Thursday, January 23, 2020

Autumn in Canada #13 Montreal

Autumn in Canada
Sunday, October 12, 2019
Montreal, Canada

We had breakfast at 8:00 finished packing and went to the library to wait for our call to disembark. Both of us feverishly finished reading our book before we were called, and managed to do just that!

Uber came and took us to the Sheraton Hotel-le Centre in the heart of Montréal. It was 10:00am, we registered but was too early to move our things in. We had to store our luggage with the bellman and come back at 4:00pm.

We spoke to the Concierge and he gave us several options for live performances, but they were too far to walk at night. And the tickets plus Uber in both directions were way out of our budget. Shame too, we would have loved to see some of them.

We stored our luggage at the hotel and went for a walk downtown. We found out that Monday, October 13 is Thanksgiving (Canadian) so we decided to do the 2-day Hop-on, Hop-off today and tomorrow for fear most things would be closed.

Since it was a two-hour loop from start to finish, we got off at China Town for lunch at 12:00. Very good food!!

We got back on the trolley for the rest of the hour tour. We got off at Mont-Royale. The colors of the trees were magnificent! Brilliant red, shining gold and shimmering yellow leaves sat side by side interspersed with dark green pines.  The trees had low canopies so we were surrounded with brilliant colors overhead and along the ground, like a blanket of mixed colors. We took pictures and walked along the path to the end and looked out the Look Out at the skyscrapers with a bed of colors below. It was breathtaking!

We made it to the hotel, exhausted and our back and legs hurting. Finally got to our room it was lovely!

We checked out the pools, terrace and headed for a Lebanese restaurant for dinner. We brought our food back to the hotel and ate on the lovely terrace. Just before we finished it began to sprinkle.
After a very short debate, we headed to the pool and hot tub. The pool was a nice size and we got some nice laps in. The hot tub was large and hot! The short swim helped both our backs and the hot tub made us feel great.

Before we went to sleep we opened the curtains and were stunned by the view. Since we are downtown, the tall skyscrapers around us turned into a light show at night. We looked at the scene before us and were mesmerized by the lights and colors. We couldn’t see the moon (facing north) but it was supposed to be a full moon.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Autumn in Canada #12

Autumn in Canada
Friday, October 11, 2019
Quebec, Canada

          Well, this is the last full day of our cruise, we have an excursion planned for 2:30 this afternoon.
          Breakfast was in the Rotterdam Dining Room with a large table with visiting people from Kansas. After breakfast, reality came when we found a large envelope by our door with “Disembarkation Instructions” printed on it.

          The sun was shining and it was still early so we decided to stroll around the city of Quebec. The announcement came over the ship’s PA system saying it was a warmer day than expected with a gentle breeze, BUT Bill looked out the window and saw the flags flying stiffly in the wind…and when we got to the gangway, it was freezing!

          We walked down Rue Dalhousie to Corte de la Montagne then to du Sault au Matelot. We saw the most amazing painted wall of a town scene from the 1700s. It was in a small courtyard with a French gentleman playing a keyboard of romantic French music. We sat on the bench and listened and were amazed at the large mural. Then he played La Vie a Rose. Everyone in the courtyard taking pictures stopped and watched the musician. It was lovely.

          We continued down du Sault au Matelot and found a snow globe trying to blow fake snow around a bust of someone (there was no plaque for a name.) We continued noticing how beautifully the town decorated for harvest time, i.e., pumpkins, straw, dried stalks, flowers. It was amazing!

We found the Flenicularie, a small car that went up the steep stairs to the top of the hill. We decided to pay 3,50C ($3.50 Canadian dollars. When we reached the top there was a boardwalk that wrapped around the entire hill.

The view from the Terrasse Dufferine was amazing! We could see across the St Lawrence River to the city of Levy. The city was dotted with steeples and a few high rises surrounded with trees turning colors. It was an amazing view. A woman was singing Opera in French accompanied by pre-recorded music. We met up with the two ladies from Utah and we all decided to explore the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac.

