Parts North – Part 16 – Home to Montreal

Saturday, September 7, YUL.  The flight was uneventful, and the plane got in more or less on time.  Hertz gave me a nice upgrade to a Volvo station wagon, and I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to go straight to Magog and Andrea Terni.  Not very long into the drive the weather went very bad on me, and I drove through a lot of rain and construction cones.  That part wasn’t much fun, but there was fun waiting for me in the form of a nice steak, sweet potatoes and probably too much wine.

We stayed up until about one, drinking wine and swapping stories, catching up.  Andrea has a man in her life again.  His name is Jim and he’s very nice and pulls his weight around the place and then some.  She’s very lucky and she knows it.  I hope he wasn’t too upset with us old drinking buddies.

Sunday, it was a little hard getting up, but a night like that resets the body clock and I was fine.  I didn’t get to play tourist in Magog, because I had calls and paperwork aplenty.  The reason I have been talking about so much paperwork can now be told.  I was buying a condo in Montreal and the offer went in from Iceland.

I am moving back to Montreal, effective some time around the beginning of December.  I am sorry, but I just can’t live with the fear of fire.  I feel so safe and happy in Montreal.  I have bought a condo in Cours Mont Royal – at least there’s an accepted offer and a mortgage is being organized.  It’s on the underground city and I’ll be cruising most of the winters, anyway.  And… it’s home. It always will be.

I’m certainly not leaving because I have no friends in California.  I have many wonderful ones, but it is what’s right for me.  I have been sleeping like a log ever since I made the decision, which was around the first of August.  I see the city coming back gangbusters, after a long slow period.  There is a wave to be caught and I am catching it, before prices for the good stuff go out of my reach.

By the time I had done my phone calls and paperwork, and a couple of small loads of washing, it was time to visit the SAQ, to buy wine for my hosts.  Andrea came with me and we just kept on chatting.  Then we went back, and I got some exercising and yoga done in her yoga studio. We were due at Page and Andrea Fairchild’s on the other side of the lake at 5:30 pm.  Page’s grandfather bought a huge piece of prime property on Lake Memphremagog in 1912.  Page and Andrea live in one of the original houses on it, to which they have been adding steadily over the years.  It is absolutely charming.  The property, which is now owned by a lot of family members, includes a wonderful Sandy beach.  I took this gorgeous picture at sunset from Page’s own beachfront.20190908-01MagogFairchild

We had drinks and appies there and then went into downtown Magog to a very nice Italian restaurant called Alessa.  I can heartily recommend it for all but the noise level, but we managed, and it was a very nice evening out.

Monday morning, I was on the road again, back to Montreal and my second opinion doctor’s appointment with Linda Snell.  I had to get there an hour early because the paperwork isn’t funny, if you aren’t in the Canadian medical system.  I had to check in downstairs, then again on Linda’s floor, then go back downstairs to pay for the hospital visit, then back upstairs to pay Linda directly.  Anyway, it’s good to have one of Montreal’s very best docs take a look, once a year.  She prescribed Symbacort for my cough that just won’t quit, and I had the prescription filled before I checked in to the Symanskys’ for the night.

I shared the condo news with them, settled in just a bit, and went to pick up Justine and Wendy for dinner with Linda and Bev.  They too had chosen an Italian restaurant.  This one was Il Cortile on Sherbrooke, easy walking from my new digs, as well as from Linda and Bev’s apartment up the hill.  This is one smart, powerful group of women, and I got a lot of very useful advice.  By then the counter-offer was in and my panel agreed I should accept it, since it was only $5,000 more than what I had said was my limit.  This was no time to quibble.  Smarten up, Helen.

So, Tuesday morning, I signed, and went to see my Royal Bank Manager, who put me on to his mortgage counselor and the train started to roll.  The Condo Association’s AGM just happened to be that night and the seller offered to take me. That’s an offer you can’t refuse.  I ended up having an early dinner in Chalet BBQ, with Janet from 61 Chesterfield, which had just just sold in about three days.  I never found out the sale price but asking was $1.8M, which makes Adam and Judy, at 63, pretty happy.

The Annual General Meeting went until almost nine, but there are no special assessments on the horizon, so it was a good one and it was time to move out to Ile Bizard.

I didn’t get there until about ten.  The door was open, but no dog rushed to meet me.  It was all very quiet.  Ginger has hay fever from the ragweed that the floods brought in, so I didn’t want to wake her if she was asleep, but I was starting to worry that Scruffy may be no more.  I must have been in the kitchen for twenty minutes before he finally appeared, followed by Ginger.  Poor old Scruff has gone deaf, it seems.  Dogs suffer from old age, too.

Wednesday, I woke up on Ginger’s fabulous estate.  It had been hit hard by floods and battered by melting ice, the last two years, so there’s a lot of heavy equipment on the property, and the work goes on.  Ginger will be in residence there all month managing it.  It’s still plenty gorgeous, though, and I am privileged to be able to stay there.  I was determined to get my exercises done, before my body seized up on me, which it very well can do.  Ginger’s closet is her exercise room.  It’s a pretty big closet.  We moved a scatter rug in and I got going on my yoga exercises.  Somewhere in the middle, while I was rotating and stretching, the rug started to spin, at speed.  I raised myself up on my elbows and waited for it to stop.  Then I sat up and waited some more.  This is scary stuff.  I took it pretty easy for the rest of the day, but, while the problem didn’t return, I still felt shaky, by late afternoon.  So, I called Bev and asked her to have Linda call me when she got home.  She diagnosed Benign Positional Vertigo over the phone and said it would go away by itself in a couple of days but that I had better Uber to Dinner tonight.  Ginger wasn’t feeling well enough to come.

So I Uber’d in to the city to meet the Morneaus, Brunets and Symanskys at a wonderful BYOB on Villeray called, of all things, TANDEM.  We had a fantastic five-course tasting menu, with great wines, and there I was, barely drinking.  Sad, that, but still a lot of fun and an absolutely top-notch meal.  I wasn’t taking notes, but there was foie gras and steak, scallops, fish…  all very French Laundry at a small fraction of the price.  That can become an annual event very easily.  What am I saying?  It can be more often, now.

Luckily, I felt well enough to drive on Thursday morning, as I had a dental appointment in Cornwall, an hour-and-a-half west.  It was a nice sunny day, perfect for driving.  I didn’t feel quite so well after two hours in the dental chairs, getting a couple of crowns replaced and a good cleaning.  I was up for my cousin Rosemary’s steak and corn dinner, though.  There’s nothing like Canadian corn, in season.  John, my dentist, cooked the steaks.  I like that.  His wife, Joanne, is a physio and highly recommended the fellow I already had an appointment with for Friday morning.  I had done that from John’s office, after his hygienist recommended.  This is a physio who specializes in BPPV, the vertigo thing, and I was lucky to get a cancellation.

So, on Friday morning, I went to see him, but Linda was right.  I didn’t have it any more.  I did learn a lot about it, though.  It was worth the hour of my time and the $90.  Then I had a quiet lunch with Rosemary, at ESCA, who make interesting pizzas.  I got back to Ginger’s in time to hit the liquor store and the supermarket for party fixings.  Our guests were arriving at six.  President’s Choice makes nice bake-able appetizers, just like Trader Joe in California.  This party included Ginger, Rod and Claude, Jo Ann, Chris and Marge, and Adam and Judy.  Only Adam and Judy didn’t get much, as WAZE had directed them by the Laval-Ile Bizard ferry, which was backed up for an hour.  It only takes six cars and rush hour can be a nightmare.  But they did get to see Ginger’s house, after all, before we all went out for dinner at the Royal Montreal Golf Club, nearby.

