A Quantum leap takes place in cruising

A quantum leap in cruising will take place when RCCL’s Quantum of the Seas launches this autumn.

Being lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the new ship, Quantum of the Seas, at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg was something I wouldn’t necessarily have expected.  The new SMART ship technology might have been something that was under wraps (and if it all does work – and my money is on it working – it will make a real ‘splash’).  But perhaps even more entertaining was getting the opportunity to speak to Richard Fain, the CEO of the cruise line, himself.

Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, leads our tour of Quantum of the Seas
Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, leads our tour of Quantum of the Seas

To get the low down from the man at the top about all this new SMART technology on board was pretty special.

But as Richard also said, “Boys like their toys and this is one big toy I get to enjoy”.

Richard enjoys the dodgem car at the new Sea Plex
Richard enjoys the dodgem car at the new Sea Plex

Richard also explained that bookings are on the increase for the cruise line, with Quantum of the Seas and the next ship in line to be launched, Anthem of the Seas,  already securing 150,000 reservations.

The new SMART technology is all about a unique partnership with a company that makes masts for mobile phones named O3B (the other 3 billion – presumably those who do not .  Only this company has now branched out into satellites.  In total, there will be eight satellites that will give Quantum of the Seas, and then the entire fleet, virtually unlimited bandwidth for use by crew, passengers and the ship.

What does this mean?

  • Luggage can be tracked with your smart phone
  • Shows, speciality restaurants, spa treatments can be booked on line with your Cruise Planner
  • Documentation is all organised on-line so no check in queues when boarding.  Passengers can upload their own security photo, and receive digital boarding confirmations
  • Cabin doors will be opened with a wrist band. RFID WOWband wristbands, which require only a simple tap to quickly navigate the ship, make onboard purchases and serve as the room key
  • Two70° is a multi-level hang-out which will have virtual bands and musicians, as well as 270-degree panoramic sea views.

But some of the touches I like are, for instance, the virtual balconies designed for all the 375 inside state rooms.  They really do look realistic but are projected images from cameras based around the ship.  Cool!

Is it the Bahamas?  No, its a virtual balcony for an inside stateroom
Is it the Bahamas? No, its a virtual balcony for an inside stateroom

 

And, just for fun, they will have North Star.  This apparatus looks like a glass pod extracted from the London Eye and then put on a huge mechanical arm.  The pod will suspend guests 300 ft. above the ship and even out over the ocean.  Can’t wait to try that one!

Quantum of the Seas with North Star arm protruding
Quantum of the Seas with North Star arm protruding

 

Digital sculpture suspended from the ceiling
Digital sculpture suspended from the ceiling

And the first sky diving experience at sea, RipCord by ifly, is going to be a real hit with children and adventurous adults.  These simulators are already operating in Orlando but Quantum of the Seas will be the first ship to have anything like this.

Josh explaining the new RipCord by ifly sky dive simulator
Josh explaining the new RipCord by ifly sky dive simulator
The RipCord by ifly tube is ready for skydivers
The RipCord by ifly tube is ready for skydivers

 

But maybe the best idea of all is to have robotic bartenders at a Bionic Bar.  I didn’t get to see this feature but I can only imagine it will be a great addition to this Bionic ship!

Bionic Bar with Robot bartenders. Image provided by RCCL
Bionic Bar with Robot bartenders. Image provided by RCCL

With SMART Technology,  Bionic Bartenders, Virtual Musicians, bandwidth that allows you to stream your favourite films on your lap top, there will be a whole lot of on board tech going on.

To book go on line or contact your travel agent: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

 

 

The Rib Room serves it up spicy

Gleneagles and the Rib Room have something in common. The Ryder Cup.  

The spicy 'Suarez' was invented during the World Cup
The spicy ‘Suarez’ was invented during the World Cup

Although Gleneagles has the real deal, the Rib Room in Knightsbridge is not far behind with its very own Ryder Cup cocktail.  Currently under wraps, all will be revealed in a few days time.

I have never been to the Rib Room in the Jumeirah Hotel on Sloane Street. This time of year there are mainly wealthy middle easterners inhabiting the exclusive shops of this neighbourhood and a fair few of those are staying at this very nice hotel.

