Sailing The British Isles with Ed Buchholz on Cunard’s Queen Victoria | All About Ringaskiddy

Hosted Cruise – Cunard Queen Victoria – 12 Nights
June 7 – 19, 2020
British Isles

Port of Call – Cork (tours from Ringaskiddy), Ireland – June 9

For the first time ever, the Queen Victoria will be docking in Ringaskiddy, Ireland.  Ringaskiddy is a village in County Cork, Ireland. It is located on the western side of Cork Harbour, south of Cobh, and is 15 kilometres from Cork city, so it makes a perfect jumping off point to visit Cork.

According to Lonely Planet, Ireland’s second city is first in every important respect – at least according to the locals, who cheerfully refer to it as the ‘real capital of Ireland’. It’s a liberal, youthful and cosmopolitan place that was badly hit by economic recession but is now busily reinventing itself with spruced-up streets, revitalized stretches of waterfront, and – seemingly – an artisan coffee bar on every corner. There’s a bit of a hipster scene, but the best of the city is still happily traditional – snug pubs with live-music sessions, restaurants dishing up top-quality local produce, and a genuinely proud welcome from the locals.

The compact city centre is set on an island in the River Lee, surrounded by waterways and packed with grand Georgian avenues, cramped 17th-century alleys, modern masterpieces such as the opera house, and narrow streets crammed with pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants, fed by arguably the best foodie scene in the country.

Top Attractions – Cork:

Cork City Gaol:  This imposing former prison is well worth a visit, if only to get a sense of how awful life was for prisoners a century ago. An audio tour guides you around the restored cells, which feature models of suffering prisoners and sadistic-looking guards.

image001The tour is very moving, bringing home the harshness of the 19th-century penal system. The most common crime was that of poverty; many of the inmates were sentenced to hard labour for stealing loaves of bread. The prison closed in 1923, reopening in 1927 as a radio station that operated until the 1950s. The on-site Governor’s House has been converted into a Radio Museum where, alongside collections of beautiful old radios, you can hear the story of radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi’s conquest of the airwaves.

English Market:  With its ornate vaulted ceilings, columns and polished marble fountain, scores of vendors set up colourful and photogenic displays of the region’s very best local produce, including meat, fish, fruit, cheeses and takeaway food. The envy of foodies throughout Ireland, the English Market has been around since 1788. Far from being English (it’s named for its Protestant origins), this is the place to pick up traditional specialties like drisheen and pigs’ trotters, although the 55 or so stalls also stock bread, fish, cheese and fruit and veg. The market has survived fire, civil war and an attempted name change, but it took a failed bid to replace it with a car park in the 1980s for the people of Cork to realize that their culinary capital was worth saving! Today hailed as the “best covered market in the UK and Ireland” by chef Rick Stein, the English Market is thriving.

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Elizabeth Fort:  Originally built in the 1620s, and serving as a garda (police) station from 1929 to 2013, this small star-shaped artillery fort once formed an important part of the city’s defenses. Newly opened to the public, it offers an insight into Cork’s military history, and there are good views across the city from the ramparts.

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St Fin Barre’s Cathedral:  Spiky spires, gurning gargoyles and elaborate sculpture adorn the exterior of Cork’s Protestant cathedral, an attention-grabbing mixture of French Gothic and medieval whimsy. The grandeur continues inside, with marble floor mosaics, a colourful chancel ceiling and a huge pulpit and bishop’s throne. Quirky items include a cannonball blasted into an earlier medieval spire during the Siege of Cork (1690). The cathedral sits about 500m southwest of the centre, on the spot where Cork’s 7th-century patron saint, Fin Barre, founded a monastery.

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Across the bay, is another potential tour.  Cobh (pronounced ‘cove’) is a charming waterfront town on a glittering estuary, dotted with brightly coloured houses and overlooked by a splendid cathedral. It’s popular with Corkonians looking for a spot of R&R.  It’s a far cry from the harrowing Famine years when more than 70,000 people left Ireland through the port in order to escape the ravages of starvation (from 1848 to 1950, no fewer than 2.5 million emigrants passed through). Cobh was also the final port of call for the Titanic; a poignant museum commemorates the fatal voyage’s point of departure.

