Bridgetown Barbados

Good morning, Barbados

We had a wonderful sea day and the amazing captain of the ship arranged for an early arrival and late departure from Barbados.  Pretty special.  
Most of the group got off the ship at the pier and shared a taxi van for the day.  Their itinerary included the Harrison Caves, Plantation Homes, a tour and shopping at the chocolate factory and some fabulous gardens.  They report a day well spent.  The taxi driver went with them, stayed on site and was part of their experience all day.  It is important to negotiate the terms of the taxi ride prior to getting in the vehicle.  There  were apparently many taxi drivers trying to get this fare.
I was here in December, with my friends and some of the Women’s Travel Club when we were on board Oceania Insignia.  This was one of my favorite stops, primarily because of the easy access to the beach by walking and enjoying the park, Boardwalk, the shops along the way … And the beach itself.  Carlisle beach is the name.
And so four of us decided to do the walk together.  It  was a beautiful hot sunny day in Bridgetown Barbados.  Some big white fluffy clouds offered some relief from the sun, however the sky was a beautiful shade of blue for the most part … And the sea was Caribbean turquoise.  
Taking the same route and noticing hat the cars here drive the same as England and Australia do.  There was a beautiful park with lovely big trees providing shade and cooler air as we walked.  The same artist, a man working on his craft, painting scenes of the Caribbean and selling originals, prints and bookmarks to the passers by.  I love his work and am reminded of the beautiful postcards and book marks in a white mat.  This time I did not purchase anything.  I have some of his brilliant watercolour and black ink drawings of Palm trees and surf at home now.  Lovely to see him again.
We walked further and again found that ladies shop, a local artist as well.  She starts with a beautiful 100% cotton fabric, sews ponchos, dresses, long shirts, short shirts and scarves, she then dyes to beautiful colours and then applies fabric paint, bright colours, gold, white, black and vibrant green, turquoise etc.  Really lovely.  Also she makes jewelry using seeds, painting them in unique shades and then stringing them into unique creations.  I love her shop and the fabulous colours and textures.  
Onward to the beach, passing great squares and walking over pedestrian bridges.  I am reminded that Christmas decorations adorned the area when I was here in December.  
We stopped at a bead store and one of the gals made a purchase.  Onward down the side roads, passing craft malls where local artists have set up shop.  Beautiful vibrant and pastel coloured buildings are a delight, and the ever present view of the surf and warm Caribbean water surrounds us.  
The sand is like icing sugar, soft, white, cool and stretching for miles.  I quickly get to the waters edge and soon am swimming in the salt water, enjoying this beach and the coolness and relief from the warmth of the sun.  
A few swims, a long walk along the sandy beach leaves me completely satisfied.
Later we meander home to the ship passing again shops and boutiques.  Great fun and a fully satisfying experience.  We meet up with the other gals about quarter to four, and have a late lunch at the Waves Cafe, beside the pool deck on the ship.  
Later I attend a Captains invite to the Oceania Club cocktail party.  Then dining with friends at the Terrace Cafe, under the stars, enjoying the warmth of the Caribbean breeze.  We then went to the entertainment variety show hosted by our cruise director and followed by dancing up in Horizons Lounge.  
A full and enjoyable day all around.  Grateful for travel friends!  
Missing my family back home, just a few days left of this cruise.  

