Sunday, September 28, 2008

Copenhagen, Denmark

After a day at sea, we arrived back at our starting point of Copenhagen. Since this was two 10 day back to back cruises, we had the luxury of getting off the ship & touring Copenhagen while the next set of passengers went through the boarding process.

The statue of Hans Christian Anderson's "Little Mermaid" is perhaps the most famous and most visited site in Copenhagen. It sits right in the harbor, just offshore, and in real life looks way smaller than it does in the above photo!

Also along the entire coast you can see how the Danes have harnessed the wind with windmills!

My favorite stop here was the main canal. So colorful! I think it will someday be the inspiration for one of my oil paintings!

We also toured Amalieborg Palace Square. The palace is the Royal Residence of the Queen when she is in Denmark. Of course, there were the usual guards pacing off in front of the entrance & ever watchful that no one should step onto the sidewalk even!

At the back of the square was a magnificent church with the 3rd largest cupola in the world (after St. Peter's in Rome & St. Mark's in London).

At the end of the day, we reboarded the Eurodam to begin the second leg of our journey. We had another day at sea before arriving at our next destination...Estonia!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy Autumn!

A few days late...but Happy Fall just the same!

My oil painting classes start up again today & I am totally excited! Here is another of the pictures that I completed in the last class.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Next port of call....Invergordon, Scotland....Home of....

NESSIE! That's right we went to Loch Ness! On the 45 minute drive from the pier to Invergordon, a quaint little town, we were treated to many sights. We say harbor seals basking in the sun along the coast. Beautiful rolling hills reminded us that we were in the Scottish Highlands and we were thrilled to see some Highland Cattle with their long coats & some recently sheared Highland Sheep.

Our first stop was at the Loch Ness Visitor's Centre. There was a 20 minute presentation where you walked through many different rooms that resembled caves. In each with a short film presentation on all aspects of the Loch Ness Monster--sonar sightings, visual sightings, incidental sightings, etc. Very informative, but it left me a little sad. I went in believing, but the evidence presented at this centre, leads one to believe that the monster never existed! But wait, what's this?

Oddly enough, there was another Loch Ness visitor's center about a mile down the road which supported the premise that the monster was/is real! We did not get to visit that one, however! Great fun! Here are a couple of "Nessie Watchers"!

Next we moved on to visit the ruins of Urquhart Castle which was built around the
1200s. You can see from the following photos how magnificient the Castle must have been in its day. We crossed a wooden bridge & then were able to climb up the spiral staircase that went up 5 stories. We say separate chambers, the ruins of the water gate and perhaps what was a courtyard. Built very close to the water, one can only wonder if any of the occupants every spied Nessie in the Loch.

Our next day was at sea, but I'll be back with another tour soon. So, what do you think....was/is the Loch Ness Monster real?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Here's a fun site...Click here to see what the #1 song was on the day you were born, the day you graduated high school, the day you got married, etc.

Of course, on the day I was born, this was the #1 song. Well, duh!

"Don't Be Cruel/ Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Sitting high atop Castle Rock which arose from an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle is exactly what one would expect a castle to look like. From inside the walls, it is easy to see how one might gain a sense of safety--the views alone are long-range and spectactular! Today, it is still the home of a Military Regiment with mostly a ceremonial function.

We climbed up, around, and through many of the buildings in this well-preserved fortress. We saw the Scottish Crown Jewels by actually walking right through the vault!

We descended into the depths and saw where prisoners of war were kept--it reminded me a bit of the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disney World.
We went into St. Margaret's Chapel (shown above) which if I remember correctly is the oldest standing building in Scotland.
All in all very impressive--and one of my favorite visits on this first part of our voyage!
Stay tuned as our next stop is at another very well-known spot! Hint: Something to do with a Loch (lake)!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland!

In order to visit this beautiful city so rich in history, we had to dock offshore and take tenders. If you're not familiar, tenders are similar to covered lifeboats and are used when the water close to land is too shallow for the ship. Here's a nice photo of our ship framed between two supports of the Railway Bridge. In the second photo, you can see of of the tenders dwarfed by this massive bridge.

