A day on the road or why we have no time to write blogs

I write this as we speed down Interstate 40 towards Memphis as in the car seems the only time there is to write in the last 10 days.  Our days seem to be so packed with experiences that there is no time to record them. While not a typical day as they are all different, I would like to take you through one day. We are in Louisville Kentucky staying near the airport at one of the Hilton Tru branded hotels.  This brand is a new experience for us: it is modern with new decor and reasonably priced for us retirees. Think Ibis Styles with larger rooms and huge bathrooms it you’re familiar with that brand. Having never been to Louisville, Anne has been diligently researching the city for places of interest.  Since neither of us are followers of the “Sport of Kings” horse-racing, the city’s connection to the Kentucky Derby holds no major attraction for us. However Anne has discovered there is a family museum here. The “J B Speed Art Museum” established in 1927, now known as the Speed by locals.  What a find.  Situated in the grounds of the University of Louisville, the museum is housed in a modern airy building, which reminds Anne of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane.  Famous works on display included a Rodin sculpture and Renoir, water lilies of course. I did ask for a family discount, but luckily Sunday was free.

“Our” museum in Louisville

Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky

In their own words, “ Whether you’re an art aficionado or don’t know a Dali from a Degas, you can find fresh inspiration and meaning at the Speed Art Museum. With modern architecture, expanded programming, interactive exhibits and inviting outdoor spaces, the Speed offers countless opportunities for everyone to create their own connections and experience art at their own speed.” “ The Speed acknowledges that indigenous peoples were the original stewards of the land and resources on which the Museum is built. ” Their description of their museum, acknowledgement of indigenous people added to its name, our name!, was very enticing and did not disappoint. Fabulously airy sections, modern, quirky, fun, traditional, surprising, and extremely accessible – not overwhelming as some museums can be. Most rooms only have a few pieces in them. They invite you to reflect and connect, bringing different perspectives to a certain topic.

“Vocho” by Margarita Cabrera

“We the People” by Nari Ward

Close up of the laces making “We the People” by Nari Ward

Part of the Parlor, 1619 from Grange, a house located in Devon

“The Three Shades” by Rodin, sculpted before 1886

Cherry Tree quilt attritubed to Virginia Mason Ivey, around 1860

Close up of Virginia Mason Ivey’s Cherry Tree pattern

Dress by Dakota Sioux artist, 1880-1890

Great idea!

There was also a huge interactive section

The Speed Art Museum could rival Anne’s favourite modern art gallery in the world, Brisbane’s GOMA.

Anne’s artistic viewing needs sated for now, we head south.

Interesting location for a roller coaster as we leave Louisville.

Louisville Storm Chaser roller coaster

The interstate road system is great for covering distances in a day, but not as interesting as the back roads we prefer when on the motorbikes.  We stop for coffee in Elizabethtown Kentucky, a small town that has worked hard to spruce up its centre.  The coffee is good and a restaurant beckons for lunch. We have found that each place we visit has something to offer or a story to tell.

Elizabethtown courthouse

Beautiful mural brightens an abandonned shopping centre


Refreshed we continue south towards Nashville, we had hoped to visit Mammoth Caves National Park but all online enquiries showed no availability for the day to tour. These caves are the biggest system in the world.  Over 420 miles / 675 kilometres have been mapped to date on five levels with a tiny fraction open to the public.  The caves are so big that for many tours, you have to be bussed to a separate entrance miles / kilometres away.  We decided to head there anyway and were rewarded with being able to secure some freed up tickets for self guided tours that afternoon. No fantastic stalactites or stalagmites for us but an introduction to an amazing cave system. We see mining from 100 years ago and evidence of human activity dating back some 4,000 years. The weather is also warmer and for the first time in a 10 days, the sweaters are off.

The original entrance to Mammoth Caves.

Audubon Avenue looking towards Rafinesque Hall.

Yes this did fall from the roof!

The Rotunda, a feature in the roof of the cave.

