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The Journey Comes to an end . . .

April 26, 2011
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World Cruisers

April 24, 2011
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We got together with our friends – Barb, Mary Jane, Barb and Carolyn for lunch today – our last lunch together of this fabulous voyage.  We each shared our “Favorite Thing” of the trip – we then went around the table and told our “Biggest Surprise” of the trip!  It was fascinating that we each person had their own favorite – no repeats!  And each Biggest surprise was unique!

We’ve all had a great time and have made great friends!  Give us a call when you’re ready to do it again!!

Here we are when we first got together in November, 2010

And here we are on the QM2 – April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

April 24, 2011
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The ship was “decked out” today with Easter decorations . . . it was chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate!

Bath and Beyond England, of course!

April 20, 2011
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No, not Bed, Bath and Beyond  —  this is Bath, England and the beautiful countryside Beyond!!

We decided to take a little trip to Bath, England in lieu of staying in downtown Southampton.  The QM2 was docked at the Ocean Terminal where we would be exchanging about 1,700 passengers.  We understand that about 700 passengers are considered “in-transit” – all 700 of us who had embarked somewhere else and did not disembark in Southampton.  The QM2 was also receiving the full World Cruise passengers from the Queen Elizabeth who will also complete their journey in New York City.

The weather was absolutely beautiful – warm temperatures and clear blue skies  —  we had to check the GPS 3 different time to make sure that we were in England and not in Spain!!

The trip to Bath is about a 2-hour drive from Southampton.  Bath is located in the vicinity of 150 miles west of London in southwestern England.  We drove through love green, lush countryside and rolling hills – dotted with sheep, cattle – with acres and acres of bright yellow rapeseed fields.  Rapeseed is also known as canola – used to make oils, margarines and cosmetics!  The gently rolling hills, with only an occasional farmhouse, cathedral, small stream or tiny town interrupted the vast calm and quiet view.

Salisbury was one of the larger villages through which we traveled.   We had a comfort stop there and were given a chance to take a few photographs.  We learned about the leaning spire of the cathedral – leaning because it was built taller than it should have been.  We saw Spring flowers in full bloom and a single white swan enjoying his ride along the river.  Just outside of Salisbury, we saw a very narrow longboat on a river.  These boats are narrow so that they can go through the small locks on the rivers.

The closer we got to the town of Bath we learned some about its history.  We certainly will not bore you to death with the details, but it was not the Romans who developed Bath.  Yes, the Roman baths and their medical waters were found during the Roman era; however it was in the 1770’s and 1780’s that the town really began to see its greatest growth.  Bath was named a World Heritage Site in 1987 – in recognition of the entire town’s historical significance.

Three names are quite prominent when discussing Bath’s growth during the Stuart and Georgian periods.  John Wood the elder; John Wood the younger and Beau Nash played separate and pivotal roles.  Both of the Mr. Woods were architects and considered developers.  Beau Nash was the Master of Ceremonies.  The town needed people – either full time or part time residents – and Mr. Nash was a showman and could entice the wealthy Londoners to spend both time and money in the town of Bath.  Both of the Mr. Woods could design and to build lodging for these wealthy visitors.  Mr. Wood the elder and Mr. Wood the younger designed homes and public buildings that were large, elegant and exuded wealth.

The baths and mild temperatures were draws for people to come to Bath; however it was the entertainment that kept them coming back  —  wine, women and song  —  and throw in a little medicinal water from the geothermal springs for good measure.  Mr. Nash had found almost the perfect formula for success.

Today, Bath is a city of almost 85,000 full time residents.  Many of the city’s residents are wealthy retirees.  Over one million people are considered staying tourists (spend at least one night) and about 3.8 million people are day tourists (they only come for a few hours or for the day).  Bath is home to 2 universities, several schools and colleges as well as 5 theater companies, numerous art galleries, several well-known hotels and lots and lots and lots of residential buildings.  In fact, the city was much more heavily developed that we had anticipated.   The seven hills that surround the city are laden with buildings that provide lovely views of downtown Bath.  The actual city of Bath sits in a valley, surrounded by these seven hills – think of a bowl with Bath in the bottom of the bowl!

Most of the buildings in Bath are of the Georgian design – lots of columns, straight lines, with classic building facades.  Most of the buildings are made from Bath stone.  Since Bath stone is soft and hard to clean, it is not used in many areas of England outside of Bath.

One of the most striking buildings in Bath is called the Royal Crescent.  This crescent shaped building is almost impossible to photograph properly.  You can get pieces of it, but because it is so large and you are so close – well, you get the “picture”!  But, we did find a couple of aerial photographs that may help you to see the Royal Crescent.  We understand that this building is the most photographed building aside from Royal buildings.  The Royal Crescent was originally about 30 townhouses however, now days, due to their gigantic sizes, the townhouses have mostly been sub-divided into smaller apartments.  Many of these townhouses originally didn’t have a kitchen as the wealthy would just order “take away” and have it delivered!!  Not much has changed, has it?

Not far from the Royal Crescent is The Circus.  This is a development of townhouses that is developed in a huge circle.  The interior of the circle is a park.  The architectural design is quite similar to the Royal Crescent.

