Cruising on the Love Boat! In Lisbon

We spent Day #5 in Lisbon.

They rolled out the red carpet for us!

We opted to just walk around instead of going on any guided tours.  First we stopped in the cruise terminal where we picked up wifi and did some internet work.

The weather was great for walking around – sunny and about 65.  Lisbon is a very pretty city perched on the water.

We passed by several pastry shops that sell  Lisbon’s famous quijadas – a type of tart made of cream and torched on top – like a creme broulee.

And, we also saw Lisbon’s iconic sweet cherry drink.  We passed on both.

Lisbon is famous for its seafood, with a large sardine canning industry and menus full of bacalao – cod.  This sardine shop sells sardines with very decorative cans.

Cod is king here, mostly sold dry.  Restaurants prepare it in many ways…

We were amazed at the number of tuk-tuks taking tourists around.  They weren’t here 3 years ago when we last visited.

We wandered around cute little streets until we found the market.  There are two areas – the traditional vegetable/fruit/seafood one and the more modern dining hall one.  We had planned to eat in there, but it was just too crowded.

George wandered off, and somehow used the women’s restroom!!!!

We found a much better venue for lunch – a little sidewalk cafe selling lot os different tapas.  We shared a platter of cod croquettes and a bowl of garfish (like a sardine) swimming in a wine/butter sauce.  The waiter kindly gave us some peasant bread to sop up the delicious broth. 

When we were here last time, we could not find the tram that goes up, up, and up to the top of the city.  Unfortunately, the escalator never works.  Last time, we hiked up the long, steep hill.  We didn’t want to repeat that experience. 

Finally, we found (with some difficulty) the tram to the castle overlooking Lisbon. From there, there area lovely views, including one of our ship…

We wandered back through the old town, Alfama.  The houses all have laundry hanging out and are covered with decorative tiles.

One of the neatest things about this area is that they have painted beautiful pictures on tiles of some of the old residents.  This one is called “The Three Marias”

And this one is of a woman in the area, famous for her kindness….

Back down, we walked through cute streets….

until we found our final stop of the day – a cute outdoor bar/restaurant where we had some Portuguese wine and olives.

Back to the ship in plenty of time before it sailed. 

DINNER:  Appetizers – George had 2 – chorizo croquette and a hot pot (Asian broth).  I had a caprese salad.  Main – George seared salmon with shrimp.  I had ramen with mushrooms and tofu.

We headed to the theater after dinner to listen to an Irish comedian.  The audience loved him, but he was not our cup of tea.  From there, we listened to one of the bands for awhile before bedtime.  Some people stay up to really late, but we like to go to bed early so that we can do morning activities. 

Day #2, 3, and 4 on the Love Boat

Princess cruiselines is the home of the TV show “The Love Boat”.  The show was filmed on a Princess ship and really made cruising popular.  

We docked in the early morning in Cherbourg, France.  Some passengers got up early and went on a tour to Normandy to see the American soldier cemetery and Omaha Beach.  We decided to just walk around the city of Cherbourg.

Cherbourg is the last port from which the Titanic sailed.  We are actually following the Titanic’s same route – Southampton, Cherbourg, then across the Atlantic. 

It was also a port that a lot of poor refugees used to find a new life in North America.  We went through the old luggage hall at the port….

The town of Cherbourg, about 35,000, is nicer than we thought.  It is a pretty seafront town with cafes and shops lining the harbor.

We had 2 goals:  1) find wifi and 2) buy some wine.  Success on both counts….
We found wifi at a locals’ bar.  We sat outside and got caught up with our internet needs.  Being Sunday, I think locals flee to their favorite bars after the Sunday lunch and to escape from families.  Most of the shops here are closed on Sunday afternoons, like in all small French towns. 

At the bar, we started talking with the couple next to us.  They are Irish.  They had come over on a huge ferry to go wine shopping!  Apparently that is something quite common, based on the size of the ferry.  We asked the where we could buy 2 bottles.  This Irish couple told us about a wine “cave” that was open, especially for the Irish wine tourists.  They had just bought their limit – 90 liters each!!!  We found the cave, bought our 2 bottles (which is supposedly the limit to bring on the cruise), and hiked back to the ship.  Success!

