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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

America/Canada Adventure Part 1......

Well we're back!   What a whirlwind of a holiday, we are exhausted but it was so worth it.   We got to meet up with three bloggers - Linda (Are We There Yet) in Boston, Ann in Montreal and Daryl (Out And About In New York City) in NYC, which I'll tell you about as and when they occur in the installments of the holiday.   We were hoping to meet up with Ron (Being Ron) in NYC but unfortunately he couldn't get the time off work.   We were also able to meet up with my oldest school friend who has lived in Toronto for over 30 years.

We flew from Manchester to Heathrow then onto Boston but as we didn't arrive until evening there really wasn't time to do anything on the first day apart from unpack what we needed for our 3 night stay, get something to eat and sleep. 

The view from our room at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
Our first full day in Boston didn't start off very well, when we could only have a cold shower at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel because the boiler had broken down!   After the shock we had breakfast then met up with our fellow travellers for the included orientation tour of the city, our first stop being Cambridge, the home of Harvard.



Harvard was formed in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  It was initially called "New College" or "the college at New Towne". In 1638, the college became home for North America's first known printing press, carried by the ship John of London. In 1639, the college was renamed Harvard College after English deceased clergyman John Harvard, who was an alumnus of the University of Cambridge. He had left the school £779 pounds sterling and his library of some 400 books though he never actually visited Harvard. There is a statue of John Harvard in the grounds.

You will notice John Harvard's shiny shoe - the story goes it is tradition for students at Harvard to touch his shoe for luck but our guide told us a different take on the story, she suggested there is a competition between male students after a night's drinking to see who can hit the shoe - I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

Leaving Harvard we walked a small part of the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km) red path through downtown Boston that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States. Marked largely with brick, it winds between Boston Common to the USS Constitution in Charlestown. Stops along the trail include simple explanatory ground markers, graveyards, notable churches and buildings, and a historic naval frigate.
 The first statue we came across on the trail was of Paul Revere
most famous for arranging the signal lanterns to be shown from the tower of The Old North Church, alerting the Colonial militia to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord.
We were able to enter the church, which is perfectly preserved and quite beautiful.



I loved the personal stalls inside the church, which families purchased for their sole use and decorated to their own taste.   The church also has a memorial garden hung with dog tags, which is dedicated to fallen members of US Military from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Leaving the church behind we walked up the hill to to Copp's Hill Burying Ground. If you look closely at the next photo you will see the brick Freedom Trail on the pavement.

Skinny House, Boston, is opposite the burying ground and was built as a "spite house" shortly after the American Civil War.
According to local legend: "two brothers inherited land from their deceased father.  While one brother was away serving in the military, the other built a large home, leaving the soldier only a shred of property that he felt certain was too tiny to build on.  When the solder returned, he found his inheritance depleted and built the narrow house to spite his brother by blocking the sunlight and ruining his view".

After a really interesting tour it was time for lunch and our tour guide arranged to take us to Quincy Market, a historic market complex near Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston.



The market was constructed 1824–1826 and named in honor of Mayor Josiah Quincy, who organized its construction without any tax or debt. The market was designated a National Historic Landmark, recognizing its significance as one of the largest market complexes built in the United States in the first half of the 19th century.

Above is Faneuill Hall, around which the market is built, where we were finally, after knowing each other online for approx 7 years, able to meet up with fellow blogger Linda for lunch!
Linda had business in Plymouth so had driven up the day before and stayed overnight, then driven to Boston for our meet up.   MWM and I spent a lovely couple of hours over lunch chatting with Linda about absolutely everything, it was lovely to find she is just as nice in person as she is online!  Unfortunately we had to get back to our coach and Linda had to drive all the way home and go to work, so we had to say our goodbyes.  Linda is hoping to come to the UK some time next year, hopefully very near to where we live as her ancestors are from Oldham, fingers crossed we will be able to meet up again then as we have promised to take her for a pint in our local.

After a long day sightseeing we got back to the hotel with a little time for a short rest before grabbing something to eat in a local restaurant and retiring for the night.   We had another exciting excursion to look forward to the following day - to Cape Cod - I hope you'll join me for that in Part 2. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

WooHoo it's here........

Finally our long awaited trip is here!  

Today we set off on this amazing journey....

New England & Canada in the Fall with New York Add-on

Here's our itinerary but as an added bonus I have arranged to meet up with two blog friends - Linda - Are We There Yet? in Boston, (all being well) and Daryl - Out and About in NYC in New York City and hopefully Ron - Being Ron in NYC if he can make it.  I've also arranged to meet up with a very old school friend in Toronto!