We had decided that Nashville, famous for its country music heritage should be on this trip.  Anne used to enjoy country music while driving in the bush, she had swapped to country from learning Italian on tapes which Anne found she concentrated on more than the dirt roads!     Our driving has us running a little late for an evening of Bluegrass music at the world famous “Station Inn” in Nashville. Anne discovered this place, which has been running since 1974 the same year we met, during her research. Playing live music seven nights a week with excellent reviews, it seems a good place to start our country and bluegrass music education. The Station Inn is situated in the “Gulch”, so named as it was once a depression in the ground that contained a railroad yard.  After WW2, the decline of the railways saw the area fall into decline. Development around the turn of the century has seen the “Gulch” develop into an upmarket area surrounded by new high rise apartments and offices 6:45pm sees us standing in a queue/line on our first warm evening on this trip, I do love the warmth, while waiting for “The Station Inn” to open.  No tickets are sold, first come first served cash only entry, although for Sunday “Jam Night” entry is free.  Will we even get in? We have no idea of the capacity.

Looks like we arrived too late

Getting closer but can this place take us all?

It’s been a long day already, so you’ll have to wait til the next blog to find out what happened next…

While not a typical day, one can see how there is no time left for blogging, well after all we are the 2 slow speeds.

– Anthony & Anne

Visiting our Amish family

We hadn’t seen our Amish friends since 2017 when we returned to see them on our second round the world trip.  While we hadn’t seen other friends for some years on this trip, at least we had remained in touch via whatsapp video or other social media platforms. I did wonder whether we’d recognise our Amish friends as our only form of communication had been via letters and a couple of phone calls this week. And remember, that we have never taken a photo of them as per their beliefs and wishes. 

We had planned our arrival to see them at the end of the working week so as not to interfere with their work or week end which is precious family time. We had not expected Brian to leave work early just for us. But Brian suggests we arrive at noon Friday and asks whether we’d like to go to the kids’ school that afternoon and give a short presentation. You can imagine how long it took us to decide!!!   What an incredible opportunity to get to see, experience and learn a little more about the Amish way of life. Of course we would love to!  

That Thursday evening, we set about finding somewhere that would print photos at short notice. All the office type of stores on our way to Indianna seem to have shut down. The US recession has been very noticeable to us as we’ve been driving for these past few days.  Whole shopping centres closed and seemingly abandonned.  Luckily we find a Staples that hasn’t shut down in Warsaw where we’re staying for a couple of nights. All we have to do is email Staples the photos, they email a code back which we present to Staples the next morning for them to download and print. I also wanted to find a map of the world and we find a great laminated one.  

We know we were getting close when we drive by a field ploughed by tradional means with four workhorses pulling a threshing machine. 

Amish farming

Amish life

I am getting excited. Especially as until the night before when we spoke with our friends on the phone, I didn’t think I was going to be able to see them. I had picked up one of our godsons’ bug and I had been very unwell these last few days. We normally do a tag team when we present but the actual presentation will have to be given by Anthony this time – I can’t say two sentences without coughing fits. The odd thing is that I don’t have the sniffles or headache. Just razors in my swollen throat, coughing all the time and barely able to swallow. I did a Covid test and it was negative but I definitely did not want to pass this horrid bug to our friends.  I had worn a mask all day long for days to make sure Anthony didn’t catch it and so far so good.  Our friends were not concerned about my passing anything as they constantly had one or more child coughing and I was told I was certainly not to miss out on seeing them. 

As we near our friends’ home, we see more and more horse drawn buggies. Life slows down and so do we. The country seems peaceful with flamboyant trees in all hues of yellow, orange and red. A carriage is parked in Brian and Edna’s driveway. It is all as we remember it. The garden is beautiful, well manicured, beds of flowers in full bloom. What makes the house look even more pristine is the lack of uggly power poles and cables to the house of course. We park our ridiculously large bright red Dodge near the carriage.  I have mentioned in the past that I have not taken photos of our most memorable moments as I am too busy living them. Oh how I wish I had a photo of our red Dodge next to their horse and carriage!  We laugh at the incongruity of our different forms of transport. The extreme is not lost on them either and laugh when they come out to greet us and give us the biggest heartfelt hugs.  Our friends have not changed and we would have recognised them anywhere. Only the eldest of their 7 children, Amy and two youngest, Myron and Anthony whom we had not met yet, were at home when we arrived.    At 15, Amy had recently graduated from Amish schooling and was now helping with home chores and looking after the younger ones.  Edna’s mum Linda was there too – she had been helping prepare tonight’s feast.

