23rd September 2014
New York – New York…….Day 2
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.
Intrepid 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!!!!
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.
22nd-23rd September 2014
New York – New York
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.
There’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.
From 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..
Me? Strange? No way..
Sunday 21st September 2014
Sea Day – What makes us human?
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.
19th-20th September 2014
Bostin’ Boston – Massachusetts
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.
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)
Goodbye Boston…..we’ll be back
18th September 2014
Bar Harbor – Maine……USA
Well………today was a very early start as the entire ship had to undergo an immigration inspection by US customs. What can I say apart from it was all supposed to start at a very early hour (about 5am) so we were all up and ready, passports and ESTA’s in hand, unfortunately they weren’t quite as prepared and things got delayed. Tempers frayed (a little) comments were made (a lot) and after an hour or so of waiting in line someone was sent to the back of the queue for an inappropriate remark. Nice….well you were warned not to mess with US homeland security guys and gals!
Anyway, by about 10.30 ish we were all done and ready to go ashore…..by tender (I can understand why they call it tender, because it’s very rough on the old posterior and makes it very…….yes you got it……tender) There are two other cruise ships in the harbour (see the word harbour does have a u in it) one of them being the QM2, so there’s going to be a lot of folk ashore.
There’s a lot of folk ashore (see what did I tell you) and the whole place is wall to wall Americans (I’m not sure what I expected to find in America? But I’m glad to see my observational skills are still intact) There’s a bit of a hold up as several of them are comparing their babies in the middle of the boardwalk so no one can pass. Well I say babies but I mean cameras, which are actually the size of small children, and they cradle them like they would a baby, lovingly caressing the telephoto lens and drooling over the pixels (which of course are mega) The main problem though is they can only take pictures of stuff that is smaller than a microbe and at least 5 miles away, and owing the sheer weight of their equipment they can’t hold it steady for any longer than 1/250th of a second at 800 ASA with the f:stop set at 4 (I’ve no idea what I just said but it sounded good)
Anyway, we eventually got passed them without too much damage to our sanity (or thankfully their babies) and had a really interesting walk around the coastal path then up into the Arcadia National Park via ‘Strawberry Hill’ and amazingly we’re completely on our own up here. We spot lots of squirrels and for the first time we see some of the trees putting out their autumn colours, very pretty.
Following the local trail map we come across a cemetery with the most amazing views across the hills to Cadillac Mountain. As you would expect it’s very peaceful and we sat for a while alongside the residents who almost seem to welcome our presence. Then we continue on our way and after about an hour we’re back in the town, and of course we pop into the church. WOW……..one of the nicest we’ve been in for a long while. All highly polished dark wood pews and Italian stained glass windows.
We visit the fire station and the local square then it’s time for a bite. The Thirsty Whale is packed so we wander around until we find a side street café which is aptly named ‘The Side Street Café’ where we indulge in macaroni cheese with fresh lobster and burgers, really yummy, oh and just for your information the beers not bad either………
More wanderings and we find a pen for Polly then indulge in a really naughty ice cream.
Well, I think it’s fair to say that Bar Harbor is well worth a visit if only to sample the lobster and local beer. But fortunately it’s more than just that and we had a really nice day here even if it started late!!!
Shame we had to leave really, but not because there was more we were desperate to do, it’s because we had to go back on that bloody tender………Oh well into every buttock some ointment we must rub……
Halifax – Nova Scotia…..I love this place
Day 1….The city of Halifax, in my humble opinion, is one of the best visits for those cruising the east coast of Canada and the USA . There is a fantastic boardwalk with great views across the harbour towards Dartmouth and the island of St George looking toward the mouth of the estuary. Unlike most places the cruise terminal (?) doesn’t share space with the container port, so everything appears bright and clean and exceptionally well looked after.
There are plenty of interesting sculptures along this easy route which takes you past some of the most desirable places to eat, without the need for walking up into the city, where of course there are also numerous places serving excellent local food (and drink)
The town itself a very interesting mix of old and new, the highlight of course being the citadel at the top of the hill. But don’t ignore the mass of wonderful parks which are crammed with beautiful flower displays and no vagrants can be sleeping rough on the benches (none that we noticed anyway) to spoil the atmosphere (literally)
We walk up the steep hill to the entrance of the fort and arrive just minutes before midday and the firing of the signal gun. Because we’re right under the wall from where the cannon is fired, we’re asked to step to one side (for health and safety reasons of course) and given a countdown with clear instructions to cover our ears. As usual there are a group of belligerents, either claiming they were in the military for years so are used to such loud reports or those just refusing to take advice. Many are clutching their tablets with both hands, arms fully extended and ready to capture the moment as a few million pixels, never again to be viewed!!
