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Vigo in October

October 18th, 2014 No comments

Having been to Vigo before I wasn’t under a lot of pressure to bail off and explore the city this morning.

This was a stop on that Independence of the Seas circuit I did mid June. The city doesn’t see so many ships that they have to accommodate more than one ship at a time. There weren’t any issues with docking or the gangways. In fact, the local immigration, constabulary and merchants were more than wiling to insure that everyone who was interested in disembarking could easily get off the ship without incident, hopefully with wallet in hand.

Oasis docked in Vigo

Oasis docked in Vigo

The last time I wandered through town it was off the ship, past the new fancy shopping center and up the hill to the right into the older part of the city, exploring it for several hours.

This time I headed to the left, first getting a picture of the ship from the other side of the small boat harbor before going and looking for parks, museums, doors or anything that might prove interesting.

And so we have more doors – old, new and in between.

 

I didn’t spend as much time off ship as I initially planned, but after walking for a few hours, my stomach demanded food….

Oh, and can’t forget the knitting…….

Categories: Cruising, Knitting, Travel Tags:

C&A

October 17th, 2014 No comments

which in this case doesn’t mean Cheap & Awful (courtesy of Maus) as standing in for the store of those initials. Crown & Anchor instead, as the loyalty club of frequent Royal Caribbean cruisers.

I know that in the past I have mentioned in the past that transatlantic crossings seem to draw the frequent cruisers like flies. Traditionally it has been a combination of good prices and a lot of cruising days. More recently, it has been more about the number of days (and route) with a little less consideration to the price as it has steadily climbed. The only bargains seem to be available at the point that airfares to get to the origin or return to home skyrocket. It still is an option if one has frequent flyer miles to burn.

The rumor was that we had way too many senior cruisers board in Rotterdam to be augmented by more than 1200 boarding in Southampton with the final count being somewhere around 2400 – more than a third of the ship. The logistical challenges alone can be interesting. Where, for example do you hold your evening cocktail hour when there are that many people eligible? Celebrity had an easy answer – cancel the 1700-1900 canapé & drinks instead giving those eligible drink coupons. It does work and I didn’t hear all that much complaining from the sheep. Apparently Royal cruisers are not as kind. Even though they now have 3 drink coupons per night built into their sea pass cards (to be used at almost every lounge) it seems that there is an expectation of munchies to accompany those drinks. I mean really, what are the possibilities of going without food on a normal cruise such that snacks with drinks make a difference?

Anyway, the solution here was to hold the evening hour (which actually runs from 1700-2030) in multiple venues. There is the Diamond Lounge on Deck 4. It might hold a couple hundred packed in like sardines in a crunch. Then there is Blaze, a bar/club type atmosphere also on Deck 4 which probably can managed upwards of 300 and still be able to walk through the club. Dazzles (Deck 8/9) is a two tiered Disco venue and finally there is the Suites Lounge which is only available for the non-suite guests during the evening hours on this sailing. It is large, open, light and echoes to the point you can’t carry on a conversation. Rather than comfortable chairs, there are cafeteria like 4-tops and chairs. I am not impressed, but then no one asked me.

After attempting to find anyone I know for the last several evenings I decided it is easier to drop in, grab munchies, relax for a short while and take off. This preserves my sanity and hearing for important things like catching on on CME and knitting.

Categories: Cruising, Knitting, Travel Tags:

Recovering

October 16th, 2014 No comments

Unlike what might have initially passed through your mind (yes, you. And yes, you do have a mind), my thoughts have nothing to do with late night parties, drinking, alcohol or insanity. It is more watching people start to bounce back from the boarding procedure just in time to feel lousy from sea sickness.

As it turns out, size matters only to a certain point. Even a ship as large as this one obviously is affected by “high” seas and is subject to wind, wave and staggering. That last bit a result of the above denied alcohol, ships movement and just plain mobility challenges at 2300 of an evening.

The main topic of the day was …. as you might have guessed …. the lousy boarding experiences had by everyone irrespective of Rotterdam or Southampton terminals. In many cases, I think pride of suffering more was claimed by those who had boarded in Rotterdam and attempted to go into town on their own. After all, they were also able to experience the insanity of Southampton.

All in all, it was no one’s finest hour. To make confusion even more wide spread, today’s Cruise Compass claims that this is Day 2. Ok – Rotterdam is chopped liver. Apparently this is a 1 + 12 day cruise.

I think it is time I get over myself and get back to knitting.

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

Southampton -

October 15th, 2014 No comments

second verse was same as the first. Shall we just leave the reboarding progress at “even worse than Rotterdam” and move on to other subjects?  The smart people just checked everything, went into town and came back after 1500. I, foolishly enough, finished up all my errands and headed back to the ship about 1400 to total chaos.  Seems that they forgot to plan for all the Rotterdam boarding passengers needing to reboard the ship…

At one end of the pedestrian zone you can walk around or thru this arch which amazingly appears more functional on the back side.

facing High Stree

facing High Stree

the side toward the original High Stree

the side toward the original High Stree

Continuing down the street I remembered seeing this church tower the last time I was here. It was never rebuilt after a devastating fire in  7 Nov 1837 cost the parish it’s church and the lives of 22 men who attempted to battle the blaze.

There are other churches in town. One a block away seems to be about the same era. One wonders if it was the loss of life that stopped the rebuild? But the sobering thoughts left me thinking about expectations.

