Wednesday, July 31, 2013

7th - 12th July in United Kingdom and France

Sunday 7th July – Cobh, Ireland.  Currency – Euro.

We made our final approach to Cork Harbour and berthed at Cobh at 0800 and left by bus almost immediately for a drive through the emerald green countyside to visit the Blarney Castle, the home of the Blarney Stone. 

The Castle was built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster but only the central tower stands today.  

Tradition has it that whoever kisses the Blarney Stone will receive the gift of a nimble tongue, blessed with eloquent speech and persuasive ability.  To kiss the stone you have to climb to the top of the castle, lie on your back, slide out over the wall, then bend your neck back and kiss the stone.  There is a man there whose job it is to push you out and convince you it is easy!  

We spent almost 2 hours there which was not long enough to see half of the castle and grounds.  Hidden behind the Castle battlements, there is a poison garden which has a collection of poisonous plants including one from Harry Potter like Wolfsbane and Mandrake.  

Our bus then travelled around the city of Cork where we saw a number of churches dating around the 18th century and we then travelled to Kinsale where the famous Battle of Kinsale (1602) took place between the English and the Irish and Spanish.  

After their defeat, the Spaniards were allowed to leave but the Irish were severely punished.  

We stayed at Kinsale for lunch and Ann and I found a lovely old pub and had fish and chips and a glass of Murphy’s stout which is a local beer, I did not enjoy stout all that much.

Waterford Crystal was founded in 1783 and Waterford is close to Cobh, the crystal is beautiful and I certainly was tempted to buy some but not this trip.

We asked if we could finish up our tour a little early as the township of Cobh was holding special celebrations in the town to recognise a ship full of Australians.  

The town was decorated in Irish, Australian and New Zealand flags and there were Irish bands and dancing and heaps of Irish Whiskey and a fantastic atmosphere with a large number of highly intoxicated Irish and Australians standing outside the pubs.

The weather was really hot and many Irish lads will wake up tomorrow with very bad sun burn as they had taken off their shirts and we were almost blinded by all the pearly white skin.

The church bell ringers rang out Waltzing Matilda which must have been fun while they were learning it.  I took pictures of some lovely ladies who were dressed up in white lace and carried parasols; they were there to see the ship off.

We were sent off in great style, with bands playing, Irish dancers and heaps of locals, fortunately the ship wasn’t too late sailing away, so they didn’t have to wait long although I think the brass band ran through their entire repertoire at least three times.  The ship sailed out to the sounds of Tie me Kangaroo Down and Aussie, Aussie OY, OY, OY.

We stayed out on the back deck for quite some time as the sun didn’t set until well after 2200.

Distance from Cohb to Dublin  163.6 Nautical Miles, average speed 10.73 knots

 Monday 8th July – Dublin, Ireland.  Currency  - Euro.  

We sailed to the Irish Sea into Dublin Bay and berthed by 1100, although we had not sailed a great distance, we had to wait until the tide was right to be able to sail over the sand bar in the head of the harbour.

Dublin began as a Viking settlement, St Patrick baptised some of his converts to Christianity during the 5th century and there are many old buildings still standing today.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of the city as I decided to be Irish for a Day.  

We travelled north from Dublin to a family owned farm in County Meath.  The Murtaugh family own a farm of over 3000 acres and they run sheep and cattle and have a bog field and combine it with a very successful tourist attraction.

We went straight into the kitchen and had a really lovely meal of soup, stew and scones and cream and then walked to the shed and had a lesson in playing the drum and dancing an Irish gig.  

The farm has a bog on it which is a peat pit made up of 1000’s of years of decomposing vegetation, the area is about 95% water and the peat is cut and dried and eventually used for fuel.  The bog is really cold and the early farmers used it to store food and excess butter is stored there for many months.  Most of the bog fields are now protected and the one we saw is just for tourists. 

The weather had warmed up and the owner told us that they had not had rain for 6 days and the soil was rock hard which was very unusual.

