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Further Afield's Journal

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Location: 
PARIS & LONDON
Entry By: 
Joe F.

Going back to our school days, we remember this title by Charles Dickens and the fictional novel based on the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror and all the other grotesque behaviour of the revolutionary forces and the military armies that fought to suppress the revolution. 

 

 

 

A plethora of books, plays, films, musical shows, and school dramas have appeared over the years on the subject of the French Revolution.

Within the last generation these cities have seemed to become much nearer, not only commercially but proximity related. There was a time when going to France was only by boat or ship, then airplanes were taking us there in a few hours, depending on where you flew from, getting connections from wherever. 

The first mention of a tunnel between England and France was in 1802 when a French engineer muted the idea. Towards the end of the 20th century talks had reached an agreement about building this tunnel. The Channel Tunnel began construction in 1988 and the railway line was operating in 1994. We can now travel from London to Paris or vice versa in 2 hours and 15 minutes, departing and arriving at the city centres of each city. The world of invention has by extension made the world a smaller place. 

The Channel Tunnel was the largest project to have been completed in world construction history, a railway line 32 miles (51 kilometres) from Folkestone on the English coast to Calais in France. It’s not one but three tunnels, one going each direction and a service tunnel in between, that’s close to one hundred miles (155 kilometres) in construction.

The project to build the undersea leg began in 1986. Problems appeared from the beginning particularly with safety issues. Financial Investors and stakeholders were concerned, the difficulties were addressed and eventually in 1994 the tunnel began operating. There are 500 undersea train trips a day, at speeds of up to 100 miles (160 kilometres) per hour going through the tunnel. For passengers and freight this has dramatically shortened the travel time between London and Paris. In 2018 the number of passengers that travelled through the Tunnel was 19 million between Britain and France. An extended rail service now runs to Brussels.

Some of the engineering works that went into this ‘Wonder of the World’ such as the ‘Laser-guided tunnel-boring machines’, can be studied as a University thesis in itself.

Let’s go back in history and take a look at London, England. The Roman Empire had achieved in possessing most of Central Europe as we know it today. They invaded England in the 1st century. Sailing up the River Thames they established a settlement which they named Londinium the Latin name for the Roman City, surrounding the area with fortified walls and other medieval boundaries. The city expanded and after all these years the Roman influence can still be seen in England and Wales. The Romans never got to Scotland. The Roman Empire fell in the 5th century and so the Legions were called back to Rome. Most of England’s citizens returned to their old Pagan traditions and beliefs.

Various invaders left their mark on England over the centuries. William the Conqueror ‘The Duke of Normandy’ appointed himself King in 1066 after ’The Battle of Hastings’ and England has been a monarchy ever since. 

Today London is the capital of England, a city with a population of 9 million people covering a huge land mass. London’s influence on the world has been greatly acknowledged. Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens, Politicians and Discoverers have had their names recorded in the annals of history.

London is the commercial hub of Great Britain. Through the ages an Empire was created, explorers left her shores conquering lands and discovering places, examples Australia and islands in the Pacific. With this expansion, citizens from these countries have the right to travel to Britain and London in particular, their right being by way of the Commonwealth. Looking at the wars worldwide that Britain were involved in, the loss of lives resulted in a massive decline in the population, and so people from abroad were needed to populate the country. Today a diverse range of people from different ethnic and social backgrounds make up the demographics and the characteristics of the country. By extension their influence has a remarkable impact, be it in medicine, science, engineering, education, religion, construction and agriculture.

Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire, in England Roman Britain was overseen by a hierarchy of bishops and priests. The status quo of beliefs continued as was in Britain up to the Middle Ages, these dates are in question depending on what you read, events such as the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Christopher Columbus discovering America in 1492 or the Protestant Reformation 1517 are sometimes used. The history of London is interwoven in the expansion of the nation. The seat of power both secular and religious, the Palace of Westminster is seat of parliament, Canterbury Cathedral is the symbolic seat as the worldwide leader of the Anglican Communion who is the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop crowns the Kings and Queens of England, the Cathedral is the burial place of royals, and the Archbishop is next in line to princes in order of importance in England, and Buckingham Palace in London is the home of the Royal Family of England in London.

