Tag Archives: Silversea

29 and 30 March, 2014: Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Destination Consultant

After visits to the islands of Cape Verde, the Canaries, and Madeira, we move back now to mainland Africa: Casablanca in Morocco. And some of us went on a side trip to Rabat, the capital.

From our ship, or from any high point on land, it’s easy to see at a glance the geographic relationship between northern Morocco and Spain.[whohit]-29 and 30MAR2014 AGADIR and CASABLANCA-[/whohit]

The two continents were bridged by land as recently as 5.3 million years ago, a few moments in geological time.

Today only about 9 miles or 14 kilometers separate Africa from Europe.

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A Gnawa musician inside the Kasbah at Rabat. Gnawa is a stirring form of music with a strong rhythm; its roots are in Ghana but nearly the only place it is played is in Morocco. Some believe it gave birth to jazz. Photo by Corey Sandler

Morocco has a population of about 35 million, about the same as Canada.

And you won’t hear this sentence all that often: Morocco and Canada are similar in another context.

The vast majority of the population of Morocco live within about one hundred miles of the coast; in Canada, nearly all of the population is that far from the border with the United States.

Morocco, though, is much smaller.

Only about 172,410 square miles; Canada is 22 times larger.

Casablanca is the largest city and principal port; Rabat is the national capital.

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The King’s Palace in Rabat. Photo by Corey Sandler

When World War II began, North Africa quickly fell under control of Axis powers. Italy moved first, into Ethiopia.

Germany dispatched Field Marshal Erwin Rommel—the Desert Fox—and his Afrikacorps Panzers and they had initial victories in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

And Morocco—a French protectorate—came under the collaborationist Vichy French.

That was the environment under which Rick Blaine (or Humphrey Bogart, if you prefer) operated Rick’s Café Américain in Casablanca.

The Allies pushed back in late 1942.

It was decided it was too soon to launch a cross-channel attack from England to France. The British pushed for a second front: against Axis forces in Africa, in what was called Operation Torch.

In addition to forces from the United Kingdom, Operation Torch was the first major operation by Americans.

They sailed directly from the United States, the only instance in World War II where a significant force was loaded in American ports and landed directly on a hostile beach.

The Allies achieved strategic surprise, but the operation was delayed by French forces, who fought back in many locations including Morocco.

Why? French Vichy troops were told by the Germans there would be retribution in France if they failed to fight off the Allied invasion.

But French opposition ended in November. And some 275,000 Germans and Italians surrendered on the Cape Bon Peninsula in Tunisia on May 12, 1943.

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The Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat. Mohammed VI, his grandson, is now on the throne. Photos by Corey Sandler

Once Morocco was under Allied control, it became an important base for air raids on Sicily and France, and also crucial in controlling the choke point of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Before, during, and after World War II, Moroccans did not much like their French overseers. They were denied freedom of speech, assembly, and travel.

Just as happened in other colonies—including Algeria—a nationalist movement rose in Morocco.

On March 2, 1956, after forty-four years of occupation, the Kingdom of Morocco gained independence from France and Spain.

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Inside the ancient Medina of Casablanca, which bears no resemblance to a Tesco or a Safeway or most any other place most of us shop. At right, the apparent losers of camel races, ready for roasting. Photos by Corey Sandler

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Haute couture in the Medina of Casablanca. Photos by Corey Sandler

Spain held on to the Spanish Sahara, to the south and west, until the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. Today that territory is still uncertain.

What is now called the Western Sahara is considered by the United Nations to be a non-self-governing territory.

That is the same status given by the UN to Gibraltar.

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Not-so-haute cuisine in Casablanca. Do they know his name is Colonel Sanders? Photos by Corey Sandler

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer  (Kindle Edition)

 

 

26-27 March 2014: Funchal, Madeira

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Cruise Consultant

The Portuguese island of Madeira has beautiful beaches, spectacular mountains, abundant sun, a moderate climate, a toboggan ride with no need of ice or snow, and an airport that makes many pilots reconsider their occupation.

Madeira is part of an archipelago in the north Atlantic Ocean about 522 kilometers or 326 miles north of the Canary Islands.[whohit]-26MAR2014 FUNCHAL MADEIRA-[/whohit]

The archipelago comprises the major part of one of the two Autonomous regions of Portugal; the other is the Azores to the northwest.

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Downtown Funchal, as flowers burst into color for the oncoming Spring. Photos by Corey Sandler

Today, Madeira is a popular year-round resort, drawing about one million tourists per year.

Madeira is currently ranked the second wealthiest region in Portugal, after Lisbon, with a GDP per capita of 104 percent of the European average.

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The Cathedral of Funchal, and the main shopping and dining street. Photos by Corey Sandler

Even before the great expeditions began to use Madeira as a stopping-off point on their way to the New World, it was used in commerce to and from Europe.

Among the sailors who used it as a base was Christopher Columbus who lived for a while with his first wife and child on the lesser island of Porto Santo in Madeira.

As Portugal, and by extension, Madeira began to grow in wealth the island attracted attacks by pirates and privateers. And we’re not just talking about small freelancers.

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Terraced farms high in the hills. Some of the farms grow grapes for sweet Madeira wine. Photo by Corey Sandler

In September of 1566 French corsairs under the command of Bertrand de Montluc departed from Bordeaux with a force of 1200 men, on three main ships and eight support craft. The corsairs landed on Madeira and marched toward Funchal and laid siege to the city, which eventually fell.

The following year, the Portuguese decided to install a better defense, including fortresses and other installations. Better protected, Funchal became an important stop-over for caravels travelling between the Indies and the New World.

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Up in the hills above Funchal, a dramatic landscape with roads not for the faint-of-heart. Photos by Corey Sandler

Just as an aside, in February of 1815, one of the great naval battles of the War of 1812 took place just off the coast of Madeira. The War of 1812 was essentially a re-ignition of the Revolutionary War fought between the American colonies and Great Britain.

The USS Constitution, one of the first ships of the U.S. Navy and now better known by her nickname of Old Ironsides engaged two smaller British ships, the HMS Cyane and HMS Levant. The American vessel carried 52 guns and 451 men and crippled both British vessels.

None of the three captains had any way of knowing that the War of 1812 had ended three days earlier.

After his wartime service as Prime Minister and before returning to office in 1951, Winston Churchill discovered Madeira for himself. He favored a small fishing village called Câmara de Lobos—Wolf’s Den—about 5 kilometers or 3 miles from Funchal, as a place to paint.

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Camara de Lobos, a favorite setting for painting by Britain’s Winston Churchill. Photo by Corey Sandler

The town has a lovely bay surrounded by banana plantations, vineyards, and other vegetation on the hills. And Churchill generally chose to stay at a hotel called Reid’s Palace. The atmosphere at Reid’s has changed little since the hotel opened in 1891, even though it is now part of the Orient-Express Hotels chain.

If you arrive by boat, as Churchill did for his visit in 1950, a lift carries you up from the hotel’s private bathing pier. In the hotel lobby you can see old photos of British and European elite who came to visit.

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Sea cliffs east of Funchal on Madeira. Photo by Corey Sandler

Now, as I said, Madeira is a generally temperate place. You’re not going to find snow and ice on a groomed toboggan run.

In fact, you’re not even going to find a real toboggan run. Just some twisty-turny streets. With cars and trucks and potholes.