Top Attractions – Cobh:

Titanic Experience: The original White Star Line offices, where 123 passengers embarked on (and one lucky soul absconded from) the RMS Titanic, now house this powerful insight into the ill-fated liner’s final voyage in 1912. Admission is by tour, which is partly guided and partly interactive, with holograms, audiovisual presentations and exhibits; allow at least an hour. The technical wizardry is impressive but what’s most memorable is standing on the spot from where passengers were ferried to the waiting ship offshore, never to return.

Spike Island: This low-lying green island in Cork Harbour was once an important part of the port’s defenses, topped by an 18th-century artillery fort. In the second half of the 19th century, during the Irish War of Independence, and from 1984 to 2004 it served as a prison, gaining the nickname ‘Ireland’s Alcatraz’. Today you can enjoy a guided walking tour of the former prison buildings, then go off and explore on your own; the ferry departs from Kennedy Pier, Cobh.

The guided tour takes in the modern prison, the old punishment block, the shell store (once used as a children’s prison) and No 2 bastion with its massive 6in gun. Other highlights include the Gun Park, with a good display of mostly 20th-century artillery; the Mitchell Hall, with an exhibit on the Aud, a WWI German gun-running ship that was sunk in the entrance to Cork Harbour; and the Glacis Walk, a 1.5km trail that leads around the walls of the fortress, with great views of Cobh town and the harbour entrance. You’ll need around four hours to make the most of a visit.

Cobh, The Queenstown Story:  The howl of the storm almost knocks you off-balance, there’s a bit of fake vomit on the deck, and the people in the pictures all look pretty miserable – that’s just one room at Cobh Heritage Centre. Housed in the old train station (next to the current station), this interactive museum is way above average, chronicling Irish emigrations across the Atlantic in the wake of the Great Famine.

Other exhibits include some shocking stuff on the fate of convicts, shipped to Australia in transport ships ‘so airless that candles could not burn’. Scenes of sea travel in the 1950s, however, might actually make you nostalgic for a more gracious way of travelling the world. There’s also a genealogy centre and a cafe.

St. Coleman’s Cathedral:  Dramatically perched on a hillside terrace above Cobh, this massive French Gothic Cathedral is out of all proportion to the town. Its most exceptional feature is the 47-bell carillon, the largest in Ireland, with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighs a stonking 3440kg – about as much as a full-grown elephant!

image009Blarney Castle:  Built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftans, Cormac MacCarthy, and has been attracting attention ever since. Over the last few hundred years, millions have flocked to Blarney making it a world landmark and one of Ireland’s greatest treasures.

Now that might have something to do with the Blarney Stone, the legendary Stone of Eloquence, found at the top of the towerKiss it and you’ll never again be lost for words.

Ready to join me on this amazing sailing experience?  You can find the full cruise details here or just call the agents at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel at 306-242-TRIP today!

Sailing The British Isles with Ed Buchholz on Cunard’s Queen Victoria

Hosted Cruise – Cunard Queen Victoria – 12 Nights
June 7 – 19, 2020
British Isles

Welcome to the first blog for our upcoming Cunard Cruise aboard the beautiful Queen Victoria.  We will be sailing from and returning to Southampton, England.  This means you can easily add on time in the UK either before or after the cruise and return airfare will be easy to arrange from several airlines.

The purpose of this blog is to provide you with some information about the ship, Queen Victoria.  Subsequent blogs will highlight some of the wonderful ports of call we will have on this voyage.  First, here are some details:

Length294 m

Construction startedMay 12, 2006

LaunchedJanuary 15, 2007

Capacity2,081 passengers

Crew900

Retrofit: 2017

Tonnage: 90,049

So, that’s the technical data but what about Cunard and the ship experience?  Click on the link below and you will see a wonderful YouTube video about the Queen Victoria.  Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=667AqY0b6QU

Lovely ship, isn’t it.  Since I haven’t sailed on this ship before, I thought some independent reviews might be important.  The following descriptions are courtesy of “Cruise Critic” and really give you a good idea of what to expect:

“Queen Victoria is elegance personified. In typically understated British style, the ship doesn’t do glitzy or loud, so ambience overall is modest rather than striking. Do not expect even the slightest hint of neon or glitz nor — perish the thought — rock climbing walls or bumper cars. Luxurious furnishings and eye-catching features lend an air of extravagance to the onboard atmosphere with muted colors and lots of dark wood. Architecture is in keeping with the ambiance of Cunard ocean liners of times past while the interior design offers the contemporary elegance of a modern luxury hotel.

