Latest

Corner Brook, Newfoundland

     After two days at sea we docked at Corner Brook, a town of something over 20,000, early in the morning of July 15. We had been told the high temperature would by 60 and it would be drizzly, but it turned out to be a beautiful day with highs in the 80’s & lots of sun. It would not be the last time the weather turned out better than predicted on the ship.  We were told that Newfoundland is the second largest island in the world (Australia doesn’t count because it is a continent rather than an island). And we learned that Newfoundland is pronounced with emphasis on the last syllable, like “understand.” So “understand Newfoundland” should sound like a rhyme. Newfoundland & Labrador form a single province of Canada. They did not become part of Canada until 1949, on a close vote at that, in part we were told because some were worried that if they didn’t join Canada they would end up part of the United States.  Corner Brook was behind a hill from where we docked so I don’t have a picture of that, but here is the bay on which it sits.

117.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (bay panorama) 7-15-2014

     Instead of exploring Corner Brook we took an excursion to Gros Morne National Park. It turned out to include a 1.5 hour bus ride each way along with a lot of time on the bus moving around the park.  This part of Newfoundland is quite beautiful though, a haven for fishermen on its rivers & a center for logging.  At the dock is the pulp wood plant, once the largest in the world. Pressure from environmentally conscious customers, particularly Germany, has forced the plant to clean up its act so that today what is coming out of the smokestack is almost all steam. On the dock we met a “Newfie,” the friendly local dog variety, one of whom we were told won the Westminster Dog Show a few years ago.

137.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (pulp mill) 7-15-2014003.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014003.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

104.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock) 7-15-2014

     Our first stop in the park was at an overlook of a vast tundra full of wildflowers beyond which could be seen some impressive cliffs. We were told that under these cliffs is the largest inland fjord in the world, but we couldn’t see the actual water. I wonder what “inland fjord” means; I would have called a body of water surrounded by land a lake.  Maybe its the cliffs that make it a fjord, or maybe it is determined by how it was made. The features of this huge park were mostly formed by glaciers & plate tectonics, I think.

008.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014008.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014009.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014009.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014013.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014013.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014014.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014014.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

The field around the platform was full of colorful wildflowers. Hard to photograph because we couldn’t leave the platform to get close to the flowers, which were quite small, but here are a few.

017.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014017.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014011.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014011.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014020.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014020.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014024.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014024.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014028.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014028.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

The trees around here were mostly scrubby firs, with a lot of dead & dying wood.

004.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014004.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014015.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014015.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014022.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014022.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

     Our next stop was at a lighthouse on Lobster Bay.  It is a small lighthouse in a beautiful spot next to a large expanse of water surrounded by mountains. Outside the lighthouse was a pole from which nautical signal flags were hung. There was a board with a key to the flags, which spelled out Veendam. So that was either cool or a bit creepy since they knew we were coming. Several large ravens were sitting on the tower of the lighthouse.

055.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014055.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014046.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014046.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014047.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014047.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014042.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014042.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014050.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014050.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

Here again there were fields of colorful mixed wildflowers, leading all the way down to the water.

035.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014035.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014044.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014044.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014045.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014045.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014032.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014032.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014030.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014030.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014039.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014039.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014037.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014037.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014051.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014051.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

     We stopped for lunch in a little town not far away. Unfortunately we could not have mooseburgers (we ate next door), but there was a nice view of the lighthouse from our restaurant.

058.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014058.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014059.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014059.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

     After lunch we stopped at the visitor center, where we watched a video about the park. From its deck was a nice view of Gros Morne Mountain.  “Gros Morne” means “big hill,” & it sure is that.  We were told that the tops of some of these flat topped mountains were once the bottom of the ocean, but were thrown up by moving continental plates to their current height. Apparently scientists have come here to study what the ancient sea bottom was like. Our guide said that Gros Morne has the world’s largest concentration of moose, but this is the only place where I saw one. The moose are a traffic problem in this area; crashing into a moose is much more likely to kill you than hitting a deer (as often happens in our area of Virginia). Our guide told us he doesn’t drive in the country at night because of the moose danger.

