Wednesday 27 July 2011


When we got back from holiday, the garden had got a bit rampant! So while Mr.G got on with mowing the very long grass, I prowled round with my camera to see what was there.

These yellow lilies actually are always there! I have had them for years, always in the same pot. I tried to repot them once, but couldn't get them out of the original pot, so left them in peace. And they reward me every year with these lovely yellow blooms.

What was a surprise were these lilies. I had bought them as "pinky-orange" but they turned out to be this glorious deep red!

These lilies were another surprise. I bought, for a few pence, some sad-looking lily bulbs that were already sprouting. I planted them and gave them some tender loving care, and they surprised me by producing four stems of flowers, all different colours! Unfortunately they didn't all flower at the same time, but I had one pink, one pale yellow, one orange and one deep yellow with brown spots! Think I'll keep them in the same pot and see what happens next year.

I don't know what this little flower is called, but I call it the Balloon flower, as the buds look like hot air balloons. Its been growing happily in very little soil in a trough at the edge of our patio. I think its roots might have gone down cracks in the wall (of which there are plenty!) and found something to grow in!

I never managed to get to a garden centre before it was too late, and in desperation I went to our local B&Q (a do-it-yourself superstore). They are not known for taking care of their plants, and I found these looking very sad, so I complained to the checkout woman, who promptly looked at them, and sold them to me half price. Again a bit of TLC produced firstly this golden marigold, and then......

.....this lovely dark one. They share a trough with a dark-leaved begonia, the sort that has little dark red flowers, and it all looks great!

And lastly, although I try to get rid of the crocosmia "Lucifer" they are very persistent, and this year have lovely large red blooms. I do have a clump in the "right" place, but perhaps I'll let these stay, as they look so good against the grey stone wall.

Tuesday 19 July 2011


We left the High Arctic, and after a day and night across the Arctic Ocean (thankfully not as rough as our outward journey!) we arrived at the Lofoten Islands. There are a myriad of islands along this very mountainous chain, with no big towns, just small fishing villages.

The mountains were rugged,and in strange shapes. Our Ship anchored just outside a tiny settlement.

There really was very little there. The Shuttle buses, for which we had to pay rather a lot, went to a slightly bigger village, where there was still very little, so we decided to explore the immediate vicinity.

We climbed a small hill, from where there were very lovely views. Afterwards, Mr.G (who gets a bit fed up with my slow walking speed!) went off along the shore, and found some interesting birds to watch. I went back to the Pier, and found the Princess Line had provided free coffee, perhaps to make up for the shuttle bus charges!

Another day and night's sailing took us to our last port before home, and at long last south of the Arctic Circle. Stavanger has a pretty harbour, but the Ship dominated the scene, and looked totally out of proportion!

We wandered rather aimlessly about, and found a small market selling fruit and vegetables and the inevitable knitted sweaters etc.

And found the first of the many sculptures around Stavanger.

There were some old roofs along the harbourside, mainly cafes and tourist shops at ground level.

I really wanted to see the Old Town, the largest surviving wooden house settlement in northern Europe. It is a beautiful area of little wooden houses and cobbled streets along the west side of the harbour The houses were originally built for the families working in the canneries in Stavanger. Nearly all the houses are white (only a few are allowed to be another colour) and they vary in age from less than 100 to about 300 years. The houses are lived in and most are privately owned.

It was well worth seeing, but I found the very hilly bits and the cobbled streets very tiring, and there was just nowhere to rest, not a cafe in sight!

We eventually found a cafe in the new town, and I collapsed with a coffee and a muffin. But I could do no more and left Mr.G to go round the rest of the harbour, and find some good bits I missed, while I went back to the Ship and rested.

And that was virtually the end of our holiday. Oh yes, we crossed the North Sea again for a day and a night, and then landed in Southampton, where our coach was waiting to whisk us northwards.

It was, all told, a fantastic holiday, and I am so pleased we had the opportunity to do it. But if I went on a cruise again, it would be a smaller ship! Far too much walking for me! But I couldn't fault the ship for the quality of the food, cleanliness, service, and entertainment.

Now I'm dreaming of another cruise!

Tuesday 12 July 2011


So that you can see where we actually went on our cruise, I have doctored a map, and put a red line to show you our route. Hopefully the map will enlarge when you click on it and you can see it properly. I'm afraid my hand wobbled a bit doing the route, but you can get the general idea!

Tromso is well above the Arctic Circle, and is a pleasant town, with lots to see. We didn't get across to see the Arctic Cathedral, as it was a long way, but we did get to some interesting museums. The Polar Museum had some fascinating accounts of explorations across the Arctic, and to the North Pole, but there was also a lot about trapping and hunting, which I found rather distressing. Killing for food and clothing for the local people, yes, but there were so many seals and land animals killed for their skins which were exported across the world. I suppose it was just that way of life, but it all got too much for me and I found a chair to sit on and look at other things! Tromso market, like other markets in Norway, major in woolly sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves etc. I bought a lovely woolly hat for the winter.