They had a number of working dogs and the bitch just looked like Jess from Footrot Flats and we were given a demonstration of sheep rounding and we also made a loaf of soda bread. And finally we had another meal of scones and cream and left for the ship about 1800, tired but very full and really enjoyed being Irish for the day.

Tuesday 9th July we entered the channel which separates northern Ireland from Scotland and entered the Firth of Clyde after passing the Mull of Kintyre and the Island Arran and finally proceeded up the Firth of Clyde, arriving in the port of Greenock at 0600.

Greenock, Scotland.  Currency – Euro.

The weather was still quite warm and I found myself peeling off layers as the day proceeded.

We travelled about 1 hour into Edinburgh which is one of Europe’s prettiest capitals, it was built during the 5th century for defensive reason. 

My visit to Edinburgh Castle has been on my bucket list for many years; we used to watch the Edinburgh Tattoo with my Dad since I was young and of course since then with John.

I must admit that I was really surprised at how small the parade ground was, considering that during the tattoo, tanks, war games and heaps of other things takes place.  The tattoo is in August and the stands were already in place for the show, they use the area for other things prior to the tattoo.  We started to walk around the Castle and the buildings were really old and some of the rooms are still in use.

   St. Margaret’s Chapel is older than anything still standing and we went into the Crown room to see the crown, sceptre and sword of the ancient Scottish monarchy.

After a lovely not so traditional lunch we had some time on our own and I walked along a road called the Royal Mile which is the heart of the Old Town full of old shops, markets and really old lanes.  I went into the Royal Scottish Museum and really only had time to look at a portion of the ground floor, it would take days to see it all.

Once again, the temperature was 10 degrees above normal and it was funny, I was in one of the shops when a girl came out of the changing rooms wearing a cotton frock and she asked the shop assistant to cut off the price tag as she was wearing the dress out of the shop because her clothes were too hot.  The ship is being accused of bringing a heat wave with it when it comes to port.

Ann and I stayed out on the deck until well after 2200 hrs tonight, the wind is cold but we sat under the stair case out of the wind and were well rugged up, I don’t think that I will ever get used to full sunlight and a sunset at 2230, it makes for a long day.

Distance from Dublin to Greenock  153.3 Nautical Miles, average speed 19.16 knots

My Birthday.

Wednesday 10th July we maintained southerly course through the Irish Sea past Wales towards Lands End and then enter the English Channel.

 My birthday started when the waiters gathered around my breakfast table and sang Happy Birthday and presented me with a muffin with a candle.  

All the girls at my table gave me presents during the day which included jewellery, alcohol and chocolates also on my door outside were balloons and a large card.

It was formal night so we were all dressed up and I wore my black shoulder outfit which now fitted me very snugly and as I am quite tanned, it looked good and once again the waiters sung to me and gave me a small cake to share with the table.

I am so glad that we were at sea and not a shore day so that I could share the day with my cruise friends and it was a lot of fun which went on late into the night.

Thursday 11th July – Le Harve, France.  Currency – Euro.


We arrived in the port of Le Harve about 0700 and the weather was cold and overcast and I put on my thermals under my one and only warm jumper and set of in the opposite direction from Paris and headed towards Giverny on the Seine river to see home of Monet the famous artist. 

The house and garden is where Monet lived and painted most of his master pieces.  The gardens covered a huge area and were a mass of colour; the house has been restored using Monet’s own furniture.  It was quite an experience to walk across the bridge that is in so many of his paintings and to sit on his garden seat that he sat in while he painted.

We boarded the bus after spending nearly two hours and travelled to a lovely restaurant which was a water mill two hundred years ago.  The meal was very nice, in fact I think it was the nicest meal we have had off the ship.

We had to be dragged out of the restaurant to continue our wonderful tour of this beautiful countryside. 

We went to the city of Rouen to see the lovely church which was already present at the location in late 4th century, all the buildings perished during a Viking raid in the 9th century, burnt in 1200, struck by lightning in 1284, spire blown down in 1353, spire burnt in 1514, damaged in 1600, struck by lightning in 1625 and 1642 then damaged by a hurricane in 1683, the wood-work of the choir burnt in 1727 and the bell broke in 1786. 