A barman at the Rib Room doing his thing
A barman at the Rib Room doing his thing

As I plop down in the cool darkened space, I have a quick look around. Glamorous but understated décor in dark wood, the Rib Room has an elegant dining area and has an astonishingly long bar.  The serving staff are impeccably dressed and assist me immediately.  In fact, it is such a beautiful day, I decide to move outdoors.  So far, so good.

This is the dessert plate being served at the Rib Room. Decadent.
This is the dessert plate being served at the Rib Room. Decadent.

Before trying something from the Rib Room’s wine list, I decide to slurp on a Suarez (created to go along with the World Cup festivities in June).  Meaty and spicy (with a ‘bite’?) I imagine it reflects this football player quite well!  A great drink for first thing in the morning…as an option other than a Bloody Mary.

Rib Room - bar - gin 01

Moving on, I tried the Rib Room’s wonderful Viognier which is a reasonable £8 a glass.  It had a delightful bouquet and was a smooth, creamy yet fruity white.  It was hard to make a choice from their list of over four hundred and fifty wines and champagnes on offer.

Cool cocktails at the Rib Room.
Cool cocktails at the Rib Room.

The Rib Room also has dozens of gin and bitters combinations and quite a few themed drinks as well.  The Drinking with Dickens includes the following offerings in honour of Mr Dickens visit to the U.S. in 1842 where he tried the American Invention:

Poison of choice at £15
While you wait Martin Miller’s Gin, Earl Grey syrup, Yellow Chartreuse. Made to make lose track of time. Served up
Help yourself Appleton Rum, Damson Gin, Crème de Cacao, Chocolate Bitters, Lemon Juice & Egg White. Tempting and refreshing rum sour twist. Served on the rocks
For love o’ liquor Patron XO Coffee, Baileys, Galliano, Coconut Cream. A creamy after-dinner indulgence. Served up
Just one more Bacardi White, Peach Liquor, Lemon Juice, Fresh Grapes and Sauvignon Blanc A sophisticated peach scented aperitif. Served up
The Venus Bombay Gin, Deviation Sweet Wine, Jasmine Tea, Elderflower Cordial, Peach Bitters A winning composition to stimulate the senses. Served up

One of my party tried the Adnam’s Cooper gin with lavender bitters on the rocks.  Very fragrant and you could definitely taste the lavender.  A bit like drinking perfume.  Slightly pricey at £16 but at least it is different.  I also tried one of the virgin cocktails; the Scented Cranberry Martini with
Cranberry juice, vanilla, citrus, orange flower water.  Simple and refreshing on a hot, summers’ day.

We also had the dessert platter.  Utterly divine!

The Rib Room Bar opening hours are:
11am to 12.30am (Mon-Sat)
12pm to 10.30pm (Sun & Bank Holidays)

The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Cadogan Place, London, SW1X 9PY

 

 

Sao Joao, Porto and the Do’uro River

Sao Joao fireworks in Porto from the Do'uro River.
Sao Joao fireworks in Porto from the Do’uro River.

“Look!” I shriek.  “The fireworks are flowing over the bridge like water!”  Bang, kerpow, splash!  This pyrotechnic display is not only colourful but very, very loud.

I had never seen such a spectacular fireworks display as the one I experienced in Porto to celebrate the festival of Sao Joao.  I couldn’t have had a better view point than being on board the MS Infante D’Enrique river vessel on the Do’uro River, jostling alongside all sorts of other fishing boats.

Do'uro River at night.
Do’uro River at night.

I was sailing with tour operator CroisiEurope on the Do’uro River 8 day itinerary and, by chance, the cruise began on the day of the famous St. John the Baptist Festival (23 June).  The festivities start at sundown with locals setting up long tables for sardine and pork dinners…all washed down with beer or wine.  It is an old medieval festival that has been going on for six hundred years but the partying is bang up to date…including massive tents with singers and bands lining the banks of the river.  And all ending with an enormous firework display.