For more than a century, people have used toboggans for the quick way down the hill to Funchal. The Carro do Monte toboggans are made of wicker, with wooden runners.

They are guided—not really driven—by a pair of carreiros, dressed in white with straw hats. They’ve done this before, but you’ve got to marvel at their success rate.

All photos copyright by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy, please contact the author.

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer  (Kindle Edition)

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

 

25 March 2014: Arecife, Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Destination Consultant

We’re on the first day of a voyage that will visit some of the more intriguing remnants of the great Colonial empires of modern times.

Here where the Mediterranean narrows to meet the Atlantic, nearly every island or port got caught up in war, intrigue, religion, and politics: an unfortunate quartet that often travel together.

Silversea Map 2408

Our scheduled itinerary from Las Palmas to Barcelona

Among the more interesting places on our schedule are a pair of political thumbs-in-the-eye established by and held on to former colonial powers: Gibraltar, a tiny finger of land on the mainland of Spain stubbornly held by Great Britain, and across the strait in Africa, Melilla one of two tiny exclaves of Spain that sit on the coast of Morocco.

The Greek writers and philosophers Herodotus, Plato, and Plutarch described the garden of the Hesperides, a mythic orchard at the far West of the world; that might refer to the Canaries.

Pliny the Elder later wrote of an expedition to the Canary Islands, including reference to an island called Canaria.

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The Fire Mountains in Timanfaya Nationa Park on Lanzarote. Photo by Corey Sandler

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The bus driver’s view climbing the volcanoes of Timanfaya. Photo by Corey Sandler

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The taxi squad for guests seeking even more thrills in the mountains. Photo by Corey Sandler

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My friend Blanco, before we headed into the hills. Photos by Corey Sandler

In 2007, a team from the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and a team from the Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain uncovered a prehistoric settlement at El Bebedero that included Roman pottery shards, some pieces of metal, and glass. The artifacts were dated between the first and 4th centuries.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Canary islands were ignored until 999 when Arab tribes came from Africa to an island they called al-Djezir al-Khalida. The Spanish took control of the Canaries in 1479, and very quickly it became a link in the chain from Europe to the New World settlements.

The modern city, with a population of about 142,000, gets its name from the black volcanic reefs near the port and beaches; Arrecife is Spanish for “reef.” Those reefs provided some shelter from rough seas, but equally important some hiding places from pirate attacks at the time the city was founded in the fifteenth century.

Perhaps the most notable Lanzarotean was artist and architect César Manrique, born in 1919 in Arrecife.

In addition to his sometimes playful and colorful modern art, Manrique also had a major influence on planning regulations in Lanzarote.

He worked to limit the size and especially the height of hotels on the island.

Manrique died in a car accident near his home in 1992. The César Manrique Foundation manages his home and raises funds for art on Lanzarote and promotes environmental and civic planning causes including ongoing efforts to block over-development of the island.

At the Manrique home is a collection of work by the artist as well as others, including original sketches by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. Manrique also designed a Cactus Garden on the island, integrating volcanic structures with plantings. The garden also includes an old whitewashed mill once used for the processing of “millo” flour, made from maize or wheat.

24 March 2014 Another Voyage Begins: Canary Islands to Barcelona

By Corey Sandler, SIlversea Destination Consultant

We wish safe travels to most of our guests, debarking in Las Palmas, Canary Islands after a trip up the western coast of Africa.

And we say hello to new friends, as we head to Barcelona by way of Gibraltar, Moroccco, Melilla, and the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza.

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The port at Las Palmas, with Silver Wind reflected in the glass. Photo by Corey Sandler

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A typically quirky bit of Spanish architecture in Las Palmas, and a quixotic name for a coast guard rescue vessel in port. Photos by Corey Sandler

 

23 March 2014: Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Destination Consultant

From Cape Verde, we headed north-northeast along the coast of Africa for two days.

Our destination: a service station outside the Pillars of Hercules.

Tenerife is in Las Canarias, the Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain and the outermost region of the European Union.

The island is about 300 kilometers or 186 miles off the African coast, and about 1,000 kilometers or 621 miles from Spain’s Iberian Peninsula.

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The Auditorio, a modern landmark of Tenerife. Photos by Corey Sandler

Tenerife made its fortune as a rest stop, a service station in the Atlantic for explorers, conquistadors, and traders headed to the bottom of Africa and around to Asia, or across the Atlantic to the New World.

Tenerife is the largest and most populous of the seven Canary Islands, with about 900,000 inhabitants.

That makes it the most populated island in all of Spain. To that, add about five million visitors per year.

And, though you might think otherwise, Tenerife also has the highest mountain in Spain.

El Teide is taller than any point in the Sierra Nevadas, about 3,718 meters or 12,198 feet above sea level.

Actually, considering that it stands on an island; El Teide is about 7,500 meters or 24,600 feet above the sea floor.

That makes it the third largest volcano in the world, measured from its base.

The only larger volcanoes are far away, on the island of Hawaii: Mauna Kea and the champion Mauna Loa.

Oh, and did I mention it is still active?

To be more precise, dormant. Not dead, just sleeping.

Teide is on the short list of 16 volcanoes that are under special scrutiny because of their history of large, destructive explosions and proximity to large populations.

Also on that list are well-known ticking time bombs like Mount Vesuvius, Etna, Santorini, Mauna Loa, and Rainier and ten others, mostly along the Pacific Rim.

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Tenerife Espacio de Las Artes. Photo by Corey Sandler

Christopher Columbus reported seeing a “great fire in the Orotava Valley” as he sailed past Tenerife on his voyage to discover the New World in 1492.

Skipping past many other conflicts, in the late 18th century Britain and Spain had been fighting each other all around the world as each country’s colonial possessions grew.

War reached the Canary Islands in July of 1797.

On July 25, 1797, Admiral Horatio Nelson launched an attack at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

After a ferocious fight, the Spanish defenders repelled the invaders.

It was in this battle that Horatio Nelson lost his right arm to cannon fire as he was trying to disembark.

He had lost an eye the year before in a battle in Corsica at Calvi.

And in 1805, at the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson would lose his life.

Before his rise to power, Francisco Franco—who had begun to attract unappreciative notice from the Republican government back in Spain—was posted to Tenerife in March 1936.

It was while he was in the islands that Franco agreed to collaborate in the military coup that would result in the Spanish Civil War, and it was launched in the Canaries in July of 1936.

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Everything but the fleas at a Sunday market. Photo by Corey Sandler

19-20 March 2014. Out of Africa: Dakar, Senegal to Cape Verde

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Destination Consultant

We flew through the night from east to west, from America to the west shoulder of Africa.

(Just for fun, we endured a snowstorm at Dulles Airport in Washington which deposited about 10 inches or 250cm of snow on the roads, the runways, and our plane. Airplanes full of chatty travelers always go silent when the de-icing trucks arrive before takeoff.)

Once in the air, our high-flying jet was miles above the well-traveled path established five hundred years ago by European explorers and conquerors. Then came the traders: slaves from Africa, finished goods from Europe, gold and sugar and tobacco from the New World.[whohit]-19MAR2014 CAPE VERDE-[/whohit]

Our journey brought us to Dakar, the capital of Senegal, to meet up with Silversea Silver Wind, beginning a trip that will bring us through the Pillars of Hercules past Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean and beyond.

