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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Jaro and his bike are now in Spain (late March/2017).....

Met a couple of hikers a short distance on the way back down from Pastrana - spotted them a short distance away, as I was stopped to take some scenery photos.  I asked “Espagnol?” …No.. “English?” …No..“Deutch?” …No.. “Fran├žais?” ….Oui!   So it was easy to ask them if they would mind taking a few photos of me, using my camera and, of course, they obliged.  The couple were from France  - they said that they have been coming to vacation on La Gomera for about 10 years, and that they were renting a place up in Pastrana – a great starting spot for hikers.

 Volcanic rock full of holes - remarkable geology here! 

 Buildings in the village of Pastrana.......

This is the French couple who took my portrait photos - "Merci beaucoup!"
Coming home in mid-April - will be looking for airplane tickets this week.  Hoping to fly out this time, instead of taking the ferry from San Sebastian.

 The west side of the valley (where route CV-22 goes).

We hope that you have enjoyed this Spanish blog.  Follow us – mid-November/17 for next winter’s voyage. 

Photos belong to Jaro Franta


Saturday, 18 March 2017

Jaro and his bike are now in Spain (mid March/2017).....

Discovered recently that the seat on my Cervelo was set a few millimeters too low.  Boy, what a difference a slight adjustment makes!   About half of it was due to the seat getting a bit old and worn (Fizik Wingflex), the rest was probably due to not being used to riding much at all on hills around Montreal.  Here it is nothing but hills, so the difference is noticeable....

In early March, it was hot here - switched from doing afternoon bike rides to morning rides - 32°C afternoon, low 20's in the morning, but after a week, finally back to normal - nice cool evenings and low 20's max temps.

Photos from my daily training ride route, east and north of Playa Santiago.  Normally I do not take the camera with me, but I figured this one time would take care of the souvenir photos.

The tunnel at lower right connects the Tecina valley with Playa Santiago on the other (west) side of the mountain - just a short tunnel, with the exit visible from the entrance so just enough light to see the road when inside.

Pastrana is a small mountain village at the very end of route CV-20......

End of the road in Pastrana - hikers park their cars here and continue north on foot.
A small restaurant in the village of Pastrana.....

Photos belong to Jaro Franta

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Boston and New England Cruise - 13 days from October 3rd to 15/2016.....

On Thursday, Holland America cruised the Gulf of St. Lawrence.   It was cold and windy outside – we tried to walk around the deck, but too cold. 

At lunch time, we were invited to a Mariner Society Brunch to celebrate the most cruise days with Holland America.  The Captain and Crew were there to greet us, but no handshaking.  A very nice brunch with a pleasant American couple, who were very interested in Oak Island.

On Friday, the Ship was in Quebec City.  After breakfast in the Dining Room, we went on the Holland America tour UNESCO Heritage Sites ($44.95).   Again, cold and windy - we did enjoy seeing the Fairmont Hotel, but when we toured the other historic sites, we were happy to stay on the bus with all the others.

We found out there was a Hop On/Off bus here, and pick-up was right besides the Ship.   Next time in Quebec City, we will take the Hop On/Off bus, because if it is cold, we could easily have picked an in-door activity.    
The tour lasted for 2 hours, and we came back to the Ship for lunch.

For dinner that night, this was the farewell dinner, and I had steak and lobster. 

The Ship sailed at 5 pm that night on the Saint Lawrence River.  On Saturday, at 7 in the morning, the Ship docked in Montreal - we had breakfast, and departed on the Holland America Shuttle to the airport.  I flew home, and arrived about 5 pm. 
The Cruise was the perfect ending to the Trip to Boston. 

Follow for my next blog – Holland America cruise from Auckland to Vancouver, published mid-November, 2017.  

Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Boston and New England Cruise - 13 days from October 3rd to 15/2016.....

On Wednesday, after breakfast in the Dining Room, we went on the Holland America tour ($119.95) Best of Prince Edward Island.   We left at 9:45 am, the tour lasted for 6 hours, the bus was just about full, and lunch was included.   We must have outrun Hurricane Matthew, because today was nice. 
First, we went to the PEI side of Confederation Bridge – the rate to drive over this bridge is $46.50/car there and back.