View from the Mateus House in Vila Real
View from the Mateus House in Vila Real

Porto is a spectacular city during the day as well as at night, boasting ancient neighbourhoods full of narrow streets juxtaposed with enormous monuments, castles and cathedrals.  Cross over the spectacular Ponte D. Luis I (bridge) to the other side of the river for wineries and eateries, all offering the very famous Port wine made from the varietals that have been produced here for centuries.  In fact, the Do’uro River Valley, is the oldest wine appellation in the entire world.  And the city of Porto, along with the terraced vineyards all along the river were named an UNESCO world heritage site in 1996.

View from the Do'uro River
View from the Do’uro River

Two of the favourite places we visited along the Do’uro River was the Mateus House and Vila Real.  Vila Real is tiny, but interesting, and was the seat of a region that had many palatial manor houses. The manicured, landscaped gardens of the Mateus House were some of the more beautiful I have seen.  The orchards and vineyards were wonderful as well.

Two new friends, Cushla and Paul from New Zealand, exploring the manicured gardens of Mateus House
Two new friends, Cushla and Paul from New Zealand, exploring the manicured gardens of Mateus House

While in Vila Real my husband and I tried a pastry made from egg yolk in the shape of a rooster’s comb! I think it was named ovos moles.  Many of the country’s typical pastries were created in the monasteries during the Medieval period by nuns and monks and sold as a means of supplementing their incomes. The main ingredient for these pastries was egg yolks. Is it true that the medieval nuns used vast quantities of egg whites to stiffen their habits? If true, and not just myth, they may have then developed endless dessert recipes to use all those surplus yolks. The names of these desserts are usually related to monastic life or to the Catholic faith such as barriga de freira (nun’s belly), papos de anjo (angel’s chests), and toucinho do céu (bacon from heaven).

ovos moles, a dessert created and exclusively sold in Vila Real
ovos moles, a dessert created and exclusively sold in Vila Real

 

River cruise ship Infant D'Enrique
River cruise ship Infant D’Enrique

But the terraced vineyards are spectacular to view as you travel up the river.  I would thoroughly recommend a Do’uro River cruise especially for those with any interest in wine and history.

The River Do'uro
The River Do’uro

For more information www.visitportugal.com

To learn more about CroisiEurope river cruises visit www.croisieurope.co.uk

 

 

Fundamental Fjords

There is almost nothing more inspiring than Norway’s towering mountains and jaw droppingly spectacular fjords.

Mountains near Molde in Møre og Romsdal County, Norway
Mountains near Molde in Møre og Romsdal County, Norway

Here are a few photos that might tempt you into visiting this rugged Nordic country with its staggeringly gorgeous scenery.

1)  Molde is the gateway to the Troll Mountains.  We travelled on the famous Rauma Railroad and saw incredible scenery.

Waterfall in Romsdalen Valley on the way to Troll Mountains.
Waterfall in Romsdalen Valley on the way to Troll Mountains.

 

Rauma Railway © NSB
Rauma Railway © NSB

 

2)      Lysefjord.  Taking a small craft, motor out from the historic town of Stavanger through Lysefjord, to view the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) from below.  The day I was there, mountain goats were clambering on the steep hillsides as well.

Pulpit Rock in Lysefjord.
Pulpit Rock in Lysefjord.

 

Mountain goats in Lysefjord.
Mountain goats in Lysefjord.

 

3)    Bergen.  One of the most called at cruise ports in Europe, old Bergen, with its fish market and ancient wooden buildings, is atmospheric and intriguing.  Definitely take the cable car to the top for spectacular views.

 

Bergen's Old Town
Bergen’s Old Town

 

Old styled Norwegian carriage, Bergen
Old styled Norwegian carriage, Bergen

 

View from Grieg's House, Bergen
View from Grieg’s House, Bergen

 

4)    Flåm.  This tiny harbour at the mouth of the Aurlandfjord fjord is most known for its world renowned railway.  This engineering marvel travels up to Myrdal station at the top of the mountain, passing Voss waterfall on the way, and, ultimately, connecting with Oslo.

