sun, sand and surfers.

The goal for the day was to reach Lorne, however we’d been encouraged by many friends to stop whenever you feel like it as on a one way trip you only get one chance to see that particular sight. Sometime after Bells Beach the sky ahead darkened into dramatic cloud ruptured with sunbeams streaming through onto the winding road and ocean. I was transfixed. Soon after we passed the Great Ocean Road sign which gave me the final push I needed to turn around. I stopped the camper at the first opportunity and we adventured down the dunes onto the sand. What an excellent decision this turned out to be, as the next hour was a visual delight of colour and light playing on the waves.

The beaches here are so clean and looked after with soft golden sands and rumbling waves, however we’d received plenty of warnings about the currents from friends and official signs so didn’t go for more than a paddle at this point, which turned out to be another good decision as after a while we started to take in more of the detail around us and realised the beach was a final resting place for far too many of these fellas.

Portuguese Man O’War, nasty even when dead. Yeulch! A local told us later that he’d lived on this coast his whole live and never seen so many. Lucky us!

I would have quite happily stayed there till dark had we not wanted a picture of the camper by the GOR sign. How millennial. Photo opportunity complete we continued down the road to Lorne and our camp for the night.

Very tired and hungry by this point it seemed sensible to find somewhere for dinner before locating the camp we’d booked into. The Restaurant on the Pier was an excellent option for freshly caught local Snapper and a seafood platter with a soundtrack of waves hitting the shoreline and Aussie conversation. I’m always struck with wonder that for some people these places I go on vacation is their every day life. What a dream.

Fed and watered Cheapy, Sven and I trundled back into town to find Foreshore Campsite where silver tongued Sven worked his German magic on Julie who was less than impressed that we’d turned up three hours after the office closed and driven our camper after dark (apparently not okay). Within minutes she was laughing and joking with him as she directed us to our spot down by the river. Crises averted, phew!

Jet-lagged and in the dark it took us slightly longer than necessary to convert the camper from day to night mode, and then in my over tired state it seemed to take forever to actually fall asleep. My mind was too full of the day’s adventures to switch off. How amazing that within a day of leaving home you can be somewhere so incredibly different to home, with a routine completely distanced from your own.

Tomorrow we are aiming for Port Campbell, with Erskine Falls, Apollo Beach and the 12 Apostles on the way. Bring it on!

Appreciate the humdrum

We all know time is precious, a limited, one-use only resource which should be treasured. But to know something, and to live by it are two very different beasts, so no one can be blamed for slipping into a regular rhythm which doesn’t necessarily encourage moments to stop and smell the roses…after all you see those roses every day, why pause? In the rush of the waking day it’s often hard to find time to to reflect, observe an appreciate, but every now and again life offers a pass to something supremely special…extra time, unexpected time, time which should have been taken up by regularity but suddenly all plans go to the dogs and you’re left with a void. Usually I have all my time planned to the last hour, desperate to make the most of it, but not today. Today the electricity went off at work, it was a planned outage, so everyone knew they would have the morning off; a blissful few hours in which to lie in, read a chapter or two of a book, catch up on that Amazon prime series you’re hooked on, and get chores done. I managed all four before my leisurely stroll to the office via a coffee shop just in case the kettles were still out of action once I arrived. They were. As were the lights, heat and computers. Voila, the morning off became a day off, but now rather than being home with a list of things I ‘should’ be doing, I found myself in town with the blissful possibility of an afternoon of unexpected time. 
There’s almost always something going on in Oxford; this is one of the key benefits of living in a tourist destination. Luckily, as part of a plan to spend each day in this city as though it were the last I had already checked the listings of what was going on this week…the trouble was they were almost all 10-5, there was no way I’d get there after work. But now, free time, no barriers, bliss.

An afternoon of meandering, drinking in, stopping to watch the guy chiselling a piece of stone to go into the floor of the museum…right in the middle of everyone watching the exhibits, I wonder how many people saw him. An hour to appreciate local photographers, time to read the blurb about seeking new members, time to enjoy a coffee and read the last of chapters of that book. Moments to pause and wonder how these buildings came to be…they’re so higgildy piggildy and non-uniform, who designed them? Why so narrow? I visited a college for the first time, Bailiol, and spent time chatting to Alan the porter, a really lovely guy who was filled with stories and random facts about the place. He makes it his task to know all 400 undergraduates by name, so they always have a friendly face to come home to. Porters are some of the best things about a college I’ve found, they’re what students and visitors remember. Alan was certainly LMH quality, and that’s a sincere compliment to both! 

