Over the pond and far away..Day 6

p1080019

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

Advertisements

Over the pond and far away..Day 7

p1080116

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..

P1080101.JPG

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.

Over the pond, and far away….Day 5

P1070929.JPG

Charlottetown, PEI

Not a place to hide an allegiance to the maple leaf, Charlottetown proudly welcomes you to this delightful area. If you look on the atlas you can see a few important geographical points…..firstly we were only able to approach it from the east, in other words we came the ‘long way round’, presumably because of a bridge/ causeway in the Northumberland Strait, connecting PEI to the mainland ……secondly, it has a couple of islands to its north-east (Iles de la Madeleine, uncannily like the shape of Santorini, but at a different angle)……and thirdly it is well-hidden and sheltered from storms.

Unlike our usual mornings, this was rather grey and overcast, but feeling prepared with a substantial breakfast, including porridge, we headed for the tenders/lifeboats. It’s only when you are at water level, and looking up, that the size of the vessel is realised….We understand that as Tenders they are to carry 90 persons, but when used as Lifeboats they can take 120!….quite tiny people, I imagine. However they were quite comfortable, and enabled the ship to anchor in one of the ‘corners’ of this port area.

When ashore , the Good Lady had the chance to see the little shops at the port, and I could get my Wi-Fi. We also took the chance to book a tour to satisfy the need for the Good Lady to witness at first hand, the origin of the book ‘Ann of Green Gables’…..one of many books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a local of PEI. For those who want to know more, she also wrote her memoirs as a book ‘The Alpine Path’.

One lovely little sentence is all I will quote…‘I have grubbed away industriously all this summer and ground out stories and verses on days so hot that I feared my very marrow would melt and my grey matter be hopelessly be sizzled up’.Did you note that there was not even a comma in the sentence, as if she were in a hurry to write it down, to get on with writing something else?

We had time to spend before the tour, so headed into this immaculate little town……I will let some photos do the talking…..

It’s a lovely little town, clean, and fresh, with the local pride very evident. Well worth exploring further…..And so we set off, with our coach driver, Earl, heading north-west from Charlottetown to get to the pilgrimage site, but the fox on the roadside was only a blur as we passed-by.

There was a short video about the Centre, and we were then able to wander at large, round the house and farm steading. It was of more interest to the ladies, but all the gentlemen seemed to endure the process sympathetically. For those ladies who have not been here, the following photos may engender an interest in a visit…..and don’t miss the bonnet!

One of the lovely people on the tour was a cruise member, whom we had already met, a few times. She was originally from Hong Kong, but her parents moved to the States many years ago, when there were worries over the future of the colony. Seemingly they had witnessed many things which worried them and felt it safer to be in Europe or the States. She had settled-in well, and her English was impeccable. Despite telling us of communism and commercialism, her humour and laugh were greatly infectious. Her genuine friendship was very evident, so we hope that we can keep in touch…

And so this little adventure came to an end. We had only had the chance to see one small corner of this lovely island, but could easily be persuaded to come back. A car would be necessary, but only small distances are involved with a wealth of coves, villages and the North East Tourist Trail to explore.  Meanwhile we leave you good people to your lovely isle.

Google Earth, and YouTube, here I come, to have an in-depth look and to make my list of ‘must-see’ places for the next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the pond, and far away….day 4

Cruising the St Lawrence…..Quebec to P E I

p1070896

Some people like cruising at sea….they find it relaxing. I could understand when the weather is warm, the sun is shining, the pool is inviting and the drinks are easily at hand.  But whilst this might be true of a Summer Mediterranean event, it was certainly not applicable to a Nova Scotian environment in the beginning of October.

When on water, I like to be able to see some land, as a guide to where we might be, and that was true when we undertook a river cruise in the Rhine and Moselle. Our visual senses were constantly surprised with turns in the rivers allowing a new vineyard, castle, township, or hills to come into view without any effort on our part. Bridges always create interest with people looking down (the Corinth Canal, especially), and ships passing close-by in the opposite direction encouraged waving and shouted messages.

Not so in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, trans-Atlantic, or even (as we found) the St Lawrence Seaway, as we headed for Prince Edward Island. Even during the n1ght, when I looked out, there was only the occasional ship at a distance…… obviously not very entertaining!p1070889

So what to do that day? Well, after breakfast we did what we always like to do at least once on a cruise, Walk the deck. Most ships we have used have had an indication of how many circuits of the Promenade Deck constituted one mile. In this case it was four, and by the time we had observed the continuing painting up-keep, and completed the four rounds, we had been sufficiently chilled to self-justify returning to the bosom of the coffee-machine.p1070892

We had a brief time in the well-stocked Library, with a chance to chat with some of the international group of travellers.  And then we were just in time for a high-quality lunch where you see more of the plate than is good for you! with the Captain (along with about another 100 folk!). A couple of sudoku, and the usual afternoon snooze helped repair the somewhat-sleepless previous night. And that’s another question. I thought ships were supposed to soothe you to sleep, (‘Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep’ and all that) but it’s never worked with me!

