Back across the Pond…..Day 12

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Unhappy in Heathrow, and home….

I have posted before on the problems of having a wife who has a serious addiction problem. Well, it’s not serious but she has had this need for many years. So when she spotted the availability in Boston Logan Airport, she had to have it, whatever the cost. I refer, of course, to cinnamon-flavoured maple syrup, and it was purchased in the area after security and was put in a labelled bag, so joy was in the air as we boarded for our overnight flight to Heathrow. We slept reasonably well but were still mentally in the middle of the night when we put our watches five hours forward on arrival.

Arriving at any airport in the best frame of mind is not a bundle of fun, but after a numbers of hours in a totally-alien environment, and suddenly being herded like cattle is not a great welcome. To cut a long story short, the aforementioned purchase was scanned through the x-ray, removed from the bag in which it was packed by the shop, and Lady was told that since it had not been packed ‘properly’ that it could not be allowed into the country, and it would be confiscated and destroyed!

Quite unbelievable! It could only have been bought in the shop, and we had the receipt, US security was happy, but for some reason, a cantankerous (lady) officer had decided to have a go at a couple of tired old people. In retrospect we should have asked for a receipt, but you do not think clearly at 6am….after a few hours of sleep. Then they went through our hand- luggage with a fine tooth comb, with the result that most of my stuff ended on the floor and my passport was temporarily mislaid.

So we got to our next departure pier for our journey to Glasgow. The four legs of our total holiday had been  booked through British Airways, so that we could enjoy the good service and leg-room. However this leg was handled by some company called Jet-Time in a rather tatty plane with a not very-exciting snack, and cockpit staff speaking in a thick foreign accent which I could not understand. So I was not a happy bunny. I made my feelings clear in the after-flight e-mail request we received from a marketing company, on behalf of BA)but no response from the airline has been received to date.

The Hudson News shop at Logan Airport accepted our story and graciously have sent us US currency to the value of the syrup…so we will now have to go back to there to get some more syrup! As to the payment for the non-booked first night in Canada, we are still awaiting resolution with the Travel Agent which we have used over many years. All a bit of a disappointing end to what had otherwise been a great adventure.

Would we go back to that part of Canada again….definitely…lovely scenery, lovely people. Would we go through Heathrow……definitely NO……especially now that a third runway is to be built!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Pond and far away…Day 11

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Boston, and coming home….

And so we had come to the last day of our holiday before returning home, but we were not sitting-back. We wanted to savour every last moment. So down to breakfast early for cereal, juice, coffee and you’ve guessed it….waffles and strawberries and cream.  I can’t say I would want the latter at the table EVERY morning, but it WAS nice for a short time!

I knew that the hotel was quite close to the Charles River, but I didn’t realise how close. The interesting thing when you ask anyone local, how far some destination is, the reply is always measured in ‘blocks’, and not in metres or yards or parts of a mile…which is probably more sensible when you think of it!

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Only a few blocks north took us through tree-lined streets to the beautiful Embankment to let us see a load of lovely buildings on the other side of the river…..

….and wild life and friendly malamute dogs….

Our last chance to record images was when we went to have lunch in one of the leafy and delightful streets nearby… we managed to bypass the Sugar Heaven and moved-on to……Sonsie

For those who might find this of interest, we ate in the Sonsie Bistro in Newbury Street. (for your useless interest, Sonsie is a Scottish word which means ‘lovely’ in Scotland). The shared pizza and salad, with a rather strange but perfectly-pleasant beer sufficed, and so we went back to the hotel for luggage, and had an uneventful trip to Logan Airport.

The British Airways 747-400 monstrously-large plane was to be our carriage taking us to London. A perfectly-pleasant meal, a blanket, dimmed lights, and Fawlty Towers saw us lulled into sleep, and when we were gently wakened, on the approach to Heathrow, we had to move our watches on by 5 hours…..but I can’t say that my brain had completely moved forward  five hours.

And so we were welcomed to Happy Heathrow (not)……

 

Over the Pond and far away….Day 10

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Bootiful, booming, Boston……..

