We have been organising Exeter University Club holidays for some years. In the early years these were organised by some branches for their own members however recently we have extended these holidays to all EUC members and we will now show details on this web page.
Includes photos from Derek Smith and Paul Sandford
EUC Holiday to Slovenia & Lake Bled – departing 29 June 2018
On this 8 day holiday we stayed on a half board basis at the 4* Park Hotel on Lake Bled. We enjoyed a full programme of included excursions and guided tours. For example we visited the Church of the Assumption on Lake Bled, cruised from Portoroz to Piran, visited Piran, visited Lake Bohinj and the Savica Waterfall, took a cable car ascent of Mount Vogel, and took a guided tour of Ljubljana.
The holiday was a great success and we have many happy memories of the trip. For most of us it was our first visit to Slovenia, which is a very scenic country one sixth the size of the UK and with a population of about 2 million people. Ljubljana is by far the largest city and the capital of Slovenia with lots of busy people and tourists. Bled is the leading alpine tourist resort in Slovenia. The lake with its unique island church and its delightful medieval castle combine to make Bled one of the most scenic tourist locations in Europe. Our hotel was impressive, and catered for hundreds of tourists including some children. Our tour guide was Blaz Dominik, who was very knowledgable about his home country Slovenia and he added considerably to our holiday.
For me there are two special delights at Lake Bled. First we have the Pletna boats which transport people to see the Church of the Assumption on the Island of Lake Bled. These are wooden boats driven by an oarsman using two oars to push the boat through the water. The second is the delightful (yummy) Bled Cream Cake which is frequently sold on the shores of Lake Bled. Most of our group sampled both of these specialities
24 Aug 18
EUC Fly Cruise to the Caribbean departing 1 March 2018
We set out very early and all 12 arrived on time at LGW. We had a second breakfast, moved to the departure gate, and boarded the plane which was de-iced. Time passed and then 2 passengers needed to disembark the plane. This took almost 90 minutes to complete and finally, 3 hours late, we took off and started our 8.5 hour flight to Barbados. The Thomas Cook hospitality was very good and we spent a lot of the flight chatting to our fellow cruisers. Upon arrival in Barbados we were soon aboard the Braemar, fed, watered (?) and snug in our cabins.
There were plenty of tours at each of the islands, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua and St Kitts. Most of us had pre-booked our choices and enjoyed the experience, the temperatures of 25-28 degC and of course the scenery. Paul and I walked around Barbados and St Lucia, and toured Antigua and St Kitts. I enjoyed the tours and remembered my last visit in 2006 with the BBC Radio Solent Group, when we visited the same islands. On one occasion Paul & I teased the ship’s photographer when we tasted the rum punch in Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua. Our reward was being included in the Braemar holiday DVD!
Once we left St Kitts bound for the Azores we all had a chance to sample the onboard activities, games, talks and of course the quizzes. Our group tried many of them, including shuffleboard, deck quoits, carpet bowls, golf, 10 pin bowling, bridge lessons, ships choir, etc. If your team wins the game you gain points which can be redeemed at the end of the cruise. We did win the quiz once, after we realised that some cruise guests were on the last cruise as well and knew many of the answers. The general knowledge quiz did however contain a lot of pop music, film and TV questions which hampered us. We collected 2 bottles of Cava for our victories and of course we celebrated with our group.
We did have some emergencies on board, with the announcement ‘Code Alpha’. The most amazing was the helicopter recovery of one cruise guest for treatment in the hospital on Azores. The Atlantic Ocean swell made this very difficult and it took over 30 minutes to collect the patient from the Braemar.
We arrived at Southampton on time and disembarked. The ‘Beast from the East’ was blowing and we felt so cold for a few minutes. However on the plus side two of us, Rose & Rolf, have booked another cruise on the Braemar in the Caribbean to celebrate a major birthday for Rose in 2019. They have booked the same cabin and opted to dine in the elegant Grampian Restuarant on Deck 8. As our captain announced to us many times at noon, ‘Be Happy’!
20 March 2018
EUC Holiday to the Beautiful Dordogne – 30th September – 5th October 2017
On Saturday 30 September 12 of us departed Stansted on our Ryanair flight to Bergerac, despite the hoax fire emergency at the airport. Actually 4 of our group became isolated and only boarded the plane with 15 minutes to spare. Was that an omen for our holiday?
