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Oberammergau Passion Play = Sense of Community

Oberammergau Passion Play = Sense of Community

I was honored to be one of the very few invited to a very special dinner event in celebration of Oberammergau, Germany and its famous Passion Play which has been produced every 10 years since 1634. How remarkable is that! Just take a minute to ponder that feat….

In order to audition to be one of the 2300 actors you must be a resident of this community of just 5000 for at least 20 years.

In 2010 over 500,000 people from all over the World descended upon tiny Oberammergau to see their version of the Passion Play.

The community of Oberammergau has started to prepare for 2020. On October 20th of this year they will assemble to watch a gentleman write on two boards, the town members who have been selected to play the main roles in the 2020 Production – as you can imagine a big celebration follows.

Tonight in Toronto, the young gentleman who played Jesus in 2010 and the Passion Play Producer (since 1990) spoke to us from their heart – both of them are so passionate about their small community and their monumental production.

Oberammergau has the same problem that most communities do with dwindling church congregations so the Passion Play Producer spends a few weeks at the start of rehearsals teaching especially the younger actors about Jesus.

Today not just the local Catholics but all denominations are represented in this World Class production. In fact the current assistant producer first appeared in the shows choir (2010) and that was the start of his theatre passion. He is now the shows assistant producer and he is Muslim.

The shows producer also spent decades on the Passion Play stage with his Father and Grandfather. It’s impossible for all of the towns population to star in this show as some need to look after operating the hotels, restaurants….

One year before the start of the Passion Play the towns hairdresser is basically out of business because those in the cast start growing their hair – the producer told us, the town folk start looking like hippies.

Tonight I realized the Oberammergau Passion Play just isn’t about the story of Jesus, its about community spirit, being proud of where you are from, neighbour helping neighbour, the importance of family and a community who open their hearts to the World every 10 years.

I am already so excited about traveling to Oberammergau to see the Passion Play. As always the journey I’ll offer will be a unique one that will highlight this wonderful 400 year old tradition.

Mark October 2020 on your calendar – lets plan on going together.

Here is a picture of the Show Prodcer along with the young gentleman who played the most important role of Jesus in 2010.

 

 

A Wonderful, “Mother and Son Week”

Mom and I have really enjoying our, “Mother and Son” week.

You may have noticed if you follow Facebook that my brother, sister and family have been traveling in California and Nevada, so in their absence I moved back, “Home with Mom”. What a fantastic time we had, enjoying local day trips, new restaurants and sitting next to the fireplace while watching home renovation shows on television.

I couldn’t ask for a better Mom – we are best friends. We share so much in common. The two of us aren’t going to be traveling together this winter but we spent so much time together over the past week it felt just like a vacation.   The problem is the time flew by way too quickly.

We had fun dining at, “Craft Farmacy” in London, ON. This is one of Londons newest restaurants. A friendly male host sat us next to a fireplace in their dining room and surprisingly at the adjacent table was a lady who has traveled for years on many of my tours so we all spent time reminiscing. The atmosphere at “Craft Farmacy” is a causal one, but most importantly our lunch which featured locally sourced foods was just delicious. We’ll certainly be back.

I typically don’t like to write about negative restaurant experiences as I realize a chef is bound to have the odd bad day. We certainly did not receive a warm welcome when we walked into the lobby of a beautiful Inn in London. That should have been our indication to go elsewhere. After an uncomfortably long wait our breakfast arrived. When I cut into my omelette I noticed it wasn’t cooked all the way through. Mom and our waitress agreed so it was taken back to the kitchen. Very quickly our waitress returned – the chef told her the omelette was cooked, it was just watery….. we won’t rush back there.

Lunch at, “Spencer’s at the Waterfront” in Burlington was terrific. We enjoyed a window seat which offered sweeping views of the lake. The entrees we picked arrived piping hot and were full of flavour. Its always a treat dining at, “Spencer’s”.

