Sometime ago I decided to leave the U.K. as it had become a country I no longer had respect for since the Brexit Referendum. I decided to go and live in the Philippines and marry my sweetheart over there.
Before doing that I thought I would do some travelling around Europe and in North America.
In early October 2019 I flew to Berlin which is a favourite city of mine and stayed in two very good hostels – first the EZPZ Backpackers Hostel near Zoologischer Garten and then at the Heart Of Gold on Johannisstraße at 19,50 Euros a night. I had been to Berlin many times and visited things I had missed on previous visits. I also visited Potsdam which is the last stop on the SBahn and went to Schloss Sans Souci. On the way back to Berlin I decided to stop off at Wannsee to visit the WannseeKonferenzHaus to see where the Final Solution was planned by Heydrich and other Nazi officials. It was closed but they had an exhibition in the Gardens.
On October 15 and 16 I visited Krakow in Poland which I found to be a delightful city. The real reason I went to Krakow was to visit Auschwitz-Birkeneau which is about an hour by train outside Krakow. One cannot fail to be moved by such a place.
I retuned to Berlin for one more night at the Heart of Gold Hostel and the following day I took the train to Freiburg im Breisgau in the Black Forest. I travelled right across Germany from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Freiburg Hauptbahnhof for just about 30 Euros. In Freiburg I stay at the always excellent Black Forest Hostel. I was in Freiburg for three nights and visited relatives and friends and one day the family and I took the train to Basel in Switzerland which is only an hour away. Basel is situated on the Rhine and we spent a lovely day there.
On October 21, I left Frieburg by train for Brussels via Aachen. I broke my journey in Aachen as I wanted to visit Aachen Dom (Cathedral) which was the home for Charlemagne – Karl der Grosse – one of two cathedrals I wanted to see before leaving Europe. I spent a few hours in Aachen and then resumed my journey to Brussels. On arrival in Brussels I made for my hostel – the Hotel Louise where I was booked in for two nights. It was so awful that I moved out after one night and went to another hostel which was far better. In Brussels I visited the European Parliament as well as the beautiful Grote Markt.
I left Brussels after two days and took the Flixbus to Paris where I was booked into the Young and Happy Latin Quarter Hostel for three nights. It was excellent and apart from the one hostel in Brussels I had good fortune in selecting my hostels. I love Paris. On one day I traveled to Chartres to visit the beautiful Chartres Cathedral and the town of Chartres was very pleasant. The next day was the second day of a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at Le Louvre and I went to that which was marvellous. Le Louvre is one massive art galley and I saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo there in addition to the Leonardo exhibition. A great day.
On October 25 I took the overnight Flixbus from Gare Bercy to London Victoria to save money. It is not something I would recommend but it was cheap. Arriving at Victoria Coach Station I transferred to the National Express coach back to Exeter and home.
I moved out off my flat on November 21and on November 25 I travelled to Paris by Eurostar to stay one night at a hotel at Charles de Gaulle Airport. The reason I decided to fly to New York from Paris was because when I booked the plane was an A380 which was my preferred aircraft but after booking it was changed to another plane so no A380.
I arrived at New York’s JFK Airport and took a taxi to my friend Sara’s apartment in Brooklyn where I was going to stay for over month. Sara was not at home as she was looking after her ailing mother in Glen Cove on Long Island. I spent Thanksgiving there. Sara’s apartment is in Brighton Beach which is almost totally Russian/Ukrainian so the language one heard mostly were these two languages. The area’s nickname is Little Odessa.
In the shops all the labelling was in Russian so I ventured to another area to purchase food. On Sunday I wanted to purchase the Sunday New York Times but they carried no English language newspapers at all so I had to go into Manhattan to purchase the newspaper. I was going there anywhere I wanted to go to Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral which I did and the mass was celebrated by the Cardinal.
I went to Glen Cove a couple of times and slept over which was lovely and Sara visited me on a couple of occasions. I spent Christmas in Glen Cove.
My plan was to spend the New Year in Canada staying with a friend and visiting my two sons. The plan was to spend a month there but my friend was having a visitor so I had to depart sooner and return to New York as my son’s place was too small to allow me to stay over. Fortunately I got to see my two sons but not as long as I had hoped.
I returned to Paris on my return flight on January 24 and then travelled onto London. I stayed a few days at the Smart Hyde Park View hostel which was great and then stayed with friends and family until February 13 when I departed for Manila in the Philippines arriving on Valentine’s Day. How romantic!
The first month in the Philippines was stressful for me trying to get used to my new life and on three occasions I had fall outs with my beloved Wilma. After the third fall out, Wilma went to stay at a friends for a week to think over things. On her return she said that we would not get married. I was very upset because I felt this was my fault. She said I could stay there until I could return home to the U.K.
Then the Pandemic arrived and I was stuck in the Philippines. I had reserved a flight with Turkish Airlines to fly out in May but that flight was cancelled as were flights on June 1, June 10, July 1. My next flight was booked for August 3 and that got cancelled too but in getting touch with the airline they said there was a flight the day before so I accepted that. So I’m back in the U.K. now and in self-isolation for 14 days.
Despite the fact that Wilma and I were not going to get married we got along very well during my enforced layover in Manila. As I am over 60 I was not allowed to go anywhere from home but the family were allowed to go shopping for food. As I left the Philippines lockdown was till in effect. I have to say the Philippine Government have dealt with Covid-19 better than the U.K. Government.
I still love Wilma and we shall remain good friends always. I am 74 years old and she is 31 so perhaps marriage was unrealistic but I have no regrets.
Before lockdown occurred we got to go swimming twice – once in a river and the other in a resort. I was not able to visit any beach resorts due to lockdown so it was a little tedious having to stay in the family home.