T.S Eliot wrote the book ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ about Thomas Beckett who was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1170, Henry II argued with Beckett over tax policy, church control of land and the legal rights of the clergy. With his demand ‘Can anyone rid me of this wretched Priest?’ he had his question answered and Beckett was murdered in the Cathedral. Pope Alexander III canonized him to Sainthood where he is venerated by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

Comparing the cities of Paris and London, due to their stance in history and as capitals of conflict and survival is interesting.

Paris the city of love and lovers, of dreams, of art, of fashion and of beauty. All of the aforementioned qualities of the city are used in advertising Paris or a product that one is promoting. World fashion shows, trade displays, tourism events, sports, films and entertainment, if one can get this item exhibited in Paris then they have achieved their dream. 

Paris or London, there’s the choice. Both built on a river. Older cities where you can study the architecture, museums, galleries, churches and cathedrals, there is a myriad of places to go and visit. Markets and restaurants, bars and cafes. The narrow streets of yesteryear, hotels and houses perched on cliff edges, stone paved roads and walkways. These routes that open up to where you can find yourself facing St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Tower of London, the beautiful river Thames, where you can watch University students rowing their boats in preparation for some University or college challenge. The same scene can have you in Paris, a more Romantic setting, walking along the river Seine, where resting in coffee bars, attract you to people watch as couples stroll arm in arm, see the boats bobbing on the water, or the shadow of Notre Dame swallowing up that scenic promenade, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. Trees enveloping you along the river, to sit in the shade and wonder if the spirits of days gone by are with you. 

Hotels in both cities have each got a charm that compliments your desires, should it be a pre theatre show, a concert or whatever. Choose your hotel from the heart of the city of London the Corinthia, the Sofitel, the Trafalgar or Sonder The Voyage, there’s one for every taste.
In Paris tempt yourself to, The Peninsula Paris, the Grand du Palais Royal, The Dorchester, the Shangri-La Paris. 

What are the reasons to travel? 
Well it takes us out of our comfort zones and inspires us to see, taste and experience new adventures. It constantly challenges us to explore new surroundings, engage with different cultures and people. 
 

 

THE DOURO RIVER

Location: 
PORTUGAL
Entry By: 
Joe F.

The Douro River rises in the Sierra da Urbion in northern Spain. It flows west through Spain then meanders south creating the border between Spain and Portugal before flowing west again and entering the Atlantic Ocean at Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. The Douro translate as the 'river of gold'. When cruising on the river in the twilight of the evening, the sun's reflection on the water explains why this is so called. 

 

 

 

The Douro River valley is the birthplace of Port Wine, that’s now internationally recognized. The Rabelo boats that can be seen on the river are a flat bottom boat that were historically used to ferry barrels of Port Wine to the city of Porto. 

Portugal has a microclimate with hot summers and cold winters, the slate rich soil creates an ideal agricultural environment for the cultivation of grapes. The geographical contours of the country is a kaleidoscope of colour, mountains ranging in scale from 2,350 to 900 meters gives this shadow of protection to the region. Springtime has the vineyards coming to life then the grapes are appearing green and dark, as they ripen. Watch the protection nets hanging from the rows of vines. Decks of vineyards on the slopes give that tiered effect to help drainage and prevent landslides. For a country its size, Portuguese wine is very popular in the world ranking of wines. 

The Douro river has undergone extensive development and changes throughout the 20th century. With the steep gradients and rocky terrain, dams and locks have governed the flow of water. Hydroelectric power stations have been built, you experience the thrill of going through the deepest Lock in Europe. Built in the 1960s it was the first dam on the Douro; the rise of the water is 35 metres, the dam is 85 meters long and 12 metres wide. A number of power stations have been built, while reducing the need for fossil fuels somewhat, these dams have a restriction on the flooding that the valley’s were prone too this in turn has given farmers a steadier income. 

Travelling on the cruise ships that traverse the Douro, we get to see Portugal from that beautiful perspective of the water. No seasickness, (for anyone prone to it), docked beside the towns and cities that we visit. Meeting the local people, tasting their produce, packing and unpacking once. The safety and knowledge of being only a phone call away should one need medical attention.

