Atlantis Alumni

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Orchid Re-Blooms!

When I had my heart surgery in February our friends Cindy and Patrick gave me a potted orchid. Of course in winter it is cold in Philadelphia so it is not such a nice climate for orchids. The pretty blossoms did not last very long. I've heard that most people in the cold regions throw away their orchids after the blooms drop. However, I saved my orchid and I brought it out to the summer cottage in May. I found a place for it with much indirect light on our deck and I hung it on the wall and forgot about it. Well, now upon my return from the UK I am treated to a fully blossoming orchid that is so beautiful I can't believe it!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rain In LeHavre

Since our luck held out on this trip, with rain only in Guernsey, we shouldn't complain about the rain that saturated us today in Le Havre. In the mid-morning we took a tourist 'train' to the center of the town. It's not a pretty seaport, since it was so heavily bombed during WW II. But we enjoyed a few of the sights, including the wonderful masterpiece of an architect named Perret, who built the church of St. Joseph after the war. It has a huge tower, meant to resemble a lighthouse, and the church was filled with stained glass. Though modern, and made of concrete, the whole structure, due to the lighting and windows, felt as warm as the old Gothic churches seen more commonly throughout France. The church was built to commemorate those lost in the terrible Second World War. From there we walked to the Museum of Modern Art Andre Malraux, named after the famed 20th century author and Minister of State. They claim to have the second best collection of Impressionism in the country after Paris, and there we saw masterpieces by Pissarro, Monet, Sisley, Dufy (a native son) and many more. We also had a fine French lunch in the cafe of the museum before taking a taxi back to the ship. This was our last day on the trip, thus the last blog post for this journey. Tuesday we look forward to flying home. -Dan

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Last Day at Sea

During our second and last day at sea, we packed for our departure. Otherwise, it was relaxing, with a long lunch, a pleasant dinner with some shipboard mates, and cocktails before dinner. Jim again wore his handsome new dark green and plaid kilt, which garnered many positive comments when his photo was posted on FaceBook. Tomorrow we'll land at our last port, Le Havre in France. -Dan

PHOTO: Bagpipers in Queensferry near Edinburgh

A Day in Edinburgh

We returned to the capital of Scotland Saturday, after many years, perhaps 25. It seemed still the most beautiful, vibrant city in the country, and we saw many enjoyable sights. After a tender took us from our ship to Queensferry, we took a shuttle bus to the city. There our first sight was St. Giles, the high Kirk (or church) of the Presbyterian faith, the largest in Scotland. The cathedral itself is older than the religion, and parts date back to Medieval times. After that we walked up the hills to Edinburgh Castle which has huge grounds and many buildings. We saw the Scottish crown jewels, some apartments of the royal family, the War Memorial and enjoyed the views from the ramparts. Then we walked down from the Castle heights to the National Gallery of Scotland. There we enjoyed seeing many great masterpieces in the collection including works by Hugo van der Goes, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian, Raeburn (the most famous Scottish artist) and the magnificent Gauguin "Vision After the Sermon," which was Jim's favorite. It's a painting that I've been showing to my classes for over 40 years. After touring the collection we had lunch at the Scottish Cafe in the National Gallery. Their menu included many Scots specialties. Jim had a Portabello haggis tart, which of course is not the real thing, since that famed dish is stuffed with meats. But Jim is a vegetarian, so he was happy with the ersatz haggis. My dish was the Cullen Skink (sounds like a river animal, eh?) which turned out to be seafood, potatoes and spring onions in a heavy cream sauce. It was filling and tasty. Jim also had a creamy, parfait like concoction for dessert, called a 'Cranachan.' My dessert was a plate of delicious petite fours, a French treat done with some local ingredients in this case, such as shortbread. On our last visit to Edinburgh Jim had wanted to buy a kilt. So this time we searched for an extra long kilt, and by asking, went to a kilt maker. At the Nicholson shop Jim found his ideal kilt and bought several of the accoutrements to go with it: the garter ribbons, sporran and long black socks. Stay tuned for a photo of a handsome Irishman wearing traditional Scots garb! After the shopping expedition, we walked to the end of the Royal Mile to visit Holyrood Palace. Perhaps the most elegant rooms in the palace date from the 17th and 18th century, but those the most cloaked in history are where Mary Queen of Scots lived in the 16th century, and where her lover Rizzi was murdered when she was pregnant. She was a lady who lived a turbulent life indeed. Even older parts adjoining the palace were the old abbey ruins which are still beautiful and in the high Gothic style of architecture. From Holyrood we took a taxi back to Charlotte Square to board the bus back to Queensferry. Jim wore his new kilt for the first time at dinner Saturday evening.-Dan

