Saturday August 5 - Toronto

 Saturday August 5 - Toronto
   It's kind of nice having a late flight -- got the laundry done and packed at a leisurely pace. We got to Cathy's right on time, but something went awry with our arranged ride from there, but we called a taxi, and all was well. I left my journal at home, so task one at the airport was to buy one, Happy now, pen in hand. This is a very comfortable departure area, with tables and food, easy access to Feragamo, Omega and other high-end stores as well as duty-free. It was a long walk, but Pearson Airport got this International Departures area right! Nice start to what promises to be a great trip with Cathy and Julia Wilkes.

Sunday August 6 - Reykjavik Iceland

Sunday, August 6 - Reykjavik Iceland
IcelandAir got us to Reykjavik in under 6 hours mostly uneventfully.  We had booked bus transport directly from the airport to The Blue Lagoon as this had been recommended as a great experience to settle us into Iceland.  Problem was that my suitcase did not appear.  Much time was lost with paper work and when finally we got out front where the bus was to be it was gone and information was vague about whether another would come, where or when it would be, and whether our vouchers would be honoured.  A quick decision was made to send Larry back to rent a vehicle to get us off to the Lagoon and let the suitcase catch up.
 The Lagoon was an exhilarating experience - hundreds of folks from all around the world basking in a geothermal pool of gigantic proportions, full of the very best Icelandic minerals.  What a way to relax after a sleepless 6 hour flight and lost luggage hassle.  We enjoyed the warm waters for awhile, then found the water-side bar where we were given silica paste for our faces and lathered up ourselves.  It is silicon dioxide that is extracted from the water itself and after 5 to 10 minutes were encouraged to wash it back to the Lagoon.  For premium folks like us they had a secondary Algae paste that was green of course.  Did that too! Free photos were taken and are shown here.
Not nice looking but fun!  The young lady photographer was very friendly and shared lots of local advice as did another young employee dispensing a dark volcanic paste for necks and arms.  She had spent time in Toronto for a student exchange and was pleased to meet Canadians.  We had scheduled a massage for the ladies after lunch- it was all done right in the waters of the Lagoon.  Julia & I enjoyed this immensely, but Cathy's ears were underwater and it made her tense, then she fell asleep so it didn't matter!  Larry wandered back to the car to learn more about it and to survey the maps for some clue as to how to find our Airbnb in town.
 (File Photo - we didn't have camera in Lagoon)
I made it sound like we drove confidently from the airport to the Blue Lagoon.  Far from it - the names on the maps are in Icelandic and barely readable.  The roads are rarely marked with a number, and those numbers usually don't match anything on the map.  They said the route was simple but that was by a shuttle bus that knew the way.  We, on the other hand, had to try all the wrong roads before being helped by a young couple at one of our dead-end roads who showed us the way with their gps app.  This was not all wasted time as we got a really good appreciation of the unique Iceland countryside.  Very rough brownish volcanic rock chopped in every possible way, with bright green and light green moss trimming.  Bleak and beautiful, and it whetted our appetite for more in the coming days.
With that experience behind us, we wondered how we would find our accommodations.  Cathy and Julia spent post massage time trying to reach the proprietor with only limited success, and Julia used the local wifi to load up her iphone with route directions to get us directly to our Iceland home.  With backseat directions, including the confident voice of Google we arrived at the Airbnb.  Home at last - we couldn't make the entry door open and still nothing heard from the proprietor.  After some frustrating curb-side waiting Julia set out to explore the area and we sat contemplating options.  At last Cathy saw a man at the corner of our building who may have been our man and she called out. He hurried away but was replaced by a young boy hanging out on his bike at the door.  Cathy struck up conversation and related our predicament.  The boy was unconvinced of the door problem and demonstrated door opening; also the proprietor was his friend and someone was surely inside to look after us.  He was right, of course, and we were most heartily welcomed by both the proprietor's wife and daughter, and the daughter got us in and settled and well briefed on local routes to restaurants and hints on where to tour on Monday and Tuesday.
 (File Photo2)
   The Airbnb condo is immaculate and certainly meets all our needs - well fitted out kitchen, 2 bedrooms and seating for all.  The bathroom is small but very well appointed.  Decor is very Scandinavian - hearkens back to our Ikea days.
In Julia's exploration of the area, she'd found a Brew Pub nearby, so that's where we enjoyed and early dinner before collapsing into our beds for much-needed sleep.

