The Group has been meeting via Zoom and the March and April meetings were all about islands. There are some 2,000 inhabited islands in the world, and we have covered six of them.
We learned about the dramatic recent history of Alderney, one of the lesser-visited Channel Islands.
We then headed to Corfu for a very personal appreciation of the Mediterranean island, before spanning the globe to land on Easter Island, which was fascinating and appropriate considering the timing of the meeting. (The planning that goes into these meetings has to be seen to be believed!)
In April, we visited the Med again, firstly to Brac in Croatia and the secondly to Sicily. Two quite different destinations but both equally appealing.
The final presentation was about Cuba, the Caribbean island, visited in 2006, when Fidel was still in power and Che was already a global iconic.
For the May meeting, the group agreed to switch the attention to cities and suggestions already received include New York, Ljubljana, Budapest, and Minsk. The city theme could well carry on to the June meeting: after all, there are over 10,000 of them in the world.
The joy of this Group is that we all love travelling and we all love talking about where we have been and where we are planning to go next – whenever that will be. Until we can, for two hours a month, we immerse ourselves in evocative photos and relish personal accounts of treasured destinations from around the world.
We welcomed five new members to the Group and first on the agenda was where we had been since the last meeting. Once again it a varied selection from walking in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco to discovering the unexpected delights of Lanzarote, plus Italy, Paris and closer to home, Chester.
We had two presentations on Japan, one on a Great Rail Journey trip and the other on experiencing the spiritual side of the country. A lively discussion ensued because several of the group had been to Japan and others wanted to go, so had plenty of questions.
Uzbekistan was the theme for the October meeting and we really enjoyed a presentation by Rev’d Gerry Stanton, the Minister of Union Church & Community Centre who had been there last month. Interestingly, two members of the group had also travelled to Uzbekistan this year. It was splendid stuff, thought-provoking and appetite-whetting, and the time flew by.
Before the presentation, we asked where the members had travelled in the four weeks since the last meeting. The destinations were varied and plentiful, ranging from Brighton, walking and climbing in the Lake District and the West Country to cycling 250km through Northern Germany, the Algarve and Sofia. One intrepid member had her South American travel plans disrupted by the civil strife in Ecuador. It added a memorable uncertainty to the trip, but she had the joy of visiting the Galapagos islands before all the upheaval.
It was a full house at the September meeting and it was great fun. We started by hearing where the members had been since the last meeting in August. What a well-travelled group we are! Menorca, Italy, Venice for the Biennale, Alsace, the Champagne Trail of northern France, nearly crossing the English Channel three times, walking the narrow bit of Scotland, Armenia & Georgia and Poland for a family wedding.
Carl then took us to the USA, recalling his 2,000-mile road trip through the Southern States when he visited Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. He enhanced his talk with music: country, rock‘n’roll, cajun and jazz.
Brian then told us about “a different way to explore the world”. Servas – the name means We serve in Esperanto – is the longest-established hospitality network in the world. The organisation spans 130 countries and promotes international understanding through shared hospitality in members’ homes.
Cuba was the destination of choice this month and we had an enthusiastic discussion as a number of us had been there, all around the same time so it transpired. Graham showed a selection of evocative photos of Havana which captured the elegance, faded charm and infectious vitality of the city.
Then we got down to talking. The topic was Ways we can help save the planet. We shared ways that we can made a difference from buying friendly toiletries to staying in eco-friendly hotels, flying on green airlines and carbon offsetting.