Saturday 27 February 2016

Giselle at the Royal Opera House

It was only a ten minute walk from the National Gallery to the Royal Opera House.
This was our second incredible building of the day and we were there to see the opening night of the ballet called Giselle.
We had the cheapest tickets in the house and we were quite close to the stage, but very high above it.  You can see from the first photo that we could only see just over half of the stage. We also didn't have a seat, although there was a very nice railing to learn against.
Once the curtain opened we realised that we could see even less of the action than we expected.  The stage was very deep and the dancers spent a lot of their time either at the back of the stage or at the front on the left out of sight.
We often couldn't see anybody at all and it was both frustrating and funny. It also made the plot very difficult to follow, and we completely missed the climax of the first act where Giselle kills herself with the Prince's sword.
It was then time for the interval which was lovely, and a small glass of wine cost more than our standing ticket.
Back for the second half and it got much better, with a whirlwind of ballerinas racing on tip toes across the stage. We could only see half of them at any one time, but they elegantly and energetically floated around.
Every now and then the Prince would appear and they chased him around in a huge flock.
Giselle also reappeared as a ghost and they did a beautiful dance together.
Unfortunately, we missed the finale as we didn't see them for a while and then the curtains closed as the Prince was running round on his own.
The audience clapped loudly and we walked down to a lower floor where we saw them all for the first time and I took a photo of the encore.
An excellent nights entertainment at a budget price, although with rather tired legs.

British Museum

We are back in England, after arriving first thing Thursday morning, and after a mammoth unpacking session we were out in London on Friday afternoon.
We have never been to the British Museum before, but I don't know why not as it is amazing. You could easily spend a couple of weeks here - and that's not anything that I have said about a museum before.
The building itself is worth the visit, as in the year 2,000 a gigantic glass ceiling was erected over the original building and the circular library in the centre.
The exhibits are breathtaking - we dashed around for about three hours following the highlights tour on our audio guides.
My favourite was the winged horse creature that guarded the entrance to the Assyrian King's Palace. The Egyptian statues were amazing and the mummies were so well preserved and quite scary.
They also bake a great carrot cake, (the catering staff not the mummies) and it rounded off a lovely visit.
No time to waste though as we had to dash off to our next engagement.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Sunday in Funchal

It has been five days since we were in Bermuda, but during that time we crossed the Atlantic Ocean and have now landed at Funchal, the capital of Madeira.
The sky looked dramatic, but we found a lovely sunny spot to stop for a while. It had beautiful sea views, tasty coffee, a sleepy dog under our table and jazz playing in the background. Eventually, we tore ourselves away and headed uphill to the Botanic Garden.
I wasn't expecting the view - pic 3 -  although I had seen it on lots of postcards. A complicated mosaic of pink and green plants, surrounded by giant cactus and bougainvillea. What a brilliant surprise.
The garden also had lovely views, hidden ponds, grottos and lots of palm trees. We wandered around, and hidden next to the topiary garden we found one of the little traditional houses. Unfortunately, the door was locked, just as we really needed somewhere to shelter as a heavy shower passed overhead.
It didn't last too long and we were soon in bright sunshine again, so we dried out as we headed back to the ship.
All being well we will be back in England first thing Thursday morning.

Bermuda - friendliest island ever

We walked for 25 kilometres today, that's around 15 miles, and every single Bermudan that we met said hello and smiled at us. How could we not then love our out day in Bermuda?
Our boat parked at the very tip of the island and we caught a 20 minute ferry to the capital called Hamilton.
We took inspiration from our friends Margs and Dave who a couple of years ago walked the whole length of the island in one day.
They followed a disused railway track which is now a very well marked out pathway. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time, nor were we fit enough to do it all, so we made do with about half of their route.
Hamilton and round the bay to the dockyards was a beautiful walk, with lots for us to see. Sometimes we walked with high walls of green on either side of us, other times we passed through brightly coloured villages and at times we were really close to the sea.
We walked all day, stopping only to take photos and for a quick coffee, and made it back to the ship with 20 minutes to spare.
It was a lovely day out and we then sat up on the deck watching two tugs pull us sideways away from the dock. They escorted us out through the dangerous reefs that surround the island and then we set out on our way across the Atlantic.
Fingers crossed that it won't be too rough.

Monday 15 February 2016

Elegant houses in Charleston

Charleston in South Carolina is filled with beautiful old buildings along tree lined streets. We docked right next to the old town and it was lovely to see dolphins frolicking all around the ship.
We went on guided tours of two of the best preserved houses. One special feature was the balconies that are built along the whole side of most of the houses.
This is so that the residents could sit out in the shade and enjoy the cooling effect of the sea breezes.
Unfortunately, for us it was freezing, and I made the major mistake of putting my coat and scarf in the locker at the start of the tour.
After the tour we needed to warm up quickly so dashed to King Street Cookies for a huge cup of coffee and a fantastic salted caramel cookie.
Thanks for the recommendation Susan, great choice.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral

Amazing day today at the Kennedy Space Centre. This is where all of the American rockets blasted off over almost the past 60 years.
They had lots of exhibits, and it was possible to climb into some of the original space craft and find out how cramped and tiny they were.
My favourite parts of the day were crawling around a mock up of the Space Station in zero gravity, and sliding down a slide that was set at the same angle as the astronauts descent back to earth - very steep and scary.
I also met an astronaut, while Darren captained an Apollo spaceship and then landed back in the sea at a very uncomfortable angle.
We leant loads of facts today, and some of them are very neatly summed up in the last photo.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Two days in Miami