Link to all Photos of the Day

Monday 7 August - Reykjavik and Golden Circle

Monday 7 August -- Reykjavik and Golden Circle -- Today is a bank holiday in Iceland, so much of the city is closed. Other than the fact that I need some things (missing with my luggage) and can't get them, that's OK since we've decided to do the Golden Circle Tour and have it marked on our map and entered into Cathy and Julia's iPhone. [Larry Note:  with the high cost of phone data abroad an extremely effective method to use phone gps away from wifi is to preload the route on Google Maps and then Google gives directions even though not on wifi or cell data. We wouldn't have easily found our Airbnb coming or going or our route today without it]   It truly is a wonderful variety of landscapes out there. First stop was a walk down into a fissure in the earth


and along it to a rather nice waterfall. Larry was chilly in his shorts and short-sleeved shirt, so turned back, but the rest of us enjoyed the walk and the view.
   We went on and found a roadside restaurant/store for a brief food stop and continued on dwindling roads to "the geyser". What a crowd! After seeing few cars or people, suddenly we were in the midst of a mob. Busses and cars clogged the whole area and crowds swarmed the walkways. The main geyser erupts every few minutes with no warning and varying strength.  Cathy managed to catch a good photo; the rest of us failed. The whole area is active, with steam rising and little geysers bubbling away. The temperature and breeze are quite brisk, even though it is very sunny at times. Lots of people are wearing ski jackets and woolen hats. I'm OK in jeans and fleece (luckily, since that's all I have until my suitcase turns up).
We have been warned in the brochures, on signs and other info not to step off the paths because of the fragility of the local flora and fauna. However, over and over we see people ignoring the barriers and wandering over the delicate areas. It's depressing, maybe even disgusting, that so many people are so disrespectful of nature in this beautiful place.
Next stop was a much more spectacular waterfall, in 3 stages, ending in another of those fissures; lots of spray and beautiful surroundings. Julia and I climbed to a higher level and realized we had a view of a very large glacier. After we rejoined Cathy and Larry, we drove up and along a road leading to the glacier, but turned back when we reached the "4 x 4 required" sign. Along the way home we stopped at an overlook with a terrific view of a place where waters from a river and glacial melt meet -- totally different colours. Lovely.
   As we approached Reykjavik we lost our navigation system, so had a very small adventure until we could get back on track, and find home. Still no sign of my missing suitcase, though Bag Tracker said it had arrived at the airport here 12 hours ago. So I sent off a note to Icelandair and we went back to the same brewpub as last night for dinner. Shortly after we got back the bag arrived, followed by an email from Icelandair saying it was coming. So hooray! I don't have to go on this cruise with only the clothes that have been on my back for several days! We toasted that development with some nice cognac and are contemplating bed. Difficult though. It's nearly 10 pm and bright daylight!

Link to All Photos of the Day

23sec Video of Small Blow of Big Geyser 

9sec Video of Bubbling Caldron


Tuesday 8 August - Reykjavik

 Tuesday 8 August -- Reykjavik -- So glad we did the Golden Circle yesterday, since today is cloudy, chilly and drizzly. We had a leisurely start, making our way on foot to the pedestrian part of the city. We picked up Reykjavik Loves the city cards, so we could visit museums and use public transit, then went our separate ways. Larry and I started by visiting Hallgrimskirkja, a beautiful, soaring white Lutheran church built 1945-86. An organist was playing the 5,275-pipe organ to the accompaniment of a bassist.

There was quite a crowd listening, but we didn't recognize the music. The interior of the church is all white, very calm, and pretty. Out front is a statue of Leif Erikson, famous in Canadian history. We found a really nice nearby restaurant and enjoyed warm black bread with delicious soup. By then it was really raining, but we were ready for it and set out to walk to the National Gallery. Navigation isn't easy in a city that doesn't have a grid system and in which street names might be 17 letters long, with some letters we've
never encountered before. But we got our bearings, and found our way.

