Category Archives: 2015 Summer – Voyage of the Vikings Cruise

2015 Aug 28 – Day 35 – Bar Harbor, Maine

We had a lovely day in Bar Harbor.  The sun shone all day, there was a light breeze, and the temperature was pleasantly warm.  There is no geographical sites unless you drive up to Acadian National Bark, which we drove through last summer.  The museum is Native American history, which I have seen lots of over the years.  What is attractive in Bar Harbor is the seaside, the shops (assuming you shop), the clapboard buildings and the beautiful estate ‘cottages.’

Bar Harbor was a hotel town back in the day.  There were enough hotel rooms for 2,500 people, but in the late 1800’s some wealthy influential people began to build summer cottages to ‘get away from the city.’  Gradually the hotel rooms disappeared and more and more cottage cropped up.  Over the last 10-15 years, Bar Harbor has become increasingly  popular as a summer holiday destination and there are many new ‘old style’ hotels and many of the grand cottages are B & Bs..



The harbour navigation pilot getting off and US Border and Immigration arriving.IMG_1922 IMG_1924 IMG_1925 IMG_1927 IMG_1929 IMG_1931 IMG_1932We had not booked a tour here since we drove through the area and stayed in Bar Harbor two nights last summer.  We just wandered around the town, tried to locate a cache (DNF – Did Not Find) in the Village Green, walked the Shore Path (we did find a cache along here), and wandered back to town again.  We were in no hurry to be anywhere, the weather was pleasant and sat on a bench at the harbor for almost an hour before getting on a tender back to the ship.

IMG_1940 IMG_1942 IMG_1973 IMG_1954 IMG_1956 IMG_1970 (2) IMG_1957 IMG_1962 IMG_1967 IMG_1968 IMG_1969 IMG_1978There were two HAL ships in the harbor today.  We met the Maasdam at St. John’s and it was also anchored in Bar Harbor.  The Maasdam will be ending its current cruise in Boston tomorrow too.  After that the Veendam and the Maasdam will be on an alternating rotation going up the New England/Canada coast for the fall colour season.  We had thought the Carnival Splendor that was also berthed in St. John’s might be in Bar Harbor today but they didn’t show.  The two HAL ships made for a busy enough town as it was.

IMG_1979 IMG_1980 IMG_1981 IMG_1990 IMG_1993 IMG_1995 IMG_1997 IMG_1998 IMG_2001 IMG_2008The crew of the Veendam has been working very had over the last few weeks making sure everything aboard is in tip-top working condition because today in Bar Harbor they undergo a Coast Guard inspection which determines whether or not we set sail again.  I am pretty confident we will pass.

“Tha-tha-that’s all folks.”  The exploring (via cruise ship anyway) has ended.  Bar Harbor is our last port of call. Everyone on the ship – passengers and crew – was screened by US Border and Immigration officials this morning.  Tomorrow morning at 7 am we dock at Boston’s Black Falcon Terminal Cruiseport and everyone will be off the ship by 9:30.  Tonight we pack.

When we get to Boston we will take a cab into the city and locate the condo we have rented for the week.  We will also have to find a grocery store and lay is some provisions, especially breakfast foods.  We can drop off our luggage at 11:30 but we can’t get the key until 3.  The condo is located in Beacon Hill, near the Boston Common, right on the historical Black Heritage Trail so we will probably walk that route before going to the condo to settle in.  Another week of adventure beckons.  Stay tuned….

2015 Aug 26 & 27 – Days 33 & 34 – At Sea and Halifax, NS

We had nice weather on our sea day between St. John’s, NL and Halifax, NS.  The water was a lovely shade of blue/green – very like the colour we saw embedded in the icebergs.  And, surprise, surprise, we actually did a couple of things.

At 10 am there was a presentation about the crew’s lives on board – their contracts (usually 8-10 months), training (HAL maintains training universities at Manilla in the Philippines and Jakarta in Indonesia), cabins (2 people per), entertainment (games, parties, movies, DVD, excursions), religious services (provided for Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish if any), food (their own chefs that cook the favorite foods of both nationalities), plus information about entertainers contracts, officers mess and cabins and much more.  It was very interesting.

At 11 am we attended the Mariner’s Reception and received our Silver Medallions representing 300 days sailed with Holland America Line.  Bronze is 100 days.  We received that on our very first cruise on a HAL ship in 2009 when we went around the world in 128 days.  Gold Medallion is for 500 days and there were about 50 people on the ship who have that level. They awarded five more at the reception.  The biggie though is Platinum for 700 days or more.  There were 8 people in the room that already have their platinum medallions – they brought them with them and wore them. Not something I would do, but whatever.  Three people were  awarded platinum; one fellow has sailed over 900 days on HAL ships.  I wish it was me.  I don’t think that will happen anytime soon though.  The total accumulated HAL sailing days of all the people in the room was over 85,000!  That is a lot of loyal cruisers.

IMG_1914After the reception with the free champagne we walked to the other end of the ship and had the Mariner’s Lunch with more free champagne – always a good thing.  Holland has a lot of people who cruise with them over and over – due in a large part to the varied itineraries and the smaller ships – and this ship has over 500 four and five star Mariner’s aboard.  All people who have taken a Holland cruise before get invited to a Mariner’s luncheon. They space them out throughout the cruise so some people had their lunch quite early on.  Stars are the reward program represented by the number of days you cruise on HAL ships PLUS extra ‘days’ earned via onboard spending – shore excursions, shopping, photos, drinks, etc.  Not gambling though.  At four star you get discounts in the shops, at the specialty restaurants, priority boarding and priority tenders, and free laundry services.  The highest is five stars and that constitues 1000 sea and shopping credit days.

With such a jam-packed morning we had to take the afternoon off and read and rest in our cabin.   I worked a bit though and published my St. John’s blog.

Today we arrived in Halifax under cloudy skies with rain predicted – which we got in buckets off and on throughout the day.  As in St. John’s we had spent several days in Halifax last year on our cross-Canada drive so we didn’t need to go sightseeing.  Instead we walked down the pier a short distance and went to the Immigration Museum at Pier 21.

