Author Archive: Jamie Gray

Cafe Corner (set 10182) part two…the middle section.

When I first built this section everything was correct as per the original parts list, but as can be seen in the photograph I have replaced the 20 white panels (2362) which make up the windows with the alternative panel which has side supports (87544) The original parts will appear in the build later.

So with this section built I immediately set about sourcing the additional parts needed to add an extension to match the base (previous post) and design the interior for the hotel reception/lounge area.

And here it is.

The theme for the interior is Scottish Castle/Country House with its purple and medium blue tartan carpet (well as close as I could get it) The walls display armoury and weapons with a modern bar to serve those all important ‘drams’ of whisky. A door leads out to a roof terrace (over the kitchen)

All parts are per the original inventory, except for the window panels which are the cheaper 87544 part (the originals will turn up eventually…I promise)

I have to say the interior took some time and gave me several hours of fun in the process…but now we need some bedrooms.

Lego Cafe Corner (10182)

Lego Cafe Corner 10182 – the complete build (stock picture…not mine)

Well this could turn out to be a big write up so I’ll split it into three manageable sections.

Part one…the base section.

My initial interest in this Creator Expert series was activated when I was looking for something new and different from the Technic models I’d been building. Trawling through some of the pre-owned sets available on ebay I noticed a Parisian Restaurant set for sale and the current bid was really low…so I put in my bid of £42 and was genuinely surprised when I won (and it was free postage) What I didn’t realise at the time was that it wasn’t a genuine Lego branded product, and when it arrived I was disappointed to note it was a Chinese knock-off (something I would always avoid if I knew) still we live and learn.

Oh well, it was a bargain and gave me something to do whilst banned from leaving the house without a valid reason. The process of construction was the same and it occupied my interest for a day or two, but more importantly, it introduced me to a completely new style of design which I found really enjoyable.

The first few modular buildings in the series were not only an interesting build but also allowed for some initiative to design the interiors, the Cafe Corner being completely empty inside. So let’s start there I thought, but there’s no way I’m paying £800 plus to get a pre-owned set. Originally released in April 2007 containing 2056 pieces it was the first in the modular buildings to be released. The set features a three floor building set on a street corner, a vertical ‘Hotel’ sign, opening doors and windows, outside café tables and umbrellas, a striped awning and three minifigures.

But why was it so expensive?

I reckoned it would be much better value if I was to source the bricks myself and at least they would be new and surely much cheaper.

What was that I said about live and learn…will I ever?

By the time I discovered the reason for the inflated cost of this set I’d already purchased all the inexpensive parts only to discover the cost was about to go through the roof if I wanted the build to be authentic…and for some reason it mattered and I was starting to think that maybe as well as being fun to do Lego might actually be an investment.

Anyway, for a time I searched and bartered and slowly managed to obtain enough pieces to start on the ground floor section which was quickly completed and it looked great…even if a bit small!

So here it is.

Everything on this section is correct as to the original parts list including the two dark blue arch bows (2339) under the stair, five double sided black frames (30179) The black six pane door (right 73312) the medium stone grey door (right 73194) and the medium stone grey turntable base (3680). I find it quite amazing that some of the unseen parts which could in theory be of any colour, or mould variation, are the more expensive to buy.

As can be seen in the photograph, the dustbin and all three minifigures are correct.

So now with the lower section built I started to look at designing an interior for the cafe whilst awaiting some parts to arrive from Italy and Germany. Now I’m not really a fan of some of the interiors I’ve seen online, mainly it’s because I like to make things appear as realistic as possible. Many of the examples look really good but the build appears to be crammed with as many different parts as is possible without considering that the minifigures need room to pass between seats (and each other) and the design doesn’t work properly. Okay, okay, I accept that once positioned the little folk don’t move around when we’re not looking but surely part of the fun is having a very vivid imagination…or is that just me?

Anyways, having seen the small amount of space available I started to think that (in my very humble opinion) it would be difficult to make a profit from just four tables and a takeaway counter. So…I built another base unit but this time extended it by another 16 studs.

They always say bigger is better and in this case I have to agree.

Once again all the parts are correct as to the original set itinerary with the addition of 2 extra double sided black frames (30179) A kitchen has been added and the interior has been fully set out.

Well, I can honestly say I really enjoyed this build (except maybe for the cost) and it certainly kept me occupied for some time. I can’t quite make up my mind whether the next step is to initially build the first floor as intended or just go straight for the extended version. We’ll see 🙂

Lego…who knew?

