Cobh, Republic of Ireland.

9.05am and the docks late again; I have lost count of how many ports we have been late getting into on this ship. We are in Cobh in Southern Ireland this morning, a grey overcast day; with no relief, according to the forecast.
Remarkably, we got off at 9.30am and we were through Irish Immigration, and tripping our merry way along the shoreline into the small town. It looked picturesque from the ship, when we entered the port, with lovely white or cream houses dotted on the hillside surrounding the port, and the town off to the right with a heavier concentration of buildings.

AtFront

This is the view that greets you a 100 yards from the ship as you go into the town.
When we walked the few hundred yards into the start of the town itself, we thought we had already seen the best of it, when we were on the ship. As we strolled the length of the High St and back again, regrettably that confirmed our thought.

AtJunction

I took this stood with my back to the Titanic museum in the Main Street.
I think in the sun it could look better, but the shops are tired and there is little of interest, for the 400 ships passengers to look at, let alone buy. There were some bars or coffee shops open with tables outside, but it was too cool and miserable to sit at one just for a coffee. Florie and I tried hard, looking in as many paces as possible, but we were back aboard the ship in two hours.

WayIn

This was taken up high near the cathedral looking out over the bay – the dock is to the right.
I think the town tries hard to brighten itself by painting the houses different colours, which looks very nice as you enter and leave the port by ship, but unfortunately I did not see much of this until too late as we left. The town makes a lot of the Titanic and Lusitania connection and they have a museum that we did not go in, after our trip round the graveyard in Halifax. Apparently the Titanic was due to call here on its return from America, had it not hit the iceberg on the way out. However I was impressed that the town had a cobbler that supplied hand-made shoes, that’s something that you don’t see very often.
Don on the Cobh

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Sydney, Nova Scotia.

This is our last Canadian port of call and we are being tendered the long distance from the ship to the port; Florie and I were among the first on the tender and just before we cast off, a lady who was sat in front of us, told us that her husband had forgotten his cruise card and was still on the ship so he had to go back to the cabin for it, why she had got on the tender without him I don’t know, but her husband didn’t have a tender boarding card and he didn’t have a tour ticket as his wife had it in her bag on the tender so he wasn’t going anywhere, we don’t know what happened after that.
Once we got on the rain drenched dock of Cape Breton Island we went across to our coach that was taking us to explore the Bras d’Or lakes region, our coach tour took us alongside the St Andrews Channel on a tree lined road with lots of drives going up to houses in amongst the forest, to our right we got intermittent views of the lake; on our hour’s drive to Iona the Highland Village.

View-from-Iona
Pic View from Iona
Which consisted of a historical recreation of houses on the island inhabited by the immigrants from Scotland in the 1700’s they have recreated everything from a crofters cottage to present day buildings, a very interesting experience ending in complimentary coffee and homemade biscuits being served, there was a film of the community and how they lived singing songs and speaking Gaelic which they do to this very day, even their road signs are in Gaelic, we were lucky here because it had stopped raining just before we arrived here but then all of us in the coach were delayed here fifteen minutes by three inconsiderate people being late back to the coach.

Breton-Ferry
Pic Breton Ferry
We left there and took the road to Baddeck on the other side of St Andrews Channel on the way we had to take a ferry across the water to meet up with the Canadian 105 highway that runs the length of the Island to North Sydney, but we were stopping off at Baddeck a picturesque little village of 800 souls (without visitors) in the forest, on the banks of the Channel, there is a main street with cafes restaurants post office souvenir shops and official buildings,

Baddeck
Pic Wet Baddeck
unfortunately it was raining again when we arrived, we were dropped here to explore the area, we found a coffee shop that sold fresh fruit scones that were delicious and they had nice coffee too; the main claim to fame here is that Alexander Graham Bell lived hear a lot of his life and is buried in the town, there is a Museum but unfortunately we were not on the tour that went there.
Soon we were back in the warm dry coach on our way to a viewpoint on our way back to the port so that we could take photo’s there, yes we did stop and yes two misguided people got out to take photos of the mist in the heavy rain, the stop was a useful as a lighthouse in the desert; we were soon on our way back to the dock again, when we arrived there three other coaches had arrived before us so the dock was full of people stood in the rain waiting to get on tenders to their respective ships, a long cold wet unpleasant experience.
Having said that about the weather, our tour guide was excellent giving us the background to the islands population based as it is on ancient Scottish language and customs, seemingly more than the Scot’s in the UK at the present time; so it was a memorable day overall and back on aboard our ship we were now starting our long journey back across the Atlantic Ocean.
Don all dried out

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Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

Our mid morning arrival being delayed by an hour; which meant our ship could make a slow journey up the Bay of Islands fjord.