IMG_1837 IMG_1843Last summer when we went to view the exhibits in the immigration museum we were asked if anyone in our families had immigrated to Canada and if so the staff in the archive room would be happy to look up the ships, dates, ports of entry, etc.  I was very excited that they found my grandmother along with my mother and her three sister’s entry into Canada in 1930.  We could not pin down the information for my grandfather when he came about a year earlier because there were 6 William Young’s listed.

Since our visit last year I had received some extra information from my cousin in Scotland that I hoped would enable the Archive staff to find what ship my grandfather arrived on and when.  They did and  we discovered something new in the process.  My grandfather had come to Canada once before – from 1910-1915 and he lived and worked in Vancouver.  He returned to Scotland for WWI military service then came back in 1930 eight and a half months before his wife and the four girls.  I have never heard about that earlier time in Canada.

We were also able to get copies of the ship’s manifests from my mother and her sister’s return to Scotland in 1937 after their parents had died.  And of my mother’s solo return to Canada in 1939 when she was nine.  (Her sisters were all older and working in Scotland and mom returned to live with the couple that had fostered her after the deaths of her parents).

And not to forget John’s family we found the manifests for the arrival from England of his maternal grandfather and later his grandmother and her three children (John’s mother was 4 at the time).

The final icing on the family history cake was getting a print of the recruitment acceptance paper for my mother’s foster father Alvin G. Isaac (who I knew as my Grandpa)  when he joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in 1917!  What a great day!

After we finished getting about five pounds of paper to add to my luggage we located a few geo-caches, found a great pub to have lunch, and wended our way back to the ship in time for sail-away at 4 pm.

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The back of Government HouseIMG_1854 IMG_1857 IMG_1859 IMG_1858 IMG_1867 IMG_1869 IMG_1871 IMG_1881 IMG_1880 IMG_1876

Our ship’s reflection in an officd building window near the port terminal.



When we arrived in Halifax the ship was greeted at the pier by a piper and a drummer and a different piper and drummer played for us as we cast off the lines and sailed away towards our final port of call Bar Harbor, Maine. Despite the intermittent rainfall we had a good time in Halifax.

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We only have one more port so at dinner we exchanged emails and addresses with our table mates. We had an hilarious time every evening.  Nice folks, good times.

IMG_1909 Bob and Barbara from The Villages in Florida. They also had the cabin next door.IMG_1906


Jim and Lynn from Victoria.  Fellow BC people.IMG_1905





Shiela and Lois from the Seattle area.  Travelling companions.  Lois is widowed and Shiela left her husband at home just days before their wedding anniversary and also over her birthday.  Lovely ladies.  Such fun.IMG_1911


And little ole’ us.

2015 Aug 24 & 25 – Days 31 – At Sea and St. John’s, Newfoundland

Our cruise is rapidly coming to an end.  We will be in St. John’s today – noon to 8 pm – then only two more ports before we are back in Boston.  I better start deciding what we are going to go see when we are there.  I have a long list.

The weather was quite nice yesterday as we sailed from Greenland.  We managed to walk 2 ½ miles on the deck.  Other than that it was the usual reading, visiting friends and puzzles.  We had our second to last formal night as well.  Another one tomorrow.  There have been nine on this cruise – every sea day, bar one.  No other cruise we have been on has had so many formals so close together.  Many people are not happy about it either.  The dining room has more and more vacant tables with every formal as people just don’t want to bother getting gussied up so often.

Since we spent four days in St. John’s on our trip last summer we only have a couple of things we want to see and some geo-caches we would like to find.  The weather is not so good today; windy and foggy when we woke up but high cloud by the time we entered the harbour and docked; with no rain.

St. John’s has a hidden harbour.  It is hard to see from the sea as there is quite a narrow entrance channel with rocky hills on each side.  The width between the rocks is 90 meters.  Our ship is 31 meters wide so if there is a strong wind, going in or out of St. John’s harbour becomes quite a challenge.  Once you have sailed between the rocks though a large sheltered harbour is in front of you.  The pier is right down town so it was an easy – albeit, uphill – walk to shops and restaurants.IMG_1710 IMG_1699 IMG_1704 IMG_1705 IMG_1709 IMG_1712St. John’s was very welcoming.  There was a young girl and boy playing guitar and singing, two female police officers on their black horses, a Labrador Retriever and a Newfoundland dog and several St. John’s Ambassadors handing out maps and answering questions.  Really nice.

IMG_1789 IMG_1716 IMG_1766First of the two things I missed last summer was the Provincial War Memorial; considered to be one of the most beautiful memorials in the world.  There were lovely blooming flowers at street level, many wreaths lying at the base and memorial plaques along the front.  There was even a recently placed (2013) plaque in memory of those who fought and died during the War of 1812-15 between “Upper Canada” and the USA.

IMG_1719IMG_1735 IMG_1738We located a cache at the NATO Peacekeepers Memorial and then walked down the street to St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, which was open for tours.  The church took 40 years to build and then was heavily damaged in one of the three Great Fires of St. John’s in the late 1800s.  It took 40 more years to restore.  Lovely building and very nice ladies to show you around.

The United Church was across the street, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was a couple of blocks away and the Basilica of St. John the Baptist (Roman Catholic) was only a few blocks above that.

IMG_1769 IMG_1767Of course, the thing we like most about St. John’s is the houses and it was fun to walk the streets and see all the varied and bright colours.

The second thing I wanted to see that we missed last summer was the O’Mara Pharmacy Museum and even though we walked along Water Street to where it was supposed to be we couldn’t find it.

IMG_1743 IMG_1774 IMG_1776 IMG_1775 IMG_1778 IMG_1779We were unable to find the next cache we hunted for but successfully found the third.  No luck with the fourth one though.  It was located in the rocks at the base of a sculpture right on the pier beside the ship but there were too many muggles (non-geocaching folks) around and cars passing by for us to spend the time shifting things around to find it.

IMG_1744 IMG_1785We went on board and got changed for dinner.  All aboard was 7:30 and sail away was 8 o’clock.  The side thrusters on the ship pushed us away from the pier and then the captain swung the ship 180 degrees so we could sail out the harbour.  Just as we cleared the channel we were saluted with musket fire from up on Signal Hill.  A nice farewell to a nice day.

