Compass Needlepoint Update 2

I’m happy to share more progress on my compass needlepoint project!

compass needlepoint update 1On the last update, I had outlined and partially filled in all of the first ring of radiating tiles and had completed the double stitch in the primary direction (NSEW) tiles.

 

 

 

After finishing up our travels last summer, I was able to start working on this project again, and I’m SO pleased with the progress thus far:compass needlepoint update 2

All of the radiating tiles are complete! Here you can see the first, innermost ring in the three darkest colors, the second ring in three medium colors, and the third, outermost ring in the two lightest colors.compass needlepoint update 2 detail

Now you can see all of the colors that will be used in this project. There is the dark grey and dark greyish blue color of the primary direction tiles. Then there are the chocolate brown, rusty brown, and muddy brown of the first ring. The second ring has lighter shades of the chocolate brown and the rusty brown plus a dark gold. The third ring has a lighter gold color and a very light rust, nearly peach color.

You can also see that I have slightly blended the colors, mixing 5 strands of the main colors with one strand of contrasting colors. I did this to better represent the speckled color and texture of the original tiles and to add a little visual interest. I must admit that this looks better than I had originally imagined – it’s really wonderful in this project.

The next step in this compass needlepoint is to define the edge of this center part of the project and the surrounding border tiles with what I’ll call a “grout line.” After that, I’ll fill in the border tiles using some fun and interesting needlepoint stitches, and then I’ll fill in the entire background of this center section. I can’t wait to see how this tribute to one of our favorite hotels, Cuq-en-Terrasses, turns out – stay tuned!

Update: Progress Update 3 is here!

Gypsy Ways Update 8 – Spain and France

Gypsy ways update 8 begins with us in Spain, leaving the cool green beauty of Asturias and heading south to the Mediterranean along the Costa Blanca.

Some people like the busy beaches and high rises of Benidorm, but I prefer the smaller, lesser developed towns nearby like Moraira and Xàbia (Javea) that still retain some of their original charm.
Javea - from the Cap de Sant Antoni

[Javea by Baz Richardson via Flickr]

We stay with family members who have a house in the area, and their view looking down on the Mediterranean is outstanding.gypsy ways update 8 - view from cumbre del sol

It’s a wonderful, relaxing place and a great spot to get organized for the final push and drive north back to the UK.

Driving north along the A31 Motorway between Alicante and Albacete, there are some great castles including ones at Sax, Chinchilla de Monte Aragón, and this beauty at Villena. I’m happy to say that that the Spanish government has done some major preservation and restoration work on it’s historical sites in recent years to save these from becoming ruins.gypsy ways update 8 - castle at villena spain

One building along the A31 always received my particular attention. I can only guess that it was a long abandoned inn – possibly for people traveling by horse carriage? I wish I knew! The oval shape of the upper windows is my only indication of it’s possible age. Regardless, I was always curious about the history of the building and thought it was unfortunate that the building was in such bad shape (see the before photo below on the left).

Well, last time we drove by, I was thrilled to see that the building has been completely restored (see the after photo on the right). There is now a gas station and a convenience shop and I can only hope that it is again being used as a travelers inn.

gypsy ways update 8 - old coach stop before and after

The remainder of our days driving north through Spain and France were pretty uneventful, but we were lucky to find a little jewel of a hotel – the Auberge du Port des Roches near Le Mans.gypsy ways update 8 - auberge du port de roches

The setting is ideal – it stands on one side of a small lane, and on the other side of the lane is a beautiful patio along the Loir river. gypsy ways update 8 - auberge du port de roches patioOur room was charming, the dinner on the patio that evening was excellent and beautifully served, and best of all, the proprietor loves to cross stitch!

gypsy ways update 8 - auberge du port de roches cross stitch key boardCross stitched pieces are everywhere, from the room keys

 

 

 

 

gypsy ways update 8 - auberge du port de roches cross stitch chambre non fumeurto the no smoking signs in the rooms.

