Category Archives: Holiday

Barbados..Far away from London and from home

14th November 2014

Oh we’re going to Barbados…in the sunny Caribbean sea

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We arrive with Bridgetown bathed in glorious sunshine, the sea a beautiful turquoise blue. This is a very busy port which usually plays host to a number of cruise ships….today is no exception with us being the fifth to arrive (and we’re the smallest)

There really is so much to do and see here that it’s difficult to know exactly where to begin. Taxis are plentiful and in general are small minibus type vehicles. Mostly the drivers prefer to sell you a half or full days tour of the island and as they may only get one chance of a fare each day then this is to be expected.

Time to negotiate a price but be specific….if you want to be by yourselves then you need to mention that, or if you only want to go to a particular place then you need to be insistent. And of course this will all be reflected in the price. If you’re not bothered what you do and are looking for the cheapest deal then be prepared to wait some time as the drivers will attempt to fill every seat in their vehicle before setting off. In our experience it’s much better to pay extra and have more control over the day’s itinerary, but more importantly it’s nicer to have the extra space inside the vehicle to enjoy the day. For around $100/120 you can get a three hour tour (short but very good)

Let’s start with our favourite….Harrisons Caves.P1010746

This is an incredible underground labyrinth of wonder and well worth the visit…..and it’s lovely and cool down there. The majority of the journey is made on a train like vehicle, but plenty of stops are made for photos, and the guides will always recommend the best views. Great couple of hours worth….and did I mention it’s lovely and cool as well?

There are a few ‘gardens’ to visit which, at the right time of year, will thrill any amateur horticulturalist with some very beautiful landscaping and stunning displays of flowers….especially orchids.

Of course just a drive around the island is a magical mystery tour in itself with stunning views both out over the Atlantic Ocean to the east or the Caribbean Sea to the west. Not to mention the turbulent history of the Caribbean, and Barbados had its fair share of the conflicts and slavery etc….A good driver can bring the whole story alive if allowed to do so (maybe another good reason to go on your own as we’ve often experienced the ‘know it all tourist’ who spoils everything by never shutting up!!!!) More often than not we always seem to end up in some off the beaten track location with a rum punch in one hand and a coconut bun in the other talking to ‘momma’….priceless hospitality.

For the more adventurous there are plenty of water sports or catamaran trips to snorkel or swim with dolphins/turtles.

Then there’s the beach…..or should I say beaches. Now I’m no great lover of sand and I’ll guarantee a small grain of the stuff will never produce a pearl in me, but I do love the beaches here. This is the place the world exists in the Caribbean, it’s where the locals meet to have fun, swim, party or just try to make a living. The water is so clear and warm you have to go for a swim, or even just a paddle.

Most places you can rent a lounger and umbrella for a few (negotiated) dollars and there’s nearly always a cold beer or three close by.

Anyway, after a wonderful day enjoying the island it’s back to Bridgetown and despite it’s somewhat shabby appearance in places, it’s a friendly town with lots of the usual stuff to see. Stop and talk to the locals, buy some of the local hand-made crafts (rather than the increasing masses of imported rubbish)

Then it’s a short walk back to the port and a few ‘Banks’ beers in the bar along with a flying fish platter…..yum.

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Barbados never disappoints and despite one or two showers today it keeps it’s excellent reputation well and truly intact.

Cheer’s Barbados.

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Fun Fun Funchal

7th November 2014

Fun Fun Funchal, Madeira

P1030541The seas calmed down overnight and the day has dawned bright and warm for the first port of call of this trip.

The first thing to note is that the harbour and seafront has undergone some major refurbishment in the past few months. In the harbour area itself there is quite a bit of mess, with a lot of construction still taking place, but it appears the rest of the main promenade is almost completed. At the time of this visit the new garden areas are beautifully planted out, and the final clean up seems to be in progress.

So what did we do?

Well first up it was a walk to the market. The flowers, the fruit, the fish and just about everything else is fascinating. This is a veritable smorgasbord for the senses, and not necessarily all good, but we spent a good hour sampling Madeira wine, fruit punch, pineapple bananas and candied hibiscus flowers, as well as taking lots of pictures. We bought a few bits and pieces and a couple of bottles of the local hooch, so a quick trip back to the ship to unload was needed.

