The Getty Center

In one hour we will be in Sydney.  It has not been a bad flight although it was delayed by two hours and we walked from one end of LAX to the other when our departure lounge was altered.  We both bought soft neck pillow which made sleeping a lot more comfortable.  We also managed to score three seats between us which gave us more room to move.

Leanne and Gary picked us up at 10.00am and drove us to the Getty Center.  It is high on a hill and is surrounded by stunning gardens and views over Los Angeles.

We decided to do a guided tour of the highlights of the museum.  We were given headsets so we could hear the group leader easily.  By asking lots of questions she made us think about various aspects of the art work we were observing.The first painting we saw was Van Gogh’s Irises which is a permanent exhibit which never goes on tour.  Painted in the sanitarium in St Remy it brought back memories of our holiday last year.  It had belonged to Alan Bond but he lost it when he was made bankrupt.IMG_7570

Leanne and Gary were keen to see a photographic exhibition gifted to the Getty by Robert Mapplethorpe and Samuel Wagstaff.  Mapplethorpe was a visual artist who influenced his wealthy lover and art collector to develop an interest in photographs. His photographs of male and female nudes are impressive and confronting.

One picture in the Wagstaff collection depicting three cats flying, water thrown from a bucket, an easel, a footstool and Salvadore Dalí all seemingly suspended in mid-air had me wondering if any cats had come to harm in the making of the photograph.

Dali Atomicus (Phillipe Halsman) no copyright .  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington DC 20540 USA

The garden itself is a sculpture but because of the drought the fountains and water features are not operating.  The views over Los Angeles, expressways, a vineyard (only one in LA and belonging to Rupert Murdoch) on this very hot day were interesting.

Another exhibit we visited was the cave temples of Dunhuang from Western China on the Silk Road.  We were given 3-D glasses and took a virtual reality tour of an actual cave filled with life sized sculptures of Buddha and his entourage.IMG_7588

We all ate healthy salads for lunch before heading back for more viewing. In order to avoid the worst of the traffic we drove soon after to Leanne and Gary’s house in Manhattan Beach.  It is an interesting house on three levels with a deck on top.  It was a short walk to the beach so we took the dog and ourselves for some exercise.  The beach is wide with a bike path running along the edge and some fascinating houses overlooking the water including the house from Beverley Hills 90210 (if anyone can remember back that far).  There was also the house used in Tequila Sunrise with Mel Gibson. 

Finally we said farewell as we were dropped off at the airport. Five weeks in North America has come to an end.  To use a quote from Henry David Thoreau.

It’s not what you look at that matters.  It’s what you see.

We saw a lot, most definitely missed a lot, but had a great time exploring North America and relating to the people who live there.  Maybe in the next couple of years we will come back to see some more.

Summer in Santa Monica

Sunday, 19th and Monday 20th June

Summer is upon us and what a wonderful day it was. However I must go back to Boston and our leisurely breakfast at the Hampton Inn followed by our shuttle to Logan Airport. All went smoothly until our departure time changed from 1.15pm to 2.30pm. We were a little concerned but then it changed to 2.45pm. If it kept getting later we would miss our connecting flight from New York to Los Angeles! Finally we took off and we were looking out the window at the amazing coastline south of Boston.

Fortunately we made it to JFK but then had to change from terminal 8 to 7. Would you believe that no one mentioned we had to take the air train when we asked for directions. It took a while to discover that important information. The five hour flight to LA was just about right. I watched Jaws just to see if Martha’s Vineyard looked the same. It was great to see it again with the new knowledge of where it was set.

People complain about airline food but I can tell you I really enjoyed the salmon with mashed potato and beans, accompanied by a sparkling white. We had two seats on their own three rows from the back of the plane but it was actually quite roomy and we had good views of America down below. The mountains below us as we approached Los Angeles were spectacular and we could also see the canyons in the Grand Canyon vicinity.

We were instructed to use a guide at the airport to find our luggage. Only thirty of us were staying in LA as the rest were flying on to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. As we were the last of the plane the guide had gone but good old Qantas found us another one who escorted us an incredibly long distance to a lift where we joined the flight crew. We had a chat with the pilot about the flight and we all agreed a five hours was perfect. Time for a meal, a drink and a movie and you were there.

It was after 9.00 pm by now. We found a taxi and set off in LA traffic. $53 later we arrived at the Channel Road Inn, a 1910 grand house with sea glimpses on the edge of Santa Monica. Our room (the economy one) was on the third floor and though small it had a large bathroom and was nicely decorated.

Next morning we had a scrumptious breakfast. There was not a huge variety but it was all fresh and tasty. We were asked by Heather what we wanted to do for the day so I enquired about the bikes. They are beach bikes with wide handlebars, no gears and back pedal brakes. However they were fine for the flat bike path which runs along the Palisades, Santa Monica And Venice Beach. Getting out early was a good idea as there were few people on the track and it was cooler. We passed the Santa Monica Pier but were content to look from afar. As expected there were a number of homeless people camped in makeshift tents between Santa Monica and Venice. We locked the bikes and walked out on the Venice Pier which gave us good views back along the beach. People were fishing but there were warning signs that certain fish were contaminated and not to eat them.

