Behind on the Cruise Posts but…

It’s almost time to start posting Scotland stuff!

I think I have 5 days to catch up on the Bermuda Cruise posts and I’ll try to get those done this week.

tattoo

Meanwhile..

We’re headed to Scotland by way of Amsterdam on Friday.

August 12, 2015, I’ll be going to the Edinburgh Tattoo. This has been on my bucket list for a long time since my grandfather was in the Black Watch and I just love to hear bagpipes. Even my cellphone ringtone is Scotland, the Brave.

My mom says that my Grandfather’s name is inscribed as a war hero in Edinburgh Castle, where the Tattoo is held.  You know, I’ll find that!  We have tickets for a tour of the castle as well as a bus tour of Edinburgh.  I don’t know if we’ll get all of that done since we’ll be driving down from Inverness on the morning of the 12th.  We will be staying overnight since the Tattoo gets out late so we’ll see.

 

I never met my grandfather.  He had died in Peshawar, India, fighting for the Black Watch during World War l.  Peshawar was on the northern frontier of British India, near the Khyber Pass.

In 1947, Peshawar became part of the newly independent state of Pakistan after politicians approved merger into the state that had just been carved from British India.

peshawar

We have a trunk of his belongings, though, and it’s very interesting to recreate his life.

My dad was born in Scotland in 1913.  Somewhere I have a picture of him getting off the boat at age 5 wearing his little kilt.  I’ll have to post that for a TBT sometime.

In 1914, my grandfather was involved in this:

On the outbreak of war there were seven Black Watch battalions – for in addition to the Regular 1st and 2nd Battalions and 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion there were a further four Territorial ones which had become part of the Regiment in 1908. They were the 4th Dundee [Mary O’Note: I’m pretty sure this was his, since that’s where my dad was born], 5th Angus, 6th Perthshire and the 7th Battalion from Fife. The 1st Battalion was in action at the very start of the war taking part in the Retreat from Mons before turning on the Germans at the River Marne and the subsequent advance to the Aisne. Trench warfare then set in and the 2nd Battalion arrived from India, both battalions taking part in the Battle of Givenchy. Meanwhile the Territorial battalions had been mobilised at the start of the war but only the 5th was in action in 1914.

From http://www.theblackwatch.co.uk/index/first-world-war

black watch

 

Black_Watch2

I guess this is why I love the Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch so much.

blackwatch-pipers

Thanks, Grandpa!

 

 

At Sea, Monday, June 8, 2015

image

I woke up about 7 and Tom had brought me coffee – hooray!

We went for breakfast at the good old Garden Cafe then went to a talk about Bermuda in the Breakaway Theater.  It was pretty good and told us a lot about the island and good places to go.

At 11, we had a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet in La Cucina.  The officers didn’t seem to want to be there but we did get cards with their phone numbers, if needed.  No offer of a dinner with the officers like we had last time.

I texted Michael using the iConcierge app and he was napping already so I took the time to get Tom’s app working.

Back at the cabin we found out that Michael had bought shorts and shirt in the store.  He hadn’t known that he couldn’t use his debit card – it was all on the room key.

Then, of course, it was time for lunch.  You know where.

We decided to go on the Bermuda full-day bus tour Wednesday and BAMZ/Crystal Caves on Thursday.  Michael signed up for them during lunch, using the app.

We walked around some and came to the ropes course and zipline. Michael went but didn’t walk the plank.  I had planned to go, too, but I was wearing sandals and couldn’t go. Tom checked everything out and said he’d try it “later”.

 

 

As if the Aqua Park wasn’t enough deck-top fun for one cruise vacation, Norwegian has devoted another generous chunk of the ship’s exterior space to a three-story sports complex with a smorgasbord of gee-whiz amusements.