The ship looks really big sitting in the harbor.

We enjoyed the Sailing Away party on the top deck with good singing and fun dancing.  Of course, I did some line dances!

DINNER:  I had shrimp cocktail as an appetizer and Indian vegetable biryani for my main course.  George had duck gyoza as his appetizer and a plate of chorizo with scallops for his main. 

After dinner, we went to the ship’s theater and listened to a vocalist, someone famous in England.  It was pretty good.  We learned that normally, when the ship is full, you have to get in the queue about 2 hours ahead of time in order to get seats at the popular theatre events.  At 60% capacity, there is no waiting anywhere.  Nice.

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Day 3 – At Sea

Happy Halloween!  The cruise staff decorated the ship with a lot of Halloween stuff, including a lot of carved pumpkins.  I went to a pumpkin-carving demonstration.  I learned that most of the people that do this are Phillipinos.  Apparently it is a family tradition to pass down the skill of vegetable and fruit carving. 

It was a busy day.  I did 2 classes – zumba and line dancing.  I also attended a session in the spa with a free facial, and of course an “encouragement” to buy products and get treatments in the spa.  A lot of the women in the class rushed to sign up for facials and massages after the program.  George attended a lecture on astronomy.  This will be the first of daily “enrichment programs” that he will attend daily about the universe. 

We had our ritual Sunday Bloody Mary… (not as good as the ones George makes)

We crossed the Bay of Biscayne which was very choppy. 

DINNER:  We ate in a different private dining room.  There are 3 free ones from which to choose, plus a  24/7 buffet.  I had a salad with grilled vegetables that was excellent and some seared scallops with cauliflower puree and asparagus.  George went all out – French onion soup, pasta primavera with seafood, and birrumundi (a type of fish). 

We skipped dessert in order to get to the theater to watch 2 British performers doing a Beatles tribute.  They were really good. 

From there, we went to a Halloween party with a lot of dancing and prizes for costumes.  It is amazing the amount of costume stuff that people brought on board!  In keeping with the “Love Boat” theme, one guy got down on his hands and knees and proposed to his girlfriend on the dance floor.  Aaaaahhhh! 

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Day 4

We are getting into a bit of a routine….breakfast around 8:00 and first activity at 9:00 – zumba for me and a class for George.  The zumba instructor is very good and the workout is quite intense. 

For lunch there was a Mexican food bar accompanied by a beautiful hand-carved artwork made from fruits and vegetables.

We went to the fine art gallery’s auction.  We have all kinds of coupons, etc for their fine art shown in the art auction, but it is still too expensive for what we want.  After all, we don’t have a lot of wall space in our tiny house!

They do a nice job with decor, including fresh flowers everywhere. 

Tonight was formal night and passengers were encouraged to dress up. Most did. The captain sponsored a gala champagne event. These dancers danced with full glasses of champagne.

DINNER:  Crabcake appetizer for me; pate’ for George.  Shrimp, Indian-style entree’ for me; red snapper for George

Again we dashed after dinner, skipping dessert, to go to the theatre to watch “Rock Opera” which was excellent. 

Tomorrow morning we will be docking in Lisbon and I hope to get internet and post this blog then. 

Day #1 on our Trans-Atlantic cruise

LOCATION:  Docked in Cherbourg, France
WEATHER:  Cool and rainy.  High 57
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NOTE:  We are on a 14-day cruise across the Atlantic and will have very limited wifi (as we are too cheap to buy the internet package on the cruise ship).  So, this blog will only be posted a few times, hopefully from the stops we make along the way where we can find a coffee shop or something with wifi. 

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Everything went smoothly on our train trip from Bath to Southampton. We said “good-bye” to Bath, with this photo of its Unesco designation at the train station.

We met an American couple on their way to our same cruise ship – Princess.  So, when we arrived in Southampton, we shared a cab to the ship.  They have cruised with Princess before so gave us a lot of helpful hints.  (They had about 10 times the amount of luggage we had, so the cab ride was a bit tight!) 