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2015 Aug 23 – Day 30 – Nanortalik, Greenland

At 7 am the ship anchored off the coast of Nanortalik (Nan-or-ta-lick), Greenland, a small sealing and fishing community about 78 km west of Qaqortoq, as the crow flies.  Nanortalik is often described as a colder version of the California Pacific coast region because of the small variance in annual temperatures.  Summer highs hit 6C (44 F) and winter lows are about -3C (24 F).  The original community, called Nennortalik, was settled by Danish fishermen in 1770.  It was located behind the hills at the back of the current village which was founded in 1797. The name means, “Place of the polar bears,” or “Where the polar bears go.”  The people are a mix of Inuit and Danish.  Mountain climbers come here from all over the world to climb nearby Ketil Mountain and Ulamertorsuaq (pronunciation of this one is beyond me).  In 2004 gold was discovered 30 km north of the village and a mine has been started.  This will drastically change the economic structure of Greenland in the future.

The weather was cool and cloudy with a drizzling rain.  The sea was very calm so our tender ride was short and smooth.  Nanortalik did a good job promoting the community.  Right at the pier was a map of the town showing all the important buildings – church, cultural center, museum, tourism office, grocery stores, etc.  They also had several cultural events scheduled for the visitors: a talk on the community and lifestyle, a dance show and a local choir concert.

IMG_1636 IMG_1638 IMG_1640 IMG_1635We walked over to the church because there is a cache hidden in the rocks nearby.  We looked all over the place among the boulders but could not find it.  Rats.  The church, as you would expect from a Scandinavian settlement, is Lutheran.  A member of the congregation was lighting the candles at the altar and in the chandeliers for the 10 am service.  The minister was there as well and I asked him when the church had been built.  He looked puzzled and I realized he did not understand English.  He looked at his watch then held up his finger in a ‘wait a moment’ gesture before hurrying down the aisle.  He returned in a couple of minutes with a lady who could translate.  Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the congregation.

IMG_1587 IMG_1591 IMG_1593 IMG_1594 IMG_1596 IMG_1607 IMG_1602 IMG_1608 IMG_1613 IMG_1606 IMG_1614 IMG_1618 IMG_1620 After our disappointing search for the cache we walked back through town and almost to the end of the community before heading back to the middle and the tender.  We made a quick stop in the very busy and crowded gift shop where I managed not to buy anything as usual.  There were some very nice seal skin handbags and slippers though.  We caught the 11am tender, warmed up our chilly damp feet in the cabin and went for lunch in the Lido.

The last tender from shore to ship was 12:30 and by 1 pm we were on our way.  We will be at sea all day tomorrow and the captain plans to dock at St. John’s, Newfoundland at noon on Tuesday.

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There was an absolutely massive iceberg on the outskirts of the bay during sail-away.  John thinks the peak must be over 100′ high.

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2015 Aug 21 & 22 – Days 28 & 29 – At Sea and Cruising Prince Christian Sound

24 hours in Prince Christian Sound

We spent one and a half days and two nights aboard a rocking ship.  Our cabin is on A deck – the lowest passenger deck.  There is a crew deck and a cargo deck below us so our window is about 30’ above the water.  We had waves hit the window and completely cover the glass so things were definitely rolling.  The captain had said on his noon report that the swells and the wind would lessen and the night of Aug 21 should be calm and we could expect a nice day for our scenic cruising on the 22nd.

It is amazing how weather can change.  By the time the sun set that night all was calm and the colours in the sky were lovely.

IMG_1149 IMG_1151 IMG_1160                                                              Aug 21     9 pm

I woke up at 6:30 this morning to partly cloudy skies and the rocky slopes of Prince Christian Sound going by the window.  We went out to the bow deck where it was brisk to say the least.  Our trip into Prins Christian Sund is the route the captain had planned to sail out on our trip east. The passage has opened up enough now that we are able to go through.  We enjoyed a couple of cups of coffee/cocoa, took a bunch of photos and went for breakfast.

Aug 22  7:30 – 8 am

IMG_1168 IMG_1170  IMG_1174IMG_1176 IMG_1178 IMG_1180 IMG_1181 IMG_1183 IMG_1186 IMG_1189 IMG_1199 IMG_1202 IMG_1205 IMG_1206 IMG_1212 IMG_1222 IMG_1225 IMG_1230 IMG_1242We spent some time on the upper deck (14) until almost lunchtime then came into our cabin to warm up and upload the photos.  Once we had warmed up we had some nice hot Dutch Pea Soup and went back up to deck1 14. This was our pattern for the day – inside, outside, deck 4, deck 14 – take photos of icebergs, glaciers, rock mountains.  One of the glaciers even calved off some icebergs for us.

9 – 10 am

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11:30 – 1:00

IMG_1309 IMG_1312 IMG_1316 IMG_1320 IMG_1322 IMG_1326The water was so still by one o’clock the reflections were gorgeous.  About 2:30 in the afternoon we again arrived at the isolated fishing/sealing village – the only habitation in the Prince Christian Sound – where we turned around last time.  The fjord water was still as glass so the captain decided to lower a tender and have some crew members bring a chunk of an iceberg onboard.  He gave a single blast of his horn to alert the villagers we were stopped and over the next ½ hour 5 outboard motor boats came out to the ship.  The fellows in one of the boats helped the fellows in the ship’s tender haul in their iceberg, then there of the boats came close alongside the ship and the captain had several cases of fresh fruit sent out.  They got oranges, pineapples, cantaloupe and honeydew and watermelon.  I am pretty sure fresh fruit would be a very welcome treat in a place that remote.

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2:30 – 4:30

IMG_1452 IMG_1461 IMG_1465 IMG_1471 IMG_1473 IMG_1483 IMG_1488 IMG_1492 IMG_1494 IMG_1508 IMG_1514 IMG_1516The village is home to 80-130 Inuit who fish and hunt seals for the meat and the pelts, which they sell in Qaqortoq at the fur warehouse.  There is a church, a one-room school (ages 6-16; 22 kids), and a general store.  The houses are all pre-fabricated and brought over by boat.  During winter the fjord is frozen and there is no access to the village.  It is only the few short summer months that they can get in and out.  There is a helipad in the event of a medical emergency when the fjord is blocked.

