Blue Water Days

I will make this entry of our trans-Atlantic voyage a “broad brushstrokes” overview. The Mrs will do a more detailed (and interesting daily summary I am certain) on HER BLOG… As a side note, her blog is currently undergoing a major upgrade, which it has been due for a while, and her techie guru, Gary in UK, is hard at work to make it incredible…

We were aboard the Queen Mary 2  from Tuesday August 4th through Tuesday August 11th. The only major SCHEDULED events we had to adhere to were the mandatory ship safety meeting at 5 pm on our first day on board, and evening dinner in the Britannia Dining Room at 8:30 pm. We chose the 8:30 time slot because we intended to go to the Formal Afternoon Tea each day @ 3:30, and between the finger sandwiches and scones, we needed a few hours to make room in our tummies for dinner! All other meals/eating and activities were purely subject to our whim…

Nils guitar
Nils guitar

On-board activities we participated in included listening to lectures on the Magna Carta, opium, and Howard Hughes. These were separate and unrelated topics, btw! We also attended a concert by a wonderful classical guitarist, Nils Klöfver , a Swedish guitarist living in London. We bought a cd of his, from him, after the performance.

The 7th level has a promenade deck, and three laps of this deck is 1.1 miles around. We walked the deck most days. Just cuz this is a walking blog, here are the basic stats of our walking while over the Atlantic.

Just anothern warm & sunny day on the Atlantic
Just anothern warm & sunny day on the Atlantic
Another sunset...
Another sunset…

Aug. 5 – 3.3 miles. Sunny & warm.

Aug. 6 – 2.2 miles. Rain.

Aug. 7 – 2.2 miles. Sunny & warm.

Aug. 8 – 2.5 miles. Partly cloudy & warm.

Aug. 9 – 3.3 miles. Sunny & warm.

Aug. 10 – No walk today (packing day). Overcast and warm.

We arrived in Southampton, and we disembarked the ship at 10:15 am…

Our first task was to take a taxi to the Hertz car rental to get our waiting Ford Fiesta. Next stop… we call it  SIMPLY RED‘s House….

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Aug 4th, Part 2: On Board

We packed up most of our cases the night before, so when we got up in the morning we just had to have coffee/tea and a bite to eat in order to get under way.  The doorman hailed us a taxi… the unsuspecting driver did not realize the amount of luggage that had to go with us. The trunk of the car only took two or three bags, the rest went in the backseat next to The Mrs, and I sat in front with my knapsack.  Off to Brooklyn and the Cunard sea terminal!  WooHoo! EXCEPT – – – our driver didn’t know how to get there, but between the GPS on his smartphone, and the GPS on The Mrs’ smartphone, we got there. Fare was $55 which seemed a fair  fare to this hick from the cornfields of Illinois….

We had Cunard employees standing by happy to help unload our cases from the cab and send them into the depths of the terminal building fro processing and delivery to our shipboard room. The wait to board was not very long, and soon we were walking up the gangplank with our keycards to stateroom #5115 (5th floor).

074

We had requested a balcony room with a bulkhead cutout for this crossing because it is cheaper than a glass=fronted balcony.

View from balcony
View from balcony

We got to our room and most of our bags were waiting for us. We had a courtesy bottle of champagne waiting inside (on ice) for us, which The Mrs put in the mini-frig right a way for safe keeping. THEN, she gave me two birthday presents!!! A book, Moone Boy,by Chris O’Dowd & Nick V. Murphy. Very very funny, and there is a comedy series in the UK starring Chris O’Dowd by the same title. We are able to catch it on cable… The other present is my VERY OWN KEVIN MINION  ….. fan!

Birthday gifts
Birthday gifts

So we wandered around the ship to get our bearings, then suddenly the ship was leaving the dock and we were headed out to sea.  So, a couple photos of NY and Lady Liberty…

Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

Next stop, Southampton

Grocery detail ! Sept 13

We have been home just a week and finally, today, Sunday, we hit the point of NEEDING GROCERIES! Grace’s sister, Amy, had done a quick stock-up for us so on our return we would have milk & creamer and some meals ready to pop in the oven, but today I faced the sad truth that we desperately needed some more essentials. Like laundry detergent, and margarine, hazelnut coffee, and cookies/fig bars!!! Oh the Catmanity!!!

Soooo…. The Mrs had to work today (she has a meeting in Peoria) so I found myself sitting at home herding the kitties and contemplating the lack of hazelnut coffee and fig bars. Finally I got motivated enough to put shorts & t-shirt on, pull on my hiking boots, and head out the door to go shopping at WalMart.