062.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014062.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014063.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014063.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014066.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014066.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014099.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014099.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

     Our last stop was at a scenic overlook of a lake. The only building was a gift shop, but there were lots of flowers & a beautiful view over the lake, which had a small fishing village on one shore.

067.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014067.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014082.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014082.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014086.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014086.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014078.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014078.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014091.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014091.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014085.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014085.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

     So then we began the long bus ride back to the ship. On the way as the sun began throwing shadows we passed another lovely bay. We drove through Corner Brook before reaching the dock, but there wasn’t much to see, although there was a Walmart so you knew you were in civilization. Then the ship pulled out and we headed north.

101.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014101.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

MS Veendam

     After a slow, trying & unpleasant boarding process we sailed out of Boston at about 6:00 PM on July 12, approximately an hour later than scheduled.  On the drive up we spent the night in New Britain, Connecticut, once known as the Hardware City of the World, where we ate dinner in a German restaurant with an accordionist dressed in a lederhosen outfit who, surprisingly, could really play.  His best number was the Cream song “Sunshine of Your Love,” which we had never heard on accordion before & probably never will again. In New Britain was a bookstore with a weird display of plastic duckies in the window that Mary couldn’t resist. We stayed Friday night at a hotel in Quincy which will board our car for the duration & had a nice (but very slow) dinner with a dozen other Veendam passengers.

DSC01968

     With two sea days until our first port I thought I would show you a bit of the Veendam. This is our first trip on a Holland America ship other than Prinsendam and also our first that isn’t a Grand Voyage.  Veendam is about half again as big as Prinsendam (capacity of around 1350 passengers) but the ship itself doesn’t seem all that much bigger. In the picture below, our cabin is located on the deck below the lifeboats at the back of the last orange lifeboat.

 veendam

107.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock) 7-15-2014107.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014107.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014109.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock) 7-15-2014109.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014109.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

     We are in Cabin 363, which is a Lanai cabin. This is an unusual kind of cabin only available so far as I know on a couple of Holland America’s ships. It is on the Lower Promenade Deck, which has an outside deck that you can walk all the way around the ship (a quarter mile for each circuit).  Instead of a window, a lanai cabin has a sliding glass door leading to the deck & there are two deck chairs outside reserved for the occupants. To answer some of the questions we had before booking this cabin: (1) the sliding door locks behind you automatically but you are provided with one plastic card that will open it from the outside, (2) lots of people walk by your door but it has a film on the glass that lets you see out through it but makes it look like a mirror from outside (except at night when you have to draw your curtains).

001.  On Veendam 7-14-2014007.  On Veendam 7-14-2014002.  On Veendam 7-14-2014004.  On Veendam 7-14-2014

Our room is near the middle of the ship (which means less turbulence, but a lot of noise on mornings when they lower the tenders early). The deck is pretty long, therefore, in both directions. Lanai rooms seem to be a little smaller than usual, although I’m not sure why since they are the same length as all the other rooms. Our room is definitely shorter & narrower than the ones we had on Prinsendam, but not by very much.  You quickly get used to it & the tradeoff for the door to the deck is worth it, even on a cold weather cruise on which use of the deck chairs is pretty limited. There is another door on the opposite side of the room opening to the interior hallway, with a very narrow corridor between the bathroom & the closets to get to it. It looks like storage space is pretty limited when you first arrive but it turned out we have plenty of space for all the stuff we brought.

DSC00025156.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014156.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014156.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014005.  On Veendam 7-14-2014006.  On Veendam 7-14-2014

Like Prinsendam, Veendam has an extensive & diverse collection of art, only a small sample of which is shown here (some of the paintings are reproductions, but very good ones). In the center of the ship is a 3 level atrium with a blue & green glass sculpture reaching all the way up.  By contrast the huge Celebrity Eclipse we sailed on in March had a 10 story atrium lined with glass walled elevators. The Holland America ships are demure by comparison.

