Parts North – Part 6 Liverpool

Friday, August 9, 2019

We should have been in port at Ilfracombe, which I hear is a lovely little town, but it doesn’t have much of a protected harbor and there’s a storm coming.  Captain Bant announced it last night.  His plan is to evade the storm as best he can and pull into Liverpool around 8:00 pm tonight, so we can go out on the town, if we want to.

Since it was now a Sea Day, I went to my desk at 10:00 am and was kept busy this time.  Apart from my people who stopped by, it just pays to spend time at the desk.  A very nice couple stopped by, attracted by the DV catalog, and asked about the program.  I was happy to let them look and asked them if they knew if their TA was attached to Travel Leaders, as so many are.  They told me they didn’t have a Travel Agent, they just booked with Holland America, directly.  That gave me a chance to explain to them what they were missing out on, and I’ll just bet they’ll be googling “Travel Leaders Travel Agent” soon.

I did more DV work, and spent a couple of hours in my room, logging and blogging.  Around 5:30 pm, I noticed a gigantic windfarm at sea, just outside my cabin, and on the way in to Liverpool.  We may run out of food, but we won’t be running out of power anytime, soon.  I went out to dinner around 7:30 and a lot of people were leaving the ship, which had docked early.  The sun was still shining, and if I had had a partner, and NOT had a cold, I’d have been out there with them.

Dinner in the dining room was good, though.  I had a very nice table again.  These people were all Dutch, but all spoke good English and most of them had traveled the world extensively.  Tonkia, who was traveling with her mother Ted, short for Dorothy, was interesting because she spends her vacations nearer to home, but on a Dutch 30-metre training sailboat, as an instructor.  Dick and Marlene were a couple with relatives in the States, so they had gone back and forth, a lot, visiting a different part of North America, each time.  We went on until 9:30 pm, half way through the show, but I managed to miss the magician and see most of pianist Tim Abel’s performance, which was brilliant.

The next morning, I realized, I should have gone out last night.  It was a gentle day, but my smart phone informed me it wasn’t going to stay that way.  We could expect 50 mph winds and rain by 5:00 pm.  Well it’s 4:30pm, as I write this and the winds haven’t started but it’s been raining since a little after three.  Since I had slept in, because I am still fighting a cold, gone to the gym, and prepared my lists, nametags and tips for tomorrow’s excursion, I had decided to give Liverpool a miss, again.  I always expect to be coming back, and I usually do.  I’ll be hoping third time’s the charm.

I did step out of my Lanai Cabin and circle the deck four times, which is over a mile, and that was my walk.  Here’s what I saw of Liverpool, old and new.

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There were seven of us, four from Hawaii,two from Michigan, and me.  We were eating in The Pinnacle Grill at seven and we sailed at six, which gave me a last-minute idea that we should be in the Crows nest as we sailed down the Mersey.  Bless these people.  I called them at 6:10 pm and we were all up there by 6:20 to enjoy it.  At the appointed hour, we proceeded to The Pinnacle to be spoiled.  This is a DV add on that I usually do on Holland America, taking advantage of my five-star status.

They had an appetizer that even I could not face.  Gary Loo said he had had it and it was excellent.  Susan Slaymaker was game.  I had a little piece of one of them, but there was still one left when she was done.  It’s not just bacon, it’s candied bacon.20190810-01RotterdamPinnacleCandiedBaconSmall

The steaks were beautiful, the salmon left a bit to be desired, and the company was terrific.   It was a lovely evening.  I caught the end of the BBC Earth planet show.  It’s rare animal videos, set to classical music, with our Lincoln Centre Stage chamber orchestra performing.  I’d go to another of those shows.

 

Parts North – Part 5 – The English Riviera

Sunday, August 4, continued

But before I continue, let me reply to my curmudgeonly friend, Gil Mercier.  I actually like some modern art.  I recently bought a piece.  It doesn’t try to be anything but what it is, a clever representation of a cocktail party.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, because all the gold does shine and the colors pop.WineWednesday2019smaller

And, yes, Gil, I must admit I am trying to keep it clean.  It’s on a more-or-less public web site now.  You would approve of the thing I bought at the parade, though.

Boarding was easy, that five-star status earned on all those world cruises, does help.  We skipped the lines and I was settled in and working by one-thirty.  I spoke to Lenty in Shore Excursions, who was on charge of our DV tour, Lisa the Bar Manager and Lizly, the Entertainment Coordinator.  I also stopped by the Pinnacle Grill to see how many half-price dinners my five stars would get me to offer the group.  There were a number of changes to the manifest, which I made.  Then I touched up my Welcome Letter and Amenities Notification, and gave them to Lisly for printing

I made it up to sailaway in time to catch one piece of fish, before they stopped serving hors d’oeuvres.  Then I went back down, picked up my printing, stuffed and delivered my folders.  I was in the dining room by 7:47pm, which is a record for me.  What really helped is that this is a small group. I took pot luck at dinner and ended up with two nice Canadian couples, Myrna and Wayne and Sharon and Ron, who introduced himself as ‘the back end of Sharon.”

I woke up in the middle of the night with a cold. It either came from the airplane of the Float Spa in Amsterdam.  I suspect the latter.  I won’t be doing that again.  I don’t mess with colds when I am working.  I started a Z-Pack, so I wouldn’t be passing it on.

August 5 was a Sea Day, which was great.  It was going to be a busy one. I did the necessary with the Front Desk to finalize my Manifest and between 9:00 and 10:00 am, I managed to call all the rooms and grab myself a bit of breakfast.  Then I went to the desk.

I found out that when you have just finished calling them all, nobody comes.  I checked availability for Kilmainham Goal in Dublin and the Edinburgh Tattoo.  The jail is a non-starter at this point and there’s limited availability for the Tattoo, but, at least I am informed.  I fussed around with business for another hour and went to the gym.  I wrote my cocktail party speech and had it printed, with the new manifest, and went to the “Singles and Solos” afternoon tea in the Dining Room at three.  I won’t be wasting time on that, again.

The cocktail party went very well but I ate alone, as there wasn’t enough time before the show to be social. The show itself wasn’t much.  They call it Post Modern Jukebox, so they can replace at least 5 people with special effects, and merge music from different eras.  I wasn’t too happy with it, but I do like to be entertained.

August 6, we were in Portland, the port for Weymouth, where many great novels have been set.  I had a very nice crepe breakfast in the Lido, wrote and delivered a quick newsletter, and worked out in the gym, before getting off the ship.  I took the shuttle into Weymouth and got going on my errands.  First, I needed a belt, as my new stretch jeans, tended to fall down as they stretched.  Not a great look.  A belt is easy in a port town.  There’s always a nearby ship shop.  I was delighted to find black halyard line and got myself the appropriate length of it for 3 pounds twenty.  The pounds I had saved from 2016 were no longer in circulation, so I put it on a card and added a bank to my list.  The next place I found was the T-Shop, right on the water, where a 12-year old served me this lovely cream tea:20190806-03WeymouthTShopSmall

It was scrumptious and cost 3 pound 50.  Then I crossed over the bridge and went strolling around the town.  I was delighted to find a half-dozen thrift shops, supporting everything from the Red Cross to Cat Rescue.  I went in to every one of them and came out with two tops, suitable for dining on a ship, for 8 pounds.  This is the British equivalent of my Asian disposable clothing theory.  At the end of the trip, I’ll bring home only what I can carry and leave the rest to the crew.  I had forgotten to take my Amsterdam purchase out of my backpack and had the whole cat rescue store in stitches, when I shared a peek at it.

The beautiful weather had brought the locals, and their dogs, out, which made it very nice.  I ended up in Bennett’s Fish and chips, just near the bridge, for a Fish ‘n Chips dinner.  Lisa, the Bar Manager, had told me it was the best in Weymouth and she wasn’t wrong.  When I got back, it was still nice enough to enjoy the deck chair outside my cabin, so I did that until it cooled down.

