Archive | April, 2011

April 27 – The Journey Comes to an End

27 Apr

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April 26 – New York City, NY

26 Apr

It is good to be back on the North American Continent . . .

. . . and not only will we be back on the North American continent, we will also be back in the good old USA!!

Here’s a little about North America that JJ and I found out:

North America . . .

  • is Earth’s third largest continent.
  • has 23 countries as well as multiple territories and possessions included in this continent
  • includes all of the Caribbean island countries, all the countries of Central America, the United States and Canada.
  • also includes the largest island in the world – Greenland.
  • is bordered in the north by the Arctic Ocean, in the south by the Caribbean Sea, in the west by the Pacific Ocean and in the east by the Atlantic Ocean.
  • covers an area of approximately 9,540,000 square miles or almost 5% of the Earth’s surface or almost 16.5% of the Earth’s land area.
  • had a population of approximately 529 million people in 2008.

The Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle both run through North America.

You better get busy reading up on North America – I’ve only given you some of the highlights . . .

, before you go and learn more about North America, let me ask you one question . . .

Did you have a good time?

I had an AWESOME time!  It was so much fun to tell you everyday about all of my many adventures!!  We visited a lot of countries, made new friends, met a bunch of people and saw some pretty amazing sights!




April 25 – I’ve been everywhere man . . .

25 Apr

I’ve been everywhere!  Well, maybe not exactly everywhere, but I’ve been a bunch of places . . .

I’ve traveled from Marietta to Montevideo

I’ve traveled from Dowagiac to Dubai

I’ve traveled from Hilton Head to Hiroshima

I’ve crossed the Equator (twice!), the Tropic of Cancer (twice!), and the Tropic of Capricorn (twice!)

I’ve seen the Milky Way (no, not the candy bar!), the FABULOUS one in the sky

I’ve been in the desert in the Sinai Peninsula

I’ve been in three oceans  —  the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean

I’ve been in a bunch of seas, straits, and bays

I’ve been through the Suez Canal

I’ve been almost to the top of the World’s Tallest building in Dubai

I’ve been to the beach in several countries in the world and put my toes into 3 different oceans

I’ve been able to see two continents at one time just by looking from one side of our ship to the other side of our ship

I’ve been on 6 continents  —   North America, South America, Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe

I’ve been on fast trains, fast elevators and fast ships

I’ve eaten a bunch of great food

I’ve been to a flat mountaintop in Cape Town, South Africa

I’ve seen the spot where two oceans merge – the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean

I’ve ridden in a cable car and on a funicular

I’ve eaten a true Italian pizza in the piazza

I’ve had a picnic in the park and at the beach

I’ve been around the Cape of Good Hope on the tip of Africa

I’ve met a lot of people and made some more friends

I’ve heard a lot of different languages – and even understood some of them!

I’ve seen a lot of different cultures

I’ve seen lots of familiar brand names in almost every country I’ve visited, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Burger King, KFC

I’ve had a SUPER time on this World Cruise voyage . . .

Thank y’all for traveling with me!!!

 

JoAnn and Jim Ryan (JJ) and Woody

JJ and I wish you safe travels where ever you may go in the world!   Tomorrow we will be back in New York City – the United States of America!  And it won’t be long and I’ll be back at school . . . so, see you soon!!

April 24 – Happy Easter

24 Apr

Happy Easter!  The QM2 was all “decked out” today with lots of Easter decorations!  We didn’t see the Easter Bunny, but we did see lots and lots and lots and lots of chocolate . . . 

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April 24 – France and the Holy See (Vatican City)

24 Apr

Hi there!  DId you realize that JJ and I traveled to two countries that were not on our itinerary?  We did.  We went to the Holy See – also known as the Vatican City in Rome and also we went to France.  So, we wanted to tell you a little about each of these countries. 


France

Location:   Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain.

Flag:

Population:  67,768,389

Capital:  Paris

Language:  French

Currency:  EUR, Euro

Industries:  Machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics; textiles, food processing; tourism

Area Comparative:  Slightly less than the size of Texas

Geographic Notes:  Largest west European nation

 

Holy See – (Vatican City)

Location:   Southern Europe, an enclave of Rome, Italy

Flag: 

Population:  829

Capital:  Vatican City

Language:  Italian, Latin, French, various other languages

Currency:  EUR, Euro

Industries:  printing; production of coins, metals, postage stamps; mosaics and staff uniforms; worldwide banking and financial activities

Area Comparative:  About 0.7 times the size of The National Mall in Washington, DC

Geographic Notes:  landlocked, enclave in Rome, Italy; world’s smallest state

April 23 – Bath & Beyond, England

23 Apr

We’re talking about Bath, England and the beautiful countryside Beyond!!