Devils island, French Guiana

Solar eclipse, Devils Island

Greetings all, yesterday was a wonderful hot sunny stop at famed Devils Island.  Teeming with wildlife, monkeys, birds, large rodent looking things with no tails hopping about and a scarlet macaw.  It was perfection.
In the morning before we landed at the port of call, we saw a Discovery Channel documentary about the island, the prison and escape strategies.  Although very interesting, with my prior work in the custody center and in probation and parole for almost thirty years, I found much of it very disturbing.  
How a country treats its prisoners is a strong indication of the ethics and values of that country.  I saw some parallels of how things are done in modern day with how they took place in the barbaric system under French government in the French Guiana country and colony of Devils Island.
We walked the prison section, the museum, the children’s cemetery,  the convent, church and barracks for the staff as well as the home for the warden.  And in modern day most is left to disrepair, however there is a place in the bay for tourists to land their water craft, come ashore and visit, have lunch in the small cafe and possibly a hotel on sight.  
Our Oceania Regatta ship tendered a short distance to land in this place of historic significance.
We went to shore as a large group and soon separated based naturally on who wanted to walk the distance around the island, and who wanted to start with the buildings more centrally located.
  In several spots we encountered the wildlife.  Monkeys playing and frolicking in the trees, swinging on branches, watching us intently, likely looking for handouts of food.  The forest was alive with bouncing branches and squealing noises as monkeys played and communicated with each other, and us.  On the ground hopped and or walked these rodent type creatures, the size of a large rabbit, small ears like a mouse or rat, no tail, dark brown with white under belly fur, nose wiggling.  Not too bothered by the guests invading their otherwise quiet existence on this isolated and for the most part abandoned island.
Fragrant and brightly coloured flowering bushes and trees were plentiful.  As well within the area of the prison, some very old gnarly trees with exposed roots, reminding me that the trees may carry the painful memories and tragic stories of previous inhabitants held against their will in this place.  Large bumps, twisty branches and rough bark markings seemed to say, “I am holding the pain of this place”.  I take a moment of quiet reflection to honour the lives lost.  
Story after story of escape attempts from this treacherous place, rough salty water seas, and dense jungle, hot hot sun, limited supplies and physical personal body challenges, as well as being chased and hunted would all be factors against the strongest of human positive emotions, hope.  
I was left with questions of how the human spirit could resist the call of the seas while trapped within the walls of the prison?  Apparently escapes were attempted every day and by every prisoner at some point, and for some multiple attempts were the only way to eventually find their way out.  
I saw butterflies flitting through the floral and cotton bushes.  There were circadas, large winged insects, making loud noises in the trees.  A solo macaw was hanging about, flying and resting, begging for handouts in the cafe / bar.  Beautiful bird reminding us of the wildlife on this tropical island.  
The vistas of beautiful Caribbean Sea waters crashing up on shore can be seen from almost anywhere on the island.  Large Palm trees full with fruit, coconuts laying on the ground.  This was the most picturesque stop so far, for me.
That is it for now.  Today a sea day.  I have been out for my morning walk around the decks jogging track, then breakfasting with the gals and now sitting in a window seat in Horizons lounge.
We were here last night for Happy Hour, then dining in Toscana at a table for six.  Dinner was fabulous.  After, a brilliant show by the assistant cruise director, featuring the songs and stories from the musical sensation group, The Four Seasons including Frankie Valley.  Amazing.  After, an hour of Karaoke with our group and some new friends … And a bit of dancing, women in a circle to the Jukebox / iPad music arranged by one of the crew.  The guests steadily left the lounge area and by midnight it was all over.  Time zone change gave us an additional hour of sleep.  Lovely times, being enjoyed by our group of 14.  


Alter do Chao, Brazil

Wow, Alter do Chao!  

That was the highlight of our trip to the Amazon.  An early morning tender arriving in a picturesque little community.  Sandy beaches, long grasses and trees growing from deep in the swollen Amazon River.  Spectacular arrival.
  I fell in love immediately with the town.  Not pushy, the venders were selling local artifacts, items of clothing, jewelry, masks, whistles, stones and beads, tapestries and other works of art.  A walk through town revealed some beautiful homes, a hostel, low rise apartment looking hotel arrangements and stunningly beautiful flowers and trees growing in gardens and wild.