After a brief catch up, David, Edna’s dad who was the first one of the family we met in 2015, arrives – he too has left work early for us.  When we remarked that we certainly had not expected them to take time off for us, they told us it was normal as we’re family.  

I make the most of the other kids being away at school to ask questions about the Amish education system.  But first here’s a bit of background on Amish education: Amish schooling stops at the 8th grade. Because Amish society emphasises agriculture, craftmanship oriented or manual trades, they feel that formal education beyond the 8th grade can provide limited value.  In May 1972, in the Wisconsin vs Yoder court case, the Supreme Court held that state laws requiring children to attend school until they are 16 violated the constitutional rights of the Amish to free exercise of religion.  The Amish sincerely held to the belief that the values their children would learn at home would surpass the worldly knowledge taught in school.  The Court contended that the Amish community was a very successful social unit in American society, a self-sufficient, law-abiding member of society, which paid all of the required taxes and rejected any type of public welfare and the Amish children, upon leaving the public school system, continued their education in the form of vocational training. Interestingly, compulsory education after elementary school was a recent movement that developed in the early 20th century in order to prevent child labor and keep children of certain ages in school. Since that court case in 1972, all states must grant the Old Order Amish the right to establish their own schools (should they choose) or to withdraw from public institutions after completing eighth grade.  The decision specifically applied to Wisconsin, but it was written in terms broad enough to apply to all states that require attendance in public or private schools beyond the eighth grade.

I had so many questions regarding their education including what would happen if a child wanted to become a doctor.  My understanding was that they would have to leave the community.  The reason being that Amish kids would not be able to fulfill their learning due to higher education promoting ideas counter to Amish values and would therefore have difficulty integrating with other students.   I wish we’d had more time to discuss this and how they approach evolution vs creationism but time had come for us to leave for school and we did not continue our discussion.  It was interesting to learn that Amish students perform a similar test to other government schools at the end of year 8, (think Australia’s NAPLAN test), and they usually come out on par or better than the state average.  

Both David and Brian have been extremely successful in their jobs and been able to support very large families, large in our eyes but normal to them, they have not suffered from leaving school at age 15 and getting apprenticeships. It makes me wonder why we keep hearing that so many Australian families cannot make ends meet, how they can’t afford child care, how the government needs to provide more support… 

We all get ready to head off to school which Brian and Edna’s other 4 kids attend.  Five of us pile into the carriage which Brian has hooked up to a horse faster than we had time to notice.  Edna passes me a warm blanket to cover my legs as it is unseasonally cold here at the moment.  We trot off past our ridiculously showy red Dodge.  

An Amish schoolhouse is typically built on donated land and contains enough ground for a softball field, as well as playground equipment with Amish families maintaining and paying for the school house.  The school board, made up of 2 or 3 Amish couples, helps to make decisions such as hiring and salaries for teachers with parents covering the school’s costs. Parents often visit the school, and each school has a guest book for visitors to sign. An Amish school typically holds 30 to 40 students with two teachers – when the number of school children grows beyond that, then a new school needs to be built. The school we’re going to was recently built by Brian and other family members.

The first thing that struck us when we walked into the classroom was how quiet it was.  The large room was divided in two by a long curtain, the younger ones on one side, the older on the other.  There were 2 teachers.  The young lady teaching the little ones was in her early twenties and had been teaching for 5 years.  The other teacher was a little older.  With 5 years’ experience, she looked so at ease moving from child to child.  Occasionally, a child or more might have their hand in the air to attract the teacher’s attention.  No calling out “miss, miss!!”.  Just a quiet hand in the air.  As the teacher moved to one of the kids asking for help, the others flicked their little red flag attached to the side of their desk.  So clever!  On the other side of the room, the older students are sitting in a square facing each other and seem to be checking and marking each other’s work.  Then they all get up, go to their desks, drop books, pick up others, clack clack as they slam their desks in unison before rushing back to the square for the next exercise.