They began building it in the late 1700s and finished building to its current size in the mid-1800s. It was huge, had spires, and was shaped in a capital E. Lobby reminded me of some of the French palaces we saw when we were in Paris. We decided to take the Fenicularie back down and walked through old down with narrow cobblestone streets, old restored building shops, and tall trees.
          We made it back to the ship at 11:30, frozen to the bone and hungry. We ate poolside at the Drive-In. A sandwich place and a taco bar.  We ate poolside

          The call came at 1:45 for our 2:30 UNESCO Historic tour of Quebec City. While waiting for the tour bus, Janet struck up a conversation with two local ladies. They were sitting on a park bench watching the ships go by. Janet mistook them for guests on the ship. One of them spoke broken English, the other no English at all. Bill joined them and we had a nice conversation using a few French words, a few English words, and some hand signs. When the tour bus arrived we hugged the ladies, they kissed Janet on both cheeks.  When we stood to leave, Bill shook hands with them and said "Enchanté" (Nice to meet you).  He really charmed them!

          As we waited for our tour bus with the rest of the group, the two ladies came up to Janet one last time and wished us "Bon Voyage" and blew Janet a kiss. They were very sweet ladies.

          As we stood on line to enter the bus, it was the wrong bus and the company had to send a second bus. So our tour was delayed for 20 minutes. The new bus was much nice and very comfortable. Our tour guide was Roger Napier, a local in Quebec. He spoke excellent English and took us beyond Quebec city limits. However, first, they stopped and let us out downtown to the north of where we were earlier. We stopped at the Information Center on Rue de Buade and Rue Du Fort. The people were very helpful in giving us information about Montreal. We only had 20 minutes and walked down Saint Anne and turned down a small cobblestone street du Tresor. There was an art show of local artists, beautiful watercolors, acrylics, etchings, oil and pencil drawings, really nice stuff, and expensive. We happened across a hidden outdoor restaurant with a courtyard a fire pit. We were running out of time so headed back down Rue de Fort. A French gentleman in a light blue suit and hat was singing what appeared to be French folks songs. Locals were crowded around him, dancing, clapping their hands and singing along in French. It was a very sweet scene.

          Since our tour was delayed we were now stuck in rush hour traffic. We drove around the Plains of Abraham, a battlefield site of a battle between the French and the British in 1759 where the British defeated the French. Across the fields were the Parliament building for the province of Quebec and a statue of Joan d’Arc. Much happened in this small area. The first Catholic diocese in New France was established here and extended from Quebec all the way to Louisiana until the Louisiana purchase by the US in 1803 for 13 million dollars. Now the French regret selling!

          Our guide went on about hockey teams and other trivia to kill time while we were stuck in traffic. We finally arrived back at the ship just as the Queen Mary 2, docked in front of us, was leaving port.  After the half dozen tour members with wheelchairs, motorized scooters, and canes got off the bus, we hightailed it to our cabin to wash up and change for our dinner.
10 Restaurant

          Our reservations at the Caneletto Italian Restaurant were courtesy of the AAA which arranged our trip. It was strict semi formal dress restaurant. After touring all ay, we were lucky to look as good as we did! We both had the seafood Italian wedding soup, and lamb chops which were all delicious.
11 Packing

          Back in our cabin, we got down to the business of packing for disembarking in the morning. Our dismemberment time is 9:30 AM, but we will be able to have breakfast beforehand. Bill will contacted Uber and arranged transportation to the Le Centre Sheraton Hotel in Montreal. We hope they will let us check in early, otherwise we’ll have to have them store our bags until check-in time. We always hate this part of a cruise, because we’ve become very comfortable with our cabin and the ship.  Plus we have to put our bags out in the hallway before midnight for pickup at the dock in the morning. We were exhausted and fell asleep immediately.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Autumn in Canada #11

Autumn in Canada


Thursday, October 10, 2019
At Day at Sea

We started our day with a walk around the outside of the ship than an early breakfast at 8:00am...cold and windy.

We ate breakfast at the buffet then headed to the library to write and Bill read his book.

The library was full of people so Janet sat at the Observation Room and wrote, what a wonderful way to write and scenic! Quite a few people we met in the last few days stopped by to say Hi when they saw us.
          We were invited to the Mariner’s Lunch at noon in the main dining room. The dress was “smart casual.” It was for seasoned guests who have sailed on Holland America Cruise Lines before. (We sailed only once before with this cruise line.) We had a nice lunch and got free ceramic coasters of vintage Holland America Lines.

