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London to London – Discover the Isles

Here’s a preview of our next cruise which begins on Saturday, June 3, 2017.

We sail on the SS Explorer with Regent Seven Seas and sail around the United Kingdom and Ireland.

I’ll post photos and relate our experiences along the way.  Check the blog for that information.

 

Past Memories of London

Because this is really a new blog with brand new entries, I thought I would start the blog with a few photos from previous trips to London.  You’ll see new blog entries as our current trip and cruise begin later this week.  

Here are some of the photos I took when visiting London in 2009 and then also in 2012 as London prepared for the Summer Olympics.  Of course there are the traditional bridge photos that highlight the city as well as captures at Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace.

 

 

 

London – Day 1

We were up early this morning – the sun rises here before 5am – yikes.  Rich went to the gym for a short time and I went meandering through Regent’s Park – you’ll see below how beautiful it is – especially on such a lovely day.  

Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park

The Rose Garden at Regent’s Park

 

Rich and I caught up with one another and headed out to the Kensington Gardens.  We had heard the garden was especially redone this spring in honor of Princess Diana and the anniversary of her death.  Here are a few pictures of the very elegant but understated garden.

 

 

Before heading out to lunch we passed by the Prince Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.  It’s rather a unique tribute to the Prince and stands directly in front of the Royal Albert Hall.  

Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial

Royal Albert Hall

We also enjoyed the Victoria and Albert Museum which is enormous.  There was art from around the world.

 

To end my post for today, I pay tribute to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – celebrating its 40 year anniversary and the topic of the BBC news this morning.  

Food in London

The food has been extraordinary here in London.  It’s interesting to comment that many of the servers, bartenders, and host (hostesses) we’ve encountered have not been native Londeners.  We’ve encountered Greeks, Romanians, Poles, and Brazilians – it’s an amazing melting pot.  Our first night was at Il Baretto, a very stylish Italian restaurant recommended by our concierge.  

Eggplant parmesan appetizer – delicious.

Pappardelle with duck ragu

Dover sole – always our favorite

Tiramisu – one of the best we’ve had.

 

Our dinner tonight was at Hakkasan at Hanway Place.  We’ve eaten there now 3 times and have loved each occasion.  It’s a very stylish, sexy high end Chinese restaurant with an incredible bar.  Tonight we had the following dishes which were all delicious.

The bar – a very happening place.

Dim sum

Beef with a merlot sauce

Satay chicken

Halibut with chilis

 

Do you think we had enough?  Of course we didn’t finish everything but it was all delicious.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

 

Good night from London.

Final Day in London

Again, we started the day early.  We had two destinations in mind for the day – Buckingham Palace and the National Gallery.  By the end of the day we had walked over 10 miles.  And so we began our walk to Buckingham Palace through Hyde Park and what a beautiful park it is.  The trees are immense and form beautiful, green umbrellas.  There are many joggers and bicyclists as well.

Hyde Park

Within an hour or so, we made it to Buckingham Palace.  There were tons of tourists but we were still able to get some good views of the grounds and the palace itself.

 

The memorial to Queen Victoria

Buckingham Palace

Rich, waiting for Prince Harry but only getting this lonely duck

The Union Jack seen throughout the area and along the streets

We forged onward to Trafalgar Square where we reached the National Gallery.  That too was quite a distance by foot.  The National Gallery is immense and contains many beautiful pieces of work.  They had a special exhibition, “Michelangelo and Sebastiano”, which was very impressive.  No photos were allowed in the exhibition, however, I did capture a photo of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.  

The National Gallery

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

View of Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Memorial

We headed toward the River Thames – passed Downing Street and arrived near Big Ben and the Parliament.  We also took a few personal shots of the London Eye.

Big Ben

London Eye

Having a sip of London Pride, the ale found everywhere

Back to the hotel, rest a bit and then head out to dinner.  Tonight we dined at Bar Boulud which is one of Daniel Boulud’s newest restaurants in London.  We first had drinks at the Dorchester Hotel which had a charity event with people dressed to the nines.  Here are a few dishes from Bar Boulud.

Beef Tartare

Tuna

Beer Braised Beef

Coq au Vin

Madelines

Lemon Tart

We called it a night and headed back to the hotel.  It was a great day and we covered a lot of ground. 

The weather was perfect our entire stay in London and we met a lot of very friendly people.  It’s a very busy and beautiful city.  

Our luggage gets set out in the hallway at 7am so that the folks from Regent can take it to the ship.  We board our bus at 10:15am and take the 2 hour ride to Southampton.  I’ll have more in the days ahead.