WayIn

A delightful experience in the sunshine along the tree covered gently sloping banks dotted with white house’s joined together with a network of roads all the way to the port where we docked; the main part of the small city was laid out in a shallow valley off to the right as we approached it, dominating the port area was a large sprawling paper factory that has been producing paper for nearly a hundred years.
We were on a panoramic tour of the city and I rate it highly; out first stop was at a railway museum, which was quite nice as it was part of their development of the whole area but soon after the second world war it was made redundant by and excellent road network and went bankrupt, I think in truth, that they did not know what to do with hundreds of tons of scrap metal so they painted it up and hung up a ‘Museum’ sign; how about this for a serious snow plough?

SeriousSnowPlough

Our journey continued and took us up the valley of the Hudson River that feeds the fjord, this is a picture of Ghost Rock, nice isn’t it.

Moon-Rock

The river is fast moving and full of salmon with spectacular views of the valley sides, some tree covered and others with rock faces, we stopped for photos then moved further along to view the slopes used for skiing in the winter, and a large totem pole depicting Newfoundland’s history.

Totum

Returning back through the same beautiful valley we made our way up through the pleasant city dotted with trees, making our way to a spot on a second river that runs through the city, it rushes through a lovely park with walkways through lawns with seating at the sides and facilities for exercise, the river at the bottom had a form of weir that can be adjusted in summer to partially dam it, creating a swimming pool for the young and hardy who do not feel the cold of the water that comes from high in the mountains and can be perishing.

ColdSwim

Next stop was a highlight for us, we were taken up high above the city to a statue of James Cook, erected at a viewpoint giving spectacular views over the whole of the fjord and of the town laid out below, we had a bird’s eye view of the sprawling paper mill with its chimneys belching out clouds of white steam and the wood storage yard out to one side, the same sized area as the factory itself.

TownVista

We could also see across and along the fjord, we took photos and listened to explanations of Cook’s visit here where he named this Bay of Islands before setting off on his voyage south to map the southern continents where he named a New Zealand area ‘Bay of Islands’ too. Regrettably it was only a ten minute drive back to the ship, and we were sorry that the tour of the beautiful area was over so soon. On our tour were a couple from our dinner table, it was the little old diva that hobbles in each evening and makes a great fuss of her difficulty in sitting down at table with her stick getting in the way and ends up with the waiters having to lift her chair to the table with her partner and fuss around her, it takes her five minutes to sit down, but here on the tour bus she was up and out as quick as anyone getting on the coach in the front seats because she has a stick, she only has it to cause mayhem.
After returning to the ship, we went back into the town centre and enjoyed a walk round in the afternoon sun looking at the goods set out on the stalls near the library, where I indulged my weakness for pens and purchased another one, this time made from the antlers of a moose; all this exercise was giving us an appetite so we went into the Crown & Moose Hotel for a pint of beer and a last meal of Poutine while we watched the Blue Jays play Baseball on their TV. I know some of you that have read my diaries look young and you might think, ‘Is that all you did all day!’ and you would be right for you, but if you asked your Parents or Grand Parents, they might think like us that it was enough to have exploration, beauty, and culinary fulfilment all in one day, anyway whatever your age or whatever you normally do, I hope you are enjoying my personal diaries and my view of the ports we have visited, here is an evening view of the whole dock area that had been given over to our ship and its passengers so as you can see we were free to walk across the dock and into town if we wished even though there was no actual terminal.

Dock

We have just been told over the public address that we are not visiting Cap-aux-Meules now as there is a bad storm over that Island and we would not be able to tender ashore, so we are going straight to Sydney Nova Scotia and will land on September 27.
Corner Don

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Havre Saint Pierre

The ship sailed under clear blue skies, through the blue waters of the channel, which on one side had the high rocks of the small island of Lie du Havre crowned by fir trees, and on the other; our destination, the quay of Havre Saint Pierre which was littered with eager friendly local volunteers waiting to greet us to their town, which lay on .the northern banks of the St Lawrence River.

Sail-in-HS

The small town had laid on a 24 seater coach, and for only $20 Florie and I could ride it all day long around the town in hop-on hop-off style, we went round the first time to see what was on offer, a 25 minute journey including commentary from a nice old retired chap who was full of interesting facts about his small community that he was very proud of; when the bus went round the second time we got off at Tim Horton’s and got coffee and donuts Canadian style then we were ready to brave the strong cold wind and walk across to the supermarket, the only one, but it was a very good one with lots of little interesting things that we don’t have in the UK, we stocked up on necessities up to what my backpack could take then we caught the bus when it came round again.

