Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Amsterdam

Today we are in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In fact, this moment we are in the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam waiting for a flight to Milan, Italy. From Milan we will the train to Florence where Julie/Bill will pick us up. This is the start of the second phase of our trip. This is about a week and a half in Tuscany with children and grandchildren. Look forward to that.

Update: It is now Wednesday and we are in Tuscany. Bill and Julie picked us up at the train station in Florence and it is beautiful here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Dover and Canterbury

Yesterday we were in the port of Dover and spent a portion of the day in Canterbury. We wanted to see the Canterbury Cathedral and the exact spot where Thomas À Becket was murdered. That we did and, in addition, we were able to see the tombs of King Henry IV and his wife there. Spent a couple of hours checking all the nooks and crannies in the Cathedral. After the Cathedral and on the way back to the ship we stopped at Dover Castle. That is shown in the photo attached.

This morning we are in Amsterdam were we will end our cruise. After a tour of the city we will check in our hotel located near the airport. Tomorrow we will fly to Milan and then take the train to Florence. Then a week and a half with Julie, Bill and the kids. I expect it will be a
bit warmer in Italy. Today in Amsterdam it is in the 50s and damp.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

La Havre, France

This morning it is 8:00 AM and we just arrived at the port of Dover. The outside temperature is listed on the ship's channel on the TV as 75 degrees. I just stepped out on the balcony and it ain't 75 but it is not that bad. The problem is the fog. Twenty minutes ago you could see the white cliffs but right now you can barely see the next pier. Hopefully it will burn off when the sun gets higher.

Yesterday we were in the port of La Havre, France but spent most of the   day in Honfleur on the other side of the Seine River. We had been there  a couple of years ago on another transatlantic crossing and wanted to see a particular church in Honfleur. The Church of Saint Catherine was built sometime in either the 15th or 16th century. The church along with its separate bell tower is all wood. I suspect that originally its walls were wood, daub and wattle (mud and straw). Now the mud and straw was been replaced with cement. The columns in the church are all huge wood beams. While we were there the main altar was set up for a wedding and the wedding party was outside the front of the church with the priest.

The church is just off the old basin (Honfleur used to be the port for the Seine) which is ringed by about what seems to be a hundred restaurants. There may not be a hundred but it is close. Being Saturday, the basin area was mobbed. On one end of the basin is the old excise office where duty was collected from ships. It was probably built in the 16th century. It has plaques on the wall dedicating the building to the Champlain that scouted portions of New York and Canada and for whom Lake Champlain which separates New York and Vermont is named.

Last night was the last night for one of our dinner mates, Manny and Dotty. They are leaving the Connecticut and Florida. I hope that I'm in as good shape as Manny when I am his age. He is 84. If you looked at the range of passengers on the Prinsendam you would note that Nancy are among the young crowd!

Today at about noon we will take a bus to Canterbury and see the cathedral there. I want to see the particular spot in the cathedral where Thomas À Becket was slain. I would also like to see the tomb of King Henry IV and others. Should be an interesting tour.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Falmouth, England

Today we are in Falmouth on England's south coast near Lands End. Although we were warned of cold weather it was quite nice especially in the sun. The temperature is in the low seventies.

Last night was another time that we had to change our clocks by an hour  and will be changing every night for the next couple of nights. Portugal and the British Isles are in one time zone and the rest of western Europe is in another. As a result, going from Spain to England requires a change backward; tonight we turn the clocks forward as we approach La Havre, France; the next night we set the clocks back as we go to Dover, England; the last night we change the clocks forward again as we sail to Amsterdam, Netherlands. If a clock change is necessary on a day that we are at sea the change is made at noon, otherwise the
change is made at 2:00 AM. You would be surprised by the number of people find it confusing.

We are docked in Falmouth at Queen's Quay and we share the pier from the Royal Navy, the HMS Echo. Its difficult what type of ship it is but it is somewhat small and has no apparent armament on the decks. I suspect it is a maintenance ship or something.