 

 

 

 

Here is the proprietor with some of her pieces (her signs say “closed Sunday evening and Monday.” “Open Tuesday at 5:00 P.M.”). You can see she also has some small cross stitched and framed monograms for sale on the wall behind her. gypsy ways update 8 - proprietor at auberge du port de roches and her cross stitch

I couldn’t imagine a nicer way to complete our time in continental Europe!

The next update will start with some adventures in the UK before our trip back across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 – stay tuned…

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 7, and the next Update 9)

Interstate Cross Stitch Road Sign Pattern

This Interstate cross stitch road sign pattern and kit are now available in my Etsy shop!interstate cross stitch road sign pattern and kit

This is just the latest in my series of US and European road sign patterns.

The stitched example, Interstate 80, is a 2900 mile route that runs from San Francisco, California to Teaneck, New Jersey. Along the way, it also passes through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Interstate-80 SignI must say that I am most familiar with I-80 from where it meets I-76 on the western Nebraska border to Newton, Iowa. Many hours of my youth were spent on long road trips from Denver to Omaha to Newton and then back to Denver, visiting family during summer vacations.

I am also very familiar with the stretch of I-80 between Vacaville and Davis, California. In my previous career, I worked on a the construction of pharmaceutical factory in Vacaville. Vacaville was a nice town, but the really good restaurants were in the fun college town of Davis, about 20 miles away.

The entire Interstate Highway System is an impressive feat of engineering. Started in 1956, the network now has a total length of 47,856 miles. It goes through some truly spectacular scenery –  a couple of my favorites are I-70 between Green River and it’s junction with I-15,

Sun Ray

 [Sun Ray by Arunas Sileika via Flickr]

and the tiny stretch of I-15 in Arizona between St. George, Utah, and Mesquite, Nevada through the Virgin River Canyon.Virgin River Canyon / Interstate 15

 [Virgin River Canyon/Interstate 15 by the Last Mortal via Flickr]

This Interstate cross stitch pattern is just the latest in my series of road signs! Thus far, I’ve created highway signs for Colorado, Alaska, California, Texas, Washington, Michigan, Florida, New Mexico, Georgia, and Utah. I hope you check out all the states and the 15 other road sign patterns – they’re a lot of fun!

Gypsy Ways Update 7 – Asturias

Gypsy ways update 7 covers our time in Asturias, the beautiful central part of the north coast of Spain. To the west of Asturias is Galicia and the pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela. To the east is Santander, Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Basque country. But in between, roughly centered around the city of Oviedo, is the lovely province of Asturias.

Many people envision Spain as being dry and hot. While parts are like that, Asturias is part of what they call “Green Spain.” It has beautiful ocean beaches that quickly sweep up into magnificent mountain scenery. It’s climate is wetter and cooler than most of the rest of Spain, and that makes it a great place to be for the hot summer months.La puerta a la melancolía. / The door to the melancholy.

[La puerta a la melancolía, by O.M.A via Flickr]

We stayed in the tiny mountainside town of Carrea, outside of San Martín de Teverga. This is what the town looks like from a higher spot:gypsy ways update 7 - the tiny village of Carrea, near san martin de teverga, asturias

In this photo, the village looks bigger than it really was. If you consider that at least half of the roofs seen are for barns and other structures, the village probably consisted of not more than 30 houses.

This was the view from the front of the house, looking over our neighbor’s patio and the roof of her barn over the valley and the mountains further inland. gypsy ways update 7 view from the house in carrea asturias

We had lots of friends roaming around – cats, dogs, chickens, horses, cows, a goat, and these noisy but cute donkeys:

Within easy drives there was outstanding mountain scenery. This was on the border between Asturias and the neighboring province of León (my photo doesn’t really do it justice):gypsy ways update 7 - view on pass from Asturias to Leon

Just above Carrea is the tiny Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Cébrano, and we happened to be there for their annual procession.

