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Friday, September 20, 2013

Que'bec the Old City


We have reached the final port of our journey aboard Explorer of the Seas.  Quebec City.  We followed the St. Lawrence River after passing the strait between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, cruising down to Quebec City.  We experienced strong headwinds with 3-5 ft. seas.  The above picture is the route of our cruise, just following the arrows along the map to our ports. This may help understand the area of the cruise, the Canadian Maritime. 
 The above pic is the panoramic view from our roof top deck. We rented a loft condo in the midst of Old Quebec City.  Every direction we see the old city as well as the river and more modern portion of Quebec.  We have experienced a wonderful city, small by many standards. After docking we departed the ship a day early to enjoy our condo rental.  If you are staying a few days, this is the most comfortable and affordable digs. We can walk to any attraction of the Old City, food, pubs(of course), grocery, pharmacy, etc. 
 
 
This is the view of our building from Rue St. Jean.  The first floor includes a pharmacy.  We have secured entry to the building and all the amenities. We would suggest you plan a visit to this city by next Springs or Summer. Many fly to Montreal or Toronto and take a train to Quebec City.  This is a wonderful city for a 3-5 day stay.  If you have the time, plan the cruise, 11 nights of fun and exploring.

Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral
As with most pics of a large church, my photo is not sufficient to depict the grandeur and beauty of this church.  The cathedral was built in early 1600's, destroyed twice by fire and rebuilt on same foundation.  The City of Quebec offers many churches of different  seems around every corner.
The view above is from the Parc Montmorency with a great view of our ship.  The stroll down to the waterfront is along cobble stone streets with any number of small stores and outdoor cafes.   A European feel greets you at every corner is this beautiful city. 

After strolling down, now you must stroll up to the Chateau Frontenac.  This hotel is massive adjacent to the
Citadelle, a fort protecting the City of Quebec from invasion.  The Old City is a walled city with remaining fortifications, cannon, barracks and a wonderful history

 
The above shot gives a view of the walled city as well as a view of more modern structures located outside the wall. You can stroll along the wall with many opportunities to walk to other portions of the city.  This is a walking city, no need to take cabs or buses unless planning a longer tour or a wider view of the area.  The Old City will entertain you for many days. 
 


It seems school has closed for the day, at about 4:30 pm. as the local students find time to visit the wall, smoke and just hang out. 

Our time in Quebec City is coming to a close. We fly out tomorrow, but we bring many memories with us.  I do think we may visit this city again. 

Happy Sailing,
Denise and Barry


Corner Brook, Newfoundland

We continue on our voyage aboard this great ship, Explorer of the Seas.  After a short dockage at Prince Edward Island, we have cruised over night to Corner Brook Newfoundland.  We awoke to a fantastic terrain with green fields, mountains and clearing sky.  We are just below the 50th. parallel, our northern most location. 

After experiencing the Great Bus journey in Saint Johns, New Brunswick, we have opted to hire a cab to tour a portion the island.  We were greeted by two beautiful Newfoundland dogs, weighing in at 175 lbs each.  They were wonderful to meet and all they need is a saddle. The gentlemen in the picture noted they only have two speeds, and the picture is a display the "fast" speed. 

It seems the island has a native population with limited tax liabilities.  We hired a local cab well maned by "Billy" a native to the island.  This resulted in a good tour of the North Shore of the island with narrative support from Billy.  We boarded the cab instructing Billy for a tour of the North Shore.  The tour started a bit slow with Billy not having a planned route or stops.  He agreed to stop along the way at our request and thus the tour was on.  We just jumped in and let her rip, go Billy.  At our second stop Billy pointed out the BALD front tires and stated he might need an alignment.  Yep, not much tread there.  Off we go to another stop and I notice his fuel gauge is near empty.  Hummm? 

But as we continued along our way the tour improved with many stops along the coast and one stop at the local "convenience" store for a pit stop.  We did notice the liquor store was adjacent, maybe 50 ft. from the local church.  Easy to resupply for communion.  WELL. 

 Part of our education between stops with Billy was the national health care system for Canada.  We asked Billy  how you receive health care and he did not comprehend. Just go to the hospital or doctor, show your id and receive care.  NOT A PROBLEM.  We mentioned we paid for health insurance and he asked "what is health Insurance"?  It was an eye opening experience.  This young man had no idea about health insurance never having to address this issue. We did inquire about local tax and the provincial & National sales tax is 13%. Ouch.   We can only assume part of the percentage is to pay for health care.  Stand by U.S. for the national sales tax to fund health care. 
"Pay now or pay later". 