It was midday when we finally returned the bikes. The Inn is a long walk from downtown so we caught a Big Blue Bus. A mall runs through several blocks so I took pictures for Wollongong Council to give them ideas.

imageWe returned around 5 o’clock, just in time for Happy Hour. There was Chardonnay, cheesecake, meat, dips, biscuits, vegetables. If you really wanted to you could make it dinner!!!! We decided on a nearby Mexican where we tried their margaritas and genuine Mexican food. We thought it should be the real thing in Santa Monica. It was fine until I bit into some hidden chilli and consumed two glasses of iced water afterwards.

Tomorrow we are being picked up by friends of Bob and Nancy around 10 o’clock and dropped off at the airport in the evening. When I post the next blog we will probably be home.

Homeward Bound

Friday, 17th June and Saturday 18th June

There is a feeling in the air of “home” as we start the long journey back. Yesterday we drove to Hyannis after a visit to the local laundrette.image The laundrette was near a boatyard so John could wander and dream while the clothes washed and dried. The road to Hyannis was crowded and not particularly scenic. The town itself made us pleased we were staying in Falmouth and after a very ordinary coffee we drove back towards home looking for a rest stop with a view of the water to eat our picnic lunch.


The Centreville Country Store gave you the option of letting the world know your political leanings.

The road through Centreville to Craigville Beach looked promising but there was nowhere to park. Every street was no parking except for a $20 parking lot. Why pay $20 when we are staying near a perfectly good beach in a beautiful, character filled house? So we went back to the Beach Breeze Inn and had our picnic lunch by the pool with a view of the sea.

It was back to our favourite eating place, the Quarterdeck, for dinner. The town was warming up for the weekend, with live music and dancing in the marquees. We watched the experts for a while before walking home in the moonlight.

Another knock on the door from the manager at 10.30 pm had us handing over the keys to the car as the horn was going off again. Walter promised to stop it if it recurred so we could sleep in peace. What a nice man. We considered contacting Avis but what could they do? Most of the time there was no problem.

This morning we farewelled Walter, who assured us he will never forget us or our car. Before heading back to Boston we explored Woods Hole where the car ferry leaves for Martha’s Vineyard. It is a very picturesque little town surrounded by water. We tried a double shot latte in Coffee Obsession which was drinkable. Just.

The run to Logan airport was trouble free, with our Tom Tom finding its way through the new tunnel system easily. We decided to drop off the luggage at the Hampton Inn, get some fuel and then drive to the Avis drop off area. The signposting was excellent and American drivers are very courteous, at least in this part of the world. They stop and let you pull out and no one blasts their horn or gets angry.

Things just got better and better as we solved tomorrow’s major problem. At the American Airlines desk John asked if we could fly to JFK on a later flight. No problems. We are now leaving at 1.30 pm which means we won’t have to kill seven hours at the airport in New York. What a relief. We could use the gym or the heated pool at our hotel instead of hanging around an airport.

The Hampton Inn is situated in Revere, an industrial area about three miles from the airport. When we asked about somewhere to eat, a menu for an Italian restaurant was thrust in our hands and we were told to jump on the shuttle. Some time later, after a tour of the airport, we arrived at Jeveli’s, a very traditional restaurant which produced very good, authentic food. We shared an antipasti plate and had mussels (John) and chicken and artichoke with penne pasta (me). There was far too much food but we were combining lunch and dinner. The shuttle picked us up outside the door and took us back to our hotel.

The Beach Breeze Inn

Tuesday, 14th June

I’m sitting in the courtyard of 15 Monument Street with a selection of snacks and an orange juice. John is bringing a glass of wine as soon as he catches up on the latest news on TV. It is warm with a light breeze at the end of a mainly successful day. We had a bit of a slow start because our trolley bus failed to appear at the Constitution Museum. Other buses, red, orange and green, green and yellow turned up but not our silver one. So we walked across the bridge. This was an eye opener as the walking path actually zig zags across the locks and through a park. imageWe waited another 15 minutes at the next stop but still no trolley so we set off on the Freedom Trail looking at graveyards, churches and Paul Revere’s house. (Didn’t go in because John said he already knew what it would look like). Paul Revere was a very talented man who was a silversmith, artist, false teeth maker, spy and producer of 18 children with two wives. What he did not do was complete the ride he is famous for. He was captured by the British and one of his companions, a Dr Prescott went on to warn the militia in Concord.