Written By Joe Fahy

The Panama Canal

Location: 
Central America
Entry By: 
Joe F.

The Panama Canal is the artificial body of water that links the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. This canal was opened for trade in 1914 after being in a construction phase for over 30 years. The notion of opening a canal across the Isthmus of Panama goes as far back as 1534. 

 

The Spanish Fleet of ships that ploughed through the Atlantic Ocean in the 1600’s were the quintessential template of their naval might. They carried cargo or troops they were built for both with a capacity for as many as 60 cannons. Spanish explorers had conquered a considerable amount of the western areas of North and South America. The idea of an easier passage from Spain to Peru was of vital importance. Yes, ships going around Cape Horn, at the very tip of South America had been achieved but sailing ships were having huge losses in such hazardous conditions. The loss of lives, ships, merchandise and finances were big issues. 

Overland crossing proved futile, mountainous terrain and rivers of fierce velocity were a major problem. Geopolitical tensions in these areas were frightening, Indigenous communities and their way of life could not be tampered with. 

In 1668 an English philosopher Sir Thomas Brown speculated that an opening at both sides should be started, then leave the rest to nature, a channel would eventually form. No one was interested in that hare brained idea.

The Darien scheme was launched in 1698. Darien had this idea of establishing a new colony in the gulf of Darien, it was going to be named New Caledonian. Finance was going to be raised from English, Dutch and Scottish investors. With this colony it was believed that a land mass could be the connection between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. £500,000 was raised from regular people who had £5.00 to invest, but there were others that invested more with the intention of creating some plantations, this was about half the wealth of Scotland’s treasury. The English and Dutch parliaments were forced to withdraw from pressure by the East India Company leaving the Scots as the sole investors. Thousands volunteered to travel on board the ships that were leaving for New Caledonia. 16 ships in total left Scotland over a period of three months, with over 3,000 people on board. Disaster struck almost immediately, on the voyages many fell ill and died, arriving on the mosquito-infested scrap of land their first task was to bury their dead. Yellow fever and other diseases were to claim the lives of more than 2,000 of those who’d landed. The scheme was abandoned. It is believed that this scheme was the main precursor for the Act of Union being passed between Scotland and England forming Great Britain in 1707. The Darien National Park in Colombia which extends to 575,000 hectares occupies this region today.

France started to build the Panama Canal in 1881 after many negotiations between Panama and Colombia. Eight years later the company was in financial difficulties. The death rate was enormous because of the dense forests. Venomous snakes, spiders and other insects, yellow fever and malaria killed thousands. The climate had disastrous consequences, with walls of rocks, trees and soil being washed down on the excavated channels. The French government and companies that had contracts with them had spent $290 million and the estimated deaths were 22,000 men. The government decided to stop the operation. 

The American government supported a number of companies to take over the project and finally in 1914 the Panama Canal was completed and opened for business. It’s a lock canal system with two high level artificial lakes to lift ships up and over the Continental Divide. There are 8 sets of locks. The length of the Canal is 80 kilometres or 50 miles. All vehicles, containers and cruise ships pay tolls of various prices depending on size or cargo. The number of ships allowed at a time is 32. 

Crossing through the Panama Canal on a cruise vessel is an adventure in itself. The Captain relinquishes his duties to the pilot from Panama who takes the vessel through the canal. Prior to the ship’s arrival the authorities carry out several documentation control checks. Watching the ships and boats that come into the port while others wait to enter, it’s an awakening to mankind’s achievements.

The Panama Canal is classed as one of the modern day ‘Seven Wonders of the World’.

 

 

Unveil the Magic

Location: 
French Polynesian Islands
Entry By: 
Joe F.

 

The Polynesian Islands are situated in the South Pacific Ocean. Evidence of habitation dates back about 2,000 years. The first settlers have their DNA traced to Asia. The beliefs, myths, cultures and religion of these people are still evident on the islands to this present day. 

 

 

 
European explorers discovered the islands in the 16th century. In 1842 the island of Tahiti became a French protectorate and a colony in 1880. The other islands such as Bora Bora, Moorea, Raiatea, Taha and many others are included in the French Polynesian or Society Islands. The reason France wanted dominance in this region was mainly because of economics, the trade routes had opened to Asia, South America and the Pacific islands.
 
