You know I can be spontaneous, enjoyed my travels in 2011, and totally enjoyed writing about my experiences here both for myself and to share with you, but it has been awhile since I have been able to travel, and share. I got itchy, so I left New York City on the QUEEN MARY 2 on Tuesday. Do I have your attention now?
While working on A CHRISTMAS CAROL I began worrying about what I would do in 2012. I started reviewing my list of hoped for adventures that I did not have time for in 2011, and poured through the Road Scholar booklets and brochures that keep arriving. One adventure jumped out at me – THE STORY OF THE TITANIC – 100 YEARS LATER. This program begins with a transatlantic crossing to Southampton on the QM2, and then travel to Belfast where the Titanic was built to visit various sites and museums there. I called to ask more about it, and “sticker shock” – the “single supplement” for travelling alone was a killer. I need to travel across the Atlantic as the immigrants did for the experience (something analogous to traveling across Canada by train) and several more trips to Ireland need to be done following my first visit in May of last year, so I did not discount the idea. A few days later I carefully reviewed the itinerary and realized that there just what not enough time devoted to the Titanic sites in Belfast, and there was so much else to do in Northern Ireland. Sometimes you have to travel in a group as I did to Greece and Turkey in 2010 because, at least for the first time, things are “foreign.” But, the downside for me with group travel is the compromise that the time spent in a particular museum or place of interest may not be enough for me, and there is a great deal of time lost assembling groups and waiting for people making their continuous rest room stops.
So what to do? I got wonderful brochures from Cunard, and the cost for a single is almost the cost for two, but not as bad as the whole Road Scholar program when I started researching how I would handle the Belfast experience. I then found a small commuter airline that can get me from Southampton to Dublin for around 50 pounds, car rental in Dublin is not bad (been there, done that) and gives you all the flexibility. And, I never spent more than 80 Euros for a B&B last year in Ireland. Then I started looking at things to experience outside Belfast: the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Bushmills Distillery, and there is the remote part of Ireland – County Donegal. At first I thought I would hop over to Scotland too, but there is a week plus in just County Donegal and Northern Ireland. Oh, and to get home – Aer Lingus about $450. So the plan was hatched, I will do it, and I will arrive in Southampton on January 10th. Confused? In my research I found Cunard on Facebook, and I joined the Interactive Transatlantic Crossing from 2-10 January.
So, I had some fun with you, but am enjoying the crossing, and now enjoying sharing with you. But another adventure is on the horizon. One morning this past summer I got an email from Scott in Pennsylvania (Cathy and Scott worked together at Lotus) directing me to a Road Scholar program – WINTER VENTURE IN YELLOWSTONE COUNTRY. I had introduced them to Road Scholar programs, and they were hooked. I have been on several of them now, and feel that the educational programs they develop are exceptional and something you cannot find elsewhere. It is the typical tourist trip, like the Queen Mary 2 excursion, that I feel at this point in life I can do myself without a group – but reading their booklets certainly helps in finding travel ideas. So, Scott’s question was, “what do you think?” The program looks at the nature of the park, and includes cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, snowmobiling, and a day in a snow-cat touring the park. It stated “small group.” I emailed back, “we had better book now!” So within 10 minutes Scott and Betty booked, I booked, and we also got Rich (Scott’s friend since kindergarten) to go with us. The last couple of days with the help of Scott and Betty and Rich I researched and upgraded my outdoor equipment and when we talked by “ship to shore phone” last night (remember I am somewhere on the Atlantic) it sounds like I am all set, but as Betty has said to me, “we don’t have to be foolish, we can enjoy a fire instead of minus 30 degrees on skis.”
In preparation for these year’s travels I also want to add more “experiences” to SHUNPIKING WITH RAY. I tried video in Rome last year, but the upload time was prohibitive, and I never tried again. I learned that the MOV format my cameras and IPod record in is a large file, but the MP4 format is not – something like my resizing of JPGs to speed the upload time. I have put off solving the problem, but yesterday downloaded a “free” program to convert MOV to MP4, and tried it with my second Rome video below:
I am thrilled. The MP4 format uploaded in less than a minute. Last year the first video in MOV format took about 20 minutes — hopefully you are headed for lots of treats this year.
Another way to give you a better view of what I am seeing is with panoramas. Earlier this year Mari introduced me to Photosynth, and here is my first experiment done several weeks ago On the Common. Sadly we still do not yet have snow on the ground. I have not found a way to host this program on my site, so will remind you to click on the image to get the full effect – just remember to come back.
So, that is “what is up here.” I better run, time to get ready for the formal ball in the Queens Room.
POST SCRIPT – 9 JANUARY 2012
Well, I am either a bad writer, or really good (I think good!). I wrote about my plan for a trip on the Queen Mary 2 and visit to Northern Ireland with veiled references to currently being “on board” the fine ship. I thought it was obvious I was not on board when I said, “I will do it” and again when I wrote “found Cunard on Facebook, and I joined the Interactive Transatlantic Crossing.” I know, it did not help when I ended saying I had to go dress for the formal ball, but that was one of the events last night on board as I was following the QM2 on Facebook. About 12 people have emailed or commented and are convinced I am gone, and I bet there are others who did not say so – but I am not arriving in the morning at Southampton. So, sorry, the next trip is Yellowstone. Queen Mary 2 will come in May/June. Maybe I am not so sorry, just pleased to have brought some fun with my writing. Hope you continue to travel with me for real. Thanks, RAY
PS to the PS – or maybe you only read the title?
From Facebook today:
Today is the last full day of our interactive crossing. Since leaving New York we have travelled 2,912 nautical miles and now have just 329 nautical miles left to go before we reach Southampton. We are travelling at a speed of 19.2 knots and the sea is very slight (1.5-3 ft), so very calm travelling conditions. Shortly we will be posting tonights entertainment for you to select. Before then are there any other public areas you would like to see today, that we haven’t already? For information about Queen Mary 2 please take a look at the website at http://www.cunard.co.uk/Ships/Queen-Mary-2/About-Queen-Mary-2/
Well, back to (for real) reading Williams-Sonoma cookbooks from a collection I bought last year. I love them !!!