Well the holiday in Bergerac was a great success and applauded by all, so we send grateful thanks to Bernie for suggesting the Dordogne. We were also very fortunate to have a great tour manager, Lance Shipley, who also stayed in our hotel. It was a pleasure for me to work with Lance to make it possible for us to deliver the holiday in the time available. An extra day would have helped!
We have many highlights of this holiday and some excellent photos as well, which will remind us of our time in the Dordogne. I have included below the personal highlights I have received since our holiday.
I enjoyed our recent holiday in Dordogne for the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with French life and customs, (though the rather intense use of regional foods in our hotel menu, did not comply with my normal ‘healthy’ diet). And of course it was a great pleasure to be with Exeter friends again.
I was particularly interested in the paintings and cave of Lascaux, and the visit to L’Abri Cro-Magnon with the insight this gives on our prehistory. Again I was fascinated by the Geology of the Dordogne area, – the beauty of colours in rock formations, and the extraordinary building of castles, Abbeys fortifications,and ordinary homes within those contours; so all of our visits and drives were a pleasure. Perhaps we would have enjoyed more time in some places!
Impossible to pick out the best, Derek, in a host of super excursions. Special memories? I did enjoy the ride on the Truffadou steam train which alternated between panoramic views of the most spectacular scenery and tunnels where smoke billowed in our faces – reminded me of the Enfield to Liverpool Street line in the 1950s! Also the walk in the woods round the Cro-Magnon museum to the accompaniment of prehistoric animal noises to help you imagine the life and hazards of the time. And the realisation that these ancient people were a lot brighter than we give them credit for.
I have wonderful memories of this lovely holiday: it far exceeded my expectations. The hotel was good. My window faced the ancient belfry tower in Soulliac so close to the ancient part of the town. I loved the trips. Special favourites were to the Gouffre de Padirac, such magnificent caves with the river trip; the replica cave with its beautiful art at Lascaux; the pretty bastide, walled town, of Domme, again with caves this time much smaller but so full of stalactites and stalagmites; the restored Truffadou Train steaming through countryside and tunnels; the pretty village of La Roque Gageac and the delightful and relaxing Gabare boat trip.
I found the holiday very interesting, and there were a lot of highlights. These include the caves that were so different to each other, the lovely scenery and the fact that I could enjoy it sitting down in the Trouffadou train and on the Gabare boat, the churches which were strikingly decorated, the narrow streets with their ancient little houses were pictureque, and the chateaux were an atttractive feature of the landscape.
Peter Durant – Pilgrimage to Rocamadour
As well as being on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, Rocamadour was a pilgrimage destination in its own right, following the discovery of the relics of St Amadour in the 12th century. Among the many pilgrims to the shrine were Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Loius IX (St Loius). Rocamadour is built on the side of a cliff face with the town at the bottom, shrine complex half way up and a château at the top. It was to this top level that our group from EUC arrived for an hour’s lunch break on the second day of our trip to the Dordogne.
Forgoing lunch, I decided to recreate the “pilgrim experience” for myself, so made my way down to the lowest level, entered the medieval gate to the town and climbed the steps to the shrine (on foot rather than on my knees as required of the original pilgrims). There I was able to admire a 12th century wall painting on the Chapel of St Michael, genuflect to the Black Virgin in the Chapel of Our Lady and venerate the relics of St Amadour in the Basilica of St Saviour. By this time, the shop had just opened, it being Sunday and closed all morning, so I was able to purchase a pilgrim badge as a souvenir of my holy quest, before returning to the top level and rejoining the rest of the group who had by now finished their lunch.
As a postscript, I recently visited the “Living With The Gods” exhibition in the British Museum, and was pleasantly surprised to see, among the exhibits, a Rocamadour pilgrim badge from the 14th – 15th century that was virtually identical to my own. I looked at it and pondered on the fact that, over 500 years later, I had followed in the footsteps of its original owner.
Ann & John Paddon
On Sunday morning we seemed to be the only visitors to Martel. A delightful small town dating from the early Middle Ages. Local people were visiting the bakery but otherwise two cats were the only inhabitants enjoying the sunshine. The old town was almost traffic free as we strolled along the gridiron pattern of streets admiring the varied limestone houses and flowers. We were about to leave the locked church, when a man arrived carrying an enormous key so we were able to go inside. The interior was gradually visible as lights were turned on in the side chapels. Outside were the remains of a large medieval house where Henry, the son of Henry 2nd of England and France, is said to have died. Later as we left Martel station, we were serenaded by a brass band playing The Bare Necessities of Life. So unexpected, it had the whole crowd of people of various nationalities smiling and jiggling!
