Subject: France, UK, London GTG
Hi Ziners,

Having just arrived home from a two-month trip to France and the UK, I would like to share a couple of thoughts from the trip - which included the London GTG:

We flew into Paris and, after a couple of days there (Paris in the late springtime, with flower stalls everywhere bedecked with beautiful fragrant flowers, was wonderful), we used Eurail passes to go to the Loire Valley and stayed at the charming B&B Hotel Anne de Bretagne in Blois. This cost us only 60 Euro for our room and breakfasts and was the best value and service we could have hoped for.

Then we used a combination of train travel and car rental to explore Provence. Wonderful countryside, chateaux, the amazing "perched villages" atop hillsides in Provence, people-watching in Cannes during the film festival, driving along the corniche of the Cote D'Azur all added up to a very rewarding ten days in the southern regions of France, before we took the train north to Rouen in Normandy.

As well as exploring the old town of Rouen, we also drove to the WWI battlefields of the Somme , where the red poppies were in bloom in the fields, and to the Normandy beaches of WWII. One very hot day, we were enchanted by Monet's garden at Giverny. And, of course, there was Mont St Michel - a spectacle which took our breath away. We then had some more time (never enough) in Paris, before taking the "Eurostar" train under the channel to London and on to a home exchange in Bradford-on-Avon, near Bath.

We had expected to love Bath, having seen pictures of this beautiful old city, but Bradford-on-Avon was a less-expected delight. Bradford is a very old, very charming town with a real village atmosphere - and we were staying right in the centre, in a town house with a pretty little garden. The evening after we arrived, we went to an organ recital by the local organ society in a twelfth-century church only one minute walk away. The bells of the church pealed very frequently (fortunately, we love church bells). It is amazing that, somehow, the traffic gets around in these old towns, with their narrow, winding streets. Somehow, we managed too, in the nice little Honda Jazz which came with the home exchange. We can see why very few people drive big cars!

Back in London, Stewart Wright had suggested the Blackfriars Pub for our GTG on 23 June and this classic old pub was an ideal venue - thanks Stewart. Thanks also to Dianne and Murray Pryor for the initial GTG suggestion. Photo can be seen at

In London we stayed at the Lunar Simone Hotel, on our daughter's recommendation. Price is reasonable, breakfast included, rooms small but clean and adequate, service couldn't have been more helpful and the location, near Victoria, was just about ideal.

Then we had a week in Edinburgh. Maureen and I had each separately visited Edinburgh before and we loved it again this time. We also happened to be there at the time of the "Make Poverty History" rally and march, before the G8 summit, and were interested to participate a little. It was great to see a quarter of a million people peacefully and good-naturedly expressing their desire for the G8 leaders to do more to address poverty in Africa.

Back to London, which we enjoyed as usual and, if we had to choose a highlight, it might be Shakespeare in the replica Globe Theatre. We left London the day before the bombings. Subsequently, we have reflected on the contrast between the hate-filled terrorists and the quarter million people in Edinburgh trying to say something positive.

Harry, Gold Coast, Australia