The bread and flowers that are on the poles are auctioned off along with other items later in the afternoon and the proceeds go to support the Sanctuary throughout the year. In the background, you can see the bouncy castle for the kids. What you can’t see is that behind the sanctuary to the left, there is an enormous bar tent. As is typical of events in all of Spain, the party for this event went until the wee hours of the next morning – we heard the band shut down at about 1:00 AM, and the party sounds finally died down at about 3:00.

Asturias has more than just mountain scenery as it has a very beautiful coastline as well. There are beaches, such as this one – the Playa de Poo (really!) near Llames. gypsy ways update 7 - the playa de poo near llames, asturias

For me, the most beautiful scenery along the Asturian coast are the places where the land meets the sea most dramatically.gypsy ways update 7 - near the bufones de pria, asturias, spainI took the above photo on a day with calm seas… however when the seas are rolling, this area gets pretty interesting. Over time, the ocean has carved tunnels of different sizes up through the rock to the surface. These holes are called “bufones.”

On a calm day, you will hear the wind rushing through the fissures and it sounds like the ground is breathing (pretty creepy, actually). You might see a little water vapor once in a while. But then there are days like this:

The video gives a much better sense of the scale of the cliffs and the people on top of them. It’s awe inspiring!

Fabada AsturianaLike all areas of Spain, the Asturians are extremely proud of their land, their culture, and their food. While their meat and fish are superb, I enjoy their Fabada Asturiana immensely. It’s a delicious mix of beans, spices, sausages and meats that you won’t find anywhere else.

 

And then there’s the sidra. The climate of Asturias is much better suited for growing apples rather than grapes, so instead of drinking wine, you drink sidra (cider). Ah, but you don’t just pour it into a glass and drink it slowly like a beer… you want it to get some bubbles in it first. This is the way…

They pour about an inch of sidra at a time, and you drink it right away. If you don’t drink it fast enough, it will oxidize too much and be spoiled. Most bars have buckets or drains to pour off the extra. You could study the whole culture that revolves around sidra for years!

The next update will cover a bit more of Spain, and then our travels back north through France as we start our way back to the UK and toward home.

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 6 and the next Update 8)

Gypsy Ways Update 6 – France and Spain

Gypsy Ways Update 6 finds us moving north west out of Italy into France and then south west from there into Spain.

We passed quickly through the Italian and French Riveras. Although the scenery is beautiful, driving on the motorways in the area can be pretty intense. As I usually describe it, it’s “bridge tunnel bridge tunnel bridge tunnel bridge tunnel…” as the mostly two-lane road cuts through the mountains and valleys along the Mediterranean coast. Below is the best photo I could find that encapsulates the E80 Motorway experience…IMG_0080

 [image by Tim Twelves via Flickr]

Just west of Nice, we cut up into the hills and stayed overnight in the lovely village of Le Rouret before heading further west through the rugged canyons and beautiful scenery of the Parc Naturel du Verdon.gypsy ways update 6 parc naturel du verdon canyonsOur next destination was the area around Douville so that we could see a stage of the Tour de France. The penultimate day of the 2014 Tour was an individual time trial that started in Bergerac and ended in Périgueux. The individual time trials are, in our opinion, the best days to watch the Tour as the riders go past one at a time, rather than in one or two big groups. This video gives you a taste of what the experience is like:

The publicity caravan that precedes the race itself is hilarious! Here’s a few of the vehicles from a previous year (bear in mind these are not parade floats – these things fly by at about 25 miles an hour, flinging samples out at the crowds):gypsy ways update 6 tour de france publicity caravan vittel 2014

gypsy ways update 6 tour de france publicity caravan st michel chickengypsy ways update 6 tour de france publicity caravan xtraThis last one for Xtra laundry detergent is outrageous. I’m not sure if you can see them, but this “float” features scantily clad young men pole dancing (and yes, they are wearing safety harnesses). The publicity caravan is a lot of fun!

