Thursday 2 September
Peter Wickenden picked us up in good time to take us to Ottawa Airport. Paul was quite tired but we had no trouble in getting him on to the Vanguard of Air Canada that took us to Montreal. Montreal was a really unpleasant crush. A BOAC 707 took us to Manchester by Prestwick. As usual an hour late. Paul fell asleep before we took off and slept all the way over. Flight was uneventful and we arrived at Manchester an hour late. First impressions of Prestwick - policeman in a mini minor police car.
Mum Gillespie and Mr. Gavan met us at Manchester and took us by road to Worksop via Macclesfield, Buxton and Chesterfield. Had a first drink at a pub which was converted from an old farmhouse. Weather overcast and spitting with rain. Roads seem very narrow and dangerous. Glad I don't have to do any driving over here.
Saturday 4 September
Dora came over to see us.
Sunday 5 September
We went to Cleethorpes I train with Mom and Dad Gillespie. Paul really likes the train, a DMU, in which we could see out of the front. A big fat woman sat in front of us drinking, I think, rum and cokes with her husband. When we arrived she gave us 10p to give Paul a donkey ride. We found a place to eat but Paul threw a tantrum and I took him out to keep him quiet. Unfortunately the others mistook where I was going to meet them and I spent one and a half hours looking for them. Even so there was time to give Paul a donkey ride. He wasn't afraid of the donkeys and really enjoyed his ride. He had some candyfloss which got him pretty sticky. We also saw an Irish Setter and had a chat with its owners. The weather was very sunny although there was a cool wind. People said it was the best day of the summer. They could do with some Canadian sun.
On the way back we had to wait 15 minutes or so for a pilotman at Grimsby while at Gainsborough we hit a coke can and a fish plate that some children had put on the rail. The ride back across the flat open countryside with the beautiful sunset was really pleasant. Paul slept across Pat and myself for most of the way back.
Monday 6 September
I travelled to Portmadoc on my own today:
0818 Worksop to Sheffield
0907 Sheffield to Manchester
1005 Manchester to Penzance (to Crewe)
1209 Crewe to Shrewsbury
1407 Shrewsbury to Machynlleth
1652 Machynlleth to Portmadoc
I arrived at Portmadoc right on time at 1818. There was an hour or so to wait at Crewe with quite a lot of action including many trains from the north changing from diesel to electric locomotives for the trip under the wires to London. The trip to Shrewsbury was with a western crosscountry set. The driver had trouble with the Western AWS which kept activating although we weren't in AWS territory. The cancel leaver wouldn't work and I finished up ridig in the front to help him. I jammed the cancel lever with a newspaper. There was an hour and a half for lunch at Shrewsbury. I went into a pretty dingy pub. There's quite a bit of work going on, indicluding some reconstruction of the original buildings in the same style.
The journey from Shrewsbury was beautiful. The weather was fine and the country tremendous. I saw a heron. The line from Oswestry to Welshpool has now being closed and lifted. Of course the trip up the Cambrian Coast was the best part especially from the front of a DMU. I've never before seen this part of Wales with a cloudless sky.
I had a bit of trouble finding a hotel at Portmadoc as the only decent one was full. I eventually checked in at a grubby hotel called the Queens. Right by the station. Good job there weren't many trains at night.
I even had trouble finding a place to eat. I tried to eat at the good hotel but they refused me on the grounds that the hotel was full even though they were spare tables. At another place where I eventually ate I was asked to share a table even though there were empty tables. They were upset when I said no.
I walked down to the Harbour station afterwards and admired the sunset and the mountains of Snowdonia.
The Queens had run out of draft and many many other types of beer. I was very depressed at the general attitudes of people and poor service.
Tuesday 7 September
I walked down to Harbour station early and caught the 10.30 train to Dduallt. I was very lucky in that the double Fairlie "Earl of Merioneth" was in charge that day because a BBC film crew was on board to do a program about the Fairlie locomotive. Again the weather was beautiful and the views across the valley were at their best. The part from Tan-y-Bwlch to Dduallt has the best views as the railway is above the tree line. There was a stop at Campbells platform for a runpast.
I had a little time to look around at Dduallt and watched the Fairlie depart on the 11.40. Blanche arrived on the 11.15 from Portmadoc and I caught the 12:15 to Minffordd. A coach party of pensioners travelled from Tan-y-Bwlch and when I saw them at Minffordd they were having a good time singing etc. I had a little time at Minffordd before the departure of the 1352 DMU to Machynlleth. During this time I saw Linda on a train going towards Tan-y-Bwlch. This loco has been fitted with a superheater and is painted aluminum on the front end because of the intense heat. I had a chance to look around the yard at Minffordd and saw a new boiler and firebox for a fairlie. I believe this is to be fitted next winter.
The diesel was on time and I travelled back as planned. The Ffestiniog Railway permanent way foreman travel with me as far as Harllech. I complimented him on the state of his track including the long welded rail. He wasn't too happy with the one stretch of CWR that they have as it could have been done better.
The trip back to Worksop was quite good.