Then a quick visit to the Ann of Green Gables shopping center – we bought a few souvenirs and pressed some American pennies.

Then on to the Anne of Green Gables Museum – we had a boxed lunch here  - roast beef bun, cheese, and two homemade cookies.   If you buy a book here, a member of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s family will sign it for you.

Then on the bus to a National Park, some majestic cliffs, and also stopped at a lobster fishing spot. 

We went to the PEI Preserve Company, which sold homemade jam and souvenirs.  Although a nice spot, if you were not interested in buying, a long wait here.

We really liked this tour - it was very interesting to see Prince Edward Island.   

For dinner, I had chilled strawberry soup, roasted rosemary chicken with stuffing, orange sorbet and mousse cake.

At 6 o’clock, the Ship sailed on to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Boston and New England Cruise - 13 days from October 3rd to 15/2016.....

On Tuesday, over breakfast in the Dining Room, we were informed by the newsletter that Hurricane Matthew had caught up with us, and the Ship had to miss the port of Sydney and was continuing on to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. 

We had booked an excursion, Relive History at the Fortress of Louisbourg ($89.95) through Holland America, and this was now cancelled.

The Ship had a live Art auction, which we attended.   Although we did not buy anything, we found the Auction interesting, and we did have a complimentary glass of Champagne and each person registered received a small print.

A quiet, rainy day on the ship – fortunately, the Ship had a laundry room, so for a couple of dollars, clean clothes. 

 At dinner, the crew passed around a complimentary glass of Champagne for missing the Port of Sydney.   I had Caesar salad, Yankee pot roast, and for dessert, Cherries Jubilee.  After dinner, we went to the late show for live entertainment.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Monday, 6 March 2017

Boston and New England Cruise - 13 days from October 3rd to 15/2016.....

On Monday, after breakfast, which we had in the dining room, we went on Holland America “O Canada, Eh?” tour ($199.95) at 10 a.m.  The bus was just about full, the tour lasted 7 hours and included lunch.

We made a stop at the UNESCO Town of Lunenburg – we climbed a steep street, but on the way back, found the stairs – much easier.  The power went off in the Gift shop, so no souvenirs – a beautiful town.  
On the History Channel, there is the show called The Curse of Oak Island, about buried treasure, and we went on the bus to the hotel/restaurant, the Atlantica Hotel Oak Island, where we could just glimpse the entrance to the Island.  Unfortunately, the Island was closed at this time and, because of the trees, difficult to see anything at all.   A nice lunch was served -  haddock, potatoes and vegetables, with blueberry bread pudding.
Back on the bus, we went to a maple syrup store – there was a little lecture and then quite a few bought maple syrup.  They also make Maple Vodka – they lost power during our visit so Cash was King.  Maybe too long a stop here if you are not buying maple syrup. 
Then we went to Peggy’s Cove – the wind was picking up, and the power was out to the Gift Shop, so we made a quick stop here. 


A little tour through Halifax, and back to the ship.   We really enjoyed this tour – a little expensive, but we had a nice lunch right next to Oak Island.  
For dinner that night, today was Canadian Thanksgiving so lots had turkey, but I had carrot soup, liver and onions and asparagus.  Usually, after dinner, we would go to the late show for live entertainment in the theatre. 

The Ship sailed at 6 p.m. to Sydney, Nova Scotia. 

Photos belong to Phil Bianco  


Sunday, 5 March 2017

Boston and New England Cruise - 13 days from October 3rd to 15/2016.....

On Sunday, the Rotterdam docked at Bar Harbor, Maine - this was a tender stop.

We had an early breakfast on the Lido deck and then took Holland America’s shore excursion to the Acadia National Park ($49.95) for 2 ½ hours, leaving at 8 a.m.  
The Park was interesting due to the fall colours, but I was disappointed with the picture taking – I do not like to take pictures through a bus window because of the glare.  The Tour Guide would point out interesting spots, but the bus did not stop, and you would only see them coming and going. 

We did have a 20 minute stop at a Gift Store, and I was able to get some nice pictures there. 

Then back at Bar Harbor, we went to The Independent Coffee Shop – quite busy - to use the wi-fi and have lunch - I had sausage, egg and cheese on a bagel and coffee - very good ($8).  Then a walk around Bar Harbor looking at the stores and tourist attractions, and took the tender back.