004.  On Veendam 7-13-2014009.  On Veendam 7-13-2014144.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014144.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014144.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014145.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014145.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014145.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014146.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014146.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014146.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014150.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014150.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014150.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-201406.  At Sea 7-18-201404.  At Sea 7-18-2014DSC00298DSC0029409.  At Sea 7-18-2014154.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014154.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014154.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014153.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014153.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014153.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

There are several paintings of the Veendam, both the current one & two earlier incarnations from the 1920’s & the 1980’s.

148.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014148.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014148.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014152.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014152.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014152.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014151.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014151.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014151.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

Three often visited venues. First is the Showroom at Sea, which is a theater hosting lectures, shows & other entertainment. It is also where you wait to board a tender boat when the ship is anchored rather than docked. The Rotterdam restaurant is where we eat almost every night. On this trip we are doing “open” seating, which means you come when you are ready & wait for a table (or make a reservation, although we have found that doesn’t work all that well). On prior Holland America voyages we have had assigned seating at the same table & time every night. We actually prefer the latter for several reasons, but we are travelling with friends we met on our South America cruise who prefer the open seating. Third is the Espresso Bar, located right by the library, so you have a nice place to sit and read while you drink your premium coffee. As part of a promotion, HAL gave us each a drink card that allows us up to $50 per day in beverages that cost $7.00 or less, so we visit the Espresso bar just about every day. The card also buys us wine with dinner & beer with lunch, but there is no way we can drink $50.00 worth in a day (you can’t use it to buy drinks for anyone else).

001.  On Veendam 7-13-2014012.  On Veendam 7-13-2014DSC00295

The second-to-top deck contains the Lido buffet & the pool, which is covered by a retractable glass roof that comes in handy in these chilly climes. Near the pool is the Dive-In hamburger bar (where they don’t insist on burning hamburgers to a crisp as on Prinsendam) & a taco bar.  The buffet isn’t as accessible as on Prinsendam because they keep more of the food behind glass so you have to line up to get some rather than just taking it yourself. There is a performance stage near the pool, but there is music (often raucous) piped in to discourage conversation (apparently).

114.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014114.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014114.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014008.  On Veendam 7-14-2014115.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014115.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014115.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014139.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014139.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014139.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

OK, that’s enough for now until we reach an actual port. As is now traditional on this blog I will close with some of the towel animals that our room steward leaves on our bed every night. Sometimes its a little ambiguous which animal is intended, so I label them with my best guesses.  If you disagree, your guess is as good as mine.

DSC00009011.  On Veendam 7-14-2014015.  On Veendam 7-13-2014157.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Dock & Veendam) 7-15-2014157.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Grand Morne Park) 7-15-2014157.  Corner Brook, Newfoundland 7-15-2014

Voyage Of The Vikings

We leave home tomorrow to drive to Boston for a cruise on the MS Veendam to see the northern route to Europe.  Here is the itinerary:

Map of itinerary for 2014 "Voyage of the Vikings"

Before you ask, no we cannot pronounce all of these names, but hopefully by the time we get back we will be able to do so.  Holland America calls this the “Voyage of the Vikings.”  So is this just advertising or does this route fairly reflect the Vikings’ western explorations? (Of course the Vikings also went a lot of other places, including Russia, which is named after a Viking group called the Rus, and the Mediterranean.)  It looks fairly representative of their western voyages to me, but judge for yourself:

Map of major western exploration voyages of the real Vikings

Anyway, welcome aboard. We will be posting to this blog intermittently during the voyage, which lasts from July 12 to August 16, because the ship internet is sometimes buggy & there is only time to write blog posts on sea days & some of the sea days on this trip will involve scenic cruising that will preclude blog work.  Last year it took months after our return before the blog of our Mediterranean trip was complete; this one will undoubtedly be unfinished when we return but I don’t think it will take as long to complete (at least I certainly hope not).