UPDATE: HMS Echo is a multi-role hydrographic survey ship according to Wikipedia.

This is the second time we have been to Falmouth (or more if you add the Falmouth Harbour in Antigua) as we stopped here on a transatlantic cruise on the Royal Carribean's Brilliance of the Seas. Because the Brilliance was a much larger ship than the Prinsendam we had to anchor out then but the Prinsendam is able to get into the harbor. From the pier there were shuttle buses to the beginning of the high street. Our first stop there was the Church of King Charles the Martyr, dedicated to King Charles I, the second of England's Stuart monarchs. During the English Civil War, Charles was attained by the parliament and was beheaded in 1649. The photo is a copy of Charles's Death Warrant signed by members of parliament including Oliver Cromwell. I asked a volunteer
in the church why the folks were Royalists (as opposed to Parliamentarians) during the Civil War and she said that the major land owner in the area was a Royalist so the local people depending on him were naturally also Royalists.

We strolled down most of Market Street and Church Street and the small streets the cut off of them. One of the unique streets is called Jacob's Ladder which is about a hundred or so steps straight up! The walk up is a bear but going back down is a snap. We neglected to hit it the last time here so we had to do it this time.

Back to the ship it was a typical afternoon with Bingo. Only one more session of Bingo and that will be in Dover. This cruise winnings in Bingo has been scant. Who knows, maybe we'll win the big one in Dover. (Yeah, right!)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bilbao, Spain

Today we are on our way to Falmouth on the southwest coast of England. Yesterday we were in Bilbao on Spain's northern coast on the Bay of Biscay. This area of northern Spain and southern France is Basque country. The Basque people have their own culture, language and even a unique DNA. Street and other signs are generally in both Spanish and Basque.

The port where the ship was just into the Bilbao River but the city of  Bilbao is about a quarter hour bus trip up river. Therefore we took the bus into the city. Unfortunately the bus dropped us off in the downtown shopping area (think Rochester's Main Street from the Four Corners to East Avenue) so to get any of the things we would have liked to see it was quite a hike. As a result we walked some of the picturesque side streets and some of the parks and squares. One of the squares (its name escapes me) is in the photo. After a while we took the bus back to the ship for a very enjoyable afternoon. It was in the 70's and sunny so it was nice out in our balcony.

In the afternoon we played Bingo and won again. Unfortunately there were not a lot of players so the prizes were small. The game we won we had to share the prize with another winner. Our winning portion was $19. We had paid $20 for our Bingo cards. So, is a minus $1 a win? I don't know.

Before martinis and dinner we did our daily stop in the casino. The Prinsendam does not have a very large casino as it has only about 700 passengers and most are not big gamblers. There is one craps table, one roulette table and three Black Jack tables. There are a quite a few slot machines but most of those used are the penny and two penny slots. Nancy and I always play the penny slots because a five dollar bill will take quite a bit of time. We are not big gamblers.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A Coruna, Spain

Yesterday we were in the port of A Coruña at the northwest corner of Spain where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay of Biscay. We spent the better part of the day on a trip to Santiago de Compastela, where legend says the body of St. James the Apostle is buried. I somehow think we are on a religious pilgrimage rather than a cruise with visits to any number of churches, Fatima and Santiago de Compostela. When we reach Dover we are going to see Canterbury Cathedral and eventually see the many churches in Florence.



Santiago de Compostela is about an hour or so drive from Coruña and the town is completely devoted to the basilica and its component parts. Had we been there on a Sunday it probably been mobbed but it being Tuesday it wasn't bad although there were quite a number of tourists there. In addition to visiting the basilica and some of other buildings we had wine and hors d'ouvres plus music by a group shown in the photo.


Back at the ship we again had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill which, as is always the case, excellent. This morning we are in Bilbao, Spain and we will walk through town in a bit.