HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA,CANADA: 25th July

So we arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on a cold and wet morning and after a fairly long wait while they got the gangway happening we were off on a tour through the beautiful countryside to Peggy’s Cove, its a lovely fishing village with a great story to how it got its name and a picturesque lighthouse to boot.


There are some lovely local art galleries and cafes which got a quick glance, we would have liked longer here to do it all justice and hopefully one day we will get back here.


Unfortunately our camera had a few rain drops on that we didn’t pick up on and some of our favourite pictures aren’t as great as we hoped.


There’s a lovely carved memorial to the people of Peggy’s cove by De Garf, a famous sculpture whom lived here for a long time near the end of his life. The above photo is just a small section of it.

 The drive there and back into Halifax was a real highlight and it was just on midday when we returned and started the next part of our planned day, the hop on hop off bus, in truth we could have almost walked to most places but we managed to visit the maritime museum which had some fabulous ship models and a interesting section on the Titanic tragedy as a lot of the bodies were bought back here.

I wanted to get to the cemetery to see a few of the graves but time didn’t allow as we also visited the local public gardens the army fort and the waterfront area as well. 










As we drove around on the bus we got to see quite a few of the different houses. Which you can see come in all sizes and conditions. 




It was a pretty full day in Halifax and we only have one rest day before NEW YORK!!!!

REYKJAVIK TO HALIFAX AND LIFE AT SEA.

As the cruise heads into our tenth week at sea, having five sea days to relax, catch up on washing, sleeping, reading, gym, chatting with friends and going to shows etc feels like a holiday in itself.


Chinese laundry above.

So far I’m pleased to report that I haven’t used the general lifts yet,I have been in the golden glass lift a couple of times just for the novelty of it and this is only between a couple of floors. 

We keep saying we’ll have buns of steel by the end of our time onboard, not sure if it’s working but I have definitely found that doing stairs on tours a lot easier so it is paying dividends.

The last few days at sea have been punctuated with the sound of the ships horn as we are in heavy fog so if there are whales out there to be seen we’re not able to sight them in the soup of weather out there.

 Luckily they’re not showing the titanic at the moment! 
It is incredible the people on here that will moan about anything and everything, they’re a smaller group than those of us who can’t believe how amazing this trip is and how wonderful the staff and organisation is to provide everyone with this totally fantastic experience, but, those poor souls who can’t find joy in their lives do make you want to slap their face, one woman told me she wouldn’t come on this ship again because there was some rust in her shower!!! For goodness sake apart from the fact it’s a plastic cubicle to start with…. I looked at her and said ” just don’t talk to me” at the time we were sailing through desert and the lives of the people there are really hard, and here is someone so privileged to be on a world cruise complaining about something so inane, you just shake your head and feel sorry for them.
Michelle and I have enjoyed using the hot spas at the back of the ship during our time around Norway and Iceland then having a sauna at the end. Several times we have been the only ones there and it has felt like we have our own private resort.
Next week before we get into New York I have my second appointment at the hairdressers onboard. 

You can see we really are living our normal everyday life as well as enjoying the travelling experience. 
We put our clocks back and occasionally forward, mostly back and enjoy the extra hour sleep in and we can’t believe how quick the day goes. 

There’s a guest talent show today and several people we know are taking part and in a few days the choir will perform again.

The shows have continued to entertain us, some not our thing but hey there generally is something for everyone and there is always dancing with live musicians somewhere.
It’s July so hearing that Australians and NZers often have a Christmas in July celebration, the ship organised for an afternoon of carolling with a snow machine as well, even Santa made an appearance.

I have to again mention the food. Truly they really try to give you variety and constant high quality. Most nights we do eat at our designated table in the dining room but occasionally we will go to pizza or have dinner in the Horizon court for a change. 

There is a steakhouse that you pay a surcharge for but we haven’t felt we needed to do that as the size of the steaks there are so huge we couldn’t face that much meat and to be honest the food everywhere else is so good we don’t see the need to pay the extra.

When we’re in port and time allows we enjoy eating off board and soaking up the local atmosphere.

Our dining room table mate Rudi had invited us to his balcony cabin this evening to have pre dinner drinks with himself and his daughter Diana before she gets off in New York and as its formal night as an elite passenger they have organised canapés to be bought to their room as well, which is a perk once you hit elite status, also at the beginning of each new sector they get a minibar refill so we’re hitting the mini bar tonight. We have enjoyed Diana’s company as we did Sylvia his friend on the previous sector.
Our next stop is Halifax, Canada and then its the Big Apple, New York.

Along with Michelle and Paul we have booked the two day hop on hop off bus. 
We have been making our shopping lists and will make a list of things we want to see and go from there. It’s great having two full days to tick off a few things and will still give us things to look forward to next time.

