Madeira 2018

It’s a while since we went to Madeira but we chose a trip for Sue’s birthday and it was a pleasant change from freezing weather at home. We had all sorts of flowers coming into bloom and could have done with a trip up into the forest and some gardens but it was a chill type of holiday rather than action. We’d decided that although we liked the previous places we’ve stayed at, we’d like to try the Hotel Porto Santa Maria on the seafront at the old end of Funchal town – what a lovely place, great facilities, better staff and we had a room away from any noise. No jeep safaris for me this time, just getting to walk again after another foot problem so a toddle into the town to the cruise terminal and back was about it. We saw that the Golden Gate Grand Cafe had re-opened again (last July apparently) and that was a pleasant surprise – its been well refurbished. Gives a nice feel to the centre of Funchal again – it was decidedly run down without it.

I was pleased to see that Juan Caldarado and his band are still going strong, they were also at our hotel once evening as well.

Next time we go, hopefully we’ll catch the flower festival which is scheduled to run late April/Early May. Here’s a few pictures – birthday girl got some great flowers organised by the hotel and also a yummy birthday cake.

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Christmas 2017

We decided to try somewhere new this year for Christmas. Grasmere was good for 3 years but a few niggles persuaded us, together with our friends Martin & Maxine Shelmerdine, to look for another venue. We had not looked at Bowness seriously until we visited there last year whilst “out and about” and Sue liked the looks of The Belsfield Hotel, just in front of the pier. Our friends decided to try it out earlier in the year and we booked following their trip.

It’s a good hotel, the staff are helpful and pleasant, the restaurant was very well decorated and presented for the break and the food, barring one not so good main course, was lovely. The restaurant overlooks the lake with a large double fronted window – great in summer when it’s light. We were on a wing adjacent to reception and the corridor leading to the rooms would have been well equipped to store frozen food – the reason apparently because some guests had said that the rooms were too hot. This would only have been of benefit if said guests had left their doors open – still, never mind. There’s a pretty library with comfy chairs for afternoon tea and to enjoy a pre-dinner drink.

We didn’t do much the first day – the weather wasn’t very kind. Christmas Day was taken up with presents, socialising and food, with a surprise visit from Santa(!). On Boxing Day there was a boat trip around the lake planned. This followed a walk around the town and lunch. The weather stayed mainly dry but was a bit drizzly so had to pop in and out of the boat for photo opportunities – there weren’t many.

The last day we went for a walk around Rydal Water and then went up to Tarn Hows for a stroll round there – lots of sunshine. I think we’ll do it again.

 

 

 

f4 Photographic Group – Annual Trip

My fellow f4 chums and I had arranged to go to Killarney this year for our annual trip. Blue skies, an Indian Summer and Guinness were on the cards. A fly in the ointment called Storm Brian decided to intervene and we got one out of the three – Guinness. It was blowing a gale and we had rain – one day was decidedly bad but we certainly had rain in small quantities the rest of the time as well. Fortunately we had decided upon a variety of places to photograph, some inside, notable Muckross Abbey and Killarney Cathedral (which was beautiful).

We were also told where we could find some stags and although the main rut was over, the stags were still bellowing at each other from within their newly acquired harems. We also were looking forward to Ladies View – a well known and extremely picturesque place – but not when we went, there was a lot of mist and rain so we had a cuppa at the local cafe instead.

We had hoped to take some images at Ross Castle but there’s a photography ban so that was an epic fail as well. However, Torc waterfall provided one or two decent shots and as there had been a lot of water we got some good images – my favourite was of a single big rock at the foot of the falls with water swirling around it.

Our last day was blustery and rainy so we arranged to go to Crag Cave, just north of Killarney and we found the folk there to be extremely welcoming and helpful and we managed to have our best session of the break there, taking lots of long exposure shots underground in the cave. Excellent cafe and gift shop there too. If you’re around the Killarney area, it’s well worth the visit. After Crag Cave we went to Blennerville to see the windmill and then on to Fenit Bay to see the lighthouse. funny – it was almost too windy to get out the car for the windmill and the spray at Fenit Bay almost obscured the lighthouse. Sometimes the spray was going completely over the lighthouse but needless to say I missed that shot.

Still, all in all, the 8 of us who went had a terrific break and despite the weather a good time was had by all.

 

Newport

This will be a short page – by now, full of cold so Sue went out with her phone and came back with pics. She had a good walk around Newport and said I’d have liked it. There – told you it was short. Image of lighthouse with what is a very large bridge in the background but unfortunately it was that foggy you couldn’t see anything. Image 2 was a home for aged men which she kindly offered to send me to if I didn’t start feeling better soon….

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.

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 :-