Dakar and Bezeguiche or Palma Island just off-shore was first developed by the Portuguese, but control went back and forth with United Netherlands which renamed the island after a place in The Netherlands, called Goeree-Overflakkee, which quite sensibly was shortened (and put through a French filter) to become Gorée.

Senegal came under the French in 1677, emerging in 1960. It is one of the relatively few, relatively stable governments and economies in Africa but life is still hard-scrabble.

Silversea Map 2407

Our itinerary on Silversea Silver Wind.

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In Dakar, a Presidential guard outside the sprawling palace, a remnant of the French. Another reminder of Colonial times is the ornate railway station; the French and the trains are long gone, but a city of about three million people presses on. Photos by Corey Sandler

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Goree Island, offshore of Dakar, was a major point of departure for slaves from West Africa bound for Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America. At right, the Door of No Return, an evocative reminder visited in modern times by world leaders including French President Hollande, America presidents Clinton and Obama, Pope John Paul II, and millions of tourists from both ends of the slavery chain. Photos by Corey Sandler

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On the island of Goree. Photos by Corey Sandler

PRAIA, REPUBLIC OF CABO VERDE

From Dakar, Senegal we sailed nearly due west to Cape Verde, an archipelago about 570 kilometers or 350 miles off Western Africa.

If we had somehow missed Cape Verde and continued west along the same line of latitude, we would have come to Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and Cuba in the Caribbean.

A long journey: about 2,800 nautical miles, 3,200 land miles, or 5,200 kilometers.

That actually happened many times in the Age of Discovery—not the missing Cape Verde part, but heading west to the New World.

The islands were uninhabited when Portuguese explorers discovered and colonized them in the 15th century as they began to circle Africa and go as far as India.

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In Sidade Velha, the Old City, the still-functioning Church of Our Lady of the Rosary is the oldest Colonial church outside of Europe. Photo by Corey Sandler

In 1462, three decades before Columbus, they established the first significant settlement in Cape Verde.

It was called Ribeira Grande, large river. The port was a stopping place for two great navigators:

Vasco da Gama, in 1497 on his way to India, and Christopher Columbus, in 1498 on his third voyage to the Americas.

After discovery of the Americas, the settlement became an important port for trading slaves from Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone.

Slavery made the port one of the richest cities in the Portuguese realm. And the wealth attracted lured privateers and pirates.

Among them, Sir Francis Drake, who operated under a Letter of Marque from the English crown and twice sacked Ribeira Grande in the 1580s.

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Part of the fortress erected by the Portuguese above Sidade Velha. Photos by Corey Sandler

But while we’re on the subject of east-to-west movement, meteorologists keep a close eye on Cape Verde during the Atlantic hurricane season.

Storms that develop here are usually the largest and most intense because they have plenty of warm open ocean over which to develop before encountering land.

The Republic of Cape Verde is a horseshoe-shaped cluster of 10 volcanic islands, nine of them inhabited.

Geographers divide them into two groups: the Barlavento or Windward Islands (Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista,) and the Sotavento or Leeward Islands, which includes Santiago and its port of Praia, as well as Maio, Fogo, and Brava.

Scientists believe the first volcanic activity was about 125 to 150 million years ago; the islands themselves are a bit younger, about 8 to 20 million years.

Similar to the Hawaiian islands, the Cape Verde islands owe their existence to their location over a hotspot in the earth’s crust: the Cape Verde Rise.

The most recent eruption in the archipelago was at Pico do Fogo in 1995.

On older and now volcanically quiet Santiago, arid slopes give way to sugarcane fields or banana plantations along the base of towering mountains.

The ocean cliffs were formed by catastrophic debris avalanches, from volcanic activity or landslides.

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The Public Market in Praia, the capital of Santiago and the Republic of Cabo Verde. The white disks mixed in with the vegetables are a form of cheese, soaked in brine; think of them as a distant cousin of feta cheese. Photo by Corey Sandler

Santiago, Portuguese for Saint James, is the nation’s largest island and most populous, holding half of the nation’s people.

It is also home to the capital, Praia.

Praia means beach in both Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole.

Cape Verde has few natural resources.

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A Flame Tree in Praia. The tree bears no edible fruit, but its pods are used as percussion instruments in the lively music of the islands. Photo by Corey Sandler

More than 90 percent of all food in Cape Verde is imported.

There is a small wine industry and some export of minerals including pozzolana, a volcanic rock used in cement, and limestone.

Today, much of the economy is based on service industries including tourism; about 20 percent of GDP comes from remittances sent home by expatriates.

No decent person would argue the end of slavery was a bad thing. That said, the decline in the slave trade in the 19th century caused economic distress.

The same occurred at the other end of the line. The Caribbean and South America suffered after they lost essentially free labor.

On the Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, simmering resentment grew to become an independence movement.

Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral, an agricultural engineer born in Guinea-Bissau of Cape Verdean parents, was a leader of the anti-colonial movement in western Africa.

Cape Verde’s boom-and-bust economy led to waves of emigration during expansion to the New World, during decades of neglect that followed the end of the slave trade, and during the difficult early years of independence.

Today these émigrés and their descendants greatly outnumber the domestic population.

By one estimate, there are about 500,000 Cape Verdean immigrants and their descendants living in the United States.

The largest groups are in New England: Massachusetts coastal communities including New Bedford, Brockton, Dorchester, and Pawtucket and East Providence in Rhode Island.

Other significant Cape Verdean populations are about 150,000 in Portugal, plus tens of thousands in Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Senegal.

American whalers from Nantucket and New Bedford first called at the islands in the 1790s. Whaleship captains began hiring Cape Verdeans to augment their crew, and many came to New England with the ships.

So, we have a place that has only four decades as an independent nation.

A place where, as far as we know, humans did not live until about 600 years ago. A place whose residents are mostly mixes of African and European races and cultures.

A place far younger than Africa or Europe or the indigenous populations of the Americas, and just barely older than the European colonies that were established in the New World—many of them with ships, crews, and slaves that passed through Cape Verde.

And we have a place with many more émigrés than current residents.

But there’s something about the place that seems to ingrain itself deeply in Cape Verdeans—those still on the islands and those spread around the world.

There’s a Portuguese word, sodade, that has no direct equivalent in English.

Perhaps the best translation is: “The love that remains after someone is gone.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer  (Kindle Edition)

 

29 October 2013: New York, New York

Heading for Home

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

In the dark that precedes dawn’s first light, a distant glow merely hints at the great harbor and city that lays ahead of us.

We picked up a bar pilot at 5:30 in the morning off the coast of Long Island and headed west toward the mouth of the Hudson River.

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Beneath the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge at dawn. Photo by Corey Sandler

Okay, about the job title: a bar pilot is not in charge of delivering the crew to a tavern. The bar pilot is aboard to guide the captain and helmsman across the bar at the mouth of the channel from the sea and through the harbor.

In constant communication with harbor authorities and other vessels, in New York he or she is aboard for about two hours.

Most pilot boats carry a bit of extra hardware in addition to navigation lights: a white round light atop a red one. (Fishing boats carry a red over white.) The old maritime saying is: “white cap, red nose” for pilot boats…with an intimation that in past times pilots might down a bit of booze while waiting for ships to come in. If that was ever true, I seriously doubt the master of a modern ship worth several hundred million dollars would accept a pilot with a wobble.[whohit]-New York 29Oct-[/whohit]

About 6 in the morning we could make out the old boardwalk and some of the landmarks of Coney Island: the parachute jump and the Wonder Wheel. And then we could see the lights of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, the unofficial demarcation of the Hudson River at New York.