One of my favorite finds of the summer was very near our hotel. There is a nice little campground with a lake, this is one of the signs around the lake:gypsy ways update 6 french sign translation failThe English part of the sign really means to say “Swimming in the lake is prohibited,” so one can only assume this is just a spectacular web-based translation fail.

After the Tour, we were lucky enough to spend a few nights at one of our favorite hotels, the charming and relaxing Cuq en Terrasses near Toulouse. There one of my work-in-progress needlepoint projects was able to meet its inspiration (click here to read more about the project).Compass Tile WIP #3

From there we went over the Pyrenees mountains into Spain. Just before the tunnel that forms part of the France/Spain border, traffic was stopped by a flock of Basque sheep.gypsy ways update 6 basque sheep on the road through the pyreneesThe drive through the Pyrenees and into Jaca, Spain is full of gorgeous mountain scenery. Jaca itself is a lovely small town with a well-preserved star-shaped fortress that has a dry moat frequently visited by deer.
ciudadela 1

 [Ciudadela by Angel via Flickr]

From Jaca we moved on to the beautiful Rioja area of Spain, famous for its wines. Other than the city of Logroño, the area is mostly small towns surrounded by thousands of acres of wine grapes. A good spot to survey the area is the hilltop town of Laguardia. On a fall day, the colors run everywhere from dark brown and purple to gold and light green. The grapes go on seemingly forever.gypsy ways update 6 rioja spain in the fall

A few other highlights in the area include the town of Cenicero (which translates to “ashtray”), where, during the grape harvest, you will never see so many tractors loaded with grapes going back and forth through the middle of town. Navarette is a town along the pilgrimage Way of St. James, and the gilt baroque altarpiece of it’s church is impressive.

One of Rioja’s most striking features is quite modern. The Hotel Marqués de Riscal was designed by Frank Gehry. Some might argue its stylized grapevine shape is out of place in the ancient village of El Ciego, but I disagree. Regardless, its curves, colors, and textures are intriguing and vary from every viewpoint.gypsy ways update 6 hotel marques de riscal el ciego spainNext update will have more interesting places in Spain!

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 5, and the next Update 7.)

Compass Needlepoint Update 1

I’m happy to say that I’ve made some great progress on my compass needlepoint project! Last time I posted about this was in January, shortly after I started stitching. Well, despite being on the road since May, I have managed to work on it quite a bit.

The pattern is based on a compass rose made of tile pieces on the patio of a charming hotel in France. The hotel is Cuq en Terrasses in the countryside near Toulouse, and it’s one of our favorite places to stay in the world. I find that one of the great benefits of travel is the nearly endless sources of inspiration for future projects.

Compass Tile WIP #1bIn the last update, I had just begun the double stitched center tile of the pattern.

 

 

 

 

This photo shows the center tile in progress, along with the early stages of the first row of radiating tiles. The double stitch used in the center tile combines a long cross stitch and a small cross stitch, so in this photo you can see I’ve completed all the long XS and have started filling in the small XS.

Compass Tile WIP #2

I outlined each of the radiating tiles and then used whatever floss I had remaining in the needle to start filling in. Once I ran out of floss, I moved on to the next tile. I will go back and fill in the remainder of each tile sometime later.

Here, you get to see the project next to it’s original inspiration!Compass Tile WIP #3

Earlier this summer we were lucky enough to spend a few nights at Cuq en Terrasses. It, as always, was beautiful and charming. I managed to snap a few photos of the project with it’s model in situ.

You can see that I have made the project a little more colorful than the original, but have stayed true to it’s earth tones. At this point I had completed nearly all of the first row of tiles except for the four gray tiles of the primary compass directions.