Yes, I can live with the disorganization of the ship. It seems like such a small thing in comparison.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Can you believe

October 14th, 2014 No comments

Not that I am sailing from Rotterdam to Ft Lauderdale

The Route

The Route

ITINERARY

DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Tue Oct 14 Rotterdam, Holland 5:00pm
Wed Oct 15 London (Southampton), England 10:00am 11:59pm
Thu Oct 16 At Sea
Fri Oct 17 At Sea
Sat Oct 18 Vigo, Spain 8:00am 8:00pm
Sun Oct 19 At Sea
Mon Oct 20 At Sea
Tue Oct 21 At Sea
Wed Oct 22 At Sea
Thu Oct 23 At Sea
Fri Oct 24 At Sea
Sat Oct 25 At Sea
Sun Oct 26 At Sea
Mon Oct 27 Fort Lauderdale, FL 4:00am

But on this ship?

Oasis of the Seas - arriving Rotterdam @0700

Oasis of the Seas – arriving Rotterdam @0700

Categories: Travel Tags:

Verspätung

October 13th, 2014 No comments

Choices, choices and no matter which way I chose this morning, the dominos were going to crash.

First up- do I take George to the train station, come home then head to the station myself? Or do I ride along for his early train? I chose company & coffee. Either way, my train turns out to be substituted and 15 minutes late.  Then we have a few stops along the way to Mainz which means that my connecting train has long since departed.

(Did I mention that I stupidly paid for seat reservations for the trip? Since there is a service charge of 15 E it means that my 9E is gone forever. Go figure, I can’t but it means that the Bahn makes a lot of money…(

I skipped the first change possibility due to severe delays on that line and figured that I would just reroute to Duesseldorf instead of Koeln. Imagine my surprise when  this particular train (25 minutes late) had gone through Heidelberg on its way here….  Next connection – not late which was why this was a good choice – was to Venlo. Next connection was directly to Rotterdam.  All anxiety aside, I arrived safe and sound, but almost two hours after my original arrival. Had this been the day of the ship, I would have missed boarding….

Rotterdam! Port, bridges, cruise terminal!

IMG_1771 IMG_1769

I ate dinner at a Korean restaurant and called it an early night.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Packed again.

October 12th, 2014 No comments

I have been home for over a week which leads to the obvious follow on question. Yes, that one. And the answer is that I am off to Rotterdam tomorrow morning. Given a choice of 5-6 hours on trains or dealing with Heathrow and Southampton – it should be obvious which I picked.

This time it took me the better part of the day to get organized. Finding and packing clothing wasn’t all that hard. Sorting out which yarns to take along to mail in the states for gifts took a bit longer. Please ignore the time spent printing out patterns, sorting knitting needles and otherwise digging through my hard drive. So I will not discuss the new books downloaded from Amazon, Audible or both.

This trip is only 13 days – Rotterdam to Southampton to Vigo (Spain) to Ft Lauderdale. Translates to a lot of sea days in a row which is just fine with me.

In other news – I finally fond both the charging cable and wrist band for my FitBit so back on line with that. I also located both parts of my Jawbone Up and am thinking about comparing their sleep logging function.  George also talked to the lovely folks at Host.de. I now have double the server space at ….. wait for it…. the same price as before. Apparently the tariffs have going down and I didn’t notice.

Just like I didn’t notice where I had tucked my electronics when I unpacked. Nothing like spending an hour or so tearing apart several rooms in a frantic search for an external hard drive. Not any one you have to understand but the specific one that has all my patterns and audio books and Coursera Vidoes… It was in the living room cupboard along with the 5D that is not coming along on this trip. Smaller backpack, 19″ carryon and perhaps a small bag. Backpack should be empty of all the yarn by the other side of the ocean which should give me space in case I need it….

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

Update Challenges

October 8th, 2014 No comments

For the simple reason that it was 2007 when I set up all the blogs and websites I face a challenge when needing to perform software upgrades. I happily programmed everything, put the FTP on automatic and away I went. Think about it – setting up the account that long ago means that, while I have the log in information buried securely in my software, I really have no clue as to how to log into the account. What is more, it means that I am restricted to an old netbook. This particular piece of hardware happily tells me everytime I boot it up that “Win 98″ is no longer support since April 2014.

Do I really care? Why would I? Oh, yes – if the netbook crashes I am really stuck.

It only took an hour or so to accomplish the updates. This was after the back up. And after the update “failed” once. Probably due to the fact that I skipped a few files…

Any who – I am alive, well and getting over my time zone and travel challenges.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Of course their plane was early

October 7th, 2014 No comments

I meant to check the arrival for DL14 from Atlanta last evening. Oh, wait! I did check it, and it said it was on time. Due to arrive 0740. So when my alarm went off at 0600 you would think I had a lot of time. Pick up friends at the airport? Easy-Peasy.

Then I reloaded the webpage. Flight now due in at 0650. Doesn’t compute. Even given that it normally takes 40-60 minutes to hike from the far end of nowhere, get one’s passport stamped, tramp to the baggage carousel, wait for luggage. Wait for luggage some more prior to man-handling it off the belt and escaping to arrivals Hall D.

So, let’s say that if I leave right now (which I did) I should just about make the drive, park the car and be there about 0745 (right when that plane should have landed).

I didn’t know about the construction involving the access ramps onto A6 from B656. By the time I was hung in traffic 2 km short of the Autobahn it was a bit late to change my mind. We also will ignore all the insane sludging and slow downs that occurred for no apparent reason. (Dominos falling anyone?). And the back up involving all four northbound lanes of A5 (don’t ask – A6 seems to vanish and become A67 which goes to Wiesbaden at the juncture of A5 & A6) which lead to still more delays.