Our aim was to find the perfect flat white in Boston. I had read a review of Pavement in Newbury Street which featured photos of their flat whites so thought that a worthy object for our endeavours today. We finally picked up a silver trolley which took us to the Boston Common. Here we watched people in paddle boats with a huge swan in the front, inspired by the opera Lohengrin in 1877. We were amused by the preschoolers all tied together walking around the park.image

On to Newbury Street and the Back Bay area. The street is lined with tall brownstone buildings, the lower levels used for coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries and all sorts of interesting clothing and related shops.

Just as we were about to give up we found Pavement and the coffee and muffin lived up to the recommendations. Back we walked past Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library where Chinese women were protesting over prisoners being used for organ donations (against their will). We stopped for a chat.image



We decided to buy lunch in Quincy Market and chose lobster rolls from the Boston and Maine Fish Company. The lobster was very good. Maybe the rolls could have been better.image
Our two day pass on the trolley also entitled us to a harbour cruise so we opted to take this as the weather was perfect and John’s foot needed a rest. It was very interesting as it followed the shoreline closely on the starboard side and gave us a new perspective.


We bought some food to cook for dinner and enjoyed the sun in the courtyard until John reminded me about the seating on the flight home. I had tried to prebook seats for the LA to Sydney leg on the Qantas site but ended up with seats in two different rows. I could do nothing to change them so had to ring an 1800 number. Now it’s all sorted and we can spend the 15 hour flight in misery together.

Wednesday, 15th June

Some days everything goes right … until the end. The taxi took us to the airport car hire centre Avis was very efficient and soon John was driving south in our red Ford Focus through the tunnel out of Boston. Our sat nav worked beautifully but I didn’t put it on until we were out of the tunnels as it is over three years old and could have caused confusion. The weather was glorious and it was lovely to be out in the countryside again.

imageimageFalmouth was larger than expected. It is full of picture postcard Cape Cod houses. It is unusual to see an ugly one. We were expecting a sleepy seaside village but the traffic is thick. Our Beach Breeze Inn is a short walk from the beach. It is not like a Wollongong beach but then few places in the world are.  The manager raised the Australian flag (to half mast) shortly after we arrived.  We have been made to feel very welcome.image

I almost matched John’s passport fiasco but losing my Qantas prepaid card. I found out eventually that I had left it in the ATM when I took out the balance so it was not a disaster to lose it. The bank is considering whether to cut it up or give it back to me. Hopefully I will get it back tomorrow.
Dinner tonight was at the Quarterdeck. We had a carafe of red wine and a seafood pie (John) and prawns and scallops with linguine (me). There was no room for dessert but back at the inn the s’mores were being cooked by the pool. Having not tried them before I found I had to toast a marshmallow on the fire and place it between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate. I don’t think I will have it again but we had a pleasant conversation with some families at the fireside.

We were both asleep when we heard knocking on our door. One of the managers told us our car horn was going off for no reason. After a lot of messing around the problem was still not solved.

Thursday, 16th June

imageJohn fixed the car problem this morning. Apparently the hood was not completely shut so that set off the horn at irregular intervals. 10.30 saw us on the Island Queen heading for Martha’s Vineyard.imageimageimageimage

We found that the island is famous for a number of things. It is the setting for the movie “Jaws” and on our bus trip we saw the lagoon where Jaws came under the bridge and “had a snack”. It is also where Edward Kennedy drove off the bridge in Chappaquiddick resulting in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. We watched the car ferry travel across to Chappaquiddick from Edgartown. Now that was a discovery. After wandering around Oak Bluffs where the boat docked, having coffee and brunch, we debated whether to hire bikes, catch a local bus or catch a ferry back to Falmouth. imageWe decided on a day ticket on the local bus which led us to Edgartown. It is supposed to be the most beautiful town in New England and I can quite well believe it. If only I could take one of those houses home! Everything is picture postcard perfect, from the retired captain’s houses to the grand churches and festive post office, all built from weatherboard.

Back at the Inn John went for a swim in the pool and I discovered that my swimmers were missing. I must have left them on the ship. I am not doing very well today. I drank a glass of wine by the pool before we drove up the street to La Cucina. John had prawns and scallops with angel hair pasta. I had lobster filled ravioli with a scallop sauce. Before the main course we shared a salad. It was so huge we had half put in a doggy bag for tomorrow’s lunch. When we went to take the remains of the wine home we were told that to do that it must be recorked, wrapped in brown paper and have the bill attached. I suppose that is to stop us taking a swig as we walk down the street.

Lost in Massachusetts

Saturday, 11th June

We are now happily settled into our red brick terrace in Monument Avenue, Charlestown. It is spacious and elegantly decorated with a large bedroom, lounge with flat screen TV, cosy eat in kitchen and adequate bathroom. There is even an outside terrace should the weather warm up.


This morning we wandered around the top decks of the ship to get a good view of Boston. I had elected to debark at 9.15 so we could have a leisurely breakfast. Our colour and number was called and we were soon off the ship. Our luggage pickup was easy but the queue for taxis was the worst part. However we chatted to people around us until our turn came and then drove under the city through tunnels until we reached the river which we crossed. Finally in Charlestown we were dropped off and greeted at the door by the host, Cindy. She showed us around and informed that there would be a concert tonight at the Bunker Memorial and a parade past the house tomorrow around one. We could sit on the stoop and watch it.

At first we enjoyed using the Internet to download papers and mail. Then we walked a couple of blocks to buy groceries and wine. It was quite enjoyable to prepare our own food again.

After a rest we walked up to Bunker Hill where a band was playing New York New York and families with young children were enjoying the mild evening.

Sunday, 12th June

We didn’t venture too far away because we wanted to see the parade. The morning was spent at the Constitution Museum and shipyard. We learnt all about Old Ironsides which was built in 1797. To think that it was still in the water until recently is incredible. It is currently in dry dock undergoing major repair work but is still open to the public. The museum is very well done and has a lot if interactive activities which would interest older children. Both museum and ship are free with an option to make a donation. More of that later.

The various bands and marching groups were milling about getting ready for the parade so their was an air of excitement. We decided to follow the recommendation of a young naval officer and go to Sorrelle’s for coffee. Once we asked for a macchiato with a bit more milk they were happy to oblige. The rest of the day was spent on the stoop waiting for and watching the parade. The street was lined with chairs and families, dogs, a lemonade stand and lots of red, white and blue bunting. The Americans know how to do a parade. Every time we thought it had finished along came a Scottish band or a truckload of musicians or a group of penny farthings.imageimage

Eventually we had a late lunch followed by a shopping expedition to buy food for dinner and a six pack of beer. John was in the kitchen about to take a mouthful of beer when he suddenly realised his passport was missing.

We thought about the places he could have lost it and retraced our steps for the day with no luck. It wasn’t far to the nearest police station so we called in hoping that a passport had been handed in. If it went missing when John made the donation to the museum then we have a problem as it is closed tomorrow. Our one hope is the Sorrelle cafe which we will visit at 7 am tomorrow.

So what happens if we don’t find it? At this stage it looks like a phone call to the Australian Embassy in Washington and maybe we will even have to fly there on Tuesday.

John is bearing up. After all losing a passport is insignificant compared to what happened in Orlando.

Monday, 13th June

We were up early after a restless night thinking about what lay ahead. Shortly after 7.00 am we walked down to Sorrelle’s Coffee Shop. We thought we would continue to the shipyard in the hope that someone would be there even though it was closed on Monday. John walked into the coffee shop and asked about his lost passport. The woman behind the counter reached up to a shelf and there it was. John’s passport! It is a sight that we both will never forget. John wanted to kiss all the women behind the counter but they were happy to just hand over the passport and make us a coffee. John gave a good tip and then went over and tipped some more. We couldn’t believe our luck.

The other problem was the lens had fallen out of John’s glasses. We decided to get a trolley bus ticket which would give us unlimited hop on hop off transport around Boston. We bought a two day ticket at the Constitution Museum stop and set off in a breezy trolley and a wisecracking driver to Stop 6, Old State House.

Faneuil Hall

imageThe market was mainly a food hall including a bar called “Cheers” with cardboard cutouts of the characters from the TV show that you could pose with. It is not the original Cheers (the Bull and Finch) but is an “authentic replica”. The real Cheers is on Beacon Hill as our second wisecracking driver told us after we hopped back on. We stayed on the trolley bus and passed the Holocaust Memorial (tall glass rectangular prisms), Boston Common, Beacon Hill where many famous people lived including Louisa May Alcock (Little Women etc), Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Henry David Thoreau and Henry James. A quote I keep hearing is “In Boston they ask, how much does he know? In New York, how much is he worth? In Philadelphia, who were his parents?” Written by none other than Mark Twain.

We continued on past the Boston Tea Party Museum and Paul Revere’s House, staying on board until we got back to Constitution Museum. After all we have another day tomorrow. We had lunch back at the apartment before taking our washing to the laundromat in our street. Slight problem. They had just pulled all the machines out. So we googled another one which was over the other side of the Bunker Hill memorial. The area was more rundown than where we are living and we got to know it pretty well while we waited for our washing.

imageBack home we celebrated John’s good luck with a glass of champagne. Dinner was chicken cacciatore with veg cooked in our own kitchen. The news was full of Orlando and the Trump versus Clinton reactions. One good thing CNN is doing is a fact check on everything they say. That is something the ABC in Australia is/was doing but I heard it was to be discontinued.

Halifax and Bar Harbour

Thursday, 9th June

A rare sight this morning. The sun streamed in through our window promising a better day than yesterday. Although there was a fair bit of cloud during the day and the wind was strong, there is nothing like a bit of blue sky to brighten things up.