Then onward and upward to the fort at the end of the waterfront before climbing the hill towards the street café we attended last trip. But unfortunately many others had discovered this little gem and the tables were full (with more folk waiting to be seated) So back down into the town for a wander around.

A few church visits and many a shop window stared through and lunch (or more importantly beer) was calling. We found a nice bar with a bit of shade that overlooked a small fisherman’s chapel with a hug hibiscus tree in full flower, very pretty.

The beer was cold and good, the salad plentiful and cheep……BONUS.

Ice cream soon followed and after a stroll back to the promenade it was time to find another park side bar to watch the world pass by.

I suppose this wasn’t the most productive and exciting of port days, but we really enjoyed it and I’m sure we’ll come here for a longer holiday at some point.

Just a quick word about other things in Funchal.

The ship offered a tour of Funchal by tukxi…basically it’s a tuk-tuk with a different name. We’ve never seen these around Madeira before and they do look to be great fun. But the price for a tour was far cheaper in the port than the one offered on by the ship’s tour department, and there seemed to be plenty of them around to hire….just a thought.

And of course it goes without saying that a trip up to Monte on the cable car is a must….again it’s much cheaper independently than on a tour….and the views are fantastic. This should be followed by a sled down the hill in a large armchair, steered by a mad man and his mate on the back, but only do this if in fact you’re completely insane and have a very good life insurance policy.

I’m sorry I appear to be getting a little behind with the posts but will soon catch up……It’s just we’re having so much fun 🙂

Remember Remember

5th November 2014

Remember Remember the 5th of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot…..well lets all hope there’s no gunpowder involved, but the treason and plot wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

And what the devil, I hear you all cry, are you talking about?

Well…..I’ve already spoken about the competitiveness of this lot, but it’s definitely starting to feel like this is one of the strangest groups of people we’ve ever travelled with (to be honest it’s not the whole group and I’m sure most of them are very nice individuals) But as usual the antics of the minority tend to capture my attention, and surprisingly it seems to be some of the older ones who are taking centre stage.

Only two days in and already there have been quite a number of arguments among the assembled. Fortunately there hasn’t been any full blown ‘toe to toe’ rows, but a few little niggles and the odd spat or two have taken place. There’s definitely a smattering of Victor Meldrews around ready with a terse ‘You can’t do that’ or a less than polite ‘Do you mind?’ turn of phrase.

And what have the miscreants who are attracting these remarks done to deserve a verbal tongue lashing?

Has he/she barged through an orderly queue to reach the last of the tea cakes??? NO

Has he/she shouted obscenities throughout the show company’s moving rendition of ‘Bring him home’??? NO (but frankly they should have done)

Has he/she been caught rummaging through Mrs Smiths racey underwear in the laundrette??? NO…..have you seen Mrs Smith?

The main cause of the disputes is space, or more importantly, how someone has positioned (or is positioning) themselves within a space.

Just like any resort with a swimming pool the whole lido deck is neatly lined with closely packed chairs and sun loungers each morning ready to receive the sun worshippers. The early birds grab the best position and then proceed to clear some personal space around their chosen spot by shoving the surrounding furniture away, and like a long line of shopping trolleys the loungers scrape across the wooden deck until the one at the end hits something fixed. This is then repeated by others and the result is puddles of occupied loungers arranged randomly around the pool with the rest in a cluttered heap up one corner of the deck, resembling a traffic jam on the M25.

Now as the morning progresses more and more of the bronzed gods arrive for a session of tanning (steady now) and this is when the territorial fights break out. The late arrivals carefully untangle a piece of the discarded furniture and attempt to drag it into a free space…..but those already in position have made sure the space around them isn’t big enough to accommodate the newcomers.

And, of course, it’s not the established occupants who are being inconsiderate…….oh no, that would be a preposterous suggestion. Possession is not only 9/10th of the law it also allows the possessor of the said space to be an evil selfish bastard as well. So as you can see….this is how it all starts.

But then this situation continues into the evening because some of these space dominators take possession of a particular seat at their dinner table as well, and woe betide anyone who disrespects that. They certain don’t tolerate anyone who wishes to ‘rotate around’ their ‘table of eight’ in order to get to know their companions a little better, and it’s not unknown for the weak to be reduced to floods of tears if they even try.