Among the attractions is a suspended-in-the-sky ropes course that has 40 different elements including The Plank, a platform that extends 8 feet over the vessel’s edge. The sports complex also offers a miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline and a 24-foot enclosed climbing cage called the Spider Web.
From http://www.usatoday.com/story/cruiselog/2013/05/01/norwegian-breakaway-five-things-love/2126133/

We went to store for more band aids for Tom. I liked a tshirt but didn’t get it which is pretty amazing for me.
This night we had reservations for the Cirque Jungle Dreams and Dinner.  I had read many complaints about the Cirque dinner so we ate in the Garden Cafe a bit before the show. The food (and show) were great. I told the waitress that I was allergic to shrimp so she offered double filet mignon but I declined. My portion was excellent.

The show itself was fantastic, especially for being at sea. The costumes were very clever.

We wandered outside deck 8 before bed.

All pictures from today:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/cushingshelp/B3g57A

 

 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday was a big rush of things.  We had agreed to skip breakfast due to time constraints, which was fine with me since I never/rarely eat it anyway (I know, I know – most important meal of the day)

As planned, Michael arrived at our hotel and we put luggage tags on his backpack, made sure we had everything packed up and got an Uber.  Tom had checked us out and we went out the door and into the Uber with all our luggage.

The ride to the temporary Steinway Hall was pretty fast and we got there about 10:30 or so.  The doors were locked but Michael’s teacher arrived a couple minutes later and we were inside.

Eddie Strauss, Sales Manager, let us use the freight elevator to haul all our luggage to the second floor/mezzanine where we could leave it outside the Henry  E. Steinway Recital Hall.

Although this is a temporary location while their new facilities are being built, it is very beautiful.

…temporary location at 1155 Avenue of the Americas.

This short-term “pop-up store” will allow Steinway to remain open as the new headquarters is being constructed, allowing for continuous service to its customers.

Steinway, well-known for handcrafting the world’s finest pianos, will now have a gallery space that encompasses approximately 18,000 s/for both retail and showroom, and a small concert hall that caters to the world’s most prominent pianists.

via Steinway Hall, Temporary Location. | MaryO’Studio.

Michael played Johann Sebastian Bach’s Italian Concerto.

This video certainly doesn’t do his performance justice!

We played the first two movements of Peter Warlock’s Capriol duet (also, the video isn’t the best quality):

Speaking of video quality, Eddie told us that the new Steinway Hall will have professional recording equipment in the recital hall and that will make things much better for the future.

We left Steinway about 12:15 and took an Uber to the terminal. The driver left us at the terminal by the Gem about 12:35 but it was an easy walk next door to the Breakaway terminal at Pier 88.

We left our checked baggage and went through the terminal process very quickly. We never even had a chance to sit down and we were on board by 1:00. That was the fastest I have ever boarded any ship.

The Garden Cafe was crowded but we found a table without much effort. Before we finished eating, it was announced that the cabins were ready. Our cabin – 9918 – was fantastic! It was a bit tight for the 3 of us but we made it work.

The balcony was the best part. I had chosen an aft balcony on 9, starboard. We had 2 loungers, 3 chairs and 2 tables and plenty of room to move them and ourselves around.

Looking up to the other decks, we could see from the angle that ours was larger than the others above us.

There was a lot of storage but some was tricky to find. The bathroom was a good size, as was the shower. There were more shelves in the bathroom than usual and I liked being able to leave my  stuff in there. I had read that there was no conditioner in the showers so I brought my own.

I also followed advice from Cruise Critic and brought magnet hooks for the walls and those were great for hanging hats, card lanyards and so on.

The end tables on each side of our bed were pretty narrow but we made that work. The lights beside the bed were a little high up, so I’d have to get up to turn mine off. Luckily, I read a Kindle before bed so I never really needed to use the bedside light.

Our luggage arrived before 4:00 pm which was really nice.

I had been concerned about going on a ship this size but there was really no problem. The elevators were crowded the first day but after that, no big deal. I would like to point out that we mostly always took the stairs going down and walked up if it was only 2-3 decks.

We got the unlimited internet package and it was well worth it for us. On other cruises, I would get the max minutes and always be watching the time – and I would still often run out at the end. I am the web master for a couple companies so I need to spend some time online each day. This internet package was a life-saver for me and we were able to share it between the 3 of us.

We also made good use of the iPhone iConcierge app. We used it as a messenger to let others know where we were and we made reservations for 3 restaurants and 2 shore excursions with it. I also checked how our account was doing. That cost us $7.95 per phone and was well worth it.

