Boston

If Bar Harbor was busy because of Columbus week-end, then we should have expected Boston to be as well. The coach trip from harbourside to drop off point, normally a 15 minute journey, lasted  1 hr +. The airconditioning on the coach had also broken and we were sat in almost 30 degrees and high humidity stuck in traffic. There was a huge parade for the celebrations and the Police were closing off streets systematically in order to allow the parade to take place. We could have walked it in 25 minutes. When we got to our designated drop off point, there was another bus parked there and we weren’t allowed even to drop off so had to go round the loop again.

We’d decided to walk around Boston on our own and see Boston Common and Public Gardens – a decent enough walk around, bearing in mind the now reduced time we had. There were no real highlights, except perhaps for the tools of the trade left deserted by a busker – I wouldn’t have known which bit to play first. I was now beginning to feel under the weather, the next 3 days I was full of cold. Still – we had a good walk around. Sue wanted to go down Charles Street where the decent shops were said to be. That was quite a nice area – we had coffee in a small corner cafe and went back to the pickup point. When we arrived, our Oceania guide was nowhere to be seen but it was the pick up point for another ship that was in at the same time, so, because of the traffic problems, their guide said he’d take us as well, provided that there weren’t any of his passengers still waiting, which was good of him. We were waiting for an eternity though and even then, the coach had to park 5 blocks away because of the congestion. A well earned beer when we got back was in our minds as we boarded.

Advertisements

Bar Harbor

If there was ever a place dedicated to tourism, this was it. Lots of shops, selling the same souvenirs, just waiting for cruise ship passengers to descend upon them. It was Columbus week-end when we got there so the whole place was hopping. Another lobster sandwich anyone? Maple syrup anyone? Whale watching tour – no problem. There’s just so much to see and do here and if you ignore the touristy bits and go inland to Acadia National Park, it’s stunning. We took a coach tour around the National Park and saw the colours starting to change, went to see Thunder Hole, a tiny inlet where the tide rushes into a hole that’s been worn away over time and when it fills up and lets go it’s supposed to sound like thunder – it’s not it just makes a loud farting noise and that’s it. We carried on up to Jordan Pond and had a break for coffee and for a quick look at the pond which was very picturesque. I got a close up of a butterfly (Somebody tell me the name please). Then our guide told us that we were going up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, although we weren’t guaranteed to get to the top because there was so much traffic going up because of the Columbus holiday the rangers had been turning cars away. However, much to our relief we were allowed through. The top of the mountain has panoramic views for miles and although we had to leave before sunset, I could imagine the view from there. It is popular for families to camp up the mountain and have a barbecue, although it was so cold and windy they must be a hardy lot. Did I mention lobster sandwiches?

 

St John, Bay of Fundy

Another day, another stop. This time we woke in time for a glorious sunrise just before docking. I had booked a days photography with a local photographer around Bay of Fundy. We were scheduled to see Reversing Rapids, Lepreau Falls and whatever else would be available dependent upon weather and tides. First things first though – breakfast and a game of shuffleboard and table tennis, followed by lunch on board.

A good number of us climbed on board a 28 seater coach for the afternoon and our guide, Lance Timmons, explained what we were going to see and we set off with high hopes. First stop Reversing Falls – unfortunately the tide was wrong for our stop. The water didn’t provide the spectacular effect as I have seen on on various images on the net, although the falls were still a good target for canoeists trying to get up them and being driven back by the force. We moved on to Lepreau falls but really there wasn’t enough water in to make anything like the kind of image I was hoping for and although there were viewing platforms, I couldn’t get to the foot of the busiest falls for a long exposure shot. Next stop Dipper Harbour, a sleepy place where there are is a fishing fleet. You can see how small it is by looking at the Harbour Authority building. Still, there were a few things to photograph and it was good to visit. The last place was a nearby beach but there was precious little there too. However, it was a day with camera in hand with like minded people and I enjoyed it. Lance kept us entertained.