It wasn’t the gourmet food you’d get at Tandem, nor what we got at Chris and Marge’s last year, but it was good enough and it was quiet.  Quiet is huge.  We were able to talk to each other and we all had a wonderful time.  We drank too much wine, I fear, but we usually do.  Luckily, we still can.  Huge thanks to Rod and Ginger who split the bill and wouldn’t let me step up to it.  I’ll be entertaining them big time when I am a Montrealer again.

Saturday, Ginger and I just nursed our hangovers, which weren’t all that bad,  and had a quiet dinner at home.  Steak and corn again.  You can’t beat it this time of year.  The wonderful mille-feuille from the local bakery was a bonus.  Ginger and I are a pair of old shoes.  Even though we disagree on things like politics and religion, we respect each other’s right to her opinion and we never actually argue.  It’s comfortable and very, very nice.

Sunday, I went to the flea market in Ste. Genevieve with Monique, another very old friend.  It was fun.  She goes every Sunday and all the dealers know her.  She spends fifty or sixty dollars, gets books, jewelry and décor items, and gives most of them away.  You get thoughtful, recycled, cheap presents from Monique and she expects you will give them away when you are done with them.  Good theory, that.

Then we had a nice big bacon and eggs breakfast and I went back to Ginger’s.  We moved to her town house in the late afternoon, to be ready for the following morning, and walked out to dinner at Marcus, in the Four Seasons.  We had a beautiful meal.  This one I remember, even though we drank too much wine, again.  There was corn bread in the bread basket and we had all we could eat of it. My appetizer was spicy tuna tartare and my main was scallops and lobster.  Ginger had a green salad and salmon, and we shared a dessert that had a fancy name which, we renamed “good chocolate goo”.  This place is even closer to my new place than it is to Ginger’s.  We are only eight short blocks apart.  On the way between our houses, we pass a couple of beautiful old churches, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Ritz, Holt Renfrew, the Chateau Apartments.  It’s about half of Montreal’s Golden Mile.  I’m excited.

Monday, we went to the condo and measured, so Valerie Lasker can do CAD with the floor plan and our measurements.  I am going to have to buy a couple of sofas for the living room, and I am going to make them hide-a-beds.  Then the house will sleep seven.  Y’all come.

If you want to see my condo, google 1001 Place Mt Royal, apt 1207.  It’s pretty swish.  It has windows on three sides, so it’s lovely and bright, has nice high ceilings, and looks out on the corner of Peel and Ste. Catherine.  It sits on top of the underground city.  I can walk miles without going outside and I can hop a Metro to Place des Arts or take a train to Cornwall from Central Station.  I think there’s a train to Laval, too.  Most of Montreal’s best restaurants are within walking distance, as is McGill.  It’s a life-changer.  I expect it will make me younger and that’s a goal, too.

Parts North – Part 15 – Scotland Again

Jean called me again at 1:35 am, because the Northern lights were active, and I should go see.  Rolling over to the other side of the bed to get the phone had set off my sciatica, or whatever it is, and I had to jump around the room for a while, before I could dress to go up to the Crow’s Nest.  I threw my “Colombo coat” over my nightshirt, put on my furry slippers and went up there.  You had to go outside where there was no light, and it was cold.  I didn’t have enough on to last until the next flash, or I missed the last one.  I went back to bed. I’ll just enjoy Ruth’s pictures.

September 2 was a sea day and It was just a quiet work day.  After that and some gym time, I worked on my own paperwork and emails, which contained some fun ones from The Als, who are visiting England.  They are doing the kind of stuff I need a partner for, like meals at Gordon Ramsey and Alain Ducasse.  It was Gala night and the entertainment was the Post-Modern Jukebox, which I didn’t like the last go-around.  Dorothy and I parked ourselves in Stryker’s piano bar, instead and waited for the chocolate surprise at 9:45.  I swear this is a different Stryker from the one I remember from about five years ago.  Anyway, he was good enough and we had nice seats for all the chocolate nibbles and sips that came around.  Urp.

The next day, September 3, we were in Scotland, again.  Lerwick is a quiet little town on a Shetland Island, that inspired a lot of Westmount, from what I can tell.  I had a leisurely breakfast and gym time, before going out around one, in nice bright sunshine.  I walked around, bought a linen blouse for ten pounds and had tea in the Peerie Tea Shop.  The scone was home baked on the premises, and the special Hot Chocolate was something else again.  It was lovely, now.  I think this is my best Lerwick picture.20190903-13LerwickScotland

We had a group dinner in the Dining Room, again, and this time I was pouring wine from my wine package.  I had appetizer and main at one table and moved to another for dessert, in an attempt to have eaten with everyone.  It might have been a mistake.  It was a pretty rowdy table.  No one chastised us for it, mind you, and the group was having a wonderful time.  I was so pleased with all of them, that I offered to do boarding passes, a thing I had sworn I would never do again.  These guys deserve it, though.  So, I will.

The comedian was William Caulfield, an Irishman with a plaid suit on.  In spite of it he was pretty funny.

Next day, next port: Invergordon.  I had been in to Inverness before, so I thought I would just do Invergordon itself this time.  Once again, I did all my business and had my gym time, first, so I went out about one-thirty.  I wanted to do an hour’s walking around before I stopped for my tea this time, and it was a mistake.  When I got to the Café at a quarter to three, there were no more scones left and they were only doing take-out, as they were closing at three.  With a ship in town?  Really?  These people don’t understand business at all.  Maybe that’s why the houses are so cheap.  I always read Real Estate agents’ windows.  There’s nothing in St. Helena, for instance for under a mil and a half.  Here you can get an apartment for under a hundred thou, and a house for just a bit over. The wee house looks like this, mind you, but you’d own it outright.20190904-05InvergordonScotland

Since I couldn’t have tea and scones, I stepped into the local hotel for a pint.  I sat at the bar with Mark and Irene from Belgium and we traded stories.  They tell me the next time I find myself docked in Bruges, that I must get myself to Ghent.  That seaside tram I saw the last time would probably do it and I should be able to get by with French.

I had met one of my DV couples in town, and they asked me for dinner, so I begged Dorothy in, and the four of us had a very nice one.  No one believes the age of Dorothy.  She’s so thoroughly modern and alive.  We went to the show.  It was Kaitlyn Carr, who sings and plays Celtic music on an assortment of flutes, tin whistles, etc.  She was good.

September 5, found us tendered off South Queensferry, port for Edinburgh, Scotland. We were lucky with the weather again and had another perfect day.  It was still cool, but the sun was out, and it was beautiful.  I had so much fun in Edinburgh three weeks ago, I decided to take the Lothian bus in again.  Of course, after my oinky eggs Benedict and strawberry crepe breakfast, gym time and email, it was noon by the time I got to the bus and almost one, when we got to town.  Without The Fringe being on, entertainment was harder to find, and time for it, harder still.  So I settled for tea and a mille-feuille at a French Café called Valerie, up the hill after you cross the North Bridge on the way to The High Street, The Royal Mile.  They did a beautiful tea for two, with the finger sandwiches, scones, and all, but I hadn’t had a mille-feuille in way too long.  My San Francisco source has been closed for renovations and my Montreal obeserie went out of business.  Sniff.