The ship accommodates 3600 passengers, but we are only 2000, which should make things much less crowded than normal.  We spent the afternoon walking around the ship, trying to figure out where everything is. 

Everyone seems to have purchased the beverage package as people walk around with drinks in hand all of the time.  (We did not – seemed quite expensive and we hope not to drink that much!)  This is the main “piazza” where there is always music and a lot of different restaurant venues. 

We did attend the “Sail Away” party and danced a bit as we left Southampton. 

We found “The Sanctuary” on top of the ship with private areas for sunbathing and for dipping in the hot tub.

We attended the art gallery reception (free champagne) and won a gift to be redeemed later in the cruise.  (It will probably have some sort of strings attached whereby it really isn’t free).  We also won a bottle of champagne! 

There are 3 private dining rooms where the food is included in the cruise price.  I have made reservations for every evening in one of them.  There are also lots of specialty dining options that have a surcharge – steakhouse, sushi bar, Italian restaurant, French bistro, etc.  And, there are many many other informal (free) food options where one could eat all day – ice cream, hot dog stand, pizzeria, pastry shop,  and an international food court. 

DINNER:  We are determined not to eat too much, and will try to eat as healthy as we can. We shared a table with 2 couples from England and one couple from Ontario.  Very nice conversation.

For dinner, I had an appetizer as my main course – ceviche.  It was very tasty.

George had the seafood stew…

And, George just had to try one of the tempting desserts – sugar-free lemon tart.

There are a lot of entertainment options going on all the time – trivia, dancing, music concerts, theatre, and an outdoor movie screen.  We will check them out another day..  Tonight we hit the sack early.

BOOK:  “The Charming Quirks of Others” by Alexander McCall Smith.  Part of the Isabel Dalhousie series.  So charming and well-written.  5 stars out of 5


Final day in Bath

LOCATION:  Bath, Somerset, England
WEATHER:  Mild and sunny.  High 65

We spent today, our last day in Bath, enjoying our local scenery.  We took the canal hike from our back door to a little town that we had passed a few days ago.  It has the nice-looking pub George that wasn’t open then.  Today we timed it so we could have lunch there.

We chose the “sharers’ platter” which was really good – some type of kebab with lamb and rosemary, squid, Korean BBQ chicken, hummus, different flatbreads, and dips. 

George took the bus back to Bath while I returned on the footpath, doing a 2.5 mile power walk.  The exercise felt good.  I ended up the day later with 20K+ steps. 

We met back at the flat, and then went into the city of Bath.  The entire city of Bath has received the Unesco World Heritage designation.  This is the symbol on the sidewalk.

We did a little shopping, and came home.  I will miss all these cautionary signs when we leave! This one was in an inn with low ceilings……

This one on the train platform….

And this one in a pub….

Since there are a lot of international visitors here, they have these signs painted on the pavement. I read once that Winston Churchill almost got run over while visiting New York City, as he looked right instead of left, crossing a street.

DINNER:  Final leftovers meal – Omelette with everything in the refrigerator – onions, green onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, diced salami, and cheese.  It was just with the 2 remaining eggs, but it sure grew!

In preparation for our sailing tomorrow, we watched the Keeping Up Appearances episode about Hyacinth and Richard on the QEII.  So funny!  I hope we have better luck than they did!

Visiting the “Prettiest Village in England”

LOCATION:  Bath, Somerset, England
WEATHER:  Mostly overcast all day.  Mild.  High 66

Today’s destination was Castle Combe, “The Prettiest Village in England”.  The village won this distinction in some contest a few years ago.  One of the reasons it is so quaint is that they do not allow any changes on the outsides of buildings, like TV antennas, telephone poles, etc.  This keeps the town looking like it did in the 1600s, and creates a draw for movie filming.  The original “Dr. Doolittle” movie with Rex Harrison was filmed here.  More recently the town was a movie set for one of the Steven Spielberg’s movies and some Poirot TV shows.

Another reason it remains “quaint” is that it is a bit challenging to get there.  We took a train from Bath to a nearby town, then caught a bus that goes to Castle Combe.  It only goes there every 3-4 hours, so timing is important.