Day 1: UK/Boston
Your holiday begins with a flight to Boston, Massachusetts, the natural starting point for any tour of New England and your base for the next three nights.
Day 2: Boston
At one time, Boston was a hotbed of revolutionary activity, perhaps the most famous act being the Boston Tea Party. These days, it’s a modern, cosmopolitan city that takes pride in its revolutionary past, preserving it for future generations. The narrow, winding streets and squares of the old quarter provide an abrupt and delightful contrast with the city’s modern skyscrapers and bustling lifestyle. Boston also boasts perhaps the finest seafood in the world. An included morning sightseeing tour takes you along parts of the famous Freedom Trail to the Granary Burial Ground, the harbour (site of the Boston Tea Party), Beacon Hill, Quincy Market and Cambridge, home of Harvard University. Your afternoon is free to enjoy this wonderful city before returning to your hotel.
Day 3: Boston
Feel free to explore more of Boston independently today, or join your Tour Manager on an exciting full-day optional tour to beautiful Cape Cod. Renowned for its up-market coastal resorts, Cape Cod’s shores are a playground for the rich and famous. In contrast to this is Plymouth, where America’s founding fathers first set foot in the New World.
Day 4: New Hampshire
Today is where the views really become something special as you drive into New Hampshire. The countryside is reminiscent of parts of Britain, but on a much grander scale, with thousands of square miles of forest ready to burst into multi-coloured splendour every autumn. Greens, golds, reds and oranges all work together to create a magical patchwork landscape that is unrivalled. Tonight, you will stay in North Conway.
Day 5: New England
Enjoy a leisurely day amidst New England’s glorious countryside today as you drive through the White Mountains and Franconia Notch State Park into Vermont. You won’t want to put your camera down for even a minute, as there is just so much to see at every turn. A short visit will be made to Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the USA, before continuing to Stowe for an overnight stop.
Day 6: Vermont
Drive northwards through the gentle Vermont countryside to the Canadian border and on to Montreal. The magnificent bilingual city of Montreal occupies an island at the junction of the St Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, and although hundreds of miles from the sea, it is a major port and Canada’s second city. Montreal’s cobbled streets, 17th century buildings and beautiful parks and gardens are an obvious draw for the many visitors that come here each year, as are the fine restaurants and countless open-air cafés. Take any opportunity you can whilst in the city to relax in one of these cafés to indulge in a spot of people-watching. A sightseeing tour of the city this afternoon will give you an excellent overview of life in the city and introduce you to a selection of its finest sights. With three nights in Montreal, there’s plenty of time to discover more for yourself.
Day 7: Quebec City
The heart of French Canada, Quebec City is the destination of today’s included excursion. The only walled city in Canada, it stands proud on the St Lawrence River and is an enticing blend of winding cobbled streets, ancient churches, Norman-style houses, stone buildings, public squares and horse-drawn calèches. Famous sights include the Cathedral, Château Frontenac, the Basilica, the Citadel, and Plains of Abraham, scene of the decisive battle in 1759 between the French and the English for the control of Canada.
Day 8: Ottawa
Leaving cosmopolitan Montreal behind, it’s time to travel to elegant Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Proudly stood on the Rideau Canal, you’ll see some of its main attractions, including the Parliament Buildings and grand Chateau Laurier hotel. It’s then on to the exciting city of Toronto for a two-night stay.
Day 9: Toronto
Toronto is Canada’s largest city and its commercial and cultural centre is dominated by the 1,815ft high CN Tower, one of the world’s tallest free-standing structures. It also boasts a vibrant nightlife, with world-class theatre, ballet and opera, and every style of restaurant. We will enjoy a sightseeing tour of this popular city this morning and you will have time this afternoon to explore at your own pace
Day 10: Rochester
This morning we leave Toronto and continue to the mighty Niagara Falls, one of the greatest sights in the New World. Situated some 80 miles south-east of Toronto, the Falls are divided into two parts – the Canadian and American Falls. The Canadian Falls are the larger, 180ft high with a crest of 2,200ft, forming a curve known as Horseshoe Falls – truly breathtaking. For the most dramatic close-up view, you can don special waterproofs and ride the boat ‘Maid of the Mist’ close to the thundering waters (operates mid-May to mid-October).
This afternoon you will return to the USA by entering New York State, which is also famous for its wonderful autumn colours. You’ll stay overnight stay in Rochester.
Day 11: New York
After the wonderful natural scenery of New England, it’s time to experience the wonders of New York, where you will stay for two nights in Manhattan, close to Times Square. An irresistible, exciting, eclectic city, New York truly is a 24-hour city, with no shortage of things to do and places to see at any time of the day or night.
There’s a whole range of optional excursions available to help you get the most out of your time here – just talk to your Tour Manager, who will be able to give you plenty of advice if you haven’t already planned every minute of your time before leaving home!
Perhaps take a cruise around Manhattan, head to Harlem, visit the enigmatic Statue of Liberty, or even treat yourself to a helicopter ride over the famous skyline. For all you shopaholics out there, Fifth Avenue is the place to be, and when the hustle and bustle gets too much, slow the pace down with a leisurely Hansom cab ride through Central Park. In the evening, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants – from diners serving burgers to five-star restaurants, New York has it all, and of course, the smash hit shows of Broadway are a real to-do. You’ll be planning your return before you even leave the city!
Day 12: New York
This morning join an included tour of New York City, which takes you from Broadway, Times Square and the Empire State Building to Greenwich Village, then Chinatown, the Bowery and Wall Street. The rest of the day is then free for you to continue your explorations, and once again a range of optional excursions will be available.
Day 13 to 15: New York

USA and Canada here we come and I'll tell you all about it when I get back.    Sorry, telling you about the Italy trip will have to wait yet again but I will get round to it eventually I promise.

