Cruise Wind-up: A Dose of Fall


After Prince Edward Island, we cruised on to Gaspe (it wasn’t a very nice day and as we were anchored some distance from the town, not docked, we opted to stay on the ship) and then Saguenay River and Quebec City. Saguenay was a pleasant surprise. It’s a very small town, but we received the warmest welcome of anywhere! In fact, the town has won awards three times for providing the friendliest welcome anywhere in the world.  img_1016

Townsfolk dressed in period costumes greeted us with slices of blueberry pie, maple sugar on a stick, and the chance to test our skill by sawing a log (the Chief Penguin performed). This was all right outside the cruise terminal; further on, another ambassador practically embraced us with information and maps. img_1037 We wandered the few streets. Going into St. Alphonse, a beautiful Catholic church where we bemoaned the craziness of the presidential election with the greeters there, and then browsing the craft market before spending an hour using the free and robust wifi in the cruise terminal.

dsc01035QUEBEC CITY 

Quebec City dawned sunny with a blue blue sky and stunning fall colors. It was a crisp morning, only about 50 degrees, and we walked the lower town (some unusual hanging canoe art here) and then took the funicular up the hill to the commanding Chateau Frontenac and a panoramic view.  dsc01043We wandered around taking in the architecture and the beautiful yellow, orange and red trees (I think I overdosed on photographing the trees!) and then walked back down the hill to the ship. We repeated the process after lunch only without the funicular. Sitting near city hall, I was struck by two lifesize straw harvest figures offering up pumpkins.  Overall it was a day with lots of steps—and stairs!  dsc01067



We had opted to go on to Montreal by motor coach, on what most of us would call a bus. This wasn’t really necessary (we’ve been to Montreal many times) as the trip was longer than it needed to be and the hotel wasn’t properly equipped to handle this large influx of cruise passengers. Nonetheless, the raw rain we left in Quebec City had cleared and Montreal was mostly sunny and a balmy 75 degrees. The natives had shed their jackets and scarves and were practically skipping about. We spent the afternoon strolling the streets and sitting in the plaza outside the cathedral before savoring a lovely dinner at Toque with our travel companions. The dinner was the right way to cap off a marvelous trip!

All photos copyright JWFarrington (some rights reserved)

At Sea: Cruising Pt.2


Life on the ship continues to be most pleasant. While on board, there are lots of options for entertainment and enlightenment and more food and drink than one can imagine. If so inclined, you can play Mahjongg or bridge, learn to knit, participate in fitness activities, refine your computer skills, watch a movie, borrow a book or CD from the library, attend a lecture, or walk the promenade deck around the perimeter of the ship (this latter something I’m determined to do at least once!).

We have enjoyed the musical offerings throughout the various venues on the ship: from the all-female string quartet playing classical music, to the sextet of instrumentalists and vocalists who provide music for dancing, to the ship’s symphony who are part of the big “shows” in the theater. Last night we had fun at the rousing “Across the Water” show which presented dancers and singers performing pop and rock songs from Britain to the USA ending with a long string of my favorite Beatles tunes.

Lounges and quiet corners abound and it’s easy to find a comfortable chair with a view of the water where you can read or nap or just plain veg.

SYDNEY (Cape Breton Island)
The highlight of our stop in Sydney was “Spirit of the Fiddle,” a performance of Cape Breton music by three accomplished musicians. Two men and one woman on violin, guitar, and keyboard, who switched around as to who played what.


It was a great introduction to a range of Celtic gigs, reels and other tunes with a bit of Scottish step dancing tossed in. This step dancing is closer to the floor without the high kicks of Riverdance, but still requires fleet and intricate footwork. Seating was cabaret style and we sampled Scottish oat cakes, each plate on the tables anchored by a square of a different tartan. Cape Breton Island is known for its music and there is a 55 foot high all metal fiddle sculpture in front of the cruise pavilion.
Later in the day, we walked around this small town, population 30,000. It reminded me of upstate NY as we wandered the quiet streets, checked out the shopping (would you believe I bought a pair of my favorite brand of shoes?), and got briefed on some local history from the guide at the historic Anglican church, built as a garrison chapel. Our last stop was the Jost House where our gray-haired colorful guide amused us with quips and stories midst the history. Sydney had a long history of coal mining followed by the steel industry. Both are now long gone and the town counts on these visits from cruise ships.

CHARLOTTETOWN (Prince Edward Island)
Our stops in port are brief. Most of our cruising is done at night and hence, we arrive in port around 8:00 am and then depart generally around 5:00 pm. We arrived in the port at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, just before 8:00 and the first excursions left right after that. Since I had signed us up for one of these, that meant we had to get up and get moving a bit earlier and at a less leisurely pace than we prefer.

The CP ended up not going, but I did the island drive and stop at Anne of Green Gables Heritage Center. Very well worth it! Charlottetown itself is pretty and charming with a strictly enforced prohibition on changing the facades of any building and the frame houses are all neatly kept and painted in a variety of handsome colors. There are no billboards and no landfills (everything is either recycled or burned). I was pleased to see autumn colors, finally!

Leaving the town, we drove by the malls and big box stores (yes, there’s even a Walmart), noted the many, many oyster beds in the shallows, stopped to see a few moored lobster boats, and then were able to tromp down to the sandy beach. Soil here is either red sandstone or red shale which tinges the ocean water a reddish brown near the shore. It was cold and very blustery so we quickly trod down the sandy path, looked at the waves and then rapidly retreated. After snapping the requisite photos of red dunes and rolling water!