Homes well kept.  People living harmoniously with one another and bird song filling the tropical air.  Hot, sunny, and fragrant.  Coconuts and fruit high in the tall tropical trees.  And the lagoon was decorated, surrounded by thatched roof buildings and small boats.  
I could return to this place!  I found some beautiful Caribbean pearls at a great low price so I could spend the last of my Brazilian Reals in this town.  Emptying my small change purse I made a great deal.  
We walked up and down streets, then enjoyed the central square in the town, encircled with local shops.  Then we walked the boardwalk along the shore, and with great views and vistas of the mighty river and seasonal huts on a sand bar, used by tourists in the dry season.  Today this area is only accessible by boat.  And many people paid a small currency to be taken to the sand bar and enjoy some moments on a beach area.  I wanted to photograph it from many angles.  Wow!
I so enjoyed this stop and somehow it was the highlight of the trip to Brazil and the Amazon.  I stopped and spoke to a gentleman who spoke some English and works with thenTraditional peoples of Brazil.  His home was charming, along the water front and thatched roof, stunning gardens surrounded it.  Carved benches and chairs, and art work.  He explained all created by local artisans and given in exchange for whatever.  He attends many meetings and when he heard about my work as an agent he wanted to be in touch to see if we can do some business together in future.  He comes to Canada and travels around the world.  It was fun to speak to a local about maybe one day returning to rent a home in this town, he suggested November as the best season.  Beaches accessible, great sunshine and not many tourists yet at that time.  
His work sounded interesting and I loved his use of language, respectful and inclusive of the people in his land.  He appeared very knowledgable about the geography and history of the Amazon Basin.  I will send an email, and thank him for his time.
Back on the ship in early afternoon, we set sail for Devils Island.  We will have to leave the Amazon River and head out to the Caribbean Sea.  I got more pictures of the meeting of the waters and enjoyed the hot sun of the afternoon.  A great dinner in the main dining room, followed by the show and then some dancing with the gals in Horizons.
Cella, the future cruise gal advised there are some special promotion for single supplement reductions on some 15 cruises over the next three months.  I will try to spread the word.  Let me know if you are interested!
Tchau from Brazil.
Wish you were here.


onboard anticipation, reflections of a morning at sea

Needlepoint and guest lectures

We are not the only cruise ship out here.  Yachts of Seabourn has the Quest in the same waters following our route.  In fact this morning as we sail in to the calm river waters near Parentins, Brazil, their ship shares the area out side the port.  They also have tenders reaching out to bring guests to enjoy the port activities.  They were here first this morning.  We have arrived a little sooner than expected, more than an hour early.
Today will be relaxed and enjoyable.  I have spent most of the morning inside,the Horizons lounge, after I had my walk on deck and then breakfast outside of the Terrace Cafe.
Ready now to drop anchor.  I will go to the room to prepare for the excursion to shore.  I am working alternatively between writing blog posts, checking my cruise ship centres emails and also working on my Caribbean themed needlework glasses case that I started a few days previously.  So many women are working on their needle work projects, it is fun to see.  Relaxing and enjoyable sitting near the window, with natural sunlight and the most beautiful vistas just outside the floor to ceiling windows.
The other gals are attending a guest lecturer this morning, a speaker about future, gloom and doom.  I could not bring myself to contemplate any gloominess on a day or trip as beautiful as this cruise.
I can hear and feel the rumble from far beneath the ship, as the anchor and engines struggle to secure us to the river bottom for a day of tender travel to transport precious cargo and guests to and from the shores and banks of this magnificent river.  Oh what treasures we will see!  Wish you were here!

More River thoughts

Back on the river, on route to Parentins, Brazil

A shore day planned for this afternoon, market and some shopping by the pier.  Some sources state 50 to 100,000 inhabitants in the area.  Known for the Boi Bumba Festival that takes place in June each year.  Dressed in colourful costumes and welcoming visitors from around the world, I am sure this would be a feast of culture and cuisine in the summer.  Today it will be our little Regatta ship tendering passengers in to port to contribute to the local economy with purchase perhaps of locally made handicrafts.  Lovely.
Up for a morning walk around the jogging track on top deck.  Stepping between the Amazon sized bugs that somehow did not survive the night on board the ship.  Close proximity to the shore allows for great views and thoughts of what it must be like to live in this area of the world.     I am enjoying the early morning cruise through the windy, once again mocha coloured Amazon River. 
It has been recommended by a few of the readers of this blog, and some members of the Women’s Travel Club for me to read State of Wonder, a novel by Ann Patchett.  I must try it when I get home or perhaps on my next cruise :). 