It is named Castle Combe from a castle built above the town in the 1500s.  It became a prosperous cloth weaving town in the 1600s.  Not much has changed since.  The houses are all stone.  Everywhere I looked, I wanted to take a photo….

The church dominates the center of the village, with  an ancient-looking cemetery.

The manor house, where a wealthy cloth merchant once lived is now a beautiful hotel.

The old doors and windows of the houses are fascinating…

I love this photo….it shows that “real” people live here.  These 2 neighbor ladies stopped to chat with the homeowner while she was sweeping her doorstop…

We took a hike on a footpath that goes up and around the village.  Later I read a note saying that one must wear wellies on this hike.  Yes – it was muddy!

All of the roofs are slate, many with moss on the slates.  One house has my favorite roof – a tratched roof.  This is part of the Cotswolds, but the thatched roofs are more popular farther north.

The town has a pub (of course) and a hotel that has a restaurant.  We didn’t have time to eat there as the bus came at 12:30.  If we missed it, we would have to wait until 5:00 for the next one.

DINNER:  Another penne pasta dish.  We will be leaving a partial bag for the AirB&B host.  I made a sauce with dibs and dabs of food in the refrigerator from previous meals – onion, green onion, mushrooms, butter beans, bacon, and pasta sauce.  A lettuce and tomato salad was the side.  Tomorrow night will be our last night here, and I will hopefully use up most everything else. 

Checking out Bradford on Avon – old!

LOCATION:  Bath, Somerset, England
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 64

Today’s journey was to Bradford on Avon which had been recommended to us.  It was a 15-minute train ride.

The town is very old.  This Saxon church dates from before 700.  It is still used.

And, this is the “new” church across the street – built in 1260

Everything is quite tidy, including the bushes!

There are some beautiful old houses.

There are a lot of narrow pathways connecting the old buildings.

This tea house has won awards as the best tea house in England…

We walked around the old town and peeped into the stores.  This bakery was offering some fresh faggots…..we passed!

The Avon River flows through the city and this old bridge connects the two halves.

There was a pub there as a potential lunch place, but it was too early to eat so we headed back to the train station.

The train was super crowded, and was running late.  When the doors opened, it was just a wall of people.  We, like others, just pushed ourselves in.  It was very hot and we were standing next to the toilet in the entrance area.  A young woman next to me started breathing heavily, and then she fainted! Another lady and I kept her standing up and moved her to the toilet to sit down.  Then, the train just stopped, right as we entered a dark tunnel.   The conductor, in a very proper British voice, announced that there was something on the track that they had to investigate.  So, we just stood there.  Meanwhile, several of us were  trying to help the girl who had fainted.  After about 20 minutes, the conductor announced that there was nothing “sinister” in the object on the tracks, and that we could proceed.  What an experience!

Back in Bath, we used our Hop On/Off ticket again (now 4 rides on 1 ticket), and took it to the top of the city.  We walked back down, checking out the oldest pub in Bath, which Dickens frequented while writing one of his books.

DINNER:  Jacques Pepin made this dish on a Facebook post this week (Yes, he and  are friends).  It is like a cottage pie without the crust.  I sauteed a package of mixed vegetables – broccoli, carrots, and onions, along with some small potatoes.  Then, I added some leftover cooked, diced chicken and white wine.  After that cooked awhile, I added some smoked cheddar to make a light cream sauce.  I pinched off some of a neighbor’s rosemary plant for seasoning.  Good!

Rubbing shoulders with Jane Austen and Mary Shelley

LOCATION:  Bath, Somerset, England
WEATHER:  Sunny in the AM with some clouds in PM.  High 61

The highlight today was breakfast at the Pump Room.  It is part of the Roman baths dating back from 42 AD.  In the 1700s, they became popular as meeting places to “take” the restorative waters.  The Pump Room (pumping the water) was one such place.  Now it is a fancy restaurant for morning breakfast and afternoon English tea. 