We decided that to us, Icelandic art is weird. From the Gallery we navigated our way across the lake to the National Museum where we learned a lot about Icelandic history and saw very interesting artifacts. By the time we left there, we were getting damp and chilly so headed back toward our "home", making a detour to pick up some food for a light supper. Cathy and Julia came in shortly after we did, having enjoyed a very different itinerary. Supper was simple and then we three oldies relaxed while Julia walked to a nearby thermal pool.

All Photos of the Day

Wednesday 9 August Reykjavik and Aboard The Seven Seas Explorer

Wednesday 9 August Reykjavik and Aboard The Seven Seas Explorer
   We got up and packed early enough to enjoy the Northern Lights exhibition and the Maritime Museum - both very much worth the visit - before leaving the Airbnb.  We stuffed our luggage and ourselves into the car and sought out a gas station before heading to the cruise port.  Once  onboard we enjoyed a delicious and leisurely lunch until our suites were ready.  Eventually our luggage arrived and we settled  in before the safety drill and Sailing Away Party.
   It's a beautiful ship, with comfortable accommodations and I think it'll be a terrific trip, but man! is it cold out on the deck!  Should have brought more woolies! Dinner in the 7 Prime was great - good conversation with Cathy and Julia and lots of good food and wine.  Afterward we enjoyed good Dixieland Jazz in one of the lounges.

Photos of the Day - Northern Lights Exhibition - Maritime Museum

Northern Lights Video from Exhibition

Thursday 10 August Isafjordur Iceland

Thursday 10 August  Isafjordur Iceland
   After a very comfortable night we took our time over breakfast, enjoying the company of a couple from Connecticut.  Our tour to Vigur Island started with a 30 minute ride in a small, enclosed powerboat over slightly choppy water. It was pretty chilly. At the island we really buttoned (and zipped) up, grabbed sticks to ward off the Arctic terns and set out for a short walk.
The small windmill has been in place for well over 100 years. Originally it was used to grind (imported) corn, but went out of use in 1916. Puffins, guillemots, and eider ducks nest here, as well as the terns and we saw them all, as well as seals. One family has owned and farmed the island for 4 generations, but all the children of the current farmer have left the island. The main source of income is gathering, cleaning and selling eider down. They served us delicious cakes and coffee and we looked around a traditional house. Perhaps most fascinating were the stories of elves and trolls who live in the area. A late lunch back at the ship and a quiet time before Cathy and I teamed up with a couple from L.A., Andy & Pat, for trivia and came 3rd of some huge number of teams. The Captain's Reception gave us an excuse to dress up and there we learned that tonight we'll cross the Arctic Circle.
   After dinner we watched a show in the theatre and then played "Name That tune" (we came second on that ).  At midnight we could still see a very bright glow on the horizon as seen in this midnight photo from our balcony. 






 Day's Photos: Isafjordur Iceland (Vigur Island Tour)

Video: Vigur Island Panorama 0:18

Friday 11 August -- Akureyri Iceland

Friday 11 August -- Akureyri -- We had a quiet morning before setting out on the Akureyri Nature & History Tour. We visited the most northerly botanical garden in the world, and found that many of our usual garden plants have been brought here and do very well. The local ones are past their glory at this time of year and look much like the landscapes we've been seeing for he past several days, but we're told they're brilliant in June.

From there we drove through the hills to Godafoss Waterfall -- which resembles a mini-Niagara Falls. It was drizzling a bit, so no rainbows, but it's pretty anyway.

The Laufas Museum, on the way back, is a sod house that has been in existence for about 1000 years. It expanded over time to a sprawling warren of rooms and was inhabited until 1936. Sod walls have been repaired and replaced but always in the same spot.
Best dinner yet, in the Compass Rose restaurant (the trick was to show up early and get a window table). Cathy & Julia got to the dining room a bit later than we did and were a couple tables away. They actually spotted a whale out the window by their table. We had been watching, but didn't see anything.

Photos of the Day 

Video: Godafoss falls 0:18


Continue to the Following Days

Saturday 12 August - At Sea

Saturday 12 August - At Sea
   After lunch it was time to be initiated into the "Order of the Blue Nose": - an exclusive Order for those who have crossed the Arctic Circle.  We've actually crossed it 3 times so far, and right now are above it on our way to the Faroe Islands which we will reach in the morning.

