I think just about everywhere in the UK had a brilliant sunset last night, because FaceBook was full of photos of it.
Anyway, here's mine, taken from Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire!
It's January and there's never much for me to write about until the weather improves and I can get outside and hold a camera without shivering too much...
However, just to catch up on one of the few events since my last missive way back in 2019, a few photos from 16 December 2019 when I performed a solo entertainment for the members of the Over Wyre Social and Activity Club's Christmas Party event.
This was at the request of one of the club's founders, who I first met one or two years ago when we were eleven years old.
She can remember me playing and singing when hair still graced my head... I've been taking my Mum to the club which meets once a month and was asked if I would play for the Christmas party. It's a long while since I've done a show on my lonesome apart from the odd couple of songs a night with friends Tomas and Maris on cruise ships. Certainly neither Jan (the friend) nor Mum (the er… maternal parent...) had seen me do anything like this for several decades.
But it was good fun and I made sure the party-goers had a good time and chose songs that they could join in with.
And to finish with I turned to the keyboard to play a gentle version of White Christmas. Bing would have been proud! Thanks to Jan and to the members of the club for their welcome and generous applause and praise.
Join us for a long weekend trip by coach to the German Christmas Markets along the River Rhine, 6-9 December 2019.
Each article can be accessed by clicking/tapping the six photos below. A link on each page will bring you back here.
Sunday 8 December 2019. We arrive in Rudesheim and the coach parks a little way out of town. A road train has been booked for us to ride all the way in.
The train drops us off behind the river front and right at the start of a string of Christmas Market stalls.
There is also a mechanical music museum, though when we try to get in, we are turned away with the phrase "We are completely booked for the rest of the day" even though half an hour earlier Les, our driver, had phoned to ask if they could take a party of ten or more... Unfortunately, we were the only ones who thought it would be a good thing to visit.
There are some rather inviting hostelries too - although the painted cat on the front of the Stadt Frankfurt looks more suited to Halloween than Christmas!
Unable to visit the museum, we console ourselves with a somewhat massive cone of chips... The Germans spell pommes frites exactly the same way the French do and having only learned French at school I once made the mistake of pronouncing them as "pom freet" in Bavaria. One diner laughed so hard he choked on his own chips and the waitress glared at us sternly and said "pommus frittus!" in an affronted tone. I got it right this time...
A large Nativity scene. It reminded me of a trip to Bethlehem six years ago where the Palestinian guide pointed out the hillside where the Shepherds had been and said "Lets all sing the song..." He was sadly disappointed.
We had a good look round the market and found more stalls on the side streets as we walked back towards the river front. This however is an alley off a side street and doesn't have any...
A goods train was passing as we came to the river front. We turned left to walk along another row of market stalls, getting split up a few times, there were so many people there.
We also had a look in the souvenir shops. A bottle of wine was chosen to grace our Christmas table and one or two other bits and pieces were bought, including the inevitable fridge magnet.
Then we crossed the road and level crossing to walk along the riverside back towards the coach. Much too far... We should have turned off the river bank after a short distance but were blindly following another couple who just kept going. There should have been a clue in the way they kept turning to see if we were still following them...
Eventually we reach a ruined bridge. It was dark now but I could make out a sign saying it was the Hindenburg Bridge. An arch still stands. The arch next to it had broken away from the support and leans drunkenly in large chunks of masonry against its neighbour. The spans over the river were destroyed by air raids in 1945 during World War II and the German Wermacht destroyed the arches in an attempt to hold up the Americans who were advancing through the region.
We caught up with the other couple who were panicking a little and then got some conflicting directions from people and I rang driver Ian. After some confusion we got back to the coach just about on time. Others needed Ian to go out searching for them. But we all got back on the coach safely in the end. We were not the only ones to walk as far as the bridge!
Monday, 9 December 2019. A very early start for our journey home. The hotel puts take-away breakfast bags together for us at 5:00am. Another pre-packed lunch is available at the coach interchange before we come back through the tunnel to England. We get a 25 minute stop on the motorway - just time to wolf down a MacDonalds burger - never my favourite meal. The coach looks amazing from the easy chairs at the back of the vehicle. For some reason we leave it at Blackburn for a taxi to Blackpool but our way into Blackburn is blocked by an accident and we have to reverse up a side street to turn and then detour around through Darwen. We get home on schedule though at 11:30pm.
Sunday 8 December 2019. It's Sunday morning and with quarter of an hour before we have to get on the coach, we dash down the street to take a few photos of Assmannhausen.
The streets are very narrow and the corners very tight. And the sticky-out bit just above the pink on this building, very scarred from meeting buses, coaches and lorries...
Looking back from further down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill is a level crossing. Railways run along both sides of the Rhine. Our side gets more goods traffic than passenger traffic and the other side vice versa. Time to get on the coach.
Our first stop of the day is a city called Wiesbaden. It's Sunday morning and as yet is fairly deserted.
