Author Archive: J Arthur Gray

Miami…what’s my vice?

4th & 5th October 2015
Miami

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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.

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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

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UP..UP.. AND AWAY

Snoopy
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.
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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.

Spaceman

Savannah…nice but…

1st October 2015
Savannah

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
Charleston
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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.”
“Meaning?”
“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)
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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.

Which Witch is Which.

24th September 2015
Salem

Salem

Question: how many witches were executed following the Salem witch trials of 1692 and 1693?
Answer: none….because of the twenty people hung or crushed to death none of them were actually witches (so I was told)

We had another bright and sunny day to explore ashore, but with only a few hours before we head off for the next stop we have to get a wiggle on as there appears to be a lot to do.
Salem is a fairly new location for the cruise industry, although many thousands of tourists flock here every year on the ferry from Boston, so maybe we need to be on our best behaviour if we want to be invited back.
First impressions are this is a very pretty town and, but for the history of the appalling and harrowing events of over 300 years ago, it would probably be a very sleepy place too.
But it isn’t, far from it.
First of all, as you leave the port, there is a house with all kinds of junk in the garden and around the house. It’s the same stuff we’ve just spent the last eight months getting rid of back home, but the owner has used his/her imagination to create works of art….or just things of interest. It would be possible to spend some time looking through the bars of the fence at all the immerging artefacts, but like I said….wiggle, wiggle.
Once outside the port there is a red line to follow, a tourist trail which takes you to or past every point of interest in this vibrant town. The House of Seven Gables is first followed by the court house and the historical maritime area. There are waxworks, museums, houses of interest, a cemetery, a pirate house and more ghost walks than you could rattle Jacob Marley’s chains at. And it’s all good and overall not too demanding on the pocket book (wallet for us English)
Now the most interesting place for me was the memorial area for the victims of those heinous accusations. I’ll not go into much detail but I found the walk past each marker dedicated to a prematurely despatched, ordinary human, quite emotional. I’m sure their only ambition in life was probably to be happy, healthy and allowed to live as long as possible, in peace.
But then there’s always someone with an axe to grind, a point to make or just wants to be a spoiler for no other reason than they can.
Hey Ho.
Anyway, back to Salem, and we’ll certainly be back if given the chance, although maybe the witch theme is just a little OTT. I suppose this is definitely a case of ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’. I’m sure Salem has more to offer than that but on this occasion we didn’t have the time to find it.

My joints are stiff and rusty
Old paint’s already peeled
I’m looking fairly shabby
With all my faults revealed.
And my undercarriage droops a bit
Well, a lot to be quite fair
My fallen arches need a lift
And success in love is rare.

But at least I’ve had the chance to live
A full and active life,
Free from persecution
Safe and happy, little strife.
It doesn’t matter who I am
Or what my interests be.
Criticise me all you want,
You can’t stop me being me.

(A grateful tribute for life, inspired by the innocents of Salem)