Guests began to gather in the Observation Lounge up top and forward on Silver Whisper and on the outside decks. We passed beneath the bridge just after 6:30 a.m., and then ahead of us lay Lower Manhattan: the Hudson River branching off to the left and the East River to the right.

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Lower Manhattan. The Hudson River continues to the left, the East River branches off to the right. Photos by Corey Sandler

Staten Island ferries steamed across the harbor, and faster commuter ferries darted back and forth.

As dawn arrived, we passed abeam of Lady Liberty on our port side. I gave the order from the bridge by telephone down to our ship’s broadcast center: “Now. Loud. Everywhere.” And Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” boomed throughout Silver Whisper.

It was not just the passengers lining the decks. From nearly every opening on the ship, crew leaned out for a glimpse and a photo to send back home.

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The Statue of Liberty at dawn’s early light. Photo by Corey Sandler

We proceeded up the Hudson, alongside the former World Trade Center site. The superstructure of its replacement tower is complete while interior work continues.

About 8 a.m., a tug boat pulled alongside with a second pilot for a short but essential–and daunting–assignment of providing guidance on making a 90-degree turn from the river into the dock along Manhattan’s West Side. Like an airline pilot, the docking pilot is on the spot for a few minutes of high tension at landing.

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The docking pilot comes aboard. Photo by Corey Sandler

Most of our guests and more than a few crew members were ready to debark. For Janice and me, it’s been a two-month odyssey that began in the Baltic and included stops in Sweden, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Germany, England, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. All told, we’ve been out to sea on four different beautiful Silversea cruise ships for a total of seven months in 2013.

It’s time to head for home. See you in 2014…somewhere. Safe travels.

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.

 

26 October 2013, Bar Harbor, Maine

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Winter is coming to the Maritimes and the New England coast. Yes, it’s just October 26, but the winds have become a bit stiffer and their direction has changed to come from the north.

In Bar Harbor today, some of the shops were preparing to close for the year after our ship departs tonight. It’s a great time to buy a lumberjack’s coat, although they do seem to grow them rather larger around here: I tried on a Triple-X jacket which fit me like a bearskin.

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Silver Whisper’s tenders compete for space with lobster traps in Bar Harbor. Photo by Corey Sandler

The talk around town was of the first seasonal accident: a rural Mainer was rushed to the hospital after getting his fingers between the piston and the mechanism of a log splitter. He seemed to be all right, although quite concerned about how he would continue his stockpiling of wood for the winter.

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The dock, above and below. Photos by Corey Sandler

The day dawned clear and cool, about 42 degrees. By afternoon, it was gray and windy.

By tomorrow, Bar harbor will be mostly empty of those of us who are not from around hey-ah.

All photos and text copyright by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

 

20 October 2013: Quebec City, Canada

Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Beautiful

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We’ve been to Quebec City dozens upon dozens of times in winter, spring, summer, and fall. This season on Silver Whisper four times. The girl can’t help it; she’s prettier and more fashionable than Paris or Montreal or just about any other city I can think of.

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Quebec City as winter takes a peek at Autumn. Photos by Corey Sandler

We were here two days ago, and autumn was in full color. We returned today, and there was a hint of the coming winter in the air: a cold wind and a continually changing sky. Gray in the morning, drizzly at noon, a touch of sun in early afternoon punctuated by a perfect rainbow from a passing sky, and wintry clouds at sunset.

In the morning I traveled with guests to the Old Town, aiming my camera at pumpkins and goblins.

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Colors of Quebec City. Photos by Corey Sandler

Then we went to Montmorency Falls and I leaned out over the rail to photograph the torrent of water tumbling over the edge of the Canadian Shield into the Saint Lawrence.

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Montmorency Falls, Quebec. Photos by Corey Sandler

And then as sun set and the temperature dropped toward freezing, I set up my tripod on the upper deck and recorded the night lights as Silver Whisper set sail east toward the Atlantic Ocean.

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After sunset, the Chateau Frontenac. Photos by Corey Sandler

Tomorrow we sail up the Saguenay River through one of the most spectacular fjords in the world, paying a port call at La Baie.

We’re preparing to head south down the coast of New England and eventually south to the warmth of the Caribbean…but my thoughts will often return to the chilly beauty of Quebec City. The girl can’t help it.

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.

 

19 October 2013: Montreal, Quebec

Bon Journée, et Bon Voyage

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Silver Whisper sailed into silver-gray Quebec City on Friday.

Quebec is one of the most glorious cities in the world, a mix of the heritage of New France of the 18th century with modern French arts, couture, and cuisine…put through the blender of the Quebecois culture.[whohit]-MONTEAL2 TURNAROUND-[/whohit]

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Silver pumpkins in Quebec City. Photo by Corey Sandler

It rained a bit in the morning, then turned clear and cool in the afternoon. No one seemed to mind getting a bit wet or a bit cold: Quebec City fills us all with warmth.

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Between (Canadian) Thanksgiving and Halloween in Quebec City. Photo by Corey Sandler

Today, we say goodbye to many new and old friends who are disembarking in Montreal. And we say welcome aboard to a new group as we prepare to head back out of the Saint Lawrence.

With this call in Montreal, Silver Whisper begins the final leg of 2013 fall colors tours in New England and the Canadian Maritimes. We are headed back to Quebec City, then up the Saguenay River to La Baie, and on to Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston, and Martha’s Vineyard. We’ll finish up with a grand procession on the Hudson River to the New York Cruise Terminal.

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Our voyage begins again from Montreal, headed to New York. Photo by Corey Sandler

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Food in Montreal is always a treat, although not all cuisine is haute. At left, the line forms in front of Chez Schwartz for smoked brisket on rye. At right, the peculiar Quebec favorite of poutine: french fries, cheese curds, and unidentified brown sauce. I’ll take Schwartz’s anytime. Photos by Corey Sandler

I hope you’ll join me here in the pages of my blog.

Bon Journée , et Bon Voyage: Good Day and Safe Travels.

All text and photos copyright 2013, Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

17 October 2013: the Saguenay River and La Baie, Quebec

The Fabulous Story of the Kingdom of the Saguenay

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

The Rivière Saguenay – the Saguenay River – is one of the major rivers of Quebec, the largest fjord in the province.

Quebec extends nearly 1,200 miles north from the Saint Lawrence to the top of the Ungava Peninsula. I’ve been there: it looks nothing at all like Quebec City or Montreal.[whohit]-FABULEUSE SAGUENAY-[/whohit]

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Silver Whisper at the dock in La Baie, and as seen through a window of the cruise terminal. Photos by Corey Sandler.

The Saguenay drains Lac Saint-Jean in the Laurentian Highlands; that lake is filled by thousands of streams and rivers in the watery north of Quebec. The nation of Canada possesses about 8 percent of the world’s fresh water. Quebec alone has 3 percent of the water reserves.

One of the world’s longest, the Fjord du Saguenay cuts through the Canadian Shield. The huge rocky plateau occupies nearly half of all of the Canada, extending from the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Valley northward to the Arctic Ocean.

The river was an important trade route into the interior for the First Nations people of the area. During the French colonization of the Americas, the Saguenay was a major route for the fur trade.

