Monday, 27 March 2017

Further Tales of Four Islands.

The last two islands of our Caribbean cruise (before heading north west on our Atlantic crossing) were St Kitts and St Maarten.

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As we disembarked from the ship on the beautiful island of St Kitts the pelicans welcomed us by a marvellous display by diving into the sea for fish. One of them, obviously full of fish, retired to a perch to dry his wings.

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The island is remarkably similar in shape to a chicken drumstick and the chunky main portion is dominated in the middle by two mountain ranges and, as it’s only 68 square miles in area, there’s not a lot of room around the edges. There are many timber framed shacks – most in quite good condition, which add great atmosphere to the island.

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We hired a car to journey around what is basically just a coast road around the entire island. We stopped for some sustenance in Cayon at a quaint little bar with an open air ‘restaurant’ on the side.

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The roads are very good in general and give coastal views most of the time. The grass verges everywhere are beautifully kept for a reason that we discovered later.

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The island is dominated at it’s northwest end by Mt. Liamuiga – a dormant volcano 3790 feet high.

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Little communities sit side by side with the volcano which hasn’t erupted for a very long time.

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Also running around the island is the narrow gauge railway. Now a popular tourist attraction, it was originally built to haul sugar cane from the numerous plantations to Basseterre, the capital.

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Gorgeous sea views ………

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……… with the coastal land, and the odd building, being generally windswept by Atlantic gales.

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Being a volcanic island much of the coast is dark and rocky ……….

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……… or black sand.

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Further along on our journey around the island we found why the grass verges are kept so good – herds of goats!

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Overlooking the west coast, 800 feet above sea level on a volcanic outcrop, is the massive fortress of Brimstone Hill. Started by the French in 1690 it was completed a century later by the British.

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Here and there we passed some very pretty traditional island buildings – this one in need of some TLC.

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After we’d travelled around the “meaty” bit of the island we ventured down onto the southeast peninsular where the beaches are of a more gentle colour.

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Doug had a dip in warm waters with the tiny island of Nevis in the distance.

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Driving back from the peninsular two monkeys crossed the road in front of us. We managed to take a pic of one of them as it tried to hide from us in some bushes.

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We stopped near Bird Rock to look back along the very dramatic peninsular where it’s easy to see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

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The Anglican church of St.George in Basseterre is a very British looking structure – well kept, like everything on the island.

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We shared the port quay with “Adventure of the Seas” – it was a bit like seeing beauty and the beast! So glad we were on the ‘pretty’ ship!

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Well, we had a long and very pleasant day on the lovely island of St.Kitts and the sun set over the capital of Basseterre before we left at 9:30 in the evening to set sail for our final port of call – St.Maarten.

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We’ve been to St.Maarten (the island split into two halves – the Dutch and the French) quite a few times before . As we didn’t have a huge amount of time we opted to go to “airplane beach” for a bit of fun. This is where the airport is so close to the beach that the thrust from the plane’s engines, as they take off, is enough to blow people into the sea! ………

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….. and, when they come in to land they sometimes skim very close to the heads of the people on the beach. The bigger the planes the sooner they need to get down and the lower they come in! Great fun to watch!

St. Maarten was the last of the four islands on our Caribbean sojourn and after we set sail from the island we were to head northeast across the Atlantic and towards home. We look forward to our days at sea and we have five to enjoy before reaching the Azores.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A Tale of Four Caribbean Islands

After our successful visit to Manchester we had a few days at home (enough to pack a couple of cases!) and then it was to Birmingham airport we went for a flight to the Caribbean.

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At the port of Bridgetown, Barbados we boarded the MV “Azura” for a two week cruise visiting four islands and then a return to England. We voyaged out to the Caribbean on “Azura” in November and now we were to join her again for her return trip after the Caribbean season.

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The port was rather full for the two days we were to spend in Bridgetown. In addition to “Azura” there was also, from left to right, the “Royal Clipper”, the “Seaborne Odyssey” (very up market!), a charming older vessel “Freewinds” and a sleek new 4 masted motor yacht.

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Our little ‘corner’ was a bit tight, with “Royal Clipper”’s  bow quite close to “Azura’s.

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On our full day in Barbados we went to the “Boatyard” in Bridgetown where, for a $20 entrance we had full use of the facilities, complimentary drink and an opportunity to swim with wild turtles! We also met up with a couple of the ship’s crew – Alison and Glenn, in who’s company we spent a lovely couple of hours.

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The Caribbean beaches are pretty much ‘second to none’. The fine, gleaming white sand and the azure blue, perfectly clear waters are wonderful ………

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…… even if the water isn’t quite as warm as in India. Lol!

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We took up the chance of the trip out to swim with the turtles. It was a very short journey to where they were ……..

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…….. and, due to having no waterproof camera, we have no pictures of these wonderful creatures. This is, however, a pic of Doug swimming with them!

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This is Doug’s “Jaques Cousteau” impression – and you can see by his face what a fabulous experience it was to see so many beautiful turtles in 30 feet of crystal clear water.

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Leaving Barbados late on Saturday evening we arrived the next morning in St Lucia. The island was discovered by Columbus on St Lucy’s Day (Dec 13th) 1502 and is the only country (island) to be named after a female. Castries is the island’s capital which, apart from a few older and somewhat dilapidated buildings providing some interest, it’s pretty underwhelming.

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Being a Sunday the town was “closed” and very quiet but some residents were more than happy to have their picture taken!

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Castries was definitely closed!

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The small central park gives a bit of relief from the general concrete feel of the place.

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Not feeling very energetic anyway we decided to join a few passengers and crew in the karaoke bar in the port. Not generally our ‘scene’ but the talent was surprisingly good!

The next day we were due to arrive at the lovely island of St Kitts and new territory for us.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Visiting “Up North”.

After returning from India we had a week and a bit at home (doing “home things”) and then we were off again – but staying on English soil this time!

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We headed to Tring firstly, to join Jaq Biggs (nb “Valerie”), with many friends and family, to celebrate the life of Les who sadly passed away while we were in India.

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The few hours we all spent together was very moving and full of both joy and sorrow at the loss of such a lovely man. The message we all got from Jaq (and Les) was to “laugh and make the most of life”. It’s very sound advice.

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We moved on from Tring and popped in to check on “Chance”. After three months there was minimal deterioration (James needs to get a bucket of soapy water and all should be ‘ship shape’ again!). Even after all the cold weather over the last three months the fuel tank was still half full and the engine started first time!

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We moved onto spend the night with our close friends Pete and Rose near Stratford on Avon. We enjoyed a lovely meal with them (and much catch-up chat) at a nearby hostelry. Thanks to you both – it was lovely to see you again.

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The next day we arrived in Stockton Heath, near Warrington, to stay with dear friends Neil and Pauline (nb “Water Lily”). The spring weather was too good to miss so we headed out the short distance to the village of Walton for a walk and mooch around.

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“Pauline’s Boys” !!

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We’ve passed this way on the Bridgwater Canal many times but never stopped at pretty little Walton.

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There was nothing moving on the canal sadly – it would have been lovely to see just one boat pass.

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Our walk took us past the Walton Arms (to be visited later!) …..

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…… and on towards the church.

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There was so much to see in India but there were certainly no spring flowers! “Oh to be in England now that spring is there” definitely sprung to mind.

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Our walk took us into the grounds of Walton Hall ……

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….. where spring had most certainly sprung.

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Then back out into the village, past the vast carpet of purple crocus …….

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… and into the pub for a well earned drink!

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We had two wonderful, fun filled evenings with Pauline and Neil ……

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……. and, with two “glitter ball devotees” out of the four of us, the time we had with them was a great laugh!

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The next morning after saying farewell to Neil and Pauline we popped up to the cemetery on the hill overlooking Stockton Heath and Warrington to say ‘hello’ to another recently passed friend, before driving the short distance to Manchester.

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We spent five days in the city – time passes very quickly when you’re enjoying yourself! With many friends in and around the city it’s seems as though it’s fast becoming our second home. We notice that new gates are being fitted to the top lock of the “Rochdale Nine”. 

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The drained portion of the canal down from the lock was showing a shocking amount of debris and rubbish!

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There are quite a few favourite haunts of ours around the city. One of the most unusual is “Via” in Canal Street. Originally a warehouse or factory, its been going as pub for many years now and the inside has been fitted out using woodwork and furniture from disused churches. It’s a fascinating place with lots of nooks and crannies, staircases and walkways to explore. It’s worth a look sometime!

Well, Manchester came up with the goods once again and we thoroughly enjoyed our short stay. In a few days time we shall be leaving Britain’s shores and back on the high seas!