          As soon as lunch ended, we headed for the pools. We swam in the small pool and soaked in the hot tub. Hungry, we stopped at the Dive In and sandwich place by the pool area and snacked. Made it to our cabin and showered.

          We dressed and headed to the Gala Dinner in the formal dining room. The dress was dressy. The food was unbelievably good-gourmet all the way. We sat with a couple from Phoenix, Arizona. We had a lovely time talking to them about travel.
          We got back to our cabin about 8:00 and prepared for tomorrow's tour of Quebec, and started packing.

          Today was a particularly trying day, lots to do and little time. We planned on getting a lot done and we did, much to our exhaustion. We decided to skip the performance tonight, though it sounded like a nice song and dance show about the British Invasion of music.
The temperature did not get above 55F with clear skies and lots of wind. We continued watching out our cabin windows as we sailed. We had land on both sides of the ship as we cruised the St. Lawrence Seaway toward Quebec.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Autumn in Canada #10

Autumn in Canada #10

Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

          This morning we woke to the sunrise streaming in our stateroom window. We watched out our window as the sky lit up. The day was bright, sunny, and cloudless.

Charlottetown is where the book Anne of Green Gables took place. There were 4 tours to visit the house and grounds of Green Gables. But they were full. We decided to go for a walk around historic Charlottetown instead. We walked through Customs where there were many photo opportunities. Several stands lined the wall of the large room selling merchandise. Bill stopped to look at some maple syrup when he dropped a glass bottle and it cracked. What a sticky mess!

          Charlottetown. Prince Edward Island is really quite beautiful. We stopped in the Port visitor center and got a map of the town. On our way out a woman stopped us for a survey and gave us two tickets to the musical play, Annie & Gilbert (about Annie of Green Gables) that would have cost $79.95 each if purchased as an excursion.

          We decided to take the historic walk rather than the shopping route. Up the hill and through some very quaint little tree-lined streets with many colorful Victorian houses and past a huge cathedral.

We continued up the street and down a couple of alleys. Some trees were starting to turn but the colors were nowhere as intense or complete as our last trip to this area of the country 2008.

          We stopped at the Province House and sat under an Elm tree to admire the colorful trees on the grounds.

A horse-drawn wagon loaded with tourists passed by with the clip-clop of the hooves and jingling of the harness bells.  We passed some cute shops and stopped to buy an ornament for our tree.  On the corner across the street, we found the Guild theater where the musical was to take place. We checked the time and made the decision not to wait around for two hours, or have lunch in town and then sit through the musical. Our legs and feet ached – in fact, we ached all over and decided to go back to the ship for lunch, a swim, hot tub soak.. That was the correct choice.
          After lunch, we went to the pool deck (which is enclosed by a retractable glass roof. The air was warm and the sun felt good. We laid on a couple of chaise lounges and both ended up falling asleep. After a short nap. We went back to the cabin to change.

          The swimming pool water was the perfect temperature, but the pool is quite small not deep at all. We swam a bit and then soaked in the hot tub. We got out and stopped at the Dive-in bar (fast food), We each made a taco,  the guacamole was excellent.
          We changed for dinner and went to the library to continue reading the two books we’d been enjoying.  We got some hot chocolate and watched the sunset out of the huge windows. So, today we watched both the sunrise and sunset today! 

         Our 7:30 dinner reservation came up and headed to the dining room. We both had the most delicious New England clam chowder with dinner...and it was gluten-free!

          Tonight we set our clocks back another hour for Quebec time.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Autumn in Canada #9

Autumn in Canada #9

Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada

          After breakfast we took the gangway to the pier and onto the island. The weather was 61F, heavy drizzle and rained within the hour of us leave the ship, close to gale force winds. Fortunately, we brought our slickers and didn’t have to worry about the wind ruining our umbrella! As we walked off the pier there was an old man playing shanty music on his fiddle and singing Irish tunes. As we continued we heard bagpipe music, all Live!

          We stopped at St. George's the Anglican Church. It has quite a history.  It was established by Royal Decree in 1785. Rev. Ranna  Cossit was the first non-military pastor of the St. George's Church.

          We walked down Charlotte St. and stopped by Jost Heritage House (built 1784) and Cossit House Museum (built 1787) for tours but they were full. So decided to go east and walk towards downtown Sydney. As we walked we stopped at a few walking tours to hear what they had to say about the city. It seems Sydney was a steel mill town starting just before WWI and continued until recently.