Now I like my hearing, I find it’s quite important for the continued enjoyment of my life, so I take the proffered advice. But I’m not watching the firing of the gun, that’s going to just be a big puff of smoke, preferring instead to watch the individuals who don’t realise exactly what is about to happen.
Ten seconds, nine, eight, seven….the gathered are smiling and happy…..four, three……they tense with fingers poised to take this most memorable of photos……….one………BANG!!!!
One of the ex-navy guys swears so loudly I can hear him even though my ears are still covered and he’s twenty yards away. Most of the people in my field of vision act on their natural instinct and duck, hands instantly flying to cover their assaulted ears but it’s far too late. Tablets and photographs are momentarily forgotten and in some cases they’re almost thrown to the ground in violent retribution as if they had somehow committed the user to the task and were now solely responsible for the outcome.
I didn’t actually see anyone collapse with blood oozing from their ears but some of the once belligerent bystanders were definitely having second thoughts about their own stubbornness. One lady announced (well rather shouted as she couldn’t actually hear anything) “I hope that was worth it.” She busily slapped herself on the side of the head……………as if that was going to help or make the slightest difference.
Anyway…….we moved on, not into the citadel this time, but around the outside and down the hill toward the far side of the city. We had it in mind to head for the Titanic cemetery, but having stopped and quizzed a local we realised it was a bit too far to walk (something else to organise for next time)
We spent the rest of the morning wandering around a couple of interesting (not Titanic) graveyards and several parks, then finally the time arrived to head back to the port area for lunch. I’ll say no more than it was very nice (I think) and very boozy (I think) and we ate and drank far too much (that I know for definite)
More wandering around in the afternoon (more like staggering to be honest) and despite being completely stuffed to bursting I just had to have an ice-cream from the infamous ‘Cows Dairy’ very yummy.
As we have an overnight stop here we had our evening meal sat out on the boardwalk at one of the many restaurants, The Bicycle Thief, which was very busy but the food was really good (if a little on the expensive side)
(to be continued)
13th September 2014
Saguenay – Quebec….small town with a big heart
Saguenay is at the top of a high sided fjord off the St Lawrence river. It’s made up of three towns linked together and we’re berthed in La Baie which appears to be the one in the middle (I think)
Now you immediately get the impression that this town has attitude, and it hits you the moment you leave the ship. There is a lot of activity waiting to greet us with fire-breathing, dancing and singing, displays of local crafts, historical cars and a tepee resplendent with two occupants dressed to impress as Native Americans (which of course they are!!)
The dancers are part of the ‘Fabuleuse Cultural Show’ that is put on for the tourist which is filled with horses and magnificent costumes. It depicts the history of Saguenay and demonstrates the growth of their unique culture.
And all this is free!! No requests for tips or demands for some kind of offering from the assembled that are enjoying the entertainment, or for taking photographs. For me this is the definition of good community spirit, the people of the town all working toward one single goal, keeping the tourist smiling and making them feel good about the day ahead. That in turn promotes the town and its traders and I’m sure as a result more money was spent in the shops and market stalls by the happy cruisers (well most of them were happy, some wouldn’t crack a grin on laughing gas!!!!)
We indulged in our usual activity of walking all around the top of the fjord which was very pleasant as once again the weather gods were smiling on us. The church was very reminiscent of a theatre with its huge stage and bright white and blue painted walls. It was a very relaxing and peaceful place to be (even better was it was free to enter) and we were made to feel very welcome by the warden.
In the square outside the church was a craft market and for those members of our family who are reading this you’ll be pleased to know you have at least one Christmas present all the way from Canada.
A late lunch and beer (always following our dreams) was taken in a large bar on the quay side and it was very nice (again)
So Saguenay has made an impression on us, and a very good one at that. Once again we didn’t venture too far out of the town itself, but there is plenty to do in and around (and on) the fjord. Our only real disappointment was that it was dark both when we entered and departed the entrance to the fjord, which is reputed to be one of the very best places to see whales………oh well, maybe next time.