View of Flåm from the railway.
View of Flåm from the railway.
Voss Waterfall, on railway from Myrdal Station
Voss Waterfall, on railway from Myrdal Station

5)      Stalheim Hotel for panorama views of Nærøydalen.  Over one hundred years old, the panoramic views from the Stalheim Hotel are spectacular.  Only a half hour drive from Flåm, the hairpin turns on the road from the hotel down to Nærøydalen valley below are death defying. 

View from Stalheim Hotel near Flam.
View from Stalheim Hotel near Flam.

 

6)      Tysfjord and Vestfjord and Lofoten Islands.  Every autumn the killer whales and herring swim up the Tysfjord and Vestfjord.  Nature safaris are organised to see this annual event. The Lofotr Viking Museum at Borg is not to be missed.  You can take a short cruise on an historic Viking long boat as well as seeing a recreation of a Viking longhouse.

 

Ancient church, Leknes.
Ancient church, Leknes.

 

 

Wooden carved figure, Viking Museum.
Wooden carved figure, Viking Museum.

 

 7)      Lofoten is known for the old fishermen’s cabins (rorbuer) that have been restored and turned into modern accommodation for travellers.

 

Rorbeur. Fishermen's cabins are now accommodation.
Rorbeur. Fishermen’s cabins are now accommodation.

 

8)      Nordkapp.  By cruise ship, you will call at Honnigsvej and then take a coach to the northern most tip of the European Land mass.  You will see reindeer and Sami up here.

 

Nordkapp.
Nordkapp.

 

8)      Kvaløya (the whale island) for VillmarkssenterTove Sørensen’s centre for huskies is a must visit.  There are about 300 dogs raised here exclusively for sledding. 

Huskie at Villmarkssenter
Huskie at Villmarkssenter

 

Sledding, Villmarkssenter
Sledding, Villmarkssenter

 

The Roaming Scribe’s trip to the Arctic Circle was sponsored by Fred. Olsen Cruise Line.

Head to Café Football for the World Cup

Bring on the grub! Café Football in Stratford's Westfield Mall.
Bring on the grub! Café Football in Stratford’s Westfield Mall.

Café Football opened last December in Stratford’s Westfield Shopping Mall and offers football terrace food – but with a difference.  Owners Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have brought in chef and restaurateur, Michael Wignall, to turn football grub into gastro pub fare.

Menus at Café Football organise food into the shape of football formations, there is a display of Ryan Giggs’ boots and lots of kitsch football slogans thrown in for good measure.  Desserts include the pistachio-garnished Chocolate Turf, and Wignall’s Half Time Orange – which is citrus parfait, orange jelly and butterscotch sauce.

Main courses have equally kitschy names. The Wizard Burger is lamb with harissa sauce, while The Special One is a grilled chicken burger with goats cheese.  Side orders are suitably good including very flavoursome chunky chips.  For something more unusual try the Asian slaw,  while the green beans get a thumbs up from me.

Bruno, our waiter, is just one of the enthusiastic staff at Café Football.  Julia in the Sweet Shop is equally excited to explain all about her goodies.  I order a scrumptious caramel salted ice cream and a dark chocolate sorbet with a shot of plantation rum for hubby. Decadent!

Café Football wants to be known as a restaurant, not a sports bar.  And you might be fooled by the interior as there are so many TV screens inside.  But, none the less, it is a great night out and you can wash down your grub with beer or with a very decent bottle of California Viognier.

Wash down your grub with an excellent California Viognier.
Wash down your grub with an excellent California Viognier.

So get booking quick for the World Cup!  See you there.

Café  Football, The Street Westfield Stratford City London E20 1EN

Venue phone: 020 8702 2590

 

The Keys come up trumps

After eight days in the Florida Keys visiting Key Largo,  Islamorada and Key West, I took a few images to capture the mood and magic of this unique marine and island destination.

Tortuga Jack takes me on a backcountry mangrove kayaking tour.
Tortuga Jack takes me on a backcountry mangrove kayaking tour.

 

Deep Sea Fishing off of Islamorada. Beautiful fish caught include this Wrasse.
Deep Sea Fishing off of Islamorada. Beautiful fish caught include this Wrasse.
Ernest Hemingway's writing studio in Key West.
Ernest Hemingway’s writing studio in Key West.