Be good whilst I'm gone. xx

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Hampshire Delights Part 3....

On our last full day in Hampshire we set off for Portsmouth, where our aim was to spend all day in the Historic Dockyard with the express intention of seeing The Mary Rose Exhibition, something we have been wanting to see for years but never had the opportunity to do.  Of course there are lots more attractions in the dockyard, which I will share with you, but I have always had a fascination with Henry Tudor and of course The Mary Rose was his flagship.  The following photographs show the timbers of the Mary Rose in situ in the museum,  the grey pipes are blowing warm air over the timbers to dry them out slowly.   Everything is behind glass at the moment but the plan is to remove the glass in four years time. 



 After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archeology.   By pure coincidence our visit on 20th July 2014 was 469 years almost to the day after The Mary Rose sank.

There were many artefacts recovered from the wreck. This is the gun that identified the Mary Rose,
  and this gun with Henry's crest.


The surgeon's chest was found containing many of his implements.



Skeletons were found and were identified
which enabled them to reconstruct a fair representation of how they would have looked.
and the tools of his trade.
Of course there is so much more to see and we spent a fascinating two hours in the exhibition and fully intend to go back in four years time when the glass screens and air pipes are removed to see the Mary Rose properly.

We had a quick lunch in one of the many cafe/restaurants before our next visit to Nelson's Flagship - Victory, a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is most famous as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, but she was also Keppel's flagship at Ushant, Howe's flagship at Cape Spartel and Jervis's flagship at Cape St Vincent. After 1824 she served as a harbour ship.  In 1922 she was moved to a dry dock  and preserved as a museum ship. She is the flagship of the First Sea Lord since October 2012 and is the world's oldest naval ship still in commission
We were allowed to go on board
and below decks, where we were fascinated to see how the sailors of the day lived their lives,


 how they cooked,






 and slept.
Then back on deck











Then, as we were leaving,  the view from Britain's oldest commissioned warship (HMS Victory) looking at one of the very latest warships, a type 45 destroyer (HMS Dragon)!
Just time for a quick coffee and sit down before visiting HMS Warrior.

 Here's a true story about Warrior's Figurehead in the previous photo.
HMS Warrior, launched in 1860, was the pride of Queen Victoria's fleet. Powered by steam and sail, she was Britain's first iron-hulled, armoured warship and the largest, fastest and most powerful ship of her day. Warrior was, in her time, the ultimate deterrent, yet within a few years became obsolete.  Restored and back at home in Portsmouth, Warrior now serves as a ship museum, monument, visitor attraction, private venue.

We boarded this beautiful ship to look around.

Below decks the galley was certainly larger than the one on the Victory.
Seamen's belongings all organised.


Their rum ration.
Part of the Armoury.
The Engine room.
Another fascinating piece of our naval history which is well worth a visit.

Unfortunately, after 5 hours of sightseeing it was time to head back to our coach to get back to the hotel for dinner and packing for the journey home the following day.  

The following morning we set off for home just after breakfast but had one last stop on the way home, for lunch at Royal Lemington Spa with it's famous Bath House and Pump Room.
The Royal Pump Room and Baths is a Grade II listed building.  It was the most famous of several spa baths opened in Leamington between the late-18th and mid-19th centuries. People would travel from throughout the country, and indeed Europe,  to benefit from treatments using the town's healing waters. When 'taking the waters' became less fashionable after the mid-19th century the Pump Rooms became Leamington's only surviving spa facility, later also being extended to include the town's public swimming pool. After a major redevelopment in 1997 - 99 the building now houses Leamington Spar Art Gallery and Museum, a public library, a tourist information centre, cafe and assembly rooms.

The impressive Town Hall
and gardens.


After a pleasant lunch and walk in the sunshine taking in the sights of this delightful town, it was time to continue our journey home.

I can thoroughly recommend Hampshire for it's beauty and as a base to visit places of historical interest.

Hope you enjoyed our trip as much as we did.
The Tudor ship that captured the world's imagination when she was raised from the seabed in 1982 is the only sixteenth century warship on display anywhere in the world and the brand new Museum built around her reunites her with many of her 19,000 artefacts and crew. - See more at: http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/maryrose/#sthash.Yvx5pTfX.dpuf

The Tudor ship that captured the world's imagination when she was raised from the seabed in 1982 is the only sixteenth century warship on display anywhere in the world and the brand new Museum built around her reunites her with many of her 19,000 artefacts and crew. - See more at: http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/maryrose/#sthash.Yvx5pTfX.dpuf
The Tudor ship that captured the world's imagination when she was raised from the seabed in 1982 is the only sixteenth century warship on display anywhere in the world and the brand new Museum built around her reunites her with many of her 19,000 artefacts and crew. - See more at: http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/maryrose/#sthash.Yvx5pTfX.dpuf