 

Oh and if any other evidence is needed for you the reader to fully understand the type of folk who are lurking among those we share this trip with, then here it is.

There’s a small party of Germans aboard who are definitely here to have fun and enjoy themselves, just like us. Now like any gathering of friends, irrespective of nationality, they are tending to get louder as the alcohol flows. Ok, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as this is a regular occurrence, again irrespective of nationality, on every cruise we’ve been on.

BUT there are some who are openly affronted by the behaviour of these happy Bavarians, and the fact they are laughing and joking in their own language drives them into the depths of paranoia.

So begins the huddled whispering, the pointing and a determination to be louder just to prove we Brits always know how to have the best time. They even resort to some attempted ‘Basil Fawlty’ mimicry for added effect…..

‘Vot ever you do, don’t mention ze var’

I even heard ‘How dare they’ at one point.

And I want to ask how dare they what?……..speak their own language? Have fun? Be German?

I though the saying was ‘older and wiser’ but just lately I’m not really convinced that’s necessarily right. I just hope that as I get older I don’t become that nasty and cynical.

That’s what I think (TWIT)

Race Y’all……

4th November 2014

Race Y’all!!

In a very short time one thing has become abundantly clear…….the folk on this cruise are some of the most competitive individuals I’ve ever encountered. I say individuals but it appears that some of them are working in pairs, and even as part of a team, in order to subdue and humiliate their unworthy rivals.

It all started around the lido pool this morning with the obligatory show of ‘one-upmanship’ in the innocent guise of a few t-shirts, caps and sweat shirts. These are clearly meant to demonstrate the wearers past cruising prowess and dares all comers to challenge their right to be the ‘top cruise dog’ on this trip. Usually the basic ‘I’ve been to the Seychelles’ brigade will bow to the more experienced ‘We trekked across the Atacama Desert’ mob, who in turn will humbly bend the knee to the more obscure ‘Machu Pichu by lama’ elite.

But not this time as many posed using the multiple displays from around the globe tactics in an attempt to outflank their strutting opponents, who would not yield under any circumnavigation of the world….no sir!

Anything from Europe and Australasia was dismissed without a second glance and the previously obscure trips to ‘The Real Rural China’ were now considered ‘old hat’ and literally relegated to the bottom of the bragging rights league table with ‘nil point’.

Whilst initially it was considered that ‘Whale Surfing the St Lawrence’ was a very strong contender in the early rounds, the wearer was summarily disqualified from the competition after it was discovered to be a fake.

After many a taunt and several grunts of intimidation, it came down to a direct, one round, winner takes all face off as ‘I’ve herded penguins by helicopter in the Falklands’ met ‘We tracked polar bears in Longyearben’ in the breakfast at Palm’s Café final. After much parading and swaggering the parties involved decided to call it a draw and went off together to compare notes, but in reality this was just an attempt to bore each other to death to decide the true winner.

Now that was just the start of it.

Anyway, maybe more on that another time, back to the story in hand and even more worrying was the behaviour of some of the passengers during the ‘walk a mile around the decks’ activity earlier today. Despite the member of staff, who was in charge of the event, insisting that the walk would be conducted at ‘a gentle pace’ and ‘it was all just a bit of fun’, it transpires that three of the weaker and less ambulant attendees are now receiving treatment in the medical centre for trample injuries, and apparently one poor lady is still missing.

I admit I may have slightly exaggerated the competitiveness of these situations, but trust me this ‘one-upmanship’ happens, and nowhere more so than in a tin box full of bloody-minded people. It all comes down to the fact that we the human race still retain so much of our basic animal instinct and we desperately need to prove that we’re ‘so much better than you’.

Now I can accept this trait in the young, after all it’s quite natural to want to prove yourself to be the best at that age, but in my experience the older generation are just as bad and I find it strange that those who no longer need to prove themselves work so hard to proclaim themselves as the ‘top dog’.

Instead of accepting that ‘we all do what we do the way we want to do it’ there are those who go out of their way to suggest their life has been brilliant and yours?…….well frankly it’s just not good enough.

How arrogant.

Well that’s what I think anyway!!!

All Aboard…….

3rd November 2014

All Aboard!

