London

Fri, July 12

Today we experienced London, with a difference. Not just any impersonal excursion for us – but a very enjoyable personalised city tour with our friends from Manchester, Ian and Jane, whom we had met on a previous cruise around Australia and New Zealand.

After setting off from their home at 4.00am, they met us about 5 hours later at Dover and we were whisked off in their car for a whirlwind tour of London, all the while catching up on all our news.

Blackwall Tunnel took us to London’s East End and the Jewish Quarter, then the Financial District, Trafalgar Square, Harrods, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, museums, Downing St, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Big Ben and the list goes on, plus all the bridges – each of which Ian crossed twice to ensure we got good photos!

Jane thought of everything and even provided lunch ‘”on the go”” as we didn’t realise it is all but impossible to drive into London and park somewhere!

Then on to Canterbury to see the Cathedral and a walk around the town, before stopping for a “cup of tea”. In keeping with my interest in trying some local food, I was quite excited to see Eton Mess on the menu, something which I had only read about. Needless to say, it was delicious and reminded me of pavlova with strawberries and cream which we enjoy in Australia, only all mixed up together in a glass.

We arrived back at the ship just in time to board at 6.30pm and reluctantly waved goodbye as we set sail at 7.00pm, clutching a bag of English chocolates which they thoughtfully gave us as a parting gift. We had a wonderful day and so we say thanks and au revoir. Today was certainly a highlight of our vacation.
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Canterbury

Canterbury

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White cliffs of Dover

White cliffs of Dover

This post is dedicated to our good friends, Ian and Jane. Thanks guys, for going out of your way to make our day so memorable and enjoyable. We appreciate your friendship and hope to see you again in the not-too-distant future.

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France

Thurs, July 11

What to do in France? We were very fortunate on our river cruise last year to stay in Paris for 3 days, so we decided to go somewhere completely different this time, which is the only reason we chose to go to Honfleur. We had never heard of this village, so did not realise what a treat was in store for us.

We set off from the port of Le Havre by coach into the Normandy countryside on a lovely warm morning, meandering through some of the surrounding villages. We saw beautiful gardens and thatched roof cottages, some of which had irises growing in the thatch.

Eventually we arrived at the 13th century Norman fishing village which is also a popular yacht harbour, where our guide took us on a walking tour of its picturesque cobbled streets, 17th century salt warehouse now used for exhibitions and concerts, boutiques and traditional craft shops and works by Honfleur’s famous painter, Eugene Boudin. We also saw the remains of the old prison and Saint Catherine’s Church, a 15th century church built by shipwrights. Today, it is the largest wooden church with a separate bell-tower in France.

One of my photos shows a narrow street with the sewer running down the centre, so people had to walk close to the walls to avoid the contents of buckets which were emptied from the upstairs windows. The village square had lots of outdoor tables and chairs and I was sorry that I did not have time to sit a while at the table with the fancy chairs with a glass of wine in hand!

Honfleur is famous for apple cider and caramels so they were easy choices for souvenirs, plus a small drawing of the port bought from the artist himself. I could not leave France without a stop at the patisserie, and came out with a bag of 6 delicious French pastries for 2 Euros – what a bargain!

Our tour concluded with a drive over the new Normandy Bridge, the largest of its kind in Europe, spanning the Seine estuary before making our way back to Le Havre.

My impressions of Honfleur – charming and delightful and a little gem we would love to visit again someday…..
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Irises growing on top of the thatched roof

Irises growing on top of the thatched roof

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St Catherine's Church

St Catherine’s Church

Bell-tower behind church

Bell-tower behind church

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Charming carousel played beautiful music

Charming carousel played beautiful music

Greenock, Scotland

Tue, July 9

Glasgow is the chief port city in western Scotland and we passed through it as we took the 1-1/2 hour coach trip to Edinburgh. The country looked green and lush as we skirted Loch Lomond.

Arriving in Scotland’s capital, we spent the next few hours walking the Royal Mile, the heart of the old town, where we sampled Scottish beer while taking in such historical sites as Edinburgh Castle, Sir Walter Scott Memorial, Greyfriars Bobby and St Giles Cathedral. People were very friendly and it was easy to find our way around town. We noticed how expensive clothes and food are here and fuel equates to $A2.89 litre!

The unemployment situation is not good in Ireland or Scotland; manufacturing is on the decline and we saw a lot of houses up for sale where values have dropped dramatically and also many completely empty office buildings.

Edinburgh is a big, bustling city and everywhere you look there is amazing architecture, shops, markets and countless side streets with stories to tell. The castle dominates the top of the Royal Mile and at the lower end is Holyrood Palace, the official royal residence in Scotland. Some friends did a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia and had lunch there as well which they enjoyed, so no shortage of things to do.

Keen to try something local, lunch consisted of a ploughman’s lunch for Alex and I had a great-tasting soup, called Cullen Skink, consisting of fish and potatoes and a pint of Killelan beer.

Temperatures were up once again and it was nice to have a swim when we got back “home”! A Scottish band played on the pier next to the ship until we sailed and some locals came to see us off and were waving Australian flags!