   It's a beautiful day with a deep teal ocean and pearly light blue sky.  The swell is 6 feet but the Explorer handles it well.
   During tea in the Observation Lounge someone spotted a whale near the ship and we all got a pretty good look.
   We were third again in the trivia tournament.
   Larry got tired of his red ski jacket so purchased a new navy blue one for variety.

Just a few photos from At Sea

Sunday 13 August - Torshavn The Faroe Islands (Denmark)

Sunday 13 August - Torshavn, The Faroe Islands
   Larry enjoyed watching ["supervising"] the approach and docking procedures very early Sunday morning.  It's a lovely harbour/fjord, though we're docked in a container freight area.
We joined a tour after lunch, just as heavy rain started.  Our guide
Gudrun was an older lady who told us that she had a new hip so was being a bit careful. She also claimed to forget how many were on the tour, so asked us just to let her know if any were missing as the bus left each point. We even stopped the bus once to check from an overlook  if anyone who might have been left behind was running up the road.

First stop was the workshop of a wood turner who uses local woods to create lampshades and bowls.  Beautiful stuff and interesting techniques, but too costly and fragile to bring home.  Gorgeous setting though.
   The site of a the 1100 year old home was interesting as we learned how the earliest people to settle here lived. We had several other stops to overlook the area. It's lovely, but we were cold and wet and happy to get back to the ship.
The show was great fun and dinner was delicious. The people running this ship certainly know how to do that stuff! We'll likely gain a bunch of pounds on this trip.

Photos at Torshavn

Monday 14 August -- Lerwick, Shetland Islands (Scotland)

Monday 14 August -- Lerwick, Shetland Islands.
    This morning we had to clear UK immigration (a short & sweet process) before tendering into town. There we met our local guide for a walking tour. It's a solid and steep compact place, with a population of about 7000. It has to be sturdy to withstand the winter gales. The street names were all updated in the 1840s, but the signs still show both names -- I guess that's to give people lots of time to get used to the new names.
   The fort's cannons have never been fired defensively, though the Dutch did burn the fort down a few centuries ago.
   The little Scottish Episcopal church is lovely. People have hand-knit kneeling cushions hanging on the backs of the pews, all different.
   While we admired the waterfront, standing by the house that is the home of Jimmy Perez on the TV
 show "Shetland", a man in chef's garb came out and offered us beautiful, delicious hand-made chocolates. Later we searched out his shop and bought some.
   A "chippie" was recommended for lunch, but by the time we found it, it was raining, there were only outside tables and they take cash only. So we returned to the ship for a hamburger. Too bad, would have liked to try "real" fish and chips.
    We really bombed at Trivia today. Kept narrowing down to 2 answers and choosing the wrong one. Sigh.

Photos of the Shetland Day

Tuesday 15 August -- Alesund, Norway

 Tuesday 15 August -- Alesund, Norway.
   We were startled awake this morning at 10 by our stewardess Lucia, checking if we were OK. She usually sees us by about 8 or so and was concerned. I can't imagine why we slept in, possibly because there was a time change and there'd also been rough seas until about 5.
I dashed off to play morning Trivia (4th place -- not great, but better than the day before), then we went ashore and wandered through the pretty Art Deco city of Alesund. We found an ATM, got some Norwegian money and bought fish and chips for lunch. Billed as "probably the best in the world", they were pretty good, but too salty for my taste.
  In the afternoon we joined a tour to the Sunnmore Museum, where we saw many very old houses and boats. There were even Viking boats resurrected from the sea or from marshes. A building held displays explaining various parts of Norwegian history, including the connection between a local Viking hero, Rollo, and the British Royal Family. Our guide was a young high school student on his summer holidays. He was excellent.
   After dinner, everyone gathered in the atrium to dance to the music of the Beatles.

Photos of the Day 

Video: Alesund Norway Panorama 0:30

Wednesday 16 August -- Bergen Norway

Wednesday 16 August --Bergen Norway
  We opted for room service for breakfast, then set out on an excursion called "Lysoen Island & Ole Bull's Exotic Fairytale Home". Not sure what I thought it was when I booked it, but we discovered that Ole Bull was a famous Norwegian musician who built a marvellous summer home on Lysoen Island. Of course, it rained, but we enjoyed the bus trip there on narrow steep winding roads and the short boat ride to the island. The man lived quite a life! Then back into Bergen for a city tour before our return to the ship.
 2nd place in trivia today -- a couple steps up!
  While we enjoyed dinner at a window table, we could see a small group of  musicians, dressed in red, gathering on the pier. We got back to our cabin in time to applaud from our balcony as they serenaded the ship out of port. What fun!
  As we went out of the harbour, we could hear loud music from Frosh Week parties. We had seen students around town and our guide had mentioned that everyone in town was relieved when this week ended every year.
  Then a lively salute to the music of the British Invasion. Tomorrow's early, so an early night.