We were all very grateful to Bernie Sluman who had arranged the holiday but was not able to come with us; also to Derek Smith who took on the role of leader while we were in France.
Paul & Liz Sandford
I received some very good photos from Paul Sandford, from which I have attached a special group photo taken at Gouffre de Padirac. If you want to view more of Paul’s photos get in touch with him.
My own thoughts
As for me I found the whole experience very rewarding. I share most of the views described above and I have a few special memories. First I remember the evenings at our hotel in Souillac, with plenty of wine, extra fois gras and great company. I also remember going up in a lift at Sarlat to look over the roofs of the town – an intriguing experience shared with several of our group. I felt that our group mixed very well, and in particular we welcomed Hazel a new friend.
I wonder what the future holds for EUC holidays in France. I get the feeling that many of us would like them to continue.
Contributed by Derek Smith and many others
20 Nov 2017
EUC Holiday in Puglia and the Beautiful Heel of Italy – 9th – 17th June 2017
Derek Smith ended his account of last year’s EUC and Fleet Matinee Club’s holiday to Spain by saying that thanks were due to the Tailored Travel team for a really great holiday and wondered if TT could produce another equally good holiday this year. I think they did and should add that Derek and Paul Brinck also played an important part in organising our holiday to the Heel of Italy.
We spent the first night in the Russ Hill Hotel near Gatwick to avoid a very early start for our flight to Bari on Saturday 10th June.
Ludo, our Italian guide, was at Bari airport to greet us and accompany us on our coach drive to the 4* Grand Hotel La Chuisa di Chietri near Alberobello. Our hotel supplied our needs well, good food for breakfast and evening meals, comfy ensuite bedrooms, bar and excellent swimming pool.
On the Sunday we were taken by coach to Locorotondo, a small town where we visited a church and walked along its narrow streets with their flower-decked houses. Next we drove to Alberobello where we enjoyed a wine-tasting and saw its many ‘trulli’ houses. These have one room, are circular with pointed roofs and are special to Puglia. On Monday we travelled to Ostuni and spent the morning exploring its alleys, cathedral and seeing its extensive view across the plain to the sea. In the afternoon we drove on to Martina Franca with more winding alleys among white-washed houses and an interesting church. The next day we visited Trani and Castel del Monte. Trani is by the sea with an attractive harbour and an outstanding cathedral with a large crypt. Castel del Monte is a World Heritage Site and is of an unusual octagonal shape. It has dangerous steps up to it but the views from the top are good.
There was no coach outing on Wednesday but some of us took a taxi to Alberobello and explored its trulli houses further both inside and out. On our return we relaxed and enjoyed the pool and other hotel facilities. The next day we visited Matera, a fascinating town built into the cliff face. Some of us went down the steps to see inside its Sassi dwellings which are carved into the cliff.
Polignano a Mare, as its name suggests is by the sea and was our destination for our last day. We explored its cathedral and more houses perched on the cliff face. After lunch we drove on to Grotto del Castellana and did a tour through its extensive network of passages with stalactites and stalagmites and walls of varied colours.Our farewell dinner was at the Masseria Paperta farmhouse. Masserias are unique to southern Italy. They were fortified farmhouses with oil mills, cellars, chapels and accommodation for workers and livestock. Many are now converted into tourist accommodation and restaurants as was the one in which we had supper.
The journey home went smoothly and we were glad to climb into our coach at Gatwick to be driven home.
Finally, many thanks to Paul, Derek and Tailored Travel for once again arranging such a good holiday. We hope for another next year!
EUC holiday to the Amalfi Coast – June 2015
Seventeen members from five EUC branches met our friends from the Fleet Matinee Club and we departed for an action packed trip to the Amalfi Coast in June. The 4* Grand Hotel Hermitage was very comfortable, had wonderful menus and superb views over the Bay of Naples for most of us. The attractive itinery took us to many of the delightful excursions available, and on top of all this we had a dramatic day in Pompeii and on Mount Vesuvius. Many of us have already spoken about this and the other highlights since we have returned.