At afternoon break time, on cue, all kids then rush outside – it is play time for 15’ before returning to the classroom for our short presentation.  That’s when I notice the school visitors’ book which I duly complete.   Sadly during playtime, Lucas gets injured and winded at softball and taken to the hospital emergency – all good luckily.

The presentation is a bit of a blurr as I am not well, I am unsettled by Lucas being injured and our time has been halved now so it’s going to be a rush.  It was not our best presentation and only the parents sitting at the back of classroom asked questions.  But what a priviledge to get an insight into Amish schooling.  I would love another opportunity to talk to them again sometime and have a more interactive experience.  

Back home, while Edna and Linda put the finishing touches to our feast and Brian is at the hospital with Lucas, David asks if we’d like to see his hobby.  We pile into the Dodge and off we go to David’s home.   His “man cave” is a serious woodworking studio, with all sorts of saws. What exquisite work.  I have long said that I love ducks in all forms, I think they are the cutest animal and tastiest, whether confit or pâté. David’s wood carvings are exquisite – he has created so many stunning carved ducks, all to scale.  The blue-winged teal catches my eye and David immediately offers it to me.  But being made of untreated wood, I was worried our quarantine might have confiscated it.  So my duck remains in David’s special studio. 

My blue-winged teal carved duck

Look at what David made in honour of every single one of his 46 grandchildren – a butterfly for the girls and frog for the boys. 

One butterfly or frog for each of David’s 46 grandchildren

Back at Brian and Edna’s, it is soon time for dinner.  What a feast they all spent hours preparing for the 12 of us.  Only the youngest child, 18 month old Anthony, leaves table early to play.  Our conversation covers so many topics from travel to politics to current affairs to the economy.  David reminisces about our first meeting back in 2015 and still does not understand what made him go to reception when he never had anything to do there and why we ended up meeting. Life works in mysterious ways… After dinner, the conversation continues in the lounge, again with all the kids present, interested and participating. We are told several times over the evening how we are part of their family, even telling us we would be invited to their family weddings whenever that may be.    

Time has sadly come for us to leave, all of us wishing we had more time together and grateful that we have been able to share so much with open hearts in a non-judmental way.   In a country that has become so polarised politically in recent years, it was refreshing to have such an open conversation where no subject is taboo and no judgement made on our obviously extremely different lives and beliefs.  Before we leave, Eric presents Anthony with a pen he has made himself and Lydia, with whom I had shared private moments with admiring the sunset, gives me a macrame key ring.  Such sweet gifts. 

This is why we travel still, for the connections we make and the things we learn from others and how they open our minds.

– Anne


Road Trip………Part 1 Maine to Indiana

We had last been in the State of Maine in 2015 as we approached the end of RTW1. We only just crossed the state border to try the delicious lobster at Fox’s Lobster House in York County.  We were now going to visit our godsons who we had not seen since December 2019 in Singapore. Quite a change of location. Our route from London to Portland Maine took us via Philadelphia Airport for the first time.  With only two international flights arriving at the time, immigration and customs was a breeze.  Worth considering the less busy entry points into the USA.

Alicia whisked us away from the airport to their home and giving us a chance re connect with Alicia, Michael and especially our godsons.  My, had they grown!  The teen years see so much change that the almost three years have made such a difference. It was great to see them both again. A whirlwind three days saw us visit their lake house, take in a school soccer match to see Connor play: they won against stiff opposition and the standard was much higher than either of us was expecting plus a visit Portland city and some of the surrounding beaches. Not for swimming I hasten to add.

Anne and Alica at the lakeside.
The winning soccer team.
Our gorgeous godsons Ronan (centre) and Connor (right) and their mum Alicia

Without the historic monument, there would be no visible record of the shipbuilding that took place in Portland during WW2. A significant number of “Liberty Ships” built here and I did not know that they were based on a modified British Ocean class design!  While I do read up on the internet after visiting such sites for the blog, one can always gain snippets of interesting concise information from the signboards at such sites. 

Liberty Ship Memorial, Portland
A snippet of information on WW2 Liberty ships

Towering over Historic downtown Portland is “Voyager of the Seas”, a massive Royal Caribbean cruise ship, similar to the one my niece worked on and would have visited here. While the ships disgorge their passengers into the surrounding streets, there seem to be enough attractions to absorb them.