Photos of the Day 

Video:Anchors Away from Bergen Norway 2:14

Thursday 17 August -- Stavanger Norway

Thursday 17 August -- Stavanger, Norway

Woke up barely in time to grab a bite and make it to our early tour. We got on a smaller boat for the trip into Lysefjord, narrower and with steeper sides than any we'd seen before. Rock overhangs and cliff caves where "vagabonds" (smugglers?) evaded authorities, goats pastured in impossible places.
 We were greeted by a Viking as we disembarked to enjoy coffee and waffles with strawberry preserves and heavy cream, along the edge of the fjord (delicious!).

Back on board our ship before the rain started, then back out to walk through the open market to the Stavanger Domkirke, a cathedral dating from 1125. The stained glass windows have been removed for repair and local art college students produced paper replacements with modern interpretations of  religious symbols. It was drizzling again, so we walked back on cobbled streets through an interesting area of shops, bars and restaurants, to the ship. Along the way, I posed with a couple of trolls. It seems that they come in all sizes and, while the males are ugly with long pointed noses, the females are beautiful and seductive. (I posed with 2 males, so likely will be taken for a troll in the photo.)

2nd in trivia today!

Photos of the Day

Friday 18 August - Skagen Denmark

Friday 18 August - Skagen Denmark
   Best day yet!  That could have a lot to do with the sun and mild temperatures.

But it's also a lovely town with yellow houses, red tiled roofs, gardens full of colourful flowers; heather and Mountain Ash, and rose bushes full of gigantic hips in the country side.
Our tour began at the Art Museum.  This is one of those places with magical light, so Impressionist-era painters flocked here, leaving lovely works.
  The Sand Church is amazing - built in the early 15th century it held 1000 worshipers.  Sand gradually drifted over it and by the mid-19th century it was abandoned.  Only part of its tower now stands above the sand.
   On the way to the most northern tip of Denmark (or, as our guide mentioned, the most northerly point of Europe, disregarding of course Sweden and Norway), we passed 3 different lighthouses that had each been built on the northern tip and replaced 100 years later as that point grew with sand.  The first is called "the parrot" because of its appearance.  It was replaced by the white, and then the grey towers.
  Once to the parking area, we boarded a "Sand Worm" for the last leg of the trip.  That's a trolley pulled by a tractor with huge wheels.
  Out on the very tip, I stood with one foot in the North Sea and one in the Baltic...or the Skagerrack and  Kattegat as they say.
  I may not have thought it through, as I had to return to the ship with sandy feet, but it was fun and the water was surprisingly warm. [ I held her shoes while a wave went over my shoes ]

Photos of the Day

Saturday 19 August - Oslo Norway

Saturday, 19 August -- Oslo Norway --   It was rainy (apparently a common situation in Scandinavia), so we were glad not to have a morning tour.  We could see some interesting activity and architecture from the ship.
   After lunch we set off on the Maritime Highlights Tour - so interesting!  Of course, as we drove through the city, our guide pointed out many interesting areas and buildings. We stopped first at the Viking Ship Museum, where we saw 3 actual Viking ships dating from the 7th and 8th centuries. Two are in remarkable condition.

At the Kon Tiki Museum we were able to see the original Kon Tiki Raft and also a reed boat the Hyderdahl used for another voyage.

The last stop was the Fram museum, dedicated to Polar exploration. We went aboard the Fram and saw up-close how those polar explorers lived more than 100 years ago. And glory be! our trip back to the ship was in bright sunshine.

Photos of the Day

Sunday, 20 August -- Gothenburg Sweden.

