A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: John McReynolds

New York City

sunny 14 °C

Arrived at La Guardia Airport New York about 12.30pm on Tuesday 9/5. An uneventful flight and airport experience but our taxi ride to mid-town NYC was eye opening to say the least. Our hotel is in 39th street and we made it to that street reasonably quickly. But the trip up 39th was unbelievable. Don't know if it has changed since we were here in 2011 but I have never seen traffic like it. And no one; drivers, pedestrians, cyclists; obey the rules. It took us more than 20 minutes to travel the 20 blocks to our hotel.

New York is just crazy. People; noise; traffic; police everywhere; emergency vehicles, sirens blaring, passing on a regular basis; it's just insane. I know it was the same last time but it just seems worse.

One of Laura's friends works at a restaurant, "The Smith Downtown", and made a reservation for us. It was a 45 minute walk form our hotel but we walked any way. The restaurant was great (very busy) the food was plentiful and good, but our "connection" meant we received some complimentary "treats". the most interesting being a bowl of baked brussels sprouts. They weren't bad but???? Didn't want to walk back so we tried Uber New York. Ten minute ride, price $5.10.

On Wednesday 10/5 we did a tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Wanted to go there and see this and could have done it independently. But doing the tour was the right thing to do. The guide, Daniel, gave us a lot of personal perspectives of 9/11 and New York City in the days, weeks and months after. The memorial is tasteful, understated and amazing at the same time. It is very respectful but the Reflecting Pools are massive and, to me, absolutely appropriate. The museum is also amazing, much of it in and under the foundations of the Twin Towers and the Memorial.

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Tonight we went to see "The Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O'Neill Theater. I love musicals and have seen quite a few but this is one of the best. It was just brilliant, You just need to see it.

On Thursday 11/5 we took the subway to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (with about 5,000 other tourists), to Brooklyn. It was good to walk over this famous bridge and there are a lot of great views as you walk. But the people, all taking selfies and getting in each others way........

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Once over the bridge, it got a little less hectic. We quickly found a pizza shop in Dumbo and had a couple of slices each, which weren't bad, and then had a look around the area. It was a nice day so there were a lot of people in the riverside parks just relaxing or strolling around the shops in Dumbo. But it was very quiet compared to Manhattan. Took some photos in the area and then hopped on the subway back to Manhattan.

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For dinner went to Carmine's Italian Restaurant on 44th Street, right in the middle of the Theater District and a very "happening" place. Our Brazilian friends Marilia and Marcel took us there for lunch on our last visit and we were keen to try it again. It is really big and busy and crowded but the service is great, the food is excellent but the servings are ridiculous. Dishes are served in only one size, HUGE. Two normal people can only eat one dish between them but there is really enough for 3-4. A lot of people take half of it with them in a "to go box" when they leave. Crazy, but a real New York experience.

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Friday 12/4 we walked the High Line which is a walkway/linear park along a disused elevated rail line on the lower west side of Manhattan next to the Hudson River. The area is undergoing major redevelopment but the walk takes you through some very old parts of Manhattan and the views along the way are very interesting. The park itself has kept its railway heritage with much of one of pairs of tracks remaining in place. A very enjoyable morning.

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The walk ended in Chelsea where we met Meghan, a New Yorker friend of Laura's and had lunch at "The Park" restaurant.
Feeling a little tired after our walk and lunch so we had a little rest and watched the golf on TV. Dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.

Saturday 13/4, our last full day in NYC, we went to the wonderful Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET). It was a rainy Saturday so we decided to get there early. We arrived just after opening time and the lines to get in were long and intimidating. But as it turned out, it was just security that caused the line and shortly we were inside. The MET is the most amazing art museum. This is our second visit and we were not disappointed. Everywhere you look there are priceless and wonderful artifacts. It is just too rich to describe. We spent nearly five hours there and that is not enough time to take in all that is on offer. It is truly remarkable. My favorite place in New York.

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Fortunately, we went early because in the afternoon the museum started to become really crowded (the rainy day and it being the weekend probably contributed to the crowds) and we were ready to leave by the time it became uncomfortable. So we took the subway back to Times Square and then back to our hotel.

We have become comfortable with the New York subway this visit and have found that you can go almost anywhere using it. Last time we used taxis a lot but this time we haven't needed to.

Back at the hotel we spent a couple of hours watching the Players (Golf) Championship on TV and then went to "Tir Na Nog", the Irish Pub next door, for a great dinner.

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Tomorrow we head for home so this is the end of this blog. I hope you enjoyed it.

Posted by John McReynolds 18:31 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Montreal

rain

Arrived in Montreal on a cool, wet Saturday (6/5) morning disembarking the ship about 9.45 am. We took a taxi to our AirBNB in the La Plateau area, dropped off our bags and went for a walk to check out the neighborhood. The street our apartment is in, Rue St Hubert, is residential. Just two and three story apartments buildings in the typical (we've learned) Montreal style. But just around the corner it changes and the streets are full of restaurants, cafes, bars and convenience stores. We had lunch (brunch) in a cosy and popular "L'Gros Luxe", did some laundry at one of many laundromats in the area and then "checked in" to our apartment. What a great apartment it is. Its a basement apartment but newly renovated and decorated in an an industrial but modern way. We love it.

