Sunday, August 30, 2009

Edinburgh Tattoo

Even though we are going to be in Edinburgh later this week, the Tattoo isn’t…so if we wanted to see it, it meant a two hour bus ride from Greenock, so off we went…

Scottish countryside…resembling that of the other British Isles…lush and green…

The first records of Stirling Castle are from 1110 A.D. The castle overlooks vast farm lands and is open to the public year round. The esplanade or parade ground is used as an open-air concert venue.

More countryside showing the expanse of farm land…

They had been forecasting rain for today. The Tattoo has never been cancelled, and as it is held outside, you take your chances. It rained on the way there and then this lovely rainbow appeared. We were hoping it was a good sign…

Here we are starting the steep climb up to Edinburgh Castle. Jim asked our tour captain if the climb was steep and she said “no, not bad at all.” Morale of the story, don’t ask a young person if a climb is steep! It was a good hike on cobblestoned streets…

Entering the gates of the castle…the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is celebrating its 60th year and this is also the Year of Homecoming in Scotland marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.

Beautiful Edinburgh Castle…

The Canadian flag flying directly over the sign for the Tattoo….yay Canada! I have to mention the seating arrangements at this point. How many sardines can you fit in the stadium seats? We could not move our arms without disturbing the person next to us; our legs touched the backs of the person in front of us…and the ratio of persons to porta-potties would have been about 900:1. Having said that…the rest of the evening was spectacular…

The Massed Pipes and Drums bringing the awesome sight and sounds of 200 of the world’s finest pipers and drummers…

The Tongan Royal Corps of Musicians…a 50-strong brass band and ethnic group with their South Sea Island magic…

She Huo Cultural Act from Xi’an, China (Edinburgh’s twin city)…very colourful…

Look at the horses perform “on stilts"...they were just amazing...

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Swiss Army Central Band, their elite military orchestra…they grouped into the shape of a cross to represent their flag…

Top Secret Drum Corps, one of the world’s most sensational percussion groups…I had no idea they would starting drumming with fire when I was recording…a bonus!!

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The Massed Military Bands and Massed Pipes and Drums RAF Bands…

The group included the bands from Scotland, Tonga and Switzerland…

They lit the castle with several different colours…here it is in sensational green…

The RAF Bands performing Amazing Grace with the crowd joining in…

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More than 1000 performers filling the esplanade…

This was a very touching moment when a lone piper appeared on the castle wall to play tribute to the last survivor of WWI. They first showed a picture of him in his military uniform and this picture of him in his later years…

The bands leaving the Esplanade…

The Halifax Tattoo bands are of the same calibre, but this setting with Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop was unique…

Tomorrow we are in Belfast, Ireland…

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Little Bit of Dublin and Beatlemania in Liverpool!

We’re in Dublin for the day and we planned to take a cab after I finished the blog and poke around the city. But the internet was conspiring against us. I was merrily blogging away, only to find that the internet had cut out and nothing I had done had been saved. Curses, I say! This is when doing the blog is frustrating! Within an hour the internet was back up, so I finished the blog and we amused ourselves on the ship.

We were supposed to set sail for Liverpool, but when the captain tried to move away from the pier, the wind kept pushing him back. We were still getting the remnants of Hurricane Bill. So even with two tugboats pulling and the thrusters going full tilt, they couldn’t move this huge ship away from the pier. So we were stuck in Dublin until the next high tide, which would be at 2 a.m. It was doubtful if we would get out then, so it was looking like Liverpool might be a scratch.

We had met a couple, Larry and Joan, from Louisville, Kentucky while we were both waiting for tenders in St. Peter Port, and we had arranged to have dinner with them. Around 10 p.m. after dinner, Larry said “Why don’t we take a cab into Dublin and go to a pub?” And off we went…

The cab driver recommended a pub called O’Donoghue’s and we pushed our way through looking every bit the tourist, no doubt! On the right-hand side is an alley where the smokers hang out and that was full. Inside the pub, it was wall-to-wall people. We got a drink and found a corner to enjoy the atmosphere.

There was a band playing but everyone was so loud you couldn’t hear them. The band included six people playing at the front of pub, just like a kitchen party. They were having a great time whether anyone could hear them or not! Here we are nestled into a corner...

Here I am with Larry and Joan…

All the people in the pub that you had to squeeze through to get anywhere…

We had to be back on the ship for midnight and here we are making our curfew!

Because that wasn’t enough drinking in one night, we stopped at the Crooner’s Bar where Sammy was doing an old-time sing-along. So we sang old English and Irish songs and called it a night. It was great fun!