Few roads connect with the area from the south and east, and only one road connects from the northwest. No roads go north from the area into the wilderness; the last roads north end just a short distance from the city—still within the Lac St-Jean area.

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Cartier arrives in New France. From La Fabuleuse. Photos by Corey Sandler

There are no human settlements due north of Saguenay all the way to the Canadian Arctic islands, except for a few isolated Cree and Inuit villages.

The Kingdom of the Saguenay

Another name for the region, one which was latched upon by the early French explorers . . . looking for riches . . . is the Royaume du Saguenay or the “Kingdom of the Saguenay.”

The grandiose name is either the result of a misunderstanding . . . or a bit of a jest or even a calculated trick put upon the French by the locals.

When the French arrived to colonize New France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they learned from the Algonquins of a legendary kingdom to the north.

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The loggers and the famers arrive in the Kingdom of the Saguenay. From La Fabuleuse. Photos by Corey Sandler

When French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived at Stadacona in 1534, he did not come with a bouquet of flowers and a box of candy.

The key to the Kingdom may lie with Chief Donnacona, the leader of the Iroquois village of Stadacona, at the place now occupied by Quebec City.

Cartier kidnapped two of Donnaconna’s sons and brought them back with him to France. They told Cartier of a place they called Saguenay, populated with blond men who were rich with gold and furs.

We have no reason to assume that Cartier or Donnaconna and his sons believed there really was such a place. But the story served as a golden ticket: it gave Cartier something to sell to the king so that he could make another trip to the New World, and it assured Donnaconna’s sons of a trip back home.

La Fabuleuse Histoire d’un Royaume

Since 1988, a cast of more than a hundred locals presents an astonishing pageant that tells some of the story of the Saguenay region. It is presented in a massive amphitheatre constructed by the town. They’ve also built a handsome dock for cruise ships, and each season the number of ships increases.

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The pageant includes some astounding special effects. Photos by Corey Sandler

On this cruise to La Baie, a rare full-day visit, we were able to attend a performance of La Fabuleuse.

There’s Jacques Cartier, Chief Donnaconna, the Generals Montcalm and Wolfe to stage the battle of the Plains of Abraham, loggers, farmers, capitalists, horses, chickens, geese, a trained pig, barn dancers, flappers, twisters, and hippies.

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Modern times to a grande finale. Photos by Corey Sandler.

It’s not Shakespeare, but the Bard of Avon never put on a show that included explosions, lasers, floodwaters, and a field of grass the sprouts on stage.

It was a fabulous pageant, un grand spectacle.

All text and photos copyright Corey Sandler 2013. If you would to purchase a copy of a photograph, please contact me.

 

14-15 October 2013: Sydney, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, PEI

Time Travel in the Canadian Maritimes

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

To me, one of the appeals of Sydney, Nova Scotia is that it allows me to time travel back to a time I once knew: the 1950s.

It is one of the only places in North America where I could direct you to a cobbler to have your shoes resoled.Or a seamstress or tailor.[whohit]-SYDNEY-CHARLOTTE-2-[/whohit]

Or old Doc Archibald with his office in an old Victorian behind a white picket fence.

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Sydney, Nova Scotia. The colors of autumn in a place frozen in time. Photo by Corey Sandler

From 1784 to 1820, Sydney was the capital of the British colony of Cape Breton Island. The colony was merged with neighboring Nova Scotia when the British decided to develop the abundant coal fields surrounding Sydney Harbor.

By the early twentieth century Sydney was home to one of the world’s largest steel plants, fed by the coal mines of the Dominion Coal Company. By the late 1960s both coal and steel industries were failing, and were taken over by federal and provincial governments. That lasted until late in 2001 when they could not be sustained any further.

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The cruise terminal in Sydney with Silver Whisper at the dock and a super-sized fiddle along the water. Sydney is one of the centers of Ceilidh, the Celtic-based barn dance centered around that instrument…in a hand-sized version. Photo by Corey Sandler

With apologies to some of my Anglophone Canadian friends, when I speak of this region I use French pronunciations for places like Bras d’Or (the Golden Arm) and Louisbourg.

I do this knowing that for the locals, the same places are often called LEWIS-BURGH and something close to BRASS DOOR.

See my Blog entry of 3 October 2013 for a recent visit to Sydney and Louisbourg as well as some details about Baddeck and Alexander Graham Bell.

Queen Charlotte, the Orphan Anne, and Prince Edward Island

When you think of Stratford-upon-Avon, you think of a certain poet and playwright by the name of William Shakespeare.

We are talking apples and oranges …or jellyfish and lobsters here… but in certain circles around the world…in some of the most unlikely places…Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island is not known for Queen Charlotte, not remembered for the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that led the way to Canadian Confederation, and not thought of at all for almost anything else…except for the work of a relatively minor author named Lucy Maud Montgomery and a series of novels that begin in 1908 with “Anne of Green Gables.”

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More colors, in a house near the waterfront of Charlottetown, PEI. Photo by Corey Sandler

Anne of Green Gables began as a Canadian bestseller, became an American success, and went on to become an international phenomenon.

For reasons no one hasfully figured out, you are quite likely to find a tour group from Japan…looking for Anne. I think it has to do with the fact that Anne is a girl who is for some about as un-Japanese as possible: feisty, independent, and decked with freckles and braided red hair. They love her in Japan, and come to PEI by the planeload.

I last wrote about Charlottetown in a Blog entry on 2 October 2013.

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A study in angles and colors in Charlotteown. Photo by Corey Sandler

Charlottetown is the capital of Canada’s least-populated province, Prince Edward Island. The city is the country’s smallest provincial capital, with a population of about 35,000. (Canada’s three territories: Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories have smaller populations, but they are not provinces.)

The town was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III from 1744 to 1818.

Like Sydney, it is a place where time seems frozen.

I spent the day walking Charlottetown with a group of guests as we conducted a photo safari, hunting the colors of Prince Edward Island.

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.

 

 

12 October 2013: St. John, New Brunswick

The Tides They Are a’Changing

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We think of New Brunswick as part of English Canada, but it actually has a significant French background.

Jacques Cartier claimed the region for France in 1534. Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian sailing for the French in 1548, though the place worthy of being named after Arcadia, the Greek name for an idyllic place. In French, that became Acadie.

Right from the start, this was the line of dispute between the French and the English.

In 1629, the English brought in boatloads of Scottish settlers and changed the settlement’s name to “Nova Scotia,” Latin for New Scotland.

The colony was returned to France in 1632, but disputes between the two powers continued until 1713 and the Treaty of Utrecht when Acadia passed a final time into British hands.

Although the question of sovereignty was settled, skirmishes continued.

That led to Le Grand Dérangement, the Great Upheaval: the displacement by the British of the French Acadians.

It is estimated that three-quarters of the Acadian population was uprooted between 1755 and 1762.

The Acadians landed in many places, but the best known colony of expatriates went to Louisiana. And there they became known as the Cajuns.

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Rocks and seaweed along the beach in one of the places with the greatest tidal range in the world. Photo by Corey Sandler

Walter Pidgeon, Hawkeye Pierce, and Jack Bauer

The small city of St. John produced two celebrated actors:

Walter Pidgeon starred in many popular films including “How Green Was My Valley”, “Mrs. Miniver”, and “Advise and Consent.”