Then I went back in to do some paperwork, until I was summoned by a brass band, right outside my stateroom, on the pier.  I went out to listen, with a jacket on, added a scarf, and finally decided I shouldn’t risk making my cold worse, but it was terribly nice of them.  I worked for another half hour and went back out, where a ceremonial gun squad had been added to the brass band.  I got my jacket and scarf again and waited them out.  It took them a terrible long time to get on with it, and it probably did worsen my cold, but these things should be encouraged.  Finally, they fired the gun, numerous times and it reminded me of nothing so much as Michael and Cullen’s wedding.  I really should have put a line about that in my eulogy for Paul. 20190806-43PortlandPorttBrassBandGunSmall

Next morning, I did a bit of work, had a lovely Eggs Benedict breakfast, hit the gym again, and got off in Guernsey.  The last time I was here, I had discovered Hauteville, Victor Hugo’s home, too late to tour the interior, which looked pretty special.  I told the greeter at the dock that was my plan, and she said I had better check with the Information Centre, as they might be closed Wednesdays.  I set off along the other side of the waterfront street to said place, which was on my way to the Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club, anyway.  Sure enough, Hauteville is closed on Wednesdays, but they had nice pictures of its restoration on their own walls.  I’ll just have to save that for the next time.

RCIYC is on the third floor of a building, above “The Catch” restaurant.  On the way up the stairs, I met a lady coming down with two milk shakes, one in each hand.  She told me not to go up there under any circumstances.  The Club Manager was there and she was very ill with something whose description sounded to me like noro virus.  I was only too happy to turn around and go back down with her.  On the way I told her where I was from and how I often visit yacht clubs when I travel, being a member of RHKYC and RStLYC, and all.  Next thing she offered me one of the milkshakes and a lift to the Guernsey Museum in Candie where there were ice paintings and a great view.  I was very glad of both of them, and of Diana’s company.  I’ll probably never see her again, but I won’t soon forget this great travel moment.  Many thanks to my fleeting best friend.

The temporary collection at the museum was all about Manga.  I didn’t even know what it was before and am now so much more enlightened.  The historic paintings and view were beautiful, and they had park benches where you could enjoy the scenery, until someone came for a smoke up wind.  It was a gorgeous sunny day in Guernsey, and I hated to leave, but a tender beckoned.

I had dinner with three Dutch people and an American couple, and we avoided politics.  The entertainer, Tim Abel, was very able on the piano, and I enjoyed the show.

On Thursday, August 8, we docked in Torquay, Torbay, Devon.  The sun was still shining, when I had had another nice crepe breakfast, and some time in the gym, so I decided to go out.  By the time I got to the tender platform, it had started to turn nasty but I was committed.  It was a bit of a rough ride, so I decided not to go too far afield.  I went searching for a Devon Cream Tea, first.  I passed a good number of little places advertising them, but I figured that what I wanted was a good hotel, where it would really be something special.

I stopped into Boots, the Chemist Shop, for a tube of toothpaste and to pick the cashier’s brain about local hotels.  She knew nothing.  I continued on and happened on The Torbay Hotel.  It had once been grand enough but it looked like it had seen better days.  The weather was worsening, so I took a comfortable velvet covered chair in its faded lobby and waited to be served.  When nothing happened, I got up and looked around.  There was a counter in the next room, so I went up and ordered at it.  Here’s the pathetic Devon Cream Tea I got for 5 pounds 50.  The scone was probably yesterday’s, from its consistency, and the clotted cream was packaged and not even from Devon.  The butter and jam were commercial packaging, not as nice as the ship’s.20190808-01TorquayCreamTeaSmall

If that wasn’t enough to make me sad, there were a few locals in the place, and I overheard one of them saying that he could get better quality and pricing on the Internet.  True, and guilty of supporting Amazon, and taking the charm out of a lot of places.  There a was a pretty old fashioned seaside pavilion, but it was boarded up.  The modern “wheel” was doing a reasonable business, though.  And I’ll have to admit, the weather was worsening.

I met the Parkers for dinner.  We had booked it in the Pinnacle that morning, but when we got there, it was Rudi’s Sel de Mer special, which we didn’t want, so we ate in the Dining Room and went to another Post Modern Jukebox Show.  That will be my last of those.

 

 

Parts North – Part 4 – Amsterdam

Saturday, August 2,

I woke up refreshed and went straight to work. I did the paperwork for the ship and caught up with my blog and 342 emails.  Luckily, I could delete ¾ of them.  The weather outside alternated between bright sunshine and raining katten und doggen.  Jack and Sylvia Parker finally arrived around two, just as I was finishing up.  Their plane had been delayed in Toronto, then getting to the gate in Amsterdam.  They were in a huge line at customs, too.  They were ready for a quick lunch and a nap.

I went to the Rijksmuseum.  I took a tram, which left me no option for the snack I wanted, but the museum café.  It was good enough, but service was slow, and I only had an hour to find and tour the special Rembrandt exhibition.  Too bad I had managed to misunderstand the “Hello Amsterdam” magazine in the hotel, which, I now see, clearly states that “The Ultimate Rembrandt Collection” is at RAI Amsterdam.  I took that to mean the Rijksmuseam, when it’s the Convention Center.   That’s where there are 350 high quality reproductions, in their original sizes and in chronological order.  The Rijksmuseum’s special Rembrandt exhibit is 350 works by contemporary artists, done especially for 2019, to commemorate his death in Amsterdam, 350 years ago.  At least I had enough time to see that, but it was disappointing.

I got back to the hotel in time for a nap before dinner with the Parkers at Bird, a Thai restaurant, smack in the Gay red-light area.  There was a creepy looking guy leaning out of the window across the street, with a raven sculpture on his windowsill, as we stood in line to get in.  There were also a gazillion dildos of all shapes and colors on sale, as we walked there.

The food was excellent.  I had them make it extra spicy, after last night’s bland experience at Ashoka.  It came out just right, a little tingle on the back of the tongue to remember it by after you finished.

Just like last year in Dublin, I managed to be in Amsterdam for Pride week.  I don’t do this on purpose, but the universe knows I live at Fountaingrove Lodge and would like it very much.  Today it delivered the last day of Pride Week, on which the parade takes place on the canals.  The hotel told us to forget taking a canal tour, the boats had all been commandeered, either by the organizers or the gay tourists.  We should just go out there on foot and have fun.

First, we went out in the morning to do a couple of errands and hit an ATM up for Euros.  I have known the Parkers for over 50 years and Jack Parker is an amazing walker, with an incredible sense of direction.  He listens to the concierge and off he goes, unerringly reaching the destination, and at speed.  I was impressed.  I didn’t see much of Amsterdam but the back of his head, mind you, but we got the errands done.

On the way we did see a couple of interesting stalls, selling Amsterdam’s old main export and what will likely be its new one:

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We nipped back into the hotel for a quick rest and a pit stop and went out to lunch.  We figured we’d catch the Pride parade a few blocks before it was to end at Centraal Station.  We stopped at a tapas place for lunch because it had all the diverse things we three wanted, sardines for Jack, soup for Sylvia and crepes for me.  They come with Nutella here, instead of the maple syrup I want, but what’s not to like about chocolate and hazelnut?

This parade gives an old meaning to the word “floats”:

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And that picture gives you some idea of how many people were watching.  It made following Parker’s bald head a little more difficult, especially when I stopped to make a purchase.  Wait until you see it.  It’s only coming out on special occasions.  We were back in the hotel by a little after three for a rest.  I should have been writing this blog then, but I was actually resting.  Jack Parker has got to be about 85, and he’s wearing me out.  Sylvia is over 80, too, and she keeps up with him.  Must be because she’s had years of practice.  I’ll have to get this old body out walking more.

We had a half hour forced march to dinner in Rembrandt Square.  I was diligently following Parker but keeping Google Maps going, just to be sure.  I was also trying to have a bit of fun.  This was multitasking at speed.  I just had to stop to take this picture and got it complete with photo-bomber:20190803-31AmsterdamPrideDisplaywithPhotoBomberSmall

Of course, the photo bomber wanted to see the picture.  He was very nice, but I had to set out after Parker.  I soon noticed Google Maps had changed its mind and we were now 18 minutes from the destination, which had been 4 minutes away, just a minute ago.  I thought this was odd, but I didn’t have much time to think.  I had to catch Jack and turn him around. So, I put on a burst of speed and caught him two minutes later.  Back up the street we all went, Jack none too happy – and he was right.  About a minute and a half later, I woke up to the fact that I should re-check the destination in Google Maps.  Sure enough, somewhere in the middle of the picture taking and showing, I had inadvertently inserted some unknown destination into the mix.  I removed it, turned us back around to the way Jack was going, licked the egg off my face, and we were at Indrapura in 2 minutes.