Terminal 2 – I can find Terminal 2, where it would have been nice to be able to easily find parking rather than having to jam my car into the only remaining place on the entire deck. Right next to the guy who didn’t manage to stay within the lines. I might not color within the lines – but parking in someone else’s space is just rude.

Dashing into the Terminal and beating feet upstairs, Clint & Zandra weren’t in Arrivals D. They weren’t in Arrivals E either. On my third pass from one side to the other I spotted them. Easy? (grin) Two very American looking people with backpacks and a couple of large suitcases complete with yellow Cruise Critic Straps.

Trip home was a picnic after that.

I only get to keep them till Friday. Tomorrow we will tour a bit of Heidelberg, Thurs a look around Speyer.

Would you believe that I even cooked dinner?

Categories: Friends, home Tags:

Dark to Dark

October 3rd, 2014 No comments

It seemed foolish, but I actually went to bed for a couple of hours last night. And that is literally a couple of hours. I had to haul my bags down to the front desk and check out which granted me a clearance chit for security. The chit got me through my favorite security guards and on to the pier to join a few of the crew perusing the Internet which hanging out in the welcome tent.

My prebooked taxi was there promptly at 0200 and I was at the airport by 0225. There isn’t any traffic, but the route is primarily local roads complete with fully functioning stop lights. My driver was a new emigrant from Tanzania in the last few years. He and his wife, along with his brother & family made the transition. He described the challenges of cold that first winter and the joy of his 3 month old son.

Quebec City is a small airport. Really small. If you stand at the center of the one terminal you can see all the check in counters. Since they are so small, there is non of this “open the counter 3-4 hours before the flight non-sense.” Of course the website said to be checked in no later than 90 minutes out if you had luggage so I guess it was split the difference. Since there was free WiFi I took the opportunity to further run down my phone battery. When the counter opened, the very nice lady was more than willing to take my bags and point me toward security.

Security wasn’t open, so there I stood along with several dozen passengers off one of the Princess Ships who were also anxious to leave. I wrote my final batch of post cards while sitting at the gate and the lovely woman at the quick shop put them in the drop off box at the counter so that they will be posted at the end of the day.

Quebec City to Toronto. Of course my plane is in another terminal and I have to clear US Customs. Of course there is a line since we arrived late. Surprisingly, they have the new Kiosks + someone walking the line after the Kiosk and asking about boarding times. Those of us with tight connections actually were pulled out of line and passed through quickly. Even with a second set of security, I actually had five minutes at the new gate prior to boarding.

JFK…. Arrived at Terminal 7, departing at Terminal 1. George had checked for me – yes, I could change to a flight leaving at 1555 instead of 2145, that would be an additional 800E. No, I don’t think so.

First I entertained myself in the United Lounge at Terminal 7 for a number of hours. Lots of nice coffee, poor snacks, not crowded and excellent WiFi. About 1500 I wandered via the Sky Train to Terminal 1 and confirmed that JFK has the rudest, ill mannered and inconsiderate TSA screeners I have had the misfortune to encounter. It isn’t just that they take their breaks while sitting around one of the lanes (which they don’t bother to tell the people standing in line that the land is currently non-op) but they also yelled at everyone to get their things on the belts?

Hello? How about giving us some bins since they want every item placed in a bin. Can’t do anything without bins. Since I really don’t like the body scanners, I opt out. The reply I got was “I have no idea when we are going to be able to get you through. It can be a really long time.”

I just looked at the guy, waited till he actually made eye contact and asked him to please repeat what he just said as that it was so noisy I was having difficulty hearing. The repeat was “it might be a while till we have a female available” to which I happily told him I had hours and didn’t mind waiting.

It didn’t even take 15 minutes for him to decide that I really was going to wait, and he found one of the women who had been standing around talking for those self same 15 minutes. No fuss, no bother and less than 5 minutes later I was out of there.

The Lufthansa Lounge has United beat. They had warm food, even decaf lattes, working power outlets and blazing internet. Unfortunately, heat was a bit lacking. Kept on my jacket and munched till sundown.

The minute the plane launched and the fasten seatbelt sign was off, I motored the seat flat and drifted in and out of sleep for the entire flight. Bummer, all that good food in business class – and it is Yom Kippur.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Montmorency Falls

October 2nd, 2014 No comments

It is astonishing, what people will do when they have an incentive. Or Not. You will easily see where I am going after just a few short sentences.

I know that I have commented, completed, whined more than once about all those who are perfectly competent (as in physically capable) of climbing a flight of stairs or so on ship but just don’t. Those are the individuals who crab and bitch about slow elevators while going up one floor or down two. I am excluding formal nights – I can accept that stairs are not safe in 5″ stiletto heels. I can’t comprehend why anyone would wear them, but safety does come first. Tottering downstairs is not safe for either the individual or the others on the stairs.

These self same people who won’t do stairs have no compunction about attempting same when out on a tour. At this point we are excluding those who blow right past the discussion about “not suitable for anyone with mobility challenges to include walkers and wheelchairs” and then get upset. I am ignoring them for the moment and focusing on those who think a flight of stairs is a mountain.

On the outskirts of Quebec City there is an amazing waterfall called Montmorency Falls. There have been battles on the high grounds in the past. The falls has been known to freeze over in the winter. (more reading here from the Wiki folks). Besides being the highest in the Province – their claim to fame is that they are higher than Niagara Falls.