And more recently, Donald Sutherland, who came to fame as Hawkeye Pierce in the movie “MASH”, as well as “Klute”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and “Ordinary People.”

He is also the father of Keifer Sutherland, who for eight seasons single-handedly protected the United States from nuclear, biological, and narcoterrorists as Jack Bauer in the series, “24.”

Also from Saint John: Stompin’ Tom Connors, one of the most successful country singers to come out of Canada.

Fundy and the Falls

But the thing which makes Saint John and the surrounding region most famous around the world is an unusual natural phenomenon.

The tourism board will tell you that Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world.

In truth, it depends on who is doing the measuring and when the measurements are done.

I have been to places much further north, including Leaf Basin in Canada’s Ungava Bay at the top of Quebec near Hudson Strait. Some scientists say the tidal range in Ungava is greater.

Of course, not all that many tourists—or even scientists—go to Ungava Bay.

I do know that when I went there researching my book on Henry Hudson, our icebreaker had to wait twelve hours for the highest of tides in order to get out of the bay. And we still scraped bottom.

And there are also those who say the Severn Estuary in the U.K. should be in the discussion.

So in fairness and accuracy, I think we can say that the Bay of Fundy has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world.

In classic political fashion, the Canadian Hydrographic Service has declared it a statistical tie, with measurements of a 16.8 meter (55.1 feet) tidal range in Ungava Bay and 17 meters (55.8 feet) at Burntcoat Head for the Bay of Fundy.

At Saint John itself, the St. John River flows into the Bay of Fundy through a narrow gorge several hundred feet wide at the center of the city.

The tidal difference in Saint John is about 8 meters or 28 feet.

And it is there that we have the unusual phenomenon called the Reversing Falls.

It’s not what it sounds like: it is not a waterfall that flows upstream.

What happens is that when the tide changes—as it approaches and then reaches high tide—it flows over the top of the river.

When it is coming into the Saint John River, it appears to reverse the water flow of the river for several kilometers.

The phenomenon continues for several hours.

The rapids, or “falls,” are created by a series of underwater ledges which roil the water in either direction, causing a significant navigation hazard, despite the depth of water.

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Tides and falls in the Bay of Fundy. Photos by Corey Sandler

Now, the Reversing Falls is not quite Niagara or Yellowstone National Park. It’s interesting, no doubt.

But many visitors are surprised to find the encroachments of industry on this natural wonder.

The Canadian Pacific Railway built the first Reversing Falls Railway Bridge in 1885; the current one at the location took its place in 1922 and is used by the New Brunswick Southern Railway.There’s also a road bridge. Both are just downstream.

And then there is the not-very-attractive pulp mill right at the falls, directly across from Fallsview Park.The J.D. Irving mill has been in operation for many decades and continues to belch steam and raise the hackles of environmentalists.

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The Reversing Falls and the paper mill. Photo by Corey Sandler

Fallsview Park offers a good vantage point of the falls.

But the real lure for many people is a jet boat ride. This is not for the timid, or for those who don’t want to get wet.

In fact the whole point seems to be to get wet.

I’ve ridden the jet, and I’ll tell you: some might find it more fun to watch than to ride.

They loaned us a rainsuit, which wasn’t a whole lot of help.

I had to take off my glasses so that they wouldn’t fly away.

And I couldn’t take any pictures, because I wasn’t about to risk my professional equipment in the boat.

This time, I photographed the jet boats from the shore.

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A Jet Boat in the Reversing Falls. People pay for this. Photos by Corey Sandler

All text and photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo, please contact me.

 

6-7 October 2013: Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts

6-7 October 2013: Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Shipping Out of Boston…Side-stepping a Storm

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We spent a rainy Sunday in Boston. Speaking for myself, I’ll take a gray day in Beantown over sun and blue skies almost anywhere else.

Boston is one of America’s liveliest and culturally vibrant cities. And the religious fervor is uplifting: the Red Sox are in the playoffs and all is well with the world.

In early evening, we shipped out of Boston, heading for a call at Oak Bluffs in Martha’s Vineyard.

Let’s consider a ship coming out of Boston and wanting to go here, to New York.

You could go out to sea around Cape Cod.

Another route—not ordinarily a wise decision for a large ship—is to sail between Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

There is a passage, but it is very tricky and in places very pretty shallow.

Just ask the former master of the QE2, who almost lost his ship—and did lose his command—when he tried that in 1992.

Cape Nautical Chart

Shoals, Wrecks, and Other Threats around Cape Cod and the Islands

The hook of Cape Cod is like a giant’s raised right arm. Near its fist toward the northwest, is Provincetown.

If you didn’t know Cape Cod was there, or if your ship was being blown south in a howling nor’easter you could easily end up wrecked on the inside of the arm.

Mariners have also known about the Nantucket Shoals for more than four hundred years.

East and south of Nantucket the sea is pretty treacherous.

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The Hook of Cape Cod

So for the past few centuries, large ships have dropped down below Cape Cod and sail to the south of Nantucket.

But even that has its challenges. Nantucket is nearly surrounded by shoals and other obstructions: rocks and remnants of nearly forgotten naval encounters of World War I and II.

Since 1914, if your ship is of the right side, there has been an alternative: the Cape Cod Canal.

Using the canal saves between 135 and 166 miles, eliminating about seven to ten hours of sailing through dangerous waters.

Construction of the Cape Cod Canal began June 22, 1909.

The man with the plan (and the money) was August Belmont, Jr. And the plan used by The Boston, Cape Cod and New York Canal Company was drawn by engineer William Barclay Parsons.

As a consultant to the Panama Canal Commission, Parsons had recommended a sea-level canal across Nicaragua, but Teddy Roosevelt disagreed.

As chief engineer of the New York Rapid Transit Commission, he had overseen the construction of Belmont’s I-R-T subway line.

In the borough of Queens, he is memorialized with Parsons Boulevard.

And the firm he founded, now called Parsons Brinckerhoff, is today one of the largest American civil engineering firms.

Construction of the canal turned out to be much more difficult than merely digging a channel.

In Panama, the French and then the Americans had to work in tremendous heat and torrential downpours. They dug through swamps filled with mosquitoes carrying malaria and Yellow Fever, crossed treacherous fast-flowing rivers, and blasted through the mountainous spine of Central America.

In Cape Cod, the problems included mammoth boulders left behind by Ice Age glaciers, and the cold New England climate which made it impossible to dredge or dig in winter.

Cape Cod and Nantucket are terminal moraines of the Laurentide Ice Sheet of about 20,000 years ago.

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The Laurentide Ice Sheet.

The huge rocks came down from the Canadian Shield.

Though Nantucket is mostly sand, if you look around the moors and even in town you’ll find some fairly substantial boulders.

There’s one in my neighbor’s front yard. It’s a gift from Canada.

The Cape Cod Canal debuted, as a private toll waterway, on July 29, 1914.

Belmont had managed to open seventeen days before the Panama Canal.

The canal was taken over by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Depression and widened and deepened. Three new bridges were built over the channel.

Each year, more than 35 million vehicles pass over the two highway bridges, which provide the only land link between Cape Cod and the mainland of Massachusetts.

Every time I use one of the bridges I remind myself they were built by the lowest bidder.

And I also enjoy four lanes of two-way traffic without a center barrier.

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The Bourne Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal.

Curb-to-curb the bridges are just 40 feet wide.