As we’ve not been allowed to travel during the recent period of lockdown I found myself looking for something ‘constructive’ to do in order to keep my mind occupied and my brain stimulated, not to mention a much needed distraction to silence my ever present ‘worry monkeys’.

Initially I had considered the situation an ideal opportunity to write another novel, or maybe even attempt to complete the Adult Pantomime I’ve been promising to finish for the past few years. But my heart just wasn’t in it (not to mention a complete lack of inspiration) and for me ideas have to flow freely in a natural way and not be forced to the surface.

One of the major tasks which needed attending to was sorting out the accumulated plethora of artefacts and junk threatening to burst through the ceilings of the upstairs room…better known as the loft.

Well it would certainly prove to be a beneficial activity, as it may well have prevented the house from imploding, but stimulating it was not. However a trawl through the many boxes revealed a long hidden trove of the boy’s childhood toys, more specifically Lego, and this definitely caught my imagination…dare I say ‘what could be more constructive than Lego?’

As well as a rather large box of assorted ‘bits and pieces’ there was also several sets of the ‘Technic’ brand of models, which I seem to remember were quite intricate and challenging to complete. So in the guise of the need to check all the pieces were present and correct I set about this new activity with extreme enthusiasm and gusto.

First on the list was Technic set 8480 Space Shuttle, 1366 parts of total immersion and intrigue. In my usual ‘modus operandi’ it wasn’t just a case of putting together the parts but more a meticulous operation of assembling the perfect model in its best possible form. So to begin with all the pieces were separated into colour and type and thoroughly laundered in an ultrasonic cleaner, then dried and buffed (with a non-scratch lint free cloth of course) As the build progressed many visits were paid to the large box of assorted bits in an attempt to locate any missing pieces, and there were many. A small quantity of said parts which eluded discovery were quickly sourced via ebay (a very expensive way to buy Lego) and overall it probably took the best part of two weeks to finish the project.

But now I was hooked.

Now I freely admit that I can sometimes get carried away when a new project presents itself, but I could never have known that what started a bit of a time killer when we were ‘confined to barracks’ back in March 2020 would become a firm and favourite hobby.

To my surprise I’m not the only one, apparently, and there are a huge number of enthusiasts around the world who enjoy collecting, building, designing, writing and talking about what started off many decades ago as just a basic few types of brick in a limited number of colours to the complex ‘educational toy’ we have today. There are many small businesses which make money out of buying and selling both bulk supply and spare parts and initially I just couldn’t believe how expensive and collectable some parts could be. When I first discovered that my set 8480 (with its original box and instructions) and in good condition was worth close on £300 I was astounded

And so it began.

I can confidently state I’m definitely an AFOL and my collection is growing almost on a daily basis. I particularly like the modular building range and I intend to post some of my interiors mainly for an ongoing record of my collection…plus writing about Lego may actually help to distract me from buying it.

Dancing Bear

Jamie Gray Writes

I would like to explain the reason for my title page containing a picture of a ‘Dancing Bear’.

It was during a trip to Canada that I first came across these incredibly skillful carvings, and I was so fascinated by the story behind them I just had to get one. For me the sculpture I bought fills me with happiness and I find it inspiring…no matter the situation I’m in, it can always raise a smile.

There are several different explanations of the story behind these carvings, and I’m sure someone will put me right on this, but the version I was told by one of the sculptors is the one that captured my imagination and truly explains the joy I see them, and probably the explanation I want to believe is true.

“The Inuits are great hunters, and we believe that if you’ve lived a good life and have…

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Doesn’t Time Fly

I’ve been very remiss as it’s been nearly three years since my last post, not something I’m proud of considering I made a promise to our family and friends to keep them informed whilst we were on our travels. But then sometimes there isn’t enough hours in each day to do everything, especially when you’re on holiday.

Let’s think about this logically (and hopefully I’ll give myself a damn good excuse for my tardiness)

Most of our travels are cruises and one of the main reasons for the drop in posts initially was the increase in the cost of using the internet on a ship. Back in 2015 I was paying, on average, around £30 for a 24 hour pass…that being the total time available to be online split into as many sessions as it would facilitate. A single pass would certainly last for the duration of even cruises of 3 weeks or more, with an hour or two left over to donate to a friendly crew member at the end.

