Dear Mum, Dad, Andrew and Julia, Written by Pennie.
I'm sitting in the glorious sunshine on a rough dirt track overlooking the beautiful crystal clear Adriatic Sea, Dave is putting some plastic padding on the muffler and I've just done some washing, people walk by now and then and by their looks they give us, I'm sure they think we're mad.
Well I'll start at the beginning - We left Dover early on March 16th by Hovercraft, it was terrific the way it set off on the land and just skimmed over the channel to France in just 35 minutes instead of about 2 1/2 hours by Ferry, I still threw up a couple of times though, unfortunately.
We drove on the wrong (right) side of the road again and headed for Paris arriving in the evening rush hour and had to go right through from North to South, we made it after taking several wrong turns and trying to look at everything, Dave at the Trams me at the Shops. We stayed at the Youth Hostel the whole time and had bed and breakfast for $A1.20 each. Breakfast was a real experience with plenty of French Bread, Butter, Jam and big breakfast bowls full of coffee or chocolate, but it wasn't hard to get used to.
First day we visited Notre Dame which is a really simple but beautiful Cathedral, walked along the River Seine which is so clean it hardly seems possible in such a dusty place as Paris. Caught an old bus to the Eiffel Tower but didn't go up because it costs $A1.50 each. We really did a lot in Paris for very little but if you wanted to you could spend a bomb on very little. Next the Arc de Triomphe and a slow wander down the Avenue Champs Elysee's past all the super night clubs and dress shops and car shops. We ate crepes from little old ladies making them on the sidewalk and had a couple of drinks in the real sidewalk cafe, coke costs 20c for a small bottle and wine costs 25c a litre, so I've discovered I like wine at last. (I'm surprised I wrote this my preference for wine didn't last long, it's the wine's fault, it doesn't like me!)
Next day was spent at the Louvre which is really too big to see in one day but we did try. The only things that really took our fancy were the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo and the State Apartments. Next day we went to Montmartre and visited the fantastic Church on top of the hill (you'll see all these things in our photos) caught the funicular railway to the bottom and went back to the Louvre and saw the French Impressionists, the lovely Renior's, Degas' and Surat's, this was our favourite place, we spent ages there just staring at everything.
Drove to Versailles to the Palace and Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon these were really spectacular, they really knew how to live in those days. That evening we headed south and slept two nights by the road in France then into Switzerland. The brilliant sunshine and several feet of snow were a real treat after miles and miles of dusty France. The first impression one gets is how clean and neat everything is, the people are friendly and love Tabitha Taxi. We stayed at Montreux in a closed camping area for free which was right on Lake Geneva and the view - still lake, rugged mountains going straight up and tops covered in snow. Beautiful. No sooner than we'd washed Tabitha it started to rain. Everything looks wealthy, we were told the unemployment figure is 20 so there is no poverty. Had a great filling meal with terrific cooking and service for $A2 each. Soup as much as we wanted, 2 bowls even and meat, Dave had pork with a delicious sauce and I had veal and beautiful spinach and piles of thin french fries and a pudding, bread and two wines - not bad.
We caught a few trains because there was nothing else to do because of the rain and drove into Italy through the Grand St Bernard Tunnel, the change into Italy is obvious with roads bad, dirty and untidy, everyone throws their rubbish into the lovely rivers and waterfalls and spoils them. Next day we drove along the base of the mountains and back into Switzerland at Lugano and stay at the Best Youth Hostel we've seen yet, swimming pool the lot and spotlessly clean. We have a meal there for 60c which consisted of soup one rather large white sausage, piles of salad and rice and big breakfast bowls of tea, it was delicious but haven't a clue what the sausage was. While there we went to Swiss Miniature, all the old and famous buildings in Switzerland in miniature, you just walk all around them and watch the cars, trains and boats go around, it was cute but poured with rain the whole time. Back to Italy along the lovely lake Como and into Milan, showered at the Youth Hostel and went to see your friends the Jamison's, Cecile looks very well much better than she did last year and full of beans, they seemed pleased to see us and we all chatted non stop. Elizabeth arrived from England the day before and the next day they were all off to Sardinia for Easter - we really had a slap up meal at a lovely restaurant, you didn't order anything, trolleys laden with food were bought to the table and you helped yourself, 6 courses we had of real Italian food and gallons of wine and bread. Stayed a the hostel that night and had our suitcase stolen, it was our own fault it was strapped onto the luggage rack not locked in the car as it should have been. All our clothes went, 320 cigarettes (David was a smoker in those days) and all our important documents for the Taxi and about shipping the Taxi home. We had one change of clothes in the Hostel luckily but they are good ones and too warm for down here now. The really annoying part is we've thrown everything out that didn't fit in the trunks and that now leaves us no clothes at all except a couple of good things we had no intention of taking to Russia or the U.S.A. I'm going to be busy sewing when I get back to the UK for three weeks. The Police and the Australian Consul is looking into it for us but we haven't much hope of recovery - we are double sure now after the loss. The drive from Milan to Venice was a bit dull, we camped the night near a cemetery and awoke late the next morning in the middle of a funeral and boy oh boy, what a funeral, everybody was in it.