We’re 135 feet above the water, driving in traffic lanes less than ten feet wide; a semi-tractor trailer is eight-foot-six-inches wide.

The maximum length for vessels is 825 feet.

More importantly, ships have to be able to fit beneath the three bridges, 135-feet above mean tide.

Bottom line: An aircraft carrier or a monster megaship like the ridiculously supersized Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas that carry 6,000 passengers and 3,000 crew within their welded steel hulls are too long, draw too much water, and most importantly too tall to squeeze below the bridges.

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Silver Whisper Squeezes Below the Sagamore Bridge. Photo by Corey Sandler

Canal Map

The Cape Cod Canal.

Well, we made it through the canal, and arrived offshore of Oak Bluffs early Monday morning. But our string of good luck with the weather—something that began in the Maritimes of Canada more than a week ago—came to an end.

A significant gale was on the horizon, with high winds and seas. And so, Captain Luigi Rutigliano hauled anchor and we scurried out of Massachusetts and headed for an evening arrival in New York City.

A few hours after we left, my cell phone began chiming with messages about the cancellation of ferry boats to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket where we live. So we side-stepped the storm.

All text by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2013. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

5 October 2013: Bar Harbor, Maine

5 October 2013: Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor Without Acadia

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

A non-partisan quip, from one of my literary heroes, Mark Twain: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

The history of Bar Harbor, Maine is bound up in the glorious greensward now known as Acadia National Park.

It’s a great place to visit, especially if you are lucky enough to be there in good weather with the fall colors in full display.

Well, we had the weather and we had the colors, but we did not have the park.

Because of the shutdown of the federal government (See Mark Twain, above), the park was closed.

There were three cruise ships in the harbor: two small vessels including Silver Whisper and one ugly megaship.

The streets were jammed. The ice cream and taffy stands busy. And the park closed.

The Park-less Town

The town of Bar Harbor is quite small, with a permanent population of about 5,000.

Of course, that population swells greatly in the summer and fall.

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Ice cream, salt water taffy, and tourists locked out of Acadia. Photo by Corey Sandler

At the back of the harbor is the bar, a stretch of sand and gravel that is covered at high tide but visible and often walkable at low tide across to Bar Island.

It can cause a bit of inconvenience if you’ve gone out on the bar and the tide comes in behind you to cover your escape route.

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Bar Harbor. Photo by Corey Sandler

Mount Desert Island is Maine’s largest island, with an area of 108 square miles (280 km²).

That makes it the sixth largest island in the continental United States, and the second largest on the east coast of the United States—behind Long Island in New York and ahead of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Even without the park, it’s a pretty place, especially if you go past the t-shirt shops and into the old town.

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Bar Harbor. In the churchyard is a memorial to the sons of Eden (the town’s original name) who died in the U.S. Civil War. Photos by Corey Sandler

We come back to Bar Harbor on Silver Whisper in about three weeks. We hope the park is open, Congress is shut, and the leaves still red and gold.

All photos and text copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

 

 

3 October 2013: Sydney, Nova Scotia

3 October 2013: Sydney, Nova Scotia

The Fortress of Louisbourg, Resplendent in the sun

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Sydney, Nova Scotia once had a thriving economy based around fishing, coal mining, and steel mills.[whohit]-LOUISBOURG-[/whohit]

All three industries are all but gone now.

Things got pretty grim, and I’m not just talking about the weather, which can be extremely awful: cold, windy, and snowy. And even worse in winter…

It’s not always gray and grim.

Twenty miles to the south of Sydney is Louisbourg, a massive French fortification on a particularly lonely piece of coastline.

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Louisbourg. Photos by Corey Sandler

The times we have visited—even in summer—it has often been shrouded in fog and mist, sometimes nearly wintry.

But not today: it’s a bit scary, the weather we’ve had lately. Blue skies and sun. What will winter hold in store?

The location of the fortress on the southernmost point of the Atlantic coast of Cape Breton Island was chosen because it was easy to defend against British ships attempting to attack Quebec City.

The fort was also built to protect France’s hold on one of the richest fish deposits in the world, the Grand Banks.

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A Lady of the House at work, and as reflected in a mirror at Louisbourg. Photos by Corey Sandler

The original fortress, constructed mainly between 1720 and 1740, was one of the most extensive (and expensive) European fortifications constructed in North America.

The fortifications took the original French builders twenty-five years to complete.

The fort itself cost France thirty million livres, which prompted King Louis XV to joke that he should be able to see the peaks of the buildings from his Palace in Versailles.

Two and a half miles of wall surrounded the entire fort.

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Louisbourg. Photos by Corey Sandler

On the western side of the fort, the walls were thirty feet high, and thirty-six feet across.

For the French, it was the second most important stronghold and commercial city in New France. Only Quebec was more important to France.

It was captured by British forces and colonists in 1745.

And then in 1760 British engineers systematically destroyed Louisbourg to prevent its future use by anyone.

And the fortress and the town were more or less left untouched for two centuries.

In the 1960s, the Canadian government paid hundreds of millions of dollars for the partial reconstruction of the fortress as a living history museum, in the process providing some temporary jobs for unemployed coal miners and struggling fishermen in the area.

The result is spectacular, all the more so on our out-of-season weather.

All photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact me.

 

2 October 2013: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

2 October 2013: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Anne of Green Gables and Tokyo

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

When you think of Stratford-upon-Avon, you think of a certain poet and playwright by the name of William Shakespeare.

We are talking apples and oranges …or jellyfish and lobsters here… but in certain circles around the world…in some of the most unlikely places…

Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island is not known for Queen Charlotte, not remembered for the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that led the way to Canadian Confederation, and not thought of at all for almost anything else…except for the work of a relatively minor author named Lucy Maud Montgomery and a series of novels that begin in 1908 with “Anne of Green Gables.”

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Charlottetown. Photos by Corey Sandler

But let’s start with the real place that is Prince Edward Island.

Charlottetown is the capital of Canada’s least-populated province, Prince Edward Island.

The city is the country’s smallest provincial capital, with a population of about 35,000.

(Canada’s three territories: Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories have smaller populations, but they are not provinces.)

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Autumn in Charlottetown. Photos by Corey Sandler

The town was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III.

Charlotte (1744 to 1818) was a Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Queen of the United Kingdom.

Canada has produced some very notable authors, including Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow, the poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen,

Michael Ondaatje (“The English Patient”,) Margaret Atwood, (“The Handmaid’s Tale”,) Mordechai Richler (“The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,”,) and Robert Service (“The Cremation of Sam McGee”) among them.

But none have had the global impact of Lucy Maud Montgomery.

About 150,000 tourists visit Green Gables each year; in the peak months of July and August as many as 2,000 per day.

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On the day of our visit, two much larger (and spectacularly ugly) cruise ships were in the harbor. We came in by ship’s tender, threading our way to shore. Photos by Corey Sandler

There are some other businesses on the island: fishing, potato farming, and recreation.

But a large portion of the province’s income comes from tourism, and most of that is directly or indirectly related to Anne.

Which brings us to Japan.

“Anne of Green Gables” was translated into Japanese in 1952 and quickly adapted as one of the standard texts for teaching English in the nation’s schools.

There are Anne of Red Hair fan clubs all through Japan; one of them is the Buttercups.

There are major groups of fans in Europe, Australia, and China as well.