 

 

The Whistle Bar and Bull Bar in Key West.
The Whistle Bar and Bull Bar in Key West.

 

The waterways of Key Largo
The waterways of Key Largo

 

Here comes the African Queen. The original vessel from the Oscar winning movie.
Here comes the African Queen. The original vessel from the Oscar winning movie.

 

On a sunset cruise in Key West
On a sunset cruise in Key West

 

Pelicans at Robbie's Marina, Islamorada.
Pelicans at Robbie’s Marina, Islamorada.

 

Birthplace of Pan-American Airways. First flights were to Havana, Cuba.
Birthplace of Pan-American Airways in Key West.  First flights were to Havana, Cuba.

 

Sunset on historic seafront, Key West.
Sunset on historic seafront, Key West.

 

Half Shell Raw Bar, great sports bar and restaurant on the historic Key West waterfront
Half Shell Raw Bar, great sports bar and restaurant on the historic Key West waterfront

 

Cypress House Hotel in Key West. An historic Bahamian Conch House.
Cypress House Hotel in Key West. An historic Bahamian Conch House.

 

Key West's Lighthouse
Key West’s Lighthouse

 

Robert the Doll on the Ghosts and Gravestones Frightseeing Tour.
Robert the Doll on the Ghosts and Gravestones Frightseeing Tour.

 

South Beach Miami’s Latin Food Scene

Bolivar Fusion Restaurant Cocinas & Tragos
Bolivar Fusion Restaurant Cocinas & Tragos

Ricky, originally from Panama and representing Miami Culinary Tours, took me and two couples out to experience some fantastic South American cuisine at his favourite haunts around town.

A little refreshment and Repajo.
A little refreshment and Repajo.

Stopping first at Bolivar Fusion Restaurant Cocinas & Tragos (661 Washington Avenue) we sipped a Colombian ‘Repajo’, a mix of soft drink and Aquila beer used as a hangover cure.  We then tried an exceptional cerviche, which uses lime to ‘cook’ the Sway (white fish).  I particularly enjoyed the delicious fried empanada accompaniment.  Leaving fusion behind, we popped into the corner patisserie for a wonderful, decadent churro.   Think doughnut, but the Latin version.

Cerviche and Fried Empanadas
Cerviche and Fried Empanadas

It was then onto the beach to try more culinary gems and enjoy walking along Ocean Drive right next to the sand.  South Beach was built during the 1930’s and many of the surviving Art Deco buildings have been preserved and are on the National Register of Historic Places.  The only change is that many of them have been painted in pastel colours called Tropical Deco.  South Beach was the ‘American Riviera’ during the 1950’s and Jackie Gleason kept interest in the town going with his weekly show broadcast from here, the ‘Sun and Fun Capital of the World’, a phrase he coined himself.  After that the area went into serious decline and it has taken many decades to bring it back to life.

Beach off of Ocean Drive
Beach off of Ocean Drive

Polo Norte Cuban Restaurant was our next stop where we tried strong Cuban coffee (Colada).  Similar to espresso but already sweetened, it is a big favourite among the locals.  We were served appetisers of Fried Plantains dressed in a Mojo Sauce.  This was before the main course which was baked plantains with shredded pork and Chimichurri Sauce.   I will come back to this restaurant for more of this lovely carnitas dish. 

Fried Plantains
Fried Plantains

We sniffed around the wonderful smelling family owned Charlotte Bakery which was started in Santiago, Chile in the 1960s by Gladys Jofre. It then moved to Venezuela and ended up in South Beach Miami in the 1990s much to the delight of the neighbourhood.  Everything here is handmade and freshly baked and their empanadas are one of the shop’s favourite items.

Pastries at Charlotte Bakery
Pastries at Charlotte Bakery

Across the street from Española Way is BLOCK Pizza which claims to use a sourdough that began 300 years ago in Sardinia.  The sourdough or Mother Dough comes from the Italian phrase ‘Pasta Madre’.  All of BLOCK Pizza’s dough is taken from the original dough that is fed every day.  The family who run BLOCK Pizza have carried on this tradition and took the oath to care for the dough and use it wisely.