We had breakfast in our room and then tried to get ashore but for the first time found the gangway blocked with other people with a the same idea. We were soon ashore and decided to walk along the waterfront which looks like it has recently been upgraded with a boardwalk and lots of cafes. We watched a French square rigger coming in to dock after a voyage across the Atlantic.image

The Maritime Museum was well worth a visit as it had not only artifacts from the Titanic but it told of the immense destruction of the Halifax explosion in 1917. Two boats collided in the harbour, one loaded with explosives. People came down to watch the event and then there was an almighty explosion. Two thousand people died. Much of Halifax was destroyed. This was only five years after the dead from the Titanic were brought to Halifax for identification and burial. There were a few remains from the ship. An original deckchair brought to mind the saying, “moving the deck chairs on the Titanic”.


Looking for coffee we ventured into Starbucks. They offered flat whites but I knew they served them in cups the size of soup bowls so managed to get “child size” which is smaller than small. There was still too much milk but it was drinkable. Thus fortified we climbed the hill to the Cidadel. Met by pipers and entertained by cannon explosions, we spent an hour admiring the view and exploring the displays. Down the hill again and we returned to the ship after catching some wi fi in the terminal.

I did a load of washing, watched and listened to a talk by Jeremy about Bar Harbour and Boston and dressed for dinner as it was another gala night. We had a sparkling French white as we watched the sunset before our dinner at the Pinnacle at 8.30 pm. It started well with an amous bouch of salmon in a spoon but I am afraid the rest was more quantity than quality. Probably ordering seafood on a ship is a bad idea as my prawns and crab had obviously been frozen and lacked flavour as a result. The Bomb Alaska was disappointing as the meringue was runny. The wine service was slow. The only good thing was that there were plenty of vegetables. The food and service in the free dining room was actually better.

We caught the end of a singing and dancing show at the theatre, had coffee and a macaroon at the Explorers Cafe and still managed to sleep well.

Friday, 10th June

Our bags are packed and in the hallway, ready to be unloaded after arrival in Boston tomorrow morning. We will be “debarking” at 9.15 am and catching a taxi to Charlestown.

Today was the first and only day where we went ashore by tender. First the people booked into Holland America excursions went ashore. Next were the people on deck 10, 9,8,7,6,5 and finally us on 4. However before we could do that we had to go through American immigration which took about half an hour of queuing through the casino and the Explorer’s Cafe. Once we cleared immigration we were given our tickets to board the tender but had to wait another 45 minutes in the theatre before we were called.

imageimageimageimage.Bar Harbour is a resort town. It once equalled Cape Cod as a summer haven for the rich and famous but a fire in the 1940s destroyed many of the elegant houses and saw a downturn in its fortunes. The bar in its name us actually a sandbank out to an island which is only visible at low tide. If you are not careful you can be trapped by the tide.

The town is very pretty but totally geared up for tourists with every shop either selling souvenirs or food. We had coffee in a shop advertising espresso and used the free wi fi to check on emails, download the Mercury and the Herald and upload some of the blog.

After wandering around town some more we caught a boat back to the ship and had a late lunch. As the weather was milder than usual we explored the ship and found some decks we had not been on before. We had a great view of the surrounding harbour and islands and watched as the ship picked its way carefully between lobster traps. We were happy to return to our regular table in the dining room and enjoyed our meal and a chat to a Tennessee couple at the next table. The staff sang an Indonesian song of farewell and paraded through the dining room. We sadly said salamat malam to the food and wine waiters we had come to know well and went back to our room to pack. Oh well, another part of the holiday over! It is going to be hard to go back to shopping for food, cooking and making my own bed.

Sydney, Nova Scotia

Wednesday, 8th June

We must be thankful for yesterday. As Captain O’ Driscoll said, if you want want sun, go to Sydney, Australia. We were also told by Jeremy, the tour director, that Sydney, Nova Scotia was the best port of call to do an excursion out of as there wasn’t much to see. However we were interested in seeing the city named three years before our Australian city after the same Lord Sydney. We also knew it had a steelworks until 1999 so wondered how they had survived its closure. A walk up and down Charlotte Street in the misty rain made us aware of Sydney’s greatest attribute. The people were so friendly to strangers. We chatted to a local man who wanted to know if we were off the ship. The woman in the drug store wanted to know all about Sydney Australia, the lady walking her dog in the park was keen to show us the Open Hearth Park which has replaced the defunct steelworks. imageWe were lined up for coffee out the door in the rain at Tim Horton’s when a woman told us there was a better place around the corner called Doktor Luke’s. A man in a car park booth decided to walk with us to the coffee shop when we couldn’t find it. The coffee was a only a fair attempt at a flat white but the atmosphere was 10 out of 10.image

Two historic houses, Cossitt House Museum and Jost Heritage House Museum were open and for a small fee we experienced life in the 18th and 19th Century. The visit to the second house coincided with a walking tour group which meant it was very crowded but the roaring log fire was welcome and the guide, a witty and entertaining woman who hugged us all, made the visit very worthwhile.

