All aboard and back to England

Feeling refreshed somewhat or maybe a second wind, just enough to get me on the Eurostar where I could grab a couple hours sleep, John, Michael, and Fran were in the carriage behind me so it was welcome quiet time for me and I think I was asleep before they cleared the breakfast things away. Uneventful trip arriving although train hour or so late leaving due to issues with another train we arrived at St Pancreas at a bit before 2pm. John and I were booked at the Ibis near the station as our train to Walsall was leaving 6.30am the next morning.

 

 

Michael met us at the station and we set off on our train ride with one change at Birmingham. We were in Walsall a little after 10am and after a quick cab ride to collect our final hire car for this trip.

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First stop was the Leather Museum which was interesting and John spent quite a while with the in-house saddler looking at various works in progress and techniques. Michael and I left them to it and found the coffee shop and caught up on emails and messages etc. After a lunch, at a non-descript pub in an ordinary area of Walsall, we headed to the Cedric tannery and saddlery suppliers. Michael and John spent a long time looking at different leather and checking our saddle trees. They pointed in the direction of another place where we arrive just before closing so after a chat and a quick look around they arranged to come back tomorrow, minus Michael who was needed back in London on the night train.

 

 

After delivering Michael back to the train John and I set off in search of a hotel for the 
IMG_7684night and found the Novotel in nearby Wolverhampton we were grateful to see our beds as soon as we had a quick steak in the hotel restaurant.

Next morning it was back to Sedgwick &Co where I spent a glorious couple hours dozing in the car and searching our a couple contacts for John while he did a complete tour of the tannery and came away with sample dye for his leather edges and contacts that will be good in the future. We hit the road again headed to Beam House Engineering hoping to make before they closed, which we did just. Michael and Colin were great and Colin showed John all over the operation and some of the old machinery they had around the place. The most important thing was Colin was able to link us up with a friend of his at the North Hampton University which runs a three-year Bachelor Course in leather tanning.

 

 

It was all arranged and Colin took lead us over (about 30 miles away) to the uni and made the introduction to another Michael. They then when through every machine and technique used to tan various leathers. John spent several hours poring over the equipment and gathering as much info from Michael as he could. The two fellows might be the best contacts of the whole trip.

 

 

We left around lunchtime and headed south in the hope that we could get back to our starting point in at Devon.

John spent time on the phone trying to confirm if the guy was going to be there. In the end, it looked doubtful so we pulled the plug and headed back to Heathrow to ditch the car. Check in somewhere for the night and then leaving our bags at airport head into London for couple days and one night. We arrived back and eventually ended up at the Hilton near terminal 5 after Hilton at Terminal 4 was fully booked. It was a taxi ride away but the hotel was good although I didn’t think the restaurant was all that good for the process they charge. Should have tried the in-house Chinese restaurant never mind, next time.

After a good night, we headed back to terminal 4 to leave our suitcases at the ‘Left Luggage’ storage at terminal 4 and boarded the Airport Express ( for convenience, the tube is a cheaper option and not that hard to work out. We arrived at Paddington found the first Red Hop on Hop Off bus and set about doing the loop to see the sights (included a river cruise on the Thames from Tower Bridge to Big Ben. We ended taxi back to the financial district to our hotel. Managed to book the Apex Hotel (5*) for about $160A a night it was so nice and we decided on room service for dinner. Tonight was the night I was getting up to see Irithea run at Gosford and win her second race this preparation. So at 2am, I am in the bathroom watching while someone back home (with FB live video of tv) for me (thanks, Jeff). Sarah and kids were only ones able to make the races, so the got to be in the winning photo which was lovely.

 

Up the next morning and that was that our last day spent getting to Harrods (after failed attempt to finish loop on the red bus, cycle London was on and many roads closed and traffic horrendous) we ended up bailing and taking the tube to Harrods then to Heathrow before checking in for the flight home. Lots of sleeping on the plane for me, can’t believe we managed to fit so much in such short time. After a quick stop in Dubai and negating the strongest security yet( due incident back home where groups tried to board and bring down Etihad flight from Sydney), they went through every single carry-on bag, we had very little which saw us through quickly but some people took ages to get through. Another reason for not taking much carryon.