Cruising and vacationing in the region is an awakening experience to another world. Being sometimes described as the poet John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. 
 

Marine life gives you an up close and personal perspective of what’s going on beneath the surface. Crystal clear water that allows you to see tiger and grey sharks, manta rays, giant turtles, barracudas and dolphins. 

Bora Bora island is regarded as one of the most beautiful islands in the world for snorkelling or scuba diving. Photograph the turquoise colours of the ocean, that’s home to plants, sea animals, fish, pearls and coral reefs. The overwater bungalows. Mount Otemanu, the highest point on the island, is at just over 700 meters and is of volcanic origin. 
 
Tahiti, the largest of the islands, is renowned for its stunning beauty, its cultural heritage, music and dance. The festivals that showcase traditional rhythms, melodies and movements that have survived through generations. Colours and patterns of Tahitian costumes are an essential part of the visual spectacle of these festivals. The black pearls that are cultivated in Tahiti are a significant part of their economy.

Gastronomy, one of the major differences between culinary and gastronomy is the emphasis not just on food preparation but also on the ingredients, how they are grown and the social significance they have to a region they originated from. Join in one of the delightful celebrations of not just a meal but also on the introduction to what you are eating and drinking. Choices of foods and desserts. 1. Poisson Cru: A quintessential Tahitian dish of raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. 2. Vanilla-infused Cuisine: Famous for its vanilla dishes used for main courses or desserts. 3. Tamara’a Ma’a Tahiti: This is a communal fest where the cooking involves the tradition of using an underground oven. You can have a variety of dishes from roasted pork, fish, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes. 4. Roulettes: The ultimate dining experience, this mobile food truck offers a variety of local and international cuisines.
 
Adventure activities to explore on the islands. Cycling, hiking, swimming, scuba diving with the marine wildlife, cruising through the islands, shows and musicals, fishing, or whale and dolphin watching. Volleyball games being played on beaches of pearl white sand. Walking through the lush rainforests.

 Stories from yesteryear that we thought Hollywood had made up.

On Tahiti Island hear of the exploits of Fletcher Christian. In 1787 the HMS Bounty set sail from England for the Polynesian island of Tahiti. Captain William Bleigh was in charge of the 45 man crew, their expedition was to take a cargo of breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies for agricultural growth. Captain Bleigh was a strict disciplinarian, a tough taskmaster, with no sympathy for a slackening crewman.

The ship dropped anchor in Tahiti in October 1787. The crew were in awe of the island’s beauty, its people and especially the women folk. After spending almost six months collecting the breadfruit plants it was time to leave. Some of the crew and the women on the island were heartbroken. Only three weeks after leaving the island, the first Mate, Fletcher Christian seized control of the ship with the help of the majority of the crew. William Bleigh and 18 other sailors were set adrift, not everyone was happy with this mutiny but there was no more room on the small boat so they had to remain on board the Bounty. Captain Bleigh and his crew made it back to England in 1790. 

The Bounty returned to Tahiti where they picked up 18 people, 6 local men and 12 women. Some of the original crew remained on Tahiti. The HMS Pandora went in search of the mutineers after news of their mutiny reached England. The sailors on Tahiti were arrested and taken back to England. Christian and the others travelled on until they arrived at the uninhabited island of Pitcairn, 1,300 miles from Tahiti. They burned the ship to avoid detection and built huts to survive. They lived undiscovered until 1808. Of the 26 sailors who parted company with Captain Bleigh and the others, only John Adams was still living. It’s recorded that there were various disputes, illness and jealousy between the sailors and natives leading to the loss of lives.

Descendants of the Christian and the other sailors still live on the islands, as well as in New Zealand, Australia and in the USA.
 
In recent decades exploration of the waters around Pitcairn island have recovered some artifacts from where the Bounty sank as the fire ripped through it. 
 
Films, books and songs have been written about ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. 
 

Big Wheels Keep on Turning

Location: 
Mississippi River
Entry By: 
Joe F.

The Mississippi River has its source on the Canadian border and flowing south to the Gulf of Mexico, between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains, through 10 states of the US, with its tributaries draining 20 others and 1,500,000 square miles of land mass, this river has a significant impression on the country. It’s 2,340 miles or 3,760 kilometres long.