Back in Boston

23rd September 2015
Boston

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Well we’re back Boston, just like we said we would be.
Definitely one of our favourite US cities….but first there’s the time consuming, people fuming, disaster looming, officials presuming, paperwork confusing….immigration formalities.
Well to be fair this lot do look a bit dodgy so who can blame the boarder agency for wanting to deny them entry if at all possible.
Previously the process has been very serious, tedious and fractious, but today it was different and a big gold star goes to the immigration officers for a job quickly done….and with a smile….so unusual.
And so we were off. It was a lovely sunny day so the walk along Summer Street (appropriate) was very pleasant and we passed through a couple of areas we hadn’t been to before.
There’s a Macy’s near to the end of the walk, and opposite there’s Primark….nuff said.
We reached the park marking the start of the Freedom Trail and here we left our companions to tread the red line around the historic sites of Boston whilst we headed towards Quincy Market for a coffee.
Our plan today was to visit the New England Aquarium in the harbour area and after a pleasant ‘cuppa’ we headed off to get tickets with high hopes of an interesting visit.
Now we weren’t disappointed as there are lots and lots of penguins….many more than we’d expected. Anyone who knows my dear lady will already be aware of her love of these little critters and their antics. She walked round for the next couple of hours with a permanent smile attached, with many a ‘They’re so cute’ and ‘They’re so very little’.
As well as many fascinating smaller display tanks all around the outside of the building there is the huge cylindrical reef tank in the middle. A spiral ramp allows the visitors a 360 degree panoramic insight into this ‘fishy’ world, and also allows the swimming occupants a close up examination of the human viewers just the other side of the edge of their world, where the water appears to have set solid.
There are so many species and each have their own characteristics.
Anyway we had a good time and came away with an extra skip in our normally grumpy demeanour, heading all the way back to Quincy market for clam chowder….always a great choice.
That done, we headed off for a gassy beer and a walk around the lovely little park in the harbour area.
We’re really fortunate to be enjoying very good weather this trip so we continued walking around the city for the next three hours, finally returning back to Quincy Market to meet up with friends for a few more beers.
The walk to Chinatown took no more than twenty minutes and we found the small ‘cafe type’ restaurant almost immediately. Despite the fact we’d warned our companions in advance that this place resembled a greasy spoon rather than an eatery they looked worried.
We went in anyway….it only took a little gentle persuasion.
“Table for four please.” We were shown to a table where one lone lad is sitting with his phone. The waitress ushers him away with a wave of her hand. He didn’t appear to be eating but we immediately felt guilty as he stood to leave.
“You don’t have to go,” we said, but he nodded, smiled and scurried away.
Menus at the ready we were ready to order as a nervous young waitress headed our way.
“Can we have a sweet and sour chicken please?”
“What?” the girl looked really puzzled.
“One sweet and sour chicken please.”
“What?”
We had starting to think that maybe her grasp of English was not very good.
“Sweet and sour chicken,” we’d repeated whilst pointing to the appropriate line in the menu.
“Oh,” she said with a smile, “You want sweet and sour chicken.”
“Yes please….and a special chow mein please.”
“What?”
“A special chow mein.” Frantic page turning followed by a pointing finger.
“Oh….you want a special chow mein.”
“Yes please….and a beef and vegetable please.”
“What?”
At this point we weren’t quite sure if someone was taking the proverbial. But the order continued with each dish being duly questioned, pointed at and then pronounced perfectly by our server.
When the food arrived we realised that maybe we should have bought more people with us….or ordered less….there was rather a lot, and it was tasty.
All went quiet as we set about the feast.
Anyway….long story short….it was lovely and the walk back to the ship was necessary to settle our overly full abdomens.
Unfortunately we didn’t have an overnight this time so by the time we got back it was time to leave.
Another Bostin’ day in Boston….thanks, you never disappoint.

Deep tan…crisp and even :)

P103071422nd September 2015
Sea Day

Fifty Shades of Red
Well we’re heading south for the rest of this trip so the weather will improve and the sun should make a bit more of an effort to join us….we hope.
And as if by magic we meander out on deck to be greeted by a crisp cool morning….with a clear blue sky and sunshine.
It’s only 8am and there has already been a scramble for the sun loungers.
I know I’ve said it before, but it still amazes me that despite so many health warnings about over exposing our skin to the harmful UV rays of the sun there are still many who never seem happy unless they are excessively tanned (leave the room if you had improper thoughts then) Don’t get me wrong, I too love to expose my pasty body to the warmth of the sun (sorry) but I prefer to sit in the shade more often than not.
By lunchtime I think a fair few had underestimated the power of our great yellow sky companion, with several turning some interesting shades of angry pink.

Here comes the sun,
You folks must run
To grab a spot to lie.
Unbutton shirt,
Hitch up that skirt,
Before it passes by.

But stay it may
For just this day,
So get it while you can.
Don’t whinge “It’s sore,”
Grit teeth much more
Stand up and be a man.

Forget the creams
Their blocking means
Delaying darker skin.
Avoid the shades,
In many ways
They stop the ray’s way in.
For panda eyes
Are no disguise,
You need an even spread.
Just like a spit
Rotate a bit
To brown from toe to head.

Now stay all day,
Not shift or sway.
Raise arms above your head,
Red bingo wings
And other things
Will burn tonight in bed.

But that’s the plan,
You have to tan
To prove a time well spent.
If pale you stay
While you’re away
Then no one knows you went.

Sydney and the big fiddle :)

P103053221st September 2015
Sydney, Nova Scotia.

The first thing that strikes you here is a bloody enormous fiddle (I’m talking musical instrument here and not a scam) it’s huge and reputed to be the largest in the world (I’m still talking about the fiddle, which is a musical instrument not a scam) Wow is just about all I can think of saying, and of course you have to take a picture……it would be rude to ignore it.
To be honest this thing is so big that it appears in every picture we took in Sydney….even the ones we took at the park over a mile away the fiddle was in the background.
Anyway, we don’t have a full day here so time to stop wittering and time to get round the town. First stop an old church which has been restored to its former gloomy glory. It’s nice to see that they’ve kept the character and not added tons of new materials. Very pleasant.
Next is the Jost House. Now this too has been restored and is crammed with artefacts and interesting ‘stuff’. The guides give us a detailed history of the house and the family who had built it, adding different parts as their needs changed. There was even a room full of old apothecary equipment, medicaments and preparations, absolutely fascinating. Best of all was the reception and farewell we were given by a complete stranger with hugs all round and a genuine sense that our presence was appreciated. Nice……..
Anyway (have you noticed I love that word?) we visit a couple more churches then it’s time to head back to the port.
We then set off in the other direction along a neatly constructed ‘boardwalk’ which takes us along the water’s edge for about a kilometre. Turning left and heading for the town we first encountered the local fire station with a couple of the splendid engines in the process of being cleaned and polished.
A short walk from here takes us to a small park with lots of ducks and statues and stuff….very pleasant. The main shopping area of the town consists mainly of one street and this is crammed with the usual interesting shops and eateries.
Our last visit here was marked by a wonderful meal (and a drink or two) at ‘The Governors’ with our table companions (you know who you are) As two of that party are also onboard this time we arranged to meet up there again and toast absent friends. It was as good as the last time (except for the absence of a certain couple (yes talking about you two again) and we spent a couple of hours doing what comes naturally to this party, eating and drinking.
And so it’s time to leave, but not before one last hunt around the souvenir market at the port. There’s a shop selling sculptures which is crammed with ‘dancing polar bears’. Now we’ve seen quite a few of these before in most of the Canadian ports we’ve visited over time, and they’re so cute. They really do convey a sense of joy and happiness and then the owner tells us why. Apparently the Inuit’s believe that if you are a good hunter then when you die you come back as an animal. Now if they come back as a polar bear, which of course is at the top of the food chain, they are so happy they dance. What a great philosophy 🙂
Well with that in mind I just had to buy one….well I had intended to anyway as I’d always regretted not getting one last year.
So off we set, sadly just one port in Canada this time so USA here we come.
We’ll be back 

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A Wonderful Sea Day….Almost

Don’t you just love a know it all?

There you are sitting quietly and enjoying the sun, now it’s finally made an appearance, when a large shadow blots out the light and a loud voice asks if “This seat is taken?” referring to the spare chair next to you.
You politely look up from the book you’re reading to inform the unknown enquirer that it isn’t ‘taken’ and they are welcome to use it.
They thank you and sit.
With the obstruction now settled next to you the warmth of the sun is immediately restored, and you return to the complex plot of the indulgent murder mystery you were enjoying.
“Isn’t the sun wonderful?” the arrival asks just as you’re trying to get your head round a new blood stained clue.
You don’t wish to be rude so you answer, “Very,” but you also don’t want to perpetuate a conversation so you remain head down, avoiding eye contact.
Unfortunately the one subject this numpty has no knowledge of is the art of reading body language.
“I lived in Bahrain for three years,” he announces, “Forty degrees in the shade, day in day out.”
You sigh and look up from your book. Bad move.
“Really….how interesting.” Even worse because you have now offered an in.
“I use to play golf out there….well they don’t really have golf courses, just sand and greens. I was part of the women’s PGA golf tour you know….”
You have nowhere to go and as you glance around at your fellow travellers with a look of ‘Please help me’ on you face you have to accept that….
You’ve been hit by….You’ve been struck by….‘A Smooth Know It All’
Now luckily this didn’t actually happened to me today, but rather to the poor unfortunate sitting just a few feet away from where I was also enjoying a rare kiss of warmth from the sun. Yet everyone in earshot knows that the ambient peace has just come to a very abrupt end.
Several folk give up, get up and leave, others (like me) settle in for a bit of entertainment….and I’m not going to be disappointed.
To try to record or even remember the ensuing onslaught meted out on that poor individual, whose only desire when he awoke that morning was to immerse himself in a really good book, would be impossible. To say the least we were transported around the world, played every sport, met every imaginable famous person who had ever lived and spent several fortunes in the process.
Wow, and all that before lunch.
Well here’s my tribute to him and the many like him who just excel at ruining someone’s day.

What Do You Know?

Can’t you tell that I’m a smart arse?
Have an answer every time,
And I know you’ll love my stories
Every anecdote sublime.
You’ll be hooked by revelations
Gripped by every single word.
Laughing at my clever humour
Loud and proud, I must be heard.

This my umpteenth cruise with Freddie
They consult me every time
I know every port in detail
Where to shop or wine and dine.
Port talk speakers, what do they know?
And the singers, pile of poo.
Entertainers? Bunch of posers,
I could teach a thing or two.
I can tell you want to be me
Don’t deny, I see your face
Cause your life will be so much richer
If I let you take my place.
I know exactly what you’re thinking
That you love me, can’t deny.
You hang on every sentence
Every other word being I.

But please don’t try, you can’t out do me,
Been there, seen it more than most.
Bigger, better, more expensive
‘Is that all?’ my favourite boast.
You should really do things my way,
Entertainer, champion Brit,
Not to mention greatest lover
Can’t you tell I’m full of s**t.

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