Mee-Mee Phipps

Author of Memories in the Bone and The Ming Admiral

A truly European holiday

Hi Everyone,
Have neglected this blog for a while. Many things happening, up in the air. I went on a fabulous trip to Europe, (I live in New Zealand, way under) so a flight to Europe takes over 22 hours, not counting the layovers. But once there, we had a wonderful time. This was September-October. Perfect weather.

Spent three days in Prague where we imbued ourselves with Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture and paintings. Saw Swan Lake at a very small theatre that didn’t even have a door into the auditorium, but managed to thrill me so much more than the much more suave productions at Covent Garden when I saw the same years ago. In this Chech production, we were six rows from the small stage . We breathed with the dancers, felt the strain of their muscles, the joy on their faces. It truly was the first time I could say I was enamoured by classical ballet.

The cruise from Budapest down the Danube, through the Main and finally the Rhine on the Almareina was truly faultless. River cruising is surely the best way to cruise. We were close to shore in case of mishaps, the sailing was smooth, the food was wonderful and we stopped each day at a gorgeous city or town. The service and staff on board beat that of the 5 star hotel in Paris. All the crew were East Europeans and had wonderful manners and impeccable grace. There was entertainment every night, including an “Octoberfest”  right by the quay side. We spent time in Vienna, Salzburg, Nuremburg amongst a dozen other places, tasted wine in cellars, climbed up to ancient monasteries and visited churches as old as from the twelve century.Zhu and Happy

In Paris we were treated to dinner and show at the famous Moulin Rouge where the stage, dancers and costumes were fabulous. But what made that experience memorable was the five incredible solo acts. At present, surely the best ventriloquist show must be the one in Moulin Rouge. Barking mad blackbird that springs out from a mailbox and comments in several European languages, a cute white fluffy dog (a real one) that speaks like a girl and gets her languages confused in her shyness. I wonder how they trained her to move her lips with each word.

In London, we were moved by the 900,000 red poppies around the dry moat of the Tower of London – a commemoration for the British men killed in WW1. Very moving. Covent Garden has lost part of its English charm and Harrods, that bastion of English retailing, is now owned by the royal family of Qatar and has become a monstrous monument of glitz and bling. All very suitable for the rich oil women of the Middle East, the mistresses of Russian oligarchs or Chinese billionaires. The English were visible by their absence. Down in the basement is the supreme testament to bad taste — the shrine to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed put up by his father who is now living in Switzerland. Not even his ill-gotten money could buy him English citizenship. To make matters even more tacky there is a life size bronze replica of the dead couple running into the implied sunset with stiff smiles on their metal faces.

All in all, it was a great month away and I recommend a river cruise as the way for a truly relaxing holiday. Hope to be able to post again before too long. Then it was home again to my beloved ZhuZhu (the white fluffy above) who is half French, most suitable for a pet, don’t you think? Her mate is Happy, who now looks like a guinea pig after a haircut.

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