IMG_1537 IMG_1543 IMG_1544 IMG_1547 IMG_1539We sailed at dead slow speed all day, dodging the occasional large ice berg, doing 180 degree turns so people could get a good look a glaciers, navigating very tight hairpin turns in the fjord.  The captain probably had a ball today; this was why he went to sea, to steer a ship.  Most of the time these ships are in open water and unless they have to make adjustments for waves or storms it is almost an auto-pilot type thing.  Today was sailing a ship.  Not as intense as going through the ice floe on our way east, but still a good navigation day for the captain and crew.

9:30 pm

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2015 Aug 20 – Day 27 – Isafjordur, Iceland

Our last stop in Iceland was at Isafjordur (Eesa-fjord-er) which means Ice Fjord. Isafjordur is considered the capital of the rugged Westfjord region.  The fishing industry is still second to none but tourism is a growing trend.  We were docked near the fish factories at the pier and just had a short walk to the next dock to get on our boat.

Our lovely sunshine disappeared behind thick clouds, light rain and a cold wind.  Thankfully the boat we took for our tour to Vigur Island (also popularly known as Paradise Island) had indoor seating.  The people who sat outside on the chairs at the back got very wet and very cold.  Several of them came inside before the end of the 35 minute ride to the island but a couple of hardy folks stayed out the whole time.

IMG_1055 IMG_1057 IMG_1058 IMG_1059 IMG_1060 Vigur Island is 2 km long and 400 meters wide at the widest point.  Vigur means spear and the island was so named because its shape resembles a spear.  The highest point of the little island is 63 meters above the water.  It is a breeding ground for four kinds of birds; Arctic Tern, Atlantic Puffins, Eider Ducks, and Black Guillemots.  In nesting season there are 80,000 Puffins on the island, but only a few had not yet flown south and were swimming offshore.

IMG_1063 IMG_1064 IMG_1067Robert, our guide, said he was amazed at how little people know about puffins and yet everyone wants to take hundreds of photos of them.  Puffins mate for life and only come on land to breed and nest.  The single egg is incubated for 30 days, then both parents feed the chick for 30 days.  After that they stand to the side of the nest burrow (1-2 meters deep in a Y shape so there are bathroom facilities away from the nest) and wait for the chick to emerge and learn to feed itself.  We were advised to stay on the mown grass and not go into the long grass along the island edge as it will be chock-a-block full of puffin nest holes.

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Horse Mountain. So called because if you sail down the fjord along side it the back looks like the head of a horse.  It is not a volcano.IMG_1093 IMG_1101Vigur Island is privately owned and has been in the same family for 140 years.  There are 4 year-round inhabitants (if their daughter is home from school on a weekends or holiday) and about 10 people in summer.  The family were sheep and cattle farmers as well as Eiderdown collectors.  They quit caring for the cattle in 2008 and sold off all but 20 of the sheep in 2010.  They now concentrate on Eiderdown and tourism.  They have built a café to provide coffee and cake to the tourists who come several times a day all summer long, mostly from cruise ships.  The island is home to the smallest post office in Iceland and the only remaining windmill in Iceland.  There is a little gift shop, a guest cottage at the other end of the island and a small shed you can go in to see how they clean the Eiderdown for the market. The family collects between 50 and 60 kilograms (110-132 lbs) of down each year.  Each kilogram sells for 200,000 Iceland Krona (about $1400 X 55 kg = $7700 per year).

IMG_1075 IMG_1076 IMG_1079 IMG_1112Eider ducks line their nests with small downy feathers taken from their belly.  When the momma bird leaves the nest a couple of times a day to get water the collectors will snatch some of down, which she will then replace.  When the chicks grow up and leave the nest all of the down is gathered up.  It is put through two different machines that remove a lot of the straw and other material and then cleaned one last time by hand.  The final result is a thick mass of very soft, very tiny feathers which weigh almost nothing.  They must collect a lot of feather down to add up to one kilogram (2.2 lbs)!  No wonder Eider down jackets and pillows cost so much.

IMG_1119 IMG_1121About 50 or 60 years ago the owner built a rock wall not too far from the rocky shore.  If you come from the field side the fence looks like any other low rock wall. Step through an opening in the fence and you will see the Eider Hotel where the builder created nooks along the bottom of the fence to encourage the Eider duck to nest.  If an Eider duck finds a good spot to nest they will return year after year. Robert said he had been told there was a 70% occupancy rate at the Eider Hotel this year.

IMG_1104 IMG_1106 IMG_1108 IMG_1107Vigur is called Paradise Island because it is a perfect little spot.  There is actually a fresh water well near the shore that has no taste of salt and is extremely cold.  The house has electricity provided via an underwater cable.  They also have telephone and internet.  On a good day it is only about 30 minutes into Isafjordur by boat.

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I loved all the smooth rocks.

The captain had been worried that he may not be able to dock the ship and we would therefore have had to get to shore by tender.  He also considered that he may have to cancel the port of call altogether since the winds funneling down the fjord were so strong (30 knots).  We noticed on the ride back to Isafjordur that the tour boat was being pulled quite heavily by the current.  We asked Robert what the current rate is.  He said 18-22 knots!  Holy cow.  That is the top speed of our ship.  Don’t fall overboard; you would be swept away in no time at all.  We will be fighting the current out of the fjord as we leave so we won’t be going very fast while we have dinner.  The captain also warned that the winds will pick up again and the ride will be rocky all night and during our day at sea tomorrow.  Good thing we don’t get seasick.

John and I both felt we should walk the kilometer into town and look around, and we did go part way, but it was windy and cold and drizzling and we were damp and cold.  We went back to the ship for some hot soup and a warm-up time; deciding we would monitor the weather from the cabin and decide a bit later if we wanted to go out. The wind got worse, the rain became steady and we stayed put.

At dinner tonight the ship was rocking quite a lot even though we were still sheltered by the mountains either side of the fjord.  Once we hit open water though wine glasses and cups were cascading here and there and everywhere in the dining room.  About 20 minutes later the ship’s speed slowed right down.  I’ll bet the dining room manager was on the phone to the bridge saying, “Slow this ship down before we lose all the dishes! Please!”  The Holland America singers and dancers are supposed to be doing a brand new show tonight.  That may be a challenge.  It will be rock-a-by-baby tonight.