In the 18th century, the government nationalised the building and sold some of its furniture and statues to make money and the chapel fences were melted down to make guns to support the wars of the French Republic. The spire was once again destroyed by lightning in 1822, the cathedral was bombed in April 1944.  

A second bombing (before the Normandy Landings in June 1944) burned the the North Tower. During the fire the bells melted, leaving molten remains on the floor. In 1999, during a violent wind storm, a copper-clad wooden turret, which weighed 26 tons, fell into the church and damaged the choir.  This beautiful cathedral has had a very busy history and it is an amazing building.

Joan of Arc nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" is a  folk heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint.  She was born a peasant girl in what is now eastern France. Claiming divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the  Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII of France.
She was captured by the Burgundians , transferred to the English in exchange for money, put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais for charges of "insubordination and heterodoxy", and was burned at the stake for heresy when she was 19 years old.
Why am I writing this, it is because the burning at the stake took place in the city square of Rouen, it is said that there were traces of blood and bones at the site.

Monument where Joan was burnt 

Stature of Joan

Special Window in Joan's church
Once again back to the ship, the day started of cool but by the end of the day we were in short sleeve shirts and feeling the heat.

Distance from Greenock to Le Havre  589.2 Nautical Miles, average speed 18.63 knots

Friday 12th July – Dover, England.  Currency – English Pound.

Dover is the gateway to Kent which is the County where John was born and grew up in.  Kent is the traditional invasion route for incursions from the continent.  

The Romans took control of England from here in 55 BC, after the Romans came the Germanic tribes in 445 AD and then an invasion of another kind when in 597, Augustine of Canterbury landed with his missionaries, seeking to spread Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons tribes.

The weather was overcast and cool when Ann and I left the ship to take the shuttle bus to Dover Castle which rests on top of the white chalk cliffs of Dover, though by now I had learnt the benefit of layers which can be removed as the sun comes out.

Dover Castle has its origins in Roman and Saxon Citadels, but it was William the Conqueror who strengthened the walls and tower to create a major fortress.  King Henry II rebuilt it on a massive scale in 1168 to make it one of the world’s strongest castles.

Tunnels and secret chambers were burrowed underneath into the chalky cliffs, these made the castle impervious to all types of bombardment, even during the World War II, when Dover became the headquarters for the Normandy invasion.

We wandered up to the castle and proceeded immediately to the medieval tunnels and travelled down the dark corridors until we were well under the water level of the moat (if it was still there), they even rigged the external doors up so that they can be closed remotely from another room further in the castle.

I must admit that I was surprised when we told that Napoleon’s soldiers managed to cross the channel and dug tunnels beneath the existing tunnels and fortunately for the British they found out and they managed to collapse them in time to save the castle.  This was the only time that foreign soldiers were on British soil since the early Saxons.

We went into the castle and it was a lovely surprise as it was fitted out as if King Henry II was still in the castle. 

I was fascinated to see the suit of chain mail and when I felt it, it was really heavy, must have been really difficult to walk with that on under the rest of their clothes.


The final part of the tour was the tunnels used by Admiralty during the period of the Normandy evacuation, there were over 2,000 armed forces personnel living in the tunnels and often visit from Winston Churchill.  

The tour was very well done, with the use of computers and sound effects it would be easy to think you were in the middle of a real exercise.  The scene from the Battle of Briton where the ladies are standing around a big map of the world pushing boats around with long sticks is easily imagined here.  Unfortunately we were not able to take pictures in the tunnels.

Ann and I could have spent heaps more time there but once again it was time to return to the ship and meet up with the girls for drinks and the swapping of stories.

Girls: Denni, Judy, Boyan (waiter) Me, Ann, Beverley, Maize, Ann (Scottish)

Distance from Le Havre to Dover 130.9 Nautical Miles, average speed 12.59 knots

Total Distance Travelled from Dubai to Dover – 8,717.2 Nautical Miles  

Total Distance Travelled from Sydney to Dover – 16,679.2 Nautical Miles  

Friday, July 26, 2013

1st July - 6 July still in the Mediterranean

Monday 1st July – Barcelona, Spain.  Currency – Euro.  

