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…..

 

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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.

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…..

Over the pond, and far away……Day 2

 

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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!……

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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.

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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……………

 

 

The Wee Grey Fergie

Not a title which means much to many people of this generation, but to those of us baby-boomers, and those with a connection to the land, it engenders an era gone past.

But to go back to the beginning…….

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My father was born in 1918 (so a baby-boomer of the First World War) into a family which might have been called gentlemen farmers. They obviously had a lot of farm machinery, and accounts which I have, show that they did lots of contract work for the local farming community who could not, or did not want to, purchase equipment which they would only use for a short time.

I have no records of when they bought their first tractor, but the above updated photo shows my father driving what I believe to be a Wee Grey Fergie. Now, I may be wrong because his model had many variants. The formal model name was TE 20, (from Tractor, England, 20 horsepower) not a very inspiring name.

In 1916, Harry Ferguson started development on ‘The Ferguson System’ to make a plough and linkage become part of the tractor as a whole. He got a patent granted in 1926, and then worked further on the linkage in the early ’30s. Production of the pre-TE20 models began in Huddersfield in the David Brown Factory in 1936, and in 1939, Henry Ford in Detroit, in the States, took on production of some 300,000 Ford Ferguson units to 1947.

There were some problems between Ferguson and Ford about the production location, and by 1945 the Wee Grey Fergie TE20 was built by the Standard Motor Company, Coventry (who built the Standard car). In all, from May 1936 to July 1956, approx one million units were sold worldwide.

So why am I such a nerd about this tractor? Well, I never knew my paternal grandparents and their farming business, but I did know my maternal grandparents, also farmers, with a relatively-small-holding near Lisburn, Northern Ireland. An undated photo of my grandparents, shows the compicated kind of mechanical reaper which was used with horses.

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This 1966 photo shows their Fergie with direct linkage from the tractor engine to the reaper blades…

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…..and this one of the same year shows a different mechanism attached to ‘turn-over’ hay to dry it off. Nice to see the evident equality with my aunt driving the tractor…..

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…..and still manual labour was necessary until the farmer could afford another module  for their Fergie to do the job…

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So I was regularly at the farm with my brother and eventually at about the age of 11 or 12, was allowed to briefly drive the Fergie. I can clearly remember the cold winter’s day in a field of kale, which was being cut by my uncle, and thrown into a trailer, and I was empowered to move the tractor and trailer forward. I don’t think my Grandmother or Mother were informed! It was not an easy vehicle to drive but eventually I believe I made some small contribution to local agriculture!

Hence my strange ‘attachment’ to this farming machine……

Move forward to a week ago when I received a birthday present which delighted me immensely. A little scale-model of the TE20, along with a lovely drawing of a rural scene by Trevor Mitchell showing a Fergie, ploughing, a postie on a bike,  a church clock-tower, and a flock of birds…..

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!