We couldn't land at Key West due to high winds, so we carried on up the coast and arrived in Miami in the early evening - just in time to go ashore and watch the second half of the Superbowl in a bar.
Our ship is docked right in the centre of Miami and the city surrounds us in all directions, with the city lights twinkling happily.
Today we decided to go on an outing to a suburb called Coral Gables, as it was supposed to be full of historic buildings and fountains. 
Nothing looked very old, and it was full of huge expensive looking houses on beautiful streets. Huge trees called Live Oaks dominated the scene, although the pavements were very hit and miss and just randomly disappeared.
We needed to find guidebook to tell us more about the area so we went to the City Hall to ask the staff. They were so shocked that we had walked the mile or so from the nearest train station to their office, that instead of giving us a guidebook, the manager offered to drive us to the beach in her own car!

Sunday 7 February 2016

Thursday - busy day in New Orleans

First shock of the day - it's really, really cold here!  Apparently it is not usually like this, but it's down to a cold north wind. I wore every warm item of clothing that I had, and just tried to stay on the sunny side of the street.
Second shock - ten minutes after getting off the ship we run into a Mardi Gras parade. This one was full of children from the local schools. I am photo bombing one of the bands as they made their way down town.
Also note the beautiful balconies over the carnival route.
We then wandered around the French Quarter, taking in Jackson Square and the cathedral.
Next up was Louis Armstrong Park, a lovely peaceful open space with fountains and statues.
We were fast ticking things off on our to do list, and then we heard the whistle from the Creole Queen signalling that it was just about to sail. We rushed over and were the last passengers to board.
The paddle wheels were turning, and the wind picked up on the water, but we found a sheltered sunny spot and took in the view.
The paddle steamer took us to the Chalmette Battlefield where the Americans beat the British in 1815.
Jumping forward a day, we took a look around the French Market and tried the famous King Cake. It comes with a tiny plastic baby Jesus. They used to hide him inside the cake and it was very lucky to find him in your piece, but nowadays they put him in the box, in case of insurance claims!

Friday at the Mardi Gras

We were told that the weekend Mardi Gras celebrations started at 12 noon, and we walked to Jackson Square behind some excited local girls, who were dressed to impress.
I thought that they must be out way too early, as everywhere seemed very quiet, but then we walked a couple of blocks to Bourbon Street.
What a shock! The place was completely packed, both at ground level and on all of the balconies that lined the street.
When they weren't drinking champagne or fruity cocktails, the people on the balconies were throwing necklaces and goodies down to the crowds below. Daz proved to be a great catcher - see bottom right of pic 4.
Every few minutes New Orleans policemen on motorbikes would clear the revellers on to the pavement and jazz bands and their followers would march past - pic 5.
As soon as they had walked by the crowds would surge back out again.
We have got loads more photos than I could post here, including one of me and the Pope, Darren with lots of random strangers, and weird angled selfies.
Someone threw a Nemo puppet to Darren, which was very apt, and went very well with our goldfish bowl cocktails. They tasted of fruit juice and for only $5 per bowl we didn't expect them to be very strong.
This was a huge mistake, but fortunately we lived to make it back to the ship - just - and see another day.

Sunday - not at Key West

We left New Orleans last night and this morning were due to dock at Key West. The Captain spoke over the tannoy just as we're getting out of bed this morning to announce that he was cancelling the visit due to bad weather.
The winds were too strong, and there was no tugs to help guide us to the mooring. So here we are, out on the ocean with nowhere to go, although we are now due to land in Miami this evening.
In the meantime, the entertainment team have laid on some extra events, so we are going to rumba and cha cha this morning, then waltz and tango later.

I am using a few 'filler' photos today so.....

Pic 1 - this mornings weather.
Pic 2 - all dressed up for formal night last night with a few Mardi Gras embellishments.
Pic 3 - random shot of me and Mexican men in traditional outfits from a few days ago.

Friday 5 February 2016

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

It was our busiest day ever yesterday as we arrived at New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras! We didn't know about this in advance so it was a big surprise.
I am just going to write about last night now as so much happened, but I will do the daytime, and today, later.
We dashed out at 7pm but the Mardi Gras parade hadn't reached our bit of roadside by then. Gradually it started and bands, dancers and floats passed us by. It was all very polite, and people had waited by the roadside for hours to see it.
We had already booked tickets for a basketball game so we only saw a little bit of the parade before heading off to the Smoothie King Arena.
The game was good - LA Lakers against the New Orleans Pelicans - and the superstar Kobe Bryant played. Check out the action shot of him warming up.
Our tickets also included four beers, and at half time one of the cheerleaders threw Daz a Mardi Gras necklace and cuddly toy!
We missed the end, although LA won, as we went back to see the finale of the parade.
During our time away the drinks had been flowing and the atmosphere had changed greatly.
It was loud and good natured and the people on the floats were hurling loads of goodies into the crowd. Picture three is a necklace heading straight for my camera.
We stayed right until the end and got back to the ship around midnight, wearing our haul of goodies.
Phew, what a night.