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and is rumoured that Hercules built the city 400 years before the birth of Rome. Barcelona is a fabric of countless cultures, influenced by Arabs, Romans and Europeans. 

Gaudi is one of the greatest designers of the 19th and 20th centuries and he designed a great number of buildings in Barcelona, he designed the grandest ongoing projects in the flamboyant and spectacular a Familia, La Sagrda which is a jaw-dropping church into its second century of construction.  I personally think it is the ugliest building, in fact I think I dislike his work even more this year that I did last year.

Once again, Ann, Beverly and I got on the hop on hop off bus and spent 4 hours travelling around the city, gosh it was so hot, think it was more than 40 degrees sitting on the top of the bus.

We got off the bus and had a late lunch where we tried Tapas which is a number of small dishes that you can share; we had sausages, octopus, chicken, paella and beautiful bread, washed down by a jug of Sangria.

Before going back to the ship we called into the fruit market and bought a kilo of big fat juicy cherries for the huge cost of 2 euros (about $3) they were wonderful.

Another evening and another sail away, it is hard to work out what country we are in, I like to say ‘thank you’ in the language of the country and I now find myself having no idea what I should say.

Distance from Monte Caro to Barcelona 284.2 Nautical Miles, average speed 18.64 knots

Tuesday 2nd July at sea. Today we are at sea and we followed the coastline of Spain and passing Cost Blanca, Alicante and Cartagena towards the Straits of Gibraltar.

Everyone got up late this morning as if was the first time we could sleep in for ages, it was lovely just wandering around the ship and catching up with people we hadn’t seen for days.  

I downloaded all my pictures and sorted them out into folders and picked out one which I am going to put into the photo competition.

Wednesday 3rd July – Cardiz, Spain.  Currency – Euro.

 We passed through the Straits of Gibraltar in the early hours of the morning which meant that we left the Mediterranean and entered the Atlantic Ocean and rounded the Cape of Trafalgar to arrive in Cardiz at 0700 hrs.

As early as 1100 BC, Phoenician merchants established a trading post in Cardiz and the Romans took control in 218 BC, this city is rich in history.

Today, I took a tour to the city of Seville which is about 2 hours from Cardiz and this is the city from where Christopher Columbus left on his travels of discovery in 1492.

We walked through the old Jewish centre to look as some of the old buildings, we were told that they covered over their courtyards to keep the house and yard cool which gives the area a red glow. 

We then spent a lot of time walking through the special pavilion that was built to celebrate the wonders of the Spanish civilization in the early 19 hundreds.

It was a magnificent building and each province had a special area to display their crest and display special aspects of their province, it is amazing to see what they could do with tiles.

We then moved on to the royal palace of Alcazar which initially was a Moorish fort which later became the Spanish royal palace which is still used by the current King.  

The palace now owned by the Government but it is still used by the King on the odd occasions.

 The gardens are beautiful and any citizen of Seville can treat them as their own and visit any time they like.

In the same area was the Cathedral of Seville which is a centuries old Roman Catholic cathedral still showing the Moorish structures, some the bones of Christopher Columbus are interned in the church.

A number of the passengers were a bit disappointed today as they went to the Royal Andalusian school of Equestrian Art to see the beautiful dancing stallions only to find that they were not performing and they only walked through the stables.

Our ‘sail aways’ are taking on a different aspect now as we are all buying the specialties of the various countries we are visiting, cream sherry, sangria, local wines drunk and various cheeses are eaten.

Distance from Barcelona to Cadiz 595.6 Nautical Miles, average speed 17.14 knots

Thursday 4th July – Lisbon, Portugal. Currency – Euro.

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and is a large port at the mouth of the Tagus River and a great wave of exploration started from there in the 15th century.  

Legend has it that Lisbon was founded by Ulysses but most likely it was the Phoenicians were the first in 1200 BC followed by the Romans.

Ann and I decided that we would get on the hop on, hop off bus and travel around the city which took us all day.  It was very hot again and well over 40 degrees in the sun with absolutely no breeze and not a cloud in the sky.