One of the reasons I stitched the primary direction tiles last is that I was having a tough time trying to figure out how to do the double stitch on them. As I have discovered through this project, double stitch works great on a square area. However, in a slightly irregular shape, it turned into quite a challenge. At some point I will write an entire separate post about how I tackled the situation…

Although once I did tackle those primary direction tiles, WOW!compass needlepoint update 1

The first ring of radiating tiles are all outlined and partially filled in, except for the NSEW tiles which are completed.Compass Tile WIP #4a

Here you can see the three colorways of brown flosses I chose for this first ring. There’s a chocolate brown, a rusty brown, and a muddy brown. You can also see that I have slightly blended the colors, mixing 5 strands of the darker colors with one strand of lighter colors. I did this to better represent the speckled color and texture of the original tiles and to add a little visual interest. The lighter colors will show up again in the outer rings of tiles as well.

You can also see the two colors I used in the primary directional tiles. The long XS are in a dark grey, while the short XS are in a dark greyish blue color. When I was choosing colors for this project, I thought the blue would make a nice visual compliment to all the earth tones without contrasting too much.

Because of our travel, I have put this project aside for a little while. However, I really look forward to continuing my work on this compass needlepoint!

[Update: More progress as of May 2015!]

[Another update: How to tackle the double stitch!]

Gypsy Ways Update 5 – Italy

Gypsy Ways Update 5 starts with us near the Cinque Terre (Five Lands), and has us moving on to Tuscany!
Terre Toscane

[Terre Toscane by Filippo Marchi via Flickr]

The Tuscan landscape is beautiful. We stayed in an agriturismo about a half hour drive East from Siena. It’s a perfect location, off the beaten path, but central enough to make easy day trips to a number of historic and scenic locations.

Close by, there are popular places like Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Giminano, and Monteriggioni. Monteriggioni is one of my favorites. It’s a medieval village and it’s towers and walls remain intact.
Volando sopra Monteriggioni

[Flying over Monteriggioni by Angela Massagni via Flickr]

As you can see in the photo, the town hasn’t grown past it’s walls and it retains the charm of a small, unspoiled, hilltop village.

Pienza is also a favorite of mine as it’s small and not too heavily touristy. The view of Pienza as you drive to it from the West is stunning.
Pienza in Tuscany Italy

[Pienza, Tuscany by Steve via Flickr]

A little further away are the beautiful and historic towns of Volterra and Assisi. As for bigger cities, there are always Florence and Pisa, but Siena is definitely my favorite. Siena has the enormous and beautiful Piazza del Campo, unique with it’s shell shape and home to the Palio horse race. gypsy ways update 5 - siena palio jockeys before the race

Siena also has it’s Duomo, which is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. You can look at the photos of it’s facade, the ornate floors, the alternating black and white marble columns… but photos can only capture some of it’s beauty.

One highlight is the amazing Piccolimini library which holds precious illuminated musical manuscripts in a richly decorated room. Libreria Piccolomini

[Libreria Piccolomini by Steffen Ramsaier via Flickr]

gypsy ways update 5 - gorganza, tuscanyThere are also some lesser-known spots that are just lovely and not very touristy. Places like Gorganza – an entire hilltop village that is now a quiet self-catering hotel. It has a great restaurant, perfect for lunch after exploring the town.

 

 

 

 

 

gypsy ways update 5 - rome sign in buonconventoBuonconvento is another virtually unspoiled town on the road to Rome.

 

 

 

 

gypsy ways update 5 - serre di rapolano town hallSerre di Rapolano is near travertine marble quarries (thus the gleaming town hall you see here) and the natural hot springs at Rapolano Terme.

 

 

 

gypsy ways update 5 - norcia, umbria, italyLucignano is also worth a look around, and if you go south out of Tuscany and into Umbria, the towns of Norcia and Amelia are well worth the visit. Norcia (pronounced nor-cha) is famous for its meats and sausages and for pasta with truffles – yum!

 

 

In the next update, we’ll go into France and Spain. Stay tuned!

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 4 and the next Update 6.)