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Cunard cashes in on its impressive heritage, sense of occasion and somewhat old-fashioned pursuits including ballroom dancing and bridge. An outdoor Games Deck harkens back to the days of the ’20s and ’30s with croquet, shuffleboard, hoopla, deck quoits and paddle tennis. No hint of brashness here. Loyal followers also totally approve of the fact that the cruise line employs a stricter dress code than that followed on other mainstream lines.

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Queen Victoria is almost a replica of her bigger sister Queen Elizabeth, at least as far as layout, cabins and enrichment programs go. One difference is that the decor throughout the ship is darker Victorian rather than Queen Elizabeth’s lighter Art Deco-inspired interiors, but the public areas of the ship are every bit as splendid with an earth tone color palette of creamy beige, chestnut brown and gold, with mahogany walls, circular hand-woven area rugs and intricately designed marble floors.

Everywhere you turn there is a treat for the eyes, from the glittering chandeliers and white gloved waiters serving scones at afternoon tea to elegant restaurants and deep, rich carpets. One of the ship’s signature features is the stunning three-tier Grand Lobby with its unique artwork, sweeping staircase and sculpted balconies. With a dramatic triple-height ceiling, the lobby serves as a majestic focal point and is the center of onboard activity. It forms the core from which the ship’s other public rooms flow. A bronzed-effect sculptural representation of the cruise ship emerging from a sun motif coordinated with a marquetry relief depicting a map of the world graces the staircase landing and is visible from nearly every part of the Grand Lobby.

The 4,000 square foot Royal Arcade on Deck 3, inspired by the Royal and Burlington Arcades in London, features a grand staircase at the forward end. Light wood paneling contrasts with green marble and gold and white stone textures. The centerpiece of this area is a custom-built, chiming pillar clock by English clockmaker Dent & Co., clockmaker to Queen Victoria and whose most famous work is Big Ben in London. The clock housing is black with gold-leaf lettering and backlit dials are opal acrylic with black Roman numerals.

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The 830-seat, three-deck Royal Court Theatre on Deck 3 was designed to emulate the grandeur and luxury of the spectacular designs of architect Frank Matcham, whose dramatic multi-tiered theatres made him one of the most prolific theatre designers, with over 80 venues to his name. The ambience is similar to a 19th-century theatre with lots of rich brocade fabric, deep red velvet curtains and murals framing the walls.

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However, while all of this may sound very posh, this ship is not just the preserve of the wealthy. During the day you can relax and unwind in the Royal Spa while at night there are live theatre shows, music and dancing in the bars and lounges. The ship has enough classy, small to midsize public rooms and various nooks and crannies for guests to relax, read or enjoy a drink and a chat.

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Like the other Cunard ships, Queen Victoria operates a class system in which the cabin grade you choose dictates where you eat. This means for those who want to splash the cash, the Queens Grill and Princess Grill provide top notch accommodations and more upmarket dining options. Having said that, around 80 percent of passengers are happily ensconced in Britannia-grade cabins and dine in the stylish Britannia Restaurant.

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Passengers’ peace is not disturbed by multiple announcements either — there is just one announcement a day — at noon, by the captain, telling of the ship’s progress.

To sum up, Queen Victoria is a comfortable, graceful cruise ship best suited to couples, single travelers and mature cruisers.

For first-timer cruisers, Queen Victoria is a good choice. It isn’t one of the huge cruise ships so has a more intimate, friendly feel. Also a plus point for those new-to-cruising is that they won’t get lost trying to find their way around. Cruisers — especially those who enjoy dressing up for dinner — can expect an elegant experience on this well laid out ship.

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We hope you will consider joining us on the amazing voyage.  For additional information, please contact UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel at 306-242-TRIP (8747) or if you are out of town 1-800-565-6562.  Watch for the next blog, focusing on one of the many interesting ports!

You can find out more about this sailing by clicking here.  

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Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 8

New York, New York – Oct 10

While we were disappointed that we had to leave Boston earlier than planned, what this meant in the end was that we arrived in New York around noon instead of during the night.  Yay…some extra time to discover New York.

Coming into New York, the weather co-operated with sunshine  as we all awaited that iconic welcoming symbol of freedom – the Statue of Liberty!   “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States and is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886.  It was designated as a National Monument in 1924.  Employees of the National Park Service have been caring for the colossal copper statue since 1933.

