Barcelona, Southampton, and New York

For Barcelona, the quotation was “To make oneself hated is more difficult than to make oneself loved.” Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) Spanish artist. Vogue (New York, Nov. 1, 1956) Barcelona’s sometimes fanciful, lively, and energetic pace makes it a paradise for both visitors and residents.

The beautiful and the one-of-a-kind architecture plus the people who appear ready to dance down the boulevards to the sea makes you want to stay longer to do the same. This is one Spanish city you can‘t miss. Spain is summed up in the busy port, the air is exciting, and the euphoric sense of “special” is persistent.

The city has two different personalities. There is a sense of spontaneity and pleasant disarray wherever you go. The 3,000,000 residents are the very soul of the Catalunyan political capital. Catalunya, extending across the Spanish-French border, has been independent long before the establishment of the autonomous communities in 1978. The residents feel such a strong sense of unity that it feels like they are separate from Spain.

Their civilization, character and language have been different for almost 2000 years. Barcelona is not only the political centre, but also the very heartbeat of Catalunya. When it comes to culture and commerce, it is one of the Mediterranean Sea‘s most important cities. For here there are three universities, sixteen parks and seventy museums.

Modern Barcelona has not always been the generally hospitable and relaxed place it is now. Long before written records about it existed, there were settlements close to the natural. Around the time of Christ, the Iberians, and later the Romans founded the city.

There were many battles fought over who could control the land until finally, Catalunya came out as a separate state. The Middle Ages arrived and commercial, civil and Maritime laws were passed known as Les Corts Catalanes. It is one of Europe’s first Parliamentary bodies in Europe.

Picasso Museum is set in two 15th-century palaces with the collection his secretary donated in 1963 and the ones donated by Picasso himself in 1970. The display ranges from Picasso’s childhood drawings to posters he made before his death.

Check out his work during the strange Blue Period (1901-1904 when he painted in shades of blue). He said he started painting in blue after the suicide of his friend, Carlos Casagemas. The best of his paintings however are his variations on Velazquez’s Las Meninas (Spanish for The Maids of Honour) regarded as one of the most important paintings in the Western Art history.

Montjuic (translated as Jew Hill in medieval Catalan) is a broad shallow hill. It really is a park on a hilltop close to the harbour that was named for the Jewish community who once lived there. The amusement park, castle, gardens, and a bunch of museums made this park popular.

Grand Teatre del Liceu (one of the most important opera houses in Europe) was built between 1845 and 1847. The greatest singers of the last twenty years performed here like Domingo, Pavarotti, Caballe, Callas or Tebaldi have a special place in the audience’ hearts.

The Gothic Quarter (El Barri Gotic) is often thought of as the heart of the city. Here Picasso and his work can be found in museums and the Passeig de Gracia, an open-air museum in the Golden Square. This is a remarkable piece of history.

Barcelona Museums are there to enjoy for in addition to Picasso Museum, Montjuic’s Joan Miro Foundation has an excellent collection of Miro’s work including drawings, paintings, tapestries and sculptures. The Catalan Art National Museum (MNAC) houses the world’s most important collection of Romanesque paintings. The Tibidabo Mountain has the only museum of automation in the world.

Then there is the work of Josep Clara who thought goddesses and athletes were the highest expression of formal perfection. He had an interesting relationship with the great American dancer, Isadora Duncan when they met in 1903 in Paris. He realized she “was the incarnation of rhythm and of eternal grace“.

Practically Speaking - Currency: euro Shop: 10:00 am- 1:30 pm; 4:30 pm - 8 pm; weekends vary Info: Tourist Board representatives in town wear red jackets or PO: adjacent to Visitor Centre Browse: Passeig de Gracia (between Plaza Catalunya and Diagonal) Buy: Leather, jewellery, perfume, soap, ceramics Taste: Sample tapas (considered by many as the quintessence of Spanish cuisine) with cocktails in the late afternoon. Dinner is often served at midnight!

Arrival Information - The ship docked at Barcelona where taxis were sporadically available. Gaudi made Barcelona to have the distinction of possessing more examples of unusual avant garde architecture in the world. Though he lived long ago, Antonio Gaudi’s (nicknamed as “God’s architect) work is still striking. He was ahead of his time for he recycled materials before the rest of us caught up with the idea.

Some fine samples of his work are his La Pedrera (means quarry due to its stone-like look), Parc Guell, (small village built around the textile factory belonging to industrialist Guell. With the factory gone and when Guell died it was given to the city and is now a 30-acre park.

The curved colonnade pathway designed by Gaudi snaked through the park. The retaining wall and sloped columns support the street above. What caught our attention were the mosaic stone benches snuggling into the curving wall, the undulating alcoves inviting us to sit.

La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, each stone so unique, explains why it‘s taking long to finish. Not only that, for Gaudi was famous for being a slow and thorough creator. He did not use paper and pencil to sketch the plan. Rather he built a 3-D model as blueprint using strings. It took 10 years to build the mode alone. That is why Eusebi Guell, a Gaudi benefactor did not like the slow-poke way of Gaudi and stopped financing for the church.

Gaudi also did the Calvet, with the wavy façade of the Batllo house, which was once the home of Joseph Batllo, an industrialist. In 1904, it was remodelled by Gaudi with the curves in the house compared to the shape of the back of the dragon. There are no straight lines in this house for even the windows are curved. Batllo lived on the first two floors and rented the upper three floors.

