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This morning, I ran my first painting class of the cruise.

To be running a class so early into the trip seemed a bad idea. Not only have folks not had a chance to settle in properly yet, but the only mention of the class was a line in the daily program, since there were no tutor/lecturer introductions featured in the welcome show last night. To top it all, our first port arrival is Rotterdam, were we were due to dock at around 12:30pm, after picking up the pilot at around 8am and sailing into the heart of the Netherlands for 4 hours. Surely, folks would want to be up on deck watching the scenery…

I needn’t have worried…

In fact, the turnout was so large that we were starting to worry if we would have enough palettes to go round. I was expecting about half a dozen people to turn up; at 10 minutes to 10, they were still pouring in, and we were frantically clearing spaces wherever we could, to accommodate them. I was also a little worried that I might lose my voice. Both Tracey and I have been nursing a light cold for the past week or so; nothing serious, but today, my voice has been a little croaky.

I’m pleased to say that the voice held out – just, the class went well and everyone seemed satisfied. By 12:30pm, we’d packed all the art stuff away and cleared the room, and were making our way to the bistro to get some lunch before heading ashore.

The weather in Rotterdam was murky and cold, with a low cloud hiding the tops of buildings. What better day, then, to walk to the city’s tallest building – Euromast. Despite the cold, it was a pleasant-enough walk through Het Park, which was quiet but for a few ducks. When we arrived at the tower, our debate as to whether to pay the 10.50 euros each to take the lift up to the viewing platform halfway up, and then the rotating panorama lift to the very top (184 metres), was a short one. Of course we should…

Needless to say; from the first viewing platform, the views were faint and not very expansive. Beyond that, the rotating lift was fun, and I can tell you that the inside of a cloud looks pretty much the same in all directions.

Once back down at ground level, and 21 euros lighter, we headed towards a pedestrian tunnel that we’d noticed on the map and were keen to see the inside of. Unfortunately, when we got there, we were disappointed to find it fenced off, and very closed.

Having exhausted all possibilities in that particular corner of the city, we meandered our way back towards the market place which is dominated by the huge curved market hall and distinctive yellow cube houses. Naturally, by the time we got there, the clouds were lifting nicely – the view from the top of the tower would have been lovely… maybe next time.

We treated ourselves to a cup of tea and a sit down in one of the cafes there, while Tracey Googled art shops. As it turned out, there was a good one barely five minutes walk away, from where we purchased a stock of back-up watercolour paper and extra brushes. The large turnout this morning had spooked us…

Finally, we caught the free shuttle bus back to the ship, feeling tired but satisfied with how we’d spent our time on the first port stop.

Once again, there have been delays in getting the new passengers on board, which has upset the show schedule this evening. I don’t think anyone is too bothered about that. As we sailed away from Rotterdam, there is a feeling that only now the voyage proper will begin. We have four days at sea as we had towards our next port-of call, Ponta Delgada in the Azores. Here’s hoping for a smooth crossing of the Bay of Biscay…

Peter Woolley

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