Happy New Year!

It is hard to believe that we’ve closed out 2017 and the New Year has already begun.  For us retired folks here in San Diego, it means more of the same and a few new adventures on the horizon.

Dan has been retired a full year now and I can say he is beginning to adjust.  He does play more golf during the week and helps out with gardening at church more often.  He’s hoping to get in some skiing, but then he can’t really control when or if the snow will come.  Probably the biggest difference is that he doesn’t put in the long hours at the office.  You know he still goes into the office because he just can’t help himself!  He’s still figuring out what all he’d like to do as a retiree.  I suggested reading, napping, walking etc. and was met with a smile and no comment!

I’m in year 9 of retirement and continue to find many things I like to do and want to try.  The trick will be to find things we both like and can do together.  So far, we’ve come up with two things: travel and travel.  We’re deciding on where to go for a short road trip in the next few months and where to go on a big vacation in the fall.  I’d like to say we could golf together, but alas, the discrepancies in our skill levels are pronounced.  I hope my game improves a lot this year, because golfing together could be fun.

So, let’s see what adventures come our way over the next 12 months.  It is a joy and blessing to have worked so many years and be healthy enough to do things now that our days are free of the daily grind.  We were both content and even happy with our careers, but this new life is exciting and we don’t want to waste a minute of it.  You can bet it will be centered around time with our children and grandchildren, who are our biggest joys here on earth.

 

Prince Christian Sound

Now this is a sunrise that was worth getting up for! Can you just imagine standing on the deck and being a part of sailing in this amazing fjord?  We were so excited, that we scurried to get dressed and head out for the deck.  Haha,  we barely made it outside when we had to dash back to put warmer clothes on!  Oh, was it cold and windy, but worth every minute shivering!

We stayed out on deck for a couple of hours watching enormous whales breach, icebergs float by, and dozens of areas where ice was cutting through mountains reaching for the sea.  The seas had 8-10 foot swells making the natural beauty remind you of how harsh the environment really was. Prince Christian Sound (named after the Danish Prince) is between Iceland and Greenland and took us most of a day to navigate as we headed toward Nanortalik, Greenland.  Check out these photos.

So very cold
Sunrise in the Sound.

These massive ice flows are indescribable. It seemed like you could reach out and touch them.

Just a little berg to avoid.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Next stop, Iceland! A little fact about Iceland is that it is Europe’s northernmost nation and Reykjavik is the northernmost capital city.  It has active volcanoes, hot thermal springs, waterfalls, and geysers.  Here Dan and I split up for the day. He wanted to go to what is called the Blue Lagoon. It is a world-famous hot spring. I had no desire to be in a swimsuit in 45 degree weather no matter how warm those hot spring were. He loved it and said that it didn’t smell too much like rotten eggs.

Isn’t this just gorgeous?  It is so hard to come up with words to describe this part of the world.  Cold and idyllic?  Serene and mystical?  You just have to go and see for yourself.

Since Dan was headed for the lagoon, I took a tour that took me to some amazing waterfalls. The challenge was that it was so very cold and the winds were strong that it burned my lungs to breathe as I hiked down to the falls. Since I had a cold, I just couldn’t make it all the way down, which was very disappointing.  In this picture the falls don’t seem that large, but let me tell you, even from half way down and with my telephoto lens, the roar was loud.   The falls were so vast and the water traveled far down stream and out of sight.

After time at the falls we headed to an area where there were geysers (geysirs).  Unlike Old Faithful in Yellowstone, you had to wait with uncertainty when it might spout.  The only other geysers I’ve seen were in Rotorua, New Zealand.  There are signs posting along the path here stating that the water is 212 degrees Fahreneit!  When it shot up those people you see took off running and screaming as they were standing too close.

Iceland is a land of so much natural beauty and scenic diversity.  The people were friendly and helpful. Another must see destination, especially  if you want to go somewhere less populated.

Funny of the Week #2

Golfing is my love, my challenge, my fun, and my frustration. But then, you all know that by now. The rotator cuff has healed as much as it can without surgery, so I am playing again, but taking only half swings. Can you imagine how long a game could take if I played 18 holes? Good thing I only play 9 holes on par 3 courses!

Last week I played with my regular golfing buddy and Dan joined us so he could get some practice in. Great! His sense of humor was on display when I asked for everyone’s scores on hole number 3. His response, “Two pars and a Katie.” Translation, he and Patrice had pars, and I had… a 5.  Funny man.

However, this week the tables turned. When the scores were called for, I couldn’t resit, “Two pars and a Dan.”  Yes, Patrice and I had pars and Dan had a 5.  I just love how things can change at any time in this game called golf.

Torshavn, Faroe Islands

The 22 Faroe Islands are located between Norway and Iceland and while independently ruled, they are a part of Denmark.  The archipelago islands are a series of jagged mountain peeks and fjords.  Our first stop was in the capital city of Torshavn.  Today the people speak Faroese.  The earliest inhabitants were Irish Monks, but were overtaken by the Vikings.

Most of the men fish for a living.  Many of the homes were  painted black because it is the easiest color for them to get.  The black is derived from tar.  Here too, many homes have grass thatched roofs.  The green tin roofs you see in the picture is preferred if thatching is not available.  I just don’t think I’d like to sit down to dinner and hear hooves on the roof from sheep eating.  Does dirt fall in? How about bugs? Ick!               

Rushing water in front of the local church.

We also stopped by a workshop of a woodcutter who made lamp shades out of finely cut pieces of wood. It was an interesting process, but honestly I cannot imagine life there. It seems so solitary, cold, and dreary. A final interesting fact is that there are few trees of any real height. Why? The sