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.
But 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.
26th & 27th September 2015
New York, New York.
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.
24th September 2015
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.
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)
23rd September 2015
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.