One of my plans for 2017 is to spend more time appreciating this city, live each day in it like it may be the last one of that date spent here. I feel like January 5th 2017 was spent enjoying some of the best of Oxford. Tomorrow the power is off again, I wonder what I’ll get up to this time. 

Let’s get cultured

Thursday afternoon was spent trying to make the most of our Salzburg card, which offers free entry to the majority of museums and sights in Salzburg.

 It’s also valid on the many buses and trams around the city, so the first thing we did was hop on one of those to the central station to sort out my travel to Bordeaux. We all know how well that went, so the next step was back aboard the number 2 to the centre of the city and the many. It was a lot quieter today, without the casual army amassed in the centre. Jen pointed out how many cities we’ve visited have vast expanses of space in the centre of them, without being over crowded by hoards of tourists. She makes a good point…I know it’s autumn, but when was the last time you remember the centre of London being this empty? I’m sure I can’t think of a time at all. 

Our first stop was the Hohensalzburg Fortress, an impressive looking building which sits atop the highest point in the city. The walls are painted an imposing white so they can be seen from miles around. They’re even visible from Hitler’s Eagles nest across the mountains in Germany. Quite the sight!  There has been a structure on this hill since the year 180, with each ruler adding onto it in the architecture of the time. The result is a bizarre mishmash of styles spanning some 600 years. Still quite impressive though don’t you think? To get to the fortress you can either take a winding road, or the more direct funicular route (which is included in the Salzburg card) Jen and I opted for the latter, and were soon jetting almost vertically up the rock face to the gates. The view from the top was spectacular too, you could really see the whole city and the mountains beyond. Wow! 

We opted against the tour, preferring to meander around for an hour or so. I really like a tour sometimes, but when you’re pressed for time the last thing you want is to be herded around whilst people take selfies with suits of armour. My favourite rooms were the kitchens (the fire was huge, must have been the warmest place in the castle!) and this amazing battle scene…

By this time it was gone 3pm and we were both more than ready for something to eat. Luckily at the bottom of the funicular there was a market (the oldest bread market in Salzburg I think, it was all in German!) selling cheesey olive loafs and twists of apple strudel. Delicious! 

The next stop was Mozart’s Birthplace, a humble little yellow (so much yellow here!) house in the centre of the city. Top tip for this place, if you read English or German don’t bother with the free app which tells you about the places as you go around, most of it is written on the walls anyway and the wifi dropped out after the second room so it was a complete waste of time. It was far more fun to take time walking around the rooms which once housed a musical genius. It was very fun having Jen there for that too, as she has read and watched quite a few plays and films about Mozart and so could plump up the impersonal stories and facts etched on the walls with snippets from films which bring the people to life far more effectively. I think it was thanks to Jen that I found the little silk purse he apparently carried with him every day of his life so fascinating, and spent a good few minutes taking in the details of the tiny violin he received when he was five. I’m planning to watch Amadeus when I get home now, and Jen recommends you do too, especially if you’re planning a trip to Salzburg any time soon!

Being the last day of our tour the next stop was a shop to pick up a few souvenirs for friends and colleagues at home. I love wandering around European supermarkets, even though they sell everything you get at home, it’s always more interesting when it’s not in English. Sweets and such purchased we headed back to pack and check trip advisor recommendations for somewhere to enjoy our last meal. We’d heard great things about the beerhalls of Salzburg and so were keen to find somewhere of that ilk. Luckily trip advisor never disappoints, and within 5 minutes walk from our hotel was Die Wisse (lit. The White Woman), a restaurant serving traditional Austrian dishes, beers and wines. They even had a gluten free home brew for Jen, win! 

So ends part 3 of my European tour, it’s been so much fun interailing around with Jen seeing some amazing cities and countrysides together. I’m sure the journey was very different to one we’d have taken as 19 year olds in 2006, but I enjoyed it, probably more for having our own rooms rather than dorms! Man I’m getting old 😛

Anyway, next stop, the vineyards of Bordeaux, what a final act!!

The hills are alive…

Hello from the train again! It’s Friday morning, and the first day we’ve been able to see our own breaths. I write this from the train back to Munich, though it’s slower blogging than usual as blue skies and frosty fields are demanding my attention. The skies have finally cleared enough to show us the imposing mountains which surround Salzburg. They’re beautiful, of course, I’ve yet to see a view of the Alps that isn’t! We’ve been so lucky with scenery on this trip. 