Ferrades and Lleo Morera houses, Ametller and the Hospital of Saint Paul (with its many pavilions, the new building at that time that could be financed by donations of banker Pau Gil) and the Palau de la Musica (Over half a million people attend musical performances here) were also Gaudi‘s works. You will miss the city’s heart and spirit if you don‘t visit some of Gaudi’s works.

Cathedral de la Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) is Barcelona’s most distinguishing landmark. It represents Modernist Gaudi’s style and one can’t imagine how he created more of this. Gaudi’s designs mix ceramics, stone, and iron in such a commanding manner that reveal his mastery, vision and legacy. You can tell he thought way outside the box. It was mind-blowing, just looking at this work.

Many of his works are protected by The United Nations World Trust. The cathedral was started in 1882 and was not finished when Gaudi died in 1926. The citizens are proud of it so much so that in the 1936 Civil War, people worked night and day to save the magnificent monument from the fire that burned most of their churches.

Bienvenidos a Barcelona was how they welcomed us on April 15. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia. It is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula facing the Mediterranean Sea between the mouths of the Llobregat River to the southwest and the Besos River to the north.

Barcelona’s city centre has narrow streets on both sides of Las Ramblas which is a boulevard from the city centre all the way to the waterfront. It is crowded until late at night with bird sellers and florists in the higher part while the lower part has street entertainers, restaurants, cafeterias and craft sellers.

While walking down Las Ramblas one can see the famous opera house El Liceo (Liceu in Catalan and Liceo in Spanish with electronic libretto system which provides translations), the food market of La Boqueria (with the reputation of the best fresh food markets in Europe) and the Placa Reial (literally Royal Square), with the palm trees and the arches and other interesting buildings. The Wax Museum is near the end.

But watch out for pickpockets for this is their favourite place to hang about in. The end of Las Ramblas is at the old harbour, where there is a statue of Christopher Columbus pointing to the east across the Mediterranean Sea probably toward Genoa, his hometown.

The streets in the old part of the city are narrow and crooked whereas the newer part has wide and straight streets with the modern buildings. Barcelona’s skyscape is dominated by the extraordinary openwork spires of Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (Spanish) or Basilica (granted basilica status by Pope Benedict) and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family (English). It is a huge, unfinished cathedral that is famous for the intricate patterns and undulating curves typical of its builder, the Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi.

By this time we felt we were ready to go ashore but not until QM2 sailed across the area of the Mediterranean Sea known as the Gulf of Lions. We then paralleled the area of the Spanish Coast known as the Costa Brava and Costa del Maresme after which we set a southerly course across the Golfo de Valencia.

Barcelona, SpainIn the early morning hours we passed Cabo de la Nao as we headed towards the Strait of Gibraltar thinking what a wonderful week we had. After exploring the Medieval Viterbo one day, and getting the sights of the Riviera Panorama, we arrived at this enchanting city of Barcelona on April 15. It is fast emerging a capital of culture for everywhere you turn, you can see heritage sites restored or being readied.

We have been here before and didn’t enjoy it much then because we found we could not speak the Spanish spoken here, but with the rebuilding they did before hosting the Olympics, we must say, there is no need for a common language to enjoy the sight.

We bought the tour called Highlights of Barcelona which is an introduction to many of Barcelona’s most famous sights, including its historic heart, Gothic Quarter and the Spanish Village and the six-hundred year old Catalan Gothic Cathedral of Santa Eulalia.

The tour continued to the huge Catalunya Square (the main square of the city) before taking the Passeig de Gracia which took us to the most unique attraction of the city, the Church of Sagrado Familia. The building started in 1882 and still unfinished. No wonder for it is full of embellishment that is a sight to behold.

Carolina was our tour guide and the driver was Joseph. She explained where we were going. 1. Gothic district historical section 2. Sagrada Familia symbol of Barcelona 3. Spanish Village time to visit interesting building. Then she said the port is busy with five big cruise ships. There is room for twelve and so it is the largest in the Mediterranean Sea and Europe and fourth in the world.

Ferries have regular lines to go to Palermo de Mayorca. Carolina probably meant Palma de Mallorca. We saw the Grimaldi’s ship to Rome which are two new lines and the cable cars that have been working since 1929. There’s the Aduana Tax Office and the Monument (built in 1888).

Las Ramblas (one of the most famous promenades in Europe) is the busiest street which is one kilometer long and takes 20 minutes to walk. There are shops, painters, Opera House and so may take long to walk. After the Opera House, there’s the Fruit Market. At the end there’s a big square called Plaza Catalunia.

Artisans sell their wares from small booths in the summer. It is not really one street but several that are connected in a way that looks like the whole thing is one. A poet once said it is the only street in the world he wished would never end. At the foot of the promenade is a tall column dedicated to Christopher Columbus.

At right is the Post Office and the military government at the left. At the Paseo Columbo in Columbus Avenue, there are trees to the right near the harbour with bridge to go to the area with buildings, cinemas, aquarium, and a mall.

Roy Lichtenstein, a famous pop artist, was commissioned to create a sculpture for the 1992 Olympics called the Face of Barcelona. There is another one that is a homage to Picasso, Gaudi and Miro a mixture of three artists related to the city of Barcelona.

The Olympic port is more modern with nightlife, lots of restaurants and is right by the Mediterranean Sea. In 1880, the port was abandoned but since the Olympics there had been lots of changes. The water front was improved. The Plaza de Sota Muralla showcased the two sculptors.