These days though, internet packages have soared in price (on the cruise lines we use that is) and even the simplest packages are so expensive and not really worth it.

But having said that I think I’m offering a bit of a diversionary excuse to be honest, because the real reason for the decline of my blog was probably because of the developing feeling of obligation to post, no matter what.

Back on the ship after a beautiful day out, in some really wonderful places, it’s nice just to relax with a glass of wine, take in a show or movie, indulge in delightful culinary fare or just sit and chill as you watch the sun go down.

IMG_2672But that’s not what I was doing, because I had a task to complete…a piece of writing to compose (with a photo or two) to let the folks back home know what we’d been doing, and that we were okay. The modern day postcard if you like…but with a lot more space to fill and an expectation that daily communication was required. Well that’s how it felt to me…but I was probably mistaken, and it’s extremely  likely the obligation I felt was more a matter of my own pride.

Bloggers live to engage readers and collect things such as likes and comments, and I was (am) no exception. We crave that others see what an interesting life we lead…a kind of ‘look at us’ mentality…a desire for that Andy Warhol 10 minutes of fame. Don’t get me wrong, there are many great bloggers out there whose writing deserves an audience…but for me I needed to realise that there is, in fact, a time for every purpose under heaven (as in the great song ‘Turn Turn Turn’)

A time to relax, a time to enjoy. A time to Blog and a time not fret that you haven’t posted for a day or two (or a week, a month or nearly 3 years)

So I’m going to make an effort to recommence this online journal, but maybe a bit in arrears of any actual events…that way I’m free to enjoy every moment I’m fortunate to experience without feeling guilty if I forget to commit it to script immediately.



Miami…what’s my vice?

4th & 5th October 2015


Boy it’s warm…no make that hot, hot, hot.
Right from the first time you set eyes on the Miami skyline you know you’re somewhere special. First impressions are they started to build this city about six months ago, because everything looks new and modern. The sun glints off acres of glass, steel and marble to light up the rows and rows of almost brilliant white yachts in the marina.
I almost felt like I should dress up smartly to even dare to walk its streets…but I didn’t. Anyway off we go and with two days here we will definitely be looking at staying in the city and enjoying the nightlife.
But first the daytime and the shuttle bus drops us at Bayside, a large indoor/outdoor shopping/eating/drinking/tour booking/hop on hop off bus catching/everything kind of a place. But more on that later as we’re off for a walk along the waterfront, hopefully to find a bit of shade and a place to sit and watch the world go by. After about an hour we’d ambled into a residential area and as we found nothing particular to do there we headed back the way we’d come. We didn’t stop anywhere as most of the shady sitting areas were occupied by a collection of strangely pungent individuals who appeared to have set up home. Shame.
Back at Bayside we had a wander around the stalls and shops but unfortunately there was rain in the air. So GUESS WHAT? We went for a beer.
And there in the middle of Bayside was Forrest Gump’s bench…complete with a box of chocolates. Of course it’s not the real one, but it was located outside Bubba Gump’s Shrimp House. We sat at the bar, ordered two Buds and a shrimp feast, which we ate greedily whilst watching NFL on the considerable number of TV screens. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in my opinion.
After a few more libations we noticed the rain had finally stopped and we headed back to the ship for a shower and a lie down…boy oh boy does this heat drain the energy.
Back in the city later that evening we popped into Los Ranchos for a snack.