You can walk across the falls on a suspension bridge. From this view, it just doesn’t seem all that big. From one end of the bridge you can take a walkway with stairs partway down the cliff if you are so inclined. Which leads right back to those self-same people going down the stairs. Once down they panic at the four-five flights back up (yes, Sandy – 16-18 steps per flight. I counted) and drag themselves back up puffing and wheezing. Breath enough for complaining so this particular group couldn’t be that badly off.

Out on the bluff top and facing the falls is another set of stairs with switchbacks and observation platforms as it descends to the base of the falls. I did mention 84 meters (274 feet) didn’t I? On the facing side this works out to 29 flights of stairs and five observation platforms.  At the bottom is spray, mist, log jams and some fabulous rainbows on this particular sunny day.  Unlike the other side, if you go all the way down you can take a tram back, avoiding the climb.

Then there are those who pay the ~$20CA to take a 2 hours tour where the bus drops them off on top and picks them up at the bottom. Or you can chose the #800 Metrobus for $5.70 return/pp and have as much time as you want. Guess which one Diane, her husband and I decided to take. It also gave us the opportunity to mangle what little remained of our French, see the ViaRail Station and find out that the ATM didn’t like any of my cards.

I am headed to bed extremely early since I have an 0500 flight tomorrow. Quebec City -> Toronto -> JFK -> Frankfurt. I am going to be a really tired puppy by Saturday morning.

 

Categories: Travel Tags:

Saguenay

October 1st, 2014 No comments

 

There is always a difference between the face one shows the public and how one app rears at home. Game face perhaps, showing only what we want others to see. I am starting to think that this is most noticeable in tourist areas. Take our stop today in French speaking Canada. We are greeted on the pier by individuals dressed as 16th century First Nations, by those outfitted as fur trappers and even more as early French settlers to the area. I didn’t see a priest but perhaps I just missed him. There is a major cultural show production which features the story and music of the area. Sold out to the ship which insures that both sides RCI & local make money.

I decided to hike out of the port area to the rest of town and found what is really important. Hockey. For a town this size the ice complex is amazing. Multiple rinks, overhead connecting skyways. Much more than what would expect from the size of either the population or parking lots.

The town itself is neat and well maintained. The houses are almost all wooden, two stories with upper balconies and the kind of pitch to the roof that might just indicate a tendency to snowfall in the area. If one has enough snow, that second floor, noted often to have outside side stairs might provide an outside escape route. This is not to say that the town is absent the usual flat roofed apartment buildings or a few McMansions on the bluff overlooking the area where most mortals live and shop.

The strip mall has a Dollarama which seems to serve as holiday inexpensive decoration Central, cheap craft supplies and a awesome selection of kitchen outfitting supplies. I don’t need a measuring cup that can double as an oil separator, but they have one. I found a strand of holly garland to augment my shipboard door decoration and some beads for Cruise Critic gatherings. I didn’t indulge in any of the Halloween items, just not enough suitcase space.

There are local artisan boutiques with excellent fur, fabric, glass, leather and wooden items for sale. There is a museum for the local area which is also on my list. And then there is Tim Horton’s with coffee, autumn spiced muffins and free wifi.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Too many choices

September 30th, 2014 No comments

Since today is the last official sea day of the cruise it seemed like everything was scheduled for today.  The concierge scheduled both galley and back stage tours for the morning. The C&A staff planned their bridge tour at the same time as the above two activities.  Then there was the luncheon promised to those of us B2B from the last cruise.  It was added to the “Meal with an Officer” luncheon which was combine with e B2B luncheon for those staying for the next cruise.  (That makes it a 3/1 deal on the part of the Legend…..). The Salmon was excellent, the veggies crisp and the mashed potatoes ignored.

After attending a couple of the afternoon lectures, I presented myself at the dining room promptly (more or less) at 1730.  John Rae, the Hotel Director, had included me at his table this evening.  Since it was a formal evening this counted as being invited to the Captain’s Table complete with souvenir menu and photo.

Returning to my cabin at a reasonable time, the maintainence guys managed to find and stop the leak which appeared mid day. And before the cola line in the pool bar was depleted.   I completed most of my packing for the obvious reason of ports the next two days plus an early departure on the 3rd.

Categories: Travel Tags:

And not Sydney either

September 29th, 2014 No comments

It was yesterday just after boarding when the Captain warned us of another cold front ahead. Other than a potential for a bit of rough seas, it doesn’t affect the overnight sailing along the Atlantic Coast.

However, I was up early to the presence of 40+ knot winds and the early realisation that this was going to be another port missed. It is a small harbor without tugs and possessed of a single pier. Where I might really want to hike part of the Cabot Trail, visit the used book shop and buy fiddle CDs on the pier; I don’t want to do it if there is a safety risk.

Yes, there was a lot of whining and moaning. Not among the experienced cruisers but frequent with those dedicated to buying out the junk in very port.

I had time to finish watching more lectures, complete a cowl and have afternoon tea. Not a wasted day at all.

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

Halifax and sunshine

September 28th, 2014 No comments

 

Returning to a familiar port is a joy. No hurrying to see everything all at once. No worry that I might possibly miss something whether it be a museum, photo or landmark.

It was that way yesterday in St John. I spent a few minutes knitting at CricketCove after a great hike out to Reversing Falls. My view this time was better than the last both from having all the time I needed and the walkways. I skipped the visitors center in favor of taking the footpath under both traffic and regular bridge.There are two tectonic plates that come together under the railroad bridge. Walking along the path you can touch the obviously different stone of the two plates.