Hav-St-C

The next time we got off at the Post Office-come-Souvenir Shop where Florie inspected every item in detail before settling on a special memento; we walked the 100 yards from there to the Cruise Terminal-come-Information Centre-come-Local Facility, in the biting wind, to use the free Wi-Fi on offer in the warm, before going back on the ship before it’s early afternoon departure.
The small town is laid out on a corner of mainland Quebec Province and consists well kept bungalows and few shops, we drove past a beautiful long beach, which anywhere else would be filled with sun worshipers in today’s sun but here with a temperature of about 5°C it was deserted; the old chap who was giving us the information about the area told us that it is rarely used because of the cold wind, the sea temperature varies between 12°C in summer and 4°C in winter, but he proudly told us about the towns latest acquisition, a brand new Heated Swimming Pool complex something they have waited 50 years for, he went on to tell us how whales regularly swim up the channel we had sailed down to get there, it apparently happens every morning at different times of the year.
We enjoyed our short visit, the people were nice and friendly telling us all about themselves and their lives there, the place had a certain character so when we left we felt we knew the people personally, and were sad to leave them, many of whom were lined up on the quayside in that wind to wave us goodbye, the ship had to leave up the same channel the whales travel up to get to the rich feeding grounds.
Sad Don

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Baie Comeau

Another day another port this bad picture is the view as we approached the quay;

coldnbleak

we are in Baie Comeau with a population of 22,000. Started by a newspaper tycoon who built the paper mill, the area now boasts hydro electric production and an aluminium smelter so the area is very much a working area, although, it’s population is in decline, as the young go away for the final part of the education, they see more opportunity elsewhere and do not return so there are problems ahead for the shrinking community; we were taken by enthusiastic local volunteers on a school bus to the town centre a short distance away,

Main-Street

our walking tour of their main street took only a few minutes, it has about 26 shops of which 8 are empty, looking sad with “For Rent” in their windows, making me feel concerned for the town, the buildings are all low, two storey, square blocks with nothing to distinguish them, we were back on the coach on our way back to the cruise terminal within 30 minutes. This is a view of the street.
This was one of the shortest visits we have had partly due to the strong winds that made the 6°C temperature feel even colder, cutting through our clothing like a hot knife through butter, all the locals worked hard to welcome us and tried hard to make something of our visit but after a quick stop at the cruise terminal to download all our emails we were quickly back in the comparative warmth of ship.
Cold Don

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Saguenay

(just so you know –
As you will have gathered I am back in the land of Internet Connection, Hurrah.)

Our ship travelled a long way up the beautiful fjord to the Baie at Saguenay
Sag-Fjord
the views when we arrived were stunning; a large bay surrounded by tree covered hills in the noon day sun,
RightBaieSag
the little town nestled in the far end spread up the slope, access to this part of town is through the $33 million Millennium Terminal,
LaBaieSaguenay
the locals had come out to greet us warmly with circus acts and songs; the whole area we saw is spotless, wooden shiplap houses white or light grey in perfect condition,
Traffic
the roads empty of traffic, you would have difficulty committing suicide by throwing yourself in front of a car here as the odd cars that we saw were moving so slowly and they stopped for you if you even looked like you might cross the road, really the whole place looked like a film set everything set out neatly, plenty of room for everything church, repossessed office furniture shop, dentist, art gallery, an Attorney at law and a hotel that looked closed, nothing of any daily use, we subsequently found out that La Baie Ha Ha is just a borough for the rest of the town, a half hours drive away; we walked around for about an hour in the sun but it was bitterly cold in the strong wind, the most useful place for us was the cruise terminal where they had stalls selling locally made items and there was a cafe for snacks, but the most popular for the majority of the passengers was the free Wi-Fi enjoyed by everyone who filled every seat and standing space in the large area. In retrospect we would have been better getting the bus into town had we have researched it first; but things have been very busy.
Don in Ha Ha Baie

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Broke down on way to Quebec.

In the Buffet

At breakfast about 20 minutes ago the mood in the buffet restaurant was sombre and as it filled up with people, rumours had spread about where we were (dead in the water at anchor in the St. Lawrence River) and what was wrong with the ship, a few moments ago the anchor was drawn up and the main engines were fired up as the ship slowly started to turn round and make headway downriver, the Captain has just finished telling us that everything is all right now, I liked the way he described a defect of the ship that left us dead in the water unable to move in a shipping lane at anchor for 4 hours as a minor problem, they had to fly in a Radar Specialist and bring him aboard on a pilot boat, it must have cost them a fortune. Anyway listen, I’m penning this in the ships lounge and as I look up and out of the windows to my left I can see the shoreline only about quarter of a mile away, thick lush vegetation tall trees with the sun picking out the white houses built in the tree-lined banks of the river, the waters, calm here as we pass slowly by; I believe there is a speed limit of 10 miles per hour for ships on the St Lawrence to help preserve the whale population that use this river a lot apparently the whales only swim at about 10 miles per hour and if ships are doing 15 mph they over take the beast and rip it to pieces with the propellers as they pass by, this limit make everything go at the same speed and the Whales get a sporting chance of getting out of the way, I’m going to sign off now as I have just heard that we will be docking at noon today so see you later.
Don on the doomed ship

Landing in Quebec.

