Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting there, Part 9 - Canterbury, England - May 31, 2011

The next port that we stopped at was Dover and the plan had been to meet Michelle and Nick there, clump around town for a while and then have a life shortening Fish and Chip lunch. We had visited Dover fairly recently finding not much of interest and Nick, who had been stationed there at one time, couldn't come up with any fresh delights either. So, pleasant surprise, we were scooped up and taken to Canterbury, about fifteen miles inland.
Canterbury is an historic English cathedral city in the county of Kent and lies on the River Stour. After the Kingdom of Kent's conversion to Christianity in 597CE, St Augustine founded an episcopal see in the city and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that now heads the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Thomas Becket's murder at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170CE led to the cathedral becoming a place of pilgrimage for Christians worldwide. It was this pilgrimage that provided the theme for Geoffery Chaucer's 14th-century literary classic The Canterbury Tales.
For more pictures around this historic city, click here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Getting there, Part 8 - Cherbourg, France - May 30, 2011

Next stop on the cruise was Cherbourg-Octeville in the Manche department of Normandy. With a population of a little over 40,000 the area is largely dependent on the port operations and a French Navy arsenal.
The Cotentin Peninsula, with current day Cherbourg at its head, was first conquered by the Vikings and later, during the Seven Years' War, briefly occupied by a British force in 1758. Napoleon had the harbour fortified to prevent further British incursions although the works that began in 1784 were not completed until long after Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Cherbourg was also the first, and as it turned out, the only stop that the Titanic ever made after it left Southampton, England in April 1912.
In WWII, the Battle of Cherbourg was fought following the Normandy Invasion in June 1944 and ended with the capture of the city on 30 June. We had visited Cherbourg previously in our camper-van and limited this visit to a cursory stroll around the main features. More pictures here.

Getting there, Part 7 - Liverpool, England - May 28, 2011

Still wending our way eastward towards Rotterdam in Holland, we had now reached the shores of England or at least the seven miles of docks at Liverpool, birth place of the Beatles. From the time that we lived in England our memories of Liverpool were of dock strikes, industrial action in car plants hastening the demise of the British auto industry and a general 19th century aura of dreary and depressed neighborhoods housing folk who worked in Dickensian gloom. In short we had low expectations.
How wrong we were! Despite a cool, gray day with occasional rain we thoroughly enjoyed a lengthy trek around this exciting metropolis. Modernization and reclamation of the dock area along with an eclectic profusion of striking architecture have resulted in a vibrant and bustling city with few reminders of the drab times of yesteryear.

Liverpool was granted borough status in 1207, and the original seven streets of the settlement can still be identified within the "commercial district". In 2006 Liverpool was visited by 625,000 international visitors alone, making it the fourth most visited city in the United Kingdom and the ninety-first most visited on earth.
Hope Street connects Liverpool's two cathedrals; Liverpool Cathedral and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral as well as being home to a large part of the University of Liverpool's main campus.
Liverpool is one of the few cities in the world where ocean going liners can berth in the city center, providing a spectacular addition to the waterfront skyline.

For more pictures of this vibrant city, click here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Getting there, Part 6 - Dublin, Ireland - May 27, 2011

In 2010, eighty-six cruise ships visited Dublin, smaller vessels coming up the river Liffey to dock close to the city, larger vessels like the Rotterdam berthing at Alexandra Quay, a mile or so down river. Alexandra Quay is now Ireland's largest port and handles approximately two-thirds of the country's imports and exports. The original medieval port, close to Christ Church Cathedral in the city center slowly lost impetus with the transition to containerization and larger ships in the late 20th century.
Roll-on/roll-off ferries run regularly across the Irish Sea to Holyhead in Wales and Liverpool in England, with the largest car ferry in the world, the MV Ulysses, carrying up to 2000 passengers each trip on the Holyhead route.
Famous as the birthplace both of Guinness Stout and Irish Whiskey, Dublin, with its population of over half a million is both the capital and the largest city of Ireland although it did little to impress us. The regional unemployment rate is almost 15% and Dublin itself is set to break 14%. Combined with the country's recent bankruptcy and bail-out by the EU, the economy is at a low ebb with many vacant retail spaces and few signs of prosperity anywhere around the city center.
Some views about town are here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Getting there, Part 5 - Cobh, Ireland - May 26, 2011

Cobh, pronounced Cove, actually sits on Great Island in Cork Harbor, one of the largest natural harbors in the world. The largest island in the harbor, Great Island has a population of about 10,000 which includes the town of Cobh with its man made harbor large enough for smaller cruise ships. Available excursions, organized with the cruise lines, include Cork, Blarney Castle, Waterford, Killarney and other local attractions. We chose to stay in town which itself has been witness to much history.
For a start, Cobh was the Titanic's last port of call on its fatal maiden voyage in 1912 and, just a few years later during WWI, the Germans sunk the Lusitania off of its shore. Downtown, just a few block from where the Rotterdam was moored, are memorials marking these events.
Cobh was also the embarkation point for 2-1/2 million Irish citizens emigrating to the United States or Australia. Irish immigration to the US in both the 17th and 18th centuries was around 100,000 and then, as first canal building and then railroad construction produced huge demands for labor in the 19th century, the numbers soared into the millions. The first immigrants processed at Ellis Island started their journey to a new life from Cobh.
Our day was cool, blustery and sometimes wet but interesting nonetheless. See here for pictures.