 

Halifax, Nova Scotia

 

A leisurely overnight journey took us further down the coast to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Still the Celtic links and none more obvious than when we got to the Citadel, a fortified building at the top of a hill, encircled by cannons, guarded by soldiers in bearskins and kilts. Changing of the guard every hour and the noonday cannon made it a popular tourist destination, mind you there was another cruise ship in with us in Halifax. An amusing sight of Routemaster buses being used as hop-on hop-off transport from the central pier area at Pier 21, up to the Citadel. There was a fine clock tower there, reputed to have been built by Prince Edward, the then Commander in Chief of all armed forces in British north America who was fed up with troops arriving late on duty. It must have been a daunting prospect for enemy troops attacking the Citadel to get to the top of the hill, thinking they were there and then seeing the moat they had to get across.

We also visited Halifax Public Gardens, reputed to have a fine collection of dahlias which were out – the bees were going mad, getting the last of the nectar before winter arrived. On the way up to the gardens we passed the Public library – it is reputed to have been designed to look like a pile of stacked books.

The walk back to the ship took us onto the boardwalk along the seafront where there were numerous cafes, restaurants and bars with the occasional busker. We enjoyed Halifax – a lot.

Sydney, Nova Scotia

After a long day at sea watching for anything at all of interest, it was great to dock in Sydney, Nova Scotia. As the name says, New Scotland – they’re proud of their Celtic history here too.

We were at tender here – another cruise ship had taken what I presume to be the only quayside berth available so a short tender ride in and we tied up next to a giant violin. A 10 tonne monument to the folk music and traditions of the Celtic community. There are a number of sculptures and monuments in and around Sydney harbour and the next one we saw was one paying tribute to the cultural diversity of immigrants to Cape Breton Island. More poignant was the Merchant Mariner monument depicting 4 mariners on a a liferaft with one being rescued. It refers to Canada’s involvement in the Atlantic conveys between 1939-1945.

We visited 2 houses/museums which were restored old houses and had belonged to families in the town since the late 1700’s. A good standard of workmanship had gone into these and the exhibits were a great reminder of what life must have been like in those times – especially the open space in the attic of the Cossit house where the servants used to live.

As a side note, I had trouble getting sufficient people free space to take a picture of the giant violin from an unusual angle – but on the return to the tender it was relatively free. I took the opportunity to lay down in front of it to get a good shot, to be greeted by a loud American voice saying “HEY – that guy’s having a heart attack”. I thought, not today thank you!

Montreal to New York – part 2

After leaving Quebec we headed to Saguenay, a City of 144,000 people with a small town feel – its main industries in minerals, bauxite and aluminium. Over 98% of the population are French speaking as seems to be the norm in Quebec.

We moored at the terminal in La Baie, one of the cities that combined in 2002 to make Saguenay. We hadn’t made arrangements to visit anywhere, just to go walkabout. La Baie is very small and has a quaint feel to it. When we walked off the ship we were greeted by families in old traditional costumes with various artifacts from the indigenous people. Also a lovely green  1939 Chevrolet. The walk around town took us up to the hill where the local hospital is and from there is the best view of the harbour although somewhat spoiled by trees. Nevertheless Insignia was in plain view. Coming down the main (only) street we saw very few cars and people – most of the folk off the ship seemed to have gone on excursions. In hindsight, maybe we should have visited the Parc national du Fjord du Saguenay but we had other trips booked instead.

The journey from Saguenay took us down the St Lawrence River with a day at sea and the stop after would be Sydney, Nova Scotia. The day at sea was punctuated with a seabird and wildlife watch with our resident speaker. Sadly I saw no whales, only a pod of dolphins. We also had a hitchhiking sparrow and a peregrine falcon trying to catch it. They’re too quick for my Panasonic GX8, maybe the Fuji would have kept up.

Here’s some images :-

 

Montreal to New York – part 1.

My birthday treat this year was a cruise on Oceania Cruises “Insignia”, taking in Canada and US ports of call in the fall. We had booked Oceania because they operate smaller ships, like the Azamara Quest and Journey which we’ve travelled on before. The Insignia is identical to the Quest and Journey so we felt we knew the ship as soon as we boarded.

However, we first went down to Heathrow for an Air Canada 777 flight to Montreal which worked really well. We stopped overnight at Heathrow so that we weren’t rushing the next morning on the M1/M25. Air Canada have a great set of people on board, we’d remembered this from a few years ago when we went to The Rockies. They are so nice that I was the one who felt guilty that they’d run out of the main course I wanted for dinner.