This was arguably the best food we’d had this trip…an incredibly tender rib-eye steak with a lobster tail, all washed down with lashings of sangria. The service was good and the view over the marina, with all the boats lit up, was great. In fact the whole evening was perfect…except for one small issue, and it is a very small issue I agree, but it irritates me. Once again I’m referring to tips/gratuities, call them what you want.
I’ve stated many times that I have no problem with tipping excellent service, but I do object to being told what the amount of that tip should be. Here in the US there is often a calculation at the bottom of the check to show a suggested level of gratuity. On this occasion the suggestions were 15%, 18% and 20% with our server taking the time to highlight the highest figure. Yes, the service was good but no better than I would have expected from an establishment of this nature.
In the UK I will always leave a tip in a restaurant, but it’s value is never based on the amount of money we’ve spent on the food and drink, rather it’s just a reward to the server based on how he/she has facilitated a good experience.
So why in America do they insist the value of gratuity is based on the money being spent? If I order a $10 burger or a $60 lobster the service I receive (i.e. taking my order, informing the kitchen and finally delivering it to the table) is the same. But the difference in suggested gratuity is $2 for the burger and $12 for the lobster…WHY?
Worryingly, when I’ve asked this question, the only answer I’ve been given is that if you can afford the expensive meals you can afford the increased gratuity.
Honest certainly but not necessarily right.
On this occasion the suggested gratuity would have taken me three hours to earn in my last job…so I feel like I was being asked to pay the servers wages rather than just a personal acknowledgement that he’d done his job well.
OK, rant over. But because I wouldn’t like to be considered rude I felt obliged to pay what was suggested…so I did.
A stroll around the tranquil harbour somewhat calmed my irritated mood and then we got the shuttle bus back to the ship.
Hang on a cotton picking moment…I feel another rant coming on.
We’re the only ones on the shuttle and the driver informs us that there hasn’t been anyone leaving or returning to the ship for over an hour. I really struggle to understand why out of over a thousand folk there are very few who get out and enjoy the nightlife of the city. We are constantly trying to encourage the cruise companies to offer more overnight or late night stays, which in most cities is the time they start livening up. But we’re onto a loser because when we’re offered the chance few people participate. Such a shame.
Second rant over…and so to bed, perchance to dream of exotic places and never ending jugs of sangria.

Day Two.
We weren’t quite sure what to do today so we ambled aimlessly round the streets of Miami until we discovered a smoothie bar…took all of one street and five minutes.
‘Let’s make a Daiquiri’ was our choice and we sat at the bar in the shade and drank tropical smoothies for quite a while. Then we walked to the ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ and had lunch. Sorry but it was just too hot for us to stay out and explore, however we did sit for a while watching the fish jumping in the harbour.
All in all a very good day, despite the fact it probably wouldn’t have mattered where in the world we were…but we were in Miami. It didn’t matter to us that we hadn’t been to a museum or ridden a fast boat across the everglades, and we certainly weren’t bothered about a ‘hop on hop off’ to South Beach on this occasion.
It was just nice to have been relaxing here, together. The sun shone and the skies were blue and sometimes (and these ‘sometimes’ are happening more often) it’s just nice to sit and let the world rush by and think ourselves lucky. We don’t always need to tick boxes of the places we’ve been and the things we’ve done, we can just be grateful we ‘are’.
Miami was hot, but the places we drank and ate delicious fare were cool, the people were warm and friendly. All in all just about as good as it could have been for us at this time in this place



3rd October 2015
Port Canaveral

Firstly, we visited the port of Jacksonville yesterday, yes that’s right, just the port and nowhere else. There was a shuttle bus service again from the port to the town, but each return trip was nearly an hour. As there was only 4 buses laid on and our ticket number was thirteen (again) we weren’t called until just before 1pm…was it worth it we asked ourselves? And the reply from one of the returning passengers was a resounding NO.
“They just took you to St John’s shopping mall,” we were told.
So to cut a long story short, Jacksonville was not a resounding success, in fact no body actually got to the main city, except the few who paid huge amounts of money to get a taxi.