Today we were a bit late docking. For what ever reason, the NCL Dawn just ahead of us had difficulties. Our captain has given us back the 30 minutes at the end of the day.

It is Sunday, the churches are open, the Superstore is open (as is ViaRail where I found a free hotspot) but LK Yarns is not. Wallet and suitcase spared. From here I am going to hit the Map Store and the Museum Store at the Titanic Museum.

It is a god day for walking while avoiding adding to yesterday’s bit of sun. George made it safely home from Hong Kong. I may add to this later. Or not depending on time…..

 

Categories: Travel Tags:

Byways & Skyways

September 27th, 2014 1 comment

You can tell the weather of certain northern towns by their building construction, at least in the most recent. Take the Twin Cities (Minneapolis, St Paul Minnesota for those not from the Upper Midwest. Back more than 30 years ago, some one with a streak of genius decided that no one really likes walking outside in wind, driving snow and -20* (in this case, it really doesn’t matter *C or *F, just think cold). If something was not done to revitalize downtown areas, all that would be left would be a few hardy businesses and lawyers. Everyone else seeming to have fled to the suburbs in the 1950s and 60s.

How about connecting the buildings above street level? Say about the second or third story so that trucks could still use the streets but the pedestrians would stay warm and dry. And so the Skyways were born. I don’t know for certain that the first major connections originated in Minnesota but the Twin Cities have perhaps one of the most extensive networks. I have seen the same in Calgary, just with a different name. After searching for yarn store in St John the last time I was here, I found a partial system without much signage starting on the second floor of what appeared to be a government building.

The whole process is not without cost, especially to those who have shops at street level. It would seem on the surface that for half a year or more they would be fine with customers walking in front of their doors. Admittedly those fortunate enough to have had space on both second and first floors might be a bit more successful as they would have a presence and be ready to take advantage of the winter season. In fact, I think that humans are creatures of habit. If they take skyways to avoid the cold and snow in the winter, they are likely to take them in spring and fall to avoid wind and rain. That means that they are going to take the skyways, leaving merchants in a quandary. Store fronts are visible to anyone in a car, on bike or on foot. They are not visible to those hurrying above the street. At the same time, all those shops on the second floor are invisible to those above. You have to know that they are there. Same principle as to why mall space on the main floor costs more, second floor costs less and the food court is tucked either one floor down or up on the third floor. Everyone knows it exists. If they are hungry they will find it. Why have it compete with retail space?

Back to my original discussion – there are skyways here. An extensive retail and business structure. St John was also where the brand new gangway was first hooked to the Enchantment of the Seas, Sept 2012. Unfortunately, it didn’t want to unhook, causing chaos on the docks and 2 hour waits to reboard. As I remember the fix involved a cutting torch and a return to a standard gangway rather than the lovely enclosed number through which we disembarked.

Today there were absolutely no issues at all. I walked a portion of the old city and went into Brunswick Square to see if I could find WiFi. Imagine my surprise at the Running Store being open early. The reason? The local Canadian Air Cadets were having a fun run/walk. So how could I resist? I donated my money, walked the 3k with a nice Canadian Army Officer and her husband (the daughter was being spoiled by grandparents for the day) and cheered in all the kids. If I hadn’t been lazy I could have gone back to the ship and changed shoes, but I didn’t.

I have grabbed postcards, a magnet or three and am now about to hike back out to the Reversing Falls Bridge. Then the yarn shop which is open till 1800 but the ship is leaving about 1530 so those are my limits. I remember the fix involved a cutting torch and a return to a standard gangway rather than the lovely enclosed number through which we disembarked. Today there were absolutely no issues at all. I walked a portion of the old city and went into Brunswick Square to see if I could find WiFi. Imagine my surprise at the Running Store being open early. The reason? The local Canadian Air Cadets were having a fun run/walk. So how could I resist? I donated my money, walked the 3k with a nice Canadian Army Officer and her husband (the daughter was being spoiled by grandparents for the day) and cheered in all the kids. If I hadn’t been lazy I could have gone back to the ship and changed shoes, but I didn’t. I have grabbed postcards, a magnet or three and am now about to hike back out to the Reversing Falls Bridge. Then the yarn shop which is open till 1800 but the ship is leaving about 1530 so those are my limits.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Portland, ME

September 26th, 2014 No comments

The gulls were certainly not quiet about their opinion of my ship’s arrival in Portland this morning. If I had still been asleep their loudly voice complaints regarding intruders who stirred up waters without providing recompense in fish would have woken me. Not creating any feelings of guilt. Gulls like pigeons are simply large flying vermin. But the certainly have, and are, entitled to an opinion or twenty.  I headed out of the ship early and found a coffee shop that had both an excellent mocha and fast wifi until the rest of the horde managed to be dressed, fed and off the ship. At that point connectivity went down to why bother and I decided to head out for the Portland Museum of Art.

My first foray into Google Maps told me that my trip by car was going to be well over a day and involving 3800+ miles. ??? Ok, it really helps to add “Maine” to the search engine. The fact that Google rates Oregon higher than Maine should not have been  a surprise but was more than a bit annoying. Saving my little map on the phone as a photo to save my daily data limit I happily charged off. It looked really easy. Which is why it should come as no surprise to any of us that I managed to find the one perpendicular street to Spring that crossed without any signage. About 30 minutes later and a hike over several hills I finally asked for directions. “Several blocks too far” I was told by a pleasant but taciturn man. He pointed toward uphill and said to work my way back toward the harbor.  I found Center Street and Congress, followed Center to Spring. Spring to High Street which took me back to High Street/Congress Street/Free Street about three blocks from my last sign check.