I walked through the soccer fields at UIS to avoid having to walk on the roadway to get to South 11th Street. While The Mrs & I were stumbling around Wales & Ireland for the month of August, UIS installed what they labelled a Challenge Course on the grounds of the Spencer House and along the perimeter of the fields. Interesting!!Ch course

Challenge sign

So the first part of my 5.5 mile walk was on the grass and fields of UIS. It was a warm sunny day, perfect actually…. Just like everyday in Wales! I continued through campus until I got to 11th Street and headed north. Nice walking this area is… sidewalks on both sides of the street, 2 lanes each direction, mostly fields to the left and right…

11th Street, Springfield
11th Street, Springfield

The walking here was smooth and level and I was having a great stroll. Before I knew it, I was at the front door to the South 6th Street WalMart. I looked at my watch and it was exactly 46 minutes. When I got home (just under 45 minutes on the return, I entered the route into MapMyRun and it put me at a total distance of 5 .5 miles and about 3.3 miles per hour.

I spent about 30 minutes picking up the essentials, checked out my 14 items, packed them all into my hiking knapsack, and headed home.  Here is a photo of everything I bought… although I see I had already moved the bananas and I had gotten a bottle of water at the checkout and drank that on the way home…. and so the empty bottle was already in the recycle bin.

Grocery essentials
Grocery essentials

G, if you are reading this on your smartphone… note I bought you CHOCOLATE Belvitas!!!!!

On my return trip, I took a photo of the UIS sign at the corner of 11th & Hemingway Drive. This sign was installed years after I had graduated from UIS…

UIS sign
UIS sign

Ready to Leave – 4th of August

WARNING>>>>>> Run-on sentence to follow!!!

On this day in 1957 at a hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, a young couple, both US Army veterans (she was a Sergeant, he was a Corporal when they were Honorably Discharged), experienced the birth of their second child, a boy, to whom they gave the Welsh name of Kevin… And 58 years later this guy and his bride (Grace) were boarding a ship to travel back to the lands of some of his ancestors (Wales, England, and Ireland).

Do I get credit for continuing the Run=on by using ellipsis???

Let me explain something before we get this voyage underway ~ I hate commercial flying. Actually, I HATE commercial flying. I like flying, and have since I first boarded a 707 when I was 13. I have flown on commercial jets, on private 4 seater Pipers, experienced barrel-rolls and loop-dee-loops in a WW2 Navy Trainer, been in a Bell Ranger Medi-copter, been in various points in Illinois aboard a Sikorsky helicopter, been bounced around and out of the jump seat of a King Air twin turbo-prop a few times. I have been on flights as short as 30 minutes, and as long as 19 hours.

It is a published fact that the seats & seating in commercial airplanes are shrinking… reduce the legroom, reduce the width and depth of seats, and you can cram more seats inside the interior, which means more money coming in every time the aircraft takes off… (some sources ~ Wall Street Journal, Time, USA Today, LA TimesTelegraph) . The benefit of this is more people crowded together, shoulder to shoulder, little room to move and breathe, sharing coughs, sneezes, halitosis…and did you know that you can smell kimchi when a person sweats after eating it??!

Even more influential to me in terms of avoiding commercial flying is… TSA. In a nutshell: Criminals (CBS NY , TSA News , TSA Scandals , Huffington Post ) ; Mismanagement ( CATO Institute , ABC7 Chicago , Natural News );      Ineffectiveness ( Washington Post , The Daily Caller , USA Today ). 

There is an option for a trans-Atlantic trip (such as our trip to Wales) and although it is somewhat “old school”, it is definitely much more civilized. Cunard is a part of the Carnival Cruise Line Family. Cunard operates a small fleet of three passenger ships: The Queen Mary 2; the Queen Victoria, and their newest addition, the Queen Elizabeth. To quote Wikipedia: “At the moment, Cunard is the only shipping company to operate a scheduled passenger service between Europe and North America.”  We chose to travel trans-Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton, England.

Differences between travel on QM2 and air travel…

Travel time: QM2 = 7 days   Commercial Airliner = 7 hours

QM2 amenities: Private stateroom with private bathroom, queen sized bed, mini-frig, satellite tv, sofa, desk and chair, free meals 24 hrs a day (vs bag o’ nuts and 1/2 can soda on plane), free room service. There is a fitness room with machines and free weights, and the 7th floor deck is a promenade deck and 3 laps around equals 1.1 miles…

Cost per person One-way: Airfare  Virgin Atlantic $1142      QM2 $1298

Whole Day in NYC – August 3rd

Our goal this day was do visit some museums and eat some food while walking around playing “tourist”. To accomplish is the most efficient manner, I got coffee & tea in the main lobby of the Cassa and brought them back to the room. The Mrs & I additionally nourished ourselves with the pouched oatmeal we brought along for hiking, and an apple that I had secured from the lobby.