Then I walked the Royal Mile, all the way to the castle gates.  I got this lovely day in Edinburgh on my way down from there.20190905-01Edinburgh

We were having dinner with our “first night” table again, but Brian and Sharon didn’t make it.  Sharon came up to tell us and to say goodbye.  Their tour had just got in and Brian is still struggling with a cold, so they weren’t dining room material that night.  So, Dorothy and I ate with Rolf and Marion and I found out that Queensferry itself is a charming hamlet and a good place to spend an afternoon, when you’re not overnighting.  Marion said it was the nicest little town on the whole cruise and I respect her opinion.  She’s an architect.

It was gala night and the show was the Postmodern Jukebox again, and I won’t waste an hour on that again.  I went up to the Crow’s Nest, instead, where Oliver, the bartender, was glad to see me.  He had a note from Lisa, the Bar Manager, whom I had copied on my last letter, circling the No-Host Farewell Cocktail on the next night.  The captains corner was free and she had reserved it for us.  I was delighted.

On our last day at sea, there was a lot of traffic at the desk.  Offering Boarding Passes will do that every time.  I had six couples in less than an hour, all with their data.  I checked it all at Delta/KLM, because often the confirmation you think you need with your airline, isn’t the one you think it is.  When I knew what time to go to which airline with which reference number for which couple, I went back to my room to pack and work on them, as they come up.  Luckily, I had asked them to be in their cabins when their times came up, because I did have to ask three couples to please bring me their passports.  KLM was requiring them, and some weren’t saved with the reservations.

I managed to slip in an hour in the gym, between planes, but it got very busy as it got close to cocktail hour.  I did make it up there with 8 minutes to spare and all boarding passes in hand.  This astounding group was there, in force.  Everyone came except my four Neptune Suite people.  I have to assume the suites have their own farewell party.  The rest of us had fun speculating about that.   We kidded around like the old friends we have become.  I had Dorothy join us around 6:30 and we had dinner with the last two couples there.  Again, it was a lot of fun and a lovely way to end a great cruise.

Too soon, it was time to disembark in Amsterdam.  I had a little extra time, because I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep.  So, I had breakfast served to me in the Dining Room, all very decadent.  I was on the ship’s transfer with three of my couples, and we were able to shoot pathetic looks at each other, as we navigated the zoo that was Schiphol.  We kept meeting in the cattle herding gates, as we wended our way back and forth and forth and back.  We never did decide we were having fun, but we asked each other a few times.  So here I am waiting to board my flight to Montreal and my log is up-to-date, another first.  I think it came from traveling alone.

 

 

Parts North – Part 14 – Iceland Reykjavik

August 30 continues:  It was time for a mid-cruise dinner with our first night table, so Dorothy and I rounded up Brian and Sharon and Rolf and Marion.  It would have been a lot better if we hadn’t landed the worst waiter in the place, but it was still fun, and we agreed to do it one more time.  The entertainer for the night was Jonathan Johnson, an Irish flautist, who was pretty funny to boot.

Saturday, August 31, we had our Distinctive Voyages tour from Reykjavic.  Reykjavic is a very clean city and mostly new looking.  The corrugated tin buildings have given way to concrete and everything is heated with hot water from nearby springs, since 1939.  The settlers have mostly been Norwegians and British Islanders, though they were ruled by Denmark for 35 years, so there must have been Danes, too.  The main industries now are tourism and fishing.  The soil isn’t good enough for much farming.  If you can ever get some Icelandic lamb to eat, do.  It’s the purest you’ll get anywhere.  They have earthquakes just about every day, and we got to see their effects all through our day, not to mention the signs of ongoing volcanic activity.  This may not look like much, but it’s the Bridge Between Continents, and those are our people standing on it.20190831-07ReykjanesBridgeBetweenContinents  It’s over where the North American and Eurasian Tectonic plates meet, far, far under ground.  Around 200 million years ago, the North American plate was joined with the Eurasian, African and South American plates, until all that started to break apart between 135 million and 65 million years ago.  These things take time.  The earth under Iceland is still moving, always.  You can see the cracks, and the lava.  It’s very evident and sort of surreal. There’s a lot of lava rock everywhere and there are at least six different types of it depending on when and how it got to the surface.  Eruptions under glaciers, for example produce a different kind of lava from those which breach the surface under the ocean or into the air.  Am I boring you?  It was actually fascinating for a day, but I wouldn’t want it all as a constant companion.  The weather was pretty good for us.  It was cold and damp, but it didn’t rain.

The highways are good, and there’s not much traffic, even though 2/3 of the population has cars.  The total population of Iceland is only about 350,000, you see.  It was doubled for 55 years, when there was a NATO base here.  That brought sports like basketball to the Icelanders and left them some pretty good housing, when it closed in 2006.  It’s near the airport, so there are plenty of jobs for the folk who now have the housing.

Iceland has been an independent country since 1944.  The earth’s crust is thinner here than on any other continent.  It supports 450 kinds of plants, but you don’t see all that many of them.  It also has 600 different mosses, and you do see a lot of those.  It will take millions and millions of years before they amount to anything, though.  They do have a lot of lovely, clean energy as you don’t have to dig down very far to hit a hot spring, which you can use to build a power plant for a whole city the size of Reykjavik.

20190831-51ReykjanesKrysuvikLavaLandscapeNeil Armstrong, Buzz aldrin and company trained here for their lunar expedition.  They came back later and told the Icelanders that their country was more like the moon that the moon itself.  In the middle of all this, they managed to build a golf course, but it is pretty pitiful and must make for some interesting play, as the lava rock is close to the surface and sticking out all over the place.  You don’t have to worry about your ball hitting a tree, though.

We stopped for lunch at a fishing village.  The rustic restaurant was a reproduction, on a grander scale to accommodate tour groups.  The food was authentic, though, and the fish was beautifully fresh.  We all enjoyed it.  The landscape got more active after lunch when we visited Krysuvik geothermal area, where the ground was giving off all over the place and they have to keep moving the paths.  20190831-53ReykjanesKrysuvikSpewingThe colors were pretty.  The odor was not.  We made another photo stop at LakeKleifarvtan and returned to the ship.  It was just starting to rain, and it poured.  Our timing was impeccable.

Dorothy and I shared a table for two for the first time and enjoyed the show, which was an Icelandic folk/rock band.

We were still in Reykjavik on Sunay, September 1st.   After a false start, where I forgot my wallet and it cost me three-quarters of an hour to go back and get it, I boarded a HopOn HopOff bus, which was just the ticket.  Reykjavik means “smoky bay” but it was a glorious sunny day for walking around all over the place, which I duly did.  I might have bought a sculpture of an Icelandic horse, had the shop been open, but Sunday saved me.  I did note the gallery name and address, though.  All aboard was three-thirty, so you couldn’t do much but simply enjoy the town, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

Because Jean Woods and I each had a free Pinnacle dinner for being five-star, she invited me to come have it together.  We had a lovely time and ate too much, of course, but it was all very good.  They we went to see the Dutch Magician, Ronald Moray, whom I won’t have to see again.

 

Parts North – Part 13 – Greenland and back

On August 28, when the PA system woke us up, it was 8:00 am and we were anchored off Nanortalik, Greenland, another tiny little place of fishing and fur trading.  It was very cloudy and very cold, like about 5 degrees C.  I took my time having breakfast and going to the gym and doing just a little paperwork.  It was 12:30 pm, when I left my stateroom, and still cloudy.  When I reached the tender platform, I was met by a tender load of frozen people, muttering about the cold.  By the time I was on the tender the sun had come out.  I was about to have a much better experience than they did.  If I live to be a hundred, I will never figure out why so many people have to get off the ship as fast as they can.  They queue up for tender tickets as soon as they are announced, at 8:00 am.  I’m just rolling out of bed at that point.  By noon, they have seen it all and they’re frozen.  Here was me, having a fine time.