By far our best dining experience was yesterday at, “The Bruce Hotel” in Stratford where we enjoyed Sunday brunch. This elegant hotel opened in 2014 and back then I read some negative things about their restaurant so I stayed away.

I admit I was a little worried that our brunch experience might not be that good but I was pleasantly surprised as it was nothing short of perfect!

Chef Arron Carley, became, “The Bruce Hotel’s” executive chef in 2015. He is also a proud winner of the TV show, “Chopped Canada”.

The 25 room Bruce Hotel is impressive both inside and out. When we approached the entrance door there was a sign saying they were closed to the public Saturday night, reopening at 11:00 am on Sunday due to a private event.

We soon learned that a gentleman from London, ON bought out the hotel for his birthday party. He invited his guests for dinner, overnight and breakfast. What a wonderful invitation!

When we walked into the homey lobby of the Bruce Hotel we were warmly greeted and then shown to the dining room where a hostess made us feel very welcome.

We soon entered the tastefully, elegant dining room. Most tables were already full of diners. It didn’t take us long to figure out that they were the birthday party guests.  They soon finished their breakfasts and Mom and I had the dining room to ourselves.

Service was top-notch. A few people looked after us. Everyone was so friendly but professional at the same time. Our plated breakfasts were so delicious. The atmosphere in this space was so relaxing, we took our time and were already talking about when we could come back!

We asked to see their dinner and lunch menus. Dinner in the main dining room is pricey but there is a different much more casual, reasonable menu offered in the lounge.

The residence of Stratford should be proud to have, “The Bruce Hotel” as part of their community.

Mom and I can’t wait to take the rest of our family to the Bruce for dinner. We’ll probably try out the lounge menu.

When we finished our meal and re-entered the lobby, the front desk host proudly told us about the hotel and then he opened the door for us as we headed back out to the parking lot.

Today’s winter weather messed up my plans. I had made reservations for Mom and I to dine at a popular restaurant in Toronto where we would have enjoyed picturesque views of the downtown core….. we’ll have to try it another time.

Last night as I was getting ready to retire for the evening Mom said, “Thank You For Staying With Me” and I admit those words brought a tear to my eye.

Spending time with my Mother is a, “Joy That I Cherish”. There is nothing better than spending time with your best friend!

Here are a couple, “Bruce Hotel” pictures – notice there was no snow on the ground yesterday – today is a different story!

 

 

Kenya – Some of My Favourite Pictures

When I was recently in Kenya with my wonderful group of travelers we experienced a, “Journey of A Lifetime”!  I snapped pictures with my iPad so I could easily upload them to my blog and Facebook during our travels.  I also took a few thousand pictures with my camera and today while the snow was falling,  I finally found a few hours to sort through some of those pictures.  Here are a some of the ones that brought back a flood of memories.  Hope you enjoy them!

Celebrating New Years In Pigeon Forge, TN

We enjoyed a scenic drive as we traveled through the State of Kentucky.

Todays luncheon was at the Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky. This charming, warm atmosphere place was tastefully decorated for the holidays. We took over the majority of their elegant, chandelier dining room that offered views of the charming small town Main Street.

Our appetizer was their famous Spoonbread – I hope you invite me over when you make it!

3 cups Milk
1 1/4 cup White Cornmeal
3 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt

Stir meal into rapidly bowling milk – cook until very think stirring constantly
Remove from heat and allow to cool
The mixture will be very stiff
Add well-beaten eggs, salt, baking powder and melted butter
Beat with an electric mixer for 15 minutes
Pour into a well-greased pan and bake for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees
Serve from pan by spoonful with butter

We continued to the Tennessee Welcome Centre where I was able to snap a group picture.

My passengers picked up complimentary maps at the Welcome Centre but that didn’t help them figure out where we were going. I was very careful not to pick up any travel brochures that might indicate where we were going as I felt many inquisitive eyes on me as I was in the brochure area of the Visitors Centre.

They didn’t have to wait much long as we traveled to our Yellow Brick Road Mystery Destination, “Pigeon Forge TN” – which is located at the entrance of the Smoky Mountains.

