Good Morning!

If you recognise the skyline, you will see I’m going to have a nice day here.

Haven’t posted lately, tried twice but lack of good WiFi around the world to here has put me off, wish me luck as I try to add a photo and try to post.

Have a great day.

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A very British Christmas Lunch with close Friends.

On Saturday Florie and I were invited to lunch with close friends, Hilda and Jack (names changed) are two of the most wonderful supportive friends it’s possible to have, they live just a few miles up the road from us, but we do not live in each other’s pockets, but I will say they are responsible for getting me through a very bad patch in my life some years back.

We got there at 12.45 pm when most of their guests had already arrived; two of the couples we knew and the other two were new to us.

Hilda is a Drama Queen so whenever we meet up with Hilda and Jack we know it is going to be a show, we are usually greeted by The Front of House Coordinator (Hilda) and The Production Manager (Jack), who has usually foreseen all the possible hitches and guides the production crew round them, Jack is a wonderful man, caring to the inth degree, I always feel inadequate when I am with him as he diplomatically copes so well with everything.

He, greeted us at the door and took us through to the lounge where Hilda was holding court and seeing to the needs of her other guests, giving snippets of information and building the tension for the show to come; Jack followed us in with glasses of drink for us and went on topping up glasses and jollying his guests along, all of us are well retired and doing quite well for our ages.

Twelve of us, including our hosts, were all mixed up and either catching up with each other’s or making new friends. One couple we didn’t know, were very nice, and only lived across the road from where we were stood, he turned out to be part of the entertainment that was yet to come, another two couples I didn’t get to talk to, yet another couple were mutual friends of our hosts and us and are always a pleasure to meet up with, the final couple are mutual friends again, and I get on well very with her, a poor downtrodden lady who puts a brave face on things, but he is an utter stinker, who you cannot trust within 50 yards of any woman under 60 years of age. I was polite to him for me, and just ignored him rather than cause a scene, he come from the same working class background as me, we were born within a few miles of each other but he now speaks with and affected accent that would put the queen to shame.

After a few minutes chat with other guests our hosts called us in to partake of the buffet they had laid out, which looked scrumptious and tasted really nice. The drinks flowed like water but half of us drove so we had to limit our intake. Feeling stuffed with good food we started on the entertainment which was in the form of a quiz, Hilda handed out paper to put or answers on and then became the question master after making sure we were all partnered with somebody else’s wife or husband, so I wasn’t partnered with Florie when she won the quiz, as she often does (she is one knowledgeable woman).

Then we were entertained by our hosts playing the piano and singing, the way we have done in Britain since Victorian times, but not many people do it nowadays, we had a variety of songs, and a solo or two, from a nice man with a good voice.

Hilda banged away at the Joanna (a grand no less) in the corner, while a number of guests sang different pieces, some of them read poems and others bits from the bible, and yet others a piece about the First World War.

Finally there was coffee and mince pies before we all broke up and went home with presents from our hosts.

Hilda and jack have gone through a difficult year fighting health problems and being there for neighbours when their health became a problem and taking comfort in each others’ company on their respective roads to recovery, this get together was Hilda and Jacks way of being with close friends and saying that you and enjoying each other’s company.

A wonderful time was had by all and all were sorry to leave, but we all had some age related difficulty of driving in the dark.

My Sincere thanks to Hilda and Jack

 

And to my Dear Reader,

Thank you for visiting my site, I trust you enjoyed it and I hope you have a good time with your friends and family over the festive period, I look forward to your return in the New Year when I will be posting more when I go on holiday, may your New Year be full of success and happiness.

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My Friend Died.

Many, many years ago a friend of mine called Peter died, we were in the Rotary together at that time, we would meet up at the meetings, he used to give me tips and advice about business matters as he was more experienced than I. When he retired he had more time and we would meet up for coffee or lunch occasionally and we even started to make arrangements to start learning to play golf together as two novices.

Peter and his new wife and my wife and I were out together on a Friday evening with the rest of the Rotarians on a visit to a new factory, being shown the new process for printing on plastic, at that time, and we all enjoyed it, when we departed we were talking about seeing each other the following Monday at our normal meeting, but Saturday morning I got a call telling me Peter had died that morning of a massive heart attack.

That call hit me like a speeding truck, even now as I draft this in longhand the tears are rolling down my face, that weekend I went to pieces and the following week I found it extremely difficult to work, I never got over that feeling of loss and the fact that I considered him a close friend, I never told him that.

Now today, I have just lost another good friend Paul, he too died from a heart attack, Paul had been paralysed for the last seven years and has been in a wheelchair all that time, he was always cheery, always asking after others and how they were keeping, he never complained once, never bemoaned his fate, he humbled me with his strength of will and solid character.

I went to Paul’s funeral on Wednesday 28th November and I was asked to write a eulogy which I did with much pain and grief in my heart, but one difference about Pauls death was, I had taken the time to tell him how I admired his strength and tenacity and how I considered him my best friend.

Yes, I still have tears in my eyes, and I am writing this in private because as an old Englishman born and bred, I was brought up with the old British, stiff upper lip, so I don’t want anyone to see my strong emotions, I can’t walk around with my heart on my sleeve, but I do think it’s important to let those around you that you care and to know how much you value them.

When my time comes and my heart takes its last few beats, I don’t want to be half way through the sentence, ‘I want you to kno…’

If you read this and think what is this doing in a travel blog, then remember we travel life’s path and that means losing grandparents parents and possibly friends to illness or accident, these feeling may not be what you would chose but they do have to be visited in life.

A very sad Don

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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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