Lisbon is a pretty city with a lot of old cathedrals and grand old houses sitting on a lovely coastline.

Lisbon still allows bull fighting will all the old formalities but they do not allow the bull to be killed.  We were told while we were in Spain they had banned bull fighting altogether.

 Ann had never been to Lisbon before so we got off at the Monument of Discovery and continued walking around the coast until we reached a lovely old fort and then we stumbled across a war memorial that was guarded by two sailors, it contained nine thousand names of the soldiers who died fighting in Africa defending their colonies between 1961 – 1974. 

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos or Monument to the Discoveries was built in honour of Henry the Navigator, who was instrumental in the success of the Portuguese explorations during the 15th century, a period now known as the Age of Discoveries.

The age of Discoveries started in 1415 with the capture of the North African city of Ceuta and reached a peak at the turn of the 16th century when Vasco da Gama discovered a shorter route to India and Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil. The creation of trade posts and colonies on the new trade routes led to a Portuguese empire that spanned three continents, bringing wealth to Portugal and Lisbon in particular.

The Monument to the Discoveries was originally built for the 1940 World Exhibition. It celebrated the achievements of explorers during the Age of Discoveries and the creation of Portugal's empire.

The monument we see today is an exact replica of the original one. It was built in 1960 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator's death. Henry the Navigator was a driving force behind the overseas exploration and he financed many of the expeditions.

The Monument is 52 meters tall monument, shaped like a ship's prow, stands at the marina in Belém, the starting point for many of Portugal's explorers. This is where in 1497 Vasco da Gama embarked on his voyage to India and in 1493 a storm forced Christopher Columbus to anchor here on his way back to Spain after his discovery of the Americas.

At the foot of the Monument to the Discoveries is a giant marble wind rose. A map of the world at the center of the wind rose charts the Portuguese explorations. The map shows the most important dates in the history of the discoveries and ships mark the locations where Portuguese explorers first set foot on land.

We went into entered the monument, which contained a museum, exhibition halls and other rooms spread over seven floors and then up to the rooftop where we could see over Belém and the Tagus river.

Lunch was another local feast but no wine this time as it was just too hot and then we were soon back on the local bus to the ship.

We sailed out in the afternoon sun towards the Bay of Biscay and stayed out in the cool until quite last.  The best part of a day on shore other than the great sights is the catching up with everyone and exchanging stories.

That night we went to the show in the Princess Theatre and it was certainly one of the best shows ever, it was a lady called Sally Jones who did a tribute to Edith Piaf who was a French singer and I have some of her records, the whole show was sung in French no wonder it is called the language of love.

There was a party on the ship for all the 40 or so Americans to celebrate their Independence Day, think it lasted about ½ hour.

Distance from Cadiz to Lisbon   250.3 Nautical Miles, average speed 19.25 knots

Friday 5th July at sea continuing across the Bay of Biscay. The wind is quite cool and the waves are getting higher, I saw a pod of dolphins tonight through the window of the dining room about 2100, the sun is not setting until about 2200 at the moment. I have certainly seen a lot more dolphins this trip, some of the dolphins are quite small and this pod was full of large dolphins who were jumping the waves from the back of the ship.

Life on board has settled into a regular routine now and everyone has become a close neighbourhood with all the problems that goes with living in a confined area.

Tonight was a formal night which started off with drinks with the Captain and then we went to dinner, followed by a show in the Theatre.  The weather has become quite rough and the Captain has closed off access to the outside of the ship and extended the stabilisers to reduce the tossing.

I wore my Spanish outfit and looked really great, got lots of compliments, even got my portrait taken. 

Saturday 6th July at sea still in the Bay of Biscay on our way to the Celtic Sea to approach the coast of Ireland.  

Stuck my head outside of the door to see what it was like on the deck and I think that I will be only going out when I go off shore.  The sea has calmed down a bit but the wind is still really strong and cold, I am wearing a spencer and slippers.

Distance from Lisbon to Cohb   807.6 Nautical Miles, average speed 13.52 knots