One of the great topics of conversation on the ship, was the Trump/Clinton Election Campaign, and the vast majority of US voters, with whom we spoke, were undecided between the Devil and the Deep-Blue Sea! Only one vehemently stated her preference for the ‘quiffed’ gentleman. Besides that, she and her friend were quite good fun….The photo below shows them in a good mood on-shore one day….p1070854

Teatime with the usual high-quality food, at the Lido Restaurant, with a good helping of ice-cream( !!!)and the random chatter, before heading to hear our favourite duet, a Rumanian violin player and pianist, p1070800

Our final act was to take the disembarkation details to Reception!….somewhat bizarre as we were only-recently embarked!..  We also noticed in the lifts, that the mats were always very clean and indicated the correct day. I think the Company understood that with the demography of those on board there were a fair number who might forget the time or day, so this was obviously an aide-memoire! Good idea….might try that at home.

p1080013

And so a day had gone by and we had been a self-contained community, physically separated from the rest of the world but had all enjoyed it in our own way…….

We would not be at Prince Edward Island till the following morning…..a total journey of 571 nautical miles at an average speed of 17.8 mph. I just hope that the Captain and his crew would still be awake…..

Over the pond, and far away……Day 3

MS_Veendam.jpg

Quebec…….Day 3

I vaguely remember something in History and Geography about Quebec, but I am afraid, for my teachers’ sakes, that I remembered almost nothing! I had no real concept about what it was like, and it very-quickly became evident that we were not to be disappointed. A quick look at a town map showed an old part (Vieux-Quebec), and a market (Marche Chamlain), two features which add enchantment to almost any city.

…….but I’m getting ahead of myself. You see I am very fond of my food, and especially breakfast, lunch, and dinner! The quality of food on the Holland-America line is of a high standard and as a self treat we had the following little morsel on the first morning, after which we were ready to face the day.

p1070805

I had contacted some French speakers about whether my normal French would be understood in Quebec, and as assured that there should be no major problem, and so it was. We had a Shuttle bus which took us to the centre of this lovely city. We walked on up to one of the gates of the Citadel where numerous carriages were taking visitors on a tour. Ignoring them totally, we walked along the walls on a lovely day.

I took so many photos here, as every corner was just a new riot of colour and exquisite taste, and these are only a small selection This was probably the highlight of the cruise, and yet again, we were blown-away by the cleanliness. It could be compared in many ways with Luxembourg, or Monaco, in its beauty. One thing especially was the depiction of some of the town’s activities in 3D, but on a flat wall….see the last two photos. It really was amazing how well this had been achieved, even from close-up.

I had also mentioned the Old Market, and this was approached from a large board-walk down the funicular railway to a couple of crowded streets, full of lovely shops and cafes….well worth another visit. The only downside was that we did not have time to visit the modern town. Although maybe we should retain the memories we have. I suppose that it is a bit like Venice….having seen the old town, the modern bustling industrialised adjunct somehow seems to take away the charm…..so best left alone.

Tomorrow was to be cruising the St Lawrence, so I will take the chance to show you some of the folk we met and a little more about the ship. …….Night, night for now…

Over the pond, and far away……Day 2

 

P1070748.JPG

Novotel, Montreal, with Lady standing in the sun

Montreal to Quebec………

So you were left with us sleeping the sleep of the exhausted, in our Montreal Novotel (shown above) following a rather long period of travelling. The upshot seems to be that the hotel had expected us a year AGO, and we had been listed as a ‘no-show’. We had to pay for the night but already the situation has been resolved with our Travel Agents….no hard feelings..

I have to say, that the staff there were fine, and so was the welcome cold-buffet breakfast. The predominant ethos in this area is French, and the archetypal tall stool, newspaper, coffee, croissants etc, were all much in evidence. Apres nos ‘petit-dejeuners’, we decided we had to take the chance to see what we could, of Montreal.

It was then that we realised the significance of the ‘Mont…’…it is built on a hill, overlooking the St Lawrence, and makes for great photos. The first one is a typical square-built office block, then some of the lovely flower beds which adorn the city. Everybody’s favourite reading comes from here, and children and grown-up nutters are catered for in the fairground. Then the Catholic Cathedral, one of the roads heading upwards, and an interestingly-shaped building, follow. Unusual parking meters have French instructions, but are easily understood…all part of the small area of Montreal which we could see.

We also spoke, at random, to a couple in the street, and it turned-out that they were going to board our cruise as well….what were the odds of that happening?