Immediately below this post is another called “About This Blog (Revised 2014).” It includes an explanation of how all the parts of the blog work, so you might find it helpful to read it through. In addition, at the very top of the blog (above the header with a new picture of us at Ephesus taken in April 2013), is a text button labeled “About.”  If you press that button at any time while viewing this blog it will always take you to the “About This Blog” post with the instructions. The button next to it, labeled “Home,” will always take you back to the most recent post.

One more thing that some folks have missed: if you hover your mouse over a picture (ie. without clicking it) a caption will pop up. It will usually contain at least some identifying information, but may also contain some additional information, if we know any.

There probably won’t be anything more here until after we get underway next week.  See you then!

About This Blog (revised 2014)

     Welcome to Bader Journal, the travel blog of Rick & Mary Bader.  This blog was created primarily for our family & friends, although it is open to anyone who is interested in viewing it.  We will set sail from Boston on Saturday, July 12 on a cruise Holland America calls the “Voyage of the Vikings” that will last until August 16.  We will be sailing on the Veendam, a fairly small ship by cruise line standards with a capacity of 1350 passengers.   Here is our itinerary, full of glaciers & icebergs & fjords:

image

     At the very top of the Blog page you will find a menu with three text buttons:

     1.  The “About” button will always bring up this posting, in case you want to review the itinerary or the instructions for using the blog. 

     2.  The “Home” button will always bring you back to the default view, with the latest posting at the top.

     3.  The “Veendam’s Current Position” button will take you to a webpage that always displays just where the Veendam is at the moment.  Blog entries are often posted well after the fact, so this button will tell you where we really are (or sometimes where we are supposed to be) right now. It will also tell you how the weather is there.

________________________

     If you scroll to the very bottom of your computer screen you will find several widgets that may be useful:

     1.  In the left position is a calendar on which the dates on which blog entries were posted are blue.  Click a blue date with your mouse and that day’s posting(s) should  pop up to the top of the blog.

     2.  Next to that is a section with three items.  At the top is a button to subscribe to email notifications of new postings, so you don’t have to waste time on the internet looking for one that isn’t yet there. Under that are two orange buttons for subscribing to RSS feeds of the posts and/or the comments (I have no idea how – or whether — that works). At the bottom is a search function that should allow you to find a previous posting by searching for a particular word (e.g. “library” or “Peru”).

     3.  Second from the right is an “Archives.”  After the name of each month is the number of postings during that month. Click on a month to bring up that month’s blog postings. This is probably the easiest way to access our previous voyages on this blog:

          Grand South America & Antarctica Voyage can be found at December 2011 through March 2012

          Grand Mediterranean Voyage can be found at March through October 2013

          Southern Caribbean can be found at April through May 2014

     4.  In the right hand position is a list of the 5 most recent posts; click on one to bring it to the top.

Remember that if you use any of these menu buttons or widgets to bring up old posts, you can always go right back to the default view with the newest entry on top by using the “Home” button on the menu.

_____________________

     When viewing pictures, if you hover your cursor over a picture a caption should pop up that will contain some identifying information and often more substance as well.  If you click on a picture you may be rewarded with a larger view of that picture.

     Last, but far from least, at the end of each posting is a blue text button reading “Leave a comment.”  If there have already been comments it will read “X Comments,” but you can still click on that to add your comment.  Comments are heartily welcomed!  When away from friends & family & it is always good to hear from them (by which I mean you).  If you want to leave a public comment (this blog can be found on Google & has, to our surprise, been viewed by many people from all over the world) then use the “Leave a comment” button & your comment will become part of the blog (and will also be sent to Rick by email).  But if you would rather communicate privately with us – about the blog, about something else, or just to say hi – then you can use our regular email addresses.  We will be reading our email semi-regularly (depending on our schedule & how well the internet connection is working) so a response (if one is called for) may take a few days.  Please have patience.