While most buildings in Bath, including both the Royal Crescent and The Circus, have very elegant Georgian façade, the rears of all of these buildings are quite a mishmash of designs.

As residential building increased in Bath, the taxman began to play a role in the architectural design of buildings.  Initially property taxes were based on the number of fireplaces a home had.  Of course, the owner needed to allow the taxman inside the home to count.  When owners got smarter and wouldn’t allow the taxman inside, the taxation rules changed.  The new rule of taxation was based on the number of windows in a building.  The owner wised up to this tactic  —  some owners bricked up some of their windows – thus reducing their property taxes.  Don’t we wish it that easy today?

Two other very famous one-time residents of Bath need to be mentioned  —  the author Jane Austen and the Sally Lund, creator of the Sally Lund Bun.

During our visit to Bath, we had free time to just wander.  Since it was about lunchtime, we decided to get a sandwich, chips and Coke and head to the Parade Gardens Park.  We found a gourmet sandwich shop called Scoffs – ordered up our lunch – and off to the park across the street.  The park was typically English  —  lovely green grass, beautiful flowers, a gazebo and clean as a whistle!  After lunch we walked along the River Avon and saw one of only a few bridges in the world that both span a river and have retail stores.  Another famous bridge like this would be the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River in Florence.

Many shops had bits and pieces showcasing the upcoming Royal Wedding.  Lots of “official” souvenirs were available – plates, tea towels, mugs, cups and saucers – fairly common items.  We didn’t see any “funky” trinkets – we’re sure that they exist, we just didn’t see any!!

The Bath Abbey is a centerpiece of downtown Bath.  A beautiful Gothic designed structure complete with flying buttresses.  Many of the “rich and famous” residents from the Georgian era are buried in this Abbey.  The pedestrian-only square between the Abbey and the baths is a gathering spot for tourists and to entertain the tourists, there were street entertainers.  We saw an opera singer and a juggler on a very tall unicycle.  Juggling lighted torches is difficult while standing, so there was lots of drama with juggling lighted torches on this tall unicycle!

We actually looked forward to our two-hour drive back to Southampton.  We knew that we would have the opportunity to see the delightful English countryside.  Our tour guide decided to give us a treat – he took a different way back – through the New Forest.  Since just about everything in England has some age and history associated with it, we didn’t really think that the forest would really be “new”!  And turns out it is not “new” but newer than a lot of things in England.  The forest consists of several hundred thousand acres of lovely land that has not been extensively developed – or more precisely, lovingly preserved – and still presents visitors with views of ponies, horses, deer, grouse, pheasants, wild pigs and cattle and vistas of rolling hillsides.  The forest also contains small villages, like Downton.  Thatched roof homes were prevalent  —  almost like a trip back in time and oh so British!!

Back in Southampton, the QM2 was awaiting us.  We had missed almost all of the excitement of boarding the 1, 700 new passengers – but arrived just in time for the lifeboat drill!!!  We were so smug that we didn’t have to participate in the drill!!

We had a wonderful time in jolly old England  — and as the British would say “brilliant  —  all the best  —  Cheers”!!  We had only dipped into Bath – and we will put this lovely city our list for a visit in the future!

And then we waved goodbye to Southampton and said hello to the Northern Atlantic Ocean  —  six days at sea before we reach New York City.  We’re sad that we’re almost finished with this wonderful journey, but at the same time ready to get home to our Boys  —  our Miniature Schnauzers named Max and Andy – and of course all of the kids – big and small!!

So true . . .

April 19, 2011
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Full World Cruise Concierge

April 18, 2011
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One of the perks of the Full World Cruise is the Concierge Lounge.  This lounge was set up in part of the Winter Garden.

Services of the lounge included tea, coffee, Danish, small sandwiches, Tea time sweets.  Also, the concierge (Deborah or Lisa) would assist with Internet research on items of interest on shore.  And we must not forget the all important newspapers from around the world – we guessed that day old news is better than no news!!

Renato from the Philippines was the SUPER World Cruise Steward.  He anticipated our needs and was always happy to help with a smile on his face!   Thank you!!

The Strait of Gibraltar

April 18, 2011
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The Strait of Gibraltar . . . Gibraltar . . . a British overseas territory; home of the “rock” made famous by that insurance company who used the image of the Rock of Gibraltar in its logo; the spot where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet; the Strait is the body of water that separates Africa from Europe.

This is a heavily traveled route – you’ve got to go through the Strait to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Med or from the Med to the Atlantic Ocean.  Although many ships stop in Gibraltar, we were just passing by.  The ship had asked for and received permission to come “close” to the Rock.  So, just as the sun was starting to set, we came within 2 miles of shore.  Photography wasn’t great as we were on the east side of the Rock with the setting sun in our faces.  The Commodore did slow the ship for the passage so that we could get a good look.  He also gave his usual informative and chatty commentary!

Most of the citizens live on the west side of the Rock.  Natural resources are scarce.  Fresh water is obtained through a desalination plant.  Gibraltar’s northern border is with Spain.  The Rock is the real attraction in the Strait.  But since the Strait is only 7 miles wide, Morocco can easily be seen!

There you have it . . . it took all of about 30 minutes to see the Rock and to pass through the very famous Strait of Gibraltar.

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