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 3

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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.

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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

 

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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……………

 

 

Over the pond, and far away…..Day 1

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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……

 

 

 

 

 

Being married to a Young Lady.

My dear wife is about to have another birthday…at which time we are the same chronological age. She enjoys the fact that for six weeks she appears to the rest of the world to be a year younger than me. It is her little  ‘thing’ which she brings up when age comes into a conversation with friends. For some reason, women do like to keep ‘their age’ a secret, whereas men in general are proud of their advancing years, and increasing wisdom. I am also able to say that I am married to a much younger woman (I know I am stretching credibility a little here!).

I have to say, that looking at her now, I still see the cheeky grin I fell in love with some 53 years ago, and whilst comparison photos from all those years ago show both of us as having changed physically, she has weathered the years very well, and they have been kind to her, so I will just let her have her little secret…..Oh just forgot, sorry Dear, it’s not a secret any more!

Division or an (imperfect) unity?

Just over 200 years ago, (in 1798) my namesake Henry Monro was hanged in front of his house in Lisburn, Northern Ireland for his support of a united Ireland. Son of a Presbyterian father and Anglican mother, he was a regular attender at Lisburn Cathedral. He was also on very good terms with local catholics, and they all often attended services in the Cathedral and the local Chapel, for Communion or Mass. He was highly respected for this, and his stance that Ireland should be united with ALL religions playing their part in governing it. This was to be his un-doing as he was a temporary Commander in the United Irishmen and was entrapped and summarily tried and executed.

Fortunately they have moved-on and, whilst still divided by a nominal line on a map, much co-operation has been achieved amongst the various factions. They have learned to forgive (if not forget) their history, and have seen that a political and social life is possible even when differing political viewpoints are seen. I think there are very few people there who would want to return to the divisions of the past, and one has to commend them highly for this.

Scotland has had a simmering element of Nationalism since the 1930s and almost a decade ago, power was achieved by them at Holyrood. There was an immediate and worrying sense of division in the populace; for and against independence from the rest of the UK. This was seen to be an ill-founded desire as in 2014 the populace voted quite strongly, and rightly in my opinion, to remain within the UK, and be politically attached. The SNP Government has steadfastly and stubbornly refused to accept this message, and appear to want to have another ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum. Nothing positive or constructive has come from all the discussions held at the time, but this idea of ‘Independence or Bust’.  Increasingly, time is taken up in the press, and Holyrood about trivial, or highly-controversial proposals, which have increased the deep-seated divisions in our society. I have seen nothing which could be seen as unifying this nation, of which I am proud to have been a part for over 50 years. It seems to be that there is even a fear growing about declaring one’s affinity for UK unity. The fact that it has worked pretty-well for over 300 years seems to hold no importance in the minds of those who want to divide. Even with increasing powers given to them recently, it has still to be proved whether or not they can handle the responsibility of ruling for ALL the people of a country.

Lady of the House, and I have just returned from visiting our Dutch friends from Limburg, in the Netherlands. Whilst they are definitely Dutch, they are only minutes from the German border, and are very close to Belgium and Luxembourg. They very kindly took us round to see as much of these countries as possible. We were treated by all we met with extreme courtesy, interest, and enquiries about why Scotland would want to separate from England, and why the UK would want to cease its involvement in the political life of the European Union. It was only for a short stay, but I sensed a group of people who had become used to each other. It is indeed a Union of many diverse countries, cultures, languages, religions, beliefs, histories, and political agendas, and yet they have each handed-over some of their powers to a central administration, in the interest of ‘togetherness’.  Like the USA, it is a family, with all the expected frictions, disagreements, and name-calling which appear within almost all situations where people come together. You never get everything you want, but it is a great lesson in realising that others have a right to be heard, and their opinion might well be more useful than yours. I voted for Ted Heath’s Common Market in the ’70s, and I don’t think we all knew that it would develop so far. It has, however, and we are where we are. Life and time are one and the same thing, a bit like the flow of a river. Reversal is not possible in either concept, and I believe that we must continue to move on or end up in a back-water (to continue the analogy). Even with the various problems with which it is beset, it is vital to be there, using our experience at the political table to continue to modify it for the better, instead of being ineffectively on the side-lines.

As if to indicate a confirmation of my views, Lady and I attended a Concert by the RSNO a few days ago, and the final piece was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, called ‘Ode to Joy’, and the music was sung to words written in 1785 by Schiller.

The music was chosen in January 1972, by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to be the European Anthem of the EU. The words, being German, have no international status, but it is true that they do hold part of the answer to mankind and his dealings with others.

Let’s not be known as the generation which threw out the EU with the bathwater of our complacency about what it has achieved. For two generations, in Europe we have had relative peace.

Let’s be happy about that, because there are a lot of possible friends out there!