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Highlands of Scotland

Friday our ship docked in Invergordon, a town on the East Coast of Scotland, in the Highlands. The scenery in the area is beautiful, and to us seems mountainous, though the guide on our excursion bus mentioned that the heights only qualified as hills. Ken our guide also pointed out the main industries of Scotland, oil rigs in the sea and whiskey distilleries. The later enterprise is doing particularly well because of the expanding market in the world's two most populous countries, India and China. Our first stop was Urquhart Castle, a sad ruin on the edge of Loch Ness. The lake itself was the star, and is one of the deepest inland water bodies in the world, deeper than most spots in the ocean. Probably the monster ("Nessie") is a myth, invented by a newspaperman back in the 1930s. But it's a huge industry. We took a boat ride on the lake and then the bus took us to Inverness where we had a pleasant lunch at the Mercure. In the town I went in a music store and was surprised to see music for bagpipes, which I've never seen anywhere else. Our last stop on the day's tour was Culloden Moor where Bonnie Prince Charlie lost his last battle. Then our bus headed back to the ship. Today we're anchoring off South Queensferry, the port that will give us access to Edinburgh. -Dan

Friday, August 21, 2015

Views Of The Royal Princess

The Royal Princess is a spectacular new vessel offering many amenities. Here are a few photos showing the upper deck pools and the giant outdoor movie screen. In the inside atrium many events take place. Yesterday a trio of chefs held a fruit carving demonstration.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day At Sea And Yesterday's Pictures

Today the ship is at sea, headed around the north of Scotland, since we will be docking at Invergordon tomorrow, in the Scottish highlands. A day at sea means relaxation. In my case, it's a long walk on the Sports deck, reading (Meg Wolitzer currently), a sit-down lunch in the main dining room, and another formal dinner tonight. For Jim, it involved a walk, a cardio work-out, computer time and of course the dinners mentioned previously. The Glasgow photos from yesterday, from top to bottom: the Burrell Collection in Pollok Park; the Cathedral of St.Mungo; St. George's Square; and finally 3 pics of the City Chambers, which is the Scottish equivalent to our City Hall. This is a very beautiful and lavish 19th building that we visited yesterday, also on St. George's Square in the heart of the city. -Dan

A Day in Glasgow

Wednesday morning our ship landed in Greenock, the port for Glasgow. We took a bus to the city, and then went on our own to the attractions we wanted to see. We were delighted to see this great city, a place full of impressive and large-scale Imperial-age Victorian architecture. A taxi took us out to the Burrell Collection, which has a vast array of art including famed Medieval stained glass, ancient art, furniture and more. Sadly, the modern building, an impressive one, has structural defects and will be closed next year for four years. The upper level of the Museum was already closed, so we were only able to see a small selection of paintings. Some of the best were by the Impressionists, including Degas, Manet and Monet. After we left the collection we returned to the city center, to visit the 13th-14th century Cathedral of St. Mungo, who introduced Christianity to Scotland. But this was closed for an hour, and lacking time we decided to leave the cathedral and go to lunch near the heart of town, St. George's Square. We had a delicious lunch at Nippon House, a Japanese restaurant. After that we took a cab to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which is housed in a huge Victorian building, finished in 1901. Though we were not very interested in the stuffed animals, dinosaur bones or other natural history artifacts, we enjoyed parts of the art selections, including some little known Scotch artists of the early 20th century, the 17th century Dutch painters, such as Ruysdael and Rembrandt, and more Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, including Pisarro, Signac, Matisse, Braque and many others. As we left the vast museum, it started to rain, but we were lucky to have a taxi stop and return us to St. George's Square where our bus left for the ship around 3:18 PM. We were happy to be back on board, out of the rain, and after dinner we enjoyed a show of Scottish music at the Princess Theatre on the ship. -Dan