Explorer – Day 1

Where do I begin?  So much has happened in the last couple of days.  Of course, it hasn’t been easy trying to get the wifi to work on board the ship, the SS Explorer.  But at last, I now have unlimited usage and my password finally works!  

Our trip from London to Southampton took 3 hours!  OMG the traffic was terrible.  But once aboard ship we were pampered like never before.  Our suite is wonderful and the ship is exquisite. Here are a few shots of the public areas onboard the Explorer. 

 

 

As we were enjoying our lunch yesterday, there apparently were too many anticipated diners in the main restaurant, Compass Rose.  As a result, there were offers to dine in one of the specialty restaurants and we chose to dine in Pacific Rim, a beautiful Asian influenced dining experience.  

Before heading to dinner, we stopped by the Observation Lounge for a quick cocktail.  It’s at the aft or front of the ship and it had just rained a bit.  I caught this picture of the view ahead and was spellbound.  

Here are a few of the dishes we enjoyed at the Pacific Rim.  

Sushi

Hamachi Sashimi

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Curry

Ribs

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner was incredible and we both had a great night’s sleep.

Skip ahead to the next morning and I had two surprises.  First…well let me just say that I think the sun rises here somewhere around 4:15 or 4:30.  I quickly got up and shut the main drapes.  When I awoke, however, at 7am, I got this stunning view….

The White Cliffs of Dover

They were just beautiful.  And then of course, I heard the tragic news of the London rampage that occurred on Saturday night.  Rich and I were just there on Friday afternoon.  It’s so tragic.

After having breakfast, we actually went to the gym and it is a wonder in itself.  It’s beautifully laid out with brand new machines and with this view – and proof that I was actually on the treadmill.

 

After having a couple of Seabreezes at the Pool bar, I’m now sitting on our veranda finally completing this blog post.  Oh, by the way, I met a Belgian woman from Brugge at the Pool bar and we had a great conversation….who would have guessed.  Anyway, I end today’s blog post with this final picture of the view from the veranda as I write.  It really doesn’t get much better than this.  More to come tomorrow and thanks so much for reading this.

 

 

 

Newcastle upon Tyne

Today we arrive in Newcastle upon Tyne which is just at the border with Scotland.  It’s where Hadrian built the wall to protect the Romans from the North.  We’ve also suddenly encountered a much colder and wetter weather pattern that presents some challenges in getting good photos – I miss the blue skies and puffy white clouds.  

It’s 48 degrees, windy and wet when we arrive at the Port of Tyne – Tyne is the river that runs through Newcastle as you’ll later see in the photos.  All is well as we prepare to leave the ship for our excursion into Newcastle.  As I pass through the ship’s security point and put away my room card key, a strong gust of wind pulls the card out of my hand and into the water below…. oh no!!!! The card is your passport to get back on the ship and an important document to prove your identity.  Fortunately, I was still at the security point, explained my problem and was told to go back to the ship’s reception area which was luckily on the same deck.  Phew… that was a little scary.  With a new card in hand and wet from the wind and rain, we boarded the bus for our excursion.  A half hour bus drive through what appears to be rush hour traffic and we’re in the center of Newcastle.  

We chose the excursion that buses you to the center of the city and allows you to discover the city on your own – map and guide in hand.  Here are our first views.

Grey’s Monument

Grey’s Monument

We also, for the first time, saw a fairly large presence of armored police on the streets.

Armed patrol

We walked down the main thoroughfare toward the River Tyne and passed St. Nicholas Cathedral and Newcastle Castle.  

St. Nicholas Cathedral

Newcastle Castle

For such a small city, Newcastle has a ton of bridges – and bridges at different heights.  We walked down Quayside and saw the bridges from different angles.  The most impressive is the Millennium Bridge which was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth in 2002.

Span of bridges

Millennium Bridge viewed from the Baltic Museum

Millennium Bridge

River Tyne

We visited the Baltic – which is a centre dedicated to contemporary art.  We went to the 4th and 5th floors where the observation decks gave us panoramic views.  In addition, we saw the nesting of Kittiwakes – it’s an incredible sight.  

Kittiwakes

Kittiwakes

My final entry for today ends with this tasty ale that supposedly is one of the best in Newcastle.  Cheers!

 

Jakehead IPA

Day at Sea

Before I begin with today’s story, let me just share a few photos of last night’s dinner at Prime 7.  We had a great time, enjoyed all of the food, and had some very pleasant conversations with Joy, our sommelier.  Joy is from the west coast of India.  Speaking of which, there are so many different nationalities on this ship – both passenger and crew member.  The maitre’d, in fact, is Belgian and from the city of Ghent, very close to where I was born.  I’m digressing…. here are the photos from last night.