Those of us with cameras were treated to amazing dawn images as we looked across the Bay of Naples in the early hours of the morning on our first day. What a wonderful way to start the holiday!
Our first trip to Capri was interesting but for me was not as good as my last visit over 10 years ago. The number of visitors had increased a lot and this made much of Capri very crowded, especially around the harbour and waiting for the shuttle buses. However there are some wonderful views on the island to enjoy and photograph and quiet corners where one can relax. Just before we travelled back to Sorrento we enjoyed a free sample of Limoncello flavoured sweets in a local shop, which was an unexpected treat.
The following day we travelled along the Amalfi Coast, visiting Belvedere Positano for some stunning photo shots, and then onwards to spend time in Amalfi and Ravello. The coastal scenery was really beautiful and offered delightful photo shots from the coach. I visited the Cathedral of Amalfi which was a wonderful experience, despite the large number of steps to climb. Others walked around the town and enjoyed some lunch. In addition I was pleased to visit Ravello and Villa Rufolo – I also remember a very welcome ice cream there.
Our dramatic day was on Sunday 7th June, when most of us visited Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. Our normal guide Ilaria was unavailable and Bernadette deputised – but what a day for her! The trip to Pompeii started well and we visited some of the well known sights, including the ‘red light district’ and we found a very good high viewpoint over the city. The weather was good but the temperature started to rise. Then suddenly Tony collapsed and fell headlong onto the Roman pavement. We were stunned by the noise of his fall and then quickly help was organised, paramedics arrived and gradually Tony recovered consciousness. This process took quite a while and then Tony and Gay were taken to the hospital for tests and stayed overnight. We kept in touch with Gay by text and we were very glad to hear that Tony’s heart and bones were OK, but he was bruised and cut. We managed a welcome late lunch and then travelled up to Mount Vesuvius, where several of us decided to climb the final 300 metres to the summit. All went well until a sudden violent storm blew up and a few of us huddled in a wooden hut for safety. What safety really means is not allowing people or metal objects to be out in the open because of the severe weather and possible lightning strikes. One of us was told off for using an umbrella to avoid getting wet in the storm!! In due course after about 30 minutes we were gradually transported down the mountain track by a small car and then we were reunited with our friends in the coach. I think that experience was best described as a ‘close shave’.
We visited the ancient towns of Herculaneum and Oplontis the next day. Herculaneum was badly damaged in the eruption of Vesuvius however more buildings survived and you could get a good idea of how the inhabitants lived. In Oplontis we visited Villa Poppea, which was built by Emperor Nero for his wife and family. This extensive villa has well preserved architecture and decoration which was being studied when we visited. During the day I spoke with Bernadette (her second day with us) about the possibility of collecting Tony & Gay from hospital. Bernadette had already contacted the Tailored Travel local agent to see what could be done and we also had encouraging text updates from Gay. The doctors agreed that Tony was fit to be discharged and our coach diverted and collected Tony & Gay from the hospital to huge acclaim from us all. It was a wonderful highlight for us that day!!
The next day was much much more sedate and we visited Naples and the excellent National Archaeological Museum. The museum houses some of the best artefacts found at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The collection was truly amazing and well worth seeing for all of us.
Our last full day was a day at leisure and many of us took a ride into Sorrento for shopping, sight seeing and pure nostalgia. Three of us decided to walk to the local village and then reinvigorated by yet another ice cream followed the signs to Deserto, which has a Monastery with a wonderful 360 degree view over the Sorrento peninsular. We climbed up five flights of stairs and then up again onto the patio to see great views over the Bay of Naples, Capri, Vesuvius and part of the Amalfi Coast. We stopped a while and took some photos and then we visited a very attractive cafeteria in Deserto and stayed for lunch. The owner was friendly and before leaving I asked for his ‘card’ and said that I would like to bring back some more friends for lunch the next day.
Having settled our debts at the hotel and stored our luggage ten of us headed to the Monastery for views and photos, and then went to the cafeteria in Deserto for lunch. The owner was pleased to see us and produced a splendid lunch, including a bonus slice of Momma’s lemon drizzle cake and a bonus half flute of limoncello. After thanking our host for his excellent hospitality we returned to our hotel and then started our journey home to the UK. It was a great holiday which we all enjoyed. Now we need to complete arrangements for another holiday in 2016!