Everyone is thrilled with our accommodations – the Inn At Christmas Place. This is defiantly considered the deluxe, upscale place to stay while in Pigeon Forge.

Here you experience the true spirit of Christmas, every day of the year! This is a family run business which is an extension of their Incredible Christmas Place store which is located across the road.

The rooms “Sleep In Heavenly Peace” bedding is so comfortable and not just the room are decked to the nines with tasteful Christmas Decorations 365 days a year – so are the rooms.

The family that owns this successful business started back in 1980 with a small gift shop near the historic Old Mill which was then the heart of Pigeon Forge. They noticed that Christmas Ornaments were their best sellers. As Pigeon Forge started to expand the family had great foresight and acquired a large plot of land on the main highway. The Inn opened in 2007 and has become a part of the tradition of, “Celebrating the Spirit of Christmas Every Day of the Year”.

The Inn at Christmas Place, Glockenspiel is located in the lower lobby was hand-crafted by master woodworkers. Made of European Beech, inspired from the Black Forest region of Germany. It stands 25 feet tall, includes animated figures and is ornamented with exquisite hand-painted details plus a hand-rubbed finish. It rings every hour on the hour from 9am-9pm.

We didn’t have enough time to enjoy the duo that was singing in the lower lobby because we soon needed to be on our way to the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show where we were welcomed by another Bradley and were ushered to our excellent seats. Dinner was southern in style and delicious – pulled pork, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and banana pudding for dessert. The show is a little crazy but lots of fun and entertaining. It features a large, talented cast. Hatfield and McCoy is typically packed – they offered 3 dinner shows today!

From the Hatfield and McCoy Show we traveled to the Country Tonight Theatre which is celebrating 20 years in Pigeon Forge. Their impressive Country Music production is always a passenger favourite.

This terrific show ended just after 10pm so we were able to enjoy the tremendous outdoor Christmas displays at our hotel.

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It’s New Years Eve Day!

What a fantastic breakfast spread they have at “Inn At Christmas Place”.

Not only is their an omelette station with many other hot items but how wonderful to offer fresh fruit, selection of cheeses, “PECAN PIE” and Krispy Creme Donuts for breakfast! I think its safe to say this is the finest hotel breakfast in Pigeon Forge.

We are watching Bettys drivers hour today as I have a New Years Celebration planned for this evening so we are departing a little later this morning 930am.

Some have decided to sleep in while others are enjoying visiting their friends while enjoying this Sunday brunch.

I’ve noticed that my passengers are enjoying the morning Pecan Pie.  They have had to bring more pies out so I think this could become a new Canadian Tradition – Pecan Pie for breakfast!

 

Bitter Cold Causes New Years Eve Cancellations in Canada!

We enjoyed another excellent pre-departure dinner last night as I welcomed my passengers on the, “Yellow Brick Road New Years Mystery Tour”. Everyone mixed and mingled prior, during and after our delicious, holiday meal in Woodstock, Ontario.

I consider frequent passenger, Wayne Childerhose a, “Travel With Bradley” ambassador. He does such a great job welcoming all of my new passengers so he was busy last night making sure he found all of them.

There was no winter road issues so my passengers had no problem getting to our headquarter hotel.  Everyone appreciated that fact that this pre-departure stay was included because we had quite the snowfall through the night so road conditions were not the best as we headed to the Blue Water Bridge – Sarnia/Port Huron after enjoying a hearty breakfast. Everyone was at ease as Betty our driver is a seasoned professional and the snow covered highways didn’t bother her at all.

We encountered 2 very friendly custom agents and 1 not so friendly one when we entered the States – the process went quickly – within 15 minutes we were on our way.

There was plenty of snow in Detroit but they had already done a great job clearing the roads. Traffic was a little heavy getting through the motor city but it didn’t delay us. Betty avoided mega construction delays on 1-75 by taking an entirely different route.