We were there because “Hello Amsterdam” had interviewed a bunch of locals.  One of them said “if you only do one thing in Amsterdam, have a rijstoffel”.  That’s an Indonesian ricetable.  It made sense.  The Dutch were the first Europeans in Indonesia and brought the culture back.  The person in the magazine and the concierge at the hotel were right.  It was a great meal.  There was a main stage just across the street for Pride Day, but we’re too old to get mixed up in a young drinking and dancing crowd, so we were happy in our swanky, only half-full restaurant.

The crowd on the street had been buying beer and take-out from local restaurants and food stalls, and the streets were a hell of a mess on the way back to the hotel.  We wondered why the city didn’t put out a bunch of trash bins and concluded they just would have impeded the flow of traffic and may have been a temptation for revelers to overturn.  We waded through the mess, which was gone by 10:00am the next morning.  I wasn’t too happy about the garbage men invading the restaurant I was having breakfast in, mind you.  They took out at least six huge bags, right past my table.

I am on August 4, already and it’s boarding day.  So, it was pack, breakfast, check out and call a taxi.  While we were waiting, we met a grandfather, his daughter and two kids, all bound for the Rotterdam.  They were from Vancouver Island.  You know the Canadians by their luggage tags and the mother recognized the name Parker on one of ours.  One of her kids had it as a first name.

Our taxi arrived at least fifteen minutes late.  The post-Pride traffic, combined with a shipload of people bound for the port, was making things difficult.  When we saw the size of the van that came, we made a few calculations and invited the family to join us.  Good thing we did, because when I checked my manifest an hour later, I found they were in my DV group.

 

Parts North – Part 3 – Montreal

Sunday, July 28, continued,

I spent the afternoon at 63 Chesterfield, doing laundry and computer work in the back garden, which is lovely. It occurred to me that I haven’t ever sent you a picture of Adam and Judy’s wonderful, very conveniently located Westmount house, so here it is.  The front garden’s not too shabby, either.

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The house was built in 1895 and still has its Victorian interior architectural features.  It has turned into a very nice little nest egg, over the years.  When they leave here, Adam and Judy will be able to live wherever they please on the proceeds.

I had a few minutes with their kids and grandkids, who show up every Sunday night for dinner, a family tradition that has never ceased over the years.  I could have walked to Sheila and Bob Martin’s house, but I took the car, so I could stay at Symanskys’ a little longer, before.  Sheila and Bob live on Melville, where I lived with Bob Weeks, somewhere around 1980.  English Montreal is a small world.  Sheila set out a Montreal summer dinner on the back balcony.  No one eats inside here in the summer, if they can at all help it.  When the good days are few, they are precious and treated with respect.  I’m afraid it was another occasion for too much wine, but I am planning to take August off, this year, so I let myself go.  That’s another thing the warm summer nights encourage, you just want them to last, so you have another glass of wine.  I was a bit smarter, when I got back to Judy’s, though.  We had fizzy water in her back garden.

Monday, July 29, Quelle journée!

When I took the 2020 SilverSea Montreal to Fort Lauderdale assignment, I answered the next email I got from Tourism Montreal and told them about it.  The next thing I know, I had been invited to spend a day with them, touring high-end hotels.  What’s not to like about that?  Here’s how it unfolded.

At 9:30 am, I met Genevieve Archambault, Manager – Media and Leisure Market, for Tourism Montreal, at the Mount Stephen Hotel.  It’s a new glitzy building, attached to the old Mount Stephen Club, which has been lovingly restored.  We had croissants in the old bar, with its huge fireplace and wonderful carved wood, walls, floors, ceiling and trim.20190729-01MontrealMtStephenSmall

She handed me over to Maxim, the hotel Front Desk Manager, who showed me a few of the very lovely rooms, varying in price from $400 to $1600/night. Then he gave me a bottle of water and I was off to my next appointment.  I was meeting Magda Sabella, at the Ritz.

Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton, our Grande Dame on Sherbrooke Street, houses all the visiting dignitaries and celebrities, and was the scene of Elizabeth Taylor’s second marriage to Richard Burton.  It was closed for renovations and additions about five years ago, and is back, better than ever.  Magda showed me all around, including the fabulous new swimming pool, and the new condo building attached, where there’s an 8,000 square foot penthouse condo.  And, yes, it’s occupied. I didn’t get to see inside.

Maria Aimen, who works for Magda, joined us for lunch, and stayed with me, when Magda had to go to a meeting.  Their restaurant is now overseen by Daniel Boulud, the famous one.  I remember Danièle and Jean taking me to his New York Restaurant, the year it opened, and introducing us to Daniel, himself.  I think Jean knows every famous French chef in the world, personally, like I used to be able to claim I knew every chef in Napa.  Anyway, the food was fabulous as was the setting.  They changed a lot of things, but you can still have lunch in the garden, with the ducks.20190729-03MontrealRitzDucksSmall

It wasn’t just the ducks, either.  Brian Mulroney, who was Prime Minister of Canada in the eighties, was there, too.  When he passed our table, I greeted him and reminded him that the last time we had been together was for the opening of Repap’s paper mill in Miramichi.  Repap was George Petty’s company.  He flew about 50 of us to Miramichi, New Brunswick, for an incredible bash that day.  I scored a lot of points with my Tandem Branch Manager that day, when I brought him along.  Ours was the plant’s process control computer.  Mulroo asked to be remembered to Ginger, whom he does know well, and I duly passed that on.

Maria was delightful company and I was sorry to leave, but it was all too soon off to the next luxury hotel.  This one was the Sofitel, across the street and a few blocks east.  I passed a couple of “Square Mile” houses, each with its plaque.  The Sofitel is on the site where the Van Horne house used to be.  I remember the uproar at the time it was torn down and how sad we all were.  Thanks to Phyllis Lambert, and her Canadian Center for Architecture, that doesn’t happen any more in Montreal.  The developers have to incorporate the historic buildings in the new. Any time Ginger wants to sell the dining rom set that came out of the Van Horne mansion, she’ll probably have a willing buyer in the Sofitel.  In the meantime, I enjoy eating at it once a year in Ile Bizard.

Yolaine Masse, who does PR for Montreal’s Cruise Port, met me at the Sofitel and took me to the Old Port, where we parked her car and toured the port on foot.  We stopped for a drink at Les Marchés de l’Élusier, right beside BotaBota, a Spa on an old Barge in the water.  Then we joined Kim Letourneau at the W hotel, for a tour and a glass of bubbly.  The bar actually specializes in perfumed gin cocktails, but I don’t like gin.  It was pretty impressive, though, and Kim is a darling.  She just bubbles over, like I probably did at her age.  We walked to Le Saint-Sulpice in Old Montreal, for more room tours and dinner in the courtyard.  We kept it simple, tuna tartare and frites for me and a duck and cheese sandwich for Yolaine.  I so enjoyed meeting all these young businesswomen.  Those were the days.

It was 9:30 by the time I got back to Chesterfield, and I was pretty beat, but you couldn’t beat that day.  The only money I spent was a tip to the valet at the Mount Stephen when I picked up the car.

Tuesday, I did a bunch of work, before meeting Joan McGuigan again, and Roland Meunier, my old tax accountant.  We toured a couple more apartments in Les Cours Mont-Royal.  I wanted to see a fixer upper with a better view.  It was $200,000 less.  You can do a fair bit of fixing up, for that.

I got back to Chesterfield, just in time to meet Terri Azzaria, for our crew dinner at Linda and Bev’s.  We were supposed to muster Theresa at her assisted living place and bring her with us.  Theresa has memory issues now, and we figured she’d need help dressing.  Terri called her an hour before we were to be there, and Theresa had forgotten, but was fine with it.  She called again a half-hour before and Theresa begged off, saying she wouldn’t be good company.  The old Theresa was always very good company.

