Tuesday Sept 24, 2013

In case you’ve forgotten or haven’t been concentrating, we’re now cruising the coastal wonderland of Eastern Canada … and we arrived at our first stopover during breakfast on Sunday morning.

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Quebec City with its grand Chateau Frontenac on the river, its lilt of French accents, its narrow cobblestone alleyways, its quaint boutiques and outdoor cafes and buttery croissants and busking musicians managed to wow us – despite the rain that met us when we first went ashore.

Quebec is a city built on a hill, and we enjoyed a walking tour of the best-known landmarks plus a horse-&-buggy ride through St Louis Gate (part of the Old Quebec fortifications) and along the Grande Allée … dropping in on an Anglican church service, and eyeballing a cannonball (from an age-old skirmish between the British and the French), still stuck in the roots of a tree!

Most of us stayed in the Old Town afterwards to sample lunch and a bit more of this city’s elegance. Then, as the Maasdam cast off its mooring ropes and moseyed north up the Gulf of St Lawrence, we were treated to a glittering evening of Broadway song-and-dance in the Showroom At Sea.

It happens every night when we’re cruising – marvellous, eh!

We woke yesterday to a lovely lazy day aboard our floating hotel, with the chance to blob-out and do pretty-much-nothing-at-all … or choose from 101 different activities: like an acupuncture demo in the Greenhouse Spa … a creative cooking class in the Culinary Arts Centre … a hands-on photo-editing session in the Digital Workshop … a game of Scrabble or table-tennis or Team Trivia … a flutter in the Casino … a travel-lecture in the Showroom … the list just goes on!

Then, in the evening, we Kiwis sat down to an extra-posh, ooh-la-la, silver-service dining experience in the superb Pinnacle Grill.

See what I mean? This is a tough life, I tell you!

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Then, this morning, bright and early, we sailed into Charlottetown, the provincial capital of Prince Edward Island. It’s here that the famous Conference of 1864 was held, which resulted in the creation of the Canadian Confederacy, and the whole region reeks of history.

Our Mad Midlifers rode a coach through this this lovely old town and its surrounding farmland, before visiting the picturesque homestead that inspired Anne of Green Gables. To be honest, most of the men knew little or nothing about Lucy Maud Montgomery and her incredibly popular (and timeless) novels for girls … but we had lots of Anne-fans amongst the women, and several went ga-ga over this special chance to explore their heroine’s storytime roots! (Especially when Jo-Anne of Green Gables turned up herself/himself in person!)

Jo-Anne of Green Gables??

Jo-Anne of Green Gables??

It was a chilly nine degrees in town, but that didn’t stop us shop-shop-shopping or lunch-lunch-lunching in the quaint olde-worlde boutiques and cafes prior to heading back up the gangplank for the Maasdam’s late-afternoon sailing.

PEOPLE NEWS: On more Quacky Yellow Duck flapped its way into the hands of another winner:

  • The ‘Shirt-Sleeves Award’ went to Colin – who managed to leave his very nice, very warm, very necessary jacket hanging in the wardrobe of his hotel room back in Montreal. It took him a day or two to miss the jacket, but his duck reached him in no time at all.
  • There’s usually one person in each Mad Midlife group who seems to attract ducks like they’re going out of style. And, without mentioning any names, Ruth is that person in our current group, and she could easily claim an entire flock of the popular birds. She’s already received one auspicious award, but deserves another Honourable Mention for getting pulled aside by Customs in the airport the other day for having three very sharp, very dangerous MACHETES in her carry-on bag! (Well, they weren’t actually machetes – they were little curved blades for chopping up herbs – but they could easily have become weapons-of-mass-destruction in the hands of Ruth, so were promptly confiscated by the stern officials on the xray machines!)

TOMORROW: A hundred thousand Gaelic welcomes await us in Nova Scotia, Latin for ‘New Scotland’. So don your kilt, grab your bagpipes and join us …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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