Change at Machynlleth
Manchester Picadilly a1936 d2018
The train from Shrewsbury was delayed butt I made the connection at Crewe. It was quite a long trip but well worth it and was mad even better by the weather which was remarkable.
In the next couple of days we had trips out to Lincoln and Sheffield then took the train via Manchester to Liverpool where Keith met us. We stayed the weekend with Keith and Chris. Had a good time which seemed mainly to consist of drinking.
Sunday 12 September
We travelled down to London and were met by Mom and Dad Churcher who were of course very pleased to see us. We spent that week with trips out to Bromley, the London Zoo and New Romney on the Romany, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
England seems to have changed. Either that or we have changed. Prices have gone up and service has gone down. Many people were rude. It was most upsetting and we were glad to leave. It was strange being "home" in a country that felt "foreign".
Saturday 18 September
All four parents plus the three of us flew via Paris to Toulouse where we picked up a rental car from Avis (a Peugeot 504 station wagon bracket and I drove to Carcassonne. There's plenty of room in it for all of us and our luggage. It took a little bit of getting used to as it is quite a long car and has a standard gear shift - it didn't take too long to get used to all though I would never have a standard shift as I think it's too much trouble.
Hotel in Carcassonne is quite good.
Sunday 19 September
Weather wasn't too good but we had a look around La Cite. Parents seem to be quite impressed.
Monday 20 September
Pat and I travelled to Toulouse by rail today. I had authority to ride the locomotive and we wanted to go to the airport to look for a case which we had left behind.
A railcar and trailer at Carcassonne on a Quillan branch train.
We travelled to Toulouse on train #5452 which left Carcassonne at 0913 and arrived at Toulouse precisely at 0958.
There is only one man on these locomotives. On this trip the driver was from Nimes and the locomotive was BB9237, 5570 hp. The acceleration is incredible. We were travelling at 140 km/hr (87.5 mph) within three minutes of the start. 140 km/hr is the maximum speed of these locomotives (or in fact 150 km/hr but the vehicles are limited to 140 km/hr). The speed of 140 km/hr was adhered to regardless of the gradient for the whole way except for two speed restrictions. Speed was kept to 135-139 km/hr, tremendous skill on the part of the driver in knowing how his train reacts to gradients etc.
The driver stood up for the entire journey
Passing through Castelnaudry at speed
At Toulouse they are only allowed 8 minutes to change locomotives but this is possible with two coupeurs standing by. In fact the change over was completed so rapidly that I hardly had a chance to get off the locomotive.
This diesel was quickly put on the train
Our day in Toulouse wasn't too eventful although we found our case alright. The weather wasn't too good and rather get soaking wet we came back to the station earlier than planned.
We came back to Carcassonne on train #4553 with locomotive BB9207 which, again, is 5570 hp. We had a late start due to a sticking brake on the leading fourgon and were delayed even further by the signals being out because of a cloudburst. The driver, this time from Toulouse, was a very cheery fellow but he was upset at the delays. We reached Carcassonne after a stop at Castelnaudry in the dark, nearly 45 minutes late. Still it did give me a very healthy respect for French locomotives and drivers.
The pause that refreshes
The weather was atrocious. Paul and the parents stayed in the hotel most of the day.
Tuesday 21 September
Weather not very promising. Went for a trip to Mazamet via NH 8. First minervois wine Country - not very fertile, then through the montaigne. Had a picnic lunch by the roadside at the head of the valley leading down to Mazamet. Breaks in the cloud became more numerous and the weather improved. Mazamet is quite a large industrial town of very little interest and we passed through quickly on the way to route N621 to Labouguiere where we set out south back through the mountains. Some very good views over towards the Tarn country. Came back via Fontieres - Cabardes. Saw some wild boar and also passed through an interesting forest area which was very damp and covered with mosses and ferns.
Wednesday 22 September
Took the road up to lastours where we had lunch. Interesting mill race (for a woolen mill). Looks of chestnut trees. Went to Limousis where we visited the caves. Bought tickets in the hall of a house in the village and then went up a couple of miles to the entrance to wait for the guide who turned out to be a man who had been lounging around. Quite interesting trip although there was nothing spectacular. The guide that was interesting. When we finished I wanted to take a picture of him. He posed for me and then had to go back to get the lamp which had to be in the picture. The Minervois wine country is quite poor and there's only the occasional vineyard among the scrub. Saw a man with an ox cart
Thursday 23 September
To Limoux via St.Hilaire and then via St. Polycarpe up to Belcastel where we had lunch. There was a grand view of the Chateau of Belcastel perched up on a steep rock. Goat cheese for sale. Travelled back to Carcassonne via Missegre and Valmigere to Arguesa and Couisa to Limoux where we stopped off to buy some Blanquette. We visited the degustation of Guinot and the champagne type wine was great. Unfortunately they were busy getting in the grapes and so we couldn't visit the caves.
We found a new restaurant in Carcassonne. It is called the Tivoli. There was only one waiter, the owner who works the till, the wife who cooks and the washing up boy. I thought the waiter was being very rude the way he threw the menu at me but it was really economy of effort. He took down our order in pencil on the paper tablecloth. The service is fantastic. The waiter would come from the kitchen with six or seven plates and flick them off as he walked down the central aisle between the two sets of tables. He was a great shot with a plate of french fries. Food very good. We'll eat here again.
