The Loire Valley July 1973                                                                           Home


Looking back at my photographs of the trip to the Loire Valley in 1973 I was horrified to see that I had taken only two pictures of people, all the rest were of chateaus and other structures in France.  I am sure someone out there who also travelled to the Loire will have pictures of people.


I think the problem was that having holidayed with my parents in Scarborough, Margate and other less stately places the Loire was enchanting.  I still remember my first sight of Chenonceau Chateau, it left me breathless as it straddled the river, a remarkable building. 


I have vague memories of the trip, well it was 38 years ago and my memory is not what it was.  I apologise if any of this information is incorrect or if names are wrong but I have tried to include only ‘facts’ that I am 99.9% or better certain are true.


The trip was overseen by Ivor Cheale (of course) and Mr. Wrenn who both travelled with their wives.  I recall that the coach we were on was delayed south of London by, I believe, a puncture which meant we missed our ferry. 

We made a later boat but then we were delayed as a powerboat had scuttled in the Channel and our ferry was the first on the scene.  We circled the upturned boat awaiting the arrival of the rescue services.

Having finally docked on the continent we stayed overnight in Bruges at a dump of a hotel.  We walked out that night to see the sights of the city but it was less than memorable.  Strangely this year I have returned to Bruges for the first time since that trip and discovered a beautiful city, I think you have to see it in the daylight to appreciate the place.


I experienced my first Continental Breakfast in the morning; I could not understand why they had dished up Hot Chocolate, bread, jam and cakes for breakfast.  Hot Chocolate is a night time drink and the rest is for afternoon tea.  Where were the eggs and bacon?  I recall our room had a plastic model of Manneken Pis on display, the famous statue from Brussels, this model when filled with water exuded water from ‘that part’ of his body as a penetrating stream if you know what I mean.  We borrowed it for the trip and returned it on our return home as we stayed in the same hotel for the last night of the holiday.


We travelled to our hotel in the ancient city of Blois and were allocated rooms.  As previously mentioned I shared a room with three others, our room was at the rear of the hotel and we were surprised to find we had doors that opened directly on to the street at the back of the hotel.  We never knew whether Ivor or Harry ever realised this, if they had I am sure a padlock would have been fastened to it.  As it was we were too scared to venture out in this strange town so our opportunity to explore the nightlife of Blois was missed.

The photos of ‘people’ are one of me in our hotel bedroom in Blois as well as my roommates (Tony Lovell, Michael Hawes and Phil Cook).


My roommates.  Fom left:

Michael Hawes, Phil Cook & Tony Lovell)

Me (Richard Ashley) in the Blois hotel room


The Chateau and Cathedral of Blois


The bridge and town of Blois

Every night Harry would knock on the room door and insist on seeing every boy in the room to make sure no one had tunnelled out. 


Having experienced a Continental Breakfast for the first time I now ‘enjoyed’ another foreign first, a continental toilet!  I hope you know what I mean, a hole in the ground with two places either side to place your feet.  No sitting on the job here, to make it worse the loo was regularly blocked.


The only form of entertainment in these pre-Play Station days was a table football game in the hotel that we used to almost destruction.


Other memories of the break include:

·         The Blois hotel manager, allegedly, chasing boys with a huge knife as we had managed to annoy him so much;

Display of Flowers on town steps in Blois (yawn)


·         A day trip to Paris where we had a whistle stop tour of the French capital.  I recall a number of us climbing the stairs to the roof up the ‘down’ stairs in Notre Dame Cathedral.  This avoided paying entrance fees that you had to pay if you went the correct way.  Those coming down were not happy, didn’t understand why at the time;


·         Ivor was always walking about 20 yards ahead of the group with his wife, Poppit, a few yards behind him but still in front of the rest of the group;


·         The whole group of boys standing in the town centre of Orléans and singing ‘Rule Britannia’ at the top of our voices.  This was in sight of a statue of Joan of Arc.  A number of startled locals stumbled by very quickly to avoid this display of British bravado.


·         On one occasion a pupil was late back to catch the coach so Ivor sent a prefect to find him.  The prefect had only departed a few moments when the errant chap turned up and now we were missing one prefect.  No names here, that’s because we can’t remember who they were.


·         The return trip on the hovercraft was interesting as the Channel was having one of its ‘choppy’ days.  The majority of the group managed to empty their (Continental) breakfast during the trip.  However one pupil, believed to be Wodzak, was vomiting because the night before we came home he had managed to acquire a bottle of red wine and down the lot, it came up faster than it went down that’s for sure.


The town of Blois was unknown to me back in 1973 and stayed that way again after I left.  However in 1992 took up a post in East Sussex and when I visited the county town, Lewes, there it was again that town.  Blois is a twin town of Lewes; strange that Catholic town in France is twinned with an English town that burns effigies of the Pope on November the Fifth.            Entente Cordiale indeed!


Richard Ashley