So here we are in Port Canaveral…and were heading for the Kennedy Space Centre/Center to relive memories of our youth as we both followed mankind’s early ventures into space with great interest.
Now can I just mention the mode of transport we used to get there? I had initially gone online before this trip to discover the best way of getting to KSC and there was a fair amount of discussion about the port’s main taxi service. There was quite a bit of criticism about the attitude of some of the drivers from 888 taxi’s and suggestions that their prices weren’t very competitive. So in advance I booked an alternative company, via e-mail, before we left.
Twenty minutes after our scheduled pick-up time we had to concede that we’d been let down and had no other choice than to use the services of 888.
Now I have to speak as I find. The controller at the port desk was very courteous and the price quoted was $10 more than the other company (but they hadn’t turned up anyway) He made a call and within a few minutes ‘Todd’ turned up. The car was clean, icy cold and roomy, Todd was polite and chatty and kept us entertained all the way to KSC. He gave us some advice about what to see there and, more importantly, how we could get the best from our visit, like where to sit on the bus etc.
He dropped us near the entrance, we exchanged phone numbers and off we set.
I don’t quite know how much to say about our visit because there were many surprises and even a couple of ‘Wow’ moments, which I wouldn’t like to spoil for anyone else visiting for the first time. Needless to say we had a great five hours at this incredible attraction and really enjoyed ourselves.
Briefly, the bus tour around the launch pads with a visit to the Saturn V rocket exhibition took about 2/2.5 hours. Sitting on the right hand side of the bus is the best position (on the right when facing forward) and keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife especially turtles and alligators.
Visit the Atlantis Shuttle Experience and indulge in all the simulators…great fun. If there’s a queue then wait, it really is worth it. I was surprised how many people stepped out of line just because there was a ten to fifteen minute wait…big mistake.
If you’re in the shuttle hall at certain times there is an opportunity to hear from genuine shuttle astronauts, very interesting. Of course there is always the souvenir shops as well full of the usual ‘how could I ever live without one of those’ paraphernalia.
Imax shows several different films, so find out the times of each when you get there and plan accordingly. The one involving the mission to repair Hubble appears to be the most popular.
There are a few other things to do including the astronaut hall of fame and a launch simulator, but sadly we ran out of time. But we did sample a burger…very tasty.
Todd from 888 was waiting in the car park at exactly the time we’d agreed, so I think there’s a lesson there…don’t believe everything you read in the online forums. Yes it may not be right that one particular taxi company seems to have the monopoly in a port, but then reliability might be a reason…who can say after just one visit. But as I said before, speak as you find and we found 888 taxis to be good, they did exactly what we needed them to do, at a fair price.
We never got to visit Cocoa Beach, which is a shame as it was a beautiful day, but we did end up having a couple of beers in ‘The Cove’ just beyond the port…the food looked good as well, but there wasn’t time.
All in all a very good day and given the chance we would definitely return.


Savannah…nice but…

1st October 2015

Another hot and steamy day awaited us as we docked at this riverside port. Having passed through a very large industrial area with loads of chimney stacks belching smoke and disgusting sulphurous odours we were not hopeful.
Once alongside we were kept waiting for over an hour by the officials who were supposed to arrive early to grant clearance. Not doing too well so far and not feeling very welcome.
Then the heavens opened, and for almost an hour down came the buckets as well as the water. Hmm….not sure today’s going to be very successful….still give it chance, you never know.
Around 10ish clearance was granted and we were led to believe the only way into the town centre was by shuttle bus….and there weren’t many of those. So we got our ticket and waited in line….number 13….oh dear.
Eventually we made it onto the bus….the doors closed….we travelled about 250 metres and the bus stopped….the doors opened.
“OK folks,” the driver announced, “Here we are, and to return to the ship you catch the bus here.”
WHAT!!! You mean we waited for nearly two hours and we could have walked it in 5 minutes. Not happy, but at least the rain had stopped and the pavements were drying nicely.
Anyway, map in hand we set off in search of something to improve our day and brighten our visit which frankly was not floating our boat as yet (yes there really was that much rain)
Savannah town/city is based on a block/grid system a bit like Manhattan, only smaller, but every 2nd block in both directions has a green space. These are parks or gardens dedicated to some important Savannians (not sure if that’s the right word but it sounds cool) There are trees, statues, fountains, benches, squirrels and hobos by the dozen and everything looked very pretty (except for the hobos of course)
There’s a ‘hop on hop off’ available and it seemed to be very popular with a fairly regular service (just saying) but we didn’t use it as walking around was very easy, except when it started raining stair rods again.
A stop for a freshly made lemonade and iced tea was very refreshing and, unlike the port officials, the locals are friendly. Then a walk around the market area where there are eateries and more galleries featuring local artists. Unfortunately we didn’t find anything to our taste so we started looking around for a little light refreshment.
One of our fellow passengers asked if we’d been down to River Street, just along from where our ship had docked. We hadn’t, so we temporarily put on hold our search for a beer and went exploring in the direction pointed out to us.
River Street was interesting if only for a collection of traditional paddle steamers and a galleon, all replicas of course but it gave a feel of how things used to be.
Along with the usual collection of bars and souvenir shops there are loads of stalls selling all sorts of local cuisine and crafts.
Unfortunately our detour used up valuable indulging time so we never made it to a bar to sample the local hooch, but hey ho. It did turn out to be quite a nice day in the end, but the time lost at the start of the day didn’t allow us to fully experience this place as much as others. Sadly this meant that maybe Savannah will not stand out as very memorable when we come to look back on our adventures.
And we never found Forrest Gump’s Bench either….frankly tragic 😦

Do the Charleston…..