Surf and Turf

Joseph Phelps Insignia

I included the wine because it reminded us of another cruise where we met Bill Phelps, the owner of Joseph Phelps Winery.  Okay, now on to today’s story.

Today there are no ports of call.  We’re cruising along the northern coast of Scotland on our way to Belfast.  These are very stormy seas today and it’s very difficult maintaining your balance.  Taking a shower was fun this morning – try washing your face with one hand, holding on to the grab bar, while water is sloshing at your feet.  Taking it easy on the breakfast table as well – don’t put too much pressure on your already sensitive stomach.  But hey, neither one of us is sick.

Cruising along the Scottish coast

Hanging out at the Observation Lounge

By noon, the seas had calmed considerably and by 4pm we were heading south on the west coast of Scotland.  Here are a couple of shots.

West coast of Scotland

Cute little lighthouse on the west coast of Scotland

And just how far north are we? Well… the sun rises at 4:33 am and sets at 10:13pm – that’s official.  Anette, I looked it up and it’s about the same latitude as Stockholm.

So now it’s time to get ready for this evening’s events.  We are cordially invited to the Seven Seas Society Cocktail Party at 6pm honoring past Regent guests.  And at 8pm, we’re meeting Bessie and Lauren for dinner at the Pacific Rim restaurant.  It should be a fun evening.  

Thanks again for following.  You can also follow me at Instagram – Maclambert.

 

Dinner at Pacific Rim

Last night we had dinner at the Pacific Rim restaurant on our way to Belfast.  We had drinks in the Explorer Lounge with our favorite bartender, Sonja who is from Serbia.  

Sonja

We dined with our friends, Bessie and Lauren, whom we had met several days ago and with whom we had shared a lot of common and funny stories.  At dinner we had a great time with good conversation and actually closed the restaurant.  Here are some captures from the evening.

Shu Mei

Potstickers

Miso Black Cod

We did remember to get a photo of the four of us captured in both color and black and white.

Rich, Lauren, Marc, Bessie

Rich, Lauren, Marc, Bessie

That’s it for now and more to come from the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland.  We’re scheduled on two excursions – Panoramic Belfast in the morning and Belfast Pubs in the afternoon.  Should be a good time.

Cheerio

Belfast, Northern Ireland

We arrived this morning in Belfast… and of course, it was raining.  Here’s my first view from the ship.

Entry into Belfast

Yes, it was a little disappointing at first but we managed to deal with the weather – it was, however, much better than what we experienced in Edinburgh.  Our first excursion was Panoramic Belfast and showed us much of the city and its highlights.  Here are a few photos about the city.

Parliament

Parliament

Queen’s University Belfast

Queen’s University Belfast

It was fascinating to hear about the “Troubles” Northern Ireland and particularly Belfast faced for almost 30 years – the hostility between the Catholics and the Protestants.  Our tour guide was extremely funny and made light of many things, but the “Troubles” was a very emotional topic.  We toured through the Protestant area and then also the Catholic area.  It was interesting to see the graffiti and poster art that highlighted some of the struggles.

Poster Art

Poster Art

Poster Art

Poster Art

You could see the art throughout the city.  Today, Belfast is seeing a large revival with new construction, new hotels, and greater tourism.  It is a very charming city with a lot of personality.  It was home to the building of the Titanic and there is a very large museum dedicated to it. There is also a memorial for the 1,514 souls who were lost in the maiden voyage.  It too is the home of Game of Thrones where it is produced.

We left our first excursion in the center of the city and ventured out on our own in order to have lunch at a nearby pub – Kelly’s Cellars.  Bessie, Lauren, Rich and I all had Irish Stew and an Irish beer at Kelly’s before returning for our next excursion.

Kelly’s Cellars

Irish Stew

Lunch at Kelly’s Cellar

Our next excursion was the Pub Crawl.  We went to two old, old pubs in Belfast – one, the oldest licensed pub, and the other, the oldest building and non-licensed pub in Belfast.  Although some of the tour guide information was repetitive, we very much enjoyed the actual time in the pubs… and of course, the beer.

McHugh’s Pub

McHugh’s Pub

White’s Tavern

In White’s Tavern

All in all it was a great, fun-filled day that really gave us a good feeling for Ireland.  I know that there’s a big difference between Northern Ireland and Ireland but the people seem to be so proud to be Irish, no matter where they live.  We’re now looking forward to Dublin and all that it has to offer.  

Please check back tomorrow for more stories.