While we were waiting to “set sail”, there was a beautiful monarch butterfly that flitted from the next balcony over to ours.  Butterflies always remind me of my good friend, Alice.  I have a monarch butterfly as my phone background.  I’d like to think that this butterfly was a reminder from Alice to have a wonderful trip.

Then, right after sail-away, the traditional First Nap :)  Our bed was great, very comfortable king sized with 2 pillows each. 

Tom went out to a meeting, something that he would do at 5:30 every day.

We ate our first dinner in the Garden Cafe, followed by Guest Relations to get band aids, antiseptic and distilled water for Michael’s CPAP machine

Then, off to an early bed. Our steward, Bradley, turned the couch into a nice bed for our son.

Slideshow of some of our pictures:

All pictures for Sunday:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskaL6Nk7

All Cruise Pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/cushingshelp/6795k6

Saturday, June 6, 2015, Part 2

During Michael’s workout, I wrote part 1 of today’s post.  When he arrived at the hotel, we set out for Tribeca Park on our search for the Sing For Hope pianos.

We found it!

Then, we Ubered (is that a word?) to Michael’s apartment for us to practice a bit.  We dropped by Duane Reade, a relative of Walgreens, for some munchies and actually practiced – finally!

From there, we got another Uber and headed to the Lincoln Center complex.  Our plan was to eat at the same restaurant we’d found before we saw The Marriage of Figaro at The Met.

When we got there, there was some sort of upscale street fair on the grounds.  It turned out to be the American Crafts Festival.

We walked through that to find the next S4H piano, which we located in the Charles B Benson Grove.  Yamaha grand.  There was a woman playing ragtime and a long line of folks who wanted to play.  Turned out the woman played clubs around the city and was using this event to advertise.

Off we went to the restaurant to find it closed for 2 months renovation.  The next place reservations only so we went back to the Lincoln Center and had sandwiches in their coffee shop.  Not bad!

We went to our pre-program Mozart lecture given by Joelle Wallach. Very interesting!

Then, into Avery Fisher Hall to hear an all-Mozart program including:

Piano Concerto No. 21

 

Symphony No. 38, Prague

 

Piano Concerto No. 20

 

 

kahane

Here’s a review of the exact same performance that we attended! The same program had been performed on Wednesday.

Review from the New York Times: New York Philharmonic Gives Mozart His Due

As the festival continues to evolve in directions that have less and less to do with its namesake, the Philharmonic, perhaps sensing an opportunity, offers a Mozart program of its own this week: the “Prague” Symphony and the Piano Concertos No. 20, in D minor, and No. 21, in C, with Jeffrey Kahane as guest conductor and soloist.

The “Prague” must be every opera lover’s favorite Mozart symphony. Composed in Vienna in 1786 and evidently given its premiere in Prague early the next year, it is a virtual caldron of tunes more or less shared with “Le Nozze di Figaro” (1786) and “Don Giovanni” (1787).

More than that, the symphony, played before intermission, evokes the moods and characters of those operas, especially “Don Giovanni.” Mr. Kahane treated all of that a bit matter-of-factly at Wednesday evening’s performance, with little lingering to search out lascivious byplay in dark recesses or to limn a bumbling Leporello.

So it came as a delightful surprise, after intermission, when Mr. Kahane injected the condemnatory sequence of rising and falling scales from “Don Giovanni” into his own cadenza for the first movement of the D minor Concerto. His playing was deft and virtuosic in both concertos, though his fast tempos in the outer movements of the C major resulted in some blurred scalar passages and a slightly hectic feel at times.

You might have feared a certain weightiness from the Philharmonic in Mozart, but Mr. Kahane generally drew stylish playing from a reduced band of 40 or so. The strings had a pliant quality, and the woodwinds were especially fine.

The program was fantastic but we wondered why it was Concerto-Symphony-Intermission-Concerto.  With that type of programming, it started with the piano on stage, then moved out, then moved back during the intermission for the final concerto.

A quick stop at Duane Reade for night time snacks than an Uber home.  We went right by the cruise terminal on our way to the hotel.

