Monday, May 31, 2010

Lisbon

It is 11:05 AM and we are leaving the Tagus River and out into the
Atlantic after a stay in Lisbon since yesterday morning. I assume that
all cruise lines have the cabin stewards make towel animals while making
up the cabin in the evening. This was the one our steward make last
night - a towel animal doing the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Yesterday was a very full day. In the morning after breakfast we boarded
a bus at 8:30 AM and headed for the shrine at Fatima. Fatima is about an
hour and a half drive from Lisbon. Before we reached Fatima though we
stopped at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory, a huge church in a very
small village. It was built about the 15th century to commemorate a
battle of the Portugese over the French. (Can you imagine St. Monica's
Church on Genesee Street being dedicated to some battle?) Mass was going
on in the basilica when we arrived there and there were probably a
thousand people attending mass as it was the Feast of the Holy Trinity
which apparently is big in Portugal. Along the right side aisle were
almost a hundred decorated carts filled with loaves of bread. Following
the mass was to be a procession through the village with the carts a
part of it. A portion of the basilica is the burial sites of a number
of Portugese kings and members of their families.

Leaving the basilica, we then drove to the Shrine at Fatima. As was the
case with the basilica, mass was also in process when we arrived. This
mass was celebrated outside with the huge altar in front of the basilica
and the crown in the square was probably close to a hundred thousand
people. The photos from there will be posted on Flickr when we get back
home.

Last evening we took a tour of the city and then ate at a Fado
restaurant. Fado is Portugese folk entertainment with music and singing.
We were there until probably 11:00 PM and it was a very enjoyable
evening. The only downside of the evening was the menu was a fixed
menu. The entree was duck and rice. I have had duck before and
absolutely hate it. It is probably the greasiest fowl known to man. I
absolutely did not eat it - stuck with the rice.

Right now (11:55 AM) it is very foggy on the ocean and the ship sounds
its horn ever couple of minutes. I hope that doesn't last. I had hoped
to read on the balcony this afternoon as the sun was out. We will have
to see.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Portimao, Portugal

Today we are in Portimao, Portugal, another small coastal village on the
Atlantic. After breakfast we took a shuttle bus into the center of the
town and spent about three hours touring. That includes any church we
come across! The photo enclosed is an old chimney/tower used as a nest
for storks. There were two towers along the river and both had stork
nests. I was on the impression that in the winter storks migrate to
Africa and come back in the summer. The natives say that the storks in
these two towers stay here year round.

Update: It is now Sunday morning as I write this. We are arriving in
Lisbon and we just passed under the bridge on the Tagus River. After
breakfast we are off on a excursion to Fatima.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cadiz, Spain

Today we are in Cadiz on the south coast of Spain just west of
Gibraltar. This is the third time we have been in Cadiz the other two
times also part of a transatlantic cruise (once going to Europe and
another going home). After coffee and juice in our cabin (I am
reluctant to call it a suite even though Holland America calls it that)
we had breakfast on the Lido deck. Leaving the ship there was a "hop-on
hop-off" bus parked just outside the port gate. The "hop-on hop-off"
buses are very popular in European tourist towns and cities and a quick
way to see a lot of a city. As the name implies, you can hop off the
bus to see something in particular and later hop on to continue. As you
can see from the photo it is sometimes difficult to get a picture
without including a part of other bus riders. This photo is of the
gates of the old city (and the back of a guy's head). There is a
narration of what you are seeing as the bus proceeds.

Tomorrow we will be in Portimao, Portugal and then on to Lisbon where we
will stay overnight.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ponta Delgada

Yesterday we were in the port of Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao
Miguel, the largest island in the Azores. Although larger ships have to
anchor in the harbor and use tenders to shore, the Prinsendam was able
to dock right 'downtown' in Ponta Delgada. After breakfast Nancy and I
left the ship and walk through the streets of the town for three hours
or so visiting the big churches: Sao Pedro, Sao Sebastiao and Sao Jose.
We had visited the town before on another of our Transatlantic cruises.
Before returning to the ship we stopped for a beer in one of the
waterfront cafes.

In the late afternoon it was Bingo again on the ship and finally we won
a game. Not much but it was $43 for a first game which is generally the
smallest prizes. Maybe this is the start.

Today is the first of two sea days before we reach Cadiz, Spain.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Horta, Azores

Today we are at Horta in the Azores, a small town or village, probably
most famous for its volcano. The volcano formed the island and it is no
longer active. Among other things it is a port for boats and yachts
crossing the ocean on their way to Portugal, Spain or the Mediterranean.
The photo shown is the paintings done by yachts, boats and ships the
first time that they visit Horta. As we were walking along this area
there was a man updating his painting on the wall - it looked like a new
date on the painting.

We arrived in the harbor at about noon time. After lunch we took a
tender from the ship to the town where we walked down the waterfront
quite a way to look at the Church of Sao Salvador. The church is on a
bit of a hill and the road and sidewalk are cobblestone. Also it is
necessary to wind around different streets to get to the church because
the streets from the waterfront are not straight. We took some photos
at the interior of the church that we will put on Flickr when we finish
the cruise/vacation. We also looked at a couple of parks and gardens
and then the rains came down! When we arrived in the harbor the sun
shone and it was nice although a bit cool. When the rain came down it
was windy and cold. It was miserable.

We ran back to the harbor station where the tenders from the ship was
located. Luckily one was just about to leave for the ship so we hopped
on. Back to the ship and change into dry clothes.

I almost forgot to note that there was a single special Bingo game this
morning. The prize was a cruise for two in the Caribbean. Nancy one
one of these a few years ago on our Asia/Australia cruise. This time no
luck came our way. We are still winless in Bingo but we still have two
more weeks.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Still at Sea

This is among the activities we participate in on those days at sea.
(Shortly after this picture was taken, Nancy was sould asleep.) Among
other activities include the lecture series that Holland American has on
all their ships on cruises that a longer than two weeks. On this cruise
there is a gentlemen who was previously an historian from the National
Park Service. This week he has lectured on Atlantic cruises by St.
Brendan and Leif Ericson, and an Englishman in 1910 who murdered his
wife in London and then fled by ship to America. He was spotted by the
Captain who informed Scotland Yard by the first use of wireless
telegraphy at sea. Yesterday he talked about the Roanoke Colony and Sir
Walter Raleigh and today he talked about the talks by Churchill and
Roosevelt held in Nova Scotia aboard ship in 1941. All very interesting.

Tomorrow we will stop at our first port after a week at sea. We will be
stopping at Horta, a small town on the island of Faial, in the Azores.
I know that we had been to the Azores before on transatlantic crossings
but don't recall whether it was Horta or not. I know that we have
visited Ponta Delgada, our next port after Horta.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Whales

I don't know what Ahab yelled when he spotted the giant whale but on
board the Prinsendam the Captain gets on the public address system
announces that a whale or whales had been spotted. This morning he
announced that whales had been spotted off the port side of the ship. I
even left my slot machine to see if I could spot a whale but this was to
no avail. However, after leaving the casino I noticed a group of people
looking out a window so I joined them and did spot a whale trailing the
ship. I went up to my cabin to see if I could take a picture but could
not see any more.

Speaking of the slot machine, I did win $5 while 'whale spotting' time.
That plus $10 winning on the roulette table last night is the total
winnings for my lovely wife and I so far. I'm sure that a big Bingo
winning will make us even. (Yeah, right!) Even with the losses it has
been a very good cruise so far.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Cruise

While at sea there is plenty of time to do just about anything . . .
including booking another cruise. This afternoon we had some time to
kill so we booked a 33 day cruise on Holland American's Amsterdam next
March. The cruise is a leg of a World Cruise that is for 110 days but
we booked only the last leg of that cruise from Dubai to Fort
Lauderdale. In addition to United Arab Emirates (Dubai) it stops at
three additional ports in countries that we have never been to. These
are Oman, Jordan and Egypt. From Jordan to Egypt we sail up the Suez
Canal so that should be new and interesting. The other ports are ones
that we have been to before in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and a
couple of those islands in the Atlantic.

This evening we will be attending a cocktail party hosted by the Captain
and the Hotel Manager. Following that we will be having dinner in the
Pinnacle Grill, the specialty restaurant on board the Prinsendam.
Earlier in the day we had our standard Bingo session and we are still
winless in the Bingo category. We do have another two and a half weeks
so maybe we can make up our losses by a big win! Yeah, sure!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

At Sea

Today is our second day at sea and will not reach our first port in the
Azores until Monday. These days at sea are what we really enjoy -
bingo, gambling, lectures, and reading. Kid of hard to do these things,
with the exception with reading, at home. We will note anything of
interest but so far very quiet.

Monday, May 17, 2010

On Board the Prinsendam

The driver picked us up at home at 11:00 AM to take us to Port
Everglades which we boarded at about noon. We had lunch in the dining
room and that was a mistake. It would have been quicker on the buffet on
the Lido deck. Right now we are unpacking and then we will look around.
Later this afternoon before we leave the port we will have a life boat
drill and then we will be really on our way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Surprise!

When we book a cruise we generally don't pick a particular cabin but rather we pick a cabin category.  That way we are guaranteed a cabin in that category but may get one in a higher category.  A higher category may not necessarily mean a larger cabin but may just mean one toward the middle of the ship. (There is less "rock and roll" in the middle of the ship which is why they are more expensive.) We have generally been pleased with what we have got.

When we booked the cruise that starts tomorrow we asked for an AB category cabin - outside with a balcony toward either bow or stern of the ship.  A week or so ago we were assigned an A category cabin - toward the center of the ship with about 230 square feet. Not a bad cabin and an upgrade from an AB.

This morning I checked our reservations on-line and noticed that our cabin assignment has changed again.  We have been assigned a SY cabin - a suite on one of the upper decks with about 360 square feet.  The cruise line must like us!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rochester's Lilac Festival

My friends at the Rochester Subway blog have a great post today about the Lilac Festival in Highland Park. As I pointed out in a comment there, while living in Rochester I never went to Highland Park for the Lilac Festival.  It was not until I had lived in Florida for three years and visited Rochester one Spring that I attended the festival.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Ready for Next Cruise

Next Monday we will start our next cruise on the Holland America Prinsendam from Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale) to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Leaving Port Everglades we will have six days at sea before we reach our first port in the Azores. The itinerary for the cruise is:
  • May 24 - Horta, Azores
  • May 25 - Ponta Delgada, Azores
  • May 26 and 27 - At sea
  • May 28 - Cadiz, Spain
  • May 29 - Portimao, Portugal
  • May 30 and 31 - Lisbon, Portugal
  • June 1 - A Coruna, Spain
  • June 2 - Bilboa, Spain
  • June 3 - At sea
  • June 4 - Falmouth, UK
  • June 5 - Le Havre, France
  • June 6 - Dover, UK
  • June 7 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
From Amsterdam we arrive too late to catch the EasyJet to Milan so we are spending the night in Amsterdam and flying out the next day. From Milan we are taking the train to Florence and then spend a week or so with Julie, Bill and the kids near Siena.  Will be updating the blog while we are away.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Milk Man and his Horse-Drawn Wagon

When I wrote the other day about the garbage  men and their horse drawn wagon, my sister pointed out another of the those with wagons - the 'rag men.'   She was right about that.  The 'rag man' would yell out such calls as, "Rags, papers, clothing, . . ."  Another with the horse drawn wagons was the milk man.  Very few people didn't have milk delivered to their house.  The milk was generally put in the 'milk box' that had a door on the outside and another on the inside.

The brains of the operation was not the milk man but it was the horse.  The horse knew the route by heart.  How he did it, I don't know, but he did.  The milk man never said a thing but the horse would only stop at houses that were on the route. Today not only does the horse drawn wagon not deliver milk to our houses, nobody delivers it. We drive to the supermarket.

Friday, May 07, 2010

You Need a Computer

Yesterday's stock market plunge was scarier than any that I had ever seen.  Comments following the plunge mentioned computerized trading as one of the possible reason for the deep drop.  It reminds me of an old saying that friends of mine in the software business would quote. "It is possible for humans to make big mistakes but to make really big mistakes you need a computer!"

'Horse Killer' the Garbage Man

When I was young on Flint Street in Rochester horse-drawn wagons were still seen on the city streets.  I particularly recall the garbage men and their wagons.  In addition to garbage men that picked up your garbage cans (which makes sense, I guess), there were also other guys that picked up ash cans.  At that time probably almost everyone in our neighborhood had coal furnaces. It was not until the latter part of the 1940s that we converted from coal to oil.

I recall very vividly one garbage man that we kids on the street called 'Horse Killer.'  I'm not sure that he was that mean but he had a huge whip (well, maybe not that huge) so we assumed that he whipped his horse.  We would see him coming down the street and we would hide behind a tree in front of either the Porter or Neary house.  As he when by we would yell out, "Hey, Horse Killer!"  He of course would yell back, "You goddamn kids I'm going to kick your ass!" and then he would crack his whip.  It was the high point of the week.

As a part of his route he would have his "lunch" at a tavern on Jefferson Avenue and probably Bartlett Street or so.  There was an iron water trough in front of the saloon for the horses. 'Horse Killer' was in the tavern one noon time when something must have startled the horses as they took off down Jefferson Avenue and eventually ran through the front window or door of the Loblaw supermarket at the southeast corner of Jefferson and Hawley Street. Somehow we kids thought that it was funny. Kids are strange . . . but not as strange as 'Horse Killer.'