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A nice dinner at "Brochetterie Alexandre", a Italian influenced restaurant nearby, accompanied by a bottle of wine from the shop next door, finished up a good first day in Montreal. Interestingly, most of the restaurants in Montreal are BYO. Apparently liquor licenses here are expensive so most small restaurants don't bother and they don't charge corkage either. Unusual, but good to find in this part of the world.

On Sunday 7/5 we decided to do a food "tasting and cultural" walking tour in "The Mile End". The weather was cold and windy with occasional light rain, not the best for walking around the streets, but our guide Francoise made it very interesting and the places we visited were unique. We ate a vegan falafel (tasty), a delicious bagel from St-Viateur Bagel (the only good bagel I have ever tasted), gnocchi with "authentic Italian pasta sauce" (good), chartecurie (deli meats and cheeses) from "Boucherie Lawrence" chocolate from "Chocolats Genevieve Grandbois", "Montreal's finest chocolate" and wonderful Ice cream from "Kem Coba". Included in the tour was a visit to the historic and warm Rialto Theatre.

Full, tired and cold at the end so we spent the afternoon relaxing and watching golf on TV. Didn't feel like going out for dinner so scrambled eggs on toast and an early night.

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Monday 8/5 was a cold day with a predicted maximum of 5o and when the weather report on TV said "4o feels like -1" we didn't want to leave the house. But we did. We decided to go to Old Montreal. We caught an Uber to the "Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal" and a magnificent building it is.

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After that we wandered the streets of Old Montreal enjoying the wonderful old buildings and narrow streets. But it was cold, in some parts too cold so we didn't stay outside long. We had a nice lunch in one of the many restaurants in the area and then rushed back home to the warmth and comfort of our apartment. Wine and cheese for dinner tonight I think.

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We have learnt that it is probably too early to visit this part of the world but if you do, be prepared for the cold. We weren't really. It's hard to have the right combination of clothes for a golf holiday, a Caribbean cruise and then this.

Anyway, tomorrow morning we leave Montreal and fly to New York City for the last leg of our trip. Hopefully it will be warmer in NYC.

Posted by John McReynolds 14:30 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

ms Veendam Cruise (part 3)

Quebec City

sunny 14 °C

We awoke on Thursday 4/5 to a clear, sunny and relatively warm Quebec City. The view of this city from the ship on such a clear day is something special and definitely the best of this cruise. And walking around the old city is also special. There are many old and beautiful buildings and the hilly terrain of the city makes for some spectacular views. With the architecture and the language, there is a definite French feel to the place and you have to keep reminding yourself you are in Canada, not France.

So our first day here was spent just walking around, looking and taking photos. We also did a little shopping and had coffee and a snack at little, very french, “La Maison Smith” cafe.

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In the evening, we went out again for dinner at “Restos Plaisirs”. Good but not great. I had pork stew.

On Friday 5/5, our second day in Quebec City, it rained all day. We wanted to do a tour of Montmorency Falls and the Island of Orleans but we couldn’t get seats which, with the weather, might have been a good thing. Instead, we went on a short, wet, walk, discovered the “Marche du Vieux-Port” (a good food and craft market) and a few art galleries. But in the rain it was quite a dismal and deserted walk.

So we went back to a part we visited yesterday and had coffee and food at another “La Maison Smith” cafe. So there at least two La Maison Smiths here but they are very good and they make good “flat whites”.

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After coffee, we returned to the port and visited the “Musee de la Civilisation” which is an excellent museum with very interesting exhibits on the history of Quebec and the Indigenous heritage of the area.

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Today is our last full day of the cruise so we have to pack tonight and disembark in Montreal in the morning. We stay in Montreal for three nights so fingers crossed for better weather there.

Posted by John McReynolds 11:06 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

ms Veendam Cruise (part 2)

Prince Edward Island

all seasons in one day

Today we visited Prince Edward Island. Didn’t realize that PEI was a separate province of Canada, but it is. Its capital, Charlottetown is beautiful place full of lovely historic buildings and a nice harbour.

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After a quick walk around the town, we took a “motorcoach” tour of the island visiting North Rustico Fishing Village, the beaches loop (a coastal area where erosion has made some picturesque landscapes, the Prince Edward Island Preserve (the Jam Factory) and “Green Gables”

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The highlight for me was “Green Gables” the house where author L.M.Montgomery lived and was inspired to write her novels including “Anne of Green Gables”. Haven’t read the book (I will now) but I loved the original movie/series. I know It’s a girl’s story but I now look forward to watching it again.

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On our sail out from Charlottetown we passed under and had good views of the Confederation Bridge which is the longest bridge in the world over ice covered waters (no ice now in May though).

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Tomorrow is a sea day and then Quebec.

