This is the finale of my collage series and while it hasn’t been precisely 4x7UP it’s covered the key events of my early years. In this post, I’m once again going to indulge myself a little so I hope you’ll come along on the trip and see some of our travel from a child’s point of view. Pinching the inspiration from Kristin at Finding Eliza my plan is to interweave quotes from some travel notes and my letters back to my parents.
Finally the Darling Daughters (DDs) 1 and 2 were getting the opportunity they missed a few years earlier. We were off to Europe! At the same ages then as our grandchildren are now, I still wonder what we were thinking taking two small girls on a Grand Tour to Europe, England and Scotland with a “dessert” of Delhi, Kathmandu and Singapore. Obviously we had way more stamina in those far-off days of our youth, as did they!
It’s greatly to the girls’ credit that they stood up to the demands of the trip so well…trains, buses, boats, huge ferries, small and large aircraft and multiple sights and cultures. For children who only travelled by car or plane, there were new experiences aplenty. “The kids enjoyed the train to Florence” and DD2 apparently “LOVES buses!”
I wrote to my parents: “we are all well, having arrived safely unlike those poor souls in Tenerife” …this was a reference to a horrendous KLM-Pan Am on-tarmac crash with 583 casualties the day before we left Moresby. We had “arrived at Moresby airport at 11.40am on Monday and arrived in Rome 27 hours later.” After a three hour stopover in Manila “we did not get off in Bangkok as the kids had not long gone to sleep…Likewise in Karachi.”
Not surprisingly by the time we landed in Rome the kids (and we) were exhausted, and not impressed at having to be reclothed in warm attire (them). Miss DD1 who had been so peeved to be denied the earlier trip with us, decidedly announced “she did not like Rome and why had we come?! My sentiments exactly at that point!” Isn’t long-haul travel grand, not to mention jet lag. They were so tired they fell asleep on the airport bus and “missed the Colosseum and the man sitting in a truck full of artichokes“. “Rome station is an interesting place at 8am in the morning –you see all the latest fashions –high heeled boots, skin tight jeans and tartan skirts. The Cass kids are IN already.” (Peter’s mother had bought the girls kilts while they were living in Scotland the year before.)
However after a good sleep we all felt much more human and willing to be tourists. Staying near St Peter’s we “showed the kids the statues, Swiss Guards and the Pieta but I suspect what they’ll remember is the pigeons and horses!” Actually pigeons and coin throwing, initiated by the traditional Three Coins in a Fountain at the Trevi Fountain, which “took the kids fancy”. When Miss DD2 would get tired or grumpy we’d shoo her off to terrorise the nearest pigeons…there were always some.
Florence was a huge hit with the kids as they were spoiled by stall holders in the markets with little leather shoulder purses and per DD1’s letter home “Mummy bought us a dolly”, one each actually. Too true, but little did we suspect that DD2’s chosen baby doll, dressed in blue, was actually a fully-appurtenanced boy (it was Italy!). She (DD/Mum!) was a tad surprised but made a good recovery.
The kids were enthralled by Venice: DD1 jumping up and down with excitement at her first sighting of gondolas and the Grand Canal. But have you ever had to find public toilets for four-year olds in Italy, especially Venice? A nigh impossible task! As we travelled we selected charms for the girls to remember their grand adventure. They never wanted them on a charm bracelet but a couple have recently been added to a birthday gift for DD2.
Lucerne was once again a thrill, it’s such a chocolate-box-picture kind of place, and it’s handy to be able to speak a little German. “It’s about a week earlier than when we were here last time and it has been snowing since about midnight. The roof tops have a covering of snow as do the trees and grass. It is all very picturesque if rather more winter than spring…It came down in big flakes mid-morning and we all went out for a look and a feel.” I wrote “we caught an overnight train from Salzburg to Zurich…to be sure of getting a room here for the Easter break”. We managed to “get a three-bed room plus kitchen and balcony overlooking Lucerne for $18 a day which is good for here” Of course being in the country of chocolate is the perfect place to be for Easter <smile>.
We left Lucerne on Easter Monday, travelling via Interlaken. Despite telling the children repeatedly not to walk into the snow or their feet would be wet all night (another overnight train trip), quite naturally that was exactly what they did. This is one of our favourite photos of DDs1 and 2 from this holiday.
Much as we loved the Netherlands it caused us plenty of hassle when Peter’s shoulder bag was expertly “picked” on a near-empty tram in Amsterdam one Friday evening, removing his passport, rail passes and travellers cheques. Luckily we each carried our own travel documents, and I had the girls’, or we’d have been in a pickle.
In my aerogramme to my parents I said we “couldn’t file the report with the police as they were called out to a robbery, grabbed their guns and (leather) coats and took off! Quite impressive!…Whatever else you lose it is imperative never to lose a passport- you can’t move without it –literally or figuratively”. The consequence of this mini-drama was a trip to The Hague for a new passport and trawling all over London to get new visas to Nepal and a new entry permit for PNG. American Express was amazing, replacing their travellers cheques quickly. Our Australian bank much less so!
We mostly avoided the churches and art galleries and looked for child-friendly outings. On this particular day at Madurodam, DD2 had been excelling herself wanting to throw coins into the myriad waterways: as I said, one of her travel addictions. If you look carefully at mother’s fingers you will see that her sentiments may not quite have matched her charming smile.
Kathmandu had long been on Mr Cassmob’s travel wish-list so when my friend and her husband relocated to Kathmandu and invited us to visit, the temptation was too much. The family story (totally true!) goes that after I’d chased DD2 who’d escaped outside the travel agent’s, I returned to hearing the agent recap our flight bookings, including a stop in Kathmandu! It would have been too stressful to be staying in hotels there so we were fortunate to be in our friends’ home. We were also pleased that the husband was in charge of airport electricals when we arrived in the midst of a major lightning storm. Kathmandu was an eye-opener for all of us, even after living in a developing country, but it was less discouraging than New Delhi which drove us all mad with the constant hassling. Still, despite the practicalities I rather regret we decided not to make the day trip to Agra. I suspect we never will see the Taj Mahal.
Our stay in Singapore ended up being rather longer than planned as the Australian airport baggage handlers were still on strike. One of the moments when you’re glad you have some credit cards but also a good chance to chill out by the pool. Finally the strike broke and we raced to the airport in company with some colleagues’ family, who handpassed the girls over people’s heads, such was the crush of humanity in the terminal that day. We also got a side trip to Brisbane, because we’d had to re-route our tickets if we were ever to get home to PNG.
The Qantas aircrew were as pleased to be finally going home as we all were and as soon as the doors were locked, announced free drinks all round. As the steward pulled the cap off Peter’s first XXXX beer (that’s its name) in a long time, the beer spewed everywhere having been languishing in a hot plane for over a week. Spilling all over the steward, he announced “wouldn’t that rip the fork out of your nightie”. We knew we were once again heading for home!