Museum was on the corner, just where it was the last time I was here. Duh!

Isobel and I managed to find each other, a local used book store and a lovely coffee shop. Ann & Ira bailed us out about an hour and a half later. As it turns out, there is a steamboat on one of the Piers which has been turned into a restaurant. We had a fabulous lunch and hung out talking most of the afternoon.

I am headed back to the ship, everyone else on their way home: could be New Hampshire or Maine. Let me skip the part about almost letting them take off without emptying out the presents in my backpack. Obviously Isobel needs yarn and Ann & Ira need towels!

Categories: Travel Tags:

Bar Harbor

September 25th, 2014 No comments

there are two ships at anchor today; the RCI Legend of the Seas and NCL Dawn (if I am reading the side of the ship correctly from this distance). Since I haven’t really been able to access the internet for a couple of days I am headed back to the Trailhead Cafe. Just far enough off the main drag that most of the customers are local, that is exactly why I go there. Not anywhere near as much competition for decent but not blazing fast wifi…

The sun is shining and I am looking forward to potentially taking a hike as soon as I hit the post office and finish with these files. With George off in Hong Kong (don’t ask – but I am not there. Serves me right for traveling by sea) for less than a week I have no clue as to when I am going to be able to expand my allowable storage space on the server to start wowing you (ok, sharing with you) photos of some of these exciting and not so exciting locations.

I am holding out for a full day of friends in Portland tomorrow!

(and Bee’s Yarns and Candies was open. Nice, helpful and friendly owner. She has those which are from Maine prominently displayed. I managed the post office and now working on post cards before heading back to the ship….)

 

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The Year Turns

September 24th, 2014 No comments

I could talk about a lot of totally useless thoughts. And some not all that easy on the mind and conscience.

Sailing out of NJ yesterday being delighted if I don’t have to deal with that particular terminal again. After the connivence of European harbors which might not exactly be in the city to whose name they are attached, Cape Liberty was a nasty shock. Not only is it miles from anywhere, but you can’t easily get out. Walkable ? No sidewalks and cab/car drivers competing for the TSTB award. You could get a cab out, but not back.

I am on the starboard side. The Manhattan sky line not visible till quite distant. It has changed once again. Being on the ground is not the same. You don’t see an outline against the sky driving home all the changes of the last 13 years. Perhaps if it wasn’t so close to 11 Sept, perhaps if there had been even a moment of thought or remembrance around me I might not be so sensitive. Or if it was not Rosh Hashanah.

But life is what it is. I can’t claw the world back to what it was. But I can take a deep breath, turn toward what is important and listen to the waves from my balcony.

Shanah Tova

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And off to Canada

September 23rd, 2014 1 comment
ending in Quebec

ending in Quebec

 

In case you had’t gathered – I am still on the Legend happily leaving out of Cape Liberty today for a leisurely journey up the eastern seaboard

 

ITINERARY

DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Tue Sep 23 Bayonne, NJ 4:30pm
Wed Sep 24 At Sea
Thu Sep 25 Bar Harbor, ME 8:00am 6:00pm
Fri Sep 26 Portland, ME 8:00am 4:30pm
Sat Sep 27 Saint John, NB, Canada 7:30am 4:00pm
Sun Sep 28 Halifax, NS, Canada 9:30am 6:00pm
Mon Sep 29 Sydney, NS, Canada 9:00am 5:00pm
Tue Sep 30 At Sea
Wed Oct 1 Saguenay, QC, Canada 8:00am 5:00pm
Thu Oct 2 Quebec City, QC, Canada 10:00am
Fri Oct 3 Quebec City, QC, Canada Disembark

 

 
And for now, we will just totally and completely ignore the fact that I have an extremely early flight on the 3rd to JFK en route to home.

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Gale Force 10

September 22nd, 2014 No comments
Even with the new stabilizers, one can certainly feel the movement of the ship when the sea conditions get rough. There was thunder and lightening outside my balcony door which started sometime after midnight. Ok – and? Oh, a bit of blowing rain which hit me in the face when I opened the door, or rather attempted to open the door. For the second time this voyage I turned on the TV to get the bridge report. Humm – 9-12 meter waves and a stiff wind blowing across the deck with a weather forecast of predicting more of the same.
It was at this point that I realized the absence of lids for the Go Cups was going to prove a challenge.  Not as much challenge as clearing up the “Art” which now resembled a pack of plying cards scattered across the floor of the Centrum but close. You would think that someone whose job it was to peddle said art would have spared a moment to think.
“High waves and wind. Property I am trying to peddle sitting on easels. Most of the items are framed and fronted with glass. If they all fall over, could it cost me?”
The storm seemed to settle out mid morning with a predicted resurgence late afternoon. Meanwhile I decided that cleaning, organizing and packing everything to change cabins was in order before wandering around to trade off a few emails.
Since it seems like Cape Liberty – aka Bayonne NJ – is out in the middle of nowhere, I am not going to be able to pull my usual turn around day stunt and head off for internet.
Ah, well. Knitting is always a good thing.
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YADS

September 21st, 2014 No comments

Yet another day at sea.