Terri and I and Linda and Bev enjoyed a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres on their spacious (understatement) patio, and warm dead bird.  I can’t get enough of it when I am in Montreal.  It is the best rotisserie chicken in the world.  I swear it, and so does every other Montrealer.  It was a lovely special evening, but Linda is still working, so we left early enough.  The Symanskys are up late every night, so I had one more glass of wine there.

Wednesday was laundry day again, as I needed to leave for the airport at three.  It was an easy drive and I was all checked in in time to have a nice Montreal smoked meat sandwich before boarding.  The food at the airport is good, now that the plane food is so terrible.  For a while the stuff you paid for was a little better, but I didn’t find that on SFO-YUL, so I didn’t want to take a chance.  The smoked meat was scrumptious.

The flight was uneventful.  I was in premium economy with a free seat beside me.  That’s as good as it gets before the flatbed, which I wasn’t willing to pay for.

Thursday morning, we arrived in Amsterdam a little before eight and I was at the Hotel Avenue by 9:00 am.  I used one of my breakfast vouchers immediately, and that took me to 10:00 am.  The lobby was full of people waiting for rooms, and there wasn’t much hope of getting my room before three in the afternoon.  There was a TV there advertising a Float SPA, where you could get the equivalent of five hours sleep, by floating for an hour.  It was 20 euros away by taxi, but I was in no shape for public transportation, so I took one.  I had a ten-minute spa capsule treatment to soften me up, my hour in the warm Epsom salts bath, and a one-hour massage.  I got back to the hotel by four and checked in.

The hotel is funky, a number of flats and little apartment buildings, cobbled together.  My single room is a garret.  You literally cannot swing a cat in here, but it’s comfortable enough.  I did some minimal settling in and went out for dinner.  I took advice from the front desk, who walked me to the street to be able to point out directions.  There was an Indian restaurant across the street, and I asked if it was any good.  The gal didn’t know, but she knew there was a great one pretty close.  By the time she went back in for directions to that and relayed them to me, I only knew that its name began with an “A” and that it was straight up and to the left, not the first street, but the second.

Well that was wrong, and by the time I turned on Google Maps, I was so far away, it didn’t know where it was leading me, but it did give me the rest of its name, “Ashoka”, like the luxury hotel in Delhi, I once stayed in. Google walked me all over the place.  I was brain dead to start with and couldn’t match the street names worth a damn.  They all had about 25 letters and may or not be where you think they might be.  I walked almost all the way to Central Station, which I knew was wrong.  Found another little hotel and got a little more help.  This guy missed a street, too. He told me not to look at my smart phone.  A lot of people get lost around here with them.  The phone was of some use, though.  It usually got the distance in meters right, so I knew if I was getting warm or cold.  Finally, I found it and the food was excellent.  I ate outside, chatting with the nice man from San Diego at the next table.  I had poppadums, samosas, rice, butter chicken and garlic naan.  It was a bit bland, as is the Northern Europe taste.  I should have known and had them goose it up.

I got most of the way home, when I realized I had forgotten to pay.  That was when I also realized that there was a much faster way in.  With a couple of jogs, mind you, it was less than one average city block.  They were very happy to see me, I settled the bill, walked the two minutes home, and went to bed.

Parts North – Part 2 Montreal

Friday, July 26, continued,

I went to Bonsecours Market, to see the city on the way and to get another sleep shirt.  Hatley makes the best and this is one of their best stores.  You can’t park on the street anymore, so I put the car in the lot right across.  It’s a valet lot and the attendant was complaining about the heat in two languages.  I left him the car and a $16 hostage on my debit card.  I got into the market, which has been re-done very nicely, and got my bearings.  Then I realized I lad left my cell phone in the car.  I went back across the street, fetched the car keys, and the phone.  Nice honest city, I was born in.

I went back inside and went looking for a Coke.  I use it for a hangover cure, in case you hadn’t guessed that was the problem.  They only had the diet version, which I consider poison, so I passed on it and went to find my nightie.  Got it on sale, so I bought two. Then I got back in the car and took the lowest possible road to Atwater Market.  Wow, they are building a ton of condominiums in Montreal’s old factory district, Griffintown, which used to be Montreal’s worst slum.

I always know where I am in Montreal, as the crow flies, but they keep changing the streets on me.  University is now Robert Bourassa, for #$%^&’s sake. Merde, alors.  Don’t get me started on the corner of Robert Bourassa and René Levesque.  It’s University and Dorchester, OK?   I finally made it to Atwater Market and found metered parking right by the SAQ (Liquor store) just across the street.  I parked, paid and walked into the market.

20190726-11AtwaterMarketSmall

I was planning to go to the second floor and buy some chocolate, since Patisserie de Gascogne, Elvon’s obiscerie, is no more, and Andrées Chocolats has aged out of business.  Then I was planning to sit down somewhere and have that Coke.  That plan was only in my head.  When I went to pay for the chocolates, it dawned on me that I had left my credit card in the parking stand.  I couldn’t pay for those chocolates fast enough, with my debit card, and get back across the street.  The universe is taking care of me.  My Canadian VISA card was still in the machine.  This really IS an honest city.

I went into the SAQ, beside which I was parked, for a good wine for Saturday night.  I couldn’t get the 2015 Stags Leap cab.  It was in the computer but won’t be on the shelves for another two weeks.  The closest I could come was Grgich Hills, same year, $113.  After more searching online, with a nice helpful clerk, I gave up and bought it. 

I got caught in traffic, because of all the construction, again, checked back in at 63 Chesterfield and went out again, on foot.  That’s what I love about this neighborhood.  I went to the Royal Bank, hit up its ATM for cash and went in to see if I could find the banker who had viewed Elvon’s original death certificate and done the paperwork last year.  The account still isn’t closed.  I found Paul though, and he’s now the branch manager.  He’s going to push it through on Monday.  Would I please send him an electronic copy of the death certificate?  Stay tuned.  All of this is pretty frightening, when you realize these are the guys who keep your money.

I had a little trouble finding that Coke I was still looking for.  Way too many places have gone way too healthy.  I didn’t want a bunch of blended green stuff that grown in the ground.  I wanted a good old Classic Coke that wakes you up and shrinks the capillaries distended by too much wine.  By the time I got it, in the depanneur next to the bank, I hardly needed it anymore.  I proceed to Pharmaprix to return something bought in error and across the street to Jean Coutu to get some of my favorite cheaper chocolate.  The good stuff is eluding me here. 

I freshened up and went to meet Marilyn and Ted Salhany at La Sirène de la Mer, where the kubbeh nyah (raw meat) and fish and ships can’t be beat.  It was a light night, just one bottle of Baron de Rothschild’s Chardonnay.  All good, and always good to catch up with good, old friends.

Saturday, I had an appointment with Joan McGuigan to show me what there is in the way of condos to buy, here.  She surprised me by showing me a newly renovated one in Les Cours Mont-Royal, that I can actually afford.  Now to do some due diligence.  It’s very tempting.  It’s the old Mount Royal Hotel and connected to the underground city.  You could live there all year ‘round without ever having to go outside and have a lot of fun in the process.

I rejoined the Symanskys at 63, and we drove to TMR and the Morneaus, for pink bubbly in the back garden with the Brunets.  The weather has been gorgeous here, since I arrived.  Then we all went to Restaurant Christophe, on Van Horne, a high-end place, where you can bring your own wine.  They haven’t heard of corkage here, yet.  I had fois gras poelé and jarret d’agneau and it was delicious, as was the Grgich Hills.  But notez bien, the Stags Leap was just as good for $53 less. 

Sunday, I was up earlyish to make Dim Sum at Kam Fung on Tashereau, in Brossard, by 10:00 am.  It was a bit of a challenge as there were “15-Sud” signs pointing west and north, as well as south (sud).  When I ended up in the Glen, in a place where only ambulances and delivery vans for the hospital had any business, I turned to Google.  She led me back, past where I started and well north, so that I could go south.  Oo – oo – oo.  Finally, I crossed the NEW Champlain Bridge, which IS pretty swell, only my Tashereau exit was so close on the other side, that I overshot it, and still made it on time.