The arrival was smooth at Montreal but the transfer to the downtown hotel was awful. They are transforming the motorway from airport to City and there is a section which goes from 4 or 5 lanes into 1. This is making a usual 20 minute journey into 2 hours. We were waiting in Montreal arrivals for at least 45 minutes before a vehicle became available. I can’t see why this happened because they know what time the plane was due to land. We weren’t best pleased after a longish flight. Needless to say that after a few grumblings, a minibus appeared and we made the tortuous journey downtown. Eventually we made it to the hotel where we were being looked after overnight and we settled down for a late meal and drink. Too tired to go out.

The next morning it was quite windy and we had a couple of hours to briefly look around Montreal before being collected for transfer to our ship. It was cold as well if you were in the shade but up to a reasonable temperature in the sun. We had about an hour just taking in the scenery and the subject got around to Leonard Cohen, who was born in the Montreal suburbs – Sue is a fan. She wondered if there were any statues or a commemoration of some description to see. We were trying to find a decent coffee house at the time and as I turned to look around, lo and behold, a huge painting on the side of a house, the man himself, complete with trademark hat. The coffee tasted great after that. Back at the hotel we got on the coach for a short transfer to where our ship was moored. The mooring was outside of town, away from the central area which was disappointing, as was the lack of champagne reception when we got on board. The cabin however was very nice.

The next morning we were in Quebec. I haven’t been in such a vibrant place for a while. The old town is just lovely with a large range of things ancient and modern. Good shops and restaurants, architecture, great cafes and a square with a statue of Louis X1V which was so picturesque. We went ashore on our own in the morning but took a walking trip with a guide in the afternoon which took us around some of the area we’d walked around in the morning but carried on up the funicular to the Chateau Frontenac Hotel which is spectacular, imposing and expensive, all in the same breath. We said we’d go back to Quebec for a main holiday some time – it’s lovely.

Northumberland

Sue and I had been talking for a while about going up to Northumberland and visiting Holy Island, Alnwick, Bamburgh and Seahouses, to look at the castles & churches and to take a walk along the beaches. The few days we chose weren’t very friendly weatherwise but at least it was just overcast rather than persisting it down.

The trip across to Holy Island was relatively uneventful and we had a decent walk around and lunch at one of the local hotels. After lunch, a visit to Bamburgh Castle completed the day. Next day we went into Alnwick and went around the Alnwick Garden which were well presented. We decided not to venture into the castle as well but to go into Alnwick to look at Barters, the huge second hand book shop there – amazing! We then dropped down to the coast to walk on the beach at Alnmouth. On the final day we went to Howick Hall gardens and had a wander for an eternity. Some lovely woodland walks, a big pond, church and a small private garden reserved for the Lady of the House – but open that day.

Good luck to Rob and Tegan at the St Aidan’s Hotel in Seahouses – great sea views and lovely breakfasts. Shame we missed their bistro but it’s only open from Thursday evening through the week-end and we were only there Monday till Thursday morning.

Here’s a few images from our little break :-

 

 

Woodhall Spa 40’s weekend

I had a great week-end down in Woodhall Spa with my f4 pal Dave Robson and girlfriend Tina Cranfield. I’d done some stuff solo because my foot was still playing up, but joined them at the Petwood Hotel for lunch and re-enactment later. The rain was persistent but armed with brolly and camera, I braved the high street to take some images of a beautiful selection on lovingly cared for vintage motor cars (and a bike).  I’m looking forward to next year already but will take a longer lens for the planes – they didn’t get down the High Street like last year so a bit of a disappointment really.

RAF Holmpton – Visitthebunker

I won’t bore anyone with the reason I’ve not posted for a while, suffice to say I can almost walk properly again so can get out with the camera.

My f4 Photographic chums and I went for an evening to RAF Holmpton to Visit the Bunker.  To quote their website “A simple bungalow hides the entrance to an underground nuclear bunker. Descend the stairs and venture along the 120 metre long tunnel, pass through the blast doors to find yourself immersed in the once secret world of cold war defence.” The bungalow certainly hides what lies beneath – there are 59 rooms, all dedicated to the defence of the Country and it was absolutely fascinating. We were well looked after by John, Carl & Sylvia who gave us an insight into what happened there. It is WELL worth a visit – we’ll be back again, thanks guys.