The rain was by now getting quite heavy so we made our way back to the ship, eating a late lunch of tacos beside the pool. The menu for dinner is featuring more local seafood with lobster and mussels in the soups and pies. Needless to say that is what we ordered but the local Maine dessert called Whoopie Pie was not great.

The entertainment tonight was a comedian called Jeff Burghart who was quite funny. He did very good impressions of Jack Nicholson and Tom Jones. At 11 o’clock the Indonesian crew who are 50% of the ship’s crew, put on a performance which was a mix of traditional and modern. Most of it was hilarious and was a good way to end the night.

Cruising the St Lawrence Seaway

I’m having trouble transferring John’s photos using weak wi fi and forgot the cable so will have to wait until Boston to post me and better photos.  I’m doing this in a cafe in Bar Harbour Maine.  Boston tomorrow.

Sunday, 5th June

After all the wonderful weather we have had it was a shock to wake up to winter. At 6.30 breakfast arrived in our room after which we ventured ashore in warm clothes. The Old Town of Quebec is only a short walk from the ship so we walked out with little idea of where to go except to find the funicular which would take us to the top of the hill.

imageQuebec is at the meeting of two rivers, St Lawrence and St Charles. A long row of picturesque buildings on the lower level have become elegant shops designed to appeal to tourists. This is called the rue du Petit-Champlain and was voted Canada’s most beautiful pedestrian street in 2014. The funicular took us up to the magnificent Chateau Frontenac which looks like a fairytale castle and is the most photographed hotel in the world. In front is a boardwalk called Dufferin Terrace which meets up with an intact city wall encircling the city. Our next stop was the visitor information centre where we asked for an Internet cafe which had espresso coffee. imageWe were directed to Smith’s where we escaped from the cold wind and downloaded our emails. The coffee was excellent. We have learned to ask for a double shot of espresso with some steamed milk and it usually turns out something like a flat white. Back to the information centre and we asked for advice on museums. They seemed like the best option on this cold day. We crossed the road to the Musee du Fort where we were joined by a group of teenage schoolchildren who had to complete a quiz in French at the end of the show. At the front of the theatre was a replica of Quebec in 1750. The sound and light show showed the successive invasions by British and Americans and the effect on this French/English city. It was very well done but we didn’t stay to answer the French quiz.

As we walked down the hill we saw another history museum which I planned to visit after lunch. Back on the ship I felt unwell with headache and sore throat so slept for a couple of hours. Fortunately I recovered enough to enjoy a glass of prosecco and dinner in the Rotterdam dining room. The entertainment this evening was a comedian and ventriloquist who was very funny. I particularly like his comment about his dummy. It is not PC, he said, to call them dummies. They must be referred to as Mannequin Americans.

Monday, 6th June


Today was spent on the ship but that was welcome as the weather is awful. At least it is comfortable and warm except for the decks and the pool so no Aqua jogging for us. There were a few people in the hot tubs but we weren’t tempted.

As the clocks were moved forward to Nova Scotia time and we got up late we found we had ten minutes before breakfast finished in the Lido. We made it however and then investigated the laundry rooms. On level 5 there was a queue out the door but on level 6 there were plenty of machines free. We needed 8 quarters for the washer and 4 for the dryer so now we have drawers full of clean clothes which should last us until Boston.

The Explorers Lounge (where the library is situated) does espresso coffee so we ordered our double shot with some steamed milk and found it very good. It is also a reasonable price (before tax, gratuity etc). After lunch at the Lido which was very crowded, probably because of the weather, we repaired to the Showroom on level 7 where the location guide Jeremy (Australian), provided an overview of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and what to expect at the ports of Charlottetown, Sydney and Halifax. We haven’t booked any ship excursions so I am hoping we can visit some Anne of Green Gables sites as they about 35 kilometres from Charlottetown.

imageIt was gala night tonight so we donned the formal gear. John wore his dark blue suit with a tie and I wore my dark blue dress. Somehow I lost a shoe in Niagara or Toronto but at least I had some black sandals which were not too bad. Just as well I didn’t have to wear my joggers! Very few men wore tuxedos but most had a jacket and tie. Women can wear anything and get away with it. There were a few in long evening gowns.

We listened to Adagio in the Explorer’s lounge sipping a glass of prosecco. The group consists of two women who play violin and piano. They played some Grieg and Rossini with great skill. It was very pleasant looking out across the rolling sea.

An extra effort was made with dinner tonight. The chairs were covered with white material and the menu was more extensive, with four courses instead of three. I think the food was better too. We chatted to a couple from Boston who gave us plenty of ideas for things to do when we arrive.

We read for a while after dinner in the Explorer’s Room. At 10.00 pm it was Showtime with the Veendam Singers and Dancers singing British hits from the 1960s, 70s, 80s and beyond. They were very good and rounded off a perfectly enjoyable day.