 
The days journey continued to some picturesque locations, most good photos from Adm. Denise with the Big Camera.  We have to say the tour was enjoyable and educational.  Thanks to our new Newfoundland friend Billy.
It was suggested we visit Mudders for food and the bar next door.  Not having anything else to do, we slipped into the Bar and found they can order food from Mudders. Perfect.  We were introduced to a new french fry experience, being asked "would you like gravy with the fries?"  Brown gravy to dip your fries.  I must say it was good. 

Unfortunately we could not "screech In".  This is a local tradition for new friends in Newfoundland. Seems you must recipe a script about pledging to the cod, then kiss a cod fish and take a shot of "screech" rum.  Alas, the festivities were later that evening and we could not SCREECH IN. 

We were entertained by 3 locals arguing over hanging clean linen and her red shorts on the line to dry. Seems wood smoke can ad scent to your laundry.  We just love to mingle with the local folks and enjoy their humor.  The Newfoundlands have a dry, Irish whit and a strong accent.  We had discussions about the American Civil War, travel, whiskey, beer and the competency of the bar maids.  

The above pic is a common sign in Corner Brook.  Seems ice can be dangerous falling from roof tops.  Just a short mention of Corner Brook weather. While we where ashore we experienced sunny skies, changing to over cast, to light rain and back to sunny skies.  Billy mentioned the coldest temp he recalled was -20 deg. Fahrenheit .  WHEW!  He did explain just a few years ago the bay would freeze over with large trucks crossing the lake to save drive time.  Now, the bay does not freeze during the winter.  Warming all over.  In fact, global warming continued to be a point when our new friends learned we are from a coal mining area. They were very courteous but got their point across about use of fossil fuels. 

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Prince Edward Island
The cruise continues to Prince Edward Island to explore the world renown beauty of the island.  We are cruising at about 45 deg. latitude at the island, at about 17 knts.  with a slight chop to the seas.  Just enough movement to know you are at sea. 



 Our port is Charlottetown, PEI.  Having riden big buses for several ports, we opted to walk this time. The port of call is short at about 6 hrs so not much time to explore the island.  It is beautiful, well worth another trip to explore and enjoy the unique nature of the island.  We did manage to walk several miles along the waterfront exploring the architecture. The St. Dunstan's Basilica is quite dramatic beauty. We viewed the interior prior to mass and a special mass was being held for the ship and passengers. 
We continued our walking tour along the shore on such a warm, beautiful day.  Any number of victorian style homes are located near the center of the community, many built by sea captains, most having the widow's walk.  We did not tour the homes but a number are open for tours at a modest cost.  The community seems filled with public parks, walks and everyone is more than welcoming. 

The above home was built by a sea captain and after death, the home was used as a home for women. It remains a refuge for elderly women with a stunning view of the coast.


We had to sample some of the local food and beverage as is our custom in port.  Prince Edward Island is noted for the mussels.  We enjoyed steamed mussels and great seafood chowder at Peaks.  A waterfront view dining on the decks was very comfortable.  Oh yes, the local brew was very good. 




 The above picture is the view looking across the harbor to our little ship.  This is the view from another local park with walking trail along the harbor. 

The large dwelling above was a single family dwelling converted to 6 apartments with a stunning view.  I did not inquire as to the rent!  We ventured along the way back to our ship to sail at 4 pm.  Along the route we encountered this young man playing the pipes.  A great welcome back aboard our ship and a wonderful, but short, stay.  We can suggest a return via land to spend more time on the large island.


 

We did not venture on any planned excursions, however, any fans of Anne of Green Gables can tour the home from which the books were based and several shops in town feature the book and of course GIFTS.  I do think we could return to the island as part of a land based trip, seeing more and relaxing.  We cannot stress too much the good nature of the people and warm welcome we received.  They will share a pint with you and answer any questions about the area.  So get off the beaten path and plan a trip above the 45th latitude.  Tourist season is over at end of October but summer and fall are wonderful. 

HAPPY SAILING, on our way to Corner Brook, Newfoundland!


Port Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax Port and Excursion
Moving right along, the ship is cruising at 17 kts or about 20 mph around the peninsula to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Our stay in Saint John, New Brunswick was excellent but a bit tiring due to the bus driven excursion.  I have come to the conclusion that when the cruise includes a number of ports, bus riding on tours is not avoidable if you want to see the area. We may return via land in the future to spend more time exploring the area and coast.  We arrived in Halifax docking about 10 am. with planned sail time at 8 pm that evening. 