This current cold front has really affected Canadian New Years Celebrations in many areas. I received a text that Ottawa cancelled their outdoor celebrations – that is a major surprise! Surely Canadians can handle the cold????? After Ottawa cancelled it was a snowball effect – Toronto soon cancelled their Nathan Phillips Square event and then smaller towns like Brantford also cancelled. Ottawa will be the coldest capital city in the World on New Years Eve!

We arrived at our official welcome luncheon as scheduled at 1130am. The Real Seafood Company in Toledo, Ohio were our hosts. We were impressed with our meal choices – Dijon chicken, shrimp scampi or crab cakes. The Real Seafood Company is a beautiful, upscale restaurant that is regarded as the best in the City. I consistently use this restaurant because they do such a great job looking after my groups and their food is scrumptious.

Toledo is known as the headquarters of Libby Glass so we made a pit-stop at their factory outlet and many of my passengers walked out with purchases. This huge store is filled with bargains.

Quite surprisingly weather warnings sprung up out of nowhere and the sky turned a dark grey. The snow started to fall and continued for a number of hours.

We checked into our overnight hotel where the staff treated us just like family. One of my passengers missed packing an important medical supply so the manager of the hotel went to the local pharmacy to purchase it for her – that is what I call excellent service!

My group enjoyed complimentary cocktails and snacks before we travelled 10 minutes to the La Comedia Dinner Theatre. Once again we were warmly welcomed by the front of house manager, Dillon.

Tossed salads topped with cantaloupe and an exceptional house dressing were served table side and then we were directed on-stage to the buffet. There was so much to pick from – carved beef, turkey, ham, chicken and battered Norwegian Cod which melted in our mouths like candy, were accompanied by many sides. Dessert, was a delicious served to the table cheesecake. Service was excellent and Dillon arrived at our tables many times to make sure everyone was happy.

The festive holiday show that followed way exceeded my expectations – it was a top-notch production with a huge cast. There was so much talent on the stage. My passengers were thrilled with the show plus we enjoyed the very BEST seats in the house! This holiday show reminded me of a Dollie Fowler production because it was so entertaining but at the same time we learned so much. Dolly writes the Amish Shows that frequent the Walters Theatre.

Highway I-75 was a snowy mess when we returned to our hotel. It was completely snow covered and Betty had to make her own lane to travel down. We chuckled seeing patrons from the theatre using their hands and not scrappers to remove  inches of snow off their vehicles. They are not use to  snowfalls like this one. Cars were slipping and sliding because of no snow tires. Some theatre patrons had trouble getting out of the parking lot because they had no idea how to drive in these winter conditions.

We were luckily just 10 minutes back to our hotel from the theatre.

The weather warnings were to last until 10am this morning but around 3am the snow stopped and the warnings were cancelled. It looks to me as though highway I-75 is now cleared and traffic is back to moving at normal speed.

After breakfast we’ll be on the road continuing South to our Mystery Destination.

A traveler from London, ON who was returning from a Christmas holiday in Florida was talking with Betty and I while our passengers were enjoying our cocktail reception at the hotel last night. I made the mistake telling him our Mystery destination because he then told 2 of my passengers BUT they have been sworn to secrecy!

My passengers are SO excited – what a terrific day they have waiting for them!

Unlike in Canada we don’t have to worry that my surprise New Years Events will be cancelled!  We just hope that we can soon put away our winter boots – that should happen later today!

The ILLUSIONISTS – Tremendous Show!

I’m still battling jet lag so I figured instead of tossing and turning in bed I might as well write a blog post!

I had no issues at all with jet lag when I flew with my Cunard Cruise group to London, England but it certainly hit me after my return to Canada . I’m “slowly” getting over it. I thought that a 5 hour time change wouldn’t affect me too badly so I didn’t bother taking my, “No Jet Lag” pills on the flight home – obviously that was a mistake – I should have known better….

Very early yesterday morning (instead of sleeping) I make a last minute decision to take my nephew, Schyler out for the day as an extra Christmas treat.

