And, transiting back to NYC on 29 and 30 September – Posted 1 October 2012
Welcome back on board Queen Mary 2 with me. Sorry this is long, but it covers 5 days with no pictures. First of all, my apologies for no images with these last posts. At least I can convey my words, but for some reason the drop-down menus I need are not working on the WordPress site. I really believe it is something with the satellite connection instead of a software problem even though I was able to post images early on this trip. I was able to find googling that others have had similar problems, and it may be a browser related problem with “forwarded masked domains” but not quickly finding any straightforward “fixes” this will become a research project at home if not solved when ridding myself of the satellite connection. I have also realized that, at least for me, Queen Mary 2 is more pleasurable making a “crossing” rather than “daily” port visits lasting but a few hours with the masses. My image inserting problem has frustrated and limited my postings, so this will be my last post with a review (for my memory sake) of the last four plus days.
Thursday, 27 September (an at sea day) I did attend two lectures, one by the founder of the Disney Channel titled “It all Started with a Mouse” about Walt Disney, and great, and the second by a retired Army Colonel who was a White House social aide for years – alright, simply full of anecdotes. The rest of the day I spent preparing for what I wanted to see in Quebec City by reading AN HISTORICAL GUIDE TO QUEBEC that I brought with me published by Societe Historique de Quebec — history from the Canadian point of view. I am finally starting to get it (and retain in my mind) – this 18th century history of the New World that is – and understand the struggle for North America between the French and English and reasons for the Seven Years War, with the British gaining the upper hand after the battles in 1759. And then reading about the American Revolution and War of 1812 (again from the Canadian perspective) and aftermath, it all ties in with my explorations in Canada in August, and I cannot now wait to revisit Lake Champlain forts and battle sites. In the evening the majority of our table went to the Lotus special diner venue (for an extra surcharge of $10 – except for the Diamond and Platinum level World Club Members – I am a lowly Silver). Each course of the Asian diner was explained in detail and presented with a great deal of flair.
I was out on deck Friday morning before 8 AM to watch our approach to Quebec City and was extremely disappointed when we continued sailing upriver past the piers at the foot of the old town. There already were four cruise ships tied up within walking distance. I soon learned why so many ships are in each port. It is a combination of leaf peeping and escaping hurricane season. But you know I am flexible. My plan was to run off the ship at the docks in town and head up past the Hotel Frontenac to the Plains of Abraham and the Citadel, and now I am passing them, “but wait, is that a staircase up the cliff?” I said to myself, “Forget the shuttle bus back to town, I am already past where I want to be, just 300 feet below where I want to be.”
Out on the pier I quickly walked past the queue to board the buses and exiting the docks headed back towards town to find the stairs I saw through the trees. I found them (pictures someday to follow), and due to the height of the risers, a 300 foot ascent equals about 500 steps. Once on the Plains of Abraham (named for the farmer Abraham Martin who owned part of the area in 1759 when Wolfe defeated Montcalm winning Quebec from France for England) I explored the area and found the Discovery Pavilion about the history of the plains and the battles. I did not know of this museum. A school group was in the museum so I had to return at noon which I did after touring part of the city walls in the area. After an educational1 ½ hours I then headed over to the Citadel built in the 1830s for protection from possible invasion from the infant and aggressive United States, and since about 1917 the home of the 22nd Regiment of the Royal Infantry.
You can only tour the Citadel and its museums on a guided tour, and I entered with only having to wait five minutes for the next English tour (obviously this was another day to not waste on eating). Next on my list was to descend the Governor’s Staircase built in 1960 from the Plains to the Dufferin Terrace boardwalk, which has been open since 1838, in front of the Hotel Frontenac. I recommend the staircase as another “must do” to enjoy this perspective of the town and Saint Lawrence River. On my 2008 visit to QC and during my Christmas 2010 holiday much of the boardwalk was torn up as Parks Canada was conducting an archaeological survey of the earlier forts built on this highpoint of land. The work was completed and I was intrigued to see three observation glass enclosures cut into the new boardwalk showing what had been discovered below (I thought they were going to cover over the area once documenting what was there). There was a guide near a staircase leading below the boardwalk, but sadly she was talking to some people and I did not stop to ask her how to enter.