Gypsy Ways Update 4 – Switzerland and Italy

Gypsy Ways Update 4 starts with us leaving the UK and heading quickly through France on our way to Italy (fans of France, don’t worry, as we will return to France later). However, we did take a quick stop to visit Montreux, Switzerland.gypsy ways update 4 - montreux, switzerlandThe photo above is from a gorgeous path that follows the lakeshore. It really is a lovely town. It is home to the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival, held annually since 1967.

Montreux has had many famous residents, but the one who brought us to this beautiful town was Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen. Queen isn’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, but Freddie had amazing charisma on stage. There is a statue of him overlooking Lake Geneva, and people to this day leave tributes to him there. gypsy ways update 4 - freddie mercury statue in montreux switzerland

If you want to see him in action (and see one of the best live performances by any band EVER), watch the video below, where he has the entire audience at the old Wembley Stadium in the palm of his hand.

Freddy was amazing!

From there we drove over and through the Alps on the spectacular Col du Saint Bernard into Italy.

Col du Grand Saint-Bernard, Italie

[The Col du Grand Saint-Bernard by ClearFrost via Flickr] 

The first place we stayed in Italy is a very small town near the Cinque Terre (Five Lands). The towns of the Cinque Terre are beautiful, but extraordinarily difficult to reach by car, so we stay in Mattarana, a mountain town off the beaten track.gypsy ways update 4 - mattarana italy

Mattarana has one hotel that also happens to be a great social hub for the locals. It opens at 6:00 AM, closes at 11:00 PM, and is always full of people eating, talking, drinking coffee, playing cards, and arguing. It’s a great place to watch the world go by.

The drives to either La Spezia and/or Levanto are relatively easy, and both have stations for the train that runs through the towns of the Cinque Terre.
Sunset over Manarola, Italy

 [Sunset over Manarola by Joel Bedford via Flickr]

Although the five towns of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are spectacular, some of the other nearby towns are fun to visit as well. Unlike the Cinque Terre towns which have narrow harbors rather than beaches, Bonassola has a sandy beach that is better suited to swimming and sunbathing – and best of all, it’s GREEN sand – how cool is that!gypsy ways update 4 - green sand beach in bonassola italy

Stay tuned for the next update with more Italian adventures!

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 3. And here’s the link to the next episode, Update 5)

Gypsy Ways Update 3 – United Kingdom and Greece

Gypsy Ways Update 3 starts after the elegance of the Queen Mary 2 and finds us on the dock in Southampton, in the cold wind and rain waiting for our car to arrive. The south of England, on a sunny day, is one of the prettiest places in the world. However, in the cold wet wind, it can chill you to the bone. Next time, I have to remember that when disembarking, less elegance and more warm layers are a more practical approach!Blowin' up...

[Blowin’ Up at Southampton Docks by Del Robertson via Flickr]

The next few days in the UK were a whirlwind of organization and catching up with friends and family. A real highlight of this time was a trip to Wembley Stadium in London to watch the Queen’s Park Rangers (QPR) vs. Derby County football match. QPR happens to be my husband’s favorite team as he grew up just a few miles from their home grounds in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

This particular game was incredibly important to both teams as it determined who would be promoted to the English Premier League division and the roughly £120 million(!) in additional team revenue that the promotion represents.

The trains we took to Wembley Central station were loaded with QPR fans, young and old. Some were in costumes, some carried bullhorns, but all were singing the songs of praise for the beloved team. gypsy ways update 3 - new QPR friends on the train to clapham junction

[Fellow QPR fans who befriended us on the train to Clapham Junction]

[The train platform at Wembley Central tube station]

The match was incredibly close, but in the 89th minute QPR scored. It was incredible… unbelievable… indescribable! Below is a quick video of the highlights of the match. Keep in mind that although blue and white are QPR’s home colors, they were playing in their “away” colors of red and black.

After that, it will be hard to ever match the elation of that moment again (at least when it comes to a sporting event!)

We went to Greece next! We left our pooch for a few days with family in the UK, flew to Athens, and then drove from there to the island of Lefkada.