 

 

Southern Caribbean, Part 4: St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, St. Thomas & Ft. Lauderdale

St. Lucia

     We docked at Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, on Sunday, March 30.  We had explored Castries during a previous visit in 2012 (our pictures of that visit can be seen at:  <http://baderjournal.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/castries-st-lucia/> ).  So we decided this time to take a bus expedition to Soufriere, the old French colonial capital, to see the Pitons, twin peaks that are the symbol of St. Lucia. It was a drizzly day, but quite rewarding.

   The drive through the mountains to Soufriere was pretty long but quite pretty in the forest & on the hills. We stopped on the way at a small fishing village called Anse La Raye.  It was in a nice spot but the town wasn’t much to look at. We drove by another fishing village called Canaries but didn’t stop.

DSC06843DSC06844_editedDSC06846_editedDSC06847DSC06849_edited

     As we approached Soufriere we stopped on a mountain side overlooking the town for our first look at the Pitons. The Pitons are twin mountains rising very steeply right out of the sea.

DSC06855_editedDSC01870DSC06856DSC06857DSC01873

     Our next stop, after driving through Soufriere, was the botanical gardens.  It was filled with exotic flowers in all shapes and colors (hang on, there are a lot of flower pictures here).

DSC06859DSC06858DSC06865DSC06869DSC06882DSC06873DSC06881DSC06874DSC06867DSC06876DSC06872DSC06878DSC06891DSC06892DSC06898DSC06895DSC06901DSC06894

   Not just flowers here; this is a rainforest, complete with rain. It included some familiar house plants in their natural habitat, dieffenbachia & philodendron. And at the end of the trail was a picturesque waterfall.

DSC06880DSC06868aDSC06879DSC06890DSC06883DSC06888DSC06887a

   We went next to see what is billed as “the world’s only drive in volcano.”  Of course, anyone who has been to Yellowstone knows that isn’t really true. But it does have interesting steam vents & boiling mud pools (as does Yellowstone). These are made by pressure from the intense heat below from this active volcano.  We were told that you used to be able to walk down to the vents, but one day a guide fell in when the one he was standing by collapsed. He recovered, but you can’t go near them any more.

DSC06902DSC06903DSC06906DSC06904DSC06907_editedDSC06911_edited

     Our last stop was for lunch.  We had a very good Caribbean lunch (with a delicious hot sauce) in a restaurant on a mountainside overlooking Soufriere.  I’m not sure I have ever eaten in a restaurant with a more spectacular view.

DSC06924DSC06917_ShiftN

 

DSC06913

Antigua

     We arrived at St. Johns, Antigua, the last island that was new to us, on Sunday, March 30. St. Johns is the capital of the nation of Antigua & Barbuda.

DSC01876_stitch-001

     We left the ship after breakfast & walked along the long pier into town.  On the dock was a steel band that was pretty good. The town was pleasant enough, although the streets had deep water ditches similar to Grenada.  At the some of the major intersections there were low walls on each corner, presumably to protect pedestrians from cars cutting the corners. Our first visit was to the library. It was founded in 1854, but now is housed modestly on the second floor of a fashion shop.  However we did see people coming and going so it must get some use.

DSC06925DSC06929DSC06928

   Our next stop was the Antigua museum, housed in an old Georgian building that was once the Courthouse. The museum was small but very interesting, with artifacts and explanations about the lives of the Arawak & Carib Indians who once lived on the Island & of the early European settlers.  Columbus was the first European to set foot on Antigua, during his second voyage in 1493, and he named the island after a statue of Mary in the Cathedral of Seville. One item of interest here was the Warri board, a game that originated in Africa & was said in the museum to be the oldest board game in the world.  I’m not sure about that, though, since last year we saw a game board in Crete dating from 1,500 B.C., and in Turkey we saw a picture from an ancient Greek pot showing Greek soldiers playing a board game. There was also a larger than life statue of Sir Vivian Richards, an Antiguan soccer hero who was knighted for his athletic prowess (unfortunately we didn’t get a picture of that).