Roslyn and Real were just in front of me and had secured a table.  God, I love this meal!  We stuffed our faces with all my Hong Kong favorites.  They even have the char siu in flaky pastry now.  We did well to go early.  The place was packed and it just got worse by the time we left.  And, it’s absolutely huge.  Just like Hong Kong.

Parts North – Part 1 Montreal

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

I can get to Montreal and back for $57, using what’s left of Elvon’s United MileagePlus, but it’s not easy.  After champagne with Brinks on the Jordan’s patio, I had a nice dinner with the Jordans and George, bid farewell to my Lodge friends, saw to last minute details, like my boarding pass, and went to bed around eleven.

The alarm rang at two-thirty.  I brushed my teeth and dragged myself into the shower to wake up.  I was ready when Eric arrived at 3:25 am, but I was grumpy as hell.  He marshalled me into the car and off we set for SFO.  At least you make good time in the middle of the night and we got there by 5:00 am.  Are you absorbing those ungodly numbers?  Shudder.  Our layover was in Vegas, and the airport is full of slot machines, but I didn’t have the energy to even buy the chips.  I just vegetated in the departure lounge for three-and-a-half-hours.

We landed in Montreal at 7:12pm, right on schedule.  My plans for driving to Cornwall that night had been kaiboshed by Rosemary’s needing a little medical procedure to relieve some nasty pain she had been enduring for a month.  Back to form, I picked up warm dead bird and arrived at the Symanskys with it at eight-something.  They had eaten but were more than willing to share a bottle of Bourgogne Aligoté with me, while we caught up.

Thursday, July 25

I slept like a log and woke up a little after nine, stiff as a board.  I got down on the floor and did an hour of yoga.  Then I had a quick breakfast with Adam and Judy and pointed the car in the direction of Cornwall and John Sidorchuk, my dentist cousin, Rosemary’s son.

I was in his chair from one-thirty in the afternoon, until five.  Nothing major, just the replacement of a couple of crowns and my last mercury amalgam filling.  I was stiff again, by the time all that was done.  Rosemary still wasn’t in a party mood, so we rescheduled that for when I come back in September for my permanent crowns.  I had a donut at Tim Horton’s, hit up the LCBO for some nice wine and got back on the 401.

The good news was that that saved me the Montreal rush hour traffic, and I was back at Symanskys in time to go for dinner at Touceh, one of their wonderful neighborhood restaurants.  It’s Persian/Italian, and so good.  It wasn’t there when it was my neighborhood.  I love it. I was in seventh heaven, to tell the truth.  They have liver and onions on the menu, and I had liver and onions, and ate every bite.  We washed it down with the Stags Leap cab I had found at the LCBO, and it was delicious.

It was one of those magic nights.  Judy and I went out to the back garden and had another bottle of wine.  By this time, it was midnight and still lovely and soft outdoors.  A good friend, a bottle of wine and a magic night add up to my perfect way to relax.  On my way down to my basement apartment in their house, still taking to Judy, I managed to smoosh a mosquito on the wall.  We left it there for decoration.  It was the only one of its tribe we saw all night. The season is over.

Friday, July 26, 2019

I woke up around nine, and all Duolingo wanted to talk about was wine.  How do my Spanish lessons know what I have been doing?

NOW SEVEN(7) cruises in 2019 and 2020 – Travel with me

 

I just added another SilverSea hosting assignment in 2020, because I have just sold two cabins on it.  So, please also consider:

2020

Summer: Aug 10 – 20 – SilverSea Silver Spirit – Copenhagen to Copenhagen – Norwegian Fjords
https://tinyurl.com/2020CopenhagenDV

Copenhagen

and you can add this for a song, when you are using SilverSea’s business air, which is a bargain to begin with,

Traditional Baltic, with St. Petersburg, ends Stockholm

CopenhagenAddOn  https://tinyurl.com/2020CopenhagenAddOn

SilverSea is great, but it’s high-end.  My 2019 August cruises, on Holland America, in Northern Europe are seriously inexpensive.  You can have an Ocean View Cabin for less than $2000 per person, double occupancy, or a suite for less than $4000 ppdo, and one of these is a 20 day cruise!

I am giving you links to the cruises and the respective cruise line’s sites, but please don’t click through to buy.  If you want to travel with me, and get my add-ons, you have to buy it from me.  It’s the same price and I chase all the sales and such that happen after you buy, so you always get the best deal.  Because these are all Distinctive Voyages, there’s a free cocktail party and a free shore excursion on each of them.  The Holland America cruises are very affordable, SilverSea and Seabourn more money, but great value, truly.  Read on.

I am coming to Montreal on July 24 and leaving for Amsterdam on July 31,

Here are my cruises and plans:

2019

August 4 – 18 – HAL Rotterdam – Scottish Highlands – they call it.  It’s quite a bit more territory:Aug4Scottish

Here’s the link – – http://tinyurl.com/2019HALRotterdamScotland  Traveling with me on Holland America is extra special, because I am a 5-star Mariner and have some perks I can share.  I’ll be flying into Amsterdam early, so we can play there, and parsing the Itinerary for shore excursions.  Ocean View:  $1632 ppdo, Vista Suite: $3662, Neptune Suite – $8513ppdo – Live like the swell that you are.

August 18 – Sept 7 – HAL Rotterdam – Icelandic Fjords and Greenland ExplorerAug18Iceland

Here’s the link – – http://tinyurl.com/HALRotterdamIceland  Traveling with me on Holland America is extra special, because I am a 5-star Mariner and have some perks I can share.  I’ll already be on the ship, and have been to two of the ports, by the time you get there.  I’ll know a lot about what to do ashore.  Ocean View:  $1880 ppdo, Vista Suite: $3959 Neptune Suite – $9503ppdo – Live like the swell that you are, for 20 days.

Following that, I’ll be in Montreal until September 15.  Then I‘ll stay put until mid-December, when I get the cherry on 2019’s sundae.  It might just be your cherry, too.

December 21 – Jan 4 – Seabourn Ovation – “Thailand and Viet Nam” – Singapore to Hong KongDec21eabournAsia

Here’s the link:   http://tinyurl.com/SeabournDV – “Holiday Thailand and Viet Nam” – Singapore to Hong Kong.  I don’t need A & K in either Singapore or Hong Kong.  I have friends, instead.  I lived in Hong Kong for 5 years and have been to Singapore multiple times.  I’ll be your tour guide.

The Ovation is Seabourn’s newest ship, launched in 2018.  It carries 604 passengers, about the same size, and price, as SilverSea.  It’s an all verandah ship.  Balcony categories are V1 to V6 in ascending order of location preference.  All cabins are 300 sq. Ft.  V2 gets you midships on Deck 5.  And it’s a premium, all-inclusive line.  It’s all here https://www.seabourn.com/en_US/seabourn-difference.html The only things you can pay for are shore excursions and shop purchases.   I’ll be teeing up three days before in Singapore and three days after in HongKong, just for my own clients.  I’ll get us in to some private clubs, the RHKYC for sure, probably the horse races, etc.

Attention Canadians: (with those sad dollars that I have too many of, myself.  Take heart but act fast.)

Sometimes the cruise lines sell cruises for fewer Canadian dollars than the going rate would suggest.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  I’ll always check for you and we’ll choose the better price, together.

2020

May 4 – 21 – SilverSea Silver Muse – Tokyo to Vancouver – 18 days

Tokyo-VCRMapHere’s the link:  https://www.silversea.com/destinations/transoceanic-cruise/yokohama-to-vancouver-6009.html

It’s a SilverSea boondoggle that starts in one of the nicest cities in the world.  Tokyo is gearing up for its Olympics, starting in July, so there are a lot of new, wonderful places, good roads, English signs, and all.  It’s very easy to navigate.  I just came back from there, in April.  And when will you ever o to Petropavlosk, if not now.  Then it becomes an Alaska cruise, and ends in Vancouver, BC, where I have plenty of friends, and there’s plenty to do. I can’t wait to get on SilverSea.  I have so many friends who won’t sail anything else.