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND: 19th July

It’s funny how two different couples can do two different tours of the same location and have completely opposite experiences and views of the landscape.In Reykjavik James and I did the Golden triangle and Paul and Michelle went to the Blue lagoon swimming and walked into town. Their overview was that the landscape was bleak and moonlike, whereas we saw green, green green all day long.
In a similar itinerary to our day in Akureyri, we visited National parks, Geysers and waterfalls. Thingvellir National Park was established in 1930, this area holds historical, cultural and is a national beauty heritage site.

It holds the largest natural lake and amazing views of the mid Atlantic continental rift.




Strokkur is the name of an explosive geyser that erupts every few minutes and is surrounded by other geysers and mud pools. We were impressed with the beautiful little wild flowers that grow here too. In stark a contrast to the bleak surrounds of the geyser area in Akureyri, this area was in a lush green belt.




Everywhere along the countryside you see little groups of sheep, a few cows and LOTS of Icelandic horses. They are very cute! Small and hardy they stay outside all year round. Many are exported to Germany and it is believed it won’t be long before there are more in Germany than in Iceland.


One of our last stops was to the Gullfoss waterfall. Or the Golden waterfall.

It often had rainbows and with its three natural curving cascades that then plunge into a deep gorge it is impressive in every way.



The only downer was just as we were about to leave a body came down the falls right beside me and I was the first to give alert. I’m thankful I didn’t take a photo and there were plenty of others whom were able to make contact with the police and I’m sure there is photographic evidence from others, even unwittingly taken. They hadn’t been able to recover the body at the time we left Iceland and its likely it could be caught in the deep gorge. A hard image to get out of our head for the next few days yet.

It’s a reminder of why there are warning signs which need to be adhered to.

It is 9 weeks tomorrow Saturday 22 no July that we have been on the ship, leaving 6 weeks to go. Loving every day.

AKUREYRI, ICELAND: 18 th July

We had a early arrival into Akureyri, 7 am and we met our fellow tour friends at 6:45 to be ready to go off all together for our day sightseeing.

It was a beautiful entry through a long fiord into the city and some up early were rewarded with a pod of five whales.

We were a group of 12 today and our guide/ driver Juergen was fantastic. 

We covered so much ground today and as usual photos don’t do this incredible place justice.

It is summer here but of course we are close to the arctic circle ( we’re I the arctic circle the whole time we were in Norway) hence the need for warmer clothing. 

We started off driving around the fiord and we did see a whale cruising through the water. They do say there is a 99.9% chance of seeing whales during the season. 

Our first stop was the Godafoss falls, a similar shape to Niagara Falls but much smaller scale.


From there on we skirted Lake Myvatn, visiting Skutustaoagigar pseudo craters


Dimmuborgir



Namaskard geothermal area, 




The above photo is James covering his nose from the strong sulphur smell coming from here. It was an incredible landscape and I could have posted so many photos of here and actually every place we visited. 

 

The photo above is a of hot water pool, accessed only through cave opening. The water is a nice 40 degrees. This cave was inan area where we were able to see the tetonic plates which are moving 2 cms per year. 


Another beautiful spot was a photo stop for around 20 minutes in this very serene and scenic spot.


I guess one of the highlights of the day was of course our visit to the Myvatn Nature Baths. We had one and a half hours here which was fantastic. 

It has a feel of wool wash or fabric softener and was 40.1 degrees. 



Juergen, sensibly made this our last stop so we were all relaxed and ready to go home to our ship after a fantastic 8 and a half hours exploring this stunning 

around 10:30 pm as it is still light here we went outside to watch the waters for whales and were rewarded with sighting probably about five.
A perfect ending to our first day in Iceland.


Not bad when this is the view from your ship at 11pm at night. 

HONNINGSVAG, NORWAY: 15th July

Arrival this morning gave us to think that we were in for more of the same weather as the last two weeks, cold and cloudy, But it turned into an exceptional day with sunshine and a real warmth that allowed us to take a few layers off.

We had a tour booked to take us to North Cape, the further most land in Europe, just over 1000 kms to the North Pole.


If you enlarge the below photo you will see a lone walker 🚶, giving you the chance to put into perspective the hugeness of this place.


We watched a great 15 minute movie and walked the cliff edge marvelling that we were here and in such high visibility as the day before was so foggy and nasty couldn’t see more than a few feet. 


Of course Norway is well known for its reindeer and James and I were fortunate to see many today in the wild, and a real surprise to see this one up close unexpectedly when we climbed a little hill in the cutest fishing village.


Have to mention this group who are doing the shows on the ship tonight before we lift anchor. We called into a cafe to see if the few kroner we had left would buy one coffee we could share and were happy to find out we could actually get two if we kept it to black coffee, putting the milk in ourselves. 