The town is a couple of hundred years old.  The original houses were of stone and look like our Quebec houses.  The new ones are colorful affairs in wood and corrugated tin.  They look very gay.  I checked out the souvenir shop and I could have got my slippers about $15 cheaper but I’m not sorry I didn’t wait.  I could have missed them.  It’s not like they had a complete size range or anything.

I didn’t need to go in to the general store, as it had the same sign as the one in Qaqortoq, and doubtless the same merchandise, only half as much.  I kept walking until I came to the museum and paid it its five bucks.  This one was well worth it.  It was pretty much all the old stone buildings, and a couple of wooden ones.  They have been or are in the process of being lovingly restored and stocked with treasures donated by locals.  The kayak building was particularly interesting, as was the one in which I found this:20190828-29NanortalikGreenlandMuseumBlubberPressSmaller

And, no, it’s not a wine press, although it sure looks like one.  It’s a whale blubber press.  That was another big deal here, once upon a time.  The catching of a whale was a cause for much feasting and rejoicing, and I am sure they found something to get drunk on, but it wouldn’t have been wine, for lack of grapes.

I crawled all over every single building, and I mean that literally.  The ADA will just have to turn a blind eye on this place.  They are doing the best they can.  When I was done, I walked back to the pier, in time to be treated to what the locals do on a beautiful day like today.  The kids go swimming, right there in the harbor.  20190828-35NanortalikGreenlandkidsSwimmingSmallerThat’s one of our tenders coming in in the background, probably the one I took to get back on board.  It was a very good day in Greenland and I was glad to get my feet into my reindeer and fox slippers.

We had another DV group dinner and it and was fun, again, although not as uproarious as the first time. The show was The Knights again, and they are good.  I must tell one of them that they need to take their cellphones out of their pants pockets.  They have such nice bods, it’s a shame to spoil the look with bulges.  One of my people had seen Northern Lights around eleven-thirty from her stateroom on Starboard, when we came through here the first time.  I’m on port, so it should have been my turn, but I checked at 11:30, 12 and 12:30 and saw nary a one.  I couldn’t stay up any later because the clocks were going forward.

I woke up on the 29th with mountains and glaciers in my window, as we had been in Prince Christian Sound since 6:30 am.  It was another gorgeous sunny day.  A lot of people will get a lot of wonderful photos, but I am happy with the one I woke up to.20190829-02RotterdamPrinceChristianSoundSmall

I went to my desk, for an hour, then left to enjoy the view from my balcony, while I did my paperwork.

Our magic table from the first night came back together, on purpose this time, and it was nice.  The entertainer was an Irish Flautist, who was funny to boot.

August 30 was another sea day.  I went to the desk a little early.  Then I went to the Mariner’s reception and lunch.  It started at 11:00 am.  When they had done giving away medals and all, we went to the Dining Room for the Mariner’s Brunch.  Then I printed and delivered a reminder for our tour tomorrow and went to the gym.  The old bod needs work, always.

 

 

 

Parts North – Part 12 – Greenland

On August 25, we entered Prince Christian Sound.  This is real scenic cruising.  I was at my desk from 10:00am to 11:00 am, but not much longer.  The captain came on the PA about 11:05 am to tell us we were approaching a glacier and he was going to stop and do a 360 degree turn so it could be seen from everywhere on the ship.  I figured everywhere included my balcony, so I went there, post haste.  I was just in time for the turn to begin and was rewarded with this picture. 20190825-05GreenlandPrinceChristianSoundMyBalconySmall

The Internet wasn’t working too well, mind you, but I guess that was to be expected.  It doesn’t get a lot more remote than this.  I enjoyed the scenery, instead.  You can only transverse Prince Christian sound a few weeks of the year, and we are very lucky with the weather.  It’s cold, but it’s beautifully clear.  Just look at those colors.

We got commentary from Glenn-Michael over the PA, every couple of hours.  He shared some interesting research.  The Greenland ice sheet has been both growing and shrinking over the years it has been possible to measure it.  Despite everything you hear, it has changed 0.0% since we have been measuring it.  That’s reassuring.  The ice sheet is two to six miles deep and covers most of Greenland.

I had dinner with Dorothy again.  We are now meeting on purpose and taking pot luck, mostly, for the rest of the table.  We got Judy and Dave from Victoria, BC again, and Anita and Brian from the East Bay.  Judy and Dave have written a series of children’s books and distribute them wherever they go.  I googled “Fumble the Bumble” and they are for real.  Judy is getting David to make a “Greenland: Not for Sale” sign, for when we get there.  The evening’s entertainer was Canadian, too, Greg Rodman, a solo guitarist.  Dorothy cracks me up.  She’s 90, but no one wants to believe it.  She was in an assisted living place but moved out a couple of years ago, because it was full of old people.  She makes the most hilarious snide comments about the other passengers, none of which are fit for this blog, but they are spot on and they crack me up.

August 26, we tendered off Qaqortoq, Greenland.  I had breakfast in the Lido,  went to the gym and got on a tender into town around noon.  This is the biggest town we’ll see in Greenland.  It is between 3,000 and 3,500 people.  Between us and NCL’s Aida, which was also there, we more than doubled the population.

There was one souvenir shop at the pier, about four tables set up by locals, a general store and a couple of second-hand clothing stores.  There were also three bars/restaurants, and that was about it.  We are in early to this port.  It’s not tourist-spoiled yet, and the houses all have water views, even the colorful apartments. 20190826-11QaqortoqGreenlandApartmentsSmall I walked around most of the accessible parts, not climbing the really steep slopes, which often involved rather dicey stairs for an old broad.

The general store was a kick.  You could buy absolutely everything there, none of it cheap.  The food items were the most interesting.  They did have fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, meats of all kinds, mostly frozen, raw and cooked.  There was an array of frozen foods representing the cuisines of the world, Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, Indian, you name it.  They also had pork crackle, and a wide variety of local fish.  They even had a selection of wines of the world.  Kendall Jackson Zin was $33, which I guess is about twice the price it is where it comes from, close to Santa Rosa.  But, it’s there, and that’s a good thing, I think.

As luck would have it, I rode back on the tender with Judy and Dave and got this picture of her while we were waiting for it. 20190826-31QaqortoqGreenlandJudyNFSsmall

I scored a very expensive pair of reindeer hide and Arctic fox slippers, which are so cosy and comfy, I wore them to dinner and the show.  The show was good.  The singer was Welsh and her name is Maria Lyn.  Methinks I have seen her before on the Amsterdam.

On August 27, we anchored off Paamiut, Greenland.  This little place is about half the size of Qaqortoq and the weather was pretty bleak.  I had breakfast, did some work, went to the gym and picked up a tender ticket.  It was after noon.  Nearly an hour later, my tender was called and I made my way to the tender platform on deck A.  The people coming off the tender told me not to waste my time.  The whole operation takes over an hour and a half and there wasn’t much to see.  Despite this being the center of the fur trade in Greenland, there were no shops open, nothing at all to buy, and only a little old church to see.  I could easily pass on that.  I am so happy I got my slippers yesterday.