The New York skyline is so impressive as we sail into the Hudson to dock at Pier 88 right in the middle of Midtown, New York.  For all my golfing friends, the area surrounded by green netting is a golf driving range!

The tall tower in this picture is the Freedom Tower or One World Trade Center is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, New York City by the 9/11 memorial. One WTC is the tallest building in the United States, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the seventh-tallest in the world.

When we docked, we were right beside the Intrepid Carrier museum.  Launched in 1943, the former aircraft carrier USS Intrepid fought in World War II, surviving five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. The ship later served in the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Intrepid also served as a NASA recovery vessel in the 1960s. It was decommissioned in 1974, and today is berthed on the Hudson River as the centerpiece of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

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Beside the Intrepid is the record-breaking plane—the Concorde Alpha Delta G-BOAD. The fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing by any Concorde occurred on February 7, 1996 and took only 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds. It looks absolutely tiny next to the carrier.

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Also, beside the Intrepid is the Submarine Growler.  Growler is the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. Growler offers visitors a firsthand look at life aboard a submarine and a close-up inspection of the once “top-secret” missile command center.

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Unfortunately, we don’t have much time in New York, so instead we opted to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum.   The last time we were in New York, we visited the twin towers, still standing in their glory.  It was a somber experience to go to the site now.

The National September 11 Memorial is a tribute of remembrance and honor to the 2,977 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.

The Memorial’s twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood.

The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools, a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history.

This was an afternoon of filled with grief, tears, anger and emotional exhaustion.  Having said all that, the museum is extremely well done and not only shows the horrific event but honours all those that perished.  It is well worth everyone going to visit it if you have the opportunity.

That’s it for our Silversea experience and blog.  It was a truly wonderful experience and can highly recommend Silversea Cruises.  Given that their pricing includes large staterooms, butler service, fine dining, excellent wine and spirits and gratuities all included, it really is good value.

Thanks for following along.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 7

Boston – Oct 8/9

Boston is admired for its beautiful harbor, museums, food, Revolutionary history, and sports traditions, including the beloved Red Sox baseball team. Boston is also the cradle of the American Revolution, and sites from early American history are visible all around; a great way to see them and the city itself is by walking the 3-mile Freedom Trail, which winds among tight, Colonial-era street. Not far from the city are Lexington and Concord, where the American Revolution was born with the “shot heard ’round the world.”

We arrived late afternoon on October 8, and since this is our first time in “Beantown”, we were anxious to get off the trip and start exploring.  The ship provided a complimentary shuttle that dropped us off at the Aquarium but only a couple of blocks from where we wanted to go…Faneuil Hall Marketplace.  Four buildings – Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market – constitute Faneuil Hall Marketplace, with the oldest being Faneuil Hall. Built in 1742 and now located on the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall has had a long and important history in Massachusetts politics. Samuel Adams once stood here to push for resistance against the British, and abolitionists and suffragists have stood on their soapboxes here. In fact, this is where Jonathan Mayhew famously challenged the Sugar Act of 1764 by proclaiming, “no taxation without representation.” Since Mayhew’s declaration, the marketplace has expanded to include more than 100 shops and restaurants.

We spent our evening strolling through the market’s halls where we found various cuisines served in Quincy Market and a variety of souvenir shops surrounding the halls.

That night, upon returning to the ship, we were advised that we would be cutting our visit to Boston short given that the weather necessitated us leaving at 1PM instead of 5PM.  A number of people were disappointed as the tours they signed up for were cancelled.  However, we had opted for a Freedom Trail Walking Tour that finished by 12:30, so we were not affected.

Stretching 2½ miles, the Freedom Trail weaves past 16 of the city’s most historic sites, including Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the Paul Revere House and Old North Church. Taking in only some of the trail’s attractions requires our half a day (and some comfortable walking shoes) but with the guide’s commentary, we learned a lot of American history on the tour.

The following map might give you some idea of what we saw.

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We started at Boston Common and the State House.  The grounds of Boston Common started as a cow pasture in the mid-1600s. After a few years, overgrazing became a problem and the area was transformed into a British camp. After the Revolutionary War, the park became a popular locale for public speeches and rallies. Now, the Common is best known because of its status as the oldest public park in the country. You’ll also find a variety of activities and events, including theater and musical performances, hosted here throughout the year.  Right across the street was the State House.