There are over 30 locks and dams, regulating the flow of water and producing electricity at various locations. 175 million tons of freight are estimated to be transported each year. For farming, it’s one of the most fertile farming lands in the USA. In the 19th and early 20th centuries huge amounts of agricultural and industrial products were carried on. Cities and towns developed on the river.

 

The Native American people have lived along the river for thousands of years mainly surviving on hunting and fishing but many have had a profound impact with agriculture and urban civilization. With the arrival of Europeans from the 16th and 17th centuries onwards the river and its tributaries served as major transportation arteries for adventurers, farmers, prospectors and spectaculars. The river has been a border or dividing line through the country. It has developed into a major influence on its path. 

 

During the American Civil War in the 1860s the Mississippi was vital for the transportation of troops, equipment, provisions, horses, tanks, livestock for troops rations, hospitals, tents, medical supplies, staff, mail and whatever else was needed. 

 

Lumber yards and moving logs. 

Rivers have been used for moving timber whenever possible. The heyday of the lumber operations was from about 1860 until the early 1900s. Logs were strapped together and floated down stream like giant rafts. Hundreds of timber companies had set up businesses along the river banks. The lumber was mainly from Pine forests in the northern states, with both Pines and Hardwoods further south. 

 

For the development of the tourism industry, hundreds of kilometres of trails have been laid out for hiking, biking and walking. Horse tracking, fishing and canoeing are also available. Cruising is a major attraction, where you can travel from 7 to 10 or more days. Along these routes there are Hotels, Lodges or Camping grounds. The trails vary from 2 to 42 kilometres.

 

Visitor centres include, Native American villages, Civil War Sights and Museums, Wine Tours and Tasting, Period Houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, Churches, Memphis, St. Louis, Tennessee, St. Anthony’s Falls or New Orleans.

 

Today’s tourism business on the Mississippi River sees millions of people visit the area every year, spending $20 billion and supporting more than 300,000 jobs. Many visitors have different reasons for been there. Family connections down through the years. Walking in the footsteps of statesmen and women. Retirees tracing their journey of life. The twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota have a multiplicity of attractions to offer.

 

Moving down the river to the City of St. Louis where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi we think of the characters in Mark Twain’s novels, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn who lived in Hannibal, on the banks of the river. Baton Rouge, capital city of Louisiana, a major port on the Mississippi.

 

From trade and commerce to farmers that tilled the soil, planted the seeds and harvested their rewards of cereals, root crops, corn, soybeans, fruits from these fertile fields along the river bed. The fisheries, and bird sanctuaries that have grown, developed and populated in the floodplains of this area.

 

Theatres have thrived from stories of the river, these stories that have been adapted for Films, Plays, Song and Dance. The tourism board estimates that the coming years are expecting to see an expansion in the river cruise business.

 

The home of Blues, Jazz and Rock and Roll. 

“Left a good job in the city, 

Working for the man every night and day

And I never lost one minute of sleep 

Worrying about the way things might have been”.

 

“Big wheel keeps on turning 

Proud Mary keeps on burning 

And we’re rolling 

Rolling, rolling on the river.”

 

Here’s a song written by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, released in 1969 about the riverboat Proud Mary, that sailed the Mississippi for 50 years. The name was changed to Mary Elizabeth after a change of ownership. It was built in 1905 and was used for many different projects. On the Hudson River in New York, it ferried convicted criminals to Sing-Sing State Prison.

 

On Lake Pontchartrain it was a ferry boat. Later a mail boat. Then in 1928 it was refitted as a Tug Boat on the Mississippi until it was retired for scrap in 1978. Now her legacy lives on as Proud Mary. Recorded by various artists including Ike and Tina Turner, and Solomon Burke.

 

The Jazz festival in New Orleans invites you to join in the fun. The Country and Western Music Hall of Fame, and the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville or head for Memphis, Tennessee to the heart of soul music.

 

The intimacy of the river boats are the outstanding features, a group of about 400 people plus the crew is a comfortable number. The shore excursions are convenient to the towns and cities. Evening entertainment on most cruises.

 

 

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