Sport is not my most knowledgeable of favourite subject, and American sport even less, but I think most folk at some time have heard of the RED SOX baseball team, hence the header photo…..but more of this later…

We slept well and whilst we had considered going out to find somewhere for breakfast, the smell of coffee, croissants, cookies and waffles was slightly stronger, so we conceded and headed for the restaurant. For me, a simple omelette would suffice, whilst Lady felt a croissant would satisfy her dietary requirements.

On both counts we were caught-out. My omelette came not just as a couple of fluffed-up eggs but with a large amount of fried potato chunks and salad….FOR BREAKFAST!!!  And Lady admits she was almost defeated by her ‘croissant’ which was cooked like French Toast, and served with fried potato and a relish of some kind! I suppose it takes all sorts!

However we were heading out to fulfil the reason for our visit to Boston…..a trip into the country-side to see some spectacular Autumn foliage. I had booked one with Grayline Coaches, with a handy pick-up point; outside the Fairmont Hotel in Copley Square. We were there in plenty of time, in the rain, at a layby where coaches, buses, and trolley buses were all coming and going. But no sign of a Grayline! I didn’t know phone codes to call them so we were helpless! Meanwhile we had the chance to look round at the marvellous buildings in the Square..

—–even on a miserable day it was certainly splendid.

Pick-up time had passed and enquiries to all the coach drivers had drawn a blank. I went over to speak with staff outside the Fairmont Hotel to be told that it had gone some time ago….from the ‘other’ frontage, around the corner! Oh, Dear!! So back to the Lenox, where the front of house staff contacted the company on our behalf. They did agree to give us back half of the total cost.

So what to do? Decided a Trolley City Tour would let us see a lot in a short time. Off to the Marriott (we travel in exalted circles, you know) to get the tickets, and back to Copley Square, to get our Trolley, and you certainly could not miss it! So off we set……

This was where the RED SOX photo comes into play, because it was evident that our driver was a keen RED SOX supporter, and he rattled-off the current team and stars from the past. So for my friends who are interested in these things, this photo might be of interest.

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No, I was more interested after we crossed the Charles River to the hallowed courts of Harvard University and MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With my physics background, MIT was hallowed ground, and any mention of it, in the CV of a writer of a research paper or article meant it had to be taken seriously. Unfortunately I only got one photo as he sped through.

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Back over the river again, passing a large group of pink-clad ladies walking for charity…a world-wide phenomenon. Then it was time to hop-off at Boston Common, at the State House, a wonderfully-impressive building.

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This was a real breathing-space in a busy city, and looked to be well-used, but again it was clean and neat, with no litter, chewing gum, cigarette ends or over-flowing bins. Squirrels were around in numbers and the trees were starting to show us some of the colours we came to see…

I was also intrigued by the delicacies available at the café in the centre of the park, if you like that kind of thing….

I think I was always ‘against’ skyscrapers and how they might dominate the people-scape, and I still that that is so where they were added to a city design which was based on narrow streets and two-or-three storey buildings. But when I saw the wide avenues of Boston and the apartments and office blocks, they seemed ‘just right’….

So that was a pleasant time, but a hop-back-on to the trolley took us to a place well-mentioned in the literature on Boston…Quincy’s Market. It is, as you imagine, a gathering of small boutique places which women love to frequent to find that ‘special present’ or accessory. It is a wonderful place for a rainy day as you can pop-in or out of shops below ground, or on ground level, as well as being entertained by street shows, or join in the chess.

So much choice in eating places….so where to go for lunch? Where else but the Japanese Restaurant Wagamama? Chilli chicken ramen was a super, rather spicy stew full of noodles, and obviously chicken, and was quite enough to satiate the inner man or lady along with the beer!

Lady then insisted that we look-for, and acquire samples of the usual fridge-magnets, and coasters etc, without which no holiday is complete! Well-worth  a re-visit to see what valuable trinkets we missed  first time. And so back to the trolley and  eventually returned to Copley Square. By this time, feet were tired and body required a snooze. So I must have succumbed, but I don’t remember as I was obviously asleep!

Having dined so well at Wagamama, it did not seem necessary to eat much more, so we simply went out locally to have a typical Canadian meal for our last evening…and Pret a Manger took Lady’s fancy so there we went and dined adequately. Walking back to the hotel let me get a few shots of night-time Boston and the steam coming from the sewers, and often seen in films.