Next stop was the Old Granary Burying Ground.  Established in 1660, this is the resting place for some of America’s revolutionary heroes including John Hancock, Samuel Adams and of course, the most famous, Paul Revere!

While there were several other historical stops along the way, some of the most interesting were the site of the “Boston Massacre”.  The Boston Massacre was a deadly riot that occurred on March 5, 1770, on King Street in Boston. It began as a street brawl between American colonists and a lone British soldier, but quickly escalated to a chaotic, bloody slaughter. The conflict energized anti-British sentiment and paved the way for the American Revolution.

When you think of Boston history, for me, two incidents come to mind…the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s ride.  While we only saw the location of the Boston Tea Party from the bus, we did get to sea a couple of Paul Revere sites, including his house which still stands.  The house dating back to the late 1700’s gives you a glimpse of how houses looked in his time.

In the background of the Paul Revere statue, you can see the Old North Church.  Most people who know anything about American history have heard of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride, when he rode through town to warn people about the arrival of British troops. Before heading off to Lexington, Revere gave orders at Old North Church. Robert Newman – the church’s sexton – and Captain John Pulling Jr. – the church’s vestryman – then climbed the steeple and held two lanterns as a signal (from Revere) that the British Regulars were indeed coming, but by sea.

The church itself, which is officially named Christ Church, is filled with beautiful relics from the past, including North America’s oldest set of change ringing bells and chandeliers brought in from England in the early 1700s. The pews have a long history as well; Pew No. 54 was reserved for the Revere family.

Along our way, there were some very old and famous pubs.  Check out the dates on some of these pictures…

Final stop before heading back to the ship…Mike’s Pastry.  Founded in 1946, Mike’s Pastry is located in Boston’s historic North End on Hanover Street. Michael Mercogliano (the “Mike” behind the famed Mike’s Pastry) created the one-of-a-kind cannoli that keeps loyal Bostonians and tourists coming from around the world to enjoy. Going to Mike’s has become a Boston tradition and we are told that even JFK would send for some of the famous cannoli when in town.  We sure enjoyed ours!

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Next stop is New York.  Since we had to leave Boston early, this means that we will arrive in New York early which will give us time to see some of the sights there too!  That’s a bonus.  Thanks for reading along, next and last blog will be about our short stay in New York.

Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 6

Halifax – Oct 8

Named one of the Top 10 Global DESTINATIONS ON THE RISE in TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards – everyone’s talking about Halifax.  There’s just something perfectly endearing about Halifax.

I think it’s the bustling waterfront and the fact that the city is steeped in history at every turn. Whatever it is, Halifax has come a long way since its early days as a trading hub on the Atlantic, and has been charming visitors with its east coast hospitality ever since.  There are craft breweries and trendy restaurants and bistros galore, especially around the harbor area.

We honeymooned in Halifax and Nova Scotia 39 years ago and it has really changed.  We started our visit with a walk down the lengthy boardwalk along the harbor.  It reminded us a lot of Vancouver’s waterfront with it’s plethora of sailboats, restaurants and bars.  We were lucky to have a warm sunny day which made the walk most enjoyable.  The only issue we had was that Karen was stung by a wasp on the neck which proved to be very painful.  Thankfully she is not allergic, and we continued our walk.

The last steps portal is in memory of over 350,00 of troops called to action during the course of WWI that sailed away from this port.  Some 67,000 never returned.  For these heroes, these would have been the last steps on Canadian soil before they sailed away and watched the Port of Halifax disappear behind them.

Then up the hill and there perched atop the grassy hillock looming over town, is this star-shaped fort that played a key role in Halifax’s founding. Construction on the Citadel Hill National Historic began in 1749; the current citadel is the fourth, built from 1818 to 1861. The grounds and battlements inside the fort are open year-round, and we could visit the barracks, the guards’ room, the signal post, the engineer’s store and the gunpowder magazines.   The view from the top is amazing but the landscape has certainly changed as I remember.

At the pier is housed the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market.  Although it has operated in several locations since its inception in 1750, what’s now known as the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market (in its present location since 2010) is North America’s longest continuously operating market. With more than 250 local vendors from a province that prides itself on strong farm-to-table and maritime traditions.