During one of my past Mystery Journeys we visited Pittsburgh, PA and one of the tour inclusions were tickets to see the touring Broadway Show, “The Illusionists”. My group ended up raving about the production and so did I.

It’s currently performing with a NEW cast at the, “Princess of Wales Theatre” in Toronto until January 7th. I purchased a couple single seats (one behind another) for Schyler and I as I knew it was important to be close to the stage for this show and they were the best I could get.

I picked Schyler up at 830am and he tried to guess where we were going but I kept him in suspense – this was Schyler’s One Day Mystery Tour.

Traffic was no issue until we got close to Toronto and then my GPS directed me to the 407 toll-road to avoid congestion.

There were a whopping 3 Illusionist shows scheduled yesterday. Along with 1323 others we attended the earliest, 11am performance.

As great as I thought their Pittsburgh production was, I felt this one was even better and if you can get tickets I highly recommend that you do. I was looking forward to the show but the main reason for going was to treat Schyler. This production ended up being so fantastic it was a real treat for me too.

“The Illusionists” is a fast paced variety type production featuring 7 performers from around the World – Scotland, Australia, Britain, South Korea…

Schyler and I both agreed that the Deductionist, “Colin Cloud” was our favourite performer. He considers himself to be a Forensic Mind Reader and I still can’t believe what he is able to do on stage. This year he made it to the Semi-Finals of televisions, America’s Got Talent. His solo show at the Edinburgh Festival (some of you have been there with me) sells out yearly and he is consistently voted in the top 3 of over 4000 fringe festival acts. I certainly hope that I can one day see his entire stage show. He is just incredible!

Raymond Crowe thrilled the audience with his intricate shadow puppetry.

Charlie Frye comes from a family of circus entertainers. He joined Ringling Bros. many years ago and may be the finest juggler I have ever seen.

The Daredevil, Johnathan Goodwin was lit on fire as he hung upside down in a straight jacket. We could feel the heat of the flames from our seats. He quickly got himself out of the jacket and then doused the fire out while still hanging upside down by himself with an extinguisher…..

An Ha Lim is known as the Worlds Best Manipulator. His card magic shocked everyone when 1000 cards beautifully appeared from the tips of his hand.

Darcy Oake represented Canada well. He is the Grand Illusionist of this production and is from Winnipeg. His Dad inspired him with a card trick at a young age and now Darcy carries the tradition of classic Illusion with a Rock-Star Edge. I was impressed.

The lady sitting next to me told me her favourite performer in the show is Jeff Hobson who she saw on stage in California and my group watched in Pittsburgh. He is the epitome of glamour and showmanship – a true Vegas act.

Yesterday’s early 11am performance was advertised to attract a family audience and ran without an intermission – 90 minutes.

When we left the theatre the first thing Schyler said was that he would come back to see the show again – he gave it a big thumbs up!

We walked around the corner of the theatre for lunch at PAI – which is consistently rated as one of the top 5 restaurants in Toronto. I’ve blogged about it before. We had a 20 minute wait to get a table and during our meal we watched a steady stream of patrons lining up to get in. This 155 seat restaurant serves the best Northern Thai food in the city. It’s located in a basement but has a down-home, funky feel that is warm and inviting. The couple that run it met in PAI, Thailand so that is why they picked that name. Their cuisine attracts a young crowd. Tables are close together. Sitting next to Schyler was a very well-known guy that he recognized right away. Schyler didn’t tell me until he got up from his table who it was. This Toronto based Internet YouTuber has over 6 million subscribers! Schyler showed me his on-line picture and sure enough it was him.

There was one small disappointment with my meal – they no longer offer Lemongrass Ice Tea – when I asked the waiter about it he told me that it was just me and one other who ever ordered it – smile! Of course he was joking but there wasn’t enough interest to keep it on their menu. I originally tried Lemongrass Ice Tea when I was with a group of mine in Thailand. Drinking it at PAI always brought back so many amazing travel memories.

