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As Time Goes By: French Holiday

Eileen Perrin tells of a memorable holiday in France and other holiday visits which added to fulfilling retirement years.

In May 1993 Les and I visited Selborne in Hampshire and went over the house of the famous clergyman and naturalist the Rev Gilbert White who died in 1793.

Then we moved on to Beaulieu the east Hampshire home of Lord Montagu and his motor museum of famous and vintage cars, buses, coaches and motor cycles.

Three remembered films from that year were ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ with Hugh Grant, ‘Remains of the Day’ with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson and ‘Schindlers List’ with Liam Neeson.

In June 1993 we went on a fabulous two-week Saga tour through France, from Calais, then on to Rheims where we went in the cathedral., driving on through the vineyards of Burgundy to stay two nights at Chalon-sur-Saone. We saw the Roman aqueduct at Pont de Gard, then on to Avignon and its bridge made famous in the French nursery hyme.

Driving on through the Gorge d’Ardeches, with beautiful craggy scenery, we reached the fairytale villages of Conques, St. Cirq Lapopie and the 14th century bridge at Cahors.

We had never imagined France could be so enchanting, as we went through the Dordogne region with picturesque Rocamadur and Loches with its history of the making of pate de foie gras, and on to Brive into the valley of the Loire and Chartres cathedral.

In a small cafe in Chartres we had our first croque monsieur – a toasted sandwich of ham and cheese – which we have copied many times since.

We went round the medieval Chateau de Blois where Catherine de Medici lived, and finally on to Abbeville and Calais, then back across the Channel.

Now we were not working, we enjoyed several holidays each year. By September 1993 we were in Warwickshire staying in a hotel just on the fringe of Leamington Spa, which had the absolutely grandest floral displays ever seen in their parks. Even lamp posts were pillars of flowers. We went to see Warwick castle and walked in the grounds and down to the river. Later that autumn we went to Stratford on Avon, another beautiful town.

That December in 1993 we celebrated Leslie’s 70th birthday on 23rd December 1923. His cake had a model of him at a bench doing woodturning, his favourite hobby.

The following year in April we went to stay at Rothley Court Hotel, near Leicester.

In June we were touring in East Anglia, through Bury St.Edmunds, to Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, and stayed in the lovely old Suffolk town of Southwold.

Our U3A Poetry Appreciation group took us on a sunny July day in 1994 to the parish church at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire to visit the tomb of the poet Thomas Gray, who wrote ‘Elegy in a Country churchyard.’ Then on to an old Quaker Meeting House at Jordans, where there are graves of members of the Penn family who founded Pennsylvania, and lastly to Milton’s cottage in Chalfont St.Giles.

In August 1944 we were looking after our son Val’s house in Impington while they were on holiday. We drove out to Hemingford Abbott and looked round St.James church on the banks of the river there. Here is a poem I wrote about it.


Please Do Not Fish From The Churchyard
Your line might get caught in the yews!
Your boats are eroding the riverside banks, So “SLOW DOWN” as you cruise up the Ouse.

Laden ladies ‘green up’ for a wedding With armfuls of birch, fern and broom. Flowers they’ll bring in tomorrow For Saturday’s new bride and groom.

A swan with his mate’s gliding over To get the bread thrown from the wall, Where Granny holds tight To her three year-old mite Reaching down to the ducks – lest he fall.


Films we enjoyed in 1994 included ‘Forest Gump’ with Tom Hanks and ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ with Terence Stamp. There was a revival of the show ‘Oliver’ at the London Palladium with Jonathan Pryce but we have never seen it.

In October 1994 we were on another Saga holiday in Spain at Benicasim in Valencia in the Hotel Orange. The beach there was long, and as it was late in the season the promenade was almost deserted. We drove into the town of Valencia, which has a massive arena and bull ring and went round the Bullfighting Museum, enjoying the splendour of the embroidered toreador capes, the ornate costumes for horses, and the fine silver swords.

In the cathedral we saw what is known as the Holy Grail, a gold cup ornamented with precious stones, said to have been given by the Pope.
We had a boat trip down the coast to Peniscola where El Cid defeated the Moors.

At Christmas 1994 we went away with the University of the Third Age to Market Harborough in Leicestershire and stayed in the old Three Swans hotel. On a freezing day we went to see the deserted canal system complex at Foxton locks.

Never tired of seeing new places, and by now well into my family history research, in March 1995 we had a weekend in Sherborne in Dorset, where we met my relative Leonard Coan.
We also found the village of East Coker and in the church saw the memorial to the American poet T.S.Eliot, whose ashes were buried there in 1965. His family emigrated to America from East Coker. He considered ‘Four Quartets’ his masterpiece (the 2nd quartet is East Coker).

Another often quoted poem by Eliot is ‘The Love Story of J. Alfred Prufrock’.


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