Embarkation was mainly good fun and trouble free as usual, only this time we were known by the few members of the crew who were wandering around the lounge selling dreams and promises (well actually they were pushing the wine, spa treatments and cream teas, but dreams and promises sounds much more exotic and holiday…ish)

Our fellow passengers look like the usual mix of the weird and wonderful, but it noticeable that there are a lot of furtive and suspicious glances being flashed in our direction……..hmmm I wonder what kind of crowd this is?

To be honest we’ve been saying that as we’ve been very fortunate with our travelling companions during the last few trips, then maybe it’s our turn to have a crappy table this time. Looking around the embarkation lounge I was really tempted to get on the phone to the folk from 106 and bribe them to hurry on down to join us…….ah well, let’s see.

The cabin is no too bad, although it’s a lot smaller than the last one despite being the same grade. But a nicer bathroom with a solid shower screen instead of the plastic curtain that sticks to you throughout your ablutions. So all good here.

Unpacking done…….check

Muster drill done…….check

Safe mastered………oh dear.

The room safe usually requires a four digit code but this one needs six, what a tricky dilemma….I’m on holiday to relax not fret about two extra bloody numbers.

In the meantime it’s dinner time….cross your fingers and hold your breath.

Well we were wrong and first impressions of our table are good, it all seemed a bit strained at times but I’m sure things will settle down after a day or two.

Ah well let’s see how things go…….and so to bed perchance to dream of white sandy beaches and balmy romantic moonlit nights…..absolutely no chance of that then.

Off to the Caribbean

Caribbean & Cuba with Freddie
3rd Nov – 7th Dec 2014

It only seems like just a few short weeks we were doing this same journey down to Southampton to head off on our latest vacation…..probably because it was only a few short weeks ago. I consider myself very lucky to be able to indulge in such wanton behaviour on a regular basis.
Anyway, there’s a slight amount of trepidation this time because we had such a fantastic time on the last cruise, accompanied by such lovely people, that it’ll be a very hard act to follow. But we’re open minded, so let’s see what fortune offer us…..
This blog only exists thanks to generous contributions from our fellow cruisers and the strange and wonderful things they do and say…….let’s hope they’re all in a very giving mood.

In the meantime, here’s my take on a little ‘sea’ related poetry:-

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
Let’s face it…that would be such a great colour for a cruise ship, it would look just like a huge ball of phlegm gliding into the harbour….such fun for the locals!
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
Messy or what? but how much money could you actually wrap up in a five pound note especially considering there’s also a jar of honey involved. Maybe not enough I reckon.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
Better known as a ukulele…….
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are, You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
Hang on a minute, has the Owl really just told a small guitar that it’s a beautiful Pussy? Go on read it again…..see I was right he ‘sang to a small guitar’ so he’s either blind or perverted.

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
I’m not surprised with all that honey…but then Pussy must be stupid as well because she hasn’t realised that he was actually talking (singing) to the ukulele.
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
Now how many females do you know who would ask that question? Unless of course Pussy’s adopting the sarcastic approach having already picked out a ring and then casually walked Owl past the jeweller’s window a thousand times already to point it out. Then that previous line does suggest Pussy’s starting to get a bit desperate….Too bad my dear Pussy, he was talking to the ukulele anyway.
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows,
This is all very apt for a trip to the Caribbean…a Bong-Tree? But surely the jeweller’s shop is in the other direction…….AND Pussy’s had to wait yet another year.
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose, His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
This is a disaster, looks like you’ve bagged yourself a cheapskate there Pussy, oh well there’s still the five pound note!

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
See what did I tell you?……..CHEAPSKATE!! – and the Pig should have held out for more.
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
Ah, but is the turkey licensed? And were the Banns read? It all sounds like a bit of a sham marriage to me, or just a rouse to get into your pants Pussy….

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
I really can’t think of a single thing to say about this
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon, The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
And how much of a part did the Bong-Tree play in these celebrations?……quite a bit I would suggest…………..And is there a moral to this story?………Nah not really, it’s just a kids poem

Thank you Mr Edward Lear for the original poem. 