DSC01901DSC06935DSC01875DSC06934DSC06933DSC06937

86. Iraklion Crete, Archeology Museum96. Antalya

     The last landmark we visited was St. John’s Cathedral, an Anglican church built in 1845 on a spot where churches had been built twice before.  It is the dominant structure of the inner city skyline. Unfortunately it is undergoing extensive renovation so, as has been true too often on this trip, we could not go in to see the interior.

DSC01899DSC06938DSC06940DSC06941

     So we walked back to the ship, partly through a lively market.  There were lovely flowers, as usual in the Caribbean. As we walked along a wooden sidewalk I was looking at the colorful buildings around us when suddenly my whole leg up to the knee dropped into a space left by a missing board! Fortunately I was wearing leather shoes & long pants, so the scrapes were minimized, but it sure did hurt for a few days. I decided not to sue, and we made our way back to the ship. On the pier was a fellow in an elaborate headdress playing a drum. You never know what you are going to see on a trip like this! Anyway, that was all for Antigua as we spent the rest of the day on deck chairs while my leg recuperated.

DSC01878DSC06942DSC06943DSC06944DSC01897

Sint Maarten

     On the morning of April Fools Day we docked at Philipsburg, St. Maarten.  This island is divided between the French & the Dutch & Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side. It has a nice beach & mind-boggling shopping, including the funky Guavaberry Emporium that we have always enjoyed. 

02a Philipsburg

However, we were tired after 4 consecutive port days, my leg wasn’t completely rehabilitated, and St. Maarten was subject to a State Department health warning about a nasty mosquito borne disease called Chikungunya making its first appearance in the Western Hemisphere. So we decided to spend the day relaxing on the ship instead of going into town. But we made an extensive blog posting of our last visit to St. Maarten during our South America trip in 2012, so if you want to see our adventures in this city use this link:  <http://baderjournal.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/philipsburg-sint-maarten/> .

St. Thomas & St. John

     We arrived at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas on the morning of Wednesday, April 2. St. Thomas & St. John are sister islands in the  U.S. Virgin Islands. These islands were owned by Denmark from the mid-17th century until they were bought by the United States in 1917 as part of the effort to protect the Panama Canal. The city of Charlotte Amalie was named in the late 17th century for the queen of Denmark.

     The ship was docked about 2 miles from town, but your intrepid travellers walked into town anyway. Much of the walk was along the large and beautiful harbor, in which seaplanes land and take off all day long.  We had been here before and had a few places we wanted to visit. However, again our map was poor & the streets here are not easy to follow once you get away from the water, so it took quite a bit of walking to find what we wanted. That is why, despite the relative paucity of pictures here, we ended up walking more than 8 miles on the day.

DSC01921

     Our first stop was the St. Thomas synagogue, which is the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the United States. Called Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim, it was built in 1833 to house a congregation founded in 1796. It contains an 11th century Spanish menorah (which may be the one on the wall in the 3rd picture below). The floor is covered in sand. Some say this is to represent the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert, but more likely it derives from the Spanish tradition of the Sephardic Jews who founded the congregation who covered the floors of their secret places of worship during the Inquisition to muffle the sound of their services. As we were walking back down the hill we heard a tourist who obviously had little English asking directions to “the church with a sand floor.”  It was amusing, but we presumed that church was the only word she knew for a house of worship. On the wall outside is an unusual “reserved parking” sign. There was a car parked in front of it but I’m pretty sure it hadn’t been there since 1830.

DSC01911_ShiftNDSC01908DSC01910_ShiftNDSC01909DSC01910aDSC01913

     As usual in the Caribbean there were a lot of beautiful flowers here. Also some odd sights, like a ramshackle bar apparently run by a large male chicken & Roosevelt Park, named in 1945 after a visit by the President of the United States.