But only in Japan have they taken it to the level of idol-worship, comic books, refrigerator magnets, and wedding ceremonies.

In Japan, Anne is almost everywhere.

Why are the Japanese so fascinated with Anne?

It could be the beautiful pastoral settings of Prince Edward Island, something which connects with the Japanese appreciation of simple nature.

But as the writer Calvin Trillin observed in a 1996 essay in The New Yorker, it could also be a fascination by Japanese girls with this impossible creature Anne who is so un-Japanese:

feisty, independent, with a face full of freckles topped by a mane of red hair.

That is as much of an alien creature for the Japanese as Godzilla.

All photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of an image, please contact me.

30 September 2013: Saguenay and La Baie, Quebec

Up the Saguenay River to La Baie, Ha! Ha!

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant SIlversea Cruises

Le Royaume du Saguenay, the Kingdom of Saguenay, is one of the most spectacular watery regions of lower Quebec.

Ha! Ha! Indeed.[whohit]-SAGUENAY-[/whohit]

I’m not making fun of the place. The local First Nations People called the cul-de-sac on one fork of the Saguenay River Ha! Ha!, which we believe means (en francais) a cul-de-sac. The English word is a bit harsh: dead end. But it is anything but dead.

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In the park. Photos by Corey Sandler

The people of La Baie take great joy in the place where they live. Fishing, hunting, skiing, hockey, and greeting the occasional cruise ship that makes an excursion up the river. In 2013, about 20 made the tip, Silver Whisper among them.

In fact, we’ll do it three times this season, returning in a few weeks for a visit inbound from New York to Montreal and again coming back out.

Shhh…don’t tell anyone else or they’ll ruin the place.

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In the park. Photos by Corey Sandler

The morning began as we made a left turn out of the Saint Lawrence near Tadoussac. There we were met by greeters in the river: a pod of beluga whales and a few minkes.

The Saguenay River extends about 100 kilometers or 62 miles in a deep fjord: about 500 to 600 meter high cliffs, and at least that much water beneath our keel.

The pale blue, almost white belugas were known to early mariners as “canaries of the sea” because of the high-pitched whistle they sometimes make. We instead whistled at them.

About two hours later, near Eternity Bay, we passed below Notre Dame du Saguenay, a statue of the Virgin Mary erected in the 1880s by a local salesman giving thanks for his successful escape from a plunge through the ice.

I was up on the Bridge giving commentary and then Captain Luigi Rutigliano executed a graceful full circle in the river in front of the statue as we played Ave Maria on the open decks.

At La Baie, the locals were out on the dock dancing, demonstrating arts, and shaking the hand of every passenger.

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The Silver Whisper at the dock in La Baie. Photos by Corey Sandler

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The autumn sun lights the trees. Photos by Corey Sandler

 

I went with a group of guests to the National Park of Saguenay and we climbed on a fairly technical path up to a spectacular view of the river. Ha! Ha!

 

27 September 2013: Quebec City, Canada

27 September 2013: Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City: A Coup de foudre

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

A Coup de foudre, indeed. That’s a French expression that literally means a bolt of lightning.

But figuratively, it is an expression of love at first sight.

We have been to Quebec City dozens of times; we’ll be here four times in the next month, and we’re still in love.

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The portal to the sublime Seminary of Quebec, and a statue to women’s suffragists at the Quebec Parliament. Photos by Corey Sandler

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Near our dock in Quebec City. Our ship’s funnel reflected in a building across the way. Photos by Corey Sandler

Our transatlantic crossing began in Southampton on September 12 and sailed in mostly gray skies and fractious seas to Cornwall, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland, and ports on the outer reaches of Saint Lawrence River.

Our reward was superb weather in Quebec City, a Chamber of Commerce day with impossibly blue skies, warm sun, and (relatively) few tourists in town. Let us give thanks.

The Cultural Capital

Québec City region is home to more than 700,000 people. That’s about one-sixth the population of metropolitan Montreal, which has four million residents, two million in the city itself.

It is Québec City, though, that is the political and cultural capital of the Canadian province of Québec.

On this visit we chose to go to the Parliament where we took a guided tour of the beautiful interior and its two houses. It is a less-visited jewel of Quebec City.

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Inside the Quebec Parliament. Photos by Corey Sandler

Europe in Canada

Québec City is the most European city in North America, more French than Paris in many ways.

While Montreal is a large city that happens to mostly speak French . . . Québec City is a defiantly French place.

Defiant despite the fact that the battle that broke the hold of the mother country on New France took place here on the Plains of Abraham.

Defiant in the face of the British who tried to change not just the government but also the culture.

Defiant against the Americans who rose to power to the south and who fought—first with armies and later with movies and television and McDonald’s.

And, it must be said, defiant in many ways against the First Nations who were living here . . . for centuries or longer before Jacques Cartier arrived in 1534.

Politics and history aside, Quebec City is one of the most spectacular cities in the world.

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A portion of the skyline of Quebec, and river buoys on the bank. Photos by Corey Sandler

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The Lower Town of Quebec City. Photos by Corey Sandler

All photos and text copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like a copy of a photo, please contact me.

24 September 2013: Corner Brook, Newfoundland

Corner Brook, Newfoundland: The Mill Town at the Other Side of Pond

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Cruises Destination Consultant

We have completed our voyage across the North Atlantic from Southampton to the New World, arriving in Newfoundland. We will continue west to Gaspé, then Quebec, and end this cruise in Montreal.

It is a thrill, each time we make the crossing. And it is almost always a challenge.

I believe that there have been a few times when we have made it across the pond as if it really were a pond. But I’m having a hard time remembering an uneventful crossing.

On this trip, we faced an extra-tropical hurricane off of Northern Ireland and missed our call at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Sailing in high seas, we arrived at Reykjavik nearly 12 hours late and then had to push back later calls in Greenland and cancel a stop at L’Anse aux Meadows to get back on schedule.

But we arrived safely, well fed, and well entertained.

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Wood to pulp to newsprint in Corner Brook. Photos by Corey Sandler

Corner Brook is located on the Bay of Islands at the mouth of the Humber River in Canada’s remote Newfoundland.

Outside of town on Crow Hill is the Captain James Cook National Historic Site.

Yes, that Captain Cook.

In 1767, the famous British explorer and cartographer surveyed the Bay of Islands and was the first to map the area.

Putting the Hum in Humber

One of the major local employers is the Corner Brook Pulp & Paper Mill. It has been making paper—mostly newsprint—since 1925.

When it was opened, a local politician declared that the plant would “put the Hum in Humber.”

It still does, along with a great deal of steam and a bit of eau de paper mill, which to me smells like a dog who has rolled in sauerkraut.

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The paper mill dominates Corner Brook, around every corner. Photos by Corey Sandler

When I worked for a newspaper in Ohio early in my career, the town also had a large paper mill. The managers lived upwind; the workers downwind. But they agreed on the smell: the called it the smell of jobs.

The Great Somber

But for me, the true gem of the area is Gros Morne National Park.

The park takes its name from Newfoundland’s second-highest mountain peak (2,644 feet/806 meters) located within the park.

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Autumn colors in Gros Morne. Photos by Corey Sandler

In French, Gros Morne literally means “Great Somber.”

In context, it is meant as “large mountain standing alone.”

And in Newfie pronounciation, it is called GROSS-MORN.

And it is definitely upwind of the paper mill.