I suspected things were not going as people had expected when a tug approached us before we could even see Quebec, our ship was turned in the river and the tug pushed us towards the dock, when I went over and looked where we were going to be berthed; it was a commercial dock with dustbin lorries driving about on it and tied up there already was a rusting hulk of an old ferry and we were to be tied up next to it, but there were no buildings or places to shelter just flat concrete. We secured alongside and then the long wait started; disembarkation sounded good in theory over the public address but in practice it was entirely different, we were called to leave the ship by tours and then by decks, so Florie and I waited patiently in the lounge until called then we joined a very, very long queue on the dock; it transpired that at 6am the Dock Manager was stood with a line of coaches waiting for our ship to arrive, but as time passed they vanished like a raindrop in the dessert. When our ship eventually turned up at 12.45pm, the other larger cruise ships in the port had taken all the busses so now we are left with two coaches to shuttle in all the people, who are not on tours, into town and a certain amount of frustration and anger was coming to the surface in the remarks of those around us, a few people wanted to walk across the dock then the 1½ miles into town, but being a commercial dock it wasn’t allowed because it wasn’t safe and there were two Aussies behind us in the queue and they were telling us how they could not stand still for more than a few minutes and they should be allowed to walk to the gate all the while they were running on the spot, bobbing up and down like two noisy pistons, carping all the time, the Aussies call us Brits., Whinging Pom’s, but they could certainly give us a run for our money.
However once in town we took the funicular to the Frontenac Hotel at the top of the hill and walked round the old town admiring its well preserved three and four story high stone buildings lined up in a terraced fashion, it is truly a beautiful place to walk round, if a little hilly, a lot of the buildings have window boxes and any other small area of soil filled with flowers in bloom they were a riot of colours reds, yellows, orange and blues in every street we saw, the shops are a lot different than the European shops so it was nice to browse and see different thing, but if went into a shop and you were the only customer in there, the assistant would pounce on you and follow round like a prison guard. Eventually we found ourselves outside a lovely little restaurant where we had genuine Poutine and a cheese cake desert – Yummy – that set us up for more walking in the cold afternoon air fighting our way through the crowded streets full of tourists from every part of the world, Asia, Europe, Middle East, USA, too many people too few pavements, fighting to stay off the narrow roads, originally designed for horse and carriage, away from the cars and coaches. As we walked back to the bus to take us to our ship we suppressed our disappointment that the sun had been hidden all day by the grey clouds, but at least it didn’t rain.

Still in Quebec – Friday morning.

Early morning and we are still tied up next to the rusting hulk behind us, on our left is the Arcadia a large P&O ship slowly coming into dock in front of our ship; today we are off on a ships tour of the city and Montmorency Falls. The weather has deteriorated to strong winds and driving rain so we had to dash to our waiting coach on the dock we got good seats near the front so we could see out of the front window, always a plus; our French Canadian Tour Guide was called Roger, a tall well built chap who didn’t know the meaning of modesty, he was fiercely proud of being a Frenchman born in Quebec, he had been a coach driver all his working life and when he retired he became the best tour guide in Quebec, and yes he was good, he tied up explanations of historical facts to statues buildings or geographical features in an interesting manner, he brought the city’s history to life as we drove slowly round it, stopping at different sights on interest from time to time. We went inside the old Gare Du Palais (railway station), that was built in the same chateau style as the hotel that dominates the old town’s skyline, the city has restored both the hotel and station and both are beautiful inside and out and are used extensively now,

Plush

the station has a fantastic exclusive steak house with plush red leather banquette seats, (I could have gladly spent the rest of the tour there) but after marvelling at the interior of the station we had to continue our tour of the rainy city, we were dropped off at the Frontenac Hotel for 45 minutes so we could explore the city ourselves,
Wet-rain
Florie and I had done that yesterday so we made straight for a warm dry a coffee shop with Wi-Fi and supped coffee while we caught up on emails and the like until we ran out to the warn dry coach once again. All aboard we made our way round the city listening intently to Roger’s graphic explanations for names or why buildings were built the way they were, eventually we made our way out of town to the 83 meter high Montmorency Falls named after Duc de Montmorency the once Viceroy of New France and Admiral of France and Brittany,
Montmorency-Falls
however the rain was still coming down hard, so it was dash outside with a brolly, take some quick photo’s, then dash back again; the falls were quite impressive, but we were soon on our bus going back to the ship where dry clothes and hot coffee soon restored our spirits, I am sorry I haven’t related to you all the stories that Roger told us but he did talk for 3 hours, we thought it was a good trip , it would have been a fantastic trip if it the sun had been shining.
TAGS – Frontenac-Hotel history Aussies Poutine Montmorency-Falls rusting-hulk Gare-Du-Palais flowers-in-bloom brolly

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