29th & 30th September 2015
Our first visit to this town, in fact this is the first time we’ve been anywhere in the US south of New York. We’d docked around midday, pulled on our best walking shoes and set off.
First thing we noticed as we left the super-cooled air-conditioned environment of the ship was it was hot….and very humid. But that wasn’t going to deter us one little bit even though we weren’t really sure what we were going to do or see here.
Just outside the port we met our first local (there were going to be many) a taxi driver…but instead of trying to convince us that he was going to light up our world with the tour of a lifetime for an irresistible price, he just asked if he could help.
We told him we just wanted to see the town and he directed us towards the park then pointed out several other areas of interest. We thanked him and without any pressure he handed us his business card with a simple, ‘If I can be of any help, please call me’.
Now it’s rare that we bother using the local taxi’s because they are often quite aggressive in the way they go about their business (and that’s understandable considering how many of them there are) but this guy’s approach got my attention. I promised to make him our first point of contact should we require transport during our visit, and to be honest I meant it. Nice bloke.
So we found the park which was very pretty, with a couple of large fountains and a beautiful tree-lined avenue. Shame about the smell. The waterfront area appears to be a salt marsh with a mass of reeds lining the water’s edge.
We especially loved the signs detailing the rules of entering the fountain areas. We were informed there was no life guard on duty and paddling was at the visitors own risk. It was also forbidden for a single individual to step into the cool water, bathing was for a minimum of 2 persons and a maximum of 25 (picture above is of one of them….fountain not bather) No alcohol, no loud music, no electrical equipment!!! LOVE IT, LOVE IT.
Anyway (there’s my favourite word again) walking from the park and around some of the back streets we enjoyed seeing the pretty traditional houses, all shapes and sizes, so cute. Then we found a main street full of galleries (there are many of these in Charleston…it must be a very inspiring town)
We found several churches, cemeteries, museums and many more galleries on our travels, but by now we were hot and just a little bit damp. Time for a drink.
It was 5pm and, because of the time we’d arrived, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and as the local Irish Bar, Tommy Condons, was offering 2 for 1 on burgers we decided to try them out (just for research of course and it would be rude not to) We were not disappointed….however we were still full when it came to dinner later that evening.
At around 8pm we headed back towards the port, but by now the market stalls were all gone. At least we had another day here so tomorrow maybe!
At this point I am going to have a moan. I won’t name names but it concerns one of the ‘sweet shops’ near to the market. As we’d passed by we were enticed in by a delicious smell of caramel. The young lady behind the counter had offered us a taste of a praline/pecan biscuit.
Mmm, very tasty. So we asked to purchase a couple of these digestive biscuit size delights. She put them in a bag and weighed them.
“Nine twenty five,” she requested.
“Sorry?” I asked. That seemed a bit pricey for two biscuits even if they were of the melt in your mouth and transport you to heaven variety.
“Nine twenty five,” she repeated.
“Really?” I’m not very good at concealing my surprise or shock, but I handed over a $10 bill anyway.
“Do you need change?” she asked.
Normally I don’t like receiving coins back in change, it drives that magical archy, metal detector thingy at security crazy. But this was an exception.
“Absolutely,” I demanded.
Now it was her turn to show surprise.
“Really?” she asked.
I held out my hand, expecting her to hand over the gold plated treats and my change. But she didn’t. The bag I’d just paid for was still on the scales, she looked down at it.
“Hang on a minute,” she stated, “I pressed the wrong button.”
“I pressed the wrong button.” Now she’s frantically pressing buttons.
“Yes I got that bit the first time, but…”
“The price should be nine ninety six.” She smiled and defiantly cocked her head to one side. Unfortunately she had my money and my cookies…what choice did I have.
I held out my hand and she handed me the bag, which I took, then out went my hand again.
“You still want change?” she looked genuinely shocked.
“Sure do.”
She reached into the till drawer, took an age to collect the four one cent coins and counted each one into my hand.
“Thank you,” I said and stood my ground.
For a second or two she looked at me, puzzled.
“Thank you,” I repeated. It was my turn to tilt my head and for good measure I raised my eyebrows.
She sighed, “You’re welcome.”

Back at the ship we found a couple of our dining companions to inform them we wouldn’t be down for dinner. Then we’d showered, dressed and headed back into the town for a beer.
We avoided the first bar as it was very busy owing to a ‘Drag Act’ performing. Further up the road we discovered a nice open terrace with American football playing on several big screens. This was the one for us, and a couple of local beers later we wended our way slowly back to cool down after a day sweltering in this interesting town.
Hang on a minute….wasn’t that several male crumblies off our ship sneaking furtively out of the ‘Drag Act’ bar? Well I never!

