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
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)