Originally a Roman colony 15 centuries before Christ more than 2000 years ago, it is now the historical, political, business and tourist centres so this is now the heart of Barcelona. We were told the streets are for walking but be aware of our belongings. Put them in front of you in your front pocket. There are lots of narrow streets and there are pickpockets.

Then we went to the cathedral of Santa Eulalia in Gothic style with the Chapel of St. Agatha. The tour guide said it was the start of the holiday. It’s Holy Week. Next week is Palm Sunday so they‘re selling palms. The unusual side is the cloister which is home to thirteen white geese.

There were two kingdoms: The kingdom Of Aragon (Ferdinand II of Aragon) and his wife’s Kingdom of Castile (Isabella I of Castile) but ruled both kingdoms as one. But when Isabella died, Ferdinand could not inherit it and instead it went to Isabella’s daughter Joanna who was later imprisoned by the father for alleged insanity.

The two kingdoms didn’t get united though until the grandson’s monarch, Charles, Holy Roman Emperor, inherited the throne. At this point, the tour guide took us to the King’s Square Plaza del Rei but the tower is like a crown to show it’s for the Royals. .

Then we came to the Bishop Street so named because the Bishop building is just around there where the pope stayed overnight when he came to visit. There’s a cloister at the cathedral. Only 74 towers remain of the aqueduct originally from Roman times. We saw the letters that spell BARCINO, the name given by the Romans to Barcelona.

The cathedral was built between 1298 and 1450 on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to Hercules. We viewed the exterior of this marvellous building as well as absorbing the other sights of the Gothic Quarter. When we went in, we saw the geese which are the guardians of the church because of the noise they make.

There are thirteen towers in 1900 dedicated to Saint Eulalia who was 13, tortured, and crucified. The highlight here is the Santa Eulalia’s Tomb who is a co-patron saint of Barcelona and was thirteen when she refused to renounce her Christianity. For this, she was tortured by putting her in a barrel with knives and rolled down the street, cutting off her breasts, crucifying her on an X-shaped cross and decapitating her.

Via Laietana is the name of a major street in Barcelona (which is parallel to Las Ramblas) where the inhabitants settled before the Romans came. In the 1st century BC the Iberians (some say in the third millennium but this is one where you have to be a detective in order to authenticate the information) arrived. Then the Romans arrived a little later.

In the past, this was a residential area, one of the most expensive. There’s the Mandarin Oriental. Next block is the golden block. From the beginning of the 1900 Gaudi did the last house in modernist style. Owners occupy the first floor that has stained glass. They owned all the buildings 100 years ago.

Inspired by the legend of St. George patron saint who killed the dragon, a local symbol, they celebrate St George’s Day on April 23 as AD 303 is the day he died. UNESCO also declared it as the International Day of the book as it coincides with the death of Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.

In Catalunia, it is also known as “La Diada de Sant Jordi” and it is customary to give a loved one a rose or a book. Because on April 23, 1616, two great writers died on the same day: Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare so Book Day is on April 23. Mila’s residence made by Gaudi is known as Pedrera (means quarry) so named because of the cliff-like walls. It’s inspired by nature with bigger windows on the first floor. Roof is special with chimneys. Gaudi was inspired by the waves of the Mediterranean Sea with seaweed and courtyard so they have plenty of light with heating and electrical elevator. Some don’t like Gaudi style and just like conventional style but Gaudi’s is full of colour and fantasies and surrealist built for wealthy families 100 years ago.

The economy was good then due to lots of textile factory known as Catalan Manchester full of glamour and exclusive but for some, even children had to work to supplement the impoverished families income. There was something passed restricting this but the children were hidden from the work area when the inspectors came to check for compliance.

You can tell by now the trademark of Gaudi’s architecture. The first is the mosaics of recycled ceramics that tell a story. The wrought forgery is next. And then there are the stained glass windows. The genius of Gaudi is at work that could entertain us for hours just deciphering the meaning of it all.

There are 1.6 million people in Barcelona, 7 million in Catalunya, 45 million in Spain. Tax of 21% is highest which is double than two years ago. It’s good to buy now when one can find three-bedrooms for 300,000 euros but the average salary is 1500 euros a month so that’s a problem.

There are four official languages in Spain: Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Gallego. Medium of instruction in public schools is Catalan. To work in the offices as an official you have to know how to speak Catalan and have a Catalan degree. You can’t apply for work if you don’t have this requirement in this very cosmopolitan city.

The District of Expansion has large 100 year old and residential buildings. There are nice sculptures by local painter Miro in 1983 and works by Picasso cubist, and Salvador Dali surrealist. The 1970 sculpture of Miro called Woman in Birth decorated with ceramics like Gaudi’s work.

People can go up the Pyrenees (too high for our taste, Evelyn was so scared when we drove over there on the way to our Lady of Lourdes in France) to Andorra where we shopped before and truly it was glorious shopping (a shopper’s haven where one can buy things cheaper because there is no sales tax) and skiing in France.

There are the Olympic rings, art museum, Romanesque collection most important of which were taken from churches and put them in 1936. At the Olympic, Spain won 22 medals with one gold medal for football and soccer. The road we’re on, we were told, is the one they have the Formula One Races until the middle 1970s but now there’s a new venue. At the left is Miro’s museum that opened in 1975.

The symbol of Barcelona is the Sagrada de Familia which is not finished yet. The construction started in 1882 but Gaudi died in 1926 when he was run over by a tram. Now construction is ongoing from the donations and Gaudi left all his money here because this was the single most important thing in his life.

