Sunday, 19 October 2014

Back to smaller things.

With a 36 hour turn around at home we left on Saturday evening and got to “Chance” in Brinklow marina at 10 pm.  It was a strange feeling to think that only a week ago we were in Canada!  

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At 8:30 this morning we were wending our way towards Braunston.  The top lock at Hilmorton was our last single lock of the year.  Taking a month out of our canal cruising to go ocean cruising has delayed us somewhat.  The intention was to enjoy the delights of the Oxford canal and the River Thames again this year but, with other commitments, we’ve changed the plan to the Grand Union and avoiding the chance of the Thames misbehaving itself this late in the season.

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We really didn’t expect the amount of traffic we encountered today –  even during the summer it wasn’t as busy.  

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The sunshine was glorious, which probably accounts for the number of boats around – although this picture gives a rather different view.

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Although we had sunshine in excess the strong wind got very tiresome.  The major works at the entrance to Braunston marina was supposed to be “coned off” by white buoys but they had been blown all over the canal and looked a bit like a canoe slalom!

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We joined forces with a delightful couple going up through the Braunston lock flight – sadly we can’t remember their names or the name of the boat!

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Once through the Braunston tunnel and out of the trees it’s always novel to look across the fields and see the Leicester Arm of the GU (and the moored boats) approaching from the left to meet up at Norton Junction.

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Before calling it a day we decided to tackle the top lock of the Buckby flight – the weather was so good there were people sitting outside the New Inn next to the lock.  After a nine hour journey today we moored up at 5 o’ clock in the pound below the lock, lit the stove, put on the dinner and hunkered down for the night.  A great day!

Friday, 17 October 2014

We Survived!

On Wednesday, after the fuss and bother of a mere hurricane, we were at last allowed outside on the decks…….

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…… the rear deck had been tidied and all the sun loungers had been restacked.  The swimming pool had been emptied before the storm for safety reasons of course ……..

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…… but there were signs all around that we’d been ravaged by natures awesome power.  Just outside this picture the blue panelling had been stripped off the walls.

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But, typically British, at a time like this we had a cup of tea and some chocolate cake.  This was the regular “chocoholics tea party”, with every conceivable chocolate-based confection you could think of.  Velroy, one of our favourite waiters, is keen to increase our weight even further!

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This is Jose another very kind and friendly crew member.

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On Wednesday evening, Michael, one of the “4tunes” (the incredibly talented quartet of singers on board to entertain us) had his birthday.  As normal, the whole restaurant, and all the available waiters, gathered to sing “Happy Birthday”. 

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Also on Wednesday evening we had the “Chef’s Parade”.  The one chance we get to show our gratitude to these wonderful people (and they move quite fast too!)

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Later still, with full bellies, the “crème de la crème” (Bill & Jill, Andrew & Chris, Paul & Sandra, bubbly Jess from the Art Gallery, James, Lyne and Jim, and in the front: Ben, also from the Art Gallery.  In the background are Old Uncle Tom Cobbly and All waiting for the very last performance of this particular troop of Headliners – and a fabulous performance it was too.

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After the show we were able to meet up with four of the Headliners before they went off to relax.  Jay (dancer), Scott and James (singer/dancers) and Luke. 

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We have a soft spot for entertainments officer Abbie, who scrubs up quite well from her daytime activities!

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If we’re not seeing a show during the evening we usually visit the Crow’s Nest bar, at the front of the ship, where our friend (and bar steward) Dolreich and his boss Hemant look after us very well.

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The “creme de la creme” (we do do things separately sometimes!) often take part in the Syndicate Quiz in the Crow’s Nest, where Dolreich bosses us about and tends to our every need (and where we never win! )

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Our last drink together before docking in Southampton on Friday morning – and we’re not going to name everyone again!

Well, we’ve had 25 nights of glorious fun and adventure.  We’ve travelled some 7500 miles through fair weather and foul and we’d do it all again tomorrow (but we’re not). Friday morning our very obliging  neighbour Nigel picked us up from the cruise terminal and we were in doors and unpacking by 09:30. Can’t be bad.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Lull before the Storm.

Life on board, as we traverse the Atlantic Ocean, goes on apace with much socialising, wining and dining.

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We are regularly treated to a champagne reception by Whitewall galleries – this one is for a promotion of the artist Fabien Perez and the collectors of his work.

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Jess, the bubbly and wonderful art specialist, is never happier than when she’s ‘entertaining’ her customers.

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During sea days we get the opportunity (and the time to prepare) to dine in the appropriate way.  Here we are again, the cream at the top of the passenger list, Paul, Sandra, Bill, James, Andrew, Chris, Doug and Jill. 

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On the same evening, with our bellies full, on the way to the theatre for another amazing show, Headliners performing “Killer Queen”.  It’s a real pity that we can’t make any form of recording of the theatre performances because they really are of West End quality.

On Sunday evening our luck with the weather ran out and the ship began negotiating some really bad sea conditions.

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By Monday morning we were experiencing hurricane force winds (force 12) directly onto the port side …….