2015 Aug 19 – Day 26 – Akureyri, Iceland

Another lovely sunny day.  The Icelanders are very happy to have us bring the sun, they have had so little of it this summer.

Yesterday we were in East Iceland and today we are in Northern Iceland.  Reykjavik (Rake-ya-vik), the country’s capital, is in South Iceland and tomorrow’s port will be in West Iceland; so we will have covered all four of the ancient quadrants.

Akureyri (Ack-er-air-ee) is only 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle and is Northern Iceland’s second largest city.  Believe it or not Akureyri has some of the warmest weather in Iceland and today was too warm for the locals and really nice for us southern-types.

IMG_0766 IMG_0767 IMG_0768 IMG_0773 IMG_0781 IMG_0784 IMG_0785 IMG_0787 IMG_0791 IMG_0797 IMG_0803The photo with the steaming waterfall is actually the construction site of a new road tunnel.  However when they had only drilled a short distance into the mountainside they encounter a very hot water spring.  Men could not even work in it for short periods because the air was so humid and hot.  They started to drill from the other side and encountered a cold spring. The Akureyri side of the mountain really needs more cold water and the other side would love to have the hot water to heat their houses but they have not figured out how to move the water from one side to the other, nor how to work around it so they can’t complete the tunnel either.  Stalemate.  I guess nature wins.

The settlement here was originally set up as a trading post in the 16th century and officially became a municipality in 1862.  The oldest house remaining in the town was built in 1795. There is a large Lutheran Church on the hill that was built in 1940.  Some of our friends walked up to see it but there was a funeral in progress so they were unable to go inside.

The area is very different from that around Reykjavik.  Here there are large farms and green grass spreading down the valley bottoms, instead of all the lava rock we saw before.  Everything is surrounded by high mountains and travelling from one town to another invariably means you must cross one, two or three mountain passes, which are often impassable in winter due to the high winds and snow.  Several times each winter the road is closed and they don’t even try to clear it until the storm is over, no matter how many days that may be.  They have learned that if you open it up it will just get closed again by more snow within an hour.  There is only one road – Highway 1 – so if that happens no one is going anywhere.

IMG_0816 IMG_0820Our guide was originally from Germany but she came to Iceland 30 years ago to look for work, fell in love with the country and then with an Icelander and now has four children.  The thing she found most difficult when she first came to Iceland was the laid-back attitude here.  In Germany everything is planned to the minute and everyone wants to know the exact plan before they go anywhere.  This drives Icelanders crazy when they have German tourists because in Iceland everything is “maybe.”  You ask how long it will take to drive to such and such place.  “Well,” the Icelander will say, “It might take us 45 minutes to drive there, but there may be sheep on the road, or someone may be late, or some other thing may occur so I can’t tell you when we will arrive.”  A common expression sounds something like Aecta Resthas and means ‘we will wait and see, and the problem will likely resolve itself.’ They do not work on Plan A because it rarely comes to pass and they don’t fret unduly about a lot of things because they feel the problem or situation will eventually resolve itself.  Mostly they don’t plan at all and just make decisions as the occasion arises.  Not a good environment for CDO people! But they are very nice, calm, friendly people.

Our first stop of the day was Godafoss Waterfall (The waterfall of the gods), so named because when the parliament decided the nation should be Christian the local priest in the area had all the people bring their Norse idols and throw them into the waterfall. Godafoss is not the tallest waterfall by any means (there are thousands of them cascading down the ever-present steep mountainsides) but it is considered the most spectacular in Iceland.  There is a tremendous amount of water flowing over the edge and through the gorge.

IMG_0826 IMG_0827 IMG_0835 IMG_0838 IMG_0840 IMG_0842 IMG_0843 IMG_0854 IMG_0861 IMG_0868 IMG_0870 IMG_0874 IMG_0877 IMG_0880 IMG_0882 IMG_0885 IMG_0887The second stop was the Dimmuborgir (Dim-mu-boar-gur) lava labyrinth.  There was a massive volcanic explosion here several thousand years ago and the huge chunks of lava are strewn all around.  We were advised to look for the many trolls that have been turned to stone and we definitely spotted quite a few of them.  At Dimmubrgir, as at Thingvellir National Park that we visited our first day in Reykjavik, you can see the split of the tectonic plates.  A little bridge takes you across a narrow, but very deep, chasm where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are gradually moving apart. Dimmuborgir is known as the home of the 13 Yule Lads that emerge at Christmas to wreak havoc on the household but leave gifts for the children each night.

IMG_0894 IMG_0903 IMG_0905 IMG_0908 IMG_0909 IMG_0919 IMG_0921 IMG_0924 IMG_0930We next drove to Lake Myvatn (Miv-eth), a thermal pool area where I happily wandered around taking photos of all the textures and colours.  (An interesting fact our guide shared is that all of these ‘tourist’ places are on private land.  All the land in Northern Iceland is privately owned and the owners charge no fees for us to go see the natural wonders on their land.  I don’t know whether the property owner pays to make all the paths and signage or if it is subsidizer or paid for by the government. It is expected though that as Iceland welcomes more and more tourist the free fee will probably change.)  From Lake Myvatn we could see a gigantic lava crater that we thought may have been created in an eruption. This was not so. The crater is the result of a large lava bubble exploding just as boiling soup forms bubbles that burst on the surface.  There were miniscule people to be seen walking along the crest.

IMG_0932 IMG_0934 IMG_0938 IMG_0943 IMG_0951 IMG_0953 IMG_0958 IMG_0966 IMG_0970 IMG_0974 IMG_0975 IMG_0977 IMG_0979 IMG_0982 IMG_0992 IMG_0999 IMG_1000 IMG_1005 IMG_1006 IMG_1007 IMG_1012 IMG_1015Our final stop before the two hour drive back to Akureyri was for lunch at Skutustadagigar (Scoot-oo-sta-da-ur). There are a couple of hotels here and guest houses here and the land and the lake are dotted with large craters.  These pseudo-craters were also created by lava bubbles exploding.  After lunch we had 20 minutes or so to wander the paths around the craters before the drive back to Akureyri.