He was a bachelor having been scorned in love when he was young. It’s now been building for 130 years and it is 60% done and it is projected to finish in 2030. The darker side was built by Gaudi. The front is the nativity which shows life of Jesus. The back is the passion side.

We followed our guide as we navigated the way around the church as we looked at the Gothic spires and detailed friezes. The storytelling mosaics captivated us. The interior is modernistic with Jesus hanging from a circular frame which was added in 1987. One can tell the artists and architects who work there mean to preserve and protect Gaudi’s plan.

The nativity façade has four towers done 100 meters high. There will be 18 towers altogether, the highest will be 173 meters. The three facades have 18 towers, 12 of which symbolize the 12 apostles, four for the evangelists, the two high ones are for Jesus and Mary.

The façade is something to behold. The history of the Catholic Church is beautifully sculptured on the sides of the church from the birth of Christ to crucifixion with important events in between like St. Peter’s denial of his association with Jesus.

Ceramic tiles were used probably for the grapes, wheat, wine and summer and spring season fruits. The lower ones are winter fruits. The cypress tree which is the symbol of eternity, eternal life, and of the Holy Spirit is inspired by Mt. Montserrat (jagged serrated mountain) 50 km away. It is composed of pink conglomerate (sedimentary rock) and undulated mountains.

You can see St. Joachim and Ste. Anne, Mary’s parents. Gaudi’s ideas and style are different. See the façade of the passion. There’s the last supper and there’s a pentagram, a square with numbers which when you add anywhere, the sum comes up to 33, the age of Jesus when he died. Although we thought of the pentagram as a five-point figure but then for the Ancient Greeks, the pentagram signified mathematical perfection.

There you can see the keys of Judas, the rooster that crowed after Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, Jesus’ crown, and Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor. On the 2nd level where Jesus is, Veronica is holding a cloth with Jesus’ image on it. To the left are two soldiers. The old man is Gaudi in 1924 when he was 72 years old.

The church can accommodate 5500 people but 13000 standing. It is now a basilica because it was consecrated by Pope Benedict. Two million people go to visit every year paying two euros (this must be old because the last time we heard it was 10 euros a head) to help with the construction of the church.

It is built through private donation without any help from the government. All plans of Gaudi are being followed to the letter except the sculpturing is more modern than in his design. He has designed many buildings in Barcelona, all are unique and different but very nice to see.

The basilica used to be the center of Barcelona but unfortunately had been replaced by football because of the World Soccer Team but we did not see this as when we visited both places, the Basilica had more people lined up so long that you couldn’t even get close to the church while the football stadium was almost deserted.

The stadium gets more than two million people a year as the most visited building. It is also the biggest stadium in Europe that can seat 100,000 people. It is now the best team in the history of the football club. While we were there, we were told there would be a game the following day between Barcelona and Madrid at 10 am.

We also went to the Spanish Village that had been re-constructed to look like the real thing. One store owner proudly said that all her goods are made in Spain and not one of them is from China. She also said there is no need to worry about pickpockets here due to better security unlike in Barcelona itself. All the precaution however, did not stop us from sampling patatas bravas and gazpacho there for we were on an adventurous kind of mind.

By 6:45 pm, all were aboard and the gangway was raised. We started sailing for Southampton, a distance of 1700 nautical miles as we said hasta la vista to Barcelona and glad the residents there are blessed with so much green space despite having no more room for further growth.

Then it was semi-formal dinner and a movie called “The Tourist” starring Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and Paul Bettany. We also took in the live show at the Royal Court Theatre featuring the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers with a special tribute to Sting followed by the comedy juggler Pete Matthews.

We love sea days for then the routine is more predictable. Throughout the day on April 16, we continued on a westerly heading across the Alboran Sea towards the Strait of Gibraltar. We had breakfast, line dancing, a bit of work, ballroom lesson on Quick Step and then lunch. We had to get ready early for the black and white formal dinner because we did not want to be late for the planetarium show.

We received instruction for the UK Immigration Inspection. They had their inspection on board before the arrival in Southampton. All nationalities were required to go through their inspection regardless of whether going ashore or not. All we needed for the inspection were our ship’s ID card and our passports.

The FA Cup Semi-Final Matches were seen via satellite. Good for the Sports Fans. I think that’s football for Europe. We were not sure of these because we are hockey fans and the football we follow is whenever we are in our winter home in the US.

After dinner, we went to the cocktail party and had fun with Linda and Bonnie. Afterwards we took in the show at the Royal Court Theatre on Virtuoso instrumentalist Nicola Loud. We didn’t get to see the movie “My Life So Far” because things were just getting hectic. Besides, we wanted to see Queen Mary 2 transit the strait between Gibraltar and Morocco. Then we went on a North westerly course across the Golfo de Cadiz as we followed the Portuguese Coast into the Atlantic Ocean.

We rounded Cabo de Sao Vicente and changed into a northerly heading on April 17. We went to church at 8:30 and breakfast shortly thereafter. All our activities were cancelled because of the World Fair but it was all for a good cause, for the QM2 charities, that is. Having paralleled the coast of Portugal, we passed by Lisbon late in the morning.

We continued sailing towards the north and by 12 noon we were eating again at Deck 7 because we wanted to attend the King’s Speech Movie starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter because the 8 pm showing will conflict with the live show tonight. Since we entered the Finisterre separation scheme, we were looking forward to get to the Bay of Biscay.