Quebec – Quebec (so good they named it twice)
Well the good fortune has finally run out and taken the good weather with it, and this morning there is quite a persistent downpour of the cold wet stuff. As there’s so much to do and see in this wonderful city there is a growing sense of disappointment, however……are we going to let that spoil our day?
Answers on a postcard please…….
We set off anyway, waterproofs and shorts being the dress code of the day. Within minutes we’re soaked right through, but in true ‘We’re British’ fashion we keep going, on up the steep hill to the Chateau Frontenac and a wander around the citadel walls and into the arboretum. It was an enjoyable walk but as we’re so wet we didn’t feel it was very fair on the local traders to wander in and out of their shops and galleries, as we would normally do, dripping all over their priceless wares, not a very good idea really. So on we trudge, well squelch really as by now even our waterproof shoes aren’t waterproof anymore. Finally we reach a point where we can no longer ignore the growing numbness in our frozen limbs and reluctantly we head back to the ship demonstrating the gated walk we normally display after several hours of horse riding.
After an hour or so of drinking coffee and doing the English thing by talking about the weather, the skies clear and the sun almost comes out. Now resplendent in our fresh and dry change of clothes we head back into the city and this time we troll in and out of everywhere looking at all the soggy stuff on display (obviously our fellow cruisers didn’t feel the same as ourselves about dripping around the shops) what great fun. With the threat of more rain we decided to change our plans to stay in the city to eat and headed back to the ship once more as the evening approached.
The second day dawned bright and cheerful and today there’s a cycle race in the city, the ‘Grand Prix of Quebec’ is an 11 lap race around an 18 kilometre course and will dominate the activities all around the city today.
Now we’ve never really been ones to attend live sporting events (unless you include the countless duties at the football and cricket for St John Ambulance) but I have to say we really enjoyed the atmosphere and the excitement this race generated among the spectators. I personally was amazed at just how quickly these guys race and as they passed by us each time they were followed by an entourage of vehicles laden with spare bikes, wheels etc. But following right at the back were three large ambulances ready to pick up the pieces if anything untoward happened, trouble was they struggled to keep pace and at each corner the squeal from the tyres was deafening. At one point we were sure one of them was about to leave the course in a very dramatic fashion, and we could clearly see the terror in the face of the paramedic sitting in the passenger seat. He looked quite pale and maybe needed to go suck on the oxygen for a while to recover, that’s if was able to prise his fingers from their death defying grip on the dashboard.
Anyway, after a hard few hours of walking around the walls and watching the race from the high vantage points we made our way back onto the main street and enjoyed a very nice boozy lunch at a place called ‘Bello’ a very stylish Bistro/wine bar that served really tasty pizza and risotto.
Then a quick hunt around the souvenir shops for some pen’s for our friend Polly and back to the ship for a lively sail away party on deck.
Quebec is definitely one of our favourites, a truly cosmopolitan city with many interesting things to see and do. A little disappointed that we were here earlier than last time and all the Halloween festivities and displays hadn’t really begun yet, but hey ho there’s always be a next time……..hopefully.
Thanks Quebec, great visit, great city 🙂
10th September 2014
Baie-Comeau – Quebec
Once again it’s a beautiful day (aren’t we doing well?) and the first thing we notice as we step ashore is the most amazing smell of wood. The air is thickly filled with this rich and pleasant aroma which oozes from the vicinity of the paper mill, the main source of income for the town. It instantly feels like we’re walking through a pine forest on a sunny day, except of course the dockside is concrete and we’re surrounded by containers.
There are shuttle buses laid on to ferry the masses into town, about two kilometres away, but as it’s such a lovely day we decide to walk. Leaving the port area the path around the estuary is flat and very easy, and eventually it opens up into a huge expanse of parkland. The map which was handed out at the port leads us through the park, past a very pretty turreted ‘Manoir’, down through a small housing estate and onto the town beach. Now unfortunately the tide is out and the lovely smell of wood has somewhat been replaced by something a little more ‘fishy’. There are mounds of empty mussels shells, dare I say millions of them, all forming great swathes of bluey black patterns across the sand. Surely this is a visual testament to the fresh, clean, nutritious waters of the St Lawrence Seaway.