We also met a couple of Red Sox supporters on the streets, and had a chat. They had lost their match but there was no annoyance in their voice, they were perfectly sanguine about the score and saluted their opponents. Good for them, and an example to supporters throughout  the UK….and so to bed, as Samuel Pepys would have said…..

 

 

 

 

 

Over the pond and far away..Day 9

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Landfall at Boston…

There was a bit of a sad feeling overnight that this seemed like the end of the holiday with leaving the ship, (although it wasn’t really) and when I woke about 4am, I could not return fully to the land of slumber. Lady continued to sleep soundly, so I got up at 6am and was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by the time she came-to. Up for our last maritime breakfast on the Lido deck, (although I kept writing in my diary, about ‘going downstairs‘ to eat!). We said our goodbyes to those who were available and exchanged e-mails. There were others whom we had hoped to meet again, but of whom there was no sign….a great pity.

An orderly disembarkation,  luggage collection, taxi acquisition, and arrival at the Lenox Hotel, Exeter Street, (in the rain) were all achieved by noon, without mishap. Even better, we were expected….such a relief! No room was immediately available, but Lady  was pleased enough to sit at the fire-side in the Reception area…..in fact I don’t think anything would have moved her after our experience in Montreal!P1080179.JPG

The Lenox is one of Boston’s Historic Hotels and is full of that beautifully-descriptive word….splendour. There is a lot of information on the following website http://www.historichotels.org/hotels-resorts/the-lenox/history.php . Just have a look at the reception area…….

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The room was also luxurious, and I have some of the shampoos and lotions etc to prove it… They still had a turn-down service, and everything was impeccable. Even the phone was an old-fashioned circular-dial model!

We had a marvellous corner room on the 8th floor looking up Boylston Street towards Copley Square, and when I looked to street-level I saw a wide yellow line across the road, which said FINISH. It was then that I twigged. Boston-Finish Line-Marathon-Bombing-Deaths. It occurred on April 15th 2013, when two pressure cookers were detonated near two Finish lines either side of the Lenox Hotel. There were 3 deaths and 260 injured. Life seems to move on and there were now no obvious signs of the outrage.

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Despite the gentle drizzle, perambulation was self-prescribed and we went off to look at Copley Square about which I had read, and then an eatery for lunch. We knew of the portion-sizes to be expected, but hadn’t witnessed it first-hand, with self-service on the ship. We found a noisy Restaurant called the Globe, close-by and ordered a ciabatta each with some salad…WOW…we could have easily shared one! I even noted in my diary that I did not know how we finished it!

It was then time for Lady to see some shops, and there was certainly no shortage! It was almost a pleasure wandering around in the rain, along clean streets, it must be said, with amphibious vehicles in action…..are they practising for more global-warming? Then to the Prudential Mall which is massive, at the base of a large office block. At least it was indoors!

 

A flatbread (pizza) and a somewhat large salad, both shared, in a little local Irish pub, completed our first day in Boston…a city which we both felt we could really like…..

 

Over the pond and far away..Day 8

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Bar Harbour…. landfall into the U.S of A

During the night, we left Canadian waters and were now heaved-to close to American territory. Instead of going through all the customs rigmarole in a reception centre, the US Customs officials had come on board. We had been given the famous Green Card to fill out the night before and were advised to have it, and passport, with us, as we would be called to the ship’s Library in order.

Unfortunately we were only told an approximate time, so went to have breakfast, and had just time for cereal before the appropriate announcement came, and along we went. Everyone was courteous (well you don’t argue with a US Customs Officer, do you?) and we were able to return to our brekkies, secure in the knowledge that the U.S of A felt that we were honourable people and worthy of being let loose on their shores!

We waited until it was ‘open-tendering’ which meant that we could go just when we were ready. Getting from the ship to the tender was no problem when we were in dock, or securely anchored near to land, but it might have been somewhat hairy were we at sea with the ship and tender walloping about in heavy seas! But no such problems occurred. It is actually quite comfortable, and because the tender was almost empty, I was able to get some nice shots of the ship.

The first thing we noticed about Bar Harbour was the announcement about what it does pretty well…..catch lobsters, before we set-off for our internet-seeking.