 

Parts North – Part 11 – Still Iceland

Wednesday, August 21, we docked in Eskifjordur, Iceland.  It was time for an easy day, so I had a leisurely breakfast in the Lido and went straight to the gym.  Once I had my body in shape, I tackled my paperwork.

We had our group dinner in the Dining Room that night, so we all met in the Hudson Room at 6:25 pm.  Almost everyone in the group came.  We had a great time, and a lot of laughs.  When you get up in years, ordinary life often turns to comedy.  I was alone at a table with the one couple, where the husband is a little deaf.  When we got to the inevitable age comparisons, they couldn’t believe I was as old as I am.  I was happy to say I was in perfect health except for the stiffness.  Well, he heard “syphilis.”  They next thing you knew, we three were falling off our chairs laughing.  I told them I did not want to see a comment on the comment card about me being a fine host, but could they not find one who didn’t have an STD.  More hilarity.  I had to go explain ourselves to the other two tables and now they are all threatening me with that comment on the comment card.  I put the story in my log to DV, telling them not to believe it for a minute.

The show was a Hungarian violinist playing Latin Jazz.  His name was Akos Laki and he was very good.

I got up early on the 22nd and did a bit of necessary work because I wanted to spend the day on shore.  That done, I went to breakfast, met David and Debbie, and we disembarked.  The town name, spelled Akureyri, is pronounced “Accu-ray-dy”. Go figger.  The ship’s tour that interested us was $200 per person.  After much haggling, at which Dave is a master, we had it in a taxi for 175 dollars and 175 Euros.  Since the Euro is only $1.10 these days, it was a deal.  It was also every cent we had on us, and a good bargain.  Paul, our taxi driver didn’t say much for the first hour or so, but he finally opened up and we learned a bit from him.  It was a nice drive.  It’s such a clean country, air and all.  Where it’s green, it’s very green, and where it’s not, it’s all lava rock.  There’s a lot of that.  There aren’t many cars on the roads, and the roads are in perfect condition.  The net effect is a very relaxing drive.  I made friends with a sheep.20190822-23AkureyriIcelandicSheepSmall

Much of the terrain reminded me of my childhood in St. Calixte, north of Montreal, where the fields sometimes had large rock out-croppings.  I am thinking St. Calixte looked exactly like this millions of years ago and Iceland will look like St. Calixte some millions of years in the future.  The same is true of a lot of places.

We stopped at the geo-thermal baths at Mivatn, where you could bathe in the pools for about $25.  I am sure they were nice and warm but getting undressed in 10 degrees C is not my idea of a good time.  We had a muffin, instead.  From Mivatn for many miles, the fields were all lava, and there was steam still rising here and there.  There’s not a blade of grass.  The volcanoes are still active around here.  Next we visited the waterfall at Godafoss, which was very pretty, but not spectacular.  By the time we got back we liked Paul so well that I tried to get his coordinates for next year, but he wouldn’t give them to me.  I think he might fear the wrath of the taxi company for taking the ride under market.

When I got back to the ship, I tweaked a letter to my people, so no one would forget the kitchen tour and that they had signed up for two more dinners.  I delivered that before dinner.  Then I went to the dining room and ate with Janice and Peter from Australia, a nice Dutch couple and a Canadian couple.  The table was a long thin one, so I only really talked with Janice and Peter, until the Dutch couple left and we had another half hour with the Canadians.

On August 23, we were docked in Isafjordur, Iceland. I did some job-related work, had a leisurely breakfast in the Lido and went straight to the gym.  Once I had my body in shape, and my emails caught up, I went out.  The tourist information office wasn’t much but it provided a good map, with suggested walks.  I chose old town, as I am always interested in architecture.

A couple of teenaged girls were selling cookies and squares, on the first corner and I bought two jam filled butter cookies that just melted in my mouth.  I like encouraging free enterprise in the young, and the cookies were delicious.  The houses were built mostly in the late nineteenth century and are of corrugated tin, doubtless very well insulated and painted pretty colors.  They ranged from small and simple to large and Victorian.  The newer construction is all cement and steel and not nearly as interesting. 20190823-01IsafjodurIcelandOldTinHouseSmall

20190823-07IsafjodurIcelandRedTinHouseSmallIt was starting to sprinkle, so I didn’t feature going too far afield and I didn’t have enough time for all three films at the “Museum of the Mundane”.  I wasn’t paying ten bucks to see just one and a bunch of stuff of the sort I had thrown out many times in my life.  I had met the Rotterdam’s shore guide, Glenn-Michael, on the way out and he suggested passing by the Maritime Museum on the way back to the ship.  I did, and I decided to go in there, paid my ten bucks and saw a bunch of stuff of the sort I had thrown out many times in my life.  I can’t recommend that, but, at sail away, in the Crow’s Nest, I heard a number of people raving about the whale-watching experience, so it looks like that’s the way to go in this port.

I landed the same long table again, and Peter and Janice, too, along with a Dutch couple and a Canadian couple.  The bonus was Dorothy, from the first night.  We went to the show together.  It was a pianist named Naomi Edemariam, and she was playing familiar pieces from famous operas, like Toreador from La Bohème and The William Tell Overture.  (“To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump dump”).  Hi Ho Silver, away.

On Saturday, August 24, we had our private Kitchen Tour, with Presty, so I went to the Dining Room, instead of the desk.  Sixteen people came on the Kitchen Tour and were glad they did.  Presty gave us the most in-depth kitchen tour any of us had ever had.  Chef came out and spoke to us, we saw pasta making, and plating for a special lunch, which was to start in a half-hour in the Dining room, dessert assembly, the works.  They don’t buy any bread, pasta or pastries.  They make all that on board.  We were all delighted with the tour.  When we ended up in The Pinnacle, Presty told the group he had done it because he knew me so well after a long history of world cruises together on the Amsterdam. 20190824-05RotterdamKitchenTourPresty

I picked up my computer and went to the desk.  It was freezing there because “On Deck for a Cause” was just coming back and the doors were in the permanently open position.  I put in an hour there and then went to the gym, grabbed a rice pudding in the Lido, and logged and blogged the afternoon away.  It was 6:35 pm before I even looked at my watch.  I changed and went to the dining room.  This time I landed an all Dutch table.  They were very nice but it’s a bit of work for all of us.  The show was the Knights again.

 

Parts North – Part 10 – Iceland

Saturday, August 17, continued

I held a lucky draw in the Crow’s Nest for my people and bid them a fond farewell.  Then I joined my old friends, Jack and Sylvia, for a last dinner together.  They chose The Lido Café, so there we ate, and then we went to the Ocean Bar, where they could dance, but the band wasn’t playing anything good, so we just chatted, comfortably, like the old shoes we are.  They left very early the next morning and are home safely, in Toronto, having paid too much for me, for their airport taxi in Amsterdam.  Since there’s only one of me, the ship’s transfer is an attractive option.  The taxi cost 70 euros.

On Sunday, a whole new cruise was starting, to Iceland and Greenland.  I had met with everyone I needed to, yesterday, so I was free early in the day.  I had mysteriously got a significant cabin upgrade to a Vista Suite, so the first order of business was moving.  Housekeeping brought a bell cart and all I had to do was put everything that wasn’t hanging into my suitcase.  I bagged it all by drawer or shelf and it was done in a jiffy.