What a beautiful place Venice is, so like all the paintings you see, all the canals were quite clean for Italy and St Marks, beautiful mosaics in gold. Hoards of people there because of Easter and the souvenir sellers pestering everyone and the Gondolas charge $A5 for a short trip so we dipped out again. We spent three days in Venice just walking and looking. Everything was closed because of Easter but we found a great Pizzeria with a little old lady making Pizzas in front of you and they were really delicious.
From Venice straight to Yugoslavia. At the border there is a lot of soldiers but as we got further south we saw none, the country is so rugged it seems impossible to do anything with but every square patch of flat earth has lettuce growing in it, the Peasants are charming, we wave to them and they stop what they're doing and wave and wave. Split then Dubrovnik. The coastline is something out of this world, the water is so clear and clean, the small beaches so cute. The countryside is very clean and the people are willing to help. Dubrovnik is terrific completely walled and is in very good condition, today for 3 dinars (20c) each we will walk along the top of the walls. Last night for dinner I cooked some sort of fish and squid it was delicious even if I do say so myself. I think David agrees.
We had our Yugoslav meal yesterday, a national dish - soup then grilled pork placed on top of rice and mixed vegetables, doesn't sound very exciting but it was good. We are hoping to meet Trevor and Mary Liz today at the Youth Hostel which is closed so we will just wait around and hope. Dave says if I don't let him say something you'll think he's forgotten you, so over to him. Love Pennie
Well not much left to say, except we are having pretty good weather as a rule, we expected to be swimming in the Adriatic, but there's quite a chill in the air despite the bright sunshine. The case lost in Milan was a bit of a shock, but a great nuisance, as Pen lost so many clothes, and me, the car documents which are replaceable I hope before we ship her off on May 26th. Otherwise we can feel lucky it wasn't the whole car taken, or damaged in some way. We are seeing all sorts of interesting buildings, museums, shops, trying restaurants and wines all over the place and of course seeing mind boggling amounts of fabulous scenery and talking to quite a lot of people, both locals and other travellers like ourselves. There are dozens of VW Kombi campers around, from all over Europe, but mostly U.S.A. and Canada, a lot of Aussies, in Bedford Dormobiles mainly. We've just been talking to a Canadian couple, (This is where we met Ted and Penny from Vancouver, we still keep in touch and have managed to see them a couple of times over all these years.) as we sat waiting hoping to meet Trevor and Mary Liz, this couple have two children, about 9 or 10 years and a VW and come from Vancouver. They've been on the road about 7 months, all over Europe also into Asia and Africa, they gave us their address in Vancouver to come and stay a while if we get there from Carmel. We also met a US couple in Venice who are living in Germany teaching US Air Force kids, in Beyreuth, (This was Doug and Frankie) who've asked us to stay a while if we get there a night there on our way through Germany. It's wonderful sort of international friendship you find doing this sort of travelling, there is so much we all have in common to talk about, so much to lean about other countries by talking to each other.
We're beginning to think as the day wears on, that Trevor and Mary Liz aren't going to make it here - but we haven't had any message by post or though the Hostel - it's a bit depressing. Mail is coming through well, the Bank is super efficient with it (although Trevor didn't get my Kangaroo skin belt, I think it's gone astray as I suspect the occasional letter from us and to us hence the occasional times when we haven't known what the other is on about) and the bank will carry on even after we've left UK, so carry on with it as the standard address until we get home.
We've just, about to compose another epistle to Dudu, we've sent the odd P.C. en route, but haven't written for ages, as we haven't to you. Good on Cooma Cottage - hope it's all smooth progress , if involved and we really look forward to seeing what cooks when we get home. Interesting about Clive Lucas - I've met him several times and he's a really nice chap. Elizabeth Jamieson is a very poised little lady, going to be quite pretty I think - I always wonder what my little sister is gong to be when I see her again after 3 years!
No sign of Trevor yet, so we'll go off and park somewhere for the night cook up our canned beef, spuds, local bread and cheese, etc. and wash it all down with rough red wine. (4 dinars a litre here: a dinar is 7c.)
Taking masses of photos, been through 5 reels so far in three weeks of 36 per reel! Quite a developing bill if I don't start discriminating a bit.
Well that's about all, write again soon, we'll get it okay, yours of March 22 reached us April 3, which isn't bad.
Much love Dave.