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We were advised to take our internet-requirements to the local Jesup Memorial Library where we were met by smiling librarians who made us welcome, even offered their computers if necessary, and there was coffee available free if wanted. Classic dark wood panelling and a bust of (presumably) Mr Jesup, was well in keeping with the 1911 when it was founded. You have only to read its Facebook page and website to see the important contribution it makes to the locale.

Coming out again into the charming Village Green we saw what we had been hoping to see by coming to this area…..the changing of the leaves as autumn made its presence evident, even if only on a single tree!. So the journey had been worthwhile…to an extent.

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We are very fortunate in living near Argyll and Perthshire, Scotland where the amount of managed forestry acreage is vast and the chance of seeing beautiful colour change is very good. However our unpredictable and rather damp climate prevent us having the purples and strong reds that we hoped to see.

Close-by the Village Green and ‘the’ tree, was another St George’s Anglican Church. Unlike the previous one in Sydney, this had music playing, and extremely-well I must say! I was happy to listen to a master at the keyboard, and we had a very-pleasant chat about choirs and choral music. Hopefully we can keep in touch.

….But there were still some lovely sights to look-at and record….

And so back to the ship, packing to do (BOO HOO!), get dressed (PRETTY) and get to the Pinnacle Grill (HOORAY) for our final dinner of the cruise. I must say that it is nice to get dressed-up and have a meal alone with the lovely lady  who has been around with me for over 50 years…..and who still looks great….

Nouvelle cuisine was the order of the day, and I normally don’t find it very satisfying, but having dined sufficiently for a week, it was probably right and proper that we should stifle our demand for another over-indulgence in food. We needn’t have worried! What there was, proved very tasty and flavoursome, but I was never going to have to let my belt out a notch after this. However, the company was GREAT!

We spent the rest of the evening at the theatre with a wonderful comedian, but we came down with a crash to the realities of life when we had to put our cases outside, because tomorrow we would be leaving the ship for the next stage of our holiday…..

Over the pond and far away..Day 6

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Sydney ?…….. where’s that?

I think it was true to say that both of us were getting slightly concerned that, yet again, we were eating slightly more than our bodies required, so decided that a light breakfast of cereal and yogurt would suffice. We had made , however, a major tactical error…..we were sitting within smelling distance of the waffle-making department. Many things I can resist but not waffles, especially with fruit, and so I have no excuse. Lady of the House can make her own excuses. But I not going to lose any sleep over it……in any case it was a rather miserable grey, cloudy morning and we needed a bit of colour in our lives.

When I originally looked-up Sydney in my little Berlitz book of Canada, it got no mention, and a brief look on Google only told me about a very large violin situated at the port, (Spirit of the Fiddle) which you see pictured above. OK, at least that was something…..but what else? We could have gone on a tour about coal-mining or re-lived history at the Fortress of Louisbourg, but neither appealed…

However, after a fairly-long tender journey we landed in light rain, to a neat harbour, including a pleasant-looking restaurant, and a memorial to those immigrants who came to settle in the area….maybe an example to us all to recognise the part that immigrants can play in the development of a country.

It seemed a pleasant area, and impressed as we were with the architecture, and the lovely gardens, we decided that a perambulation through the houses were about as much as we could expect from this little town.

……Loved the little seat inviting passers-by to take a rest, and I never discovered who the chap in the red coat and tricorn hat is….maybe a ghost from years gone by?

It was then that we came upon the oldest building in Sydney. Built in 1785, St George’s Anglican Church was open with lights on…so in we went. My eyes lit on the little organ, and it did not take much prompting from anyone to get me to have a little play. Whilst experimenting with the stops, and trying out some hymns, a number of people started to come in from outside (maybe they were just coming out of the rain!), and it was suggested that I could come back in to give a recital and attract more people in! Then a gentleman came up and handed me a handful of Canadian dollars…..he may have thought I was the organist! Oh well, more for the church funds! They were very loyal to the Crown, and the Queen Mother had visited some long time ago.

As if that wasn’t interesting enough, we came upon a Hearing Aid Centre (which was my profession!), so we went in and chatted with the Audiologist. Enquiring as to which manufacturer she uses most and it turned out that it was the company for which I was UK Sales Manager for nearly 10 years!