Tuesday, 7th June

It was so foggy that the ship could not pass under the Confederation Bridge and had to take the long way round Prince Edward Island. We woke to a grey sky as we tied up at Confederation Landing. Not booking a tour has its disadvantages. It was easy enough to find a driver outside the terminal but not so easy to find two others to share with. We asked two women but they were intent on getting to the Information Centre and seeing what they recommended. Finally a man called Steve approached us and said he had been told by the driver that we were looking for someone to share the cost of $210 for 3 and a half hours. He had to go and find his wife on the ship so we waited some more. imageEventually we were seated in a six seater van with a driver/ guide named Mickey. He was originally from Iran but came with his father to PEI after the revolution in Iran. As well as being a guide and driver he runs a B&B near the Anne of Green Gables house.

imageAlthough I would have liked to visit LM Montgomery’s museum and family farm, the fact that the New Orlean’s couple we were with were not fans of Anne meant that we followed the scenic route through New Glasgow, stopped at a pottery shop and a goat farm, saw the scenic red cliffs and beaches on the North Shore and finally drove into the Green Gables farmhouse. Although it is very touristy I was pleased to know that it was the original house belonging to a brother and sister related to LM Montgomery on which she based the setting for the book. The rooms have been furnished as they are described in the book. There was Matthew’s room downstairs. There was Anne’s little room with its window looking out over a blossoming crab apple tree.


Something I will be always grateful for was the gradual disappearance of cloud cover so that by the time we reached Green Gables the sky was a brilliant blue and the area looked every bit as picturesque as I had imagined.

imageAfter the tour we wandered around Charlottetown, choosing the Row House Lobster Co for a lobster roll (John) and seafood chowder (me). Did you know Prince Edward Island supplies nearly all the potatoes for McDonalds in America? The lobsters are also cheap at around $7 a pound but John was disappointed in his roll and is still searching for perfection.

imageIt was such a lovely day we stayed around the port for a while looking in the souvenir shops and admiring the scenery. Finally we were back on board but departure was delayed by an hour while minor repairs were done to the ship. Some sceptics we met said this was a euphemism for lost people who had not returned to the ship. Rather than go without them they delay departure until they are found.

The meals have been steadily improving and we have settled into a pleasant routine. Before dinner we had a G&T in the Ocean Bar as we listened to The Neptunes play and watched a few couples expertly dancing to the music. After dinner the Halifax Citadel Bagpipers encouraged us to visit them when in their port and played a few rousing tunes.

Off in the Veendam

Saturday, 4th June

It has been a big day. We revisited Place Jacque Cartier and chose a pretty flower bedecked restaurant for breakfast. The prices seemed reasonable so we ordered pancakes with strawberries, cereal with yoghurt and tea for me and coffee for John. The menu said espresso but I warned John! He didn’t listen and even ordered a double shot. It was basically a double shot of percolated coffee if that is possible and they charged six dollars for it. imageIt took a while to get over the bill but we found some beautiful and interesting buildings including a large market called Marche Bonsecours and the Musee Marguerite-Bourgeoys. They weren’t open so early in the morning but the buildings were impressive. We then crossed the railway line to the waterfront area which is made up of a big top housing Circe de Soleil, children’s parks, zip lining, bicycle and segway hire, rows of containers operating as stalls and a huge ship on dry land designed for climbing on. Grace and Harry would have a ball.

imageA bit before 11 am we checked out and wheeled our bags across the railway line to the pick up point. Soon we were in a mini bus on our way to the ship. In about half an hour we had filled in our papers, had our photos taken and were crossing the gangplank.

imageOur room took a bit of getting used to as on our last two cruises we have had balconies. This time I opted for a window only (another economy measure) and we weren’t sure if I had made the right decision. However we reversed the pillows on the bed and could lie down watching the world go by so are pretty happy now. So far the shore on either side is not too far away and we can see typical picturesque Canadian houses sliding by. At least we don’t have to close the curtains unless we are in port.

It was 12 o’clock and the Lido Bar was open so we found our way there and had lunch. Next was a tour of the ship by Joel whose accent led us to believe he was from the North Island of New Zealand and we were right. Originally we weren’t going to book a fancy restaurant but decided to try the Pinnacle on the second formal night. It is $39 extra a head so had better be good. The drinks package at $45 a head a day plus tax seemed a bit steep as I don’t think we could drink that much so we will just pay as we go.

The Mandatory Passenger Safety Emergency Drill was next. We had to report to Level 6 under Lifeboat 3. This took a long time as a roll had to be called and missing people chased up. Eventually we were freed and it was nearly time to leave. On Deck 11 they were offering $10 cocktails (keep the glass) but we opted for a prosecco beside the pool. There were lots of children here but I have become more tolerant now I am a grandmother and besides, it’s a relief to see someone who isn’t 103. The ship moved away from the wharf and began its voyage to Quebec, where it will arrive at 4.00 am. We can go ashore at 7 so have ordered room service for 6.30 am.

