It may have taken Richard a little while to get around to popping the question to Collette, but it seemed to take no time at all for the big day to come around. With Jennie and Nathan’s Yorkshire event still fresh in our minds we were really looking forward to celebrating this second family wedding in the course of only nine months. The fact that this time we’d be doing so in the Bavarian Alps made the prospect even more exciting.
The Duftbrau Gasthaus was a wonderful setting for a wedding – mountains, forests, wild flowers, donkeys and excellent beer, what more could anyone want? The pictures tell the story ……….
Having thoroughly enjoyed last year’s TSSC trip to Spa we decided that for 2016 we’d ‘double up’ and join in with the Club’s planned trips to both Laon and Le Mans. As we once again planned to camp it was an easy decision to take the Stag, which has enough room to squeeze in essentials such as camp-beds, extra blankets and a comprehensive toolkit.
The attractive provincial French city of Laon sits on one of Picardie’s rocky outcrops just to the north west of Reims, and as the drive from Calais passes through the Somme region we decided that after the Laon events we’d stop off for an extra night in Albert to visit a couple of the July 1916 battlefields.
In company with six other intrepid members of Gloucester TSSC we crossed from Dover early on the Thursday morning and then enjoyed an excellent and fairly uneventful drive through rural France, ending up in the central square at Arras with around five hundred other classics just in time for lunch.
Arriving at our camp site just outside Laon in the late afternoonfate intervened. Having stopped the car for a few minutes to help move a tent I jumped back in again to find that the power steering had packed in. Disaster! The wheel wouldn’t turn at all in one direction and would only move jerkily (a word I never knew existed) in the other. Doom and gloom descended as I made arrangements for the car to be recovered (likely to take weeks), cancelled our stay in Albert and contemplated the prospect of once again attending a classic event without a classic car. Fortunately at that moment a fellow traveller (thanks Matt) made the sensible suggestion to see whether the car would steer with the power steering disconnected. It would – albeit you quickly develop arms like Schwarzenegger.
The rest, as they say, is historique. Saturday involved a 100+km ‘topless’ route through the local countryside, whilst on Sunday everyone congregated in the centre of Laon to show off their cars before tearing through the cobbled streets at high speed whilst the local gendarmerie conveniently looked the other way. Overall a lovely weekend in great company with more than a thousand classic cars as a bonus. Next stop Le Mans – what can possibly go wrong …….?
Yesterday was ‘collection day’ for the latest member of the Ewbank fleet. After an early morning start, and a two and a half hour drive across to Huntingdon, the sun was more or less shining when we arrived at TRGB’s premises, though the forecast threatened rain for the return journey. The first and only real problem of the day came when we realised that the colour of Denise’s jacket clashed violently with that of the car – fortunately she has more than one jacket, otherwise a full re-spray might have been on the cards!
TRGB had kindly erected the hood for us in anticipation of the weather, but they also advised that we do without the side-screens until such time as we get used to the car. As we drove the 125 miles home I thought for a little while that we might avoid getting rained upon, but this is England in April and sure enough the heavens opened big time as I took my turn behind the wheel down the Fosse Way. I’m sure that the hood must have offered some protection from the elements, though the rain seemed to have no difficulty in getting me thoroughly soaked and cold in record time. That said, driving the TR3 is just so much fun that you can’t stay miserable for too long when you’re behind the wheel, no matter what the weather has in store.
We spent much of today cleaning and finding our way around the car. Considering that most of the rebuild seems to have been done around 18 or so years ago it really is in great condition, though there again perhaps that’s not too surprising when you consider that the car has only done about 5,000 miles since most of the work was completed. Anyway, the bottom line is that our third Triumph is now firmly ensconced as one of the family – all we have to do now is find somewhere to keep it!
As Saturday dawned bright and moderately warm we decided to drop the top on the Z3 and drive down to Calne to take a look at the Atwell Wilson Motor Museum which sits on the outskirts of the town. With probably no more than half a dozen other visitors in the building it wasn’t exactly crowded, and it was nice to be able to get up close and personal with some of the exhibits. They have an ‘eclectic’ range of vehicles on display , ranging from the 1920s through to the eighties and most are in pretty good condition.
The only Triumph car on display was a Dolomite Sprint, which was apparently on loan from the Heritage Collection at Canley, though there was a nice little Standard from the late 20’s and a 1920 Triumph 550 motorcycle – which by all accounts was the model that gave Triumph their first success before they went into car manufacturing.
On our way home we stopped at Avebury to get a meal in the pub and then walk round the Stone Circle. Fascinating place (the Circle, not the pub) and much more accessible than Stonehenge – well worth a visit.