Day Two
Now breakfast onboard the ship is ok, but after nearly three weeks it’s quite samey. So this morning we’re on a mission to get ourselves a proper, bon-afide, genuine American Breakfast.
One of the servers in Condon’s suggested ‘Toast’ on Mission Street and when we arrive it was packed. So we got our name on the list and waited. Ten minutes later we’re shown to our table and lavished with tea, coffee and juice.
I order a Short Stack and my dear lady get French Toast (reputed to be highly recommended by the New York Times)
Now I have to admit that although I’d ordered buttermilk pancakes, crispy bacon and maple syrup I wasn’t absolutely sure I was going to like the combination. But, hey ho, it just has to be done at least once in a lifetime.
It was good….very good….very filling and sweet beyond belief….but very good.
Breakfast done we wandered first to the Confederate Museum at the top of Market Street, then on to the main Charleston Museum at the other end of Mission Street. Both were very good and we enjoyed a few hours of history and culture.
Around 3pm we’d started our walk back to the market to browse the stalls, but guess what? We never made it that far. It was hot here….very hot and sticky. So where better to stop and drink margaritas than a bar called Sticky Fingers.
Once propped up at the bar we ordered a couple which didn’t last very long, so another two quickly followed. Now this is where I made a slight miscalculation. We’d been tempted to enter this particular establishment by the sign outside which read
‘Margaritas..$3 all day’
This was exceeding temptation, but I was sure at that price there would be little alcohol included (in most of the bars the cocktails were at least $5/6) So a few more margaritas followed as they were so refreshing.
I think we’d just finished our third when the rain started hammering down outside (I realise that it would hardly be raining inside but please remember I have been drinking)
So we ordered another round along with a plate of nachos smothered in barbequed pulled pork. I think I can honestly say these were the best we’ve ever had, and Brittany our server appeared to keep topping up our glasses regularly.
In the meantime we’d started up a conversation with a local lad who’d joined us at the bar. I know we got a little loud and merry but I definitely remember having the best of afternoons with our new friends…hands across the water and all that stuff.
Before we knew it the clock on the wall told us it was time to go as the ship would be leaving in an hour. Standing up was the first issue and walking in a straight line was positively out of the question.
However we did make it back safely, but instead of standing up on deck for the sail away we fell sound asleep in our cabin, and there we remained until 8am the next morning.
Charleston was a top port with great people and we’d happily return….but that’s not just the drink talking….we really enjoyed ourselves (except maybe for the sweetie shop where we felt we were somewhat ripped off)

Go Yankees….

26th & 27th September 2015
New York, New York.