           It began to rain heavily so we ducked into the Bank of Montreal Museum. We dried off, donated $2.00 and spent time reading about old Sydney. Apparently, Sydney was very much a part of the WWI and WWII efforts supplying men and material for the allies.

          They also had a story/song room. You chose between Mi'Kmaq (native American) Gaelic, or Acadian French. We listened to songs sung in each language. Janet was surprised at how much she was able to understand, reading French!

          We headed back in cold windy weather, stopped by the large Fiddle Statue (in honor of the Irish ancestry).
          After lunch everything hurt from the cold and rain. We headed to the indoor hot tub. Oh, what a relief!! By the time we got back to the cabin and showered we passed out cold. Thank goodness we had the where with all to make a wakeup call at 5:00pm.
          We went to the library to continue reading our books and have hot chocolate. We were going to stop by the Queen’s Room to listen to the violin and piano duo for a little before dinner music. However, the sunset was just beautiful and our view from the library was breathtaking so we stayed in the comfortable reading chairs with ottomans and relaxed.

          Dinner was in the main dining room. After dinner went to the showing of the movie BBC’s PLANET EARTH II put to live music by the Veendam Musicians. It was spectacular! Forty-five minutes of amazing nature footage from the entire planet and the music was perfect for each scene.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Autumn in Canada #8 Halifax

Autumn in Canada
Monday, October 6, 2019
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

           Janet is feeling much better this morning. She even had a regular breakfast! We were 2 hours late getting into port due to bad weather last night. The captain of our ship couldn’t get a pilot boat to guide us into the harbor so we had to wait. We went back to our cabin and watched out our window as we entered Halifax.

There was a very nice boardwalk we decided to enjoy the coast.  It was 57F windy, cold but sunny. It drizzled a little bit. You could feel the northeast autumn coming in strong with the strong gusts.

          We learned a lot about Halifax as we walked reading the many plaques along the way. Now it's a major business center and known for its maritime history. Waterfront warehouses are known as the Historic Properties remain from Halifax’s days as a trading center for privateers during the War of 1812. We didn't know the difference between pirates and privateers. The plaques explained that privateers were armed ships owned and officered by private individuals but authorized for use in war, especially in the capture of enemy merchant shipping. How about that!

          Along the route, there was a touching tribute to the families that had been separated while the husband set off to America for a better life. It was sweet.

Across the bay, there was Georges Island with a distinct lighthouse.  There was an old fort, Fort Charolette, named for King George III's wife, Charolette, 1755-1763 during the French and Indian war. Later the fort was used as a prison for expelled Acadians. The lighthouse was built in 1917 and still in use.
 The city is like any other city except for extremely tall skyscrapers that looked like apartment buildings. We walked to the Maritime Museum which we had planned to see. But by the time we found it we were exhausted. Bill’s excursion yesterday to Bar Harbor, and Acadia Nt. Park took a lot out of him, and Janet was just getting over a major bout of intestinal distress. So we walked back the ship, about a two-mile walk round trip.

We noticed every fast food place on the island was selling Poutine.  They are  French fries with brown-gray, and cheese. Apparently, they are very popular among the locals.

We went to Tea on the ship at 3:30 serving small sandwiches, sweetbreads, and the most amazing pastries!

We dressed for the evening, and headed for the library spent an hour reading (Janet began One for the Money by Janet Evanovich and Bill began reading If you lived here...I'd know Your Name by Heather Lende) with hot chocolate by the window. The sunset was amazing

We heard violin and piano music playing in the Queen’s Lounge and headed there to enjoy the pre-dinner music. It was lovely
Before we knew it, our reservations were ready at the Pinnacle Café. The food and atmosphere were exceptional. We dined for 1-1/2 hours! A real first for us.
We finished at 8:30 and decided to see the 9:30 comedy show. We headed  back to the library to read again until the show started. The show starred comedian Michael Somerville, he appeared with David Letterman, "6 times, 8 if you include re-runs". He was very good, we both laughed quite a bit.

Got back to our cabin, all made up with new towels. We had  most unusual towel object on your bed. Looked like an animal body head!?!