Halifax is a major city in Nova Scotia with an excellent port facility for all manner of ships and boats.  Cruising overnight included much fog again.  Sitting in the Schooner Bar we count not see the ships bow, yes this did include some good wine.  Once again, I wonder about the electronics on the ship and how well the captain can see to dock.  Of course a pilot boat came along side to deliver the local pilot to assist the ship. As we docked the rains continued, our first day of rain along the cruise.  Not

We had chosen the Big Pink Bus Hoponhopoff tour option.  This is good in that you purchase the ticket and can hop on and off the bus which passes your area every 30 min.  The operaters can actually herd cats, in that they can manage a number of passengers, speaking several languages, to board and enjoy the tours.  We had an insightful conversation with a couple from Chile.  The wife did not speak any English but the husband was near fluent and to make matters better is a wine broker for Chilean wines.  He did give us a short education on Chilean wines, encouraging our wine intake on a meal by meal basis. It remains a wonder how we can communicate without an interpreter in so many languages.  Just propose a toast and raise your glass and all will follow. 

Our first stop on the tour was the Maritime Museum along the waterfront of course.  Here is the best Titanic exhibition with many photos, messages and pictures. It seems Halifax was the nearest port when the Titanic called for help and ships were send to pick up passengers and bodies.  One interesting fact, at one point a ship captain had to stop embalming victims due to ship capacity and buried at sea many victims.  The captain stated he continued to embalm first class passengers with identification in that their survivors may inherit an estate. While the 2nd and 3rd class victims had less and were buried at sea.  Think about this when you book your cruise!!!!

I must say, the museum was excellent with many exhibits for steam and sail, along with two ships at dock you can tour.  The rain continued, However, we did attempt to view one ship but after challenging the rain, we discovered the ship was closed. Not to be discouraged, we took photos of the ship and a large yacht docked on the pier.  Just across the pier was a small sailboat which was dwarfed by the yacht.  This sailboat would reappear soon in our visit.


View Larger Map

After our museum tour we debated our next stop and decided is was time for lunch and a pint of the local beer.  One must enjoy the flavors of each port you know.  We asked about a good pub and were directed to the Old Triangle!  As our Irish luck would have it we found a wonderful bartender with all the local knowledge of brews, spirits and wines. He entertained us with stories of the area and samples of the local wine, vodka, whiskey and of course beer.  In the midst of this we tried the local Haddock and potatoes. We did not know the area is known for its potatoes (Irish remember) and made a wonderful vodka from the potatoes. 



While being entertained at the Old Triangle we met two interesting couples.  Denise visited with a couple who are retired Navy and have cruised the world. They are from Florida and continue their journeys after leasing their home to the returning children.  What a great idea. They told children who wanted to return home due to quiting school, etc, that they could move in but had to sign a lease.  We will keep this in mind for our experience with adult children.  The other couple sat next to me with quite a bit of news. It seems they own and sail the small sailboat docked adjacent to the SUPER YACHT we viewed at the museum.  They have sailed from Toronto on their way to Florida and Cuba.  While part of this is our planned adventures, sailing in the Maritime offers a different adventure and challenges.  Sailing at 45 deg. latitude includes colder weather, whales, shipping and new currents.  They explained the Labrador Current flowing south, which they will ride to gain speed. 

 They spent last winter on board the boat, iced in the Toronto Harbor and now live full time aboard. It seems the wife has helped deliver boats in several areas of the world and has much experience. They did explain how we could sail our trawler up the Hudson River to Quebec and follow their journey along the Maritime. This would expand our cruise to an area of the world not many private boats cruise.  That Great Loop cruise just gets larger!  See you at Prince Edward Island.

HAPPY SAILING,
aboard "Explorer of the Seas
Denise and Barry, Deckhands


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saint John, New Brunswick


Another day of touring is planned with a 6.5 hr. bus tour.  Whew!  We are learning the only way to view a port of any size is a bus tour with narrative guides. This does required
Hoping on and off many times during the tour.  However, if the guide is good, the journey is much more pleasant.  Today with have the top 10 locations in Saint John. Our day began
at 8 am. to board the BIG YELLOW BUS. 






Now I must say the bus is modern and equipted with restroom, air conditioning and all sorts of people from around the world. My French
i.e. Redneck was not spoken on this bus.  However, we did meet a couple from Kentucky who live and have boated on Kentucky Lake.  Small world. 