We then headed to the town of Cavendish, site of the Green Gables center, a state or national park. The short film was a good introduction and included quotes from Lucy Maud Montgomery. Montgomery lived in Cavendish and it and this house were used in her series of novels about a young orphan girl named Anne Shirley, the first of which was published in 1908. Like many young girls, I loved and revered these books. They have since been translated into more than 15 languages.

We had time to tour the house, furnished as it was described in the books, and to get glimpses of the several walking and hiking trails also in the park before purchasing some Anne books or memorabilia in the gift shop.

At Sea: Cruising in the Maritimes


The Chief Penguin and I are taking our first extensive cruise, something we’ve not done before, and are now in Nova Scotia. We had time in port in New York (more than we personally needed) and then a full day at sea.

The day at sea was a bit challenging for me as we had some swells, a remnant of Hurricane Matthew, which made for some prolonged rocking. Other than meals and attending an excellent lecture on Halifax and the Titanic and watching a magician perform card tricks and engage the small audience with puzzles, I spent the day lying low. Reading and even taking a nap.

Being first in port for a day and a half and then at sea for an entire day, I felt a bit encapsulated. However, the ship is lovely and abounds with venues and opportunities to eat and drink. You are never far from a friendly staff member who stops by to ask what you’d like to drink. Add to that an ice cream stand, a bistro for burgers and grilled cheese, afternoon tea with scones and mini sandwiches, a coffee bar that also serves pastry and several sumptuous buffets—and you’ll quickly see that your scale will be hard pressed to maintain the status quo! This in addition to the main dining room where you could order breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Our day in Halifax dawned clear and bright with a blue blue sky and a pleasant 59 degrees. The boardwalk along the harbor is attractive and inviting even now when the season is obviously over. We toured the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and were impressed with both the Titanic exhibit and the one on the 1917 horrific collision of two ships in the Halifax harbor resulting in one of the worst explosions in human history. There was also a smaller exhibit on the aborted Franklin expedition to the Arctic in the 1850’s.
Continuing our walk, we climbed the steep hill up Prince Street to the old clock tower, a very handsome wood frame building, and to the Citadel. Panoramic view of the city skyline and the harbor. Then onward to stroll in the public gardens and just beyond the historic Camp Hill cemetery.
Returning down the hill, we lunched at a tasty fish restaurant, McKelvies, and then made a brief stop in the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, built in 1749 and the oldest building in Halifax. It survived the 1917 explosion and you can see a shard of metal from that event which still pierces the wall in the entryway. Architecture in the city is a mix of historic buildings and lots of new construction. I was also struck by the sight of brightly colored Adirondack chairs and picnic tables scattered around several public plazas.


Manhattan Moments: Addicts & Immigrants


As I’ve walked around the West Village, I’ve been struck by the variety of wrought iron railing and fence designs.  Some examples here plus notes on David Carr’s memoir and the Tenement Museum.


The Night of the Gun by David Carr
At the Aspen Ideas Festival several years ago, I saw Andrew Rossi’s film, Page One, a documentary about the New York Times. Then I experienced seeing and hearing journalist David Carr on a panel following the screening. Mr. Carr was featured prominently in the film and was both articulate and a character. My curiosity piqued, I added his 2008 memoir to my to-be-read list. The book lingered on a wish list until finally I loaded it onto my Kindle and decided its time had come.
Sadly, Mr. Carr collapsed at work in February 2015 and died. His memoir is raw, graphic, sometimes tedious, and ultimately hopeful. A risk taker and addicted to crack cocaine, he, nonetheless, managed to hold down good professional jobs by day while hanging out with some of the less savory elements of society by night. In and out of detox facilities and arrested numerous times, mistreating one girlfriend after another, he was ultimately saved by being needed to care for his twin daughters.

Unlike the standard recovery memoir, this one takes the form of the author going to interview the people he hurt in the past to hear their account of events and how it tallied with his memory. Not an easy book to read, but I felt I learned a lot about David Carr and appreciated even more what he was able to accomplish.








Thanks to a great recommendation from my friend Patricia, we visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in the Bowery. It was a lovely morning and so we walked the mile and a half, passing through less polished neighborhoods and lots of grafittied buildings. The museum purchased 87 Orchard Street, a 5-story tenement built in 1863, in 1989 and soon thereafter began offering tours of selected apartments.

Parts of the building are unrestored to preserve for visitors something closely akin to the residents’ experience. Other apartments have been restored to look like and be furnished like they were when real people lived in them. The building had 22 apartments and a German beer saloon on the ground level and was occupied by residents from the 1860’s until 1935. In that year, new legislation mandated changes to meet stricter building codes that the owner opted not to implement.
We did the “Hard Times” tour led by the very knowledgeable Rachel Wetter which introduced us to two apartments; one inhabited by the German Jewish Gumpertz family in the 1870’s and 80’s, and the other by the Italian Catholic Baldizzi family who resided there from about 1924 until 1935. The apartments were small and early on without electricity, running water or indoor toilets. Mr. Gumpertz was a shoemaker who disappeared one day and never returned to his family. His wife became a dressmaker for a time. Mr. Baldizzi was a carpenter. One day his daughter who spend some of her childhood years in that apartment just showed up at the museum. She subsequently gave the museum artifacts to add to “their” apartment.

There are several other tours offered each day and we plan to return. And next year, new stories of Puerto Rican and Chinese immigrants will be featured.

[All photos copyright JWFarrington]