We sailed from Tromso and headed for Honningsweg, very close to North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe. The scenery here was just bare plains. We took an excursion across the big island plains to two very isolated fishing village. The big industry here is dried fish, of which an enormous amount is exported to Portugal and Spain. (I really do not know what those countries do with such a lot of dried fish!) On the way we saw several family groups of reindeer, grazing on what lichens and grass they could find.

On our coach trip we had a really splendid guide, a Norwegian woman who had lived all her life in Honningsweg, and loved the freedom from crime there, the friendliness and the pure fresh air. They made the most of the summer months, as they have 4 or 5 months with very little daylight, of course.

We left Honningsweg harbour just before midnight, and the photo above was taken, I assure you, at midnight!

The next day we sailed across a very rough Arctic Sea, so rough they put tape across the doors to the Promenade deck so no one could go out, as the winds were so great, and the waves so high it would have been dangerous.

Early the following morning, Mr.G woke me and said "You must come and see this!" which I did and there were these fantastic snowy mountains gliding by in the distance. The sea was blue, the sky was a lighter blue and the mountains were dark blue and white with snow. It was truly magical.

We followed the snowy mountains and glaciers all the way to the little town of Longyearbyen. This town formed round the coal mines, which are still very active, and coal is a major export. There really isn't much that is beautiful about Longyearbyen......

However, there is an excellent Museaum and Tourist Information place there. Quite the best Museum I have been in. We were rather amused, though, as we all had to put blue plastic covers over out shoes! It turned out shoes would have damaged the floor and the way the exhibits were arranged - very touchy-feely!

As we left, the sun sparkled on the sea, which was much calmer than when we came! We felt sad, though, to leave those mountains, and to feel we were now on the way home (even if we had 6 days left!)

Thursday 7 July 2011


After leaving Bergen we sailed up to Geiranger Fjord, one of the most beautiful and narrowest of Norway's Fjords. The whole journey was spectacular.

The entrance started fairly wide.....

but got narrower as we went further in.

There were dozens of waterfalls down the near-vertical sides of the fjord. Even the tiny streams had considerable force, and the bigger ones spread out over the rocks like foaming lace.

We landed at the tiny town of Geiranger, and took an excursion bus (one of the only two horrendously expensive excursions we did!) up Mount Disnibba.

Halfway up we stopped at what was once a trapper's shelter, for a coffee and a Norwegian pastry, and I was amazed to see the adjoining lake was frozen! it was also fairly chilly!

At the top we looked down at the valley below, and in the far distance we could see the fjord, like a tiny tear drop. If you look hard at the photos, in the distance, where it is blue-ish, you can just see the fjord, and I think the tiny white splodge is our ship!


It was huge. Three times round the Promenade deck was said to be a mile. There were a lot of determined walkers, doing their miles, but I stuck to a gentle stroll.

Inside was all bling and opulence. The Atrium in the middle of the ship was 4 stories high. This is looking down to the centre. There were various entertainments there in the afternoons and early evenings.

And lastly, we were taken on a very interesting tour of the Ship's Galley. All stainless steel, and immaculately clean. The cakes in front were for our visual delight!

Next post I will take you to the Arctic!

Friday 1 July 2011


We had the most fantastic holiday! Now of course, I've had to come down to earth, but I'm enjoying picking photos for a new blog!

Our first port of call was Bergen, Norway. It is reputed to rain 360 days of the year in Bergen, and yes, we managed to pick a really wet one! However, we got around, well kitted out and more or less waterproof!

Bergen is a very pretty town, with a lot of history behind it. In the 18th Century it was one of the important ports in the Hanseatic League, trading fish, furs and other things across Europe.

We found the Fish Market at the harbour, mostly specialising in shrimps, crabs and other shellfish, plus cod and haddock.

Old Bergen still exists, although mainly for tourists now. The warehouses and trading buildings still stand, each with a narrow frontage and stretching far back.

Between the buildings are narrow alley ways (you could hardly call them streets, although they did have names!) which led to further little shops and squares.

We found these little shops far more interesting than the "posh" tourist shops along the harbour. There was also a much-needed cafe, which sold coffee and delicious cake!

There was a lot of walking for me around Bergen, but I managed it without complaint! A shuttle bus (of which more anon) took us back to the ship.

Next blog, when I have a bit more time, I will show you pics of the ship, and more pics of some of the wonderful places we went to.

My new header is a view of the mountains I saw early in the morning as we sailed up the peninsular of Svarlbad (Spitzbergen) towards Longyearbyen, our next port. The mountains were spectacular, incredibly beautiful, and I fell in love with the Arctic!