Tip for anyone visiting Bath — This is what we did…..We had the breakfast (delicious cheese scones and coffee)  for about $10 each.  With that, we could walk around and see part of the ancient baths.  This is far cheaper (and less crowded) than purchasing the bath tour.   So, while we were waiting for our breakfast, we got our money’s worth of views.

We could even taste the water!

The setting is very elegant, with a pianist playing the grand piano.  We learned that Jane Austen came here often for afternoon tea. 

Several people ordered one of these cakes…

or scones like ours….

We also learned that Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) once lived in this very spot.  Interestingly, the City of Bath now has its electricity grid underground here, so it provides electric “volts” to the citizens of Bath.

This guy, Beau Nash, was the “marketing director” for Bath in the 1700s. He transformed bath from a town where the royalty came for therapeutic bath to a city bustling with middle-class residents who enjoyed the baths as social events.

We then did a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour.   There are actually 2 tours, both included in one ticket.  The first one is a Skyline Tour, taking us high up around Bath, which is buillt kind of in a bowl.  Beautiful views.

Then, a second bus tour around the city.  This is one of the streets that has that “Bath Georgian look”.

This is the former home of Jane Austen…

And, this is the church where Jane Austen’s father was a preacher

After the bus tours, we had lunch in a cozy pub, built in the 1700s.

We walked around the old town.  This is the oldest restaurant in town, and these Sally Lunn buns are now popular everywhere.

Near our AirB&B flat, we spotted this interesting gin distillery.  It was not open, but the owner heard us outside and opened up – just for us! 

We tasted some of her gins and bought a very small bottle.

DINNER:  Needing to use up the package of penne pasta I bought, I made a simple pasta dish.  For the sauce I used a container of tomato sauce with mascaparone and added sauteed mushrooms, onions, and small dices of leftover cooked bacon and chicken.  I couldn’t find Parmesan cheese, so I put dollops of goat cheese on top.  Pretty decent! 

A lovely, long walk along the canal

LOCATION:  Bath, Somerset, England
WEATHER:  Sunny and autumn-like in the AM. Scattered showers in PM

After checking the weather forecast, we decided to get an early start for a long walk along the canal. Due to last night’s rain, there were lots of puddles to skirt around….

The path paralleling the canal is very popular for dog-walkers, joggers, and slow walkers like us.  We passed more than 100 canal boats, some in pristine condition and others not so much.

Some are vacation rentals; others are permanent homes. 

We passed by the Bath longboat rental company….

We passed a lot of pretty homes along the canal, too…

Our destination was a little town called Bathford, about 5 miles away.  We weren’t sure if we could get there all the way by foot.  Our first town along the path was Bathampton with a lovely-looking (and well-named) pub – The George.   Too early to stop, but the people there were friendly and advised on how to get to Bathford (they thought).

While we were there, we chatted with the National Health Service nurses who had a long boat moored where they were offering free flu and Covid vaccines to boaters and to people on the path.  Nice!

From Bathampton, we cut through the village and then followed a foot-path in a meadow.  Very buccolic, and the sheep didn’t mind us.

We made it to Bathford, just in time for lunch at The Crown pub.  I had read good reviews about it. 

And, surprise, surprise, there is an Airstream parked next door!  It is a 1989 refurbished one, now used as a B&B.

The chef/owner of the pub is French, and they are known for their good food.  We shared an order of steamed mussels, cooked beautifully in a wine herb sauce with frites on the side, and a baguette to sop up the juice.  Magnificent!

We had planned to take the bus back to Bath, but the weather was still sunny and we were feeling peppy (now with full tummies), so we headed back.  The bartender told us about a shorter footpath. It was a bit rough-going…

We got caught in the rain as we got close to Bath.  We ducked under a tunnnel to wait it out.  We endend the day with 12,000+steps – 9 miles! 

DINNER:  The grocery stores here sell a lot of frozen “homemade” meals.  I bought us some lamb tangine and rice.  To stretch it, I added some butter beans and green onions.  Side was lettuce and tomato salad. 