We enjoyed a long walk on this almost deserted beach, flanked on the land side by huge multi-coloured slabs of rock, topped by unbroken lines of trees full of crows, rooks and other birds busily feasting on the remains of the mussels.
Time to get back to the town and explore the local area a bit more, so we continue to follow the trail map and find ourselves at the main church. After visiting a grotto dedicated to Mary at the top of the hill, we walked up the steps into the main building. Hmmm my pet hate……they’re charging us $5 each to enter a church!! Ok I accept it costs money to keep these places in a good state of repair etc, and I will always put a donation in the box after a visit, but it annoys me that the money is demanded from me rather than allowing me to give voluntarily. It rankles me I admit, but hey ho that’s just my opinion, moan over.
Anyway it’s an interesting place, very brightly decorated with murals and fabrics, lots of gold and marble etc. But to be honest there wasn’t much of an atmosphere and it all felt a little contrived and sterile for a place of worship (no I’m not just saying that because I was hassled for money at the entrance) Then we overhear one of the guides telling a visitor that it’s no longer used as a regular place of worship. They only hold one service a year in order to keep it as a sanctified building, but the rest of the time it’s a museum and the locals worship in another church just around the corner……ok!
Enough of all this nonsense, time to find a drink and discover the true heart of the community. This time it takes the form of a couple of pints in an almost deserted town centre, probably the smallest and shortest ‘high street’ we’ve ever encountered, but the beer is good, very good in fact and it’s a shame that more of our fellow cruisers hadn’t discovered the delights of sitting outside with an ice cold local bevy. Their loss…….
Anyway, Baie-Comeau in summary. Once again the people are friendly and welcoming, the area is very pretty and it was worth the visit just for the glorious smell of wood. Apparently there is more to do further afield beyond the town which is good, and although first impressions are that this is a very sleepy place there is plenty to do and see.
Back on the ship there is many a moan about the lack of anything interesting to do here, but unless there are naked bears and dancing women (or is it the other way round?) some folk will never be happy. This type of place is unlikely to ever be glitzy or glamorous, there’s no zip-lining through the trees or barrel riding over a waterfall, not even a catamaran trip with snorkelling and endless rum punch. But then if everywhere was the same there wouldn’t be any point in going anywhere different…………would there?
8th September 2014
Sea Day – Ice bucket challenge
I suppose after yesterday’s hectic day in St John’s it’s nice to have a sea day to recover, you could say that after the transatlantic crossing they’re gradually introducing us back to ‘terra firma’ very gently.
I still find the sensation of the land moving under your feet after several days at sea very unnerving. I don’t mind the ship rolling with the sea but somehow the feeling that the land is swaying is somewhat worrying. Anyway it’s been a nice warm day at sea travelling into the St Lawrence Seaway with the sight of land on both sides of the ship. It’s even prettier in the evening with all the lights shining from the shore, all different colours and patterns to keep the simplest of minds amused for hours (yes I am talking about myself)
I have been quite surprised to have avoided being nominated for the ice bucket challenge so far, and since we’ve been on the ship I was staring to assume it was beginning to fizzle out somewhat, after all I think most of the population of the world have taken part. To my amazement I’ve been nominated by my brother in law Nigel in the last couple of days, so I suppose I need to get something organised. Talking to some of the staff in the restaurant I’m surprised at just how far round the world this idea has travelled. Thailand, the Philippines and many of the pacific islands have taken part and for me that is a true testament of the generosity and good will of (the majority of) mankind.
Unfortunately most of the folk I know have already taken part, so my own nominations can only stretch to those of you who read this who have not yet been involved in this crazy but highly successful phenomenon. Please if you’ve not already done so donate a dollar, a pound or a euro to help find some sort of help for those affected by ALS, or Motor Neurone as we know it in the UK. But having said that my good friend Peter is just about to receive a text to tell him the good news, and he’s my main choice.
I’m not able to upload a video as it would take too long using the satellite internet on the ship, so you’ll just have to settle for a photo of the event instead.
It was the only way I could get any ice or a bucket………..honestly.
Tomorrow we’ll be visiting Gaspe for the first time (that’s us not the ship) and the weather promises to be good once again so we’re really looking forward to another pleasant day ashore.