IMG_1018 IMG_1020 IMG_1023 IMG_1026 IMG_1028Because we had a bit of extra time our bus driver and guide stopped on the far side of the fjord for five minutes so anyone who wanted could take a photo of the town and our ship.  John had fired up the GPS to see if there were any geo-caches in town and it showed there was one at the viewpoint 150 meters from the bus.  While folks took their pictures he rushed over to some rocks at the end of the parking area and soon located the cache.  He didn’t have a pencil with him to sign the log and he didn’t have time anyway as everyone was back on the bus by the time he put it back in its hiding place but we can log it as found.  Pretty funny!

When we got back to the ship we walked part-way into town and located another cache on the boardwalk.  We had just finished signing the log when a fellow came down the steps and rounded the corner holding a GPS.  He saw us and made an abrupt about-face.  We knew immediately he and his wife were geo-caching.  John re-hid the cache and as he walked past the fellow said, “You will be warmer on the other side.”  The fellow laughed and as we walked away we could see them getting out the log book to sign.

IMG_1031 IMG_1033 IMG_1034 IMG_1035The ship put-putted at a very slow speed out of Akureyri for scenic cruising of the Eyjafjordur so we could view the lovely mountains, and we then were on our way again.

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2015 Aug 18 – Day 25 – Seydisfjordur, Iceland

We were blessed with another sunny day for our port in East Iceland.  Seydisfjorder (Say-diss-fjor (fyour)-dur – in Icelandic the stress is always put on the first syllable of the word) is considered to be one of Iceland’s most picturesque towns, not only due to the impressive environment but because nowhere in Iceland has a community of old wooden buildings been preserved so well as here. It is a mid-size town with a population of 670.  11,000 people live in East Iceland, spread over a large area.  The biggest community in East Iceland is 3600-3700 people.

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IMG_0383 IMG_0399 IMG_0400 IMG_0402 IMG_0405Iceland was first settled by two brothers in 874 AD; one was killed and the other settled near Reykjavik.  The country was completely settled between 870-930AD.  Icelandic parliament began in 930 with an annual meeting of all the chieftains who represented all free men who could bear arms.  At the parliament they split the country into quarters with 9 chieftains in three quadrants and 12 in the north.  Every farmer had to swear allegiance to one of the chieftains and in turn the chief would handle issues for the farmers in parliament.

They felt they did not need to have a king because the country is so remote and has a harsh climate so invasion was considered unlikely. A king is, above all else, mainly a military General and Iceland figured they had little risk of war from outside so they didn’t need one.  However, eventually several of the chieftains wanted to control more territory and fights and wars continued for 60 years.  In 1262 they realized that none of them had enough might or power to control the others so they decided that for the sake of national peace, all the chieftains would swear allegiance to the King of Norway.  One chieftain did not take the oath until 1263 and an East Iceland chieftain did not submit until 1264.

The religion was Norse paganism until 1550 when it became Christian (by vote of parliament).  Catholicism was the religion until Protestantism was brought to the island, then all the catholic priests and bishops were either kicked out our killed and the country’s state religion became Lutheran; which it is to this day.IMG_0436 IMG_0440 IMG_0467 IMG_0472Iceland is 80% uninhabitable.  Settlement can only be done on the coast as the center is either glacier, lava fields, or alpine desert.  All the towns and villages around the coast are located at the end of fjords or in fjordal inlets.  The country has a vastly long coastline due to all the fjords and the offshoots.  Seydisfjorder is at the end of a 17 kilometers long fjord with the same name, and the community was first settled in the 19th century by Danish fishermen, which makes the town quite new in relation to the country’s long history.

We had a long tour with several stops that took us over the mountains to what was once known as the most dangerous path in Iceland – over a steep scree slope that constantly sluffed off and was susceptible to slides – that were blamed on a monster called The Rumbler.  The path has been turned into a safe road but the cross erected to pray for safe passage remains and is renewed every few years with the same Latin prayer inscription and the date 1306.

Our tour was called Monsters and Elves and our tour guide regaled us with many Icelandic folk tales about trolls, Elves – the hidden people, and ghosts.  We had a great day.  The scenery was fabulous, lunch was really good and the sun shone all day.  We had no time to tour the town as all-aboard was 5:30, exactly when our tour ended.

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IMG_0478 IMG_0497We stopped for lunch at a little fishing village called Bakkagerdi.  After lunch we drove over to the sheltered little harbour where we managed to see some puffins and then went back for a walking tour of the town.  A very pretty place.

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The most photographed house in Iceland.  Sod-packed sides.  It is still lived during the summer months.IMG_0620 IMG_0626 IMG_0632 IMG_0633We made a couple of  short photo op stops at a nice gorge and a waterfall  before the last bit of driving back to the pier.

IMG_0711 You know it has been a cool summer when there is still ice in the river.




Seydisfjordur and our shipIMG_0729 IMG_0731 IMG_0735 IMG_0736 IMG_0737 IMG_0740 IMG_0741 IMG_0744 IMG_0754During the night, as we rounded the end of the fjord and made our way towards Akureyri we crossed the Arctic Circle so we have a new certificate and we are now official members of the Ancient Order of the Blue Nose.



2015 Aug 16 & 17 – Days 23 & 24 – At Sea and Torshavn, Faroe Islands

After a day at sea out of Dublin we arrived this morning at one of the world’s smallest capital cities, Torshavn (Tors haa ven), meaning Thor’s Harbour, the capital of the Faroe Islands and home to 35% of the population.  The Islands are affiliated with Denmark and use the Danish Krone for their currency. They have two national languages, Faroese and Danish and most also speak English extremely well.  The population of the Faroes is 50,000 people and 80,000 sheep. The first parliament was held in 1000 AD and the islands became a part of the Kingdom of Norway in 1035.  When the switch to Denmark took place I do not know.

The archipelago is comprised of 18 islands and is geographically north of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway and wherever you are on whichever island you choose you are never more than 5 km from the ocean. The highest mountain is 882 meters (2882 feet) above sea level and the average height of the Faroes above sea level is 300 meters (982 feet).  There are massive sheer vertical cliffs on these islands and 18 long tunnels, two of them under the ocean floor connecting islands.