Not a problem for me, but it seems that a few of our fellow passengers are getting twitchy. The German couple from Dusseldorf who sat at the next table last night informed me that they never would have chosen this cruise if they had known there was a chance of missing St John’s. Not that it was St John’s in specific – but that five sea days in a row were too many and six was unacceptable. Other people were extremely upset at the change in the entertainment program because the new act scheduled to board in St John’s obviously didn’t make it out to the ship.

As for the rest of us, most noticeable the Crafters @ Sea – well we just brought our stuff to the Solarium again today and worked on projects. One woman finished her scarf – two balls of sparkle accented yarn in a basket weave stitch. It was her first project; she was more than pleased. Another woman finished her hat – again a first project and I left her on the final bind-off at about noon.

After the confusion at the beginning of the cruise -we finally managed to pull off the cabin crawl this afternoon. Starting with one of the ocean views on Deck 2, we moved up to six for a balcony followed by deck seven where it turned out that inside and balcony cabins were practically across the hall from each other. Finishing the tour (which had 20 people signed up and turned into a gaggle of almost 40) everyone stopped at both my JS and a similar one on port side.

You can just fill in the rest of the day yourself – talking to people, wandering in to the dining room. More knitting. Traveling 3982 nautical miles since Hamburg.

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St John’s – the port that wasn’t

September 20th, 2014 No comments
it was extremely early when I woke to look out the doors at the white caps on the water. Feeling still a bit blurry and noting the rocking of the ship I decided to see what it was like on the balcony.
Cold. It was cold and extremely windy. The cold would not be an issue, but the wind was going to present some challenges if I correctly remembered what someone had described last evening.   St John’s is a really well sheltered harbor. The channel leading into it is called The Narrows. With typical quiet bluntness – it is narrow. As in 90 meters wide. The harbor behind it is deep but clearly affected by tide and wind. They don’t have tug boats since bringing a ship in during a bad storm is unlikely due to the channel and getting out during one is even more remote a possibility.
As I am thinking through all of this (and downloading email, getting dressed and contemplating coffee) it suddenly occurs to me that my thrill of suddenly being in range of shore with the phone might just be overcome by the fact that I could no longer see the shot. The Harbor is on the Canadian Coast and the ship is now headed east. What the ????
By the time we repeated this dance with water and wave it was pretty obvious to all but the least intelligent of passengers that we were not going to be challenging 6+ meter waves, 40 knot windows and a narrow channel that morning.  A ship whose length is longer than the channel is wide would be taking a serious risk in even attempting entry.  The only thing that might have been worse would be to get into the harbor and be stuck for several days. (Not for me, but all but 12 of the ship’s passengers have plans that involve taxis. cars, trains, buses or planes starting on the 23rd. Being somewhere along the Atlantic seaboard would not make them overly thrilled).
So it was only the occasional idiot who was complaining about not being able to get off the ship: demanding that the Captain “do something.” Well he had. Made a decision not to risk life, limb or ship just to enter a port so that a few people could have seven hours on shore. I mean really – we had only had three days at sea. Being on for another three is not all that difficult.
Not for those of us who met up at the morning craft table anyway.  We have yarn!

 

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Art Crawl? Meals?

September 19th, 2014 No comments

or Sea Day 3/3. It all blurs together

The “Meal with an Officer” was held as a luncheon with the nice menu providing a choice between filet, blackened salmon and pasta alfredo. I landed at a table with three very pleasant Danes, two name tag wearing Pinnacles, the Hotel Director and his admin (from Scandinavia). The food was excellent, the conversation was mostly cruising geography.
After lunch I couldn’t find any of the knitters since our normal gather location had vanished under an onslaught of card and Mahjongg players. A peak into the Diamond lounge found one of the group. Fortified by a latte, I finished one hat, started another and couched a new knitter through finishing hers.
We have a lacemaker in the group: Bobbin Lace, tatted lace, knitted lace. The kind who also sews, quilts and can make something lovely out of just about anything. If she wasn’t so nice….  Anyway she walked into the lounge. We had been talking about cruising the handwork that was part of the art display on the ship. After mentioning it several mornings and getting no interest it was going to be just the two of us anyway.
We set off with our cameras. There are a couple of beaded pieces, multiple items of embroidery embellished with gold work, lace and one piece of woven paper. It isn’t a lot, but then this ship doesn’t have “art”  every three feet down every corridor.
Tomorrow we dock in St John’s Newfoundland
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Sea Days 2/3

September 18th, 2014 No comments
The 18th was almost but not quite a repeat of yesterday. Hanging out with a dozen or so for the morning knitting. The detour in the afternoon was accompanied by a multiple location search as the ship’s group coordinator relocated a Cruise Critic organized necklace group from the Viking Crown Lounge to the Conference Center to Deck 5 Dining Room.  Now consider that there are two groups co-ocupying the space. The group that has been here daily on sea days are playing duplicate bridge. Today they are having a tournament. We are a group of ~ 20 women making jewelry.
Trust me, it is not a good mix. Not that under normal circumstances all us would get along but in this case, Sue can’t teach without talking. We just don’t operate without chatter and having fun. The bridge group is serious and really, really wants silence.
You see the problem? It doesn’t stop me from playing with my crochet hook, wire and beads. If I had bought more than one clasp I could have made more things…..
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Sea Days 1/3

September 17th, 2014 No comments

 

Rather than give you a long diatribe about three days at sea, the crowded solarium, and the ignorant who can’t read (Hello? The sign says NO SAVING DECK CHAIRS. What makes you think you are exempt? A few minutes I can understand. But getting up, dropping off a towel and not coming back for hours at a time is just plain selfish. Yes, it is warm and sheltered from the wind and I know that your towel is enjoying the break from being squashed. However there just happen to be another 1800 or so individuals on this ship who might like a chance to enjoy the warmth, humidity and the sight of bodies overly stuffed into spandex. Off soap box)

It is not the same as the crafting group. Admittedly one of us is there fairly early to grab a table and chairs. And more tables and more chairs as the group expands. We do give up the area as people leave.