DSC01922DSC01907DSC01914_edited

     We searched quite a while for the library but it wasn’t anywhere near where our map said it would be. Disappointed by that, we headed uphill to Blackbeard’s Castle. Local tradition has it that the pirate Blackbeard used this as a lookout, but it was built by the Danes in the 1670’s as a watchtower. It sits high on a hill overlooking bright red Fort Christian, named for the Danish King Christian V, built around the same time, where the actual defenses of the town were located. There is a restaurant just below it where we enjoyed lunch on our last visit to St. Thomas in the early 2000’s, with a fabulous view of seaplanes landing and taking off. But sadly today it is restricted to people who buy a ticket for a self-guided walking tour of the tower and a few other sites below that also used to be open to the public. Below the restaurant is the Three Queens Fountain, erected in 2005, commemorating three women who led an uprising in 1878. The approach to this area from below is via the “99 Steps,” a stairway built in the mid-18th century with bricks from Denmark that had been used as  ballast in Danish ships. It actually has 103 steps, but who’s counting?

DSC01919DSC01923DSC01917DSC01918DSC01920

  By now we were pretty tired from all the uphill walking, so we headed back toward the ship.  We walked through the shopping district (mostly diamonds, watches, t-shirts & trinkets) on the way.  I was walking along with my head down looking at the sidewalk (even though this one was safely made of stone) when I noticed a receptacle labeled “book return.”  I looked up &, sure enough, this building was the library that we had spent so much time & energy searching for in an entirely different part of town. What serendipity, & a great way to top off our visit to Charlotte Amalie.

DSC01924_ShiftNDSC01926 

   Having only 1 day here we chose to spend our time in Charlotte Amalie rather than taking the approximately 1 hour boat trip to St. John, only about 4 miles from St. Thomas. Only a little more than 4,000 people live on St. John & it has no airport, so boat is the only way to get there and it is a full day trip. But in 2011 we did spend a cruise stop here in St. John, so I thought I would include a few pictures from that visit.  The boat dropped us in Cruz Bay, the town where the dock is. It is in a lovely spot with very blue & clear water.

IMG_0515IMG_0516IMG_0517

     In the town the one thing we have pictures of is, of course, the library.

IMG_0521IMG_0519

     Most of St. John is a U.S. National Park. The land was donated for this purpose by Laurence Rockefeller, with the stipulation that it be forever protected from development. We stopped at the park ranger’s station for directions, then set out to hike through the park on a trail beginning just behind it. It was not a particularly easy walk, lots of up and down and irregular pathways impinged upon by roots and potholes. Notably there were a lot of interesting cactus in the area. Eventually we came to a quite beautiful isolated beach, accessible only from the sea or by this hefty hike. I am not sure what the beach is called, but I have seen a picture of Oppenheimer Beach, once owned by the American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, and it looks like it could be the same one. We walked back after that along a different path, then took the boat back to our ship.  Notably, the boat trip included unlimited rum punch.

IMG_0518IMG_0522IMG_0524

Ft. Lauderdale

     After two more days at sea we arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale very early on the morning of April 5.  On the last day you are no longer a passenger to the Cruise line but an obstacle to getting the ship ready for the next set of cruisers who will begin boarding before noon.  Therefore we were up uncharacteristically early so we could be out of our room before the deadline, & hopefully catch a very quick breakfast before the buffet was shut down to prepare for the new passengers. The upside of this is that we were awake in time to see a very dramatic sunrise over the same bit of land (island?) where we had seen a rainbow when we first set off. After a less than enjoyable disembarkation (it took over an hour from the time they called our disembarkation group to the time we got a taxi, most of it standing in line) we retrieved our car and started for home. A good two weeks & a fun time was had by all.

DSC01961

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers