Sunday, April 14, 2019

Monday, August 13, 2018 – Liverpool, England – Mostly Cloudy – 65F

Distance from Belfast to Liverpool: 123 Nautical Miles

“She Love You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…”

We are the birthplace of the Beatles.

Liverpool is the sixth largest port in Great Britain.  Located along the Mersey River on the North West coast of England, Liverpool has a population of about 500,000 people.  While parks and historical buildings are the pride of Liverpool, it will also be known as the birthplace of the Beatles.

It is a gray day in Liverpool.

You can see the city from the ship.  You can also get a good view of the Mersey River and the famed ferry (Gerry and the Pacemakers' hit song - one of my favorites).

We have an early tour today (one escort) – “Liverpool City Highlights” so we ordered room service.

We were in the Eclipse Theater at 8:30 AM and our tour left for the buses about five minutes early.  Our guide is Vi (for Violet), who sports a posh North London Accent.  The tour started with a brief city tour and Vi pointed out the Royal Liver Building (pronounced “Lie – Ver” like driver) complete with the two mythical Liver Birds on top.  The Liver Building also boast of having the largest clocks in the country (bigger than Big Ben).

Also in the downtown area were the old headquarters of the White Star Line – builders of Ocean Liners including the Titanic – 

and the Cunard Building, Headquarters of the Cunard Line (Lusitania and Mauritania among others).  I believe Cunard picked purchased the White Star Line - Cunard calls its level of service "White Star".

There is also a neat statue of the Beatles near the pier but we could only see the back of the installation.  

As we drove through the streets, Vi pointed on the Cavern, the nightclub that the Beatles played before fame found them – I could not get a picture and the bus could not stop there.  Oh, well.

We did made some stops on this tour.

The first was St. Johns Park – one of many parks in Liverpool.

The stop at the park was just a mini-rest stop suitable for pictures.

We next stopped at the Metropolitan Cathedral


The Catholic Cathedral was designed by a Protestant architect after World War II and restricted by several design rules:  Must cost less than a million pounds; must have the main alter closer to the worshipers, and must be bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  It is constructed in a hyper modern design (I did not like it), which is very unusual for a Catholic Church.  The inside is massive with an impressive dome.

Across the street from the Cathedral was John Moores University.  I took this picture because the scientist working on the Jack the Ripper DNA project works at one of the campus of this school - maybe even this one.

The next stop was another Cathedral, the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.  

This structure was more in line with cathedral architecture and also quite impressive inside.  Also impressive was the cemetery located in grounds adjacent to and below the level of the church.  However, near the walkway to the church were three memorials to soldiers who had lost their lives in conflicts up to present day Afghanistan.

As we left the Cathedral, Vi pointed out an interesting installation on the sidewalk. Several suitcases made of concrete were scattered on the sidewalk.  

I found out later that the installation was created in 1998 and is entitled "A Case History".  The suitcases are labeled with people and sites in Liverpool.   

From the Cathedral, the bus drove to the suburbs of Liverpool to Penny Lane, a street in the neighborhood where Paul McCartney and John Lennon grew up and, of course, the subject of the famous song.  In this neighborhood were several schools when Paul and John attended as well as other sites related to the two Beatles.  The bus eventually got a parking spot on Penny Lane so guests could get a picture of the street sign.

On the way back, Vi pointed out the Chinatown area of Liverpool.  

The gate to the area is the largest Chinese Arch outside of China.  Very impressive.

The bus then took us back to the port – some people got off to check out the port area 
and its Beatle Experience Museum.  We could see the Ferris Wheel at the port area and the Eclipse docked.

It was getting colder and windier so we went back to the ship.  

After lunch in the Oceanview Café, we settled in to comfy seats in the Solarium.  I gave up on Lisa Black’s, “That Darkness”, the first in her Gardiner and Renner Series.  When I found out that there were at least three of these, I couldn’t see waiting three books for something to really happen between protagonist and antagonist.  I am now reading “City of Eternal Night”, a brand new and 17th Pendergast Novel by Preston and Childs.

There was little on the menu in the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room – Hake was the fish and even though we confirmed that this fish is Kosher, we decided to pass on the fish.  Instead, we went to the Oceanview Café, where the pickins were also slim – Cesar Salad and Pizza - safe and easy.

We passed on “Rock City”, the Production Show, and went to the Ensemble Lounge to hear, Michael Redden, Decameron Duo, and finally Gilly and the Girl in succession.  The Cardinal Dance Band was too loud and even in the library, the drum sounded like a shotgun going off.

Back to the room for some P and Q – actually later than we usually do.

(Note:  If the spacing and layout of this post and the previous few posts seem off, it's because I am using Blogger directly - Live Writer has a software glitch and can't be used to upload posts.  Hoping for a quick fix because Blogger is clunky at best)


Monday, April 1, 2019

Sunday, August 12, 2018 – Belfast, Northern Ireland – Cloudy – Maybe Rain – 68F

Distance from Edinburgh to Belfast: 546 Nautical Miles

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland.  Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.  The city of Belfast, known historically as the construction site of the White Star Ocean Liners, Britannic, Olympic, and Titanic (back in 1910).  The city lies on the Belfast Lough (Irish for “lake”) and the River Lagan on the Northeast Coast of Northern Ireland.  Belfast is the country’s largest city and has the World’s largest dry dock.

We have a morning tour today (one escort) – “Antrim Coast and Causeway” – departing at 10:15 AM.  Again, that gave me enough time to get breakfast in the Oceanview Café.
We spent very little time driving through Belfast although our guide did point out a building with an “HW” on it (I couldn’t find it), which was the Harland and Wolff Shipbuilding Yard, where the Titanic was built.  Instead the bus left the pier area and headed for the countryside.  The map below shows some of the locations on this tour.

Very pretty countryside, dotted with livestock (sheep with dye markings indicating the owners, several types of cattle – black, black with a cool wide stripe, and white colored).  Lots of gorse and heather.  

We also came across what appeared to be a huge "fern field".

The bus then turned toward the Antrim Coast, a very scenic stretch of coastline similar to the Pacific Coast Highway (except the Irish Sea is not as nice as the Pacific).  Also, most of the coastline was blanketed by a thick fog. 

We stopped at the Village of Carnlough for a morning snack break of scones and coffee/tea.  The scones were great but microscopic – I wanted to ask for a second scone but the place had all but cleared out so I left as well and went across to the Marina for some photos.

From the Inn, we proceeded along the coast to our next stop – the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.  This rope bridge spans a ravine 100 feet down and has great views of the sea and cliffs.  We were not going to be able to cross it.  However, we were supposed to get a picture of the bridge.  However, the fog was so thick that you could not see the bridge or the ravine.  We stayed in the bus for the brief five minute stop.

We stopped to get pictures of the interesting but ruined Dunluce Castle, once the home of the mighty McDonald Clan (not the McDonald clan we are so familiar with in the US).

The main attraction on this tour is the “Giant’s Causeway” – a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1986) (the only WHS in Northern Ireland).  Ireland is a volcanic island and the Causeway is the result of a volcanic eruption and lava flow that occurred some 50 million years ago.  The flowing lava cooled and formed some incredible structures including the basalt columns.  These columns, some 40,000 of them, look man made due to their perfect structure and hexagonal sides.  But they are actually part of the volcanic event.  These structures, some as tall as 40 feet, are amazing. 

We entered the site and decided to walk the easier of the two trails – the Blue Trail heads downhill and you can take a shuttle back up.  The Red Trail requires climbing a steep hill and there is no shuttle return.  One of the site workers took our picture and we got plenty of shots of coves with lava shores.  At the very bottom of the road, we came across the basalt columns – they still looked artificial but nature can make some pretty awesome structures.  Many of the more fit (and young) visitors used the basalt structures as a climbing wall.  

The Causeway also gave us some great views of the sea and coastline.

Our trek along the Causeway is documented in the following photographs.

We took the shuttle (free to us on tour and 1.75 Pounds for regular ticket holders) back up to the visitor center.  We spent the rest of our time there drinking a diet coke and “Hot Ginger Beer” (another acquired taste) and visiting the gift shop.  They had some inexpensive and well made caps but I didn’t like the design.

Our final stop would be at the Royal Crown Hotel, which is on a hill overlooking the Royal Portrush Golf Club (the site of the 2019 Open Championship).  The views of the sea and golf course were fantastic.  This place will be crazy town during the tournament.

While most of the group had Irish Beef, mashed potatoes, and braised vegetables, the hotel was able to provide us with Fresh Grilled Salmon plus the potatoes and veggies.  The food was great.  Supper also came with a drink – I had the dark lager, which was strong but good.  Dessert was some kind of baked Alaska type thing with white cake and fruit enclosed in meringue sides (very unusual).  It was good though along with some tasty coffee.

A final rest stop at the hotel and we were headed home.

I guess I didn’t reckon how far home was and when the guide indicated that the ride would take over an hour, I now regretted having the lager and coffee.  Needless to say, it was a tense ride home (which didn’t help) but, alas, I did make it.  Except for the fog, it was a very nice tour.  The tour guide told some very interesting stories and gave us some great insights into the history of the area and of the sites we saw.  All of the guides on this tour have been very good. 

We had a little snack in the Oceanview Café before getting changed for Jayne Curry’s second show in the Grand Foyer at 8 PM (we passed on Christophe Caress, a hypnotist we had seen before years ago on the same ship with Jayne).  People had gotten there pretty early so we were up on Deck 4 three deep.  I could barely see Jayne but I certainly could hear her (amps were at max).  

She started off with ballads and progressed to more rock stuff – she also ran around Decks 3, 4, and 5 during her numbers.  A very energetic concert – the audience loved.  We saw her later and found out she will be on the Constellation with us in October.

After the concert, we caught Gilly and the Girl’s set in the Ensemble Lounge – they did a nice song list – pleasant and soft.

Back to the room for P and Q.