There is a skating rink and a small Christmas Market, but as yet most of the stalls are still boarded over and closed. Wiesbaden is a spa town and has 14 hot springs. It once had 26 apparently. Anyway, we didn't see any of them...
We wandered through a shopping mall with no open shops and then along a few streets of offices and shops that were also shut and got a bit lost. We saw a Big Wheel slowly turning and that turned out to be shut as well, as we were turned away at the turnstile. (That's as many "turns" as I can get out of a Big Wheel...)
A few stalls of the Christmas Market were starting to open, but it was bitterly cold for walking about.
We found the skating rink again. I confess I've never strapped either skates nor planks of wood to my feet and have no intention of doing so. We wandered back to the coach, freezing, about an hour before we needed to. We weren't the first ones back by any means.
Saturday 7 December 2019. The third part of today's excursion, after the Rhine cruise and Boppard, is Koblenz.
It's mid afternoon as we arrive in Koblenz, the city at the point where the River Moselle flows into the Rhine. Several river cruise ships are moored up here and we sneak a peek inside as we walk past. The standard of furnishings in the cabins looks very high and luxurious.
We are walking up a main shopping street, Miss Franny looking in wine shop windows picking things for me to juggle later on our walk back to the coach... Bits of music in several different styles reaches us and eventually we come across these four guys who happily pose and/or blink as I take a photo. You win some, you lose some...
A massive shop selling Christmas decorations. I went all nostalgic when I saw these as my parents had a couple of glass birds just like these when I was still playing with my toys on the floor with bare knees rather than from behind a microphone. The pink one next to the gold one came home with us.
Ta Da! Our first Christmas Market! We've glimpsed others down side streets but decided to walk up the shopping street and then work our way back down doing the side streets.
Glűwein is mulled wine and lots of people were wandering round with glass mugs getting emptier and eyes getting glassier!
Well I don't mind if I do... The mugs came home with us too.
Not really sure what this was about... The policeman seems amused but what is that she's holding? A turkey foot? A set of withered bagpipes? And she's reaching for a bribe out of her purse too...
Time for a wander and getting into the Christmas Spirit. Or should that be "getting Christmas Spirits into us"...?
Ham and cheese on a stall. Fran considered getting a small cheese as it would have been cold enough in the hold of the coach. Kaiserschinken as the ham is labelled, is literally King Ham. Miss Franny shook her head. "I might want some cheese but I don't want any king ham..." Blimey... Alright, alright, calm down..."
We had a good wander around all the side street markets on the way back down. A group of people with brass instruments were playing just short snatches of Christmas Carols, getting a round of applause after each one. Literally just one verse for each one. Perhaps they were enjoying the applause!
As it starts to get dark it gets quite a bit colder. We set off back to the river with about 45 minutes before we are due at the coach, to walk along to a significant landmark. We reach the junction of the Moselle and Rhine rivers and looking across the Rhine, we see the cable car.
This is the landmark. A huge statue of Kaiser Wilhelm of WW1 fame with the base made into a prison by Hitler. It was specifically to hold Winston Churchill in WW2 and to incarcerate and humiliate him in sight of passers-by.
I have no tripod with me, but can't resist taking a few photos of the Moselle River at night.
I've always loved night photography anyway. Often quite ordinary buildings can look wonderful when picked out by lights against a dark sky.
We walked as far as the first bridge over the Moselle River and then turned back to return to the coach for our trip back to Assmannhausen and our hotel.
Once back we had just enough time before dinner to trot a way down the street to take a photo of the hotel.
Saturday 7 December 2019. The cruise along the Rhine onboard the Loreley Star has brought us to Boppard, where we spot our coach parked up ready to take us onto our final destination for the day.
More of that later though, as first we have some time to explore this ancient town. One of the first buildings we see after turning away from the Rhine Promenade is this slate-built inn.
Many of the older buildings are highly decorated either with carving or painted murals, such as this coaching scene.
St Severus's church dominates the end of the this row of impressive buildings. Remains dating back 13,000 years were found near here and there are Roman remains in the vicinity also, though we failed to stumble over them.
But hang on a moment... This is about half past twelve in the afternoon on a Saturday. Where is everybody? Fran suggested they may have all gone to find a Christmas Market, but even so, the streets are very quiet.
Admittedly the drizzly weather wouldn't be helping, but we trot about looking for something to eat. We only want a snack. Sandwiches are not easily found in Germany as far as my own experience provides any evidence. We found a bakery and opted for croissants of which there was a selection of types and flavours.
Our short time in Boppard was coming to an end. We made our way back to the Rhine to see that the Loreley Star seemed to have given up any thoughts of another trip for the day.
We had a short walk along the river to where the coach was parked. Behind it this building had a rather strange structure on the corner of a garden or patio wall.
All aboard! Our next - and final - stop for the day will be Koblenz. Final stop, but first Christmas market! Lead on MacDuff - oops... Herr von Duff...