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Present Day Life in Belfast

Belfast is a complex city from a historical point of view. Our tour of the city started out at the dock area, where an entire museum is devoted to the Titanic,which was built and first sailed from Belfast. Then we went to the center of the city, and saw such sights as the Parliament building, the City Hall and Queen's University. Our guide John was very eloquent about the 'Conflict' that claimed 4,000 lives between the 1860s and 1990, when Clinton and others arranged a peace which still lasts today. More than a religious conflict, though religion played a strong part in the origin of the wars, the Conflict tore Belfast apart. Today both the "Unionists" (those who consider Northern Ireland part of Great Britain) and the Nationalists (those who view Ulster as part of Republican Ireland,) have seats in the local Parliament. But the Unionists also can claim a seat in London's Parliament, and the Sinn Fein members can sit in Dublin's Parliament. Thus, no flags fly from public buildings here because either the Union Jack or the Irish Republic flag would offend the other party. We drove through both Union and Nationalist neighborhoods and stopped to photograph the terrible "Wall of Separation" which separated Catholic from Protestant areas of West Belfast. Mementos and wall murals everywhere document the conflict, and our guide hoped that the future generations would not hold onto the past. In his opinion, someday the Wall should be demolished. Our final stop on the tour was much more peaceful: Belfast Castle. It's a 19th century building with a lovely garden and spectacular views of the mountains and ocean near the city. This city has a turbulent and dramatic past, but hopefully has started to heal in the past 25 years.-Dan

Monday, August 17, 2015

Return To Ireland

This morning our ship returned to Ireland, and we docked in Dublin. After breakfast we took an excursion to Powerscourt House, in Enniskerry, County Wicklow. The mountains nearby, including Sugar Loaf, are beautiful and green like the rest of the Irish countryside. The gardens are of different varieties, including Italian, a fine Japanese garden, a Rose Garden and the very British-style Walled Gardens, full of flowers. Sad to write, the house itself in the Palladian style, was largely destroyed in a fire in 1974. Only a shell of the building remains, full of shops and a room where tourists may see a video of the house’s past grandeur. There is also a nice garden terrace restaurant, and we enjoyed a delightful lunch at Powerscourt. When the bus returned to Dublin we walked to the National Gallery. Even though it’s being restored, the best of its treasures are on display and we greatly enjoyed masterpieces by Caravaggio, Vermeer, Metsu and many other great artists. Returning via shuttle to the ship, we relaxed in the afternoon. -Dan

A Trip To Northern Wales

Though the ship docked in Liverpool, we had long ago decided to skip visiting that city for a day trip to Wales. My father's ancestors came from Wales and sailed sometime in the 19th century to Virginia. From there, as a young man my father headed north to Boston where he tried to go to a college before the Great Depression stymied his plans and he was forced to leave due to lack for funds for tuition. From there he drifted south to New Jersey where he met my mother and had two children. Both of my parents visited Wales during their lifetimes, but today was the first time that Jim and I visited this land of my father's family. Interestingly enough, it was the second day in a row for ancestral homeland visits, since yesterday in Ireland commemorated relatives of both of us. At any rate, we left Liverpool early this morning and headed to the scenic Dee Valley. Here the rugged mountains offered splendid views and every field seemed full of drowsy and munching black or white sheep. Our first stop was the magnificent Chirk Castle, the country home of the Middleton family. It started as a 12th century Medieval castle and modern actors in chain mail and other armor shot bows from arrows at targets in the courtyard. Inside the large castle there were many styles of decorative art and furniture, from the Medieval period, the 17th century and the more elegant 18th century right down to pre-WW I when the family still lived on site. Walking up the tall tower we saw amazing views of the surrounding countryside. The tour continued to Carrog where we boarded an old train to Llangollen (prounounced something like 'Shangoshen' in the enigmatic, sibilant Welsh language.) In that charming town, full of red brick architecture, we had some free time before the tour bus took us to a hotel for lunch. On the ride back to Liverpool we climbed the mountains and felt at peace with the Welsh version of Mother Nature. Please see Jim's photos of these magnificent vistas for a sample of landscape.-Dan