Now, I’m not yet admitting that its become an obsession, but owning four ‘classic’ cars, three of which happen to be Triumphs, should, I have to agree, probably be thought of as something more than an ‘ enthusiasm’. Of course, on the positive side, with interest rates routinely running some way below inflation, buying cars that we can enjoy and which will hopefully increase in value could be thought of a sensible investment. On a rather more negative note, finding somewhere to keep these investments warm and dry is starting to prove a bit of a problem. No matter ….. as Wilkins Micawber so prophetically said, ……..’something will turn up’!
In point of fact this latest extravagance is really an early BIG birthday present for ‘er indoors’; and as Denise has promised that she’s going to be responsible for everything short of major repairs and maintenance, I probably won’t even get around to opening the bonnet from time to time. Fat chance! Just look at the little beauty!
1960 Triumph TR3A, originally exported to the USA before being re-imported and completely rebuilt in the early nineties. Around 75,000 probably genuine miles on the clock. Standard other than the change to an overdrive gearbox (apparently from a TR4), the engine capacity increased to 2.2 litres (as per the TR4), and the addition of a rollbar, full harness seatbelts and Minilite type wheels. The missing bumpers will be replaced with stainless steel versions as part of the purchase.
I’m not entirely sure why it should have taken me two complete months since returning from our week ‘s skiing in the Dolomites to get around to pulling a blog together. Perhaps now’s the time to come out with that well-worn excuse trotted out by the recently retired …’ I don’t know how I ever found the time to go to work’. All true! Anyway, notwithstanding the blogging delay, I can report that a very good week’s skiing was had by all.
Having thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Val di Fassa last year we decided to repeat the experience – but this time with the added bonus of being accompanied by Peter and Suzie who, throwing caution to the winds, agreed to join us and trust in our choice of resort. Fortunately the ‘skiing gods’ must have been with us because we certainly struck lucky with the hotel and, as it turned out, the weather.
Looking at the rotten snow reports in the days leading up to the holiday I must confess to having panicked a little and at one point actually thought of cancelling our ski passes and packing the walking gear. In the end, however, I needn’t have worried; although the snow was decidedly ‘sparse’ the resorts did an excellent job of making the best of what they had available, and with the help of numerous snow cannon they produced pistes that were well up to our fairly limited standard of skiing.
The end result? No broken bones, a few centimetres extra on our waistlines and, most importantly, a thoroughly enjoyable holiday with good friends.
Provincetown, which sits at the very tip of the Cape Cod peninsula, was the first landing point for the Pilgrim Fathers before they moved on to establish their colony a little further up the coast at what was to become Plymouth. It was also the final holiday destination for our three week New England trip. The town has a special feel about it; as the local fishing and whaling industries started to fade away towards the end of the 19th Century so the area drew in artists who were attracted by the gentle scenery and the soft light which, rather like some of the western tips of the British Isles, has a particular quality about it. Hard on the heels of the artists came sculptors, glass workers, writers and poets, and with them the gradual establishment of a small, close knit, bohemian society which eventually, and perhaps inevitably, became a focus for America’s gay community as they ‘came out’ in the final decades of the last century. By all accounts the summer months also bring vast numbers of tourists, but by the dying days of October most visitors have departed and we were able to stroll through what is effectively a one street town with mainly locals for company.
Whether as a result of strict planning laws or the application of good taste most towns on the Cape seem to have avoided the out-of-town shopping developments and commercial ‘strips’ which, in my opinion, have blighted some of the towns we’ve visited over the past three weeks. Perhaps as a result of land in Provincetown being at such a premium most of the residences in the town are modest in size and those that nestle along the sea shore are universally picturesque.
The Pilgrims’ Monument which dominates the Provincetown skyline is incongruous in the extreme. Built by local subscription in the early nineteen hundreds to remind the rest of New England of the town’s importance as the Mayflower’s first landing point, it rises 252 feet above the town with a design based on the Torre del Mangia in Sienna. As one Boston architect said at the time ‘ if all they want is an architectural curiosity why not select the Leaning Tower of Pisa and be done with it?’
Outside town the land consists mainly of dunes which, having been largely de-forested over the past three hundred years, are now closely protected from development. As you walk along the foreshore the sea looks pretty much as it does in other parts of the world, though the iconic Cap Cod lighthouses add something special to the landscape and inevitably, therefore, feature in everyone’s holiday snaps.
Fortunately the weather was kind to us for this final stopover. After a spectacular sunset on day one we were rewarded by a bright but cool day, which was perfect for exploration, and a ‘hunters moon’ to round off a great holiday.
When sociologist Thorstein Veblen visited Newport at the turn of the twentieth century he coined the phrase ‘conspicuous consumption’ to describe the actions of some of America’s new entrepreneurial millionaires in flaunting their newly acquired wealth.
