Well, a ship, actually. Last month my mom and I took a cruise along the coast of New England, starting in New York and going to Newport, Bar Harbor, Halifax, and then up to Quebec City and Montreal. I went to school in Rhode Island and have spent a lot of time in New England, but I’d never been to Canada before. Montreal is beautiful and amazing, definitely a city I could imaging living in someday. Everyone was very patient with my rusty French, and I even met some folks who spoke very little English which gave me a great chance to practice without feeling like I was imposing on people’s patience.
Neither my mom or I had ever been on a cruise before (except for a river journey in Russia, which was an entirely different type of adventure), but we both craved some place we could relax and just spend some time together. A cruise seemed ideal because you only have to unpack one time, and then the ship moves you from place to place. We chose the Crystal cruise line because my research turned them up time after time as one of the top cruise lines for vegetarians, and because they have a reputation for having great food and being incredibly accommodating, which I knew I would need as a gluten-free vegetarian. Pasta and pizza buffets were not going to cut it for me, and I didn’t want to spend my vacation scrounging or feeling like “special request girl” at every meal.
All our expectations were met, and then some. I don’t want to sound like a big ol’ ad for Crystal Cruises, but these folks are really, really nice, like professionally nice, but in a way that feels sincere and fun rather than obsequious or awkward. The food was creative and well-balanced, superb in both quality and presentation, and the portions were nicely petite which meant you could get away with ordering every dessert on the menu without needing to be rolled back up to your stateroom at the end of the meal.
There are some highlights from our trip after the cut…
“Ummm… wait!,” you may be saying. “These pictures are all of food! Whose vacation photos consist entirely of food?” (Well, mine, obviously, and yours, probably, if you are reading this blog.) But I did take some pictures of stuff other than food… let me just dig them out from under shots of giant butter sculptures and hard-boiled eggs made to look like penguins. Ah! Here we go… Here is our waiter Francis. We had a Head Waiter, a Senior Waiter and a Waiter. Francis is showing off the gluten-free bread he warmed for me each evening to accompany my meal. Oh, shoot. Food again.
Okay, let’s see… How about this one! A nice ocean view. What is that in the foreground? Oh yes, that is the Mozart tea, a lavish afternoon tea where all the waiters dress in frock coats and knee pants and they serve mountains of Viennese pastry. Yummm… Oh wait, more food again!
Here’s a stunning view from the tender (the little boat that takes you into shore in ports where the ship is to large to come right up next to the land).
A really, really old cemetery in Halifax. (I have a thing for photographing cemeteries. Gravestones and food, apparently.)
A beautiful fall scene on the street in Montreal where we stayed in a friend’s gorgeous flat.
It was an altogether great trip, but I don’t know how soon I would repeat it. We picked this type of trip – which we had never even considered before – because we both felt like we really needed to rest while still spending time together. But it ended up being more adventure-travel than spa-vacation (although the spa on the ship was marvelous) just because there was so much to do, both onboard the ship and at each port of call. Being both vegetarian and gluten-free was also still hard, despite how awesomely accommodating Crystal was. I think a wheat-eating veg or a GF meat eater would have no problem at all, but there were times when the dining room and buffets were closed and I didn’t have a lot of (or any) options at the more limited snack food spots onboard. Montreal was fascinating and beautiful, but really disabled-disabled – as far as I could tell folks who can’t manage loooong flights of stairs (up and down) can basically kiss the Metro goodbye except for a few select stops with elevators and escalators.
All in all, though, what an amazing time! I got to spend over two weeks with my mom eating great food and hanging out together. What could be better?