The movie was very good and I was able to work afterwards while Roger took a walk. After a bit of rest, we attended the formal dinner and then the Appassionata Show which is a dance extravaganza of exciting styles of dance from around the world, from Glenn Miller’s Swing to the tantalizing Argentina’s Tango. The show featured some of the most incredible dances ever seen at sea. Late in the evening, we entered the Bay of Biscay.

It was the usual sea day activities on April 18, with breakfast, line dancing, work, ballroom lesson on Viennese Waltz and lunch. Director Hugh Hudson and Eamonn Gearon presented the 2009 updated version of the cult status film about the 1776 American War of Independence from Britain that starred Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland and Nastassja Kinski. By the afternoon, we left the Bay of Biscay after which we met with the enrichment speakers at the Winter Garden.

We were informed we could apply self-help express walk-off which means we could take the early disembarkation if we were capable of carrying all our luggage. Going on a world cruise and having more than the usual luggage we carry when we travel, the walk-off was not going to happen for us.

Before dinner, we checked out the additional Planetarium Showing on the Winter Sky: Live Presentation hosted and presented by the Royal Astronomical Society Fellow, Francisco Diego, at the only Planetarium live show at sea.

At night, we took in the live show at the Royal Court Theatre featuring the international television and recording artist Stuart Gillies and the movie called “Flying By” starring Billy Ray Cyrus, Heather Locklear and others but we found it too slow and we left before it was over.

By this time, we passed by Ushant on the northwest coast of France to proceed to the north of the English Channel following the coast of Dorset and Hampshire.

Southampton, EnglandIn the early morning hours on April 19, we lined up for the pilot and so after we leisurely cruised on April 16 - 18 we arrived in Southampton, England. This is not too far from London so we decided to stick around because we’ve toured London to death. In fact, Queen Elizabeth invited us to the Royal Tea Garden Party where we personally met Princess Diana, back in 1990.

Welcome to Southampton was what we saw and heard when we arrived at this city, a major port located on the south coast of England. It is the closest city to the New Forest which was the hunting ground of King Henry VIII. It lies about halfway between Bournemouth and Portsmouth. Southampton and Portsmouth are rival cities beyond football for they compete economically as well.

Southampton is situated in the northern-most point of Southampton Water (a tidal estuary north of the Isle of Wight. It is classified as ria or drowned valley of the English Channel formed by the Itchen, Test and Hamble rivers flowing into it and turned into the sea’s inlet at the end of the last ice age.

A resident of Southampton is called a Sotonian because the city‘s name is often written short as So‘ton or Soton. Southampton has always been strongly connected with maritime history and developments. In particular, it is a primary port for cruise ships, its glory days being the first part of the 20th century, and in particular the inter-war years. It was at that time when it handled approximately half of UK passenger traffic.

It still is home to many luxury liners. It is also a very important container port. Due to its outstanding harbour, it is the principal port in the south coast, as well as one of the largest in the UK. It is not a surprise that sailing is a popular sport here much of which is centred around the Ocean Village development, a local marina which includes Harbour Lights, one of the major independent cinema complexes in the South Coast.

The famous Whitbread Around the World Yacht race (now known as the Volvo Ocean Race, after the current owner) held every three years and lasts for nine months once receiving two billion TV audience. On some legs they sail night and day for 20 days with no fresh foods. Each entry has a team of 11 professional crews which the race calls for their physical endurance, competitive spirit and utmost skills. There is no cash price for competing is enough a reward but the winner of each leg and the overall winner get Waterford Crystal trophies.

The aforementioned race started in Southampton in 1977 and stayed on until 2001. Southampton is also home to Southampton Football Club. In addition, it hosted the Rugby World Cup. The matches were played at the city’s St. Mary’s Stadium.

The Legacy of Cunard is in the more civilized era, the golden age of sea travel. Crossing the ocean was a fantastic event unto itself, the very picture of elegance and privilege and travelling. For this, Cunard was at the top of the list when choosing a ship for such a voyage.

It was no wonder for Cunard’s superb ocean liners were floating palaces, afloat with art deco grandeur and Edwardian overindulgence, surrounding guests with every imaginable luxury and comfort. The greatest personalities from movie stars to world leaders choose Cunard where they can sip champagne at special black-tie soirees and walk along stylish promenades dressed in their best clothes.

It was the epitome of luxury travel, and getting to the destination was truly half the fun and no one was in a hurry to arrive anywhere for what matters is the experience. Cunard maintains the celebration today, as she has done for 170 years, and now Queen Mary 2 is handed the torch and continues to sail with majesty and style. We feel privileged to join that legacy. Bon Voyage!

Penny, our tour guide, welcomed and thanked us for bringing the sun but she said there’s hardly been any rain in March so they’re worried about the plants and gardens. She said that it would take one hour to get to the Stonehenge for we would go through the forest where animals can roam free.

On the way, she told us that Southampton is in the centre of the south coast with 225,000 people proud of their green places. On the right for instance is the oldest bowling green in the world since 1299. The winner is the Knight of the Green who has to buy drinks for everyone. It’s a good day to place second.

There’s the ferry that goes to the Isle of Wight where they hold an annual music festival. There’s the Maritime Museum. That column commemorates the Plymouth pilgrims. Penny said the pilgrims may have made a mistake and were supposed to come to England. There’s the wall of old Southampton completed in 1488 to protect the place from attackers. Penny also pointed to the headquarters of the Carnival UK.

Southampton is the place to go shopping. There’s the Ikea, a Swedish company that’s taken over the world and gave rise to a new industry of people skilled in assembling things. Great thing about Southampton is that everything we were on is reclaimed land and there’s water with muddy bottom so they can reclaim more land.