So that takes care of the 17th.

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Sunshine and Early Departure

September 16th, 2014 No comments

The sun certainly came out of hiding this morning. The air crisp and clear. You think that the weather gods know that our ship sails at lunch time? What fun is overcast and rain when you don’t have tourists out to become wet and miserable ?

One of the other knitters and I made the hike to town. Besides the Icelandic hand knitters guild shop which was open we identified three other major locations for yarn (all of whom open at 1100 which means we stared through the window, took pictures and saved our money) and several minor. Seems like all the gift and souvenir stores are now carrying sport weight in about 15 colors just in case someone needs a yarn fix.

Since we had forced our way against the wind on our trip to Reykjavik we had that little bit of extra push to help along those last two kilometers back. And yes there was a city pay shuttle bus but really – better to walk along the harbor for a 9 km round trip to the far end then have to hit the treadmill tonight.

Time to knit?

Most certainly!

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Ice, Volcanos, Waterfalls

September 15th, 2014 No comments

It wasn’t something that occurred to be in 2010. And it certainly didn’t until we drove off road today on our adventure. Along the area where there used to be a mountain top which exploded in lava and ash is now partly a plain criss crossed by flooded flat lands and rivers.

More than spew ash in the air to disrupt air traffic, volcanos produce heat. And if yours just happens to push lava up under the largest glacier in Iceland then the resulting large amount of melted ice should not be a surprise. Melted ice = water, right? Not just the planes then but also the local farmers flooded out, roads and bridges affected. Sheep, don’t forget the sheep. Really not sure how well they would swim in the month of April.

So there you have one of the second and third order effects; water run off and flooding. We managed to get 2/3 of the way toward the remaining glacial area before the height of the rivers made it too risky. No bridges here but off road in a 4×4

Instead we visited waterfall after waterfall one of which had a small climb (527 steps according to the sign) to reach the observation platform at the top. There is a really challenging hiking trail that starts there but we had neither the time or the equipment for a 26 km jaunt at this time of year.

Then there was the hiking behind a falls and the hiking up a river bed to the base of another. It was a fabulous day and hopefully I can do pix at some point.

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It’s getting colder

September 14th, 2014 No comments

And the volcanos are holding off; at least so far as to not trash cruise ships ability to dock.

The remainder of yesterday was spent on wandering streets, taking a few pix, and meeting a ram with a really impressive set of double horns.

Oh yes, and finding out that even with a ship in port those 1400 closing hours are firm. The yarn shop at the mall had nice yarn but nothing special. The best one in town was closed. Sirri featured mostly finished products but did have a small room of yarn from local sheep ( but I do suspect it was spun I neither Denmark or Estonia.

So today is mostly show and tell at the crafters table and tomorrow we dock in Iceland.

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Tørshaven

September 13th, 2014 No comments

We weren’t underway even 30 minutes last evening before the fog crept up around us to blanket the sea with in a few hundred meters of the ship. The Shetlands seem to first recede, then vanish into mist. Slightly an eerie feeling with gulls calling but not visible. If I was a Bard, it would be a wonderful start to a tale of magic, struggle and stubbornness. Shetlands are part of Scotland. That sense of independence and stubborn has insured their survival.

Overnight we have traveled in the white with not even the moon visible.

This morning I woke to white out followed by an announcement that the cargo ship had not cleared the pier due to technical difficulties so that we would be tendering. In spite of all of that we were on the pier about 1145 just in time to see the sun finally being disgusted enough with the damp to burn it away

So now I am wandering old sod roofed houses, book stores and seeing want is on the three yarn stores in town. I even found postcards. Last tender is 1730 leaving a reasonable but not huge amount of time in this clean, organized and free bus ride town.

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Lerwick

September 12th, 2014 No comments

You are hearing from me early today both so that you know that I am fine and the fact that reasonable WiFi is always easier to find before most of the passengers get off the ship.  For those of you who have forgotten all the Geography you have learned, the Shetlands are off of the coast of & part of Scotland. So yes, there are quiet but firm opinions here on independence. Most here see themselves as much more politically and financially vulnerable than the main land of Scotland and don’t see anywhere the pride of independence balancing the potential costs.

Lerwick is the largest of the towns here. Hardworking and nothing fancy. Much of the industry is directed toward the sea or maintenance of the buildings that are here. Since many seem to date back a century or two (what was good enough for our great grandparents should be good enough for us and our children….)..
Anyway. I was the only one on the upper deck of my tender as it traveled from ship to shore.
When you build your houses of stone or local brick when the clay of your land is has the color of winter seas your buildings are dark, plain and undistinguished against the bright green of nature. The roofs are dark, the chimneys prominent. This is Scotland. You don’t fix that which is not broken. If it worked for your grandparents then it is probably right for wind, wave and sea and strong enough to survive on this isolated location.
I spent the first couple of hours walking around town before finding a nice coffee shop to have tea with milk and WiFi.  I know where I can find the Museum, the knit shops, the Shetland Islands Spinners Guild and the Puffins. 
 
I am off!
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