Cruise ship ” Voyager of the Seas” docked in Portland.

We gravitate towards Blyth and Burrows, an inn of good repute where we are educated by a skilled mixologist into the art of making clear ice shapes, not as easy as you would think and introduced us to the pleasures of freshly smoked bourbon cocktails.  The latter needs to be explored further.

We tried the “Ship Captain Crew”

I am not a cocktail drinker normally but this mixture of unusual ingredients had a great taste and if I was to return here I might try other cocktails on the list.

Smoking our bourbon cocktail
Smoked Bourbon cocktail

In America we find ice is the norm in drinks, but not like this. Clear shaped ice cubes! A mold that makes giant glass filling diamond shaped clear ice cubes. We learn that there is a process involved in preparing the water and then the results go into a special mold. I had visions of impressing my friends back in Australia with this until a quick check of the cost of the very heavy mold was over US$350. Oh well back to ice cubes from the fridge for us.

Wait for it…..
….surprise! The diamond ice cube is pressed and ready
Look at the clarity of this ice cube!

When we looked at the options to visit our friends in Indiana and Texas we had decided to drive all the way from Maine to Houston rather than fly to each location dragging our baggage with us.  We would get a car that could hold all our luggage in the boot/trunk and look to visit new points of interest on the way.  When we turned up at Hertz at Portland Airport we were told to look at three options they had for us.  The first an economical compact with no space to store all the luggage out of sight.  The second a sensible mid size Japanese car with all the latest driver assist features and then there was…

We are on the road again!

Dodge Challenger.  No choice really, ROAD TRIP……

Before you petrol heads start salivating too much, it was not the 5.7L Hemi V8, but the slightly more sedate 3.6L V6.  All I can say, it was an inspired choice, lots of fun to drive, comfortable and all our baggage fitted out sight. Brand new with a couple of hundred miles on the clock.   In two and a half weeks we added 3,680 miles / 5,800 kilometres.  I am sure we have trashed any environmental credentials we may have laid claim to from riding frugal motorcycles and yes electric cars accelerate quicker etc etc, but how long will you be able to drive a petrol “muscle car” before they are all consigned to history?

To make the most of the changing fall scenery we decided to start by driving on the back roads to Vermont. The colours had Anne wanting to stop and take photographs every few minutes it seemed, possibly a little exaggeration, but I could see her point. One could spend a week watching the foliage changing.

Colours everywhere
More fall colours
Molly Stark State Park, Vermont
Stunning fall colours up close.
Very early halloween decorations
ALL STOP for the School bus, in all directions. Not a bad idea.

While back roads give a much richer view of the countryside, they are slower and we only progressed as far as Albany New York in a day – Interstate highways will have to form a bigger part of our travel plans going forward.  In the USA, unlike much of Europe, the Interstate highways/Motorways gas/petrol stations are situated either at off ramps or in local towns.  It does give one the opportunity to explore small towns rather than just wiz past the exit signs.  Little Falls was our choice and as we wandered around the town after filling up we learned that this had once been the cheese capital of NY state. Sadly from an employment perspective those days are long gone and only repurposed factories and historic signs give a clue to its once interesting past.  The Erie Canal bypassed the falls here and probably helped in the export of cheese.   

The Mohawk river at Little Falls.
Little Falls Cheese news

It is said that oil and water do not mix, how about waterfalls and flames? This quirk of nature is found the Eternal Fame Falls near Hamburg New York. Another of Anne’s finds due to her diligent research while I just drive on cruise control. Anne spends a great deal of time looking for interesting places to stop at on the way to add to the enjoyment of the journey.  A walk through the fall foliage with leave falling and squirrels scurrying around was the gateway to this unique feature. I am clueless as to what we are looking for, following the flame signs on the trees we descend to the riverbed and head upstream. After splashing through ponds, we can confirm that Goretex is great for boots, climb over tree trunks, we arrive. It is surreal and enchanting, something you would expect in “Lord of the Rings”. I expect an elf or wizard to appear, but alas none do. It is a magical spot with the small strongly burning flame flickering behind the waterfall. Well worth taking the time to visit.