Milani Gelateria
Milani Gelateria

The tour is topped off with real Italian gelato from Milani Gelateria on 436 Española Way. Lower in fat than ice cream and not frozen, it is a superior alternative to the dairy variety.

What a treat to have an insider’s view of the fabulous Latin culinary scene in South Beach.  I can’t wait to go again.

Culinary tour offered by Miami Culinary Tours.  Cost: £35.

For information about Miami’s Beaches visit:  http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/

The Cadet Hotel on James Street offers accommodation from $199 on a room only basis.

 

Made to Order – Key Largo

Florida Manatees © emol.com
Florida Manatees © emol.com

‘Watch out for Manatees’ says the sign next to the balcony  where I am having lunch.  I am eating at Made to Order and am perched on the edge of a canal network where folks are lazily paddle boarding and kayaking. To be surrounded by heat, palm trees, mangroves, water and boats is nothing short of awe inspiring, especially after coming from grey, rainy London.

Pelican's at Robbie's Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys
Pelican’s at Robbie’s Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys

The restaurant next to a non-descript Inn is in Tavernier, just south of Key Largo. The main highway running through all the Florida Keys is bordered by trees, often blocking views of the water.  But as soon as you are off the tarmac and going out toward the ocean or bay sides of this strip of road, you are rewarded with beautiful mangrove ‘swamps’ and intricate waterways.  It is simply breath-taking.

Highway US 1 over Indian Key Channel, Florida Keys
Highway US 1 over Indian Key Channel, Florida Keys

 

View from deck at Sundowners Restaurant
View from deck at Sundowners Restaurant, Key Largo

Have also had a fantastic evening meal featuring ‘Hemingway style’ Hogfish (cooked with Japanese breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese coating) and a terrific clam chowder at Sundowners  in Key Largo.  With a deck overhanging the bay, it is truly a stunning setting to watch the sunset.  Hence the name!  As I grab my camera to photograph the scene from my perch right on the edge of the water, I freely admit the card has been taken out to process other photos.  The picture above is from the Sundowners home page.

Garden of Bay Harbor Lodge
Garden of Bay Harbor Lodge

I guess because I grew up in a southerly part of the United States, California, my parents were never interested in taking us to another southerly place.  Perhaps because we had moved from Canada in the late 1950’s, the timing had something to do with it.  My mother, in particular, was horrified at reports of lynchings taking place in the South.  I still remember her talking about it.  That might be a big reason why we never visited Florida.

Its a shame because it is the perfect spot for a family holiday.  Incredibly safe (no one locks their doors) with many hotels that are peaceful and secluded.

Find out more about the Florida Keys and the Bay Harbor Lodge

 

 

Swamps, Snakes and Turtle (Soup)

Pearl River Swamp
Pearl River Swamp

Krrwaaack!  That must have hurt.  The alligator lurched forward trying to get the proffered marshmallow secured on the end of a long stick. Its body thwacked into our swamp boat and those on board shrieked with fear and delight.

Pearl River, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
Alligator!
Alligator flinging himself at our swamp boat
Alligator flinging himself at our swamp boat

Apparently, these puffy white round sweets look just like duck eggs to a gator and are a favoured snack.  That must be why these animals will do just about anything to get at them.

 

Snake sunning itself
Snake sunning itself

About 45 minutes outside of New Orleans and its famous French Quarter is the Pearl River in the St. Tammany Parish.  This is Louisiana Bayou country and  where the name ‘backwater’ must have come from.  It is full of wildlife and in a two hour tour we will see snakes, spiders, turtles, blue heron, alligators and even wild pigs.

Wild pigs in the swamp
Wild pigs in the swamp

I am staying in New Orleans to uncover some of the food stories that the French Quarter is famous for.  And in Cajun tradition, there are several dishes that feature wild animals.  One of these is turtle soup.  It is made with a rue (or gravy), turtle meat and then topped off with sherry.  A very flavourful and rich dish. I had a feeling that seeing turtles out in the swamp might make me think twice about eating turtle soup!