The Big Apple 2…..pips an all

23rd September 2014

New York – New York…….Day 2

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             First up today we’re going to get a water taxi and have a ride down the Hudson to Battery Park then round under the Brooklyn Bridge, across to Liberty then Ellis Island and back. The sun is hot and the queues not too bad so it’s going to be a good day.
Of course I say the queues aren’t too bad but we’ve discovered (not for the first time) the lack of manners from some of our European neighbours. As we just missed one boat we were first in the line for the next one, but strangely we’re about tenth to get on the boat…..Why? Well because several individuals pushed their way to the front (and I am going to name and shame here) such as four Germans, a couple with Spanish as their native language and a small group of French. Now I appreciate that it’s only a minority that are truly this rude but why does it always seem they seem to believe they are more important than the rest of us. Do they do the same at home or would they be put in place by their own countrymen? I can’t believe just how uncaring some folk can be…….ok rant over.

The boat trip is good and the guide, Jim (great name) keep us all royally entertained (every Jim I meet is a joker) It’s a fact that you get much better views and pictures of the popular attractions from the river so many a pixel used to record the sights.
We eventually left the boat at Christopher Street in Greenwich with the intention of taking a slow walk back to the ship and at some point stopping for lunch. But first a quick stop off at pier 54, the pier the Titanic survivors were bought to and the same pier the Lusitania left from before being torpedoed off the coast of Ireland. Needless to say it’s no longer used by any seafaring vessel, very superstitious these seamen, and rightly so.

It was a pleasant walk back along the river frontage, passing Chelsea piers, but surprisingly we’re not finding anywhere here to eat, apparently you need to walk down the inside streets to get to where there are eateries and the like. Anyway we find an Irish pub near to Intrepid and although the beer is good the food is not, and it’s pricey.

P1010340Intrepid is well worth a visit, and pay the extra to see the shuttle, it really is an amazing feat of engineering and it’s a real eye opener to see the conditions the navy endure to keep our world safe. Of course we did the usual stuff as well like the Empire State, Rockefeller Centre, Times Square (which incidentally is presently being dug up?) but I definitely missed a visit to China Town for food…..oh well next time eh?

Just one more thing before we leave the US and head back into Canada, I really love the patriotism of the Americans. Sometimes we Brits are made to feel embarrassed about who and what we are. Instead of importing the likes of McD’s and Burger King, 4 million varieties of pizza and so many styles of coffee it’s painful, we should adopt some of the pride they have about being American in being British. We should celebrate our own culture before allowing others to erode what we have because they find it offensive…..if we don’t very soon it’ll all be gone, forever…….Good grief……it must be my rant day!!!!

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Thanks New York, wasn’t quite what we were hoping for but then we Brits never really know what we want……..but it was still a good visit and as usual you entertained us 🙂 we’ll be back.

The Big Apple……take a big bite

22nd-23rd September 2014

New York – New York

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            During yesterday’s sea day nothing of any significance happened so that is why you got my take on ‘What makes us human’ I hope you enjoyed reading it………..did anyone actually get past the first paragraph before hitting the like button and going elsewhere? Thank you if you did…….

Having said nothing really happened yesterday there was one incident worth a mention when a lady was overheard chatting to one of the ships photogs. He was telling her this was his third year working on the ships, to which she replied,
“So you haven’t had much chance to travel then?”
“Oh yes madam, I’ve been round the world twice and seen nearly all the major cities on every continent.”
“How lovely,” she replies, “And to have such a great employer……giving you all that time off.”
To be fair, I think the lack of shuttle buses in Boston has taken its toll on many of our fellow cruisers. There is a certain amount of angry frustration circulating especially as a fair number of the older and less able folk didn’t even bother to get off. I do have some sympathy with their plight, but at the same time I find the banter entertaining and it gives me something to report.

Anyway…..back to the Big Apple.

For me New York is an enigma as originally I thought I’d hate the place. I’d imagined masses of bodies charging along the sidewalks and claustrophobic dark streets deprived of sunlight by walls of glass and concrete. But the first time we came here in 2012 it didn’t feel like that at all. It felt fresh, clean and vibrant, there was a positive atmosphere and we loved it.

But this time it didn’t feel the same. It wasn’t completely the opposite but something didn’t feel right. Maybe it was just we did different things this time or even that we had different expectations, and we still enjoyed ourselves but….something was different, maybe it was us…..oh well, on with the story.