The next attempt at sailing away at 2 a.m. was a success, and we arrived in Liverpool about six hours later than originally planned. This is a huge loss for the ship, as when we are in port, the casino cannot open, the shops on board cannot open, and any morning tours that were planned in Liverpool have to be refunded. There was no way the captain wanted to spend another night in port in Dublin!

Liverpool from the pier…Liverpool has always been a busy port city, but it exploded in the 18th century into a commercial giant. Raw materials flowed in and finished products of every variety flooded out to the world. Merchants and manufacturers spent their substantial profits on attractive homes for themselves, and public buildings for their proud city.

We didn’t have a tour planned anyway, so we decided to walk to the Beatles Story, a museum chronicling the life of Liverpool’s most famous export…the Beatles!

A statue of Edward VII in front of the buildings known as The Three Graces.

Liverpool is a curious mix of industrialism and culture…

City street near the pier…

At the Beatles Story...

The early Beatles when they were known as the Quarrymen…

A recreation of the Casbah, a tiny café where they started playing…

The Beatles spent a lot of their early life playing in Germany where they learned to play to a tough crowd. The Germans would shout "mach shau" meaning "make show" and they learned not just to play, but to perform.

The band after Ringo joined replacing the original drummer, Pete Best…

The Cavern is the famous bar where the Beatles became a sensation in Britain. You can see from the picture on the bottom that it was a pub in the cellar of a building and was shaped liked a tunnel. They would pack so many people in there, and it would get so hot, that the condensation would run down the walls. (I think they were trying to recreate that feeling when we were there, as Jim can attest to my temperature meltdown!)

The Beatles playing the Cavern with drummer Pete Best…

The Beatles performed at the Cavern a record 292 times, their last appearance being on August 3, 1963. Their fans sadly knew that they had lost “their Beatles” to the rest of the world.

Beatlemania entered into the English language as a word in November 1963 and reached epidemic proportions in Britain by the end of the year. In America word was spreading about the four boys from Liverpool who had taken Britain by storm…



The Beatles head to America…

Ed Sullivan gets into the act wearing a Beatle wig for their famous performance on the Ed Sullivan show. And the rest was history…

The Beatles entering their Maharishi stage…

Strawberry Fields Forever… “it could only have been born of a mind (John Lennon’s) under the influence of outlawed chemicals.”

We all live in a yellow submarine….



Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band…

The break up…after many tense months, Paul made the announcement on April 10, 1970 that he was quitting the band.

John Lennon shot on December 8, 1980…

George Harrison dies on November 29, 2001.

Words to remember John by…



After the museum, we decided to hop on a bus and do a quick city tour. This is an apartment building with a circular section made to rotate and open as a novelty. It’s pretty amazing!

Beatle images everywhere in the city…

The World Museum…

We found Liverpool to be sort of a mixed-up city. Here on one street corner, you get two different views. Looking to the right, older Liverpool…

Looking to the left, newer Liverpool…

Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King was a very ambitious project to build the largest cathedral in the U.K., but was cut short by WWII and the vision was never completed. The tower was built to resemble a crown.

The Philharmonic that John Lennon used to frequent. It was said that one of his disappointments when he got famous was that he could no longer go to The Phil and have a pint…

This church was bombed during WWII and was left in this state as a reminder of the devastation of the war.

Old Liverpool…notice the black clouds moving in…and we’re on top of a double decker bus. You can see where this is going!

Every city has a Chinatown and this arch was imported from Shanghai and reassembled here.

It did start to pour and everyone on top of the bus scrambled to go below out of the rain.

And then sunny skies…once again the juxtaposition of old and new. St. Nick’s cathedral on the right was bombed during the war and six children playing in front were killed. There is now a touching monument in front of the church to commemorate the children.

Back on ship, we headed to an art demonstration. Since we’ve been sailing with Princess we have noticed these “olive” paintings in the art gallery and they always made me laugh. The artist Michael Godard paints these scenes where olives come to life and party, but they are very clever and there are always several messages hidden in them. He was onboard and doing a demonstration so we checked it out.

Not surprising…he is quite eccentric and funny!

He was doing these personalized gold sketches for $2500…cha ching!

From there it was on to see comedian Don Ware. We had seen him on another cruise, and he is very funny. He got a lot of mileage out of us not being able to get out of the port in Dublin. He couldn’t imagine how the captain got to be where he is without knowing how to back the ship up!

It was a great day…tomorrow we are off to Greenock, Scotland where we are going to see the Tattoo in Edinburgh. It goes rain or shine, so we’re hoping for shine!!