Tomorrow’s a busy day with Steinway Hall then boarding the cruise ship.  I may not finish writing these until we get home, depending on WiFi and other activities – but I’ll take good notes :)

The Trip Starts ~ Friday, June 5, 2015

I woke up at 8 and still have to pack.  We’re leaving for the train at 11…

So, naturally, I did some online stuff and at 9:08, I posted “We’re getting on a train at 1:02 (love how precise Amtrak is!) today so I guess I should start packing…”

Tom called for a cab to arrive at 11:15.  The cab arrived about 11 and started honking his horn.  Mimi started barking.  I took the first bag out at 11:15.  Good thing – the driver was getting ready to leave.  I told him that we’d said 11:15 – he’d missed that part

We got the 3 finally packed bags to the cab and settled in, fairly early to get to Union Station.

About 15 minutes out, I asked Tom if he had his passport.  He’d been thinking New York, not the cruise to Bermuda so we went back home and started again.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, if expensive.  The driver was fairly talkative and carried on an interesting conversation with Tom about Sikhs and other religions. Also, immigration to the states as opposed to the UK, education here, life in India…

Finally – Union Station.  Hooray!

Union_Station_Washington_DC

We only had to wait in line for about 10 minutes before our train was called.  Since the train originated in DC, we were able to get seats together.  Hooray!

View of the next train to our left…

And the trip starts...the train next track

The ride to New York was fine.  No derailments, which was really good.  The train that derailed in May was Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188.  We were on Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 186.  I assume that they retired #188.  It seemed ridership was down a little but we were on an earlier train than usual so maybe not.

We arrived at Penn Station, NY on time and started getting in the cab line.  I hate to say it, but the line was long and we fell for a gypsy cab trip.  The driver didn’t take us out of our way – I was following the trip on my Waze.  The driver got us to our hotel – and wanted an exorbitant amount of money (plus tip), cash only.  Tom convinced him to take a lot less (and NO tip!) and we checked into the hotel.

Four Points by Sheraton SoHo is apparently built on a small lot – it’s very compact, but tall.  Our room is on the small side and I think that there are only a few rooms on each floor.

We’re on the second floor and the view is a next door roof.  I’ll try to get a picture of that tomorrow.

Michael arrived – hooray!  After some discussion – nap or food – we decided to go out to eat.  We walked through Father Fagan Park.  Mimi wouldn’t consider this to be a “real park” but then, she’s not a city dog.

father-faganFather Fagan Park is gem of a vest-pocket park on the western edge of Soho. This park commemorates four local heroes who perished in the face of fire.

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M207

The first restaurant we tried could have taken us without a reservation but we’d have to eat quickly so we could be out when those who had reservations arrived.  We left, allowing plenty of time for those who planned ahead.

Walking along, we read other menus until we arrived at Spice.  Yummy Thai food!  I had Pad Thai with tofu and Tom had the same but with chicken.  Michael had rice with mixed seafood – some of the mix was squid.  EEEWW.

As an afterthought, I asked for Thai tea.  I was surprised, and very happy, when it came as a bubble tea.  As far as I know, there are only 2 places near me with bubble tea so this was a real treat.

bubble-teaAt the bottom are yummy boba tapioca pearls.  Here’s why I don’t make bubble tea at home:

How to Make Boba and Bubble Tea

What You Need

Ingredients

1/4 cup dried boba tapioca pearls per serving (NOT quick-cooking boba)
1-2 tea bags per serving, any kind
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Milk, almond milk, or sweetened condensed milk
Fruit juice or nectar (optional)

Equipment

Saucepan
Bowl for holding the cooked boba
Measuring cups

Instructions

1. Cook the Boba: Measure 2 cups of water for every 1/4 cup of boba being prepared into a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the boba and stir gently until they begin floating to the top of the water.

Turn the heat to medium and cook the boba for 12-15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, cover, and let the pearls sit for another 12-15 minutes.