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IMG_0023Fishing and fish products are the most important ‘crops’ and account for 97% of all exports.  The cliffs are nesting places for 200 species of birds; only 40 of which remain all year round.  For a place so far north you would think it would have very harsh winters but that is not true.  The Mexican Gulf Stream flows by and keeps the temperatures quite moderate.  Winter temperatures rarely go below freezing with snow that comes and goes.  Summers are also cool though with an average of 15C (60F).

We took a tour to see the Vestmanna Seacliffs where thousands of birds nest in the spring and early summer, including puffins.  Most of the birds have raised their young and flown south already.  We did see a few puffins but they were too far away on the cliffs or diving in the water for food so I wasn’t able to get any photos.  We were also on a boat so focusing was an issue.

We were driven by bus to the western side of the Streymoy, the largest island and location of Torshavn.  The day was lovely, sunshine and fluffy white clouds.  Like most of the northern countries we have visited the Faroes have been having a cool cloudy summer. They have had four days of sunshine so far, yesterday and today being two of them and today was the best to date.

IMG_0042 IMG_0043 IMG_0044 IMG_0048 IMG_0055 IMG_0056 IMG_0057Much of the fish are now farmed and you will see the huge rings in the water of most fjords.  There are 85,000 salmon in each ring and they stay in them, getting fed daily, for 16 months at which time they weigh about 10-12 kg (22-26 lbs).  The salmon is also fished in the rivers and fish ladders were made years ago to aid them in going inland to spawn.  We passed a section of a river that had ropes festooned with blue plastic ribbons criss-crossing from one side of the river to the other.  The fishermen put them up to discourage birds from catching the fish.

IMG_0063We arrived at a largish community whose name I don’t remember and boarded our boat for the ride to the sea cliffs.  There were 46 of us on the tour and we all got on the one boat with room for everyone.  The skipper put-putted out of the harbour and around the point to hug the cliff-side for over an hour.  There are lots of huge caves and cuts into the cliff face and we were taken into several of them and back out or through a natural rock arch or around a gigantic rock pillar; the last one we went through took us into a grotto and out the other side.  Really cool!

IMG_0069 IMG_0070 IMG_0071 IMG_0074 IMG_0075 IMG_0077 IMG_0087 IMG_0106 IMG_0107 IMG_0130 IMG_0132 IMG_0139 IMG_0147 IMG_0153 IMG_0180 IMG_0185 IMG_0186 IMG_0187 IMG_0190 IMG_0192 IMG_0208 IMG_0209As we went along the base of the cliffs we could almost always see some sheep grazing on the grassy slopes far above.  Farmers leave the sheep out on the cliffs to forage from spring until fall when they are brought in for shearing and butchering.  How do they get the sheep to the pastures, you ask, since these cliffs rise between 300 (700’) and 600 (1500’) meters right out of the sea?  Well, some of them are driven over the hilltop from the valley side.  Others, the ones on the more remote cliff tops are brought out by boat and hauled up the cliff face by rope, set free to graze all summer, then caught one at a time by some very energetic and brave fellows, and tied around the middle with a rope and lowered over the side and into a boat again.  Absolutely crazy!  It is a sort of fall sport to go to the cliff tops to try catch the sheep.  You would not want to miscalculate your step and fall off!  If you survived the fall (which is unlikely) the current flows at 8 knots and will just take you away southward.  This happens sometimes to sheep that stray too close to an edge and fall into the water.

IMG_0084 IMG_0089 IMG_0200The bus driver took us back via a different route and let off those who wanted to stay in town before driving the rest to the ship.

IMG_0212 IMG_0213 IMG_0216 IMG_0218 IMG_0224 IMG_0225 IMG_0227 IMG_0232 IMG_0236 IMG_0237 IMG_0238 IMG_0240 IMG_0244 IMG_0247We were docked at a working port so there was no walking from ship to shore.  A shuttle bus would take you to the edge of town and bring you to the ship if you were not on a tour bus.  We had two hours before all-aboard so we found a place to buy some lunch and afterward wandered around town.  We tried to locate a geo-cache or two but all the caches seemed to be multi-caches that were strung out too far for us to find in the time we had.  The reflections in the water of the boat harbour were stunning!

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IMG_0291IMG_0293We set sail again at 3 pm and the captain took us past some more of the island’s amazing cliffs.  John and I just lay on our bed and took photos out the window.  It was a great day!  One of the best, along with Qaqortoq, Greenland, so far on our trip.  Three more ports in Iceland over the next three days.

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2015 Aug 14 & 15 – Days 21 and 22 – At Sea and Dublin, Ireland

Aug 14 and 15 – Days 21 & 22 – At Sea and Dublin, Ireland

I spent our sea day on the computer selecting photos and writing my blog for the two days in Amsterdam and our day in Zeebrugge.  John gets lots of reading and Sudoku done on those days.  Our cabin is on deck 4, the dining room and the front desk are on deck 7, library is on deck 8, laundry is on decks, 5, 6, & 10 and the Lido restaurant where we eat breakfast and lunch is on deck 11.  We never use the elevators.  To get to the Lido we climb 112 stairs so we get quite a bit of exercise just going from food to food!  On smooth sailing sea days we also walk the Promenade Deck.  4 laps is one mile. So far when we sail we have never gained weight.  Some people pack on pounds and pounds.  We try to be good.  Our friend Bill said, “I came as a passenger, I don’t want to leave as cargo.”

Chapter 1 – Dublin

The ship was docked at the port terminal a few miles out of the city.  There were free shuttles running all day.  The Celebrity Silhouette with 4,000 passengers was docked for the day also.  We were to be in Dublin from 8 am until 7:15 pm and our tours were in the afternoon so we caught a shuttle at about 10 and walked a loop that contained Merrion Square, St. Stephen’s Green (donated by the Guinness family) and Trinity College.

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Merrion Square Park


IMG_9776 IMG_9789 IMG_9781 IMG_9792  Oscar WildeIMG_9786 IMG_9818



St. Stephen’s Green ParkIMG_9822



Sculpture entitled “Famine”IMG_9828 IMG_9832 IMG_9834 IMG_9837



Grafton Street – a major shopping streetIMG_9848 IMG_9846

These are for you Trish.