We got chatting with the family who own the cafe mum, dad and daughter who are all in the show and they insisted we try some of their home made cake even though we couldn’t pay for it. 


The afternoon saw us off on another tour taking us to a fishing village and a visit to an artists studio which was fantastic and it was here that we came so close to our reindeer. 

Back in the town we were taken to an ice bar for a few nonalcoholic drinks.


There was an igloo with deer skins inside and we did manage to get inside which I have to tell you was an effort with the heavy insulated Cape we were wearing.


The tradition is to then take your glass, made of ice and make a wish and throw it into the water. 




It’s been a full three days of tours in Norway and we really feel we got a great overview of the beautiful and sometimes bleak countryside that it offers.

Stunned at how many campervan and tents we saw and pleased to hear they have a free camping policy which makes it easy for tourists to experience this country as the costs of everything else is pretty high.

So far we have been pleased to be allowed to take food and water bottles off the ship as the countries we’ve been to haven’t had the strict quarantine rules of Australia and New Zealand, I have heard it may change in South America.
The last few days we have got good seats in the Horizon court eating area with outside views to watch sail away in the warmth. Today we were able to sit out on the promenade deck as it was warmer and very peaceful as we sailed through the fiords and out into open sea heading towards our next stop Iceland.
It was all too much and we all had a little disco nap before we were asked to move for the winching up of the tenders we had had to use that day as our dock had been damaged a few days earlier by a bigger cruise ship. 



TROMSO, NORWAY: 14th July

Our second day in Norway, and we are docked alongside the harbour and it’s only slightly warmer today, either that or we’re getting used to the cooler weather.We had a ship tour today, The highlights of Tromso.

We made sure we were wrapped up and Michelle, James and I had our waterproof jackets that we bought onboard for the bargain price of $39.00.

And we needed them for our trip up the cable car to where we were lucky to find some snow left. This gave us some snow ball fun and madcap capers.
EditNext stop was the arctic church. Not breathtaking after some of the Cathedrals and churches we’ve seen on this trip, but the outside is visually more exciting than the inside. 

Onto the Tromso museum to learn about the Sami, the indigenous people whom settled across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Just like all indigenous people around the world,their story turns sad and hauntingly familiar when the Christian folks turn up and try to eradicate their culture. 
Luckily they have reclaimed their pride in their heritage and have become an integral part of local politics and decision making here in Norway now.
We’ve learned a few cool facts about Norway including their fables about the Trolls and the Vikings, including the fact that Vikings NEVER wore helmets with horns on them! Just another made up fact to make them look more interesting and wicked.
We’ve also learnt about the three traditional house colours, red, yellow and white.

Red was the cheapest to make, cod liver oil, rust and the blood from animals.

Yellow was more expensive and for the middle class, made from cod liver oil and ocre.

White was for the rich people and the most expensive to make, cod liver oil and zinc phosphorus.
After the tour finished we stayed in town and walked the inner city looking for some bargains and coffee.

I managed to use our Norwegian Kroner up buying some good walking sandals.

 

NEWS FLASH! 

Those who know me well, will know that I’m a little bit of a coffee snob and slight addict. So you will be surprised to learn that since boarding the ship in Sydney I have not found the ships coffee to my liking, even the ones from the cafe. Consequently I have cut my coffee intake to the occasional sip of James latte onboard and one every now and again onshore.

Today we had the best coffee we’ve had since leaving Australia and in all honesty we’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much better the coffee in Europe has become. More and more are using better beans and machines and it is really noticeable.

GRAVDAL, NORWAY: 13th July

Norway the land of the midnight sun. And it’s true we are here just at the time before it begins to start getting ten minutes of darkness per night. This will start July 21st.

Norway! Somewhere we’ve been looking forward to since we booked this trip.

We have three stops here, Gravdal, Tromso and Honningsvag. 

Today was Gravdal, the Lofoton Islands and WOWSERS!! What a scenic wonderland.

Everything was a picture postcard and it was a very happy group of people who left our private tour at the end of just over 5 hours. We were really pleased as we had to tender on to the island and you’re never sure whether the swell will allow the captain to make the call that it’s safe to use them.

I don’t even know how many stops we had! But we sure did cover some ground. Fishing villages, museums, old timber church, beaches and photo stops.
It was just candy for the eye and senses the whole day. 

The most unexpected sight was the amount of camper vans we saw!! Literally hundreds. A few caravans but mostly campervans. 

You would want a good doona and heater because although it’s summer today it was around 8- 10 degrees. The guide told us that people think that it’s freezing here in winter, but the average temperature in winter is -1 degree. It’s the wind factor that makes it cold. The average in summer is 12%!