P1030495There’s a certain world leader coming here tomorrow and we’ve been warned that there will be delays ‘downtown’ because of this. Still that doesn’t really worry us because we’re heading for Central Park and the Natural History Museum (Cheryl’s just not content to live with a fossil, she wants to go and visit a few as well) So after collecting our New York Passes from the sales office we headed north…….oops sorry I mean ‘uptown’.

The walk is good and easy, but it’s noticeable that there’s a lot of new construction going on all around us (like everywhere else we’ve been so far) and this part of the city (8th Ave above 50th St) is very quiet, almost deserted in fact…………Then we get to the gates of the park, well we try but our way appears to be blocked by people, hundreds of them, and every single one of them is determined to rent us a bike or sell us a horse and cart ride.
“I’ve got two good legs thanks, I’m going to walk.”
“But it’s eight and half miles round and dangerous.”
“You mean I might get run over by all the bike riders or a bloody runaway horse and cart. I’ll take the chance……thanks…”
“Wouldn’t you like to treat your lady sir.”
“Give me a break, she’s already in a bad mood with me.”
“But you can enjoy the park in comfort.”
“WHAT? I really enjoy clutching my nose to block out the awful smell whilst waving my hands furiously to keep the flys off………it’s still a no……but thanks.”
“My horse isn’t that smelly.”
Please feel free to add the obvious line at this point………….But I’ll give the guy his due because he’s not finished yet. He’s hot on our heels and if nothing else his presence is detracting the others from bothering us…..maybe there’s a clue there……but I’m a professional when it comes to ‘No means No’.
“You’ll miss all the good stuff if you go it alone,” he insists. Suddenly we see our chance and quickly side step a crush of people heading our way, he’s not so nimble on his feet and we make good our escape.
“Take my offer before it’s too late,” I hear him call after us, “You won’t regret it.”
“Oh yes I would,” I happily mutter to myself, I really am not a horsey type of person and I don’t like to consider myself in need of a lift……just yet, but I do accept they’re only trying to make a living. However I do feel some tourists would feel intimidated into doing something they may not really want to……oh well.

Once inside the gates it is quite obvious that this is a massive place, and the road is crammed with horses and bikes, with joggers and skaters filling in the gaps. Worryingly we hear that one pedestrian had recently been killed by someone riding a bike in a ‘No Riding’ designated area, so there are marshals everywhere telling all those folk who have just hired the bikes to,
“Get off that bike and walk it on the paths.”
So having spent good money to ride around the park they are not only having to walk but have a heavy bike to push as well. And once they reach the end of the path they discover that everyone is only allowed to ride in ‘one direction’ (good name for a boy band) and that’s not the direction they want to go…………now who has regrets?

Anyway, enough of horses and bikes. We spend a good hour wandering up the west side of the park and it’s a nice park with lots of interesting paths where horses can’t take you (sorry I just can’t let it go, can I?) It’s certainly a well used space and young and old alike are enjoying a nice pleasant day doing their ‘own thing’, brilliant. In general it’s clean and well maintained, much better than some of our own recreational spaces back home.

We reach the Natural History Museum and spent a couple of hours looking around the maze of halls full of ‘stuff’. And the verdict? Great, really fascinating.

P1030484From here we walked to St John the Divine Cathedral (supposedly the biggest in the world) and enjoy the visit. Not much to say really, it’s a church, just a very big one……..followed by lunch in the Morning Heights district (where’s China town when you need it?)
So now we have a seventy (ish) blocks to walk back to the ship and we decide to take the route through Riverside Park. This, if anything, is better than Central Park because there appear to be more trees and flowers, with less grass. It’s a really nice walk, and once again it’s nice to see so many people using the facilities.

The evenings theatre trip to see Mamma Mia was very good, and of course very busy. I can’t really add a lot here because everyone gets different things from a show and what I considered was good to watch (the technical stuff) most folk would find boring. Simple set, great lighting (of course I could have done it better ;)) The only downside for me was the sound guy (Mike……get it??) had a tendency to be a bit slider happy at certain times and the volume went off the wall and ran off down 42nd street on a  few occasions……..way too hot on the gain Mike and louder is good but not always better..

P1030490And that was day one in the Big Apple….and not an apple in sight. But at last to bed to dream of horses riding bikes through Central Park, with men in snorkels and flippers dancing around a dinosaur…

Me? Strange? No way..