There’s the camera on the road that takes pictures and the funny thing is that drivers slow down there and speed up again after. There were lots of containers in the next two miles. The yellow flowers we saw were escapees which are canolas planted by farmers to make margarine but these escapees were blown by the wind. As everywhere, there’s recession going on.

The roads used to be beautifully kept but money for it has been cut from the budget. There were big cars to the left waiting to be shipped in containers. The port is proud of being able to ship them in 24 hours. We saw how a car is transported without having to mess up the road traffic but sometimes it does not work out that way, but at least they try.

There are differences in word usage so she said to tell her if we don’t understand her because for example her husband who lived in the states for sometime thinks a trunk is part of a car but for her it is a fruit something. There are those two windmills which occasionally work but enthusiasm have died down. They’re not very reliable; only 70% efficient.

There’s the roundabout that could easily make you go the wrong way. We have to get used to remember which country we are in. We’re crossing the river Thames where farmers go for trout fishing. The water was in low tide; it would be back to normal in two hours.

We’re now out of Southampton into the town of Totton (claimed to be England’s largest village until 1974 when it was made into a town) where you can see the fuel is 1.339 pounds per liter. You have to multiply that by 4.5 to get the price per gallon. The exchange she thinks is 1.56 so it will be around $11 US when they worked it out last year. It was $9.40 by our calculation but who cares?

They’re grateful that England is a small country and now there are lots of motorcycles. Some are more careful we think. They say there is less accident in Rome but perhaps they just manage to stop in time. Now we’re in the Forest, the name given to it in 1079.

Modern history started in 1066 where some rampaged England when if you want to eat meat you have to catch it. New Forest is a large 93,000 acres national park in Hampshire. The 1964 New Forest Act defined the perambulation of the Forest as a term used to describe the official area boundary and the land enclosed within. All have to follow the Act or punishment is certainly harsh.

It’s a National Park because people lived here longer and it’s a protected area and laws are fierce. New Forest has wild ponies, cattle and pigs that run wild and they have the right of way and you have to wait till they move. There are some castles here. The animals you see actually belong to someone.

There’s a sign that used to say Think Bikers because they come up to you when you’re not looking but now it says Bikers Think. When you hear rambling noise you go and watch. There are oak and other trees used for weaving baskets. They used to grow pine trees but now they grow native ones.

There’s a pub where there’s a display of every brand of animal called the Green Dragon. It has a National Park status and has a right of entry for centuries. If there’s an accident you have to report it and have to pay for the value of the pony which is 250 pounds.

Penny said walking is a good idea but have a compass and good boots for there are poisonous snakes. The yellow flowers heather, no animal can eat it except the ponies for they have leathery tongue. There are man-made huts and it is forbidden to buy bottled milk. Plastic bags and acorns are hazards for the latter gives the animals tummy ache.

If you have a pig, you can put it there and it eats the acorn and stays fit and then the pony eats the pig. An adjuster is in charge of the animals and one qualification is to have a horse. The land is undulating and deceptive so you can hurt your knees. Sometimes you see donkeys on the same system.

The 1987 hurricane weather is usually kind but with that hurricane, the forestry commissioner couldn’t walk around. They found the fallen trees and some are deliberately left because they have fungus that’s good for mushrooms. Soil is very acidic and the rhododendrons love it.

When we passed Wiltshire, we saw the crops called canolas and there are whole fields of them. They didn’t exist until they got involved with the euro community. Medieval communities have narrow streets and have one-way streets. Most are made of bricks by the 1800 for it didn’t come before 1600. Now some are built into apartments with lovely river view.

We saw the thatched roof that are made from straw. This skill disappeared when the combine harvester arrived but it became popular again. Look at the bird or some other form of animal on top. How to make a thatched roof? First you have to harvest the reeds by hand, tied and bundled together.

Some say this is not good for it can easily catch fire but insurance says no. Animals love it and the roof can last for 60 years, contrary to what others thought. That is why the insurance companies set the matter straight. Fire is not a major hazard for thatch takes a while to burn.

Then she pointed to the two schools, one of which is the grammar school. Then we saw the church which has the tallest spire at 404 feet and another 100 was added years later. The church is being restored. Salisbury is a planned town in England, built in plots like checkers.

It’s been a market town with a canal underneath. It’s a wonderful place to shop, the market is where they sell chickens. At Stonehenge, deep holes were dug and stones were raised slowly and carefully into the new place using levers. The river is called Avon but there are five of them in England perhaps it’s because it’s the old name for water.

Smaller stones were lifted on to the upright to complete the stone circle. There’s a small park called Victoria Park built for her jubilee about 3500 years ago. There is one entry and stone stands by itself. There’s a story that to build the church, aim the arrow and where it will stop is where the church will be built.

They lay the stones on the ground pulling each one by hand. Theory was that each of the upright stones has joint something. The basic engineering was amazing for they had no tools and all stones were quarried. To make it into a circle is hard. Just inside circle, there are small all-bluish stones. Last year they found remains about five miles away. It’s like when you strike two twigs to divine water, that’s the magic of the place.

From 1220 to 1258, they had Early English Gothic style. Most took 300 years to complete. John Lord Cheney (we saw his body laid to rest there) fought alongside Henry Tudor against Richard III. The glass prism is done by William Whitler in memory of his brother. They built their own chapel leaving their money so they will go to heaven.