Captain Eric takes our assembled group out in a motor powered boat.  We quickly found out that it could reach some pretty decent speeds but also slow down and get us up close and personal with the indigenous animals.

A profusion of wild irises
A profusion of wild irises

The Cypress trees growing out here are incredibly resilient and the swamp is also full of wild irises, wild yellow roses and flowering lily ponds.  So it really is a remarkable sight in the spring.

 

At first we spot, of course, turtles resting on logs and protruding roots at the river’s edge.  But as we go deeper and deeper into the swamp and slow down our pace, we soon come across a variety of snakes.  None of them are the poisonous water moccasins, which were once a deadly force of nature out here, but it is eerie just the same. Perhaps our most interesting encounter was with wild pigs.

Mamma piggy
Mamma piggy

A mamma and her brood appeared when Capt. Eric shouted out to them.  I know that these creatures are very big but the others were shocked at their size. But when mamma came swimming out to us to get a snack, there was genuine shock amongst the guests that a wild pig could even swim. The piglets are adorable but they stay on shore waiting for their mamma.  One is white around its middle and has a black head and a black behind and has been nicknamed OREO.

I do love wild animals but I could certainly see how people could be put off by seeing, for instance, enormous deadly spiders crawling around in the undergrowth near the boat!

Livin' in the Bayou
Livin’ in the Bayou
Perfect for fishing!
Perfect for fishing!

What is also incredibly interesting is the fishing shacks right out in the middle of the swamp.  The local parish even get electricity out to these folks. We did notice that several of these properties are now perched on very high stilts.  Changes like this happened after historic storm Katrina came raging through here 10 years ago.

If you are ever out on Louisiana or New Orleans you would be missing out on something special if you didn’t take a tour to Bayou country.  It will be an unforgettable experience.

 

All images ©roamingscribe

To book a Cajun Encounter visit: www.cajunencounters.com/.         For more information on Louisiana visit: http://louisiana.gov/

 

 

Wow on the water; seeing the Shard from the Thames

© The View from The Shard
© The View from The Shard

Seeing the Shard from the river certainly has the ‘wow’ factor.  Particularly at night. 

I am gliding past the newly opened Shard on the Westminster, one of City Cruises sharp, little vessels.  The tallest building in Europe soars into the sky and is lit up like a proverbial Christmas tree.  I’m on the open deck with the wind blowing through my hair and the turbulent current of the Thames churning below me; the expression ‘ it’ll knock your socks off’ (to steal an American favourite) comes to mind.

City Cruises transport in excess of two million people a year on London’s world famous river.  And has recently reported its strongest year to date in 2013 with growth over the previous year of 22%.  Apparently, the 2012 London Summer Olympics have really put the city on the map as far as tourists are concerned.

And there really is something atmospheric about travelling up this historic waterway at night.  Seeing the Houses of Parliament,  palaces and bridges aglow is quite stirring.  The Tower of London, The Shard, Big Ben, Canary Wharf, The Globe Theatre and, perhaps most astonishing, St. Paul’s Cathedral are all visible from the river and within a short distance of each other.  And it is certainly relaxing taking in major tourist sights without having to jostle with other people for the privilege.

Replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

A great way to see these sites either day or night is on one of the City Cruises vessels that navigate the river at any time and in all weather.  OK.  It is mainly for tourists or for folks who would like a meal and entertainment thrown in with their sightseeing.  But, many people just  enjoy being on the water and find it a relaxing way to travel

.City Cruises river vessels

London Eye at Night
London Eye at Night

This year City Cruises will have a new Thames Circular Cruise, which is a bit like a hop on, hop off tour bus if I understand the idea.  The Circular Cruise will take passengers all the way to Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark and Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO world heritage site.  And the cruise line have acquired another jet powered 315 horse-powered Rib named Blue Thunder,  available for booking from March.  This is entirely different experience; all speed, thrills, bumps and jumps. The great thing is that these boats run 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  So, anytime you fancy a spin down the Thames…

For more information and prices visit:  www.citycruises.com and http://www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/