After our delicious lunch I didn’t think that Schyler would want to eat anything else but he remembered me talking about another trendy place just a stone-throw away from where we were called, “Sweet Jesus”. It’s claim to fame is their unique ice cream creations so Schyler asked if I would buy him one.

In the summer there are long lines to get into this place but when its -20C out there is no line! When we walked into this small shop we saw that, Jeff Hobson who we just watched on stage in, The Illusionists was waiting for his order. I started talking with him right away and he was overly friendly. He told us there are currently 4 different, “The Illusionist” productions running around the World. He typically is hired for the North America runs. Jeff gladly posed with Schyler for a couple pictures so stopping at, “Sweet Jesus” for ice-cream was a treat in more ways than one.  When I first tried Sweet Jesus Ice Cream they only had this one location – but this success story is expanding to 20 locations throughout Canada including 1 in the States!

I wanted to check out a pop-up store that we drove past on our way to the theatre. The space featured men’s blazers from a Toronto designer whose clients include many celebrities. It was fun trying on a couple of his one-of-a-kind creations.

The day flew by and it was time to get Schyler home. I parked in the lot under Roy Thompson Hall. As Schyler and I started walking down the steps to the garage, a man passed us and when he got to the top of the stairs he yelled down my name, “Bradley Walters”…

I turned and said YES. He explained that he had traveled with me a couple years ago and they were sad to hear that I NO longer was organizing travel tours….. I asked, “WHO TOLD YOU THAT?”. I already knew the answer as I have heard this many times from others. I climbed back up the stairs and handed him a business card. He was so happy and said his wife will be so excited to hear that they can still, “Travel With Bradley”.

As you know its been word-of-mouth that has let everyone know about, “Travel With Bradley” so please continue to spread the word. I very much appreciate you telling others as there are still so many just like the man we met yesterday that have sadly been told that I am no longer in the tour business….

Later today I can’t wait to meet my, “New Years Eve Mystery Tour” passengers! The coach will be filled with devoted regulars that have been traveling with me for years. I have a BIG waitlist for this getaway but unfortunately the main destination hotel I am using could only accommodate 1 coach. It’s next to impossible to get a group into that hotel which remains 100% occupied year round. I was shocked but really pleased that I was able to snag space during this destinations busiest time of the year (yes, that is the only mystery tour hint I am giving). Up until a couple days ago they were going to have to put Betty (our coach driver) into a hotel across the street as they just did not have room in the Inn, but I constantly called them until I finally got a good-news email that they can finally accommodate her so gladly the entire “travel family” will be together!

I’ll do my best to write blog posts as we travel so be sure to follow along!

 

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Well its almost 24 hours since my Cunard Cruise group and I arrived back in Toronto.

Yesterday was pretty seamless.   Getting off Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, was so well organized and in no time we boarded our coach and were on our way to Windsor Castle where we visited St. George’s Chapel which was established in the 14th Century by King Edward III.  Yesterday they scheduled hourly, 10 minute Christmas services.   We were just in time for the 11am service.  I was so pleased to hear the church organ.

Hotel rooms across charming, Windsor quickly sold out just hours after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle revealed that their Wedding will take place on May 19th.  The chapel holds an intimate 800 guests in comparision to Westmister Abbey that holds 2000.

Harry was christened in the chapel in 1984 when he was 3 months old which means he can also marry there.

Windsor and the Castle will get much media attention prior to the wedding so we feel fortunate that we were able to tour around St. George’s Chapel.

Heathrow Airport was busy but certainly not unmanageable.  Our Air Canada flight was at capacity.  The later afternoon A/C flight to Toronto was majorly delayed so some of those passengers joined our flight.  The Air Canada flight crew on our homeward journey were 100% better than the crew we had flying to London.  We were pleased with the meal and the service – very well done!

We were all tired when we arrived back to Toronto and it was sad to say our farewells.

This morning I joined the rest of my family at Moms.  We always end up watching a Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) movie over Christmas and today was no exception.  The 2011 movie, “Johnny English” made us laugh many times.