A lovely Sunday in Bath

LOCATION:  Bath, Somerset, England
WEATHER:  A mix of everything.  High 63

We awoke to rain beating on our window.  The weather forecast said 100% chance of rain all day, so we assumed we would be staying inside all day. But at 10:00, we looked outside and saw sunshine!  Yay!  I also thought it was cold, so put on 4 layers, including a rain jacket.  I quickly realized I was overdressed!

We walked around the busy downtown area.  The Georgian architecture is so pretty with “clean” lines.  Most of the sidewalks are pedestrian-only so people were strolling around, shopping, eating, and sipping coffee.  We admired the beautiful Bath Abbey. 

In the square in front of the abbey, we joined a walking tour.   The guide was extremely knowledgeable and took us all around the town for about 2 hours.  The fall colors are so pretty.

We learned about how the hot springs contributed to Bath’s growth, starting with the Romans around 42 A.D.  They loved the baths…

As Bath became more popular and people started moving there, architects designed these Georgian mansions up the hill from the main part of town.  This style is prevalent all over the city.

We ended the trip with a view of the river and a bridge with shops (like in Florence).  Again, the colors were breathtaking.

After the tour, we looked for lunch options and stumbled across a “little theatre” where they were having a West Country music and cider festival.  We thought it would be a good way to spend an afternoon that was turning rainy.  We had a pumpkin curry from their bar.  Not bad.

It was wild.  The music is similar to Irish folks songs.  The audience knew the lyrics and sang along.  Lots of people danced, sort of a hopping motion.  Fun!

There were 3 bands – Razzomo, The Nasty Fishmongers, and Skimmity Hitchers. 

The parents of 2 of the Nasty Fishmongers singers (below) happenend to sit at our table.  They were so proud!

This theatre is very interesting.  They offer something almost every day/night – disco, comedy, jazz, rock, cabaret, drag queen shows.    It seems to attract an interesting crowd…

Back home, I prepared a simple dinner for us.  I’m trying not to buy too much, just enough for dinners most nights this week…

DINNER:  Lettuce and tomato salad.  The main dish was sauteed chicken breasts with green onions and mushrooms.  For the sauce, I added some white wine, a bit of English mustard, and some herbed cheese.  I served it over penne pasta.  Quite good! 

Starting our week in Bath

LOCATION:  Bath, England
WEATHER:  Partly cloudy with only a sprinkle or two.  High 64

We took a 2-hour train ride from Southampton to Bath, where we will spend the next week.  We selected Bath as it is beautiful, ancient city, still with Roman baths dating from 42 A.D. We are also on the edge of the Cotswolds (my favorite part of England) and we will make a few day trips to quaint villages.

We started the train ride with plenty of room, but at every stop we picked up a lot more passengers, until we were at standing-room only.  We found out it is because today there is a big rugby match in Bath.  We were totally squished in and there was no A/C. 

All of us sardines got off in Bath.  The conductor promised to leave the doors open until we could all squeeze out. 

To kill some time before we could check in, we headed to a brewpub adjacent to the train station.  A lot of the rugby fans were there, all with their striped rugby shirts.  It was fun city!  I’ve noted before how food has evolved so nicely in English pubs.  I saw several vegan options on the lunch menu including “fish” and chips made from banana blossoms instead of fish!  We selected this vegan option and it was delicious (but I forgot to take a photo)…

We found our AirB&B.  We selected this particular one as it is close to downtown and to the train station.  It is a basement flat in a very old building.

We will be very comfortable here – with a main room/bedroom, kitchen, and bath. 

They have chiseled out this space for the bathroom – note the exposed rock wall.

After settling in, we took a walk to a garden center/farm shop to do a little shopping.  On our way, right next to our flat is a canal with a lock.  We watched a family manually opening the lock to get their long boat through.  This brought back fond memories of when we rented a long boat a few years ago with our daughter Alexis.

While we are here, we will eat our breakfasts in, as well as most dinners, thereby saving quite a bit of money.  We bought ingredients for tonight’s dinner and the kitchen now looks like home!

DINNER:  A salad made with the local lettuce and tomatoes from the farm store.  Main course was a portabello sandwich.  We were vegan all day today!

We ate in front of a very old oven inserted in the fireplace area.  It was quiet romantic!