Go Yankees

We were due to visit Martha’s Vineyard Oaks Bluff yesterday and although the ship did actually drop anchor somewhere near to the port, my dear lady and I declined the crew’s kind offer to transport us ashore. The sea was active and having watched a couple of tenders rolling around in the somewhat extensive swell, we decided there was nothing particular we wanted to do or see there (stop shouting ‘Cowards’ at your screen)
However it was a very ‘Good Choice’.
We discovered later that most of the transfers to shore were full of incident with liberal amounts of carrot infested chunder thrown in for good measure (or should that be thrown up?) Several folk needed medical attention, and at one stage the ‘stretcher party’ was called to the tender dock.
Anyway, let’s leave that one for now and move to one of the highlights of this trip….
New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx’s is up but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the ground.
(from the musical ‘On the Town’ lyrics by Comden & Green)
We were looking forward to our third visit to this metropolis, which is unusual considering my contempt for most big cities.
We had a plan, but it’s risky, so confidence was a little low, but expectation was high.
We were going to attempt to get to grips with the intricacies of that mysterious underworld better known as the ‘New York Subway’ (Dah..Dah..Daaahhhh)
So we set off for our first destination….50th and 8th.
Once found we joined hands, whispered a silent prayer and headed into the abyss.
Well…we were aiming initially to reach west 4th street, Washington Square on the C line. This would deliver us into the heart of Greenwich Village, a recommended area we’d not yet explored. So let’s get tickets….just how hard could this be?
A Metro Pass is the way to go as it’s very similar to London’s Oyster Card, load it up and off you go. Except the machines purporting to deliver these plastic novelties are not the easiest to understand….unless you do what I did before we travelled….check out the procedure on YouTube. I’m certainly glad I did as some of my fellow tourists ended up shouting at the rather shabby metal dream destroyer, as after many attempts it stubbornly refused to issue anything resembling a ticket.
Twenty five minutes later and the worst was over, my patience (and meticulous research) was rewarded, and as we swiped our access pass to paradise with gusto I felt a sense of euphoria at having successfully negotiated this first complex hurdle. My dear lady warned me not to shout ‘That’s the way to do it suckers’ as pride definitely comes before a fall.
So there we were on the platform, with what seemed like the entire population of a small city, and it’s hot.
Erm….maybe this wasn’t going to be fun after all.
The train arrived, pushing even more hot, acrid air in front of it. Like a lava flow we were overcome by a scalding wall of heat which stunned us for a second or two. The doors opened and we were virtually carried onto the carriage and pushed deep into the heart of the crush.
Now I’m often accused of exaggerating the situation a little, massaging the events to create interest and drama….ME??…NEVER!!…well maybe…just a touch 
To be honest it really wasn’t too bad. Let’s just say that New Yorkers have learnt to accept a lack of personal space in order to reach their destination quickly and very cheaply. And so must we as tonight we’re heading for Yankee Stadium for a baseball game. The taxi fare would be $50 each way, but we can use the subway for a tenth of that. Nuff said!
Moving on, and Greenwich Village was well worth the visit, as was Washington Square Park. There was a Pagan Pride festival going on with more witches in attendance than we saw in Salem. There was also a young man playing a ‘Grand’ piano under the ‘Grand’ arch entrance to the park…only in America would you find a grand piano in a park.
We left the park and headed downtown, specifically to Chinatown for lunch. For the second time this trip we stumbled upon the place we were looking for without too much searching and enjoyed a lunch of dim sum and noodles…yummy.
A lot more walking around the city hall and courts area to admire the grandeur of the architecture and the time passed quickly. As the baseball game was due to start at 4pm we set off to find the appropriate subway. Now this became bone of contention as the subway stations are not very well marked, and you need a different entrance for different directions. Eventually we found what we were looking for, a number 4 express, and managed to squeeze on.
Yankee stadium is huge and looks very modern. The collection of tickets at ‘will call’ was easy and entry through security was quick. All good so far. Seats were found and there was plenty of leg room and a great view. We stood for the national anthem and readied ourselves for the first pitch.
The whole atmosphere was great but maybe a little more subdued than we were expecting, but our overall impression was very good. As expected food and drink was expensive and when I went to get a beer I was actually id’d. That made me momentarily forget I was paying 10 bucks for a bud which, according to all the signs around, was going to increase my energy intake by 300 odd calories. In fact everything for sale inside the stadium carried a calorific value to let the fans know just how much weight they would gain during the game.
Wow thanks for that…go Yankees.
Game over and back on the subway to Grand Central and a walk down 42nd street, through Times Square and finally back to the ship.
I know…let’s do it all again tomorrow 

Day two dawned bright and warm, however we slept late, missed dawn and went straight for the heat and chaos of mid morning.
Today we were on a mission to find and walk the High Line, a disused elevated section of rail track starting somewhere around 34th and 12th.
A short 10 minute walk from the ship and it was easily spotted and joined. We had a very interesting slow amble along about a mile and half of pretty gardens with interesting features, including what looks like a branch line which cuts straight through the middle of a building.
Once at the end we turned round and headed back the way we’d come until we reached Chelsea Market.
This was an incredible place to visit and full of complete surprises when it comes to comparing it to markets back in the UK. Brilliant and well worth a visit, especially for lunch as there is so much choice.
That’s pretty much all we did today and we really enjoyed this little piece of paradise in the vast sprawl of the city.
Just one small incident which gave us a titter. Outside Chelsea Markets there is a street marked ‘For Loading and Unloading only’. There was a line of about fifteen lorries all sporting the same company’s ‘Fruit and Vegetables to the Trade’ livery and they were parked up with no apparent activity of the loading/unloading variety.
A very happy traffic warden was gleefully writing tickets and dutifully booking every single one of them. I started to wonder if this was a regular Sunday morning activity for said uniformed enforcer of street law and I could imagine her begging to work overtime in order to get her quota in at the start of each week…Priceless.
Another great visit to this great city, and now we have an understanding of the subway system it will hopefully open up a whole world of possibilities next time….providing of course there is a next time.

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