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.
Boer War Memorial Montreal
Quebec walking tour
Cafe in Quebec old town
Chapelle des Ursulines Marie de l’incarnation Quebec
Chateau Frontenac Quebec
Leonard Cohen – Montreal
Louis X1V Quebec
Marie Reine du Monde Cathedral Montreal
Musee de Civilisation Quebec
Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica
Popcorn Quebec style
Santa for Sale
Quebec shopping area
Tribute to women teachers Quebec
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 :-
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.
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.
John Denton is a local photographer who runs Art Nude photography courses amongst other things. He came to our f4 Photography club a while ago and treated us to a selection of images. My fellow photog Paul Lazenby and I decided to take part in one of John’s courses out at Bishop Burton one Sunday with the very lovely Isla Rose as our model for the day. We used a number of different locations, lighting styles and accessories and there are a few images here to give you a flavour. Thanks to Isla for wonderful teamaking as well and for working tirelessly to help us get a great selection of images.
Sometimes when the fishing goes through a quiet spell, it’s good to look around at the wildlife on the lake. There’s been a heron on the peg opposite to us for the past few weeks now. I think it’s watching for some tips on how to do it. I’ve not seen it pay for a peg yet though and will report it if it doesn’t. There’s also been a lot of activity by the gulls, feeding on duckling chicks. I saw one in action today – not very nice but the mother and father duck were nowhere to be seen and I think the chick must have been lost.
I was pleased with the static shot of the heron though. Taken with Fuji XT-2 and 100-400 lens with 1.4 teleconverter.
Not a physical tornado but Tornado – A1 class locomotive. I went with my photo buddy Pete Stockton for a day west of Hawes when we saw that Tornado was running. The day started with us looking at some lone trees on limestone pavement stuff at Southerscales and then having a bit of a trek up the hill to get a better vantage point of Tornado. We were standing around for a while and it was fairly cold so a good job we were layered up. It was also a good job that I’d had a decent breakfast, having stayed at the lovely Old Dairy Farm just outside Hawes. It’s run by Paul and Pam and an absolute treasure. Wonderful food and company and my room was very comfy too.
So Tornado came and went and then we decided to have a look at an old ruined cottage that we’d seen earlier. A well earned pint in Aysgarth and we called it a day.
I’ve been working as a volunteer for Hull City of Culture and took on a number of shifts at the Brynmor Jones library at Hull University, where the “Paul Smith to J.K. Rowling” exhibition is showing until June 11th. These works have all been commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery as part of the first prize of the BP Portrait Award. This award is now in its 27th year and is aimed at encouraging artists to develop portraiture within their work. We are extremely lucky in Hull to have so many of these commissions in one place at one time. There is a wide variety of styles and materials used and the exhibition is well worth a visit. Free entry and there’s a great cafe on site with good coffee. I should point out that the Brynmor Jones library also has an excellent collection of it’s own which is also available for visitors to see.
Here are the images on show – you get the idea but really need to see them first hand to appreciate them. Thanks to Neil Evans of the National Portrait Gallery for sending me copies of the images for use.
I figured that the best time to catch the Lego daffodil site in Hull, in a relatively people free manner, would be early morning and as it was Easter Monday today – I thought – even better. Even so, at 8.20am this morning, people were starting to congregate and I had to be quite quick. One couple looking at the flowers told me they’d just got off the ferry from Rotterdam and that although they’d set off around Europe from Dover, some 17 days ago, they always planned to come back through Hull to see what the City of Culture had to offer. They’d disappeared by the time I got back up from the ground. I’d been laying down (in sausage dog mode as my friend Duncan Wood would say) using my Fuji 56mm f1.2 lens to take some wide open shots to see what kind of bokeh it offered me. What a cracking lens.
We hadn’t been with NCL before so took a break with them at the end of March for Sue’s birthday, departing and returning to Barcelona. We tagged on an extra night in Barcelona as we hadn’t been there before and we took the opportunity to use the hop-on hop-off bus to get around. To be fair, we used the bus in a few places to make the most of our time – they’re excellent value and a great way of doing justice to what is really a very short time on shore in any one place.
The pre-cruise was interesting as I was laid up in bed unable to walk – this led to me using a stick to get around Gatwick airport the evening prior to departure and only on the morning of our flight did my foot let me put reasonable pressure on it. However, it improved quickly enough for us to be able to walk up to 8.5 miles a day. I came back lighter than we went.
Norwegian Spirit is an old ship and some things are good, some not so good – best thing is to read comments on Trip Advisor and make your own mind up. There are things you learn which help but you’re not told about in advance, the most annoying thing being the amount you’re charged for shuttle buses to get you from shoreside to city centres – $15 each return – absolutely disgraceful. You’re pretty much consigned to having to use the shuttles as a number of the places we went to, we were berthed at least 5km away from the centre so either you’d have used up a lot of your day just getting there, or alternatively, some of the older folk not as healthy as us wouldn’t have even got there. Anyway, we have learned from that.
Here are a few images from the cruise :-
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
Palermo – souvenir shop
Marching Band – Valletta
Champagne Charlie’s Norwegian Spirit
Reflections – Marseille
Palermo – one of the quattro canti
Main Atrium – Norwegian Spirit
Marseille – Boy chasing bubbles
Palermo Cathedral – Santa Rosalia Chapel Silver altar
Henry’s Bar, Norwegian Spirit
Valletta street shot
Reflections – Marseille
Florence – Piazza della Repubblica
Cathedral – Palma Majorca
Susie plays netball on Norwegian Spirit
Church – Valletta
Florence – melonmobile
Rome – St Paul’s through the keyhole
Bou – modern sculpture at Es Baluard, Barcelona
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
Rome – Circo Massimo park
Florence – street artist
Palermo Cathedral – A mio padre by Vincenzo Muratore
Susie and ice cream – Palermo
Arch of Constantine
Rome – Temple of Apollo Palatinus
Notre Dame Cathedral, Marseille
Florence – Il Duomo
Rome – The Colosseum
Barcelona Sail away
Palermo – Teatro Politeama
Marseille – Rue de la Republique
Valletta – ship’s berth
Palermo – Piazza Pretoria