We had booked dinner for 7.00 pm and were seated on our own at a table for 2. The people at the next table were Japanese so we talked for a while and found we had many things in common. The main difference was their ability to speak English far surpassed our ability to speak Japanese. John ordered a bottle of Grant Burg Shiraz which we planned would last two nights. It seems to have about a third left so looks like a lean night tomorrow. The meal was quite OK and better than anything we have eaten recently on land.

imageThe entertainment tonight was a showcase of all the acts on the ship. We were surprised to see our life jacket demonstrator was also a singer and entertainer. You have to be multi purpose on a ship.

I was really tired by this time but John had a new burst of energy. We wandered past piano bars and jazz groups, people dancing and playing gaming machines until we came to the library and games room. There is a great collection of books and John was soon in a comfy chair facing the water reading about the Berlin Wall.

Vive le Quebec Libre!

Thursday, 2nd June

A short taxi ride to Union Station and we stocked up on food and drink for the trip. For five hours we travelled past Lake Ontario viewing vineyards, green fields and waterways. There was a food trolley where we could have bought lunch but opted for tea instead. Montreal Station Centrale was an eye opener. Whereas Toronto was in renovation chaos and with only two food outlets, Montreal boasted rows of shops more like an airport. There were patisseries with pastries and cakes only seen before in France, bottle shops larger than any we had seen in North America and every imaginable  variety of food. We couldn’t dally as we had to get to the Old Town. It was a slow taxi ride through traffic and when we arrived we were rather taken aback by the unobtrusive appearance of our hotel. Quite different to the Doubletree edifices!

imageUp two flights of stairs with our luggage and we were shown into a delightful French style room. As an economy measure I had opted for a room without a view as this is an expensive part of town to stay in. However it was light and cheery.

We asked directions from the receptionist in the foyer and found a bottle shop and a small convenience store where we bought smoked meat, cheese, tomatoes, salad and crackers. On the way back we passed a patisserie where we bought two delicious but expensive tarts for dessert. Apparently the owner is from Paris and is very famous for his creations. In the room is a coffee maker and a toaster oven plus plates, knives and forks so it is possible to make a simple meal.
Friday, 3rd June

We had a great breakfast in our room of fresh baguette, smoked meat and tiny tomatoes along with tea made in the coffee maker.

The first things to do this morning were to find where our ship is leaving from tomorrow and get a walking tour map of the area from the Tourist Information Centre. We found a white marquee near the waterfront with a picture of a ship on the side and after a few enquiries found that a shuttle bus will take us seven kilometres to the ship as the dock is currently under renovation.

imageAt the Tourist Bureau we picked up a map and checked out some of the attractions. The Old Town is very well preserved although the waterfront is cut off from the town by a railway line and features some ugly, falling down industrial buildings. With the rate of redevelopment going on I am sure it will look very different in five years, especially as an effort is being made to retain the character of the area.


Most of the City Wall has gone but we found some behind the Hotel d’Ville. The Town Hall itself featured some beautiful stained glass windows, chandeliers and marble. The balcony is where General Charles de Gaulle proclaimed his famous “Vive le Quebec libre!” in 1967. This brought to mind John’s often told joke from an English cartoon of the time. There was a shipment of toilets of the squatting variety bound for Canada from France. De Gaulle was supposed to be saying, “That will get the French in Canada back on their feet!”

I know, I know – it’s a Dad joke.

imageWe walked up Place Jacques-Cartier which looked very touristy. It has been a marketplace since the early 1900s and was just setting up as we passed by. The sides were lined with French style Cafes festooned with spring flowers. Our guide at the Information Centre was Spanish and directed us to a cafe called Veritas for a good strong cortado. Sometime later we saw a cafe offering flat whites but by then had enough caffeine in our system.

The highlight if the day was a visit to Chateau Ramezay, opposite the Town Hall. Built in 1705 as the Montreal governor’s residence, it was later sold on to fur traders, then became the headquarters of the Continental (American) Army, then a British governor’s residence, then a Faculty of Medicine for Montreal University and finally, in 1895, a museum. In each room, representing a different era of the house, a recording could be played from a person of that time. It reminded me of the book, “My Place”. It certainly gave a great overview of the history of Montreal including the Iroquois Amerindians. Now there’s a new word I discovered today. An Amerindian is any member of the people living in North or South America before the arrival of the European.

The cafes outside our hotel were in full swing when we returned so we had sandwiches and soup under the umbrellas in the shade. It had become a beautiful sunny day and many people looked settled in for the Friday afternoon.

We were both tired so grabbed a nap before setting forth to buy some food for dinner. The atmosphere was festive and we were tempted to enter one of the hundreds of restaurants beckoning in the Old Town. Instead we bought bread, salad and yoghurt and with the smoked meat, tomatoes, cheese and pickles in our room we washed it all down with a good red.