Posted by John McReynolds 07:37 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

ms Veendam Cruise (Part 1)

Boston to Sydney, Nova Scotia

all seasons in one day 5 °C

Tuesday 25/4

We were worried that our flight to Boston might be delayed so we got the first flight of the day. There were no delays and we arrived in Boston about 9.00 am. As we couldn’t get on the ship till 11.30, we had time to kill and nothing to do. But the time went quickly. Ship didn’t leave till 6.00pm so we spent the time exploring the ship and checking out the other passengers. 95%+ are 60 and over so it will be different to what we are used to.

The ms Veendam is an older, smaller ship than we are used to and not as well laid out as the modern ships. But it is still very good once you get to know your way around. Our cabin is good, the food and drinks (15 each a day) are all paid for, so it should be an enjoyable cruise.

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Wednesday 26/4

Our first port of call is Bar Harbor, Maine. But the weather is wet and cold and there is a thick fog. In the morning it looked like it would be a day on the ship but we had a booked excursion for 1.00 pm so we decided to go ashore (by tender at this port) and see what happened. As it turned out the rain stayed away and while the fog obscured some of the views, our tour of Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain was quite enjoyable. The Bar Harbor town was also very nice to walk around and it being the first cruise of the season with no other ships in port, plus the weather, meant that we didn’t have to compete with the large number of tourists that will be there later in the year.

Liz and I shared a lobster roll at a cafe in Bar Harbor. It was wonderful. The cafe also did an Aussie style flat white and it was, so far, the only great coffee I have had on this trip.

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Saw the first stage show of the tour at night. It was OK but we have seen much better on the other ships.

On Thursday 27/4 we called in to Saint John, New Brunswick. Another rainy and foggy day. We went ashore and took in all that ”Uptown” Saint John had to offer, which wasn’t much. They had a nice undercover “City Market” and some interesting buildings. But there doesn’t seem to have been any effort to preserve an historical district and nice buildings are surrounded by unattractive modern buildings and port infrastructure. Other parts of the inner city are dominated by a major motorway (the Saint John Throughway). So we didn’t enjoy it that much and didn’t take many photos. Liz had another nice lobster roll though.

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I felt a bit “off color” today so we spent the afternoon resting and watching a movie. Felt better later so I went to the gym. OK now.

Tomorrow is a sea day so hopefully the weather improves by the time we get to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Friday 28/4, a sea day, started off slowly. The fog was still with us so there was nothing to see outside the ship. The ocean was up and the boat was rocking. The water was having a hard time staying in the pool.

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We had a leisurely breakfast and a good conversation with two ladies from Albany, WA, watched a nature film in the theatre, went to a jewelry promotion (for the free champagne), and did some laundry. (exciting hey!). Only other things to do on a sea day are eat, drink and relax. And so we did.

Nice dinner with Sandy from California and a nightcap in the bar before an early night. Halifax tomorrow and an early start for our excursion to Peggy’s Cove. Hope the weather improves or we won’t see anything…again.

On Saturday 29/4 we arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia a few hours early because of a medical emergency. We were surprised to be in port when we woke. Our trip to Peggy’s Cove, began at 8.30 am and it didn’t look promising. The continuing fog was, if anything, thicker than usual and we travelled the hour to our destination without seeing much at all. However, our tour guide gave us plenty of interesting information on the way. Boy could she talk.

When we arrived at Peggy’s Cove the fog was still with us and despite suggestions that it might lie by 10.00am, it did not lift while we were there. The spectacular views that we expected were clouded in mist and to be honest,we didn’t see much at all. But we managed to take some photos of the “world’s most photographed lighthouse” and with the help of a bit of luck and some photo editing we got some nice photos. Still it was a bit disappointing and we are getting sick of the fog.

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By the time we got back to Halifax, the fog actually lifted and we were able to explore Halifax in good light. We went to the Farmers Market, which was good, but we didn’t buy anything, the Board Walk, which is still being built and the older parts of the city. It was nice, but also a bit disappointing. I also visited the Pier 21 (“One of the Seven Wonders of Canada”) Immigration Museum. It was interesting and well presented but just OK.

Tomorrow we visit Sydney, Nova Scotia. Its supposed to be a pretty place. Let’s hope we can see it.

Sunday 30/4

We tied up in Sydney at about 11.00 am and for once it was a beautiful clear day but it was very cold. The actual temperature was 9 degrees but it was windy and felt much colder.

There were a number of excursions available but they were all a bit long and of doubtful value. So we decided just to do downtown of Sydney. It is quite a beautiful place but very quiet at this time in the season. Lots of quaint houses and churches to look at and little museums to visit. The harbour is also very pretty in parts but the wind on the water made it too cold to spend much time there.

We had lunch at the “Old Triangle Irish Alehouse” which was nice and warm, with a view of the harbour. The food was good (lobster and mashed potato) and the beer looked good, but I didn’t have one. AFD today.

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Tomorrow Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Posted by John McReynolds 03:38 Comments (0)

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