Saturday & Sunday September 20 & 21

 Most of yesterday morning was ours – to sleep in, eat a late breakfast, write some postcards, run a short marathon, repack our bags, or wander Montreal’s downtown shops. But the afternoon saw us boarding the m/s Maasdam – sister-ship of (and almost identical to) the Statendam. And as we unpacked in our cabins and headed for the eating/watering holes, it felt like we were coming home. Nice sensation!

Late in the day the ship’s horn sounded, we lined up on deck for the mandatory lifeboat drill, and Maasdam’s giant twin diesel engines pushed us gently out into the St Lawrence Seaway. The second of our double cruises (this time, through the coastal wonderlands of Canada and New England) was underway, and the excitement amongst our mad Kiwi midlifers was obvious.

And over the next few days we’ll learn some colonial and maritime history, enjoy some stunning autumn scenery (‘leaf-peeping’ they call it), eat some lobster, and be pampered-to-bits by our ever-attentive crew. Ahh, yes … BRING IT ON!

We arrived at our first stopover during breakfast this morning – and what a delight that turned out to be! Quebec City with its grand château on the river, its lilt of French accents, its narrow cobblestone streets and charming little alleyways and quaint boutiques and outdoor cafes and busking musicians just wowed us again and again.

Although Canada recognises both French and English as official languages (and all shop/road signs are in both), many impassioned Quebecois speak only French – which caused some frantic recalling amongst the Pinkies and Greenies of long-forgotten phrases from our school days. 

Quebec is a city built on a hill. And, today, we enjoyed a walking tour of the castle-like Chateau Frontenac (one of Quebec’s best-known landmarks) … a horse-&-buggy ride through St Louis Gate (part of the Old Quebec fortifications) … and a very posh tea-for-two (well, for 71, actually) in the Chateau’s gorgeous dining room.

After this little bit of mid-afternoon elegance, none of us felt remotely enthuisiastic about thoughts of dinner-on-the-ship … but, come 7:00 – 7:30, there were Kiwis at numerous tables in both the Lido and the Rotterdam restaurants! Funny how quickly the old appetite recovers, eh!

PEOPLE NEWS: The Midlife Madness Awards keep being dished out:

* The ‘Bicycle Built for Two Award‘ to Kaye & Tony – who, whilst taking a tandem bike-ride through the streets of Montreal, nearly came to grief when Kaye (i) stopped peddling, thus upsetting Tony’s pedalling routine … and (ii) put the brakes on when they were going uphill (to make sure they couldn’t roll backwards).

* The ‘Phantom Pyjama Thief Award to Syd – who, it was recently discovered, has had the missing pyjama-top of his sister-in-law Dianna in his suitcase for the past several days . He claims it was a mix-up following a familiy laundry session last week, but the jury is unconvinced.

* The ‘Bomb Squad Award to Ivan – who was pulled aside at the airport xray machine three days ago with what security officials thought was a detonator in his possession! Turns out the little pink piggy (which Ivan had been awarded on his previous cruise) had slipped down into the lining of his jacket – and, with its tiny battery and wiring, had raised a minor alert.

TOMORROW: We’ve another lazy day onboard, cruising through the Saguenay Fjord – a wonderland for wildlife for more than 650 animal species, incliding whales (which we hope to see yet again)!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages. Also, if you want a better look at our route map and some of the photos here, just click on them and they’ll enlarge – magic!