We saw the Trinity Chapel of St. Osmund Bishop 1078-1099. If you put your hand there, you’ll be cured. Then we saw the Magna Carta. It was amazing. We read the original copy and it felt like we became part of the history.

Queen Mary 2 has a White Star Service where you can sign up for arrangement whereby they will transport your luggage home directly from the ship. This service is provided through Federal Express. We almost signed up for this one except we don’t know if we will be home to receive the luggage.

By this time, all were aboard so the gangway was raised and we started to sail for New York, 3170 nautical miles away. We sailed into the English Channel and set a west south-westerly course paralleling the southern English coast. During the evening, we passed 12 nautical miles south of the Bill of Portland and Start Point.

But anyway after a little bit of work and rest, we dressed up for the elegant casual dinner, checked out the movie called “Morning Glory” starring Harrison Ford but we’ve seen it before so we went to the live show at the Royal Court Theatre featuring the Welcome Aboard Show by the Cunard singers and dancers which was fabulous in Las Vegas Style followed by Nick Lewin, the Comedy that Amazes which did not amaze some.

By the early morning hours on April 20, we found ourselves at South Bishop Rock which is the traditional start of the transatlantic passage towards New York. After breakfast, we went to book our airport transfer and when we checked it there were only four tags when we should have had five so Roger went to get one more green tag and they gave him five! We also got our interim statement which we checked to be okay.

Roger also went to Yoyo to get our platinum pins. Then we went to the photo gallery to tell them how we wanted the poster-like image done. They would check it out and let us know how much it would cost. After a bit of work in the stateroom, we went to the ballroom lesson on Cha cha cha with the new dance couple Petre and Roxana. They were good.

We had fun after our usual Singapore Sling but had to leave for the 6 pm formal dinner. We then went to see the movie called “True Grit” starring Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Matt Damon but it was too slow for our liking so we left but the Viva Italia Show at the Royal Court Theatre was a repeat so we just went to the stateroom and accessed the internet.

So we thought of our tour of the Stonehenge and the Salisbury Cathedral where we were fascinated by the original copy of the Magna Carta. But hey, we must be getting close to home because with the local time at 6:30 am and Toronto time at 1:30 am, we were only five hours ahead.

From the Southern coast of England, we sailed into the Celtic Sea on April 21. After breakfast and while I was line dancing, Roger went to the Photo Gallery to find out the verdict on the poster project we told them the day before and they confirmed it was a go at $90 and that it would be ready in two days.

By the afternoon, we crossed over the Maxwell Fracture Zone, which is a large undersea mountain range forming part of the mid-Atlantic Range where the depths were shallow up to less than 1000 metres but sharpened again quickly to 3500 metres which is about 1.9 miles on the opposite side. We then did some work before going to the tea dance where we danced to our hearts’ content.

We received a notice that we had a choice to store our luggage with the Luggage Concierge in New York. All we would have had to do was register for this service at the Purser’s Office and the $65 fee per bag for the 30 day storage would just be added to our account.

This is so convenient but we had to catch a flight to Florida which we thought at the time of booking was the best thing to do since we had toured New York many times. In fact, going to New York to see Broadway Shows is an annual event for us. It was too bad because we forgot to factor in our addiction to Broadway Shows which would have been a perfect way to round up the World Cruise.

It was just rest time before the formal dinner. Then we went to see the movie “Eat Pray Love” starring Julia Roberts, James Franco and Billy Crudup but we didn’t like the theme so we went to the Royal Court Theatre and watched the show about the Rat Pack and Co. but it was a pale comparison of the original.

In the early morning hours on April 22, we continued on the Rhumb line track towards the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Just mentioning Newfoundland gave us the goose pimples knowing we were getting closer to home. Much as we love QM2 and the world voyage, still home is where the heart is.

After breakfast and line dancing, Lovely Cruz called to say the poster would be ready the day after tomorrow and then called again to say that we needed to approve the pictures so after ballroom lesson and lunch, we went to the Photo Gallery to approve the pictures but the instruction left was blurry.

There was a question and answer period for children up to 17 years old with Captain Paul Wright which we found interesting. It was also remarkable to note that Canadians formed the third largest nationality travelling aboard Queen Mary 2 this last segment of our World Voyage, the first and second being, United Kingdom and the US.

After formal dinner we saw the Canterbury Tales that we didn’t find amusing. We didn’t bother to see the movie about Facebook because it was a repeat. The evening took us to some of the deepest sections of the Atlantic Ocean with soundings in this area of more than 4500 metres or 2.5 miles.

On April 23, we were presented with a challenge on the poster we ordered because Rio and Capetown photos had been erased from the system so we went back to the stateroom and had a time trying to locate the two photos which we finally did and showed them to the photo gallery. By this time, we passed 250 miles south of Flemish Cap, an area of shallow waters about 102 metres in the otherwise 3500-metre deep ocean floor.

Today being St. George’s Day, we received reading material on this Roman soldier who was executed for his refusal to make sacrifices for the Roman Gods. After refusing offers of land, money and slaves made by the emperor to give up his Christian belief, he was executed on April 23. Before his execution, Saint George gave his wealth to the poor. We believe Thomas More suffered the same fate.

We had to dress up early because of the cocktail party at 5:15 pm where we had our usual Singapore Sling The formal dinner went without a hitch and we went to the Illumination for the movie called “Salt” starring Angelina Jolie but again we left so we can see the live presentation on the tribute to Motown and the musical sensation, multi-instrumentalist Samantha Jay.