Friday 24 September
Went to Saint Hilaire in the morning mainly to get some pictures of a typical village. Spent the afternoon at La Cite, Carcasson for pictures as this is our last day here.
Saturday 25 September
Travelled from Carcasonne to Foix via Limoux and then N 117 to Puisvert, Laveland, secondary road D1 to Foix. Magnificent views over Quillan. Foix eems quite a pleasant place. The chateau dominates the town. It looks as if it is a much poorer area. Many people selling mushrooms and other edible fungi. Not too many restaurants but the hotel is very good and we will eat here.
Sunday 26 September
Went up to the Chateau in the morning. Very amusing guide. Had a short trip in the afternoon. St. Martin, Sevres, Buttet, Col de Peguere (Tour la Font), Col le Port (where we had coffee) and Tarascon sur Ariege. Some spectacular views especially near Col de Peguere. Saw some Eagles. Many of the cattle around here have bells around their necks.
Monday 27 September
Went to visit the underground river at Grottes de Labouiche. Arrived in the morning to find that the party had already left so we decided to go for a short ride around until the afternoon. Baulou, Aigues Juntes, Sabarat, (lunch), Gabre, then back to the caves.
At Baulou came across an old railway station - typical standard station. I found out later that the line was built in the 1880s and it closed about 1955. It was the SNCF line between Foix and St. Girons. It was originally intended to run further to the south where there are more villages and more traffic but a deputy wanted it through this valley because he had a house there. Viaduct towards Foix and several bridges and tunnels towards St. Girons made the line expensive to construct.
Passed several Hamlet's on the trip and the road seems to go around the houses, on several occasions it seemed to go right through a farmyard. The cattle were being watched in the fields by people - don't know why - might be to protect them from animals. The whole area seems to abound in mushrooms and other fungi.
The visit to Labouiche was spectacular and well worth coming back for. The entry is down a circular staircase and then we got into a boat which is pulled along by the guide who grasps a rope suspended from the roof. We went in one direction to see a cascade, turned around and came back past where we had boarded the boat to some rapids where we disembarked and walked across and got into another boat. We walked across cascades twice all told. The exit is close to the surface although there is a steep climb up a path back to the road. Paul was very good. In the boats we bumped against the side frequently and we had to watch our heads frequently.
Came back to Foix via La Bastide and Serres with good views. Passed an oxcart. The road is very narrow and twisting. Good job we didn't meet any vehicular traffic.
Tuesday 28 September
Went south Via Soula, Leychert and Villeneuve d'Olmes to Montsegur where we had lunch. The chateau is perched right up on a big rock. We didn't visit it because that is a steep climb up the mountain side and it was pretty cold. The Blue Guide explains that although the fortress was thought to be impregnable it was taken and all 200 odd people inside killed.
In the afternoon we travelled by Belesta to Belcaire via the Foret de Ste. Colombe. Took N 613 to Ax-les-Thermes stopping at Col de Marmare where we collected a few fungi and Col de Chioula where there are tremendous views in all directions.
Wednesday 29 September
Went to Ax-les-Thermes and the plateau de Bonascre. Unfortunately the telecabin was closed. Good views though. Went to Niaux to inquire about the visit to the cave painting. Guide was very sour so we didn't wait. Back to Foix via Tarascon via west bank of the river.
Thursday 30 September
Out via La Bastide and Durban to le Mas d'Azil. The cave is a huge hole which has been opened out by an underground river. Now used by the road. They have found some interesting prehistoric finds. Back via D15 and N627 to St. Girons where we had a drink and then returned via the N117.
Friday 1 October
Did some shopping in the morning. Saw many live chickens and ducks in the market. Had a short trip in the afternoon to Legrillou via Canac and Brassac and back via Lamouline. Good views over the plains towards Foix. Watched a hawk soaring over the valley.
Saturday 2 October
Took the parents back to Toulouse to catch their plane back to England. Came back after seeing them off at the airport via the valley of the river Leze. Stopped off at a charming little village of St. Sulphice where we had an excellent meal. paul rally enjoyed it, we had cramed artichoke hearts.
Sunday 3 October
Went to the station early to see trains.
Visited the caves at Niaux to see the cave paintings. We had to walk a mile into the mountain. Paul was fractious but this was understandable. Had a good meal at Tarascon-sur-Ariege );ievre - hare) good reataurant.
Monday 4 October
Drove to Carcassonne (we were stopped for a snap customs check on the way) where we disposed of the rented car and f;ew back to Ottawa via paris and Montreal. Lousy trip but a great holiday which was most marked for the food and drink.
Suck, poulet aux cepes, civet de lievre, coquelet, entrecote aux cepes, artichoke hearts, ecrevisses a l'Americain, Patisserie, brains - cervelles, cassoulet, kidney (in sauce and shish kabob), truite meuniere
Corbieres, Rose du tarn, Minervois, Blanquette de Limoux.