Sunday, 20 August -- Gothenburg Sweden.
  Our guide said that we experienced a typical summer day in Gothenburg -- too hot, too cold, very sunny, cloudy, windy, still, and just a bit of rain to round things out. The Masthugg Church is a fairly modern Luthern Church, reflecting the ship-building skills of the area. There's a wide variety of art work on the walls.
After a few photo stops and a ride through the city, we ended at the Botanical Garden
and spent more than an hour wandering through this beautiful peaceful place.
  Back at the ship we found our suitcases laid out to remind us to pack this afternoon.
  We gathered our loot for all the trivia wins -- 3 teeshirts.
  The crew and staff put on a great farewell show before dinner.

Photos of the Day

Monday 21 August - Copenhagen Denmark

Monday 21 August - Copenhagen, Denmark
   Disembarkation is never fun, but today it was complicated by a traffic jam and some kind of accident with water landing on a taxi or some people from the ship.  It was from the ship washing above and it caused some very colourful language!
   After gathering ourselves together we stood in line about 30 minutes for a taxi.  We all felt immediately that this is the best city on the trip.  It's really lovely.
   We met our hosts soon after finding the address, and also the previous guests who had just done an Iron Man competition the day before.  Luckily we were able to leave our luggage and go out on the town.
   We walked a while, then found a Hop-On-Hop-Off stop and did one loop without any hopping. [lack of photos of the day is due to bus riding ]
   Off the bus we found a little bar in a pedestrian area and ate fish and chips.  Then Cathy and Julia went in search of further adventure while Larry and I returned to the Airbnb. It's a big third-floor apartment in a busy area, close to lots of great areas and easy to  navigate anywhere. No elevator, so we struggled a bit with our heavy luggage up several steep flights of stairs. But the space is worth it.

Tuesday 22 August - Copenhagen Denmark

Tuesday 22 August - Copenhagen Denmark

Museums are free on Tuesdays, but don't open until 11, so we had a latish breakfast and walked to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an art museum of the collection of one of the Carlsberg beer family.
It's quite beautiful -- both the collection and the building. We looked at sculptures by several famous Danish artists as well as paintings.

However, Larry and I had not made it to the canal tour yet and our tickets were only good today, so we took off on our own. The canal tour was the best thing yet. I wish we'd done it very first thing yesterday. We saw many of the same buildings, but from better perspectives, and the back of the Little Mermaid. After that, we thought we might have time for the bus loop out  past the Carlsberg breweries, but traffic was slow and then we took a wrong turn when we got off the bus, so when we ran across a sidewalk cafe we opted for a very late lunch and beer.

Photos of the Day

Wednesday, 23 August -- Kronborg Castle and Louisiana Art Gallery

Wednesday, 23 August -- Kronborg Castle and Louisiana Art Gallery

50 years ago this summer, my mom and dad did a "grand tour" of Europe, including a few days in Copenhagen. One of their funny stories was about their visit to Elsinor (the castle in Hamlet). I had decided to try to go there on this trip because of that, and today was the day. Larry and I spent about 40 minutes at the Central Train Station getting Copenhagen Cards and finding the commuter train that would take us there. We'd discovered that the Louisiana Gallery is in Humlebaek, on the same train line, so we got off there first.

It was amazing! Both the art and the setting are unbeatable (well, some of the art -- some of it is just plain weird!). AND there's a great cafe where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. Back on the train to Helsingor and to Hamlet's castle.

What fun! Actors do bits of the play then rush off to another part of the castle or grounds with the crowd running after them for the next scene. One little girl kept saying "hurry, hurry, I don't want to miss a moment of this". We even had a private encounter with the ghost of Hamlet's father. The castle itself is worth the visit, even without the Shakespearean antics. We groped our way through the dark underground casemates, saw the king's and queen's apartments, wandered around the courtyards and onto the ramparts, and visited the lovely chapel. Then caught the train back to Copenhagen for our last night in the city.

 Our Copenhagen Cards gave us free admission to Tivoli Gardens, so we went there around 10, wandered around enjoying the lights and watched the Wednesday night fireworks. The park didn't seem too full until the fireworks ended, then there was a mob at the exits. Nice ending to a great time in Copenhagen.

Photos of the Day 

Video: Shakespeare Macbeth 1 2:42

Video: Shakespeare Macbeth 2 1:05

Video: Shakespeare Macbeth 3 0:18