What makes us human?

Sunday 21st September 2014

Sea Day – What makes us human?

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I have been listening with great interest to a show on BBC Radio 2, and one of the ongoing topics of discussion has provoked some intense thoughts and feelings of my own. The host has invited some of the great and good of our society to outline their thoughts on the subject of what makes us human, to give us the listener some insight into the way these different individuals, with varied experience of our world, think about what make us the very unique and extremely complex people we undoubtedly are. I have become captivated by the discussion and feel somewhat compelled to express my own ideas.

So for me…………what makes us human?

Today, surrounded by the vast Atlantic Ocean, an insignificant speck in this wonderful miracle we all inhabit,  I thought I’d be serious for once………

It is certainly very easy to state all the different individual characteristics which make each of us good and honourable citizens of the world, or good humans if you prefer. Compassion, generosity, patience, tolerance, perseverance, these are all positive and admirable traits which allow us to be welcomed into society with open arms and held high as role models, encouraging others to follow in our footsteps and take up these preferred and highly acceptable characteristics.

But I’m assuming this topic of discussion is more about what collectively sets us aside from any other life form rather than just identifying the desirable attributes we should all adopt to make this world a better place to live and thus create a more human society.

What really makes mankind different, what drives us as a species, what wholly separates us from the animals?

It is certainly a fact that some of the positive individual traits I have already mentioned can be seen demonstrated to varying degrees by many of the creatures we share this amazing planet with, but no one would ever consider them to be human. It would also be fair to say there are many of our fellow homosapians who possess few if any good characteristics and in fact regularly demonstrate negative attributes like cruelty, dishonesty and intolerance which are considered wholly undesirable and antisocial. But does this make them any less a human??

Now I’m not a religious person, which doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God or consider that maybe there is a higher being in charge of all of this, and it is said in the bible that God created man in his own image. Now I’m sure the theologians will give many varied interpretations of this statement, but mainly it is believed to mean we have been given freewill to make our own choices. We are also gifted with insight and judgment, which enables us to consider the potential consequences to our decisions, and armed with this knowledge many may still choose to do the right thing for the greater good for all, even at great personal cost. So does this answer the question of what makes us human as no animal would ever do this, as all animals act instinctively in their own individual interest? Well that could be part of the answer but for me there is more to it than that.

Personally I think it is our creativity that makes us human, we haven’t just evolved physically through procreation, we have survived as a species and evolved quicker than our friends the animals because we have successfully developed our natural ability to imagine, design and create. The skill and knowledge acquired over the centuries is used to improve the things we already have and give us an ability to invent and develop anything we need to make our existence considerable better. This doesn’t just include the physical things that have helped us to progress, like machinery, electricity and medicines, but also extends to the concepts, ideas, systems and theories which develop our personalities and attitudes.

Although mankind can’t take any of the credit for creating God, there have been many different religions and cultures put in place by man to answer a need. They were developed to give us ethics and moral guidance, comfort in time of need, plausible explanations to our desire to understand about how we came to exist and the meaning of life. Religion and culture created and bonded the early communities and gave the local citizens support, but best of all religion offered its faithful disciples a promise of a continuation of life beyond their physical existence. Culture like humans has evolved to keep relevance with time, constantly developing all but the basic core values in order to meet the ever changing needs of the people, and so it gives a purpose and identity, with or without a god.

Government was created to give us rules, enhance social structure, protect and nurture its citizens and develop the means for countries to grow and prosper.

Technology not only gives us a more efficient way to make things, travel and communicate, but  literally assists us to live longer healthier and happier lives.

And all of this has been created by humans, but why?

The answer for me is very simple, it gives us the one thing we all crave and desire, the one thing that drives our every waking moment, keeps us going through this life at an unbelievable pace, we create to give us HOPE.

Not the negative and selfish ‘I want it all’ type hope, although that exists today more than ever, but the simple hope that just wants everything to be a little bit better for everybody.

A hope for a better future, for peace, an ability to cure disease and eliminate suffering, to prolong our useful life, maintaining a state of happiness and enjoyment. Our biggest hope is probably the desire for an extension of being beyond this physical existence and the knowledge we will participate in an eternity of continuing wonderful experiences.