I couldn’t do any more until everyone had boarded.  There are always a few “guarantees” and an upgrade or two. So, I went out in Amsterdam to see the Rembrandts I had missed on the way in.  There were a couple of helpful Dutchmen in the information booth and they looked up the location of the convention center, RAI, to find me transportation.  They determined it was a 35-euro taxi ride away, and I sure wasn’t paying 70 euros to see a bunch or reproductions.  The good news was that it was a straight shot on the Metro.  I could walk to Centraal Station and catch that.

That’s what I did.  It was a 10 to 15-minute walk, and starting to sprinkle, just as I got there.  I had met a lot of people on the way with Rotterdam Luggage tags.  Our Dutch passengers just take the train from home and wheel their luggage on board.  Once in Centraal station, I found the M52 line without much difficulty and took the escalator down.  Then I met the ticket booth.  It certainly could have been friendlier.  I touched English and still could not figure out what it wanted me to do next.  It was rejecting my credit card in both of its slots.  There was no one around but eventually a girl of 18-22 years of age came up and used the machine beside me, in Dutch, of course.  But all the Dutch speak English, so I started whimpering and asked for help.  She kept her head held high in the air and ignored me completely.  I called out “Thanks for your help” to her retreating back.  I’m glad I’ll be dead by the time that generation rules the world.

A couple of minutes later a little kid showed up.  He wasn’t more than six, but he spoke good English and knew how the machines worked.  Luckily, my credit card did, too, and I was soon in possession of a round trip for 9 euros.  Maybe there’s hope for his generation.

The subway was clean and efficient, and I was soon where I wanted to be.  The exhibition is wonderful.  Every known work of Rembrandt’s is there, reproduced in the size he originally painted, or etched, them.  There were about 320 paintings.  Only 41 of them are in Dutch collections.  The rest are spread over 18 countries, in museums and private collections.  Some have been stolen and damaged.  But they are all here, digitally remastered to the state they were in when they left the artist’s studio.  And they were beautiful.  I met my old friends from the Frick in New York.  Those I recognized from afar, as I must have visited them about ten times.  I love the Frick. I almost lost track of time and had to hurry through the last quarter of them.

But the ship’s drill is compulsory, even for passengers from the previous sailing, so I had to get back on board, and I did.  I did the drill in the company of six Montrealers, who happened to be behind me at our muster station.  Then I went to the front desk, got my manifest updated and a more complete shore excursion description from the EXCursions department.  I made my corrections and did my mail merge.  I was out delivering a little after six, and in line for dinner before seven.

I landed a wonderful table in open seating.  There were Rolf and Marion, from Amsterdam, Sharon and Brian from Seattle and 90-year old Dorothy from Austin, formerly Houston. We all clicked and had a fabulous time.  I’m hoping to dine with these people again.

Monday, August 19 was a sea day.  I got up and went straight to the Lido for breakfast.  The NY Times Daily wasn’t in the rack, so I took “Britain Today.”  When the next guy came up, I remarked “No American paper today.”  He said, “That’s alright.  They can’t read” in unaccented English.  And that, my friends, is what the rest of the world thinks of us.  How sad can it get?

I was back in my room by 9:00am, calling all of my people.  Then I went to the desk, where three couples came, which was good.  In the afternoon, I met with Presty, the Dining Room Manager, with whom I have more than 500 days of history.  We tee’d up a private Kitchen Tour and a group dinner for 10 in the Dining Room on August 21.  I met with Shore Excursions again and tweaked the cocktail party speech. By 4:00pm, I was up in the Crow’s Nest waiting.

Everybody came but one person, who wasn’t well.  More than that 14 people signed up for the Kitchen Tour and all 21 who came signed up for dinner at 6:30pm on the 21st.  There are three people with the same last name on the manifest.  They are next door neighbors in Neptune suites, and they had never met before this party.  I introduced the single lady to the male half of the couple, as his mother.  They got talking and by the time our gal was done, she was his younger sister.  Too much fun.

Between the cocktail party and dinner, I drafted a newsletter with the Dinner and Kitchen Tour in it.  I wanted to run them by Presty at dinner.  The dining room was a zoo that night and I ended up meeting with him about four times, before, during and after dinner.  We worked it out, though, and I left with clarifications for the letter I would be delivering in the morning.

I was late for the show, but I did catch the tail end of it, and it was pretty good.  It was three male singers, who called themselves the Three Knights and sang songs written by, or from shows produced by, people who had been knighted for their efforts.  You know who they are.

On Tuesday, August 20, I got up early in Torshavn, Faroe, Islands.  I fixed the newsletter, mail-merged it and delivered it before breakfast.  I wanted to go out in this pretty town.  There was a mob in the stairways, so we waited an hour after docking and I stepped off with David and Debbie at 11:00am. 20190820-01TorshavnHarbourSmall

The taxis weren’t bargaining, not at all.  It was going to be at least $90 pp, to go anywhere for a couple of hours.  We might have caved, had there not been free buses all over town.  We decided to try one.  We ended up taking three of them.

They were fun.  They took us through many neighborhoods, to see how the people lived.  The air was clean and fresh.  There were sheep grazing in the suburbs and sea gulls to fight over a loaf of bread one of our fellow passengers had spirited off the ship.  Best of all, there were children using the bus to get home from school.  It’s safe here.  People still let their children ride public transportation all over the place and talk to strangers.  They spoke beautiful English, one of them had even lived in Georgia when she was younger. She was probably ten.  One of our bus drivers told us that a number of people who were born in the Faroe Islands, and went to a city to make money, decide to come back to raise their children.  The education is good, and it’s a kinder, gentler place.  I’ll bet the weather is nasty in the winter, though.  It was none too warm in August, and this was a beautiful sunny day.

I had dinner with four Aussies, Vicki, Jerry, Anne and Heather, plus Marion and Rolf again.  This was my second time eating with them.  The third will be on purpose.  I like them a lot.  They were born and live in Amsterdam, but they were in the States for a long time.  Rolf worked for IBM in Poughkeepsie, and Marion was an architect.  She had her own firm and built shopping centers all over the world, for people like IKEA.  We went to see the British comedian, Paul Adams, again, and had a few chuckles before bedtime.

 

Parts North – Part 9 – Edinburgh

Friday, August 16, 2019

I had a slightly earlier breakfast and was rewarded with getting to lock in my deal for self-guided taxi excursions with David and Debbie Schwartz.  We’ve now exchanged cabin numbers. I did my email, went to the gym and got off around noon in South Queensferry.  It was a tender port but the tenders were “shoreside tenders’, meaning they were sightseeing boats, a lot more comfortable than our lifeboats.  I got a bus to the middle of Edinburgh for 9 pounds.  It was a real bargain.  It left from each end every twenty minutes and could be used on any of the company’s buses for the whole day, except the HOHO.  It left us off at St. Andrews Square, facing Harvey Nichols, across the street.

I started with a little retail therapy, ‘though I didn’t buy a thing.  When you are at your max weight, there isn’t much that flatters you.  I liked the design of one dress, enough to pay the price for it, but it was in battleship green, a color that only makes me look fatter still.  With my wallet intact, I went back outside and headed towards the High Street.  It was just starting to sprinkle, but it didn’t take long to get a lot nastier, wind and rain in the face kind of nasty.  I whipped around, dove back into Harvey Nichols and up to the fourth floor for lunch.  The smoked salmon on a bagel was delicious, but the rocky road brownie thing was terrible, which saved me from eating it.  It had looked so good, too.