The day was rainy, so we were looking forward to getting back to the Ship and going for dinner.  I had escargot for the appetizer, baked white fish and chocolate cake.  Another couple at the table lived right around Boston, and were very interested in our time there. 


The pool had to be covered over - the Ship sailed at 3 p.m. to Halifax, Nova Scotia. 


Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Boston and New England Cruise - 13 days from October 3rd to 15/2016.....

On Saturday, after breakfast, we took the Hotel courtesy car (Tip $5 - Baggage handler at dock $5) to the cruise ship terminal to go for a Holland America New England Cruise, ending up in Montreal, Canada. 

We really enjoyed this hotel - XV Beacon has a very convenient location, right downtown and right next to the Freedom Trail.  You will enjoy using the older elevators, and you will certainly like your room, especially the walk-in showers.  The staff were attentive, the concierges were helpful, and we enjoyed the doormen, who always made you feel welcome.  The drivers of the Hotel courtesy car were informative and up-to-date.   After an activity, they always ask if they can come pick you up, but pass on this – either walk or take a cab – don’t spend your time waiting. 

We checked into The Rotterdam about 1 pm, and stayed on the lowest deck (because of sea sickness) in adjoining Ocean view cabins.  We had only paid for interior cabins, but Holland America upgraded our cabins to Ocean view.  
We were invited to welcoming appetizers and champagne/beer in the Crowsnest in the late afternoon.  I am a 3-Star Mariner with Holland America, so a few extra perks.
This was a quiet day on the ship – the Rotterdam sailed at 4 pm up to Bar Harbor, Maine.  We were looking forward to the sailing because when we went to Newport, we saw the area south of Boston, and now are looking north. 

We booked the fixed seating dinner at 8 pm, meet four other vacationers, and I had onion soup, short ribs, and apple strudel.   A day of rest on the Cruise. 

Photos belong to Phil Bianco  

Friday, 3 March 2017

Boston and New England Cruise - 13 days from October 3rd to 15/2016.....

On Friday, after breakfast, we took the Hotel courtesy car (Tip $5) to the Trinity Church, which is part of the Freedom Trail.  The Church was not open yet, so we toured the Boston Public Library right across the street.  The library was so impressive and grand that we spent a lot of time there, including using their interior courtyard.

Then back to Trinity Church - Admission $5 – You are given a photographic brochure – Trinity Church in the City of Boston – which you can enjoy at home, and I am pretty sure that is what the $5 was for.   Because we spent so much time at the library, we only stayed here about half an hour. 

Then we took the Hop On/Off trolley ($35) right outside at Stop #8 and went to Stop #14 for lunch at the Toscano restaurant.  We got to sit besides an open window at the front of the restaurant (seen below) and had a very nice lunch.  I had a small green salad, and pasta with ground veal and beef and iced tea ($30).

Then a little shopping right there on Charles Street, and took the trolley to Stop #3 to tour the USS Constitution, a naval ship in dry dock at the Charleston Navy Yard.  You have to go through Security, but very efficient.  I went to the lower deck to take pictures, but you are going up and down steep stairs with a rope railing.  The Constitution is nicknamed “Old Ironsides” because, during battle, cannon balls would bounce off the ship without too much damage.  The tour of the USS Constitution was busy, but not jam packed. 

Then back on the trolley to Stop #5 and walked back to the hotel – on our way back, we were walking on the Freedom Trail and stopped at King’s Chapel and Burying Ground.  This was the first Anglican Church, and the cemetery is the oldest in Boston.   

Then at 6:30, we took the courtesy car (Tip $5) to the Prudential Centre to go to Top of the Hub restaurant.  Our reservation was for 8 pm - we just looked around the shopping centre until then.
At Top of the Hub, we were seated right besides the window.   I had the $60 three course meal - lobster bisque, scallops, and coconut cheesecake.  If you want a 360 degrees view, then after dinner, you go to another floor to their viewing deck.   Top of the Hub was quite busy – there is nothing like a top view from Boston on our last night here.

We took a cab ($10) back to the hotel.

Photos belong to Phil Bianco