As usual Mom had way too much food prepared but we enjoyed every bite.

Those dreaming of a White Christmas will get their wish.  The snow started to fall at 3pm and up to 20cm of the white stuff will fall in parts of Southern Ontario by Christmas Day.

A fraction of that snow fall amount shut down Windsor Castle when my group flew to London a couple weeks ago.

When I glance outside, “It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas”.  The song with the same name was written in 1951 by Meredith Wilson.  Did you realize that Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada claims that Wilson wrote the lyrics to that song while staying in Yarmouth’s Grand Hotel.

Be sure to cover up while outside and drive safe.

May the Spirit of Christmas fill your home with peace, joy and love.

 

 

 

LORD Robert WALTERS

Good Morning from Southampton, UK

The Atlantic was like a sheet of glass as we sailed last night – even as we crossed through the often bumpy, Bay of Biscay there was hardly a ripple.

Our dinner at Smokehouse was excellent – enjoyed by all. They sat us in a private area so I was able to address my group as we celebrated Pat and Dianne’s birthdays along with Dianne’s and Richard’s 50th Anniversary. I ordered large enough cakes so we were all able to enjoy a slice.

Thank you George for getting up in front of everyone and expressing such kinds words. It has been an excellent journey.

I thought that I was done blogging for a few days but I decided to share a story with you.

At the gym on board the Queen Elizabeth I ended up chatting with a friendly gentleman. We always seemed to work out at the same time. I eventually learned that he is a Doctor and along with his wife they enjoy cruising but require 2 bedroom suites. He asked me if I would be interested in booking their future travel so I left him a business card.

Last night I ran into him again and he said, “Mr Walters you are not going to forget me”! He repeated this a couple more times….

He then said that he looked at my business card when he got back to his stateroom and saw that we have the same last name – his first name is Leonard so I expressed that we also have a Leonard in our family.

He then went on to tell me that his son is a Lord, “Lord Robert Walters”. He said that I should check out his profile on-line which I did – LordRobertWalters.com – Lord Robert is in the entertainment business and is a very successful model (even underwear). My Uncle Robert (Bob) Walters who many of you know will be interested in hearing about this but please Uncle Bob, don’t think you have a chance modeling underwear….

Leonard Walters expressed that he would be in touch with me within a couple of days – as he said I’m not going to forget him! I need to join Ancestry.com to see if we are related…. possibly there is a Lord in the family!

We will hopefully be off the ship within an hour heading towards Windsor Castle for a quick visit before heading to Heathrow for our flight home. I expect the airports to be very busy.

I understand that the weather isn’t the best at home so I sure hope it improves for our arrival.

Wish us a good flight.

 

Making Christmas Memories with Cunard

This morning at breakfast I was seated at one of the very best tables in the dining room – it features a sweeping view of the Grand Staircase and is under a dramatic piece of art-deco art that is the focal point in this beautiful space. I rekindled some childhood memories on this cruise as I have been enjoying wheatabix for breakfast. I enjoyed this healthy cereal as a child. I top it with hot water. The pastry tray arrived as soon as I sat down. The selections change from day to day which is nice but I do my best to say, “no thank you” to the morning sweets. The Britannia Dining Room is such an elegant spot to enjoy a very relaxing breakfast. It’s where I like start to write my blog post. I then head to the royally Christmas decorated atrium to finish it.

Last night we all went to the Queens Ballroom to see Cunard’s Christmas Production Show. I have been on many cruise ships during the Christmas Season and this is the first time that a ship has produced a special singing/dancing show for the holidays. Overall it was extremely well done. I think everyone appreciated the effort that they put forth to create this festive show. Sadly it lacked secular Christmas songs as they were probably worried they may insult someone in this politically correct World.

Four of my passengers were so excited as they booked one of the showroom boxes for last nights Christmas production. They enjoyed a champagne and dessert reception prior.

Dinner was Formal and the menu matched. I selected the Lobster Tail which was accompanied by jumbo shrimps. The Baked Alaska was probably the best I’ve tasted on a cruise ship.