Back out on the street, at about three, the weather was gorgeous, and I completed my journey across the Waverley Bridge and up to the High Street.  There were people everywhere.  It was Fringe.  I think they boasted of more than 500 venues.  This is the ancestor of all Laugh Festivals, and there were comedy shows everywhere, with touts vying for my attention.  I really wanted to see the one with the turquoise flyer.  But no one offered me that.20190816-01EdinburghFringeHelenSmall So I chose the one that was starting in fifteen minutes, just down the block.  The gal’s name was Njambi McGrath, with the “N” silent.  She was born in Kenya and met her husband at University in New York City.  A “Coconut”, I learned, is brown on the outside and white on the inside.  They must have learned this from the HK Chinese, who called the ABCs, BBCs and CBCs, “Bananas”20190816-04EdinburghFringeNjambiMcGrathsmall

 

She was hysterical, and she made you think, and I couldn’t have chosen better, had I done it on purpose.  It was after five, when I got back out on the street, so I did a bit more of High Street, and noted I was very close to the Castle, and the venue of the famous Edinburgh Tattoo.  I was giving that a miss, as I feared I might just be spending a bunch of money to make my cough worse.  I watched the pipes and drums, Scottish fiddler and dancers from the comfort of the show lounge.

August 17 was our last day at sea, I went to my desk.  A couple did stop by and they told me about the Tattoo Experience.  It was excellent but it started to pour at 10:00 pm and everyone got very wet.  Taking back-to-back DVs is brilliant.  I got almost all my work for the next one done today.  I also got a nice free upgrade to a Vista Suite, so I am looking forward to that on the next leg, Iceland and Greenland.  Gotta see it before it melts.

Parts North – Part 8 – Scottish Highlands

Monday, August 12, 2019

It’s a sea day, on the way to Scotland.  I stayed around the desk until about one o’clock, but hardly anyone came.  This is a very self-sufficient group.  I meet them around the ship and they are all happy to see me, but they aren’t needy.  I went to the gym, and had a sauna, and got dressed for formal night.  Then I went to the Ocean Bar for a Virgin Mary, and on to dinner in the Dining Room.  I landed two Dutch couples again, Enrique and Anika and Richard and Carolyn.  They were lovely.  The show was good, too.  It was called “Humanity” and the six dancers were from Step One Dance Company.  It was the best show yet.

The next day, before I went out in Portree, Scotland, I did the usual, had a nice breakfast, went to the gym, and cleared my email.  One of my emails had a thing from AOL in it, wanting me to confirm that I recognized that they were now part of Oath, part of Verizon.  I had had this before and dismissed it as probable phishing, but it looked very real this time.  I googled AOL and Oath and the story, at least, is true.  So, I went back and clicked on it.  Microsoft logo branded stuff came up and it asked for my AOL username and password.  I put them in, still suspicious, and immediately went to AOL and changed the password.  That done, I had to deal with Outlook.  It would have been easier if Outlook’s help pages were up to date, but I eventually got through it, ‘though it robbed me of some time in a pretty port.

As it turned out, it robbed me of the rainy bits.  By the time I got out the sun was shining, and it was a lovely day.  Portree is on the Isle of Skye and it’s very pretty.  I took the stairway up into the town and walked all over it.  It wasn’t that big and it was very pleasant.  I bought an almond/jam square in the local bakery and an ice cream cone from the local ice creamery.  All very nice and oinky.  Then I met Ed James and we walked back to the ship together.  The kids are having a wonderful time with him and Madeleine, while his wife and her husband are happy to be home in BC.

Back on board, I had dinner in The Pinnacle, with the Parkers and it was just lovely.  Then we went to the show, which featured a Scottish comedian named Geoff Boyz, odd name spelling, but he was funny enough to keep us engaged for an hour.

It was a beautiful sunny day in Kirkwall. On the 14th, and I was anxious to get out in it.  After the usual breakfast, email and gym time, I wrote my farewell letters, for delivery, along with the Comment Cards when I get back.  Then I took the shuttle into the little town and had a good long walk around.  Kirkland is on one of the Orkney Islands, and proud of it.  In the three years since I have been here, the souvenir business has been significantly refined.  Now “fairisle” is just a design used to enhance some of the better garments, not the old-fashioned sweaters they were selling last time.  I have more shawls and sweaters than I need, so all I bought was an ice cream cone, making sure it was local.

I did give five pounds away, though.  The Kirkwall Flower Arrangement Club was having its annual show in St. Magnus Church.  It wasn’t all that great, mind you, but I gave the money going in, you see. 20190814-01KirkwallStMagnusFlowerArrangingSmall Back on board, I went out my lanai door when I heard the music and was treated to a highland dance exhibition.  I delivered my letters and took a nap, because the Indonesian Crew show was tonight at eleven, which is starting to be past my bed time.

I got up around six-forty-five and went to Canaletto, ready to eat around seven, before the late show, or eight, after the early one.  They took me right away and I had beef carpaccio, lasagna and tiramisu, all of fine quality.  Then I went to see David Kidd, who does credit to the songs of Tom Jones.  I just hung around the show lounge, from nine to ten, taking Spanish lessons, until it was time for the Indonesian Crew Show.

There was an interesting factoid in the introduction.  I suppose I should have already known it, but here it is, in case you didn’t either.  Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, after China, India and the United States.  The fact that its land mass is spread over more than 70,000 islands, sort of explains why we haven’t all noticed, yet.  Indonesians make up well over 50% of all Holland America Crews, being most of the room stewards, housekeeping personnel, and dining room stewards.  Slam, my delightful room steward was one of the hand-dancers.  He had the best smile of the lot.  When I told him so, he said it was because he really liked people and especially liked to entertain them.  I can relate to that.

On Thursday, the 15th, I woke up felling worse than usual.  Judy commented on my last blog that I didn’t seem to be enjoying myself as much as usual.  It probably has to do with the cold I have been dragging around for more than 10 days now.  I skipped breakfast and went to see the doctor instead.  All I got was more cough syrup, a few codeine pills, which I likely won’t take, and told to rest.  It might also have to do with the fact that I am lonesome out here alone.  I was thinking I was going to flirt, but there’s no one to flirt with.

Since I saw Inverness pretty thoroughly, three years ago, I decided to stay on board and just pound my keyboard and rest.  I went to the gym, too, but just to stretch.  There was a pipe and drum band on the pier to see us off, but we didn’t go, just yet. We had a medical debark, none of mine.

I went to dinner around seven and finally got two American couples as dinner partners, Marla and Frank from Charleston, North Carolina and Marge and John from Michigan.  Marge and John have their 5-year old great grand daughter aboard.  They are raising her now, because the state offered her to them when both parents were declared unfit.  You have to admire a couple who take on a young child when they are already in their seventies.  Apparently, the child is brilliant and a handful, and they have her enrolled in a special K-12 for gifted children.  Good for the three of them.  There is an upside to this being alone, after all.  You meet inspiring people.

David and Debbie Schwartz sat in front of me for the show and I found out they are staying on for the next cruise.  They like to hire a taxi and just go around themselves.  Perfect, just what I was looking for, partners for that kind of activity.  Since David is about 6’4” it solves my concern about being abducted by the taxi driver.  I’ll be doing more fun things next leg.  Stay tuned. The show, by the way, was the Step One Dancers in “Stages” and it was even better than their first one.