2. Prepare Sugar Syrup for the Boba: While the boba are cooking, make a simple sugar syrup to sweeten and preserve them once cooked. Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil over high heat on the stove or in the microwave. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

3. Prepare a Strong Cup of Tea: This can be done either while the boba are cooking or ahead of time. Allow enough time for the tea to cool completely before making the boba. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea bag. Use one tea bag for regular-strength bubble tea or two for a stronger tea flavor. Remove the tea bag after 15 minutes and chill the tea.

4. Finish the Boba: Once the boba have finished cooking, drain them from the water and transfer them to a small bowl or container. Pour the sugar syrup over top until the boba are submerged. Let sit until the boba are room temperature, at least 15 minutes, or refrigerate until ready to use. Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.

5. Make the Bubble Tea: Pour the prepared tea into a tall glass and add the boba. Add milk for a creamy bubble tea, juice for a fruity tea, or leave plain and add a little extra water. Sweeten to taste with the simple syrup from soaking the boba.

Additional Notes:

Very Chilled Bubble Tea: For an extra-chilly bubble tea, combine all the tea, milk, and/or juice, but not the boba in a cocktail shaker. Add a few ice cubes and shake for 20 seconds. Pour into a tall glass and add the boba.

Shortcut Boba: If you want immediate gratification, just cook your boba until they are tender, 5 to 10 minutes, and use them as soon as they’re cool. This kind of boba don’t [sic] keep for very long (turning rock hard in a few hours), but are delicious if eaten right away.

Saving Leftover Boba and Making Boba for Later: Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated with simple syrup for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.

During dinner, we discussed where to go next but that was fairly indecisive.  We thought about going to Tribeca park where one of the Sing For Hope pianos is located.  That was going to be about a mile walk and it was about 7:00 so we went back to the hotel to use the free WiFi and find another activity.  We ended up doing nothing except coming up with ideas for tomorrow.

So far:  breakfast, Michael has a training session at 12:30, Barge MusicAvery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York to hear an all-Mozart program, possibly a talk before that.  Somewhere in there we need to practice some…

We’ll see how that all works out!  Meanwhile, It’s 5:30 and I’m going back to sleep!

MaryOColorfulButterfly

Harbor Nights in Hamilton Bermuda

 

When we stayed in Bermuda as a land trip in 2010, we didn’t go into Hamilton for Harbor Nights so maybe we’ll go this time.

Harbor night celebration takes place on every Wednesday during high season (May through September) on Front Street of Hamilton Bermuda.

So what is Harbor Nights? Basically, Bermuda at its best. The front street in Hamilton gets closed to all vehicles after sunset. The shops and the restaurants remain open till late at night. And the street comes alive with sparkling lights and music. Large number of vendors wearing colorful dresses sell various kinds of local arts and crafts. Many of them will be the local artists themselves who are generally willing to chat with you and explain their artwork.

There will also be a number of food sellers selling different kinds of food – both Bermudian and ethnic. And then comes the Gombey dancers with their lively music and rhythmic drumming. They are huge crowd pullers. It’s a great experience even if you just take a stroll along Front Street and enjoy the ambience of the Harbor nights. People mix freely and talk to each other. This is a great family event and gives a wonderful insight into Bermudian culture.

Harbor Nights at Hamilton

If you plan to take your dinner in Hamilton on Harbor Night, make reservations and come early. Choose a restaurant with a balcony facing the Front Street and the harbor. You will watch the whole festive world below on the street with a backdrop of the beautifully illuminated harbor. Dining experience can’t get any better than this. We just love it.

So Harbor Nights at Hamilton Bermuda essentially features:

1) On-street celebrations from 7 to 10 p.m.

2) Shops are generally open until 9:00 p.m.

3) You get to see Bermuda’s local Arts and Crafts

4) Live Music and Entertainment

5) Food Court

6) Lots of activities for Children in the Children’s Court, including fun castles in all sizes, the ever-popular train, face painting, tattoos and hair braiding.

7) You can see the Bermuda Regiment band, which marches down Front Street in full regimental apparel with pipes and drums.

Update May 2015: This year Harbor Nights is scheduled between June 3 – September 2, 2015 (7pm to 10pm). Additional ferries beyond normal hours will be provided for visitors returning to dockyard.

via Harbor Nights in Hamilton Bermuda.