Posted by inka on Apr 23, 2012 in art
, Day trips
, Luxury hotels
I sometimes get to visit places in a rather roundabout and unexpected way. That has a lot to do with the fact, that I’m given to on the spot decisions and my ability to change plans when I’m not happy with my present situation. My visit to wonderful Quebec is a point in case.
You see, I walked off a cruise – just like that. I was on a cruise ship from Hamburg to Toronto. Land excursions in Iceland and Greenland were rather disappointing, I felt trapped on the ship, my fellow passengers were talking about nothing but their previous cruises and whether or not they had been recognized by the maitre d’ or the food was awful or not. Not a word about what they had seen or done in places as fascinating as Patagonia. In short, I was bored to tears. My purpose for being on that cruise in the first place was that I wanted to see icebergs.
Approaching Newfoundland, I finally got my wish. There they were, majestically rising out of the blue waters of the North Atlantic, brought to mysterious life by brilliant sunshine, a breathtaking view.
It can’t get any better, I thought, so I might as well end the trip here and go on to Canada under my own steam. As soon as I uttered my wish to the cruise director, great brouhaha ensued. You would think it’s easy to just walk off, but not so. Finally, when they saw that I wouldn’t change my mind, they let me go.
I spent a great day on my own and then took the next flight to Quebec. First order of the day when arriving at the airport was to find accommodation. I knew about the famous Chateau Frontenac, one of Quebec’s many attractions and one of the most luxurious hotels in all of Canada. I didn’t have a reservation, but I trusted my luck and took a taxi there.
Fairmont Hotel Chateau Frontenac
Photograph by Jeangagnon wikipedia commons
Located at the backdrop of the St. Lawrence River, the towers of the hotel greeted me from afar and I felt like heaven the moment I stepped into the lobby. Definitely my kind of hotel and, yes, they did have a room. Don’t even ask what it cost me, but it was worth every penny. No luxury was spared in my room, I strolled along the corridors, admired the paintings and decorations, had a splendid meal and enjoyed the view over the city of Quebec at night.
The next morning I looked down at the funicular which connects Haute Ville with Basse Ville in a steep drop. In childish pleasure, I rode it four times, before finally staying in the cobble stone streets of the historic Petit Champlain district. I couldn’t get enough of the old world French feeling of the many shops and cafes and I even bought a beautiful handbag.
Photograph by Garrett Rock GNU Free documentation license
Typical street in Quebec's Old Town
A visit to Notre Dame des Victoires and then I made my way to Battlefield Park and the fabulous museum of Fine Arts. I was surorised to see how many parks there are and how green the city is. Art galleries everywhere, not to mention restaurants and exquisite residential areas.
I didn’t have that much time because I needed to catch my return flight to Hamburg from Toronto, so I left the next day by train. Another pleasant surprise. I only went second class, but it was better than many first class compartments anywhere else. The waiting room was more like an airport lounge and, when the train was due to leave, an assistant came to fetch me, accompanied me to my seat and even stowed the luggage for me. Thumbs up for Canadian railways.
A great day in Toronto rounded out my very particular ‘cruise’. At the airport, I was reunited with the other ‘cruisers’, nobody spoke to me. I think they took my ‘desertion’ a bit personally, hanging over the railing when I left, shaking their heads and tut-tutting. Did I care? I had a fabulous trip, seen everything I wanted to and reaffirmed in my opinion that it’s entirely up to you to make the best of any situation.
Posted by inka on Jul 3, 2011 in cruises
A few days back, Laurel told us about how she cut and ran when a Yoga retreat up a mountain in Austria just did not agree with her. Instead of sticking it out and being miserable, she made a brave decision to leave and encountered quite a few difficulties not to mention adventures on her way down the mountain. I could sympathize so much and admire her courage. The post also reminded me of my own ‘escape’ from a cruise ship (!!) when I just couldn’t take it any more. As Laurel said: no price is too high for your freedom. Here is my story:
Several years ago, I felt the irrepressible urge to see icebergs. What better way f doing so, I thought, than going on a cruise through the North Atlantic, from Hamburg to Toronto, to be precise. The ship called into Iceland, Greenland and New Found land along the way, so I would have the added bonus for seeing some fascinating countries too.
The cruise ship was a smallish one, with several hundred as opposed to several thousand passengers, which suited me just fine. The first disappointment came, when I met my fellow travelers. Many of them were seasoned ‘cruisers’ who had been on up to 30 cruises to the most exotic places like Patagonia and I looked forward to hearing their stories. But…what did they talk about??? Whether or not the maitre did remember their names, how often they had been invited to the captain’s table, the quality of the service and the table manners of their fellow diners. I couldn’t believe it. Why had they gone to such wonderful places if they weren’t interested in what they saw?
Anyway, this was hardly the cruise ship company’s fault but I saw a rather solitary week ahead of me. The land excursions were badly organized too and in Greenland I wanted to throw up when all we were shown was the miserable capital where quite drunken locals loitered around and others committed a blood bath by skinning seals in port.
And then came the day of the icebergs, the sight I had looked forward too so much. It was a glorious day, blue ksy, sunshine and the majestic blue and white ice giants glided into sight. Istood on deck and just stared and stared. But..what had the entertainment director dreamed up to celebrate the occasion? A German beer festival, complete with umptah music and steins!! Ok, it was a German ship and I’m German too and not averse to a bit of entertainment of this kind: at the Oktoberfest in Munich but certainly not in the majestic, silent world of the icebergs in the North Atlantic.
As I said, this was a small ship and there was no way of getting away from the noise and merry making. The trip was definitely ruined for me and all I wanted was to get off. Our next stop was Newfoundland and I made my way to reception and told them I wanted to leave as soon as the ship docked. That’s when the trouble started. They wouldn’t let me.
First they were quite nice and asked if they could do anything to make my journey more pleasant. Why did I want to leave in the first place? Did I perhaps want another cabin? I couldn’t possibly tell them the truth so I invented sea sickness. Various cures and remedies were offered by the ship doctor. Thank you, but I still want to leave.
Next they tried to point out to me that I would lose a lot of money as my passage was paid through to Toronto and there would be no refund. I don’t care, I said, I just want to leave. This attitude marked me as a trouble maker and arrogant rich bitch. How could I possibly not care if I lost something like $1000? They weren’t all that friendly any more and the captain was called. He explained to me that I couldn’t leave because they couldn’t release my passport which was kept with all the others in the ships offices during the entire trip.
That’s when I exploded. Obviously it was just too much trouble for them to find my passport and maybe they also feared bad publicity although I wasn’t even a travel writer at the time and assured them that my decision had nothing to do with the ship, the cruise company or the service. I just felt trapped. In the end I had to threaten legal action to make my passport materialize.
We reached Newfoundland, I marched down the gangway happily pulling my bag behind me and when I looked back at the ship with the entire crew and not a few passengers hanging over the railing watching the eccentric woman walk off, I experienced a sensation of freedom which lifted my heart.
To finish the tale: I had a wonderful time, all on my own. I spent two days admiring Newfoundland, then flew to Quebec enjoying the French atmosphere, took the fantastic Canadian train to Toronto and still caught the return flight to Europe where I was reunited with my former fellow travelers. Nobody would even look at me! I think they considered me as a deserted, certainly no cruise ship material. Did I care? Certainly not.