Trinity College was established by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, the oldest university in Ireland, and is a Protestant College.  A Catholic could attend free but only if they first converted to Protestantism.  Housed at Trinity College is the world’s most famous Medieval manuscript, the 9th century book known as The Book of Kells; Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure.  The Book of Kells is a richly decorated copy of the four Gospel of the life of Jesus Christ.  I would like to have seen it but the line waiting to get into the library stretched half-way around the square. We only had 20 minutes until we wanted to be making our way back to Merrion Square to get the shuttle back to the ship.  It would have taken almost an hour just to get to the door.  Next time…


This about half the line waiting to see the Book of KellsIMG_9858 IMG_9859 IMG_9861 IMG_9864 IMG_9868 IMG_9869 IMG_9870 IMG_9871

A Sphere in a Sphere Sculpture at Trinity College

Chapter 2 – Guinness Factory

John went on a tour of the Guinness Factory; a must see for him as he likes a pint of Guinness every now and then.  The bus took them on an extensive drive around the city pointing out various points of interest with some photo stops.

These four-story Georgian row houses were slums back in the day of the early King George’s with no plumbing and 100 people living in each unit.  Today the houses have been modernized with the kitchen on the entry level, 2nd floor containing the living room and the top two floors for the bedrooms.  Before the 2008 economic crash they would sell for 6 million Euros.  Today you can get one for a measly 1 million.


Another stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191.  Since the time of Arthur Guinness the Guinness family has contributed to the Cathedral.  In the 1860’s Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness donated 150,000 pounds of his own money to its restoration.

CAM01867 CAM01872 CAM01874The Guinness family were ruthless businessmen, beginning with Arthur, but have always taken care of their people. In the mid-1700’s a person was either nobility or, if rich, charitable.  Since Arthur Guinness was not nobility and was a self-made businessman he decided to be charitable.  To this day the family contributes millions to foundations and charities set up by successive members of the family over the years.  In the early 1900’s the housing situation was so bad the family built houses for the workers at the brewery; which are still in use today.  They built very modern buildings with plumbing and adequate space for the families.

Pride of place in the brewery is a copy of Arthur Guinness’ famous 9,000 year lease for water rights, which he signed Dec. 31, 1759.  The lease is still in effect today although it has been challenged in court several times.  The Guinness factory makes 6 million pints of beer every day using the free water obtained from this lease.  90% of all the barley grown in Ireland is bought by the Guinness factory.  Guinness is made from only four ingredients: barley, hops, yeast and water.  And – this is important – Guinness is ruby red NOT black!  The best part of the tour was at the end when everyone was given a pint of Guinness. The brewery guide said, “You’ll never taste a Guinness as good as the one you get here. Guinness doesn’t travel well.”  John agrees.  It was the best pint of Guinness he has ever had.



The housing Guinness built for his workers




View from the top of the Brewery CAM01896 CAM01897FYI: The Guinness Book of World Records was started in a pub over a bet regarding something.  When the correct answer had been located they decided they should write a book that could be used as a reference for who was best at this or that, or who won what.

Chapter 3 – The North Coast and Malahide Castle.

Since I don’t drink beer, especially one as dark as a Guinness I have no interest in how they make the stuff.  Instead I took a tour to Malahide Castle which is located a few miles to the west of the city.

IMG_9874 IMG_9875 IMG_9878 IMG_9882 IMG_9887 IMG_9889Malahide Castle was the home of the Talbot family for over 700 years (they are listed on a document on display in the house as one of the families with William the Conqueror at the Battle Abbey in 1066) and became a property of the government over 50 years ago when the last Talbot, Richard, died leaving the estate to his sister.  She could not afford all the estate taxes – as is often the case – and sold some of the antique furniture and paintings to make pay the debts, after which she moved to New Zealand.  The government has since managed to buy back almost all of the items she sold.  The castle is full of some of the best pieces of Irish furniture through the ages.  There was no flash photography allowed so my 6400 ISO setting came in handy.  It makes things a bit grainy but good enough to see in the dim light available.

The original castle was destroyed at some point, no one knows why, and the current one built in the 14th century.  The oak paneling in one of the rooms is the oldest hand-carved woodwork in Europe and many of the furniture pieces are written up in books on valuable and significant antiques.  The tour lasted about 40 minutes and the fellow told lots of stories as he pointed out the features of the rooms.

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One of the hands holding the handrail on the stairwell.IMG_9911 IMG_9914 IMG_9931 IMG_9932 IMG_9936 IMG_9939 IMG_9961 IMG_9963 IMG_9973 IMG_9974 By the end of the tour I had about 10 minutes before I was due back on the bus so I did a fast walk out to the gardens.  Malahide has famous greenhouses where they grow all kinds of tropical and exotic plants and they have a huge walled garden.  I was only able to walk a short distance along the path either side of the entrance but I snapped a few pics and hurried out to the bus.  I would love to have had the time to explore further.  Next time….again.

IMG_9977 IMG_9978 IMG_9979 IMG_9980After we left Malahide we were driven along the Dublin Bay to the fishing port of Howth.  Before returning to the ship in Dublin we stopped at the 11th century Abbey Tavern in Howth to enjoy an Irish Coffee.  Yummy! “Sir, can I have some more please?”

IMG_0010 IMG_0012 IMG_0014 IMG_0015How to make proper Irish Coffee: heat your glass mug with hot water.  Pour out the water and put in a measure of whiskey (whatever size ‘measure’ you desire), add a spoonful of brown sugar and stir well.  Pour in hot coffee.  Invert your spoon and slowly pour some thinly whipped cream over the back of the spoon bowl onto the coffee so it floats on top.  Do not stir!  Sip the coffee through the cream.  Delicious.

We went along the coast – beautiful sandy beaches; mostly unused due to the cool climate and colder water – but my seat was on the other side of the bus so I was only able to snap a couple of photos across the aisle and out the other window.  We drove to the top of The Summit for a view of Dublin Bay and the Dublin Mountains.  The sky was overcast so it wasn’t a particularly fabulous view, but on a sunny day it would be quite nice.

IMG_9985 IMG_9989 IMG_9995The end.