The evidence of their excesses can be seen in the many opulent mansions, known to the locals as’ cottages’, which were created by families such as the Vanderbilts and Astors who were determined to out-do one another, and whose creations today still line Newport’s famous Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive to draw tourists from far and wide. Fascinating viewing, but more than a little incongruous to find a French chateau sitting alongside an English country mansion and with a Chinese Teahouse at the bottom of the garden!
A number of the properties are open to the public, but rather than add to the tourist footfall we saved our pennies and completed the seven mile ‘Ocean Walk’ which provides plenty of opportunities for peering over hedges into the back gardens of the rich and famous.
It seems that Hartford isn’t noted for its natural beauty or abundant culture. In fact we’ve been asked a couple of times why we chose the Connecticut capital city for a stopover and the simple answer is that we looked for a location roughly halfway between Brattleboro and Rhode Island and Hartford fitted the bill. Entering the city from the north off the Interstate the outskirts are a little run down and you get an impression of industrial decline and relative poverty – relative that is to many of the wealthy towns and villages that we’d passed through earlier in the day and elsewhere in New England. However, as you get further into the city the skyline is dominated by numerous large, mainly ugly, office buildings, most of which it transpires are occupied by the headquarters of America’s insurance industry – in fact Hartford is widely known as the ‘Insurance Capital of the World’. So Hartford isn’t a poor city, it just has the misfortune to be dominated by an industry that isn’t noted for its good taste or appreciation of beauty.
Fortunately there are one or two historic gems to found in this concrete wasteland (perhaps a bit of an overstatement!) and by good chance we happened upon the State Capitol Building where we enjoyed an hour wandering around the marbled halls and corridors on a self-guided tour. It seems that following the Civil War, when it came to accommodating their legislatures, each of the States made a particular effort to out-shine their neighbours and Connecticut certainly didn’t hold back when it came to marble and gilding. The highlight of the visit was an unexpected invitation by a kind member of staff to visit the Senate Chamber and pose for photos in the Charter Oak Chair. Delusions of power or what!
Next morning we walked the half mile of so from our accommodation to visit Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s houses but on arrival decided that UK has quite enough gloomy Victorian buildings to satisfy our needs, so we passed up the opportunity and spent the rest of the morning on a drive out to the west of the city and through a new development of ‘mansions’ which are clearly home to the city’s rich and famous. The afternoon was spent wandering through US aviation history at New England’s Air Museum and being given a personal tour of their well conserved collection of US aircraft, which includes a B29 ‘Superfortress’ – the ultimate icon of America in the Nuclear Age. Boys’ toys at their best!
As we drove across from North Conway to Stowe up the Kancamagus Highway the colours of the foliage were spectacular. Although the sharp drop in temperatures over the previous couple of days had obviously kick-started the ‘fall’ there were still enough leaves on the trees to put on a good show for our journey west out of New Hampshire and into Vermont.
Stopping for our sandwich lunch gave us a great view back towards a snow covered Mount Washington which at 6,288 ft. is the highest peak between the Rockies and the sea. Scenery aside there isn’t a great deal of interest to see as you drive around this part of the world. Some of the smaller towns are quite pretty and there’s a fair number of well preserved older homes that merit the label ‘historical’ – though inevitably the majority are rather like the woodsman’s axe, having been rebuilt or repaired many times over the years.
Our stopover in Stowe was a little bit of a disappointment. Although our B&B (our only stop not booked through AirBnB) had plenty of ambiance, at 10ft square, and with barely enough room for two commendably slim adults with their modest suitcases, I thought that our bedroom was just a touch on the small side. No matter, it was only for the one night and the roaring fire and the great views from the lounge made up for much.
By the following morning the temperature had once again risen to a respectable level so we stopped briefly to take a few snaps of the Von Trappe family home just outside Stowe before we sang a rousing chorus of ‘…so long, farewell, we’re leaving you, goodbye …….’ and drove south to Brattleboro through the Green Mountains – well, more like the Green Hills really but very pretty nevertheless.
Our hosts for our next overnight stop were touring in Europe but had left their Brattleboro home in the capable hands of a very pleasant lady named Claudia and the family dog called Garbanzo, a very sociable ‘golden doodle’. Perhaps the best thing about AirBnB is that with some stays you get a chance to ‘meet the folks’ and learn a little more about the people and the place you’re visiting. Sitting on the western bank of the Connecticut River in the heart of the Pioneer Valley the old mill town of Brattleboro is pleasant but probably just a little too big to be quaint and a touch too small to be prosperous. The town’s main claim to fame is that Rudyard Kipling lived nearby for several years in the 1890s whilst writing, amongst other works, the Jungle Book – which should really be a cue for another song – Disney really has a lot to answer for!
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and an occasional account of goings-on in the Ewbank household