Final Days in the British Isles
Ah, now we’re on the high seas, a place I know and love, in the core of my being. My last two years in the Navy, all of which were on a ship that was out to sea more often than not, what sustained me was my love of the sea. After I got out, I’d actually forgotten all about how much I loved it. My memories of my time in the Navy were overshadowed for years by the trauma of things that happened towards the end of my Navy career, that had nothing to do with sailing or being on the open sea. I’d forgotten how much I simply loved the sea.
In 2001, less than two months after 9/11, we sailed on our first cruise together. Our first two nights of that cruise, the ship was dealing with a hurricane. The waves were huge, the ship tossed all about, and I remembered — I love this! I was apparently born with sea legs, never having experienced sea or motion sickness in my life.
My first voyage in the Navy had been the same — sailing down to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to play war games for a month, we sailed around a hurricane, with similarly rough seas. I loved it then, and I loved it now.
We’ve lost count, but this is something like our 22nd cruise since then, and we’ve spent around 165 days at sea, as most of those cruises were at least 7 days long, and many were 11–15 days. The one we’re currently on is 18 days in total, between the two combined cruises we’re doing here. I enjoy the time at sea almost as much as I enjoy the ports. Kathy loves both, so it works for us.
We’re apparently sailing right into the Atlantic with 3 or 4 hurricanes in various stages of development in and around this ocean. I’m not concerned — the ship people know what to do, and if anything, it will simply add to the adventure we’re on. I’m good with it. Am I concerned about the damage they might cause back home? Of course I am. I’m concerned about it — but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it from where I sit, so I’ll just ride them out for the next 8 days, and see where it all leaves us.
Last night we stayed up late, hoping to see Bob Woodward on Rachel Maddow (air-time would have been 2 a.m. for us, but we gained an hour, so really like 1 a.m. — we will gain an hour each night for the next 4 nights, getting our clocks readjusted for EDT while we cross the Atlantic), and I got our laundry caught up. With the added hour, we still managed to get a good 6 hours sleep. Just as Rachel came on MSNBC, the signal went out. Doh! (such a first world problem).
This morning, we had brunch in Palo’s, the five star restaurant four decks above our cabin. Palo’s is the best. I’ve done pretty good on this cruise, just eating until I’m full, and not eating more, just because you can. The one exception to that is whenever we eat at Palo’s. There, all bets are off. We’ll also be dining for dinner up there a couple of times on this leg of the cruise — we ate there twice on the British Isles portion of it — oh, so good!
Our final three port stops on the European side of the Atlantic came and went so quickly, I barely had time to write about them — but all three were great. Dover was where we switched from the British Isles to the Transatlantic Cruise, which merely involved getting checked off the ship for the one, then checked back on for the other.
Since Kathy upgraded us to a cabin with a porthole, we also had to move cabins. Our new cabin is much smaller than our previous one — still larger than most, but with less clothing storage options — but we managed the space/storage issues — totally worth it for the view out our porthole. I got a great shot of the Dover lighthouse as we left Dover port one final time.
I had walked into Dover from the ship — about a mile and a half hike — to retrieve the pillow Kathy left at the hotel we stayed at there a week ago, and to pick up some basic essential supplies. I also had lunch — fish and chips — something I’d been wanting to have while in England. I love their fish and chips, with vinegar on the chips.
At Portland Harbour, we again left the ship with no plan in mind, other than to go into town then figure it out from there. A local lady on the shuttle bus, who was there to tell us all about the area, convinced us that a day just tooling around Weymouth, which was the nearest town, would be a day well-spent. She was right! It was such a lovely, quaint seaside town, and quite historic, as well. This was the town from which the allied troops launched the D-Day invasion of France. The promenade along the beach had a number of memorials honoring that historic event which proved to be a key turning point in World War II.
We were able to rent a motorized scooter for the day for Kathy, so she got to have some independence while I got a break from pushing the wheelchair, something we both appreciated.
Our final port stop on the European side of the Atlantic was Cobh, Cork in Ireland. We’d made arrangements with the same driver we had a week earlier there, Trevor, since we’d had such an enjoyable day seeing the sights of Cork on our first time in Ireland. It felt like meeting up with an old friend as he met us on the dock, loaded Kathy’s chair into the back, gave me the journal book and sunglasses I’d left in his car last time, and headed off to see more of the Irish countryside.
This time was even better than the last time. Trevor took us to see the Stones of Drombeg, ancient stones in an unbelievable scenic setting, that date back to 1100 BC, remnants of another time and culture that gave one an even deeper sense of connection to a past time than Stonehenge did. These stones, while not nearly as large as Stonehenge, were fair game to walk among, and touch, and feel the sense they convey. You could really feel it, too. It was one of the most peaceful feeling places I’ve ever been to — and the beauty of the surrounding scene was stunning. We could have stayed there all day. However, Trevor had a few other places in mind to show us. One was the Timmoleague Friary, an ancient abbey that we spent time just walking amidst the ruins of, which included many old, and some current, graves, and also conveyed that sense of awe, that here was a special place, that also held some stunning views.
For lunch, we returned to where we ate last week, a lovely little pub called the Speckled Door, which had spectacular views from the dining area, out an all-glass wall that looked upon the sea and cliffs by the sea, with a couple of horses roaming about, and a most welcoming feel. The proprietor greeted us like old friends, delighted that we had returned, and treated us to another delicious lunch.
On our return to the ship, Trevor parked the car by the River Lee, saying, “Good, we’re first in line” for the ferry across the river. On our previous trips to and from the ship with him, we’d taken the tunnel that run under the Lee. He thought we’d enjoy taking the ferry this last time, and he was right. Other cars lined up behind ours, and a bunch of uniformed Irish school boys and girls gathered in a crowd to the side, also using the ferry to cross the Lee on their way home from a day of high school.
Sailing away from Cork, embarking on the same journey the Titanic took, or tried to take, 106 years ago, we bid a fond farewell to the land of our ancestors, sailing off into the teeth of a handful of hurricanes, ready for adventures to come.
Did I mention that I love to sail?