JJ and I decided to take a little trip to Bath, England in lieu of staying in downtown Southampton.  The QM2 was docked at the Ocean Terminal where we would be exchanging about 1,700 passengers.  We understand that about 700 passengers are considered “in-transit” – all 700 of us who had embarked somewhere else and did not disembark in Southampton.  The QM2 was also receiving the full World Cruise passengers from the Queen Elizabeth who will also complete their journey in New York City.

The weather was absolutely spendid – warm temperatures and clear blue skies.  This was quite a surprise, as the weather in England is known to be rainy, gray and cool!!

The trip to Bath is about a 2-hour drive from Southampton.  Bath is located in the vicinity of 150 miles west of London in southwestern England.  We drove through love green, lush countryside and rolling hills – dotted with sheep, cattle – with acres and acres of bright yellow rapeseed fields.  Rapeseed is also known as canola – used to make oils, margarines and cosmetics!  The gently rolling hills, with only an occasional farmhouse, cathedral, small stream or tiny town interrupted the vast calm and quiet view.

Salisbury was one of the larger villages through which we traveled.   We had a comfort stop there and were given a chance to take a few photographs.  We learned about the leaning spire of the cathedral – leaning because it was built taller than it should have been.  We saw Spring flowers in full bloom and a single white swan enjoying his ride along the river.  Just outside of Salisbury, we saw a very narrow longboat on a river.  These boats are narrow so that they can go through the small locks on the rivers. 

The closer we got to the town of Bath we learned some about its history.  We certainly will not bore you to death with the details, but it was not the Romans who developed Bath.  Yes, the Roman baths and their medical waters were found during the Roman era; however fast forward to the 1770’s and 1780’s and it is during that era that the town really began to see its greatest growth.  Bath was named a World Heritage Site in 1987 – in recognition of the entire town’s historical significance.

Three names are quite prominent when discussing Bath’s growth during the Stuart and Georgian periods.  John Wood the elder; John Wood the younger and Beau Nash played separate and pivotal roles.  Both of the Mr. Woods were architects and considered developers.  Beau Nash was the Master of Ceremonies.  The town needed people – either full time or part time residents – and Mr. Nash was a showman and could entice the wealthy Londoners to spend both time and money in the town of Bath.  Both of the Mr. Woods could design and to build lodging for these wealthy visitors.  Mr. Wood the elder and Mr. Wood the younger designed homes and public buildings that were large, elegant and exuded wealth.

The baths and mild temperatures were draws for people to come to Bath; however it was the entertainment that kept them coming back  —  wine, women and song  —  and throw in a little medicinal water from the geothermal springs for good measure.  Mr. Nash had found almost the perfect formula for success. 

Today, Bath is a city of almost 85,000 full time residents.  Many of the city’s residents are wealthy retirees.  Over one million people are considered staying tourists (spend at least one night) and about 3.8 million people are day tourists (they only come for a few hours or for the day).  Bath is home to 2 universities, several schools and colleges as well as 5 theater companies, numerous art galleries, several well-known hotels and lots and lots and lots of residential buildings.  In fact, the city was much more heavily developed that we had anticipated.   The seven hills that surround the city are laden with buildings that provide lovely views of downtown Bath.  The actual city of Bath sits in a valley, surrounded by these seven hills – think of a bowl with bath in the bottom of the bowl!

Most of the buildings in Bath are of the Georgian design – lots of columns, straight lines, with classic building facades.  Most of the buildings are made from Bath stone.  Since Bath stone is soft and hard to clean, it is not used in many areas of England outside of Bath. 

One of the most striking buildings in Bath is called the Royal Crescent.  This crescent shaped (think of what a new moon looks like) building is almost impossible to photograph properly.  You can get pieces of it, but because it is so large and you are so close – well, you get the “picture”!  But, JJ did find a couple of aerial photographs that may help you to see the Royal Crescent.  We understand that this building is the most photographed building aside from Royal buildings.  The Royal Crescent was originally about 30 townhouses however, now days, due to their gigantic sizes, the townhouses have mostly been sub-divided into smaller apartments.  Many of these townhouses originally didn’t have a kitchen as the wealthy would just order “take away” and have it delivered!!  Not much has changed, has it?  Sometimes our Moms and Dads order “to go” food!!

Not far from the Royal Crescent is The Circus.  This is a development of townhouses that is developed in a huge circle.  The interior of the circle is a park.  The architectural design is quite similar to the Royal Crescent.

While most buildings in Bath, including both the Royal Crescent and The Circus, have very elegant Georgian façade, the rears of all of these buildings are quite a mishmash of designs.

As residential building increased in Bath, the taxman began to play a role in the architectural design of buildings.  Initially property taxes were based on the number of fireplaces a home had.  Of course, the owner needed to allow the taxman inside the home to count.  When owners got smarter and wouldn’t allow the taxman inside, the taxation rules changed.  The new rule of taxation was based on the number of windows in a building.  The owner wised up to this tactic  —  some owners bricked up some of their windows – thus reducing their property taxes.  Don’t we wish it that easy today?

Two other very famous one-time residents of Bath need to be mentioned  —  the author Jane Austen and the Sally Lund, creator of the Sally Lund Bun.   When you get older, make sure that you read books written by Jane Austen – her books are awesome!!!

During our visit to Bath, we had free time to just wander.  Since it was about lunchtime, we decided to get a sandwich, chips and Coca-Cola and head to the Parade Gardens Park.  We found a gourmet sandwich shop called Scoffs – ordered up our lunch – and off to the park across the street.  The park was typically English  —  lovely green grass, beautiful flowers, a gazebo and clean as a whistle!  After lunch we walked along the River Avon and saw one of only a few bridges in the world that both span a river and have retail stores.  Another famous bridge like this would be the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River in Florence.  There were kids playing the park and one girl had her hula hoop. 

Many shops had bits and pieces showcasing the upcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate.  Lots of “official” souvenirs were available – plates, tea towels, mugs, cups and saucers – fairly common items.  We didn’t see any “funky” trinkets – we’re sure that they exist, we just didn’t see any!!

The Bath Abbey is a centerpiece of downtown Bath.  A beautiful Gothic designed structure complete with flying buttresses.  Many of the “rich and famous” residents from the Georgian era are buried in this Abbey.  The pedestrian-only square between the Abbey and the baths is a gathering spot for tourists and to entertain the tourists, there were street entertainers.  We saw an opera singer and a juggler on a very tall unicycle.  Juggling lighted torches – yes, with fire –  is difficult on land, so there was lots of drama with juggling lighted torches on this tall unicycle!  This juggler had to be very careful!!

We actually looked forward to our two-hour drive back to Southampton.  We knew that we would have the opportunity to see the delightful English countryside.  Our tour guide decided to give us a treat – he took a different way back – through the New Forest.  Since just about everything in England has some age and history associated with it, we didn’t really think that the forest would really be “new”!  And turns out it is not “new” but newer than a lot of things in England.  The forest consists of several hundred thousand acres of lovely land that has not been extensively developed – or more precisely, lovingly preserved – and still presents visitors with views of ponies, horses, deer, grouse, pheasants, wild pigs and cattle and vistas of rolling hillsides.  The forest also contains small villages, like Downton.  Thatched roof homes were prevalent  —  almost like a trip back in time and oh so British!!

Back in Southampton, the QM2 was awaiting us.  We had missed almost all of the excitement of boarding the 1, 700 new passengers – but arrived just in time for the lifeboat drill!!!  We were so smug that we didn’t have to participate in the drill!!

We had a wonderful time in jolly old England  — and as the British would say “brilliant  —  all the best  —  Cheers”!!  We had only dipped into Bath – and we will put this lovely city our list for a visit in the future!

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And then we waved goodbye to Southampton and said hello to the Northern Atlantic Ocean  —  six days at sea before we reach New York City.  We’re sad that we’re almost finished with this wonderful journey, but at the same time JJ’s dogs are awaiting us  —  they are Miniature Schnauzers (remember, they’re the dogs with beards) named Max and Andy – and of course all of my friends at school are looking forward to seeing me, I’m sure!!!  I’ve missed all my friends . . . 

April 22 – Strait of Gibraltar

22 Apr

The Strait of Gibraltar . . . Gibraltar . . . a British overseas territory; home of the “rock” made famous by that insurance company who used the image of the Rock of Gibraltar in its logo; the spot where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet; the Strait is the body of water that separates Africa from Europe.

This is a heavily traveled route – you’ve got to go through the Strait to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Med or from the Med to the Atlantic Ocean.  Although many ships stop in Gibraltar, we were just passing by.  The ship had asked for and received permission to come “close” to the Rock.  So, just as the sun was starting to set, we came within 2 miles of shore.  Photography wasn’t great as we were on the east side of the Rock with the setting sun in our faces.  The Commodore did slow the ship for the passage so that we could get a good look.  He also gave his usual informative and chatty commentary! 

Most of the citizens live on the west side of the Rock.  Natural resources are scarce.  Fresh water is obtained through a desalination plant.  Gibraltar’s northern border is with Spain.  The Rock is the real attraction in the Strait.  But since the Strait is only 7 miles wide, Morocco can easily be seen!

There you have it . . . it took all of about 30 minutes to see the Rock and to pass through the very famous Strait of Gibraltar. 

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