 

In summary words can not explain how great this trip was and I only hope it gives John the desire to travel more and take the girls back to see the places he has seen( of course not at breakneck speed like we did it) I will never forget how lucky I have been to experience this trip and it will sit very high on the best ever trip list. Phew finished this a couple weeks before the Candid trip. I have said it before and will say it again. Must write as I go it hard to catch up and remember everything. Although this exercise has been good to recall and relive the trip again…

 

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Our two days in Paris and the Tour de France 2017

Picture this – a couple of little kids from Back of Bourke as adults standing on the balcony of the US Embassy with everyone from the Cannondale Drapac Cycling looking over the Champs Elysee watching the conclusion of the 2017 Tour d France. No, I can’t believe it either – still pinching myself as to what an amazing opportunity this has been. Thank you, Michael and Fran, for firstly giving John a reason to travel (hope he has the bug now it’s a big world out there) and allowing me to tag along with John.

 

 

Now back to day one Paris after a good breakfast at the hotel, we took a taxi to the first meeting point. Twenty minutes later we were meeting up with Michel Fran and Nikki in from to of the Hermes saddlery. Breathtaking is the only word I can use to describe the whole experience. Maybe one of the most exclusive places I have ever visited, their horse gear was amazing but I would be too frightened to use on a horse my luck it would pull back or rear over on the saddle and break the tree. I will go back one day so I can just take it all in more slowly next time. It would take a small village of people to staff the place never seen so many attendances in a place of retail. Did I mention our bags were checked on the way in before they open the doors to let us in?

After Hermes, it was off to ‘the best’ cake shop in Paris with Michael taking the lead and my sweet tart was decorated with the tiniest wild strawberries I have ever seen. They were so yummy even for me who doesn’t eat much sweet food. Finished our sampling our cakes and tarts we were off again heading for the Brute Saddlery the highlight for me was the man who just doubled parked ‘the merc’ to duck in (resplendent in his joddies and boots ) to do a spot shopping on the way to ride out. Despite the honking of the horns while traffic negotiated around his car all while he made his purchases and headed off on his merry way. The arrogance of it was priceless or maybe he thought they had valet parking and didn’t wait for valet lol.

 

After leaving Michael and Fran (having walked all over Paris) John and I decided to get the shopping out of the way, John wants to go back to the first shop we saw that morning to make his purchases for the girls. What’s the rule, Grandma? If you see like then buy it now, because we won’t be coming back. We did go back and he was really happy with his purchases, the last of which he made while I sat in a cafe sipping coffee and resting up. I did a Disney store run for Sarah and purchase Pluto for Ollie to replace the one that was left at the airport in LA earlier this year. He little face lit up when it arrived home. I purchased my pandora Eiffel Tower to add to my collection and that was shopping done for me.

 

We decided after a rest to head around the square and look for some dinner which we found can’t remember what I had but it was okay from memory. After dinner we decided to cab it over and take a look at the Eiffel tower at night, this area has changed a bit now you go through security to stand underneath and purchase tickets to go up. This is a change for the better as even if you don’t plan to go up you are not badgered by the street select rattling their junk souvenirs and trying to get you to buy tacky little Eiffel towers. Allows more time to wander around and take in the enormity of the tower. We didn’t go up but decided to walk back towards the hotel before cabbing it home the last bit. We collapsed into bed ready to meet the team tomorrow for the big day.

After breakfast, we set off to meet the others at Criterion Hotel and take the bus out to the start of the final stage. The binding of the most amazing sporting day ever for me, one I will never forget. I can’t thank Michael, the Cannondale Drapac team and especially Yas for looking after us so well. On the bus we quickly introduced ourselves to everyone, people from all around the world connect with Michael and the team.

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It took about 40-50 minutes to get to the village Montgeron. Montgeron is a commune in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 18.5 km (11.5 mi) from the center of Paris.