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……. with very heavy seas.  Moving about the ship wasn’t impossible but sitting or lying down was the preferred option!  The Crow’s Nest bar, at the front of the ship, was a bit like an Alton Towers ride and not for the faint-hearted and the guest speaker in the theatre had to give her talk sitting down (with her glass of water sliding around in front of her!).

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By Tuesday afternoon the winds had died down to force 4 but the heavy swell was causing the ship to roll quite dramatically, even with the stabilisers deployed.

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Nevertheless, life aboard is still good with everything to be glad about.  Talk about waiting for a bus then two come along – it’s the same with waiters! (Only joking – these wonderful people are at our side at a moments notice)  This is Roland, Hemant and, of course, our friend Dolreich in the Crow’s Nest bar.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sydney (no Opera House!)

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After a day at sea  from Quebec we berthed in the very small port of Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.  During WW II Sydney harbour was closer to Europe than Halifax and became a major gathering point for the trans-Atlantic convoys bringing supplies to Britain.  We have a lot to thank Sydney and its seamen for (many of which never returned). 

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Sydney harbour today has been dredged deep enough in the last couple of years to allow the biggest of cruise ships to enter and is a modern and very welcoming port of call.  It also boasts the worlds largest violin! (between the ship and terminal building)

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St George’s Church is Sydney’s oldest building (1785) and, apart from being visited by the late Queen Mother, …..

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……. it boasts a Chippendale chair given in 1800 by, the then Vice Admiral Nelson.  It was chair No13 in the boardroom of HMS Victory.

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The residential area of Sydney is very attractive with its tree lined roads and clapperboard houses.

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Some of the older buildings have been turned over to museums ….

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…. showing life in Canada in the 1800’s.  Not so different to Britain really.

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Some of the cellars have restricted headroom! (James was on his knees!)

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The Joste House museum which, among other lovely things, houses a remarkable collection of photos of all the cruise ships that have visited Sydney in the past. 

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More idyllic tree-lined streets and wooden houses …..

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The town used to be busy making steel but what’s left  is now displayed as an art form.

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Being the last port of call on our itinerary, we left Sydney on Saturday evening with a very well attended “Great British Sail- Away” party on the rear deck.

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This is our “little group of cruise friends” which have gelled so well and seem to meet at every opportunity there is:- Bill, Paul, Jill, Judy, Brian, James, Andrew and (front row) Doug, Sandra and Chris.

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Doug with Judy ……

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….. and the very talented Sammy (singer/dancer with the Headliners) ……

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….. and finally – sadly leaving North America (for the time being).

We now have five sea days ahead of us as we cross the Atlantic before arriving in Southampton on Friday.  This has been a fantastic experience and stupendous cruise so far – they’ll have to drag us off the ship on Friday!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Quebec

On Wednesday we arrived in Quebec.

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The weather has not been great coming up the St Lawrence Seaway but at least it was clear enough for us to experience our arrival in this very French city.

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Our berth was right next to the old city and the most perfectly positioned of all our berths during this cruise.

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The city is dominated by the massive Chateau de Frontenac.

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Docked by 2:30 in the afternoon we were able to take a good walk around the old city - we could easily have been in France (or Japan!) 

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This is what the arrival of a cruise liner does for the narrow streets of the lower part of the old city.

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We’ve arrived in Canada at the absolute perfect time for the colour.

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The cathedral (Basilique-cathedrale Notre-Dame de Quebec to give it it’s proper name!) is in the upper part of the city and, like almost every building, is in perfect condition.

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The upper and lower parts of the city are joined either by some steep wooden steps (very pleasant in the evening when the lights come on) or by the cable car (“Furniculaire du Vieux-Quebec”).  

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“Arcadia” looked quite fantastic with her lights on during the early evening.  The skies remained pretty threatening during the whole of our stay.

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Today we spent more time walking the very atmospheric streets …

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….. and we were reminded in various parts of the city that it was coming up to Halloween.  It also seems to be a celebration of harvest.  This was in the Place de l’Hotel-de-Ville.

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In many small nooks and crannies were some really interesting sculpture and art forms.

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Here’s Doug, wrapped up against the very chilly wind on this second day of our visit in front of ……….

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…… the Chateau Frontenac.  Constructed in 1892 – 1893 it’s one of many Chateau style hotels built by Canada’s wealthy railway companies to reflect the 14th and 15th century Chateaux of the Loire Valley.

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Inside it’s quite imposing as well!

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We asked someone (who looked as though they knew what they were doing!) to take this shot of us with the ship behind.  After several pics with our heads chopped off this was the best he could achieve!

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A black squirrel (what else!)

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A better pic. this time from the Citadelle ……

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…… and a panorama showing the Citadelle ramparts, the Chateau Frontenac and below, the board walk, “Arcadia” in her prime position and the St Lawrence River flowing eastwards towards the Atlantic Ocean.

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And finally, it’s beginning to turn bit chilly in Canada right now but this resident might just be a little premature!