Parts North – Part 7 – Dublin

Sunday, August 11, 2019

This is the highlight.  This is Dublin, our DV shore excursion port and home to Mary and Sean, whom I will see right after.  I was up early, checking that everything was in order and grabbing a bit of breakfast.  I was at our meeting place about twenty minutes early and for once, no one had beat me.  They started arriving shortly thereafter, pretty much in reverse cabin number order, a phenomenon I have noted before.  It’s the people in the suites and balconies who have their acts best together.  It makes sense and it always amuses me.

We did have everyone pretty much on time and down we went to the gangway and our waiting bus and guide.  Rhona was lovely, organized, knew her stuff and loved her city.  She and Brian our driver were a dream team.  She confided later that it’s Sunday morning that’s the charm in Dublin, as the traffic is light until the pubs open at noon, and the football games get going in the afternoon.

On the way to Trinity College, Rhona pointed out The Customs House and it’s numerous architectural details.  It was built in 10 years, starting in 1781, mostly destroyed by the IRA during the war of Independence in 1921, and rebuilt.  There’s a replica of the tall ship, Jeannie Johnston, in the water near there.  The original was built in Quebec in 1847 as a cargo ship and ended up carrying famine victims back to Montreal, starting in 1848.  Her claim to fame was that most of her passengers made it to Canada alive.  There’s a new museum nearby called the EPIC, which tells the whole famine story.  Must see it one of these trips.

On to The Book of Kells.  I had seen it almost fifty years ago, when we first came to Ireland with Mary and Sean.  It’s much different now, and much better. Trinity College has used the tourist money well, for preservation and better exhibition.  It’s quite wonderful.  You don’t see many literary items from the 8th century that look this good.  If it’s more than three years since you last saw it, you’d enjoy going back.  The gift shop is good, too.  I bought an Aran toque for Rekjavik.  It’s really nice, but I later noticed it is only 30% wool and though the tags say “Ireland” in about five places, I never saw “made in” anywhere.  I’ll let you know how warm it is in Rekjavik.

We passed the Four Courts on the way to tea and scones.  It, too, had a fire during the war of Independence and you won’t find your Irish family’s records there.  The Hatch, Match and Dispatch sections all burned down.  You’ll have to find the relevant churches in the countryside, which can be pretty daunting if your grandparents didn’t keep good records of their own.  I was put in possession of whatever my family had about 25 years ago, and I ditched it all, when I made my last move.  There’s no one behind me to care.

Tea and scones at the Arlington Hotel were delicious and the room we were in was gorgeous.  Marty Frank made a new friend outside.20190811-13DublinArlingtonMartyFrankSmall

Back in the bus, we drove around some more, with Rhona adding interesting details, about the Guinness family, for instance, as we saw their mansion, and front yard, which is now the famous Steven’s Green, an oasis in the heart of the city. The Guinnesses gave both the house and green to the city, along with a lot of public housing.  They have an interesting concept here.  People pay for public housing according to their means and needs.  It’s called “differential”.  If you are doing well, you pay the fair rent.  If not, you pay what you can, and the state pays the difference.  I’m not sure I’d like to be administering the system, but somebody does.  We saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 1190, restored by Guinness, and Christ Church Cathedral, the protestant one.  It dates back to the 9th century and was restored by whisky money.  Who says drink is a bad thing?

All too soon it was over.  About half of the bus elected to stay in town and take taxis back.  I rode back with it but never boarded the ship.  Mary was picking me up and I had to get back to the port entrance.  Luckily, there was a shuttle for that, and I was there by the appointed hour.  Mary wasn’t so lucky.  There was a semi-final football game coming on in the afternoon, and a lot of the roads she wanted were closed to her.  Then the signage in the port was silly or non-existent, so she had to make a couple of doubtless expensive phone calls to my US phone, so I could get the security guards to guide her in.

We met the football deviation problems on the way out to her house, too, but, no bother, we had plenty to talk about.  We had a nice chat with Sean, around the kitchen table with some cheese and crackers to fortify us for the pub crawl to come.  We girls were going out alone.  Sean was watching the semi-final.  We took the bus, so Mary could drink without worrying about having to drive.  When Mary went to pay for me, she learned there was no need.  Her Senior pass allowed her a companion, free.  Some companion I am.  I am a year older than she is and have nowhere near the walking capacity.  Never mind, I rode for the 2 Euros that had already gone into the box, before the bus driver stopped her.  The ride cost was 3.20 euro.

We got off in Stoneybatter, a residential area not far from downtown, but one that no tourist would likely find.  Mary knows it because her eldest daughter lives there.  The pub was The Glimmer Man.  It was quite large, but made up of about ten small rooms, two or three of which were outdoors at the back.  The pub food came from a food truck parked out back, called Vietnom.  The menu was very eclectic, with dishes that borrowed from Indian, Mexican and Japanese, as well as Vietnamese, and were served on baguettes.  All this for 9 euros.  It was tempting but too early and we wanted more than a sandwich.  I am on my dry month, much to Mary’s disappointment, so I had a Heiniken 00.  At least I can look like I am drinking beer.  The décor in this place is amazing.20190811-25DublinGlimmerManDecorHostsSmall  I wouldn’t like to have to clean it and I don’t suppose anybody does, beyond the floors, counters and tables.  This was one room.  Those are vinyl records on the ceiling, not to mention the bikes and occupied bed, hanging from it.  The walls are covered with various contributions from patrons over the years and there’s quite a substantial shrine to a female patron, who was the life of the party, until she got cancer and died young.

We finished our beers, one real and one fake, and moved on.  Our next pub was The Cobblestone, a music pub, like Carolyn and I were looking for last year and never found.  You have to be in a neighborhood, but now you know, and you can google it, next time you’re in Dublin.  It helps to have a target.  We got there around 5:00pm, and it was already too late to get a seat within earshot of the music, because it was acoustic.  Like the once a week music pub we found in Tipperary last year, people just dropped in with their instruments and played together.

We thought there were no seats at all, until a lovely young Swiss-German couple waved us over.  It was around the corner and at the back, so there was no music, but they were delightful.  She was here to live with a family for a month and learn English.  Her English was already pretty good, it just needed some improvement to follow classes for the advanced degree she was going for, after eight years in the work force back home.  Tamara and Enrique were fun to talk to and we learned things, like Swiss-German has no written language.  They write in German. Period.

We hopped onto the tram for one stop and ended up close enough to our chosen restaurant, “Chez Max”.  It’s a little French Restaurant and it’s wonderful.  We had soupe à l’oignon, moules frites, and mousse au chocolat.  20190811-33DublinChezMaxMarySmallWell, Mary had crème brulée, but that was the only difference.  We had a little booth we could talk in and it was great.  The French fries reminded us both of Montreal.  Yum.  By this time, we had got through family and friend updates and were on to philosophical discussion.  Pity I wasn’t drinking.

Chez Max wasn’t all that far from Temple Bar, which Mary dismissed as the ultimate tourist area, but we walked through it anyway, just to have a look at the characters.  We saw a lot of them, and they were all so young.

By about 8 o’clock, my feet were giving me some pretty serious pain.  I have to deal with finding more comfortable shoes.  Mary helped me find a taxi.  We had a little hug and were both glad of having had this day together.  My taxi driver was very nice.  He didn’t know the port any better than Mary did, but eventually, we spied some people walking back to the ship, who knew where its gate was.  The security guard let the taxi through, when I showed my ship pass, and he delivered me right to the gangway.  He wouldn’t even break a fifty so I could give him a bigger tip.

I was never so happy to take my shoes off and rub Tiger Balm into my feet.  What a great day!