 

Aug 10 – 20 – SilverSea Silver Spirit – Copenhagen to Copenhagen – Norwegian FjordsCopenhagen
                   https://tinyurl.com/2020CopenhagenDV

and you can add this for a song, when you are using SilverSea’s business air, which is a bargain to begin with,

Traditional Baltic, with St. Petersburg, ends Stockholm    CopenhagenAddOnhttps://tinyurl.com/2020CopenhagenAddOn

 

October 27-November 9 – SilverSea Silver Whisper – Montreal to Fort Lauderdale – 14 daysMontreal-FLLMap

https://www.silversea.com/destinations/canada-new-england-cruise/montreal-to-fort-lauderdale-wh201027014.html

This is one way to get to Florida for the winter, if you’re Canadian.  It’s a way to show my city to my American friends, too.  I’ll be planning a super lead-in.  I am going to work on it when I am in Montreal next month.  I’d like to know who’s thinking of coming, for planning purposes.

Requested: and I think I have it:

December 1 to 18 – SilverSea Silver Spirit – Mumbai to Singapore – 18 daysMumbai-SINMap

https://www.silversea.com/destinations/africa-indian-ocean-cruise/mumbai-to-singapore-sl201201018.html

 

I’m thinking of flying over to Hong Kong to spend Christmas there, after the cruise, but that’s not firm.  Twist my arm.

Travel with me –in 2019 and 2020 – 6 cruises all over the world

Come sail with me in 2019 or 2020.  My Distinctive Voyages are getting very distinctive, indeed.  I now have a Seabourn and three SilverSeas in my future.  Come share one with me.  My August cruises in Northern Europe are seriously inexpensive.  You can have an Ocean View Cabin for less than $2000 per person, double occupancy, or a suite for less than $4000 ppdo, and one of these is a 20 day cruise!

I am giving you links to the cruises and the respective cruise line’s sites, but please don’t click through to buy.  If you want to travel with me, and get my add-ons, you have to buy it from me.  It’s the same price and I chase all the sales and such that happen after you buy, so you always get the best deal.  Because these are all Distinctive Voyages, there’s a free cocktail party and a free shore excursion on each of them.  The Holland America cruises are very affordable, SilverSea and Seabourn more money, but great value, truly.  Read on.

I am coming to Montreal on July 24 and leaving for Amsterdam on July 31,

Here are my cruises and plans:

2019

August 4 – 18 – HAL Rotterdam – Scottish Highlands – they call it.  It’s quite a bit more territory:Aug4Scottish

Here’s the link – – http://tinyurl.com/2019HALRotterdamScotland  Traveling with me on Holland America is extra special, because I am a 5-star Mariner and have some perks I can share.  I’ll be flying into Amsterdam early, so we can play there, and parsing the Itinerary for shore excursions.  Ocean View:  $1632 ppdo, Vista Suite: $3662, Neptune Suite – $8513ppdo – Live like the swell that you are.

August 18 – Sept 7 – HAL Rotterdam – Icelandic Fjords and Greenland Explorer

Aug18IcelandHere’s the link – – http://tinyurl.com/HALRotterdamIceland  Traveling with me on Holland America is extra special, because I am a 5-star Mariner and have some perks I can share.  I’ll already be on the ship, and have been to two of the ports, by the time you get there.  I’ll know a lot about what to do ashore.  Ocean View:  $1880 ppdo, Vista Suite: $3959 Neptune Suite – $9503ppdo – Live like the swell that you are, for 20 days.

Following that, I’ll be in Montreal until September 15.  Then I‘ll stay put until mid-December, when I get the cherry on 2019’s sundae.  It might just be your cherry, too.

December 21 – Jan 4 – Seabourn Ovation – “Thailand and Viet Nam” – Singapore to Hong KongDec21eabournAsia

Here’s the link:   http://tinyurl.com/SeabournDV – “Holiday Thailand and Viet Nam” – Singapore to Hong Kong.  I don’t need A & K in either Singapore or Hong Kong.  I have friends, instead.  I lived in Hong Kong for 5 years and have been to Singapore multiple times.  I’ll be your tour guide.

The Ovation is Seabourn’s newest ship, launched in 2018.  It carries 604 passengers, about the same size, and price, as SilverSea.  It’s an all verandah ship.  Balcony categories are V1 to V6 in ascending order of location preference.  All cabins are 300 sq. Ft.  V2 gets you midships on Deck 5.  And it’s a premium, all-inclusive line.  It’s all here https://www.seabourn.com/en_US/seabourn-difference.html The only things you can pay for are shore excursions and shop purchases.   I’ll be teeing up three days before in Singapore and three days after in HongKong, just for my own clients.  I’ll get us in to some private clubs, the RHKYC for sure, probably the horse races, etc.

Attention Canadians: (with those sad dollars that I have too many of, myself.  Take heart but act fast.)

Sometimes the cruise lines sell cruises for fewer Canadian dollars than the going rate would suggest.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  I’ll always check for you and we’ll choose the better price, together.

2020

May 4 – 21 – SilverSea Silver Muse – Tokyo to Vancouver – 18 days

Tokyo-VCRMapHere’s the link:  https://www.silversea.com/destinations/transoceanic-cruise/yokohama-to-vancouver-6009.html

It’s a SilverSea boondoggle that starts in one of the nicest cities in the world.  Tokyo is gearing up for its Olympics, starting in July, so there are a lot of new, wonderful places, good roads, English signs, and all.  It’s very easy to navigate.  I just came back from there, in April.  And when will you ever o to Petropavlosk, if not now.  Then it becomes an Alaska cruise, and ends in Vancouver, BC, where I have plenty of friends, and there’s plenty to do. I can’t wait to get on SilverSea.  I have so many friends who won’t sail anything else.

 

October 27-November 9 – SilverSea Silver Whisper – Montreal to Fort Lauderdale – 14 daysMontreal-FLLMap

https://www.silversea.com/destinations/canada-new-england-cruise/montreal-to-fort-lauderdale-wh201027014.html

This is one way to get to Florida for the winter, if you’re Canadian.  It’s a way to show my city to my American friends, too.  I’ll be planning a super lead-in.  I am going to work on it when I am in Montreal next month.  I’d like to know who’s thinking of coming, for planning purposes.

Requested: and I think I have it:

December 1 to 18 – SilverSea Silver Spirit – Mumbai to Singapore – 18 daysMumbai-SINMap

https://www.silversea.com/destinations/africa-indian-ocean-cruise/mumbai-to-singapore-sl201201018.html

 

I’m thinking of flying over to Hong Kong to spend Christmas there, after the cruise, but that’s not firm.  Twist my arm.

Sylvia Parker Harris

 

Head61014a

June 29, 2006 – June 7, 2019

She was a good cat. Oh, I hear you, she only bit six or eight people, sending a couple of them to the hospital. But she was very soft, and very loving, all the same.

Elvon and I had our first experience leading a cruise group, with the Blaufuss’ VintageTravel Agency, in 1997, Bangkok to Hong Kong. George Blaufuss was still alive when I was leash training Sylly P on Deer Hollow, in Silverado Oaks, in 2006.   George shrank back from my offering my new kitten for petting. Kathy had his care giver wait for me to get back, to find out who I was, and to tell me he had asked her “Who was the lady walking the skunk?” Kathy was my mentor in how to take care of an Alzheimers’ patient. You take him cruising. She did it with George and, when Elvon’s turn came around, I did the same. It’s why I am a Travel Advisor now, and a Concierge Host. We would be at sea for six months of the year, for six or eight years.

