Friday, October 03, 2008

The day the Queen came to town to say 'Goodbye'.

Yesterday was the kind of day that I wished that I could bottle!

So that sometime in the future when I couldn't quite remember it, I could slip into the bottle and I would be there again. Maybe that is what cameras and blogs are all about.

It didn't actually start yesterday, but a long time ago...the excitement.

Sit back with a cup of tea and travel with me.

She holds a special fondness for us as way back in 1949/50 hubby and his family went to America and back on her predecessor. Years later having made so many good friends in the States his parents traveled to America again on this current Queen E.

I first saw her in 1989, I think that was when she first came to town, maybe earlier. But she couldn't get into the port to dock. Like every other liner she had to wait outside the harbour and her passengers had to be ferried to and fro by tender because we didn't have a channel deep enough.

I remember the excitement of getting up at dawn with the children to drive to see her, she was surrounded by crafts of all sizes out to see her too.

We have a long long tradition of visiting liners but not for pleasure cruising. Way back in the nineteenth century in the hey day of steam they were regular visitors

They carried so many of our people to the other side of the world. The wealthy traveled first or second or even third class but the bulk of the passengers were crowded into steerage.
We were the last port of call for the Titanic on her fateful maiden voyage and I was later to see the preserved wharf where they all bordered the tender that carried them out of the harbour to the waiting ship.

Queen E the second came to visit quite a few more times and by this time a deep water channel had been dredged so that she could come right into the harbour to dock. We have one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world.

Then she stopped coming maybe 15 years ago and her place was finally taken by a multitude of modern cruise liners getting bigger and bigger as cruising becomes more popular, built like skyscrapers they are with a balcony to every cabin.

A few weeks ago we read that our her majesty now an old lady of over 40 years was to go into retirement. She had three more cruises to do and one was a round tour of the British Isles calling at..yes you guessed it. Her final voyage in November is to Dubai where she will become a floating Hotel.

We could hardly let this pass and so once again we drove to see her come in, on wednesday lunchtime ( amuch more civilised hour!)hoping for clement weather. As we parked at the headland at the mouth of the harbour...the open sea to our right obstructed by an old British Garrison Fort...the sky went a black as night and the rain came sheeting down.

When it stopped we waited in the cold wind until she appeared.

Funnily enough our first though was...isn't she small!!

She was accompanied by Pilot boats guiding her through the channel, and lots of small craft.

This is just a peek at the dimensions of the harbour, photos can never do it justice.

As she turned to go behind the Island the sun lit her up and oh she was beautiful.

She finally docked in the little town that used to be called Queenstown in honour of a visit by Queen Victoria but when we got out independence it reverted to it's original name of cove but now with an Irish spelling.

Can you see the cathedral dominating the town from high on a hill. Remember that!

Now that takes me to where I began... yesterday.

She was in town all day due to sail at 6pm and we decided to go and see her close up.

Did I say she was small!!!

She may be old fashioned by boy has she got class!!

I can't remember the last time I was in this town and the sun was shining, my what a difference it makes.

See the Cathedral, well you could hardly miss it!

The town was in party mood as it is for all the visiting liners but this time was special, we were told to give her a good send off in the traditional way..waving handkerchiefs, I wonder will any other port of call treat her in such a special way or is it just the Irish with their tradition of emmigration and hospitality.

We have such a great love of statuary nowadays, and here in the town park named after an illustrious President of the United States who came to visit we have 'The Navigator' holding a little paper boat, isn't he brilliant?

It's a huge pull up the hill and a lot of steps top the cathedral, but it's worth it for the magnificent views of the harbour.
But look at the gathering rain clouds!!

Can you see the Victorian Bandstand in the park below??

Can you see the arrow on the opposite side showing where we stood the day before to watch her come in??

Down below entertainment was provided in the bandstand, firstly by a Pipe band and then by the Army band. A cup of good coffee and a chocolate brownie from the market stalls and we settled into listen. It was the sort of atmosphere that I wished could last for ever.

At one time the leader of the brass band decide to play a remix of 'Singing in the rain' and hoped that it would not be a bad omen. the sky was already darkening yet again and no sooner had the struck the first chord when the heavens opened and we had to run for shelter again.

They played for an hour by which time it was after 4pm and getting cold.
Climbed another hill to get another view...sorry if you think this is a lot of photos, think yourselves lucky you are not getting the whole 93 that I took!!!..including 9 movies that I do wish I could show, but the best ones were way too big, am still a learner.

and I said she wasn't BIG. She is docked next to the old railway station not a Heritage Center showing emmigration, Titanic and Lusitania.

We managed to move our car up to just in front of the bows of the ship and waited for her to sail. Everyone was taking photos of others in the spirit of camaraderie. Some had sqaures of cotton mounted on sticks to wave.

It took two huge tugs a long long time to pull her out.

Drag her to a wider part of the harbour

a lot of waving by us and the passengers all out to see us too.

and turn her round.

She soon gathered speed...

and steaming off into the gathering dusk

so it was God speed old girl, safe home.......slán abhaile

May your retirement be long and happy.