The show was stopped 10 minutes before it should have been over because someone from the stage said there was a need for a doctor so they asked us to empty the theatre and come back if we wanted to see the rest of the show at 10:45 PM which of course we didn’t do. Just before going to bed, we found that we passed South of the Tail of the Bank and just over the resting ground of the Titanic.

On April 24, we went to church for the mass and then straight to line dancing after breakfast. We checked the navigation information to find that we continued on a Rhumb Line track to pass 150 miles south of Sable Island. Sable Island is a narrow crescent-shaped sand bar believed to have been formed from large quantities of sand and gravel deposited on the continental shelf near the end of the last ice age.

We did some work before the ballroom lesson on tango. The formal dinner was fine but we had to go to the cocktail party again after it and once again had the Singapore Sling. We went to see the movie on the King’s Speech but left after an hour so we can see the spectacular production show called Apassionata at the Royal Court Theatre.

There was an ANZAC Service at 6:15 am on April 25, in honour of the soldiers who served with the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp. It’s crazy in the ship today with so many people in the restaurant. We managed to go line dancing afterwards, did some packing and attended the ballroom lesson on rumba.

Willi Richards, a voice and text specialist from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art shared with us some simple ways to help develop voice and speech confidence. RADA has trained people who seek skills for the theatre stage for over a hundred years.

We were provided with information on the US and Customs formalities. All we needed was our passport so we familiarized ourselves with the Agricultural restrictions (No agricultural products are allowed to enter the US) and the US Environmental Law. This is to ensure that the world’s oceans remain pristine. So no waste is to be discharged from the ship into the sea. Anyone witnessing pollution is to call 9911 to reach the Environmental Hot Line.

After lunch we met with the speakers, packed a lot and were almost finished but had to watch Queen Mary 2 pass south of Sable Island, Nova Scotia and proceeded towards the Continental Shelf of North America. We then set a Rhumb Line course towards New York southeast of Nantucket Island to enter the westbound traffic lane leading to New York Harbour.

After the elegant casual dinner, we checked out the comedy show at the Royal Court Theatre and the movie called “The Bounty Hunter” starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerald Butler but had to go back to the stateroom to finalize our packing We had to throw away some things in order to get everything into the suitcases.

New York, New YorkIn the early morning hours on April 26, we entered the Sandy Hook Pilot Boarding Area, marking the traditional end of the Atlantic passage. The local harbour pilot boarded at this point and helped us go through the Ambrose Channel and underneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge which QM2 funnel cleared by about four meters.

At last, after six days at sea, cruising the Atlantic Ocean on April 20-25, we arrived in New York. Despite the lure of Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Little Italy, Broadway and Greenwich Village, we did not bother touring New York for we are here every year to take in a Broadway play or two. We have been to the Russian Tea Room for high tea where we were served crab cakes flavoured with sesame and ginger, caviar, smoked salmon on black bread with goat cheese so we just concentrated on getting back home.

Anyway, we’ve shopped till we dropped at Bloomingdale and seen all the sights, visited all the museums where in one, all the guards came out of the woodwork when our one-year old grandson tried to touch a masterpiece. Anyway we’ve been in all of New York, bought the t-shirts and done it all so we’re good to go straight home.

But of course, we just had to see the Statue of Liberty welcoming us back home to this melting pot of a city. Someday, we don’t know when, we plan to climb up to her crown of 25 windows and its rays representing the seven seas and seven continents which we just visited on this world cruise but we don’t know how we are going to do that because the last time we attempted it, we only got to the hips!

We had to leave early and the pier where we docked was chaotic. We didn’t even know we had to line up for a cart. We did get to go to the airport and checked in at the curb and that saved us much time and effort but cost us $130.00 in addition as the fee for overweight luggage.

Tour SummaryAs you can see, our world voyage took us from Rio’s majestic mountains and sparkling waters, Sydney’s Opera House, Aukland’s America’s Cup, Beijing’s The Great Wall of China, Osaka’s Japan’s temples, Shanghai, the Paris of the East and Queen of the Orient, and we’re not finished yet.

For there were some more in Hong Kong, the buying and selling capital of the world, the exquisite embroidery in Vietnam, Thailand’s Sanctuary of Truth, Singapore with its tough but clear laws, home of Mahatma Ghandi’s India, the seven emirates of Dubai and still there was more.

For there were some more places to experience, the camel ride in Egypt, the Red Sea, Mount Sinai, the Suez Canal, the fabulous Riviera, including Monte-Carlo known for its casinos, gambling, glamour, and for sightings of famous people, whimsical and vibrant Barcelona, and Southampton where the Stonehenge and the Salisbury cathedral that houses an original copy of the magna carta are not that far away and then back to New York made up our three and a half month world cruise. Can you blame us for wanting to see more? The world cruise just gave us a taste, only an appetizer really, and we wanted a four-course meal!

After the trip, we were not really tired except on disembarkation day at Baltimore, New York. In fact, it was the only trying part of our world cruise. You know what that is like, hustling for a cart when none was around and no directions as to what to do and having to pay the airline $130.00 for an extra luggage.

Imagine having to go with the hassle after three and a half months of pampering without having to lift a finger, arriving in New York was a cultural shock. At this point we were hoping the calming effect QM2 had on us would stay with us long for she has no equal when it comes to making one’s inner well-being in top shape.

We got out all right despite the challenging moments for there is no match for the sights we have seen and the startling discovery we made - that we are at home anywhere and everywhere in the world for at the end of each day we know Queen Mary 2 was there welcoming us back.