With her staff away so much, Sylly P had to hire alternates.  People came from all over the world to spend time at Silverado and the wineries of Napa and Sonoma.  They included the Potters from Southern California and Sharon Bobrow from San Francisco, all of whom now live in Napa, Kathy Stefano from San Francisco, who got to help when Elvon lost his passport on the way to Beijing, the Rands from Alberta, Glen Reid, who got the 2014 Napa Earthquake as a bonus, plus a trip to the vet with Sylly P, always a treat, Elvon’s Uncle Bob Doty from the Oakland Hills, John Ball from Hong Kong, Pat Harrold and Paul Hart from Vancouver, the Lajoys from Vancouver Island, the Vinograds from London, England, Lottie and Richard Nicholson from Arizona, André and Jo-Ann Dery and Yolaine St-Jacques from Montreal, Jane Collyer and Kirk Wandell from Ottawa, and, of course, Susan Harris, who took a four month stint and found a place to live in Larkspur, while she was at it.  Last came Steve and Trish Harrold from Florida, who ended up taking care of me, when I broke my pelvis, and now live at Fountaingrove Lodge.  Susan did a shift of that, too.  Then there were Margo Reilly, my very first friend, and Norma Griffin, from Ontario, who didn’t get Sylly P but came out of my network to mind the Doyles dogs, so I’ll count them, too.   Sylly P and I thank you all, and, I hope my grieving brain hasn’t forgotten anyone.

For the first five years or so, we used to tie her to a tree on a forty-foot leash. The lawn was inhabited by a colony of voles, so she would hunt. She’d sit over a vole hole for hours. When one of us went out to bring her in, she’d plunge a paw down the hole is a last, futile attempt. She caught exactly one mouse in her entire life, in the dining room after chasing him in from the garage. She wasn’t really good at it. When our Mexican cleaning lady found what my mother used to call “mouse dirt” under the kitchen sink. She somehow made me understand she wanted me to buy traps, I pointed to Sylly P. All she could say to that was “Gato no trabajo.” I didn’t know if she meant “The cat doesn’t work” or “The cat is broken”, but I got the mouse traps, and they got the mice.

Sylly P was a cuddly cat, made so by her early education, which consisted of a number of black and white parties, where our friends were encouraged to pick her up and cuddle with her. She liked to lie on our chests early in the morning or when we were watching TV. She was a great comfort to me convalescing from a broken pelvis, when I barely left the adjustable bed for weeks. She was the same with Elvon, and he always had a lot more bed and TV time than I did, and more and more as he neared the end of his life.

I am not sure she ever recovered from the loss of him. Her own decline began as he was dying, and, despite my best efforts and those of a holistic and a regular vet, her decline continued. I know a lot about cat food, now, and have a ton of the very best of it in my freezer. Huge thanks to Karen Novak, my neighbor’s daughter, and a kind, sensible vet who visited Sylly P, when she visited her mother, and tried a number of things that worked for a while. Thanks also to Steve and Trish Harrold, particularly Trish, who took care of Sylly P when I went cruising, except for the last time, when we three all went to Asia.

Sylly P died at home, assisted by Karen, with Geri Novak, and her grand-daughter Simona, and Steve and Trish in attendance. We gave her an Irish wake, and she’s now resting in Bubbling Well Memorial Park, overlooking the Silverado Country Club and the Napa Valley, with Henry. Rest in peace, dear furry friend.

Shanghai to Tokyo – Part 5 – Japan

After my blog on JeJu Island, my Silverado Oaks friend, Sharon, wrote to tell me that Lisa See has a new book out called “The Island of Sea Women”, so I am reading that now.  Haven’t got far enough in to tell you if it’s any good, but it sure is the same island.

On April 9, we docked in Kobe All we did on the first day was go out to shop.  It was pretty good shopping, though, and a nice city to walk around.

Dinner at 7:00 at Qsine was a lot of fun.  In the end there were 21 of us.  We sat around a huge oval table, with an upside down chandelier emanating from the middle of it.  The rest of the chandeliers in the room were upside down table lamps, hanging from the ceiling.  We didn’t know what to expect.

For menus, we all got tablets, on which we were to tick off anything and everything that appealed at all.  There was quite a variety and we ended up with most of it.  It represented the best tidbits from all the cuisines of the world and ranged from healthy veggies, of which we ordered few, to the deepest of deep fries, of which we ordered plenty.  We all waddled out of there, very glad to have tried it, and glad to have had dinner together.  It’s a very good group.

The second day in Kobe, April 10, I had a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon delivered to my stateroom, because we had a 6:15 am call to meet our tour to Kyoto.  We met our tour guide, Mickey, and he led us to Kobe Station for the Skinkasen, the Bullet Train to Kyoto.  It had started to sprinkle but the rain didn’t really come into its own, until we were on the bus to the shrine.  We all got out and started climbing the hill.  Steve quit pretty quickly.  The weather was foul, cold and wet.  It was slippery underfoot and the roadway was angled straight up.  He announced that his plan was to go back to the bus.  I went another five minutes or so and chickened out, too.  I was starting to feel chilled and I didn’t see any point in getting the flu over this.  I shopped my way back to the bus, arriving with some mystery hard candies and a box of chocolate Daifuku.  They are rice balls, similar to the contents of sesame balls. These were filled with a chocolate cream and dusted with cocoa.  Steve and I had a couple on the bus.  They weren’t all that good for the price paid.  Next Trish, who was still coughing from the cold she had picked up in Beijing, got back on.  A few more people did the same.

It was raining even harder at the next stop, which was the Golden Pavilion. Steve and I didn’t even get off.  I wasn’t feeling any too great.  We were soon joined by a few more chickens, while the die-hards had some perfectly miserable touring.  I had been to these sites in 2007, under much better conditions and had decided that was how I was going to remember them.  The Golden Pavilion doesn’t shine in the sun when it’s pouring.

Trish felt awful and announced she wasn’t even coming to dinner.  Steve and I went, but I declined a large table, as I had started to cough and didn’t want to infect anyone else.  I figured Steve was immune, as he had been living with five days of Trish coughing, already.  I was running a fever by this time and barely had the energy to eat.  I had two cheese soufflés, as about the easiest thing on the menu.  They were good, too.  I didn’t even have the energy to go to the show.

I dosed myself up with Mucinex and Advil “Cold and Flu” and went to bed.  I didn’t sleep, though.  I just lay there waiting for the medical center to open at 8:00 am.  The fever broke and I started feeling a little better around 4:30 am, but not so well that I wasn’t the first person at the med center’s door.  It was April 11, and we were now docked in Shimizu, the port for Mt. Fuji. My preliminary check exposed the remains of the fever and I allowed that it had started at dinner and had been worse until early this morning.  They took a nasal swab, which is a nasty procedure, and it came out positive for flu.  Ships do not mess around with contagious diseases.  I got a double dose of nebulizer,

20190411-01IsolationSmallera dozen Tamiflus, a bottle of cough syrup and a mask.  I was told to put the mask on, go to my room, and stay there, except to come back at 5:30pm for more nebulizing.  I felt like crap, so I didn’t resist.

I called Trish and told her what I had, and that I would be in isolation for 48 hours.  She brought me a couple of croissants, and I ordered hot water, lemon and honey from room service.  Trish took herself to the Medical Center.  The good news for her was that by now, she had shaken off the bug, but the bad news was that she had bronchitis, which at least they treated.  We’ll both be claiming on our insurance this time.

I slept for a couple of hours, finished writing my Farewell Letters and got the Event Coordinator, to print them.  I signed them and collated them with the comments cards and called her again.  The Conrad hotel had given me a couple of Pandas, and I gave her one, with which she was well pleased.  The little bear had a little pink Chinese jacket on and really was cute.  The letters went out and I went to bed.

The next day we docked in Yokohama, Japan, but I wasn’t going anywhere.  Trish called to offer breakfast delivery, but I was happy enough with room service.  A few passengers called to thank me personally, while I was packing.  I had the drawing among those who had filled in their comment cards and had the money transferred to the winners’ cabin.  Then I called them and told them the good news.  They had more kind words for all of us.  I still wasn’t feeling great, so I went to bed early.

We got off in Yokohama, Japan on April 13.  Disembarkation was smooth and efficient.  So efficient that our Hotel Okura car wasn’t there waiting for us.  It showed up in about twenty minutes, but not before I had called the concierge to chase it for us.  We had a great view of Mt. Fuji, from the van on the way into Tokyo.