The Guggenheim Museum was our first stop. Several years ago we were in NYC and had made a trip to the Guggenheim, but major renovations were underway and the building was wrapped up in scaffolding and tarps so it was impossible to see the building structure. Shame…. so we didn’t go inside at that time. This time, the museum was not covered and looking awesome! We are both fans of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, so I suppose this was a bit of a pilgrimage for us. We paid to go in the museum to explore the art…

Guggenheim center dome
Guggenheim center dome

The following photos show what I found to be the best ART in the place…. the building itself, and this one interesting Pinocchio sculpture.

Guggenheim from top floor
Guggenheim from top floor
Pinocchio from top floor
Pinocchio from top floor
Pinocchio closeup
Pinocchio closeup

So, the rest of everything is “Modern Art”. Which means, clean out your garage and drag it down to the museum and charge people to stare at your junk. Very self-important stuff that is!!!  Grace’s Aunt Sandy did a funny video all about Modern Art. It is titled “Instilation” and you can find it on The Mrs’ website, the video section. Link HERE…. I believe it is the 6th video down….

Our next stop was the Neue Galerie, a museum dedicated to German and Austrian artists. We has seen works by Gustav Klimt in Austria on our bicycle trip a few years ago, and The Mrs had wanted to visit this museum ever since. Big surprise, they had a special display called, “Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold” . The painting is the basis for the recent movie, Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren. We debated eating in the restaurant in the museum, but opted to eat in Central Park…. Hot dogs and Magnum Chocolate ice cream bars!!!

Lunch in Central Park
Lunch in Central Park

We spent the afternoon sitting in Central Park watching people after we walked ourselves into near exhaustion. The following picture is a special salute to Charles Hawes in response to one of his posts detailing a walk in Wales… Read his posting HERE

Central Park men's room
Central Park men’s room

We walked through the Shakespeare Garden, which

Central Park wildlife
Central Park wildlife

was wonderful… I took dozens of photos of the flowers and garden spaces. But too many to post. I confess I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much of Central Park can be enjoyed without huge crowds of people pushing & shoving one around!

Sheakespeare Garden in Central Park
Sheakespeare Garden in Central Park
K&G in NYC
K&G in NYC

This is about all I remember from this day in NYC so I will close out with just some photos…

Grace at Swedish Cottage
Grace at Swedish Cottage
NYC hotel
NYC hotel

More NYC

We arrived in NYC on the 2nd of August, filled a taxi to capacity with our luggage and were dropped off at the Cassa Hotel, on 45th Street. The Cassa is advertised as a “boutique” hotel, whatever that means. We stayed there for 2 nights, and found it a pleasant and comfortable room/hotel..TripAdvisor rates it as #105 of 469. It is an easy walk to Times Square. The doorman was super quick and helpful with our bags upon arrival, and the front desk staff were efficient and helpful, and young. Only issue on day 1 is only one elevator was operational, but there were not so many people around so it was not a big deal.

After settling in to our room we headed out for a stroll and a meal. We ate at The Cock and Bull, an English Pub just around the corner from the hotel. I had a delicious sandwich  called The British Bulldog. (From the menu: “Grilled Banger, Bubble & Squeak and Whole Grain Mustard on a Toasted Bread Roll. Served with Hand Cut Chips”). The Mrs ordered light and got a salad (Beets, Green Beans, Granny Smith Apple, Goat Cheese and Chive Vinaigre) and what they called a Slider (Portobello Mushroom with Roasted Pepper, Parmesan Cheese, Grilled Eggplant and Black Olive Aiol). She loved the salad….

After eating we headed off towards Times Square. I do not like crowds much at all, so this is not a “top of my list” activity… Although it is kinda cool to see this type of frenetic over-the-top advertising/media freak show in person… Then back to the hotel for some well-deserved sleep.

Encouraging News

Went to my new ophthalmologist this morning to have my left eye examined because of the ruptured blood vessel, as well as to allow him to examine the right eye to determine where that one is in terms of condition and healing following the three laser surgeries I had in that eye over the past year. After a number of eye drops and lots of super bright lights, he told me that the left eye looks like it should clear up pretty well, and in 3 weeks I go back for another exam and hopefully a laser session to cauterize the retinopathy caused blood vessel formation to prevent any further ruptures. From there, he will determine the best time for surgery to correct the “puckering” around the optic nerve in the right eye, and remove the cataracts my old eyes now have… This guy is positive, encouraging, and really on the ball. Feeling confident!!!