Walking through the forest to get to the eternal flame.
Eternal Flame waterfall

In this modern world of concrete and steel who would expect to find a wooden covered bridge, built in 1983 in Ohio a few miles off Interstate 90.  Another thumbs up to Anne’s research and choices.  When one walks over the bridge, the intricacies of the wooden construction become apparent. I guess the advantage over steel and concrete is that you can replace each part one at a time. Would they replace it with another wooden bridge or have the skills been lost?  

State Road Covered Bridge over Conneaut Creek in Ohio
Covered Bridge details

With the Mid Term Senate and House of Representatives coming up in the USA we see so many “Vote” signs across the country.  Elections were not only at national level but local judges, sheriffs and probably dog catchers are advertising. The largest we saw was the side of a 40’ container, possibly explains the global shortage if this is being repeated across the county.  It has been interesting talking to people about their views on the politics in the USA which has made me realise that what I read and see is only part of the story that my news sources want me to see.  I guess it is the same everywhere, it’s hard to get an unbiased view of what is happening on the ground. I do find it sad that it seems to me that dialog and debate between the political views has evaporated yet those we meet would like that discourse to return.

Larger than life voting posters

Rather than spend another night along side an Interstate highway we head to Marblehead known for its famous lighthouse on the shore of Lake Erie. As we stand at the base of the lighthouse looking East I find it hard to imagine that there is no land for over 280kms. / 170 mls.  It feels more like an ocean than a lake. I wonder how long our day’s drive along the lake would take to sail?

Enjoying the sunset at Marblehead lighthouse
Lake Erie at sunset looking East

As you may be aware, we think that every place has a story to tell. Antwerp Ohio. We wanted somewhere quiet to eat lunch away from the roar of Interstate traffic. In the local park we discovered that local donations had built the children playground, something that a small community could not afford but we in Australia would expect the local government to provide.  I imagine this approach works where individuals can afford to make the donations.

The town also has a memorial to all those Veterans in the community who have served in the US military from the American Civil War to Afghanistan.  A nice gesture to those who have seen active service. 

Antwerp Ohio, Veterans memorial

After four days of exploring and driving we arrive in Indiana to see our Amish friends, but that is another blog.

– Anthony

Family goodbyes

It is now end of September (yes, we are a month behind in our blogs) and after 2 and a half months in Europe, it is time to say our goodbyes to our family.  My plan had been to create new memories, especially for my parents whom we had not seen in over two and half years.  The more we age, the more realise that the most precious thing in life is time with our loved ones, family especially but friends too. 

It was our choice to move to Australia all those decades ago for our careers, so we always felt it only normal to return to visit family every year.  We have tried different “formulas” over the years.  The quick visits while we worked were exhausting emotionally with successive highs and lows every few days – the high of the reunion, quickly followed by a heart-wrenching goodbye until next year.  Then another time we hired a farmhouse where everyone came to visit. Us being retired, my parents not travelling so much these days, and our not having seen family for so long, we decided this year to have a prolonged stay in Europe, making several visits, to see my parents, one lives in the UK and the other in France, to make several new memories.  Covid has a lot to answer for as the pain of being separated for so long weighed heavily with each visit as if we hadn’t seen each other for years.  What is the best way to handle family visits when they are so far away (one could probably say we’re the ones who are far away), split and scattered?  We had originally thought of renting a place for an extended period both in the UK and France.  Maybe that is the best option for next time?  Any ideas are gratefully accepted.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful trip, we were constantly and thoroughly spoilt by everyone and loved every minute.  

We saw both my parents and our sisters one last time before leaving Europe end of September and a few more friends we hadn’t managed to connect with yet.  We sincerely apologise to those we missed on this trip.  An unplanned and spontaneous bonus was my spending our last week end in Paris, just my sister Diane and me while Anthony got to see his sister Tansy again too, together nieces and nephew.