….and finally, we sat on the Tender back to the ship, with a woman who turned-out to be a speech pathologist, and many professional comments were exchanged. So, after all, a day which we thought might have been unexciting, turned out memorable, and the rest of the day on the ship paled into insignificance……. so the lesson is…… CARPE DIEM

Over the pond and far away..Day 7

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Halifax, Nova Scotia ………and friends!

This town is one of the large number of places in this area which reflect back to the home-lands of many of the immigrants who have been involved in its historical, and present, life. If you just look around your atlas you will recognise so many names (at least if you are from the UK).in fact Dartmouth was just across the water, by ferry, as we later saw.

A few special things we were told we should see were to be the Citadel, the Titanic Cemetery where many of those who lost their lives, rest together, the Waterfront, and if time permitted, Point Pleasant Park………..

[However….last year, on a family Adriatic cruise, we had met a lovely Canadian couple, Norman and  Jennifer. To say that they were outgoing would be an understatement…it fact, they were ideal friends during the cruise, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company. We didn’t know exactly where they lived but we knew it was somewhere around there.]

So when Lady of the House decided last year which cruise this was to be, I felt it would be worthwhile contacting these good people to ask what we should see in the area. When they heard that Halifax was one of the included ports, they immediately suggested that they could pick us up at the ship and show us the local sights….so what could be better?

We felt a bit like executives being met, with our name on a signboard….as if we could miss these good people! I am tempted to post a photo from last year’s cruise , of Norman with a bra on….but I promised faithfully not to!

So we were getting a drive-round guided tour, and a number of my photos would have to be taken from the car.It would not have been easily-possible in the UK, with the stop/start rather erratic driving style which we use, but as I said earlier, drivers seem are much more sympathetic to road conditions and pedestrians so it was not as difficult as I expected.

[What I still find strange, wandering round the world, is that most other people and places are just like us! There is a certain ‘universality’ at play, which is not really surprising, I suppose, with instant communication, social media, and the wonderful Google Earth….we all find out about things at the same time. This would not have been possible 100 years ago when we would have heard of myths from far-away lands, and large chunks of the atlas would be marked…‘HERE THERE BE DRAGONS’]

Halifax’s natural harbour is one of the world’s largest, and was developed by the British in the mid-18th Century as a garrison, before becoming a base for fishermen. An obvious haven for pirates, it is believed that Samuel Cunard founded his transatlantic shipping line, based on this….but please do not quote me! The wide, clean, tree-lined roads were a pleasure to be on as we moved around at a leisurely pace….

We headed northwest of the town, to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery where we saw the dignity and respect with which this area and many of those who perished in the Titanic disaster, is tended. It was here I captured my favourite shot of the holiday, a blue jay, peeping round a tree looking at a gravestone from an earlier era.

After a few moments reflection, we moved towards the Citadel, seeing more lovely  buildings, and a warning sign which might be useful in our country..

The Citadel (the star-shape is only evident from above) was built in the year that Halifax was founded by Great Britain,in 1749, and occupied an elevated position, which would present us with a wonderful view over the city and harbour. A cannon-shot has been fired every day at noon since the 1850’s. You may also note the French text is still in evidence.

So many other visual memories of Halifax, including the Public Park, could be recorded, but the following are the main ones before we headed off for lunch…

A ferry took us over to Dartmouth…and one on-board photo showed how much fun we had…P1080094.JPG

The Harbour and the Wooden Monkey restaurant were certainly worth a photo as were the drinks….the nearest they had to Guinness….

I must be frank, folks, and admit that I have not yet come to terms with their chips……but the fish cakes, rice and salad were excellent! On the way back to the ship I had the chance to get some more shots of this great area..

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And this was our final photo taken with our lovely friends, Norman and Jennifer. Hopefully we can return the favour, some day, in Auld Scotia….

P.S.as a matter of record, it was taken by a young couple, who was looking for the Titanic Graveyard, and who were then taken there by our friends, to save them hunting for it….how wonderfully-typical.

Symbolically, we were sent on our way by a piper (Scottish or Canadian), as we left Canada for the last time, and headed towards the Grand Old U.S. of A.