This is the lovely main street of South Queensferry, Scotland, where we came ashore. While waiting for our tour to start we had a nice walk browsing the shops (and picking up a few souvenirs, of course!)from one end of the street to the other.
Next we moved on to take a tour of Edinburgh, which is the capital of Scotland.
I cannot say enough how magnificient this city is. We drove the so-called Royal Mile with Edinburgh Castle at one end and The Palace of Holyrood House (the Queen's Edinburgh residence) at the other. We visited newer parts of the city as well as very old, historical areas.

If you look closely, perhaps you can identify the statue in the photo of the famous sleuth!

Just look at those buildings! Notice which side of the stree they drive on, too!

A pretty view of the Scottish Highlands.

I don't want to make the post too long, so I will continue next time with our stop at Edinburgh Castle!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Finally blooming!

Back in May, I began blogging about this pretty flowers that return every year and usually bloom at the end of August. I promised I would be back with a photo of them blooming, and here it is! They have the most delicate-looking light orchid-colored flowers--I think they are just beautiful!

If anyone who reads this knows the type of plant/flower this is, I would love to know! They have been in my husband's family for years and years, but he doesn't know the name of them.

I'll be back soon with the next installment of our cruise vacation.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Newcastle Upon Tyne

Newcastle Upon Tyne is an interesting city in the Northeast part of England, situated on the Tyne River. The city is best known for the 6 bridges that span it. You can see a few of them in the photo above. The Tyne Bridge was designed and built by the same person who built the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, although the Tyne Bridge is on a much smaller scale. There is a swing bridge that rotates 180 degrees to allow tall ships to pass by. The most recent bridge is the Gateshead Millennium bridge which opens to allow ship traffic to pass through.

We had an interested visit to a 13th century Norman Castle Keep, built by Henry II. A Keep is a stone castle or tower that is used as a fortress or dungeon. It was a maze of up and down narrow staircases that in some cases seemed to lead nowhere. We made it down to the dungeon which was also used as a cemetary. As is true of most ancient places, we were told the castle is haunted, and in fact, the show "Most Haunted" did a segment there!

Stay tuned for a stop in Scotland

Monday, September 1, 2008

Vik, Flam & Stavanger, Norway

After a very early, brief stop in Vik, Norway, we docked a day in scenic Flam, Western Norway, on the Sognefjord. This reminded me of a "camping area" with lots of areas for tents & small cabin-type motels. Not much to see or do here, but the scenery was gorgeous as you can see from the photo above.
The following day we headed south again to the larger city of Stavanger, Norway. Stavanger became a large city after oil was discovered off its shore. We took a tour for a few hours & were treated to a 360 degree view from a telecommunications tower. A great view of the entire city:

Sweden way off in the distance:

Next we visited Stavanger Cathedral--the oldest Cathedral in Norway. It is named for Saint Swithun. I remember as a child my mother telling me the "legend" that if it rained on St. Swithun's day, it would rain for 40 days & 40 nights. Anyway, it was a beautiful cathedral with lots of figures and heads of bishops, etc. on the outside. Inside was the most beautiful pulpit, on which was carved & painted the entire bible story. See Adam & Eve at the top of the steps?

One of our last stops in this beautiful city was a stroll thru the oldest part of the city. The streets were narrow, cobblestoned and there were 160 preserved wooden homes, all with beautiful gardens, plants & flowers.

I must say that the Norwegian people as a whole are friendly and very helpful. Previously, in Alesund, we stopped in a bike repair shop to ask directions to a little shopping mall. The 20-something man who worked there actually left the shop and walked us a block to point us in the right direction! Our guide in Stavanger was very knowledgeable, extremely nice & had an endearing way of speaking. It seems they pronounce the letter "V" as "W", to vegetables, became wegetables with a long "a" sound and perhaps the cutest was when he talked about vikings/wikings.
After this, we set sail for our port of call in England...Newcastle Upon Tyne.