I had not been in Greece in nearly 20 years, and it had been an even longer time for my husband, so we were both curious to go back. What a lovely place it was! We didn’t have any plans other than relaxation to break up our UK whirlwind tour, and relax we did.gypsy ways update 3 - greece view from the hotel beach

[Sunset view from the hotel beach]

gypsy ways update 3 - greece view from the marina wine bar

[View of the harbor from a from a lovely little wine and champagne bar]

The hotel was simple but spotlessly clean, and Greek locals ate at the attached taverna, so you know it was good food. It was early enough in the season that the town wasn’t overrun with tourists, and there were plenty of locals out enjoying themselves in the evenings and nights.

We found a great restaurant (photo below) that didn’t have a menu. We would just say if we wanted meat, fish, seafood, or a vegetarian menu, and the chef would cook whatever he had fresh and best that day. It was incredible.gypsy ways update 3 - nidri greece our favorite restaurant

One of the most appealing things we found in Greece was the genuine friendliness of the Greek people. If you’ve never been to Greece before, I can only recommend it to future travelers.

We returned to the UK, had a happy reunion with our dog, and then got ready for the next part of the trip…

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 2. And here’s the link to the next episode, Update 4)

Gypsy Ways Update 2 – Transatlantic Crossing

Gypsy Ways Update 2 starts in Brooklyn, New York, where we arrived after our coast-to-coast drive (more trip info here). From the Brookyn Cruise Terminal, we boarded the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner for our Transatlantic crossing to Southampton, UK!Queen Mary 2

 [The Queen Mary 2 by Deepak A.B via Flickr]

The QM2 is a truly magnificent ship. And everyone is quick to remind you that this is an “ocean going liner” and certainly not a “cruise ship.”

The main reason we take the QM2 is because they offer kennel service, and if we’re doing some extensive traveling, we like to bring our dog. Transportation by water is not my favorite as I get terribly seasick (even on a lake), but as a way to get across the Atlantic with the dog and all of our luggage (as much as you can fit in your cabin is allowed), it’s a great way to go.

The dogs are restricted to a small area on the ship (deck 12, starboard aft), and they have to learn to do their “business” on the teak decking, which can be challenging for our four-legged friends. There is a full time kennel master who takes outstanding care of the dogs and keeps the kennels very clean and comfy, and we’re allowed to spend time with the dogs for various stretches totaling 7 to 8 hours a day. All the dog people get to know each other and the other dogs as we spend most of our days together in the kennels. On this crossing there were 12 dogs and everyone got along so well we had a little champagne party in the kennels on the last day before our arrival in Southampton!IMG_2943

[The kennel deck run by Bill G. Johnson via Flickr]

Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos as I had a double whammy of a nasty cold and the side effects of the anti-seasickness drug scopolamine going on. The scopolamine patches work perfectly – I don’t get remotely seasick – but the side effects of blurred vision, drowsiness, and dry mouth were considerable in combination with the cold. I promise to share some of my own photos from our way back…

Once we have our last visits with the dogs in the evenings, then we get changed for dinner, and it’s fun to dress elegantly for a few nights! There are three formal nights, with men in tuxedo or formal suit, ladies in formal or cocktail dress, and four semi-formal nights with men in jackets and women in cocktail dress or what Cunard terms “stylish separates.” The first formal night was for the “Black and White Ball” and the last formal night was for the “Royal Ascot Ball” where many of the ladies had hats and fascinators.IMG_1033_Y

[Royal Ascot Ball Hat Review by Wolfgang Hammer via Flickr] 

After seven nights of outstanding food, wine, and service, we wake up already docked in Southampton. We eat breakfast, and then at 8:30 A.M., the kennel crew get a priority escort off the ship (it’s quite a parade really, as the dogs are great celebrities on board) and then we begin the European part of our adventure…

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 1. And here’s the link to the next episode, Update 3)