We have to also say that it was not all unalloyed perfection. It is not exempt from poverty  with a number of beggars in the streets. But two over-whelming aspects kept repeating themselves in out travels thro’ Canadian towns….the streets were almost completely free of litter, and the pedestrians and drivers were courteous and chatty. Our driver who drove us to the harbour area (still full of derelict sheds, and undergoing a re-vamp) to join our ship, was hilarious.

The boarding area  for the Holland America ship The Veendam was a very big marquee on the peirhead, which allowed a lot of movement for bodies being processed by the shipping company, and also a large number of seats laid our in a series of rows, with a number of people sitting deeply enthralled in phones, tablets and laptops, almost like a congregation preparing for a service! It was only later that we found out that the port Wi-Fi is excellent (and FREE!). In dramatic comparison to the on-board cost!

We had hoped to see an iconic set of buildings called Habitat 67, designed by an Israeli/Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, which is on the north shore at Montreal. Probably not my ‘cup-of-tea’, but it would have been interesting, if we had not been eating/ unpacking/chatting or whatever we were doing!……..Judge for yourself!……

e6509bd8-2da6-4b8f-8860-5e175ecb7592-1020x612[1].jpg

And so with the emergency  drill satisfactorily completed, we were pulled from our berth at 5 pm, by a tug just outside our cabin window.

P1070797.JPG

The adventure had started, with hopefully no more problems, so off to the restaurant to meet some new people….and hopefully get a good night’s sleep! So we will see you in the port of Quebec in the morning……………

 

 

Over the pond, and far away…..Day 1

N507NS[1].jpg

Glasgow to Montreal ……….

Some five years ago, Lady and I, on retirement, traversed the north Atlantic, and the North American Continent to see Calgary, Banff, Jasper, the Rocky Mountaineer, Kamloops, yet more Rocky Mountaineer, and finally the fair city of Vancouver, before embarking on  a cruise into Alaska.

It was a momentous journey for me, as I am not a great lover of sitting in a metal tube for many hours at a stretch, either in the air, or on a rail line. Much as I loved it in retrospect, I was pleased that we had returned unscathed, and vowed that ‘That is That!’.

Lady is not so easily put-off, and expressed a gentle (but insistent) wish that ‘Boston in the Fall’ might be worth a view. As any man knows, this indicates that cerebral plans are already well-established, if not completed, in the Lady’s mind and that further discussion is meaningless……IT WILL HAPPEN….

This was all in August 2015, and when our Travel Agent was approached, I knew that all struggling was futile. Dates, times, hotels, cruise itinerary, were all established, as I saw a dwindling bank balance being replaced by increasing paperwork in a folder. Weather forecasts all along the way were viewed anxiously, so that it could be established what clothes I would require, to have washed, ironed, unworn, and sitting beside an open suitcase some weeks before departure. I had no inverse opinion requested about Lady’s clothes!

And thus it was that just a couple of weeks ago, accompanied by the massive amount of paperwork demanded by the so-called ‘paperless society’, we set-off for our flight from Glasgow to London. Weather and flight were pleasant and great views of London convinced us that we were lucky to live to the north of Glasgow with a view of the lovely Campsie Fells……all was looking good…..

Our Heathrow transfer was painless and our 7 hour BA flight to Montreal uneventful…… even some sleep was possible after a pleasant meal. As a bonus, the Canadian Customs Officers at Montreal were courteous, and the airport coach took us to a couple of hundred yards from our hotel. So we set off happily walking and chatting in the late evening …….but everything had been going too swimmingly….!

There is something about a foreign city at night…….it doesn’t look at all like it does in Google Street! We had just missed a turning, but, hey, there were a few police standing together, and we could ask them. It turned out that they were there because of the presence of the Chinese president! We chatted briefly and then asked for confirmation of where our hotel was ….well you know what they say…..policemen know everything. We set off again on our way happy that we would be soon tucked up in bed…..

The receptionist was mystified, and justifiably so, as she had no record of us. Showing her the booking confirmed that the police were wrong. It was NOT our hotel, although is sounded similar (probably my Irish/Scottish French!).

OK, so we now had the correct directions to our correct hotel and we DID arrive, checked the name over the door, and met ANOTHER mystified Receptionist…..’Sorry, Mr Monroe, no record of you’…..’Can you give us a bed and we can sort it in the morning?’……..’Of course, De Luxe OK?’…..’Anything!!’…..’Sleep well’……..

Three am saw me on my phone to our Travel Agent (the 5 hour time change permitted that) who reassured me that they would be working on this for me, and slumber eventually overcame tiredness from a very long day, annoyance, anxiety, and the question….. what can happen next?

For that you will just have to wait……