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)……

 

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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…

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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.

Over the pond, and far away….Day 5

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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

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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.

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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…..