Friday, October 17, 2014

Getting Back In Touch

So I did promise to get back on the blog regularly again.  I admit, once again, the ease of posting on Facebook or Instagram has sort of kept me off Blogger for a long time now.  But, I think blogging is healthy, I used to really seriously enjoy it, so I am ready to get back to it again!

Although we've had many fantastic travels since my last post in 2013, the most recent one was last month.  We finally decided to chuck our annual cruise to the islands in favor of something different.  We took a New England and Canada cruise out of New York City.  First, I will say that's my first trip to NYC.  I saw very little of it- from the airport to the cruise terminal- while on a bus.  We had planned to visit the USS Intrepid, which is docked right at the cruise port, but time didn't allow for it.  We arrived in NYC with only a few hours to spare.  If we take this cruise again, and I'm sure we will, we'll go up a day or two early to take in some of the NYC landmarks.  James wants to go up to the top of the Empire State Building.  I told him I'll wait down at the Starbucks in the lobby, my vertigo would make me vomit before we ever got off the elevator!

We had one of the cabins on the very back of the ship, so leaving the port that first night we got an absolutely amazing view of Manhattan.  We cruised right by the Statue of Liberty- and let me say they always make Lady Liberty look so huge in the movies but I thought she was actually a little on the small size in real life.  The ship went under the gorgeous Verrazano bridge, which reminded me of all the trips out of Tampa and going under the Skyway.  We were able to get great photos from our aft balcony.  I've been to a lot of big cities, but nothing prepared me for the overwhelming size of New York City.

 Our first stop was in Boston, where James and I spent the day walking around the city.  No, we didn't do the Freedom Trail as absolutely everyone suggested.  We were, as always when we are traveling, hunting our smashed pennies.  Boston is full of machines.  Some we had to bypass for the next visit- like the ones at museums- but we managed to hit up six machines for a total of 44 pennies.  Of course we took in plenty of historical sites and city sights, including a trolley ride and for James, a tour of Fenway Park.  Beautiful city, stunning old churches, I could definitely spend more time there.  The cool weather and sunny day played a big part in how great the day was.  We were able to go up in the Prudential Center to get fantastic photos of the entire city- an easy 50 floors up compared to the gut-churning 102 floors of the Empire State Building.  For lunch we dined outside at the charming Parish Cafe, near the public gardens.  Boston is an incredibly easy city to walk around.

 The next stop was Portland in Maine.  James and I had reserved a rental car at the airport, and a quick taxi ride from the port got us to Hertz and then on our way.  Again we were on the penny hunt, and drove about 60 miles down the coast, stopping here and there.  Maine was gorgeous, I don't think I've ever seen a prettier state.  We stopped at the lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth, at an old pier at the beach, the quaint Kennebunkport area, and had lunch at a popular family spot, The Maine Diner, where I indulged in their delicious (and very buttery) lobster pie.  Yes, it was as decadent as it sounds, and I ate every crumb.  We got back to Portland with plenty of time to spare and walked around the shops for a bit.  They were having a street festival as well, with local crafts, but that might be a weekly thing with all the ships coming in.  Portland had a very nice downtown, cobblestone streets, lots of shopping.  We had the perfect day there, and back on the ship we sat on the balcony watching the harbor seals playing in the water.

Our last two stops were in Canada.  First was Saint John in New Brunswick.  This was a short day off the ship for us.  No pennies, and the town was rather small.  We decided not to sign up for any excursions.  The much-touted Reversing Rapids on the Bay of Fundy, well, I watched a video of it online and wasn't impressed enough to want to pay to see it in real life.  We did go to the New Brunswick Museum and the City Market (quite impressive).  James was searching for old license plates to add to his collection, so we hit up a few antique stores until we finally found a batch.  We stopped at a nice used bookstore where I stocked up on paperbacks for $1 each, and of course we went to a couple of shops so I could see what their local artists are creating.  Nothing inspires me to come home and work on my own projects, as much as seeing the wonderful things other artists are making (and more importantly, selling).

Halifax was our other Canadian stop, and this was the only city where we signed up for an excursion.  Mainly because of Peggy's Cove.  Not only is there a great lighthouse in this small fishing village, but the gift shop has a penny machine.  We signed up for a tour that would take up the entire day there.  We were in port for 7 1/2 hours, and our tour was 7 hours long.  It was worth it, our tour guide Bill was awesome to the nth power.  Not only did this handsome silver fox wear a kilt, but he knew the history of Halifax and the surrounding areas in ways that only a native could.  He told plenty of tales from when he was a school boy there.  As we drove through the countryside, he would even point out houses and tell us about the person living there.  No one famous, just local citizens with a story.

Downtown Halifax was beautiful, old, historical, although we only saw glimpses of it through the bus window.  I would have to say, if we go again, I would want to spend that day walking around the old city.  However, on our tour we were able to take in quite a number of stops including the Citadel, the Public Gardens, shopping downtown, Peggy's Cove, Acadian Maple Products, and last but by no means least- the Titanic Graveyard (Fairview Cemetery).  It was a gloomy day, I don't think we ever saw the sun, but the cool weather was so nice I can't complain.  It made for gray pictures of the lighthouse and surrounding rocks, where we perched for a long time, hoping to see whales.

This was our 9th cruise, and the previous 8 were all Caribbean cruises.  I think James would agree with me when I say, this New England cruise is probably at the top of our list now.  Although we've already booked our 2015 cruise (Hawaii), I would love to take this same New England/Canada cruise again soon.  And I recommend it highly for someone who isn't used to cruising and wants to "try" one out.  Because we had very few miles to travel, the ship cruised along very very slowly.  No rocking.  We didn't even have to get our "sea legs" for this trip, we barely felt the ship moving.

Pulling back into New York on the last morning, we were already talking about all the plans for "the next time" we take this cruise!  I have no doubt that we will do just that.


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