Hope unites us in a way that nothing else can. It crosses all cultural barriers and standardises every religion. It drives us to invest unquantifiable time and resources into the technology and research in the quest for more answers. Hope gives life a meaning and a purpose, and yet for each of us hope is as simple as it is different, and tomorrow it can all change.

From great thinkers to reward winning directors, dedicated religious and community leaders to world renown rock legends, from the rich and famous to an average nobody like me, hope drives us, inspires us and gives us the strength to face whatever life may throw at us.

‘What makes us human?” for me it’s our endless search for Hope and the optimistic comfort it delivers…………..and yet it promises nothing.

Bostin’ Boston

19th-20th September 2014

Bostin’ Boston – Massachusetts

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For those not used to Black Country terminology bostin’ means great or even superb. We’ve been here before and this is another place we really like. Boston has a very unique heritage having been the centre for the fight for independence against the oppressive English and the ‘Freedom Trail’ here is very interesting and thought provoking. That aside it’s a very, very, very nice place to visit. There’s a lot of construction going on and it’s very clear that Boston is also looking to build a thriving new modern city as well attracting visitors with its historical past.

So firstly it’s another beautiful day (ye gods are definitely smiling our way) but the bad news is there’s no shuttle busses being laid on and it’s three miles into town. The queue for local transport is huge, so what other choice do we have? Oh well off we go, and to be fair it’s a pleasant easy walk and within forty minutes we’re at central wharf in the centre of town.

P1030401          We have a whale watch booked with Boston Harbor Cruises, which we booked direct and saved ourselves over £50 compared with the ship tour going with the same company. We are aware that the morning tour was cancelled because of rough weather beyond the harbour (my spellchecker just quit because I keep spelling harbor/harbour wrong) Unfortunately this afternoons event has also been cancelled…….ah well, at least we get our money back. But then there’s so much to see and do here it’s not really a problem to make alternative plans. So we walk the ‘Freedom Trail’ and generally have a great afternoon in the city.

After a return to the ship to shower and change it’s time for our first theatre trip to see ‘Blue Man Group’ at the Charles Playhouse. But first let’s get some food…..erm Chinatown here we come. We stroll up and down for a few minutes and choose the busiest place, which is more like a canteen than a restaurant. But we’re not disappointed, the food is great and more importantly cheap (how do they do it?) Yes the attitude of the staff is a bit gruff and there is a great discussion and pointing in our direction when we refuse the offer of knives and forks, but the deliciously mounded plates of food makes it all worthwhile.

Following the food comes the show…….and what a great show. I admit I’m not a one for the theatre but this was nearly two hours of very cleverly choreographed fun. It’s simple but complex and appealing to old and young (and grumpy gits) alike. Definitely worth the money, and the walk which of course is a useful way of burning off all those ‘sweet and sour’ calories, but there’s a small price to pay for our energetic enthusiasm and as our second day dawns over Boston we can hardly move…….oh the joys of older age.

After a quick rub down with an oily rag (have you seen the towels recently?) we head off refreshed into the centre. Today the mission is most definitely food, more specifically Quincy Market food. A good long walk into town certainly improves the appetite and after enjoying a couple of the street entertainers the fun begins with some pizza slices. Mmmmm, mmmm. Then we share a bread bowl of delicious clam chowder and finish the whole thing off with a disgustingly large ice cream from ‘Sprinkles’. What more can I say? The food here speaks volumes for itself, and we never got round to sampling the masses of Chinese, sandwiches, wraps, lobster stacks, hoagies, hot dogs and burgers. I’ve said it before but I’m not surprised at the size of some of the locals here, they certainly don’t skimp on the portions. Yes it’s not cheap (compared to last night’s Chinese it’s very pricey) but it’s so worth spoiling any diet, after all we are on holiday J

Well, that was it really. A slow amble back to the ship and a farewell sail away from one (of many) of our favourites. You can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be back, there’s still so much left to try.

Bostin’ Boston with bostin’ fittle…..and that one I’ll leave to your imagination because New York here we come, I just hope the weather continues and we all have a wonderful time in the ‘Big Apple’ (hmm there’s a reference to food again but let’s hope it’s not that healthy)

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Goodbye Boston…..we’ll be back

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