I next mailed two postcards to the UK for one of my tablemates and made my usual visit to the Visitor Information center to collect more information. It was getting near the end of the day but I headed into the Musee du Fort but could not recall if I had seen the exhibit on the 1759 battles or not (the gift shop yes). The next show in English was at 5 PM, so to help solidify my understanding of this time period I paid my admission and took a seat. Afterwards I headed down the “Breakneck Stairs” to the lower town and toured the streets and shops prior to boarding the shuttle bus arriving back on the ship at 6:30 – nine hours on my feet. Was I ever disappointed to see on the gangway a sign indicating “Sailing at Noon tomorrow – be back on board by 11AM.” In making my plans weeks ago for shore adventures I had called Cunard and was told sailing was at 2PM from Quebec City, thus almost a full touring day – I was upset at the shortchanging of time. Well, back to the Commodore Club to reread my history of Quebec City to hopefully ingrain in my mind what history I had learned and just seen.
Turning in Friday night I thought I would just stay on board Saturday and read, a couple hour visit did not make sense, but, you are right in your supposition because upon getting up I slapped myself around and said, “Ray! Hit the beach!” It was cold and damp with an occasional fine drizzle, the only such poor weather experienced on this trip, but I enjoyed walking around the lower town (again checking out the spot where Benedict Arnold’s invasion was stopped on New Year’s Eve 1775), and then headed up to the Hotel Frontenac for another obligatory tour of the lobby. Remembering the archaeological tour under the boardwalk (Saint-Louis Forts and Chateaux National Historic Site) I waited at the entrance for the 10AM opening, but no one showed up until quarter after, at which time I was directed to a kiosk next to the Funicular where Parks Canada had a new office for tour tickets. But they were even later in getting ready not starting to sell tickets until 10:20 and I could no longer risk the time and “miss the boat.” Parks Canada has revamped what is available to see and do in Quebec City from my last brochure collecting, so I now have the basis for another trip there.
Planting myself comfortably in the library one deck below my favorite Commodore Club I watched as we cast off and began sailing down the Saint Lawrence. At 2PM I took in RADA’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and then joined Kevin at the special wine tasting event. The show that evening was a group called THE HORIZONS with Motown music – always fun.
Sunday became an enjoyable day of reading. On the last voyage I had seen MURDER ON THE QE2 by Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote) in the bookstore, but did not buy it, but this time I did. I reclaimed my territory in the Commodore Club this overcast day. Earlier at about 6 AM Sunday morning an announcement came over the PA system – Code Alpha – in the crew area. A crew member suffered a heart attack, and needed to be evacuated. We slowed and came within two miles of shore for a Canadian Coast Guard launch to rendezvous and pick up the crew member. At 1:15 my tablemates all meet at Todd English for a special luncheon there. This renowned restaurant is on board as is Canyon Ranch Spa. Both have extra fees, of course, and my luncheon was outstanding (my Diamond and Platinum tablemates get a lunch there as a perk). Back then to read, and finish my book, until our last formal dinner night after which as a group we headed to the Royal Court Theatre for the evening show.
As I am finishing this up it is Monday, the last day aboard as we continue back to NYC. Originally the crew member’s evacuation was not going to delay our 6:30 AM arrival in Brooklyn tomorrow but we have not been able to make up the time as planned since the weather was bad last evening and we currently still have a 30 knot headwind. With the noon report from the bridge the Captain just advised that we should be entering the New York harbor at 7 AM, passing the Statue of Liberty at 7:20 and be pierside at 9:30.
So what did I learn on this trip? For me, touring with short stops with large groups is not what I want to do. My impression is that with this schedule the on-board activities are not as exciting as they are on a crossing (others told me that it is harder to get talent for the short legs). But the main thing is that I really prefer to explore on my own, away from the “maddening crowd”. I am glad that I was exposed to Bar Harbor and Halifax, albeit briefly, and know what I want to do upon return to those locations and again to Quebec City. I have enjoyed the small Road Scholar groups when I have attended historical programs (or the digital photography course) and will try those again. And, I will make additional crossings on the Queen Mary 2 because it is a relaxing gentile way of life. But if group travel is needed to experience a new and exotic location I will opt for the small group venues such as Overseas Adventure Travel (and their parent Gold Circle, or is it Grand Circle?) which hold things to a manageable 12 to 14 souls. The adventures will continue. Bye, and thanks, as always, yours, RAY
PS – my copy/paste did not even keep my paragraphs separate, and I cannot do a preview (that does not work) so hopefully I found all my paragraph breaks and inserted.