We dropped Scott, Roz and Donna off at The New Otani, and checked in to the Okura.  Our rooms weren’t ready, so I spent an hour and a half with the concierge, putting Metro stops to our plan.  I asked her about City Tours, HOHO buses, and any other suggestions she might have but she said our plan was excellent as it was.  She had never seen anyone come in with a better one.  Kudos to Linda and Bev and Oki.  Anyone visiting Tokyo is welcome to a copy of the plan.  Just ask.

We got our rooms around 12:30 pm, got settled, and went out around four.  By the time we found and negotiated the subway, and got to Shinjuku, they had closed the park for the night.  Who knew that would happen?

We walked along the edge of the park and could tell it was a really nice one.  It had been especially recommended for its abundance of cherry blossoms.  Alas, we had arrived at the very end of Cherry Blossom season for this year, so we didn’t miss much.

At the other end of the park, Shinjuku starts in earnest.  It reminded me a lot of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, around the Excelsior Hotel.  It is a warren of shopping streets, selling everything under the sun and moon.  It didn’t look like it was going to close anytime soon, so we thought we’d find a restaurant and shop after dinner.

There were restaurants in just about every building, on different floors, with pictures of the food down at street level.  It was soon obvious to us that every restaurant specialized.  Since cooked meat was our common denominator, we looked for a place that specialized in it and had an English menu.  We had seen just enough descriptions in English to know we needed one.  That is to say, Steve and Trish did.  Everyone who knows me knows I don’t care what part of the animal my food comes from, as long as it isn’t a plant.

The place we picked was very small, but it was spotlessly clean and was cooking everything right in front of us.  For our main meal, we picked the “Blucky Set” which was beef sirloin, along with miso soup and rice.  We added some chicken legs and one order of beef tongue, to try it.  No entrails.  The beef tongue was just fine, as was the rest of it.  We were very happy with our choice and it cost about $50 for the three of us.  We thought eating in Japan was going to be expensive and here we were nicely sated for under $20 apiece.

There was a Drug Store across the street and Trish needed something.  I found myself singing along with the Japanese words to Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Only I was singing “John Brown’s body” and “Jesus saves His money at the Bank of Montreal”.  I bought another watch, a real Casio, this time.  I showed them my $15 fake FitBit, which amazed them, but they were selling “real thing”.  I wish I had bought more of the $15 ones, but I had to try one first and by the time I knew I liked it, the ship had sailed from Beijing.

With only some difficulty, solved by the Okura’s free cell phone, we found a Metro station and got ourselves home.

The next day, April 14, was Sunday, the day Ginza St. is closed to traffic.  We had the hotel’s big breakfast to eat, or we might have been lining up at the best lunch places, with the rest of Tokyo.  But we can now say we have strolled The Ginza on a Sunday and we have some nice paper goods as souvenirs and presents.

Trish and I were still recovering, and Steve is Steve, so we were happy to go back to the hotel for a nap and an hour of exercise before dinner.  The concierge had told us about a dining building, just a five-minute walk down from the hotel.  We decided to explore it.  There we found a restaurant specializing in tempura.  Everybody’s a specialist.  This does not bode well for my getting sushi, as neither of the other two will touch it.  I like tempura a lot, though, so this was fine.

It was a strange new concept in restaurant dining.  You order from a vending machine and put your money in it.  The food doesn’t come out of it, thank God.  You get tickets, for shrimp tempura, set meals, beer, wine, etc.  The tickets, you take to your seat at the counter, from which you watch your food being prepared to order.  It was fresh, piping hot and delicious.  And it was another fifty bucks for three.  You can’t beat it.

Monday was our most ambitious day.  We took the Metro again, as we have every day, only this time we went all the way to Asakusa.  There we visited the shrine and its surrounding shopping streets.  When we were tired, we boarded a waterbus and took it back downtown to Hamarikyu Gardens.  The gardens are beautiful and there were a few cherry trees still hanging on to their blossoms.  That’s Trish on the far right.

20190415-17TokyoHamarikyuGardensTrishSmallerAfter the obligatory nap, we were back on the Metro, bound for Roppongi, just one stop from the Okura, where the local night life is.  The Hotel Okura, you see, is in amongst all the Embassies, and is quiet as can be.  We wanted a bit more action.  And we found it.  And we found a restaurant that advertised both sushi and iron fried meats.  We ended up in our own little tatami room, with a huge office party in the room next to us.  We didn’t mind the noise.  It was happy noise.  We ordered by pressing on a reverse pager.  Someone always came and got us what we wanted.

There was so little sushi on the menu, that I was afraid to touch it after all. We had a very nice meal, a little more upscale and it cost a whole hundred bucks for the three of us.  Who would have thunk it?

I should have gone to the bathroom before we got back into the metro.  By the time we got home, which involved a sprint straight up hill, I was desperate.  My back teeth were floating and so was my brain.  I sat down so fast I forgot to take my phone out of my back pocket.  When I got up, it did a back flip, right into the toilet, with my hand following it down, but not fast enough.

I took it apart immediately, as far as I could get it, wiped every minuscule drop I saw and plugged it in.  But it was dead.  I left it there and went to join Steve and Trish in our rooftop bar on 12.  Only they weren’t in the bar.  They were outside the bar, having been denied access, because they didn’t have a reservation.  Who ever heard of needing a reservation to have a drink in a bar?  I pulled my card key out and went back to the desk for another try.  When you lead with evidence that you are a resident, a hotel cannot really refuse you, and they didn’t.  It was very odd, though.  I was led though the Chinese restaurant, past the kitchen and bathrooms, and through the smoking bar, to an elevator which led to the non-smoking bar.  Then I went back, thorough all that to pick up Steve and Trish.  The non-smoking bar was very small, but it wasn’t full, and they had no problem serving us, or charging us, either.  It was as much as dinner.  But it was time for us to have a nightcap.

Tuesday, Steve figured he had dragged himself around Tokyo all he wanted to, so he sent us girls off on our own.  We hadn’t seen the Imperial Palace or the Meiji Shrine yet, so we were batting clean-up.  We spent a lot of time and about 10,000 steps trying to find the Imperial Palace.  When we did, we wished we hadn’t wasted the time.  Mind you we did walk through a beautiful and very large park, and we also did a lot of walking the streets around the government buildings.  We popped down the nearest Metro and found our way to the Meiji Shine.  That was at the end of another very beautiful park and by the time we had been there and back to the Metro station, I could barely walk.  There went the shopping trip.  Sorry, Trish, but from the twinges in my bad knee, after an hour’s rest, I know I was on the verge of causing myself some big trouble.  That rebuilt knee almost never hurts, but when it does, the pain is sudden and acute.  I got just enough to know I didn’t want any more.

I had worked with the concierge to find a better restaurant that would have sushi, tempura, seared meats and all.  She came up with Gonpatchi, a ten buck cab away.  We were ready to be spoiled a little.  We even dressed up.  Gonpatchi turned out to be what I used to call “an expat restaurant.”  There you’ll find every nation on the globe among both the patrons and the staff.  The sushi was good, because their 3rd floor was a sushi restaurant.  They did the frying on the ground floor and the second floor was a balcony overlooking it.  We were seated on the ground floor and our waiter was Gabriel.  I think he was from Spain, but it might have been Italy, or the USA.  The waiters hollered at each other, and the chefs, from all around the restaurant.  It wasn’t quiet and serene, but the food was great.  I had the best maguro I have ever had, in a restaurant, in my life, there.  Maguro is raw tuna.  It’s not even the fatty kind which is three times the price.  I prefer it lean.  I’m a cheap date, as far as sushi goes.

And we have been home for almost three weeks, and that’s how long it has taken me to get this out.

My next cruises are:

August:  August 4 – 18 –  HAL Rotterdam – Scottish Highlands http://tinyurl.com/2019HALRotterdamScotland

And its sequal August 18 – Sept 7 – HAL Rotterdam – Iceland, Greenland  http://tinyurl.com/HALRotterdamIceland

Christmas: December 21 – Jan 4 – Seabourn Ovation – “Thailand and Viet Nam” – Singapore to Hong Kong –  http://tinyurl.com/SeabournDV

Holland America just sent me an email that these cruises are now on sale.  Want to come?  Just call or email me.

I am also in the process of bidding for my 2020 assignments.  Call or email me if you want to influence my choices.