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It was a sight to behold there were people, buses and cars with bikes on top everywhere. It is such amazing logistical nightmare that seems to just work day after day for 21 days every year. We got to witness all the sponsors parade where they throw samples to the crowd. I thought they were going round and round but it was just one lot but went on forever. After the sponsor parade, we headed to the team bus and met the team and watched them get ready to ride the final leg. The all have different ways preparing some listening to music come out with the crowd sign autographs other checking their bikes. Can’t believe were we so close, John and Taylor Phinney (who must be 6’4”) shared a few laughs over their difference in their heights.

 

We boarded the bus to try and get back as close to US embassy as we could before abating the bus, unfortunately, it was not close at all as Paris had been transformed after we left and all roads were closed. So it was off the bus to walk many miles from one side of the River Sene down past the Louvre and back up the other side to the embassy, we were exhausted and very thirsty by the time we got there although at on stage John ducked off and purchased welcome water for those in our walking group. For a while, it looked like we wouldn’t make it in time to see the finish but we just made in time for them to come into town and down the Champs-Élysées the first of 20 laps around the Arc De Triomphe. What a sight!!

 

Can’t even begin to describe what this was like on the balcony of the US Embassy overlooking the Champs Elyse as the riders did their stuff and finish of 21 days of racing.

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The celebration began in earnest when the Cannondale Drapac rider Rigoberto (Rigo) Urán crossed the line in 2nd place (their best ever finish top 10 was the goal. The champagne was flowing until late into the night. The team riders all arrived back to rousing reception and settled into the celebrations with much relief that it was all over for another year. It was almost 11pm when I called it a night and walked the couple black back to the hotel, leaving the door unlocked for John who rolled in couple hours later. We had to be on the train to England earliest the next morning, so made sure I was packed before collapsing into bed for our final night in Paris. Still, can’t believe how fortunate I have been to have this opportunity it will go down as the biggest world sporting event I have ever attended by far.

 

 

 

England, France, Tour de France, saddleries and tanneries

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Always being the opportunist…

For someone who never lets a chance (to travel) go by, I am feeling very fortunate to be able to accompany brother John on his first of what I hope are many trips to England France and beyond.

A bit of background, John has been invited to travel to France and meet a friend/client to watch his cycle team in the Tour de France. An opportunity to watch the finish of the race with the team owner is once in a lifetime experience that we can both bore the grandchildren with in the future. John decided this was his chance to see some of the tanneries and saddleries in England and France while there. John was traveling alone and I jumped at the chance to travel with him and smooth out some of the uncertainties that first-time travelers face.

Driving Plan England

Our itinerary

    • Flying into Heathrow collect our car and head to Devon to visit tannery.
    • Return to Gatwick and fly to Bordeaux France
    • Collect car number two and set off for a few days free wheeling in the French countryside trying to see as many saddleries and tanneries as we can
    • Train it to Paris from Bordeaux
    • Explore Paris
Driving Plan France
  • Watch the race before heading back to England on the Eurostar
  • Head north this time and explore again more saddleries and tanneries before heading back to London
  • If time permits check out a few London sights
  • Fly home Heathrow to Sydney

A whirlwind trip but it will be so worthwhile and hopefully John will be able to come back with his family to explore at a more leisurely pace next time.

Next post will cover our Flights and Devon (tannery) experience…

Moving Day and some Blog Lovin’

Please hang in there while I freshen things up around here.animal-1298962_640

Today I decided it was time to get a little more serious about my blog. With my regular readers and followers slowly growing and with another 3 overseas trips scheduled this year it was time to show my trusty blog some love. This blog now so many memories of our travels it has become very important that I continue maintain to help me remember the great experiences and travel opportunities I have been so fortunate to have in lifetime…I am not done yet by a long shot.

Status:  Today migrated blog from trusty blogger which has served me well but lacks some of the pizzaz I am looking for to freshen things up. Also looking for a platform that is easy to update while travelling to reduce the times I have catch up when I get home (always looses something with time)

Aim: To have new look blog up, running and ready for trip to England and France on the 16th July.

Already loving the ease of updating WordPress site

Standby…