The seas continue to be smooth and are expected to remain that way for the duration of the cruise. We soon pass through an area which can sometimes be rough as deep waters meet much shallower ones, but we have been told that this is not going to be an issue for us.

Many of us started packing yesterday. After a cruise of this length the Queen Elizabeth certainly feels like home so it will be sad to depart. We have been treated so well.

Today all my passengers will gather for a farewell luncheon. I’m so lucky to travel with such wonderful people. This group like all of my groups, are so happy to spend time together. Even though I state that this is an optional event we have met for lunch on every sea day. The staff just assumes that I am going to bring in a big group so they reserve the Captains table and the smaller ones surrounding it, especially for us.

Todays sea-day is filled with activities. As I write my blog I am enjoying the Christmas music that playing in the background.

I just had a charming gent sit down next to me for a visit. He chatted for 45 minutes. He wanted to hear about my travels and we talked about our Christmas traditions in the UK and Canada. They have a son and 2 grandchildren who will gather with them on Christmas Day. He said he has a self-basting turkey in the freezer ready to roast for the big day. Like many on board this is an annual Christmas cruise for his wife and himself. Tomorrow they will travel by train for 2 hours to get to their home in a small rural community near Bristol.

This evening I am hosting a special dinner at the Smokehouse, American Style Steakhouse where my passengers can select entrees like spare ribs, brisket and coconut crusted jumbo shrimp – sides include Cajun fries, creamed sweet corn. It’s a casual venue so we can pack our sports jackets this afternoon instead of tonight after dinner. We’ll also be celebrating 2 more birthdays and a 50th Anniversary so I’ve ordered a couple cakes.

Tomorrow my group will be some of the first off the cruise ship as I’m going to try once again to get us into Windsor Castle. You may recall that when we flew into London the worst snowstorm in years had shut down so many things including the castle. If our disembarkation goes smoothly we should have time to enjoy the castle before continuing to Heathrow for our direct Air Canada flight to Toronto.

What a wonderful festive cruise this has been.

Cunard is a very solid cruise line with a huge following. Last evenings repeat guest cocktail party was loaded to the tilt. I can certainly understand why Cunard guests return time after time. I know some of you hesitated as you thought Cunard would attract a little high brow cliental. As one of my passengers stated this departure is filled with hard working people that saved so they can now afford to enjoy cruises as Grand as this one. For many on board, this has been a cruise-of-a-lifetime. Some of the local men told me that they bought a suit especially for this cruise and they will probably never wear it again but their wives beamed and were so proud.

The Cunard staff works extremely hard to please every guest. It’s a tough life to be away from home especially this time of year.

When I get home I’ll have a few more gifts to wrap that I purchased during this journey and then I’ll be on my way to Moms. I’m one of the lucky ones that gets to spend Christmas surrounded by an incredible family. It’s a bit of a tradition that we enjoy a fondue on Christmas Eve and of course, Mom prepares a traditional Christmas dinner with Ukrainian specialities for our Christmas Day feast.

My travelers provide me with an extended family. We have spent so much time together over the last 3 decades. How lucky we are to explore this spectacular World that keeps getting smaller and smaller.

I’ve enjoyed some time during sea days to plan new future travel departures. The more I travel the pickier I get when it comes to itinerary planning. Many of you have told me that my latest tours have been your all-time favourites so that makes me happy as I continually work on raising the bar. Lately as you know other tour companies have been following my lead so I consider that a compliment.

I’d like to wish you, my traveling family a joyous Christmas.

Sadly Christmas for some is not a happy time but hopefully the Christmas spirit will still be able to fill a bit of their heart.

I’ll be back to blog posting during the New Years Mystery Journey. That tour sold-out in record time – 3 of the passengers that are currently with me on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth will be joining me over New Years too – that is what I call a devoted family!

Wish us a good flight home to Canada.

Merry Christmas – I Appreciate You All,

Bradley