Our guide, Kelley is Irish by decent and moved to Saint John from L.A.  She was the highlight of the tour being ever present and full of whit.  One of the more interesting features of
Saint John is the reversing water falls or rapids.  We managed to view the rapids on the outgoing tide but returned near the end of the tour to witness the incoming time. Alas, we were too early
for the change. The tide changes in the Bay of Fundy up to 50 ft. each tide.  We did view several fishing boats laying in the mud waiting for the incoming tide.  Handling lines
here is an art.  The Bay of Fundy is between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and has been a major ship building area since the 1700's.  We did not meet any of the first sea captains
but most are in "retirement" and now work on the Royal Caribbean cruise lines. We are now cruising at 44 Deg. North latitude, being the furthers north of our experience.  Fog has followed us most of the
cruise but seas are pleasant with a little roll. 

One of our stops was an Irish Pub for a free pint of Moose Head beer along with some "Irish" songs, i.e. John Denver and such.  Great little pub and would have enjoyed additional pints
except for the moving of the BIG YELLOW BUS.  After several short stops to view architectural features of the community we proceeded to St. Martin beach area for some of the world
famous sea food chowder.  Seems this restaurant makes over 5,000 gallons of chowder annually feeding thousands. The location is adjacent to the tidal caves on Bay of Fundy. You can see
the force of the tides by the large size of the caves. You do not want to be inside a cave when the tide is in coming for the force of the water will not permit your exist and they
may find your body on the out going tide.  We walked the rocky beach enjoying a new awareness of the changes in the world we do not see from Kentucky.  Now, BACK ON THE BUS.

The views are stunning. The fog lifted after our tour start and permitted good views of the harbor, our ship and the working area of the Bay.  Lobster fishing is predominant here along with
shad, clams and some mussels.  Lobster fishing has 2 seasons, one of which is December to March with very cold and windy conditions. The median high during the winter is 25 Deg. Fahrenheit. 
Colder than a well digger's rear.  Seems the local think this is comfortable along with the 6 ft. of snow annually.  Water Temp is near 45 deg. near constant during the year, so no swimming
along the beach.  Some do use jet skis but wet suits are mandatory.  

We would recommend Saint John for a cruise or just fly in to enjoy this part of Canada.  We will continue our cruise further North to Halifax and later to Corner Brook. Corner Brook is the
town located further north than any other in North America. I do not have the latitude as yet but will post upon our arrival.  No icebergs as yet but we will be visiting the Titanic Museum in
Halifax. 

HAPPY SAILING,
Aboard Explorer of the Seas
Adm. Denise and Capt. Barry
"no deckhands" currently serving a sentence in a kennel.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

CRUISE DAY 2, PORTLAND, MAINE

Our first port on the New England-Maritime cruise found us in Portland, ME.  Like most cruises we have enjoyed rest time, party time, adult beverages and much food.  We are aboard the Explorer of the Seas with veranda cabin and great service. 

Sunset was in route to Portland, ME via the north Atlantic with a gently rolling sea and spectacular view.  The above pic is the view from our veranda prior to the formal dinner.  I must say, I do clean up well.  Of course, Denise is always beautiful and needs limited prep time

We scheduled an excursion aboard the 1912 schooner Mendeena, 82 ft. wooden schooner with crew of 3 and supervised by the Adm. Denise.  The quiet harbor offered smooth sailing with gentle swells and good air. The boat is a marvel with mahogany britework and fir masts.  I did not get to sail her but spent my time in the cockpit and had many questions of her Captain.  The Captain has a good gig here in summer and after October moves to St. Thomas for sailing in the Caribbean. Not a bad schedule.


Our bus tour took us to several monuments and covered much history of Portland.  However, the highlight is the Portland Head Light.  Seems a ship wrecked and sank here in 1886, the Annie McGuire, on Christmas Eve. All hands were saved but rumors are the Captain sank the ship to avoid unpaid costs.  Who knows, he may have been in our tour group! 

We depart in 2 hours for an evening sail up to Bar Harbor, ME. for more explorations tomorrow.  Oops, I almost forgot, we did enjoy our first lobster rolls after touring today.  It did taste a bit fishy?  It seems they are to be found in every street vendor, restaurant and nursing home in the area.

Sail away with use to Bar Harbor, ME and the martimes.

Happy sailing,
Adm. Denise,Capt. Barry and no deckhands this trip.