Saturday, 23 January 2016

Fort Lauderdale - Count in Billions!

One of the highlights of the last three days we’ve spent in Fort Lauderdale has been a water taxi trip around the canals and waterways of this VERY well healed part of the world.


Outside our hotel was Steven Speilberg’s yacht “Seven Seas”. $220m to build and, if you feel like chartering it then bank on $1.5m per week! You won’t have to polish it as it includes a crew of about 24. Oh, and you get a chef!


This is one of it’s ‘garages’ with one of the launches which is hydraulically lifted in and out of the water.


This ‘captain’ seems happy to be in charge of his own vessel!


The mansions and yachts we saw on our way around on the water taxi were amazing. For values of the mansions in the pics think of between $20m and $40m and for the yachts think of anywhere between $30m and $100m unless otherwise told. Enjoy the ride!P1060119


“Atomic” was built as a surprise for the billioniare owners family. Guess they may may have been mildly impressed!


This is “Galant Lady”. the owner named it in honour of his wife’s battle with cancer. He has six yachts like this – all with the same name.


Mr and Mrs ‘Millionaire’ on a little trip down the shops!





Most mansions have launches or speed boats with lifts to keep them out of the water.



The wash from the bigger craft would damage the smaller boats if they stayed in the water all the time.



The water taxi needs the bridges to open at high tide as it can’t quite squeeze under.


If you need more power then just bolt on another!



This is one house. It’s lived in by an old couple – if they have a row at the start of the week they dont see each other for days, after which the row’s been forgotten.



After these mansions are built the gardens are landscaped and all the palm trees are brought in fully grown  and planted  ……..


…….. this mansion is huge and goes a long way back along the channel. Valued at $50m, the special palms were brought in at a cost of $30,000 each.



This mansion was bought by a local multi millioniare as a birthday present for his niece. No doubt the garage was filled with suitable cars as well!


If you look carefully you can spot iguanas in the trees.


They can be difficult to spot – there are two in this pic.



Some of the new builds can be a bit different to the older styles but all new ones are built to withstand hurricans.



On our last day we caught up with friend David who is currently working on Cunard’s “Queen Victoria! - which just happened to be in port for the day. So, with Lance and Vanessa, we all piled into Denny’s for a late breakfast.


Sadly our last day was very wet so much of it was spent in the shops, in taxis and in various eateries. Mind your fingers Lance!

Well, we fly out this evening at 23:00 hrs after a grand 10 days at sea and on land. Thanks Lance and Vanessa for your company and friendship –it’s been a hoot!

Monday, 18 January 2016

New York-New York! (what other title?)


Dinner each evening is very much enjoyed in the company of friends Lance and Vanessa …..


….. even during the occasional rough sea! This one, a day before we arrived in New York, was prtetty impressive. This great liner has performed admirably even though there’s been the odd occasion when we’ve not been able to walk down the corridors in a straight line!


We’ve had a marvellous couple of evenings being entertained by the lovely Daniel Boyes. A great voice – sounds much more mature than his years. (poor pic!)


On Sunday morning we woke early to enjoy our arrival into New York. The Verrazzano Bridge is the first breathtaking highlight during our gentle 10 knot cruise towards the “Big Apple”. There was 4 metre gap between the ship and the bridge this year!


James was on deck earlier than Doug and he teamed up with Celia Imrie and John McCarthy as we all waited for the bridge. The temperature and wind was too much to endure for more than a short while, so they occasionally took refuge inside to warm up. It was the first time James was able to shake the hand of such a humble and extrordinary man as John – a great privilege! As for Celia, well we always seem to be kissing and cuddling (!) – another great privilege.


It needs no introduction – you know you’ve arrived!


At 5:30 in the morning the lights of Manhatten shine out to the world. The towering might of ‘One World Trade’ shines brighter than all the other buildings.


By 8:30 on Sunday morning, with Lance and Vanessa, we took a taxi from Brooklyn and arrived at the World Trade Centre memorial.


There were very few people around when we arrived and we were able to pay our respects quietly in the extreme cold of the early morning.


The only other people around were the caretakers who were drying and polishing the names of those lost on that dreadful day.


The russet coloured leaves on the young oak trees surrounding the memorials were in lovely contrast to the immaculatley engineered fountains which mark the bases of each of the Twin Towers ………


…….. and, looking over the memorial plaza, is the beautiful new ‘One World Trade’ tower.


Just a few yards walk from Ground Zero are the memorial plaques to the firefighters lost during 9/11.


We needed a warm up and some breakfast before our visit to the 9/11 museum. Last year we spent so much time queueing for the Statue of Liberty that we didn’t have time to ‘do’ the museum. (and just as well, as we were about to find out, the museum is not something to be rushed)


Downtown Manhatten is now dominated by the new World Trade Centre as more buildings are completed.


Inside the museum it’s not really possible to properly express the feelings you experience during the trip round and no amount of words can prepare you for it either. Suffice to say it’s physically enormous and built deep underground. The “Last Column”, ceremoniously removed from the site on May 30, 2002, served as a symbol to place messages, photographs and other tributes. Part of the original “slurry wall”, which was built to stop river water from the Hudson from flooding the site during construction in 1966, has been preserved. There were fears that it might be breached during the 9/11 attack but thankfully it held.




This 50 ton staircase was lowered into position before the museum was built. It’s known as the Survivors Stairs as it was used by thousands of people as an escape route from the main concorse. It’s now designated as an National Relic.


The foundations of the twin towers have been preserved ……..


……… and, above the foundations, are the structures which hold the present memorial fountains.


When the original twin towers were built all the structural pieces were marked with a unique number and, from the debris, those numbers were used to trace each piece. Those parts of the original structure on display have their own illustration of where they were on the building before it’s collapse.


This is one of the communication antenas from the top of one of the towers.


And this is what remains of Ladder Company 3 Firetruck ……….


…….. it’s one of the main, and most poingnant exhibits.

For most people there is an emotional toll to visiting 9/11 but especially this museum. It’s vast and there is more than enough to experience for a three hour visit.


After the museum we went to O’Hara’s for a drink. Located very close to the World Trade Centre it survived the collapse and became a place of refuge for many of the rescuers and, of course, it’s very popular these days.


Our next visit was a trip to the top of “One World Trade”. Even the lift ride to the top is an experience. At the top it’s just one enormous panorama around NYC. This is a ‘zoom in’ on the Statue of Liberty.


This is another zoom in on Queen Mary 2 at her berth in Brooklyn.


A great view of Lower Manhatten with QM2 wedged between Brooklyn and Govenor’s Island. In the far distance (a bit to the right) is the Verezzano Narrows Bridge. Battery Park is the green area at the end of Manhatten.


Another aspect across to Brooklyn with the famous bridge spanning the East River.


Looking straight down we could see the dark square memorial fountains marking the footprints of the two towers.


A close up of the Blooklyn Bridge.


We were lucky to get this fantastic view of Manhatten Island with the Hudson River on the left and the East River on the right. Before the end of our stay the mist was increasing and this view was almost obliterated.


And here we are with the East River in the background.


After the superb experience of No1World Trade Center, Lance and Vanessa did a bit more sight seeing and we took the subway to Greewich were we spent a couple of hours enjoying the atmosphere and fun in “Boots and Saddles”.


We made a couple of new friends – Franko (who’s very talented and did a characature sketch of us) and his boyfriend Coco De’Ball. Sadly, the ship would not wait for us and we couldn’t stay to see Coco’s performance at 6 0’ clock.


Anyway, outside there was another surprise for us! Our day in New York terrific but far too short. The ship was about to sail and it really wasn’t fair!