The plan for today was to travel by train to Stuttgart, then onto Paris and back down the west of France to Bordeaux. A total journey time of 13 hours. Unfortunately it would appear there’s been rather a rush on train tickets in the general France area as absolutely everything was sold out….for my ticket, and all others. Perhaps trying to travel in/out of the capital on a Friday afternoon wasn’t the best plan I ever had. But you don’t tend to think about real world things like commuters when you’re travelling. Anyway, all this means I’m off to Munich airport instead, for a far more civilised two hour Volotea (anyone heard of them?) flight to Bordeaux. Will mean I get in for around 5pm, and DG and I can spend the evening together before tomorrow’s wedding. 

Anyway, I’ve skipped ahead! Yesterday was the final day of my adventures with Jen, and we’d saved the best till last as the Sound of Music tour lay ahead of us. It was so lovely to get up and ready and not have to think about packing, moving every day can be a bit of a mission, so we made the most of having a hotel for two nights. The tour (run by Panama) left from Meribel Platz at 9am, where a very smiley and chatty Peter greeted us with a ‘are you our singers for the day? We’re missing two’…’sure!’ We said, and we were off.

Peter, now, he was a tough one to work out…an American Austrian, born around here but grew up along the east coast of the US finally ending up in Florida. None of these facts explain quite where he became the king of sarcasm! He seemed to flip between someone who was full of fun and jollity, singing and dancing along…and someone who truly detested the Sound of Music and would rather be anywhere else. Perhaps he was a super fan, perhaps he thought we were all nuts…I really couldn’t tell you! We liked him though, he had an easy smile and peppered the film facts with interesting tales about Salzburg and pointing out various sights. My favourite was the executioners house “see that cottage all on its own over there? That was the executioners house, no one wanted to live by him!!” Brilliant. 

^^ the executioners house

The Panama tour is a bus tour, with a few short stops here and there so you can take a photo by the lake which almost drowned Gretel….

The famous gazebo….

And the little town of Sankt Gilgen where they caught the train up the mountain for Do Re Mi. Unfortunately it would have taken over an hour to get up to the hills where those scenes were filmed so we didn’t make it to there. I’d say though that if you’re in Salzburg for a few days you should really catch a train out to some of the neighbouring towns where cable cars are waiting to take you high up into the hills. The views must be spectacular. These are the sorts of things I wish I’d known before I got here as I think I’d have tried to extend the stay in Salzburg to give us the chance to go up. Perhaps we’ll come back! I’d say this ‘lakes and mountains’ part was the best part of the tour, Peter told us how the smaller lakes freeze enough in the summer to allow for ice skating and kite skating which sounds very fun! In the summer these hills are famed for paragliding, and hot air balloon rides which to low enough for you to skim your feet into the lake before rising back up again, can you imagine?! 

^^singing along to the soundtrack. Yup, there was singing! 

Many notable scenes from the film were places which had to be simply pointed out from the bus as we went by…the Von Trapp house for example is closed to the public, the avenue of trees where the children climb in their drape dresses is for pedestrians and bikes only with no way to get close in a bus, the abbey is not open to visitors. We learned the main reason for this is that as a rule the people of Salzburg are not SoM fans. Firstly because the movie wasn’t available in German until 1997, and secondly because the plot is nothing like the much loved German original, or the true story, and people are cross! Apparently Hollywood tried to buy the rights to the original plot but were repeatedly denied, so they made up their own version. In reality the family were not chased by the Nazis, there was no Rolf for example, and if you were really to walk to Switzerland it’s a 500km trek! Wowsers. So I suppose you can see why they’re not fans, and wonder why scores of tourists from around the world travel to their city every year (the number of annual tourists is double the population of the city) to try and break into a gazebo and prance around a fountain.

Our final stop was the church where the wedding scene was filmed. The real Maria and Baron were married at the abbey in Salzburg, but as the cast weren’t given permission to film there this stunning place was used instead. I’d said it would be nice to perhaps do a church or two on this trip, and this one didn’t disappoint. From there we had around 90 minutes of free time to explore Mondsee, pretty huh? 

So that was the morning, we packed a lot in, but the afternoon was even busier so I think it deserves its own blog. We’ve climbed into the mountains on my little train now, and the world is encased in cloud. There’s a coffee cart on the way though so time for a caffeine fix and my daily German lessons. Till later, Tschüss!