Next stop was the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. There’s an argument that this dockside museum is Canada’s most important institution. Between 1928 and 1971, Pier 21 was the Canadian version of the USA’s Ellis Island, where all prospective immigrants arrived. More than a million people passed through these red-brick halls, and it’s an emotional experience to walk through the very same doorways where refugees from across the globe began new lives.

Our hope was to get some information on the immigration of Karen’s Grandparents on her father’s side.  With the help of their wonderful and knowledgeable staff, we were able to locate the date of departure July 29, 1927 from Liverpool on a ship called the Megantic.  We were able to get a copy of the page of the ship’s passenger’s list showing their information as well as a picture of their ship and port of arrival information.  I think that actually made our stop in Halifax very special!  In looking at the information, their ship was half the Gross Tonnage of our ship and while our ship holds a mere 382 passengers, their ship held 1660 passengers!

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Our final stop of the day was at the Alexander Keith’s Brewery.  I had expected a chance to sit and sample some of their wares (for the appropriate cost) but their store front was very anticlimactic.  They wanted approximately $26 per person for a tour and perhaps that included some sampling, but I just wasn’t that interested.

That’s it for our stop in Halifax.  Thanks for reading along.  Our next port is Boston and we are looking forward to experiencing at least a small part of BeanTown.

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Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 5

 Sydney, Nova Scotia – Oct 7, 2019

Small, but with plenty of character, Sydney is best known as the gateway to Cape Breton Island, in north-eastern Nova Scotia.  We docked right on the waterfront at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion offering shopping boutiques, art gallery, craft market and a bar.  Right outside quayside is a giant sculpture of a fiddle.

We opted for a lovely walk along their boardwalk before going to the historic part of Sydney.  This was founded by the Loyalists during the American Revolution and still contains six buildings that are still standing built in the late 1700’s and a couple in the turn of the 19th century.

We did go into the Jost House Museum, one of the buildings built in the late 1700’s.  Thomas Jost, a Halifax merchant bought the property in 1836 and his descendants remained there until 1971.  In the early 1900’s the roof was raised, and the second floor extended to include bedrooms and a bath.

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Since we only had a few hours in Sydney (all we really needed), we walked back to the ship, again on the boardwalk in time for lunch and sail away.

Next stop…Halifax, Nova Scotia!

Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 4

St Pierre et Miquelon – October 5

How many of you knew that just a few miles south of Newfoundland there are a couple of islands owned by France?  The islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon aren’t just French-like with their berets, baguettes and Bordeaux – they are France, governed and financed by the tricolore. Locals kiss their hellos and pay in euros, sweet smells waft from myriad pastry shops, and French cars crowd the tiny one-way streets. It’s a world away from Newfoundland. St-Pierre is the more populated and developed island, with most of its 5500 residents living in the town of St-Pierre.  Miquelon is larger geographically but has only 600 residents overall.

Jacques Cartier claimed the islands for France in 1536, after they were discovered by the Portuguese in 1520. At the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, the islands were turned over to Britain, only to be given back to France in 1816. And French they’ve remained ever since.

As we land in St Pierre by tender, we are greeted by the locals dressed in period costumes and are offered coffee and wonderful French pastries.  In heavily accented English, they explain the series of brightly coloured shacks called Les Salines.  Formerly used to store salt, salted fish and fishing gear, these colorful little cabins located on the coast are now used to protect artisanal fishers’ equipment. Primarily a scenic cluster of multihued fishing shacks.

We then headed toward the Saint-Pierre harbor to see the Pointe aux Canons Lighthouse. While the lighthouse itself wasn’t open for the public, there’s a jetty where you can take photos. There’s also the remnants of a cannon here that was used during the Crimean War.

As we walk into the downtown area, we pass Le Square Joffre. You can’t miss the sculpture of a sailor that overlooks this peaceful park. This statue, erected in 1964, was sculpted out of a block of granite and is dedicated to the many sailors who lost their lives at sea. During the Sailors’ Festival, the procession stops there to lay flowers at its base.

The balance of the day is spent wandering around the small town.  Some of the people, again dressed in period costume, danced in a square to a local 3 piece band.  What surprised me is that we found a couple of large wine stores there that carried an impressive amount of French wines for a rather small population of 5,000.

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Finally, we went to the local church.  Once a wooden church, it was ravaged by fire and rebuilt with concrete and stone.

That’s it for now…next stop…Sydney, Nova Scotia!