A Return to the Sea

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July 21st 2011
Published: July 21st 2011
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Thursday July 21st, 2011

Antwerp, Belgium - 7am

This morning we are laying alongside the dock in Belgium. The city is asleep, but the dock workers are scurrying to make our lines fast to the wharf. Jane is at stretch class and I have been standing at the rail on the upper deck gazing out over the City of Antwerp. Yesterday when we boarded the Ocean Princess after our six weeks in Britain and Ireland it was like coming back to a one of your favorite places; familiar, pleasant and comforting. Our time with our two different woofer hosts in Ireland is one of the highlights of the entire round the world odyssey. Their homes were filled with love and lots of wonderful pets. They started out as strangers and I can truly say that we ended up as friends for life. We hope that they will come to visit us in North Carolina and we can return the hospitality that they showed us. We worked hard, but it was worthwhile, good strenuous labor and it felt rewarding to get so much accomplished. I have not done that much physical labor in years. Unfortunately they fed us so well that I only lost two pounds in the entire six weeks. I cannot believe the amount of food that Irish people eat on a normal basis. I guess you never know when another famine might be around the corner. Economically things are very bad, but from what we experienced the Irish spirit is strong and they will weather this storm with no problem. The houses we lived in were filled with laughter and warmth. There was a constant inflow of friends and family that dropped by to give us advice and keep everyone updated on all the local news in the village. Jane learned tons of new recipes and as an extra bonus she no longer needs her blood pressure medicine! Our time in Ireland was very relaxing for her and it really felt like we were living there, not just visiting.
It rained continuously the last couple of days in Ireland and that persisted as we drove up into Northern Ireland on Monday the 18th. In Larne we took the car ferry over to Scotland and only then did we finally get some sun. It took awhile, but I finally found the original Bal Gray Estate in the countryside outside the city of Glasgow, Scotland. The plantation on the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina that is the basis for my Bal Gra Harbor Development is named after this estate in Scotland. Thomas Pollock came from Scotland in the 1700’s and named his North Carolina plantation after these ancient family lands in Scotland. Somehow over the years in America the “y” got dropped and it is known simply as Bal Gra now. It was 9:30 pm by the time I found the magnificent Manor House tucked back in the woods next to a gorgeous lake. Not to be deterred by the late hour, I rang the doorbell and the lady of the house listened patiently to my explanation of our visit. Her husband joined her; they both smiled and then invited us inside. We spent a wonderful 45 minutes enjoying tea, cookies and discussing the history of the house and the Pollock family. They knew the house belonged to the Pollock family, but were unaware of the connection to the Plantation in North Carolina. It was an excellent end to all the internet research that went into finding the right place in Scotland. My thanks to our first woofer hosts Dave and Finn Langford, “Detective Dave’s” help was instrumental in finding the right location.
As we left the Bal Gray House it started to rain again and so we headed south to look for clear skies. We ended up driving all night and when the sun came up we were in the charming Cotswold village of Chipping Camden in England. Fresh pastries and milk at the little local Coop food store really hit the spot and gave us the fuel we needed to continue on toward Dover. When we finally checked into a hotel in Dover on the waterfront next to the Cruise Ship dock Tuesday afternoon we were exhausted and went straight to bed.
It feels wonderful to be back at sea and I will let you know how we enjoy Belgium today.


21st July 2011

What a trip!!!
You guys are really hitting all the high spots. I am sure you are going to enjoy the ship again. By the way we have booked a passage from Cape Town to Genoa for March/April next year. We then plan to sail in Croatia & hopefully find a Home Swap in the Greek Islands. We hope the family will join us there. All the best. George & Venitia.
21st July 2011

Wonderful Stories
Michael, I have loved following your travels via the blog. I see we Flannelly descendants share the gift of story-telling and the determination of detectives. I hope to meet you and Jane one of these days. Best regards, Maureen

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