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile

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Lunch

Lunch

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

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Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby

Ireland

Cobh, Cork
Sun, July 7

What a fantastic day we had today in Cobh (pron. Cove)! The whole town came out with a special, warm welcome for us. The population is 2,500 so we doubled it today with the arrival of 2,200 passengers plus crew!

We started off the day with a Titanic Walking Tour around the harbour where we visited the very same pier from where passengers tragically set sail on the Titanic. It was interesting to find out that the Titanic did not actually come into port, but stayed at the mouth of the harbour. To save time, the passengers were taken from the pier by paddle steamer to the ship. We also saw the old office buildings of the White Star and Cunard Lines and the ornately detailed neo-Gothic St Coleman’s Cathedral. It has 49 bells, which play every 15 minutes and today they played (all 3 verses) of Advance Australia Fair.

Our walking tour ended with an Irish Coffee in a traditional pub. When we arrived the door was locked as it wasn’t quite opening time, but luckily our guide knew the “special knock”!!!

The rest of the day was spent exploring this very lovely town. There was a wealth of interesting information at the Cobh Heritage Centre, covering the Irish famine, emigration and two famous oceanliners, the Titanic and the Lusitania. Australian flags were out, there was a market set up, toy kangaroos in shop windows and a brass band entertained us, as well as some Irish dancers. I was lucky to catch a demonstration of etching on some world renowned Waterford crystal by a master craftsman which unfortunately is a dying art. Some people who went to the Waterford Crystal factory said it is all being done by machine now.

Down at the pier at the end of the day, the whole town assembled to wave us off, with the band playing a selection of Australian songs, and many shouts of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! We were so impressed and enjoyed our day very much.

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The pier the Titanic passengers took on their journey, with Sea Princess behind

The pier the Titanic passengers took on their journey, with Sea Princess behind

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We enjoyed the Irish Coffee

We enjoyed the Irish Coffee

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Dublin
Mon, July 8

Once again we bought perfect weather with us for our visit to Dublin. The temperature only reached around 25oC but to the Irish it was a very warm day and after work everyone was out taking advantage of the sun, cycling, running or walking. Lots of people in summer clothes eating ice creams or sitting on their balconies. It was quite amusing to see so many sunbaking on any available bit of grass!

Anyway, back to our tour… we took the coach out of town to visit Powerscourt Gardens. The photos do not do justice to this beautiful mansion and estate in the mountains of County Wicklow. Built in the 18th century, it stands on what was once a 13th century medieval castle. I would highly recommend googling this one!

There were so many different themes in the gardens and they were all unique and special. I loved the walled garden with its profusion of roses but a place where I had to spend some extra time was the Pet’s Cemetery because of my love of animals. It is the resting place of the much loved pets of the Wingfield family dating from 1911 to the 1980’s of the current owners, the Slazenger family.

On our return to Dublin, we were given free time so we had a late lunch at an Irish pub – a ‘”shamrock”” pie and mash, washed down with some local Irish beer – so good! After a bit of shopping, we were collected and continued our tour around town. Dublin is a big, busy city but does have its little gems, especially the famous Georgian terrace houses with all the different coloured front doors. I also liked how they have retained their green spaces. The areas around Temple Bar looked old and interesting. It was a pity we did not have time to explore this part of town.

We finally arrived back at the ship in time to sail with the tide at 8.30pm.

Powerscourt

Powerscourt

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Pet Cemetery

Pet Cemetery

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Dublin

Dublin

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Portugal

Thurs, July 4

Although Lisbon possesses few outstanding wonders, it is a very pleasant city. The port is situated at the mouth of the Tagus River and we sailed underneath the 25th of April Bridge, passing the Cristo Rei Statue. The bridge employs the same engineering principles used to build the Golden Gate Bridge and is named for the date in 1974 when a bloodless revolution restored democracy by overthrowing the regime of Salazar.

After passing through the city’s financial district of Balxa, we made our way to the gorgeous beach resort of Estoril. This charming town is home to Estoril Casino, the largest casino in Europe. It is reputed to have been a clandestine meeting place for spies during WWII as well as the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel, Casino Royale.

The Monument to the Discoveries built in 1960 is surrounded by a tiled floor, forming an interesting optical illusion, either flat or going up and down, depending which way you look at it.

On our return to the capital, we spent the next few hours walking around the city admiring the architecture. Wehappened across a craft and flea market and then found the Military Museum. Rebuilt in 1760 following the great earthquake of 1755, apart from the extensive military collection it also houses one of the most valuable collections of historic paintings. The rooms were huge and beautifully decorated and opened out into a central internal courtyard, with walls covered in a Portuguese tile collection dating from past centuries. This courtyard housed the canon collection. (No cameras allowed!)

An interesting city, ancient – yet modern in its post-earthquake city planning, and it was very enjoyable to explore.

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Disused aquaduct

Disused aquaduct

Estoril

Estoril

Belem Tower - 16th century

Belem Tower – 16th century


Museu Militar de Lisboa

Museu Militar de Lisboa

Monument of the Discoveries

Monument of the Discoveries

Monument of the Discoveries

Monument of the Discoveries

Optical illusionSea Princess Lisbon Portugal 097 (800x530)Sea Princess Lisbon Portugal 049 (800x530)
Cristo Rei Statue

Cristo Rei Statue

April 25th Bridge

April 25th Bridge