My mum, dad, and our sisters

Although I spent my childhood in Northern France, my roots are in Paris, where I was born.  It is visceral and undeniable. When Anthony suggested I spend those days in Paris, I immediately thought of asking my sister to join me. Just the two of us.  Being an avid art enthusiast and keen walker, I had a few “serving suggestions” that would see us visit museums and exhibitions and walk the streets of Paris and try a numer of restaurants. It is easy to walk 13 kms in a day in Paris when you keep stopping to admire the buildings, architecture, sculptures and chat non stop.  We start our Paris experience with champagne, of course, at La Coupole – a stunning art deco brasserie near the gare Montparnasse followed by the most delicious crêpe either of us have ever eaten at Le Petit Josselin nearby.  This was a great start to our sisters week end!   Diane picked a superb restaurant for our first night:  Pouliche.  They have a set menu but gladly amended it to cater for my lactose intolerance.  Add this restaurant to your next visit – you won’t be disappointed!  

Our starters at Pouliche restaurant

The next day, going from the Musee Guimet for a pottery exhibition and admire the building’s art deco architecture, walking up to Alma Marceau along the Seine, up to the magnificient Pont Alexandre III, then onto the quirkiest place: 59 rue de Rivoli.  It houses an ecclectic group of artists, each in their own open studio, over 6 floors!  

Yu Tanaka sculpture – Musée Guimet, Toucher le Feu exhibition

Yu Tanaka sculpture – Musée Guimet, Toucher le Feu exhibition

Yoshimi Futamura sculpture – Musée Guimet, Toucher le Feu exhibition

Oh well, can’t get the Eiffel Tower in our selfie!

AfterSquat, 59 rue de Rivoli

Each level had different staircase artwork

My moto – Aftersquat, 59 rue de Rivoli

Neither of us could pass up the opportunity of walking to St Germain des Près and enter its beautiful abbey.  

Abbaye de Saint Germain des Prés

Abbaye de Saint Germain des Prés

The Musée Maillol had a hyperrealism exhibition.  What made this exhibition particularly interesting is that they intersperced hyperealism sculptures amongst their “traditional” art.  

Musée Maillol – Hyperrealism exhibition

Musée Maillol – Hyperrealism exhibition

This was followed by a visit to the Jardins du Luxembourg before lunch at Dammann Frères in the collorful and vibrant Rue Mouffetard.  Sweet tea followed at the Grande Mosque of Paris before dinner at the Coupole.  

Jardins du Luxembourg

Rue Mouffetard

Diane’s serving suggestion took us to the Ateliers des Lumières where they were showing Cezanne and Kadinsky – a fabulous show, presenting classic pieces in immersive music and video.  A final meal near the Place des Voges before returning to the UK and making my 5th and final visit to my mother the next day.

Cezanne at Atelier des Lumières

Thank goodness for whatsapp video or skype!  Goodbyes are hard but we can at least easily stay in touch even if we can’t physically hug.  We have had an amazing time in Europe but it’s time for us to make our slow way home, via the US.  Until next time…

– Anne

4’ 8½”, 15”, 7¼”

As some readers will be aware I have always had an interest in trains.  Perhaps it comes from having been born in the United Kingdom, the birthplace of railways, who knows. In Australia, I am a card carrying member of the Brisbane Bayside Steam Railway (BBSR) – a 5” and 7¼” gauge railway so on the lookout to see what other railways are doing especially in the area of ballasting which I am involved in. I am hoping that the membership card will carry some weight when talking to or trying to gain access to non-public areas.

In the UK, there is a thriving heritage railway network. Across the country, around 100 groups have saved or restored railway lines closed as a result of the Beeching cuts in the mid 1960’s.  Over the years we have visited a few when in the UK including the Swanage Railway, the Strathspey Railway and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

While in the UK this time, I was lucky enough to be able to visit three steam railways, each on a different gauge, hence the title, and I decided to group the visits together in a single post for those interested in railways to read.