Manaus Brazil

Today was Manaus, Brazil

Another hot steamy day on shore.  We arrived a tich late, however it was a spectacular arrival.  
The meeting of the waters, Rio Negro joining with Amazon River forming this incredible color contrast.  The milky coffee-with-cream coloured Amazon from the last few days formed swirls and definite delineated lines in contrast with the very black waters of the Rio Negro.  Swirling and moving along side, almost as in a dance, mocha with black coffee, however not blending, staying in distinct lines and curls.  Almost in the style of yin and yang, beside each other in equal proportion.  
Different density?  Different ph balance?  Water and oil don’t mix, but water and water … Why not mix?  So curious.  And beautiful!  Spectacular really!  I must Google this one day for a better understanding.
The captain selects the black waters for this portion of the journey.
Much of the ship had breakfast at around the same time, and many went off to join tours of jungle treks and rubber plantation historical tour, or city tours.  Around 930 am six of us prepared to walk in to the city of Manaus.  No real plan, armed with a local map and a hope to see the very famous Opera House.  We had also heard of the markets here and hoped to stumble upon those, which we did.  
It was a hot and sunny day, lots of activity and some time shopping.
We returned to our loyal ship for lunch and then off to check out more stops after lunch.  We found a wine  selection in a shop called Top International.  By the way, also carrying a few purses and scarves by the designer label DESIGUAL.  I enjoyed the selection of wine and Swarovski crystal jewelry in the air conditioned and brightly decorated, very modern and clean shop.  Recalling that the previous visit I made to Brazil I had purchased flip flops for each of my beautiful daughters as a gift from my trip.  Now I spy a whole store that sells only the Havaianas style and make of footwear made famous all over the world.  I find a pair in each of the sizes for my daughters, make the purchase and then we proceed back to the ship before the dump of rain.  
I hear the very loud roll of thunder and the air is heavy with moistness, getting ready to turn to rain at any moment.
A great day.  Great wine shared when back in the room.  Specially dining with Laine and Penny, Janie, Adrienne and myself.  Lobster this and lobster that, a great feast.
Good night all, tomorrow more Amazon adventures in the town of Parentins.

Women’s travel club contribution

One of the gals attending this cruise with the Women’s  Travel Club was invited to contribute to this blog.  She comments on the rain, the children, the jungle, the trees, the earth, time, primitive living and the lap of luxury.

Today was the perfect rainy day in the rainforest.  Our first time walking on the red earth.  Tiny tiny gravel, almost clay.  Seeing the rock that is beneath the earth.  How shallow the earth covering is for the rainforest to exist.  To see how primitively these people live on the land.  

We are 1000 miles down the Amazon River and going deeper and deeper into the jungle.  Some trees have to live with in 8 meters of water, for up to 7 months of the year.  The homes on stilts, abandoned for now, this season.    The frames of the houses will be present when the water recedes.  
What is it like to be these children?  To be displayed and used as merchandising, advertising … To earn money for the family.  It is one thing to earn a dollar.  It is another to sell your child and or ask them to beg.  Who teaches that look of hunger and sweetness in the brown eyes of their children?  And like the animals of the jungle, so we pass on our values and behaviour to our young for our survival and theirs.  And what of the exploitive nature of this behaviour ?  When does it end and where does it lead?
We all feel sad about the film display of the cutting of a tree in the forest, clearing the land for agriculture and farming.  Like the movie Avatar we feel deep sadness for the land we are resting on.  
Lap of luxury in this floating resort way down the Amazon River.  This cruise, the food, the comfy beds and crisp white sheets.  He soft fluffy towels and thick plush robes.  The delightful afternoon tea every day at 4 pm.  The complete lack of awareness of the day of the week, the date of the month.  Even the time changes are barely noticed, although I enjoyed the extra hour of sleep last evening.  In a few days I will give it back:).