The Bluebell Railway in Sussex is one of the best known heritage railways in the UK.  Thus while returning to Kent after riding Streak & Storm, I was able to plot a route close to Sheffield Park Station, the southern terminus of the railway.  I had never visited the Bluebell Railway before and just wanted to see what was there.  Fortuitously, the last train of the day was about to leave and just as had happened in October 2019 on the Strathspey Railway, they held the train while we purchased tickets. With the fire risk from summer heatwave, our train was pulled by a diesel locomotive, not steam. En-route to Horsted Keynes we passed a burnt out field believed to be caused by burning coals from a steam locomotive earlier in the week.  As someone who volunteers on Brisbane Bayside Steam Railway (BBSR), we are familiar with the fire risk from coal and take appropriate precautions.


Sheffield Park Station looking north from the footbridge.
First Class all the way with Anne
Our 0-6-0 Diesel loco D4106
Beautiful Sussex fields from the train.
Line side fires on Bluebell Railway.

At Horsted Keynes we are able to see British Railways Class 5 loco in action pulling a wedding train! You get changing scenery while you celebrate the wedding reception.  A great way to get additional income for the railway. They also let me onto the locomotive cab. A great experience.


BR Standard 2-6-0 loco 73082 “Camelot”
Driver and Fireman of 73082 “Camelot”
Lucky to get time in the cab of 73082 “Camelot”.

My second outing, courtesy of my brother in law Jeremy, was to the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR).  Located on the south Kent coast, this 15” railway which opened in 1927 was the the brainchild of Captain J. E. P. Howey and Count Louis Zborowski who wanted to run 1/3 size steam locomotives at mainline scale speeds. Sadly, the Count was killed in a motor racing accident before the railway opened but Captain Howey pushed ahead with the project.  The locomotives were designed by Henry Greenly and built by Davy Paxman and Co. in Colchester.

The railway was designed to run at 25 mph and between Hythe and New Romney dual track helped facilitates this. During WW2 they even had an armoured train running on the line. At one time the RH&DR used to take children to school.

Jeremy had carefully planned the day to allow us time to a visit a number of locations.  Our journey starts at Hythe Station with anticipation to see which of the dozen locomotives will be pulling our first train.  It turns out to be No. 2 “Northern Chief”.

RHDR No. 2 “Northern Chief” on the turntable at Hythe.

The day has been overcast with some rain but we bravely or foolishly take the open carriage.  This way we get more of the steam train experience.  The weather Gods are kind to us and our journey to New Romney sees no rain.  At New Romney we are lucky enough to meet the Engineering Manager who gives us a tour of the engine shed. There is also a large HO gauge railway layout to see here as well.


Our guide around the RHDR Engine Shed at New Romney.
RH&DR New Romney engine shed with No. 9 ”Winston Churchill”.
RH&DR No. 1 “Green Goddess” waits for No. 2 “Northern Chief” at New Romney.

Onward to Dungeness, which is the end of the line, this time with a different locomotive: No 1. “Green Goddess”. As the rain beat against the roof and windows of our enclosed carriage, we knew we had made the right choice.  At Dungeness, the old lighthouse contracts with the now closed Nuclear Power Stations.  “A” which consisted on two 250 MWe, opened in 1965 and reached their end of life in 2006. “B”  which consisted of two 520 MWe, opened in the mid 1980’s and both units shut down in 2018.  Interesting how the RH&DR railway has been in existence from long before the nuclear power stations and likely to continue long afterwards their closure.

Dungeness old lighthouse and decommissioned A & B nuclear power stations.
RHDR No. 1 “Green Goddess”.

Close to my sister’s home in Dorset is the Moors Valley Railway. Here the gauge is the same as the larger gauge on the BBSR namely 7 ¼”. I was able to spend some time with the works team looking at their maintenance equipment. Very jealous of their equipment and setup but too large to sneak into the overhead locker on the plane.  Oh well back to buckets and shovels for me BBSR at home.


Moors Valley Railway Engine Shed.
Moors Valley Railway Turntable
This is what we need for the BBSR Ballast Dept.

A common theme across heritage railways from what I have learned is problems accessing quality Welsh coal. Over the decades, steam engines have been using Welsh coal for its good burning qualities and engines have been tuned accordingly.  Alternate coal and coal substitutes each have their own issues and are not the best answer. It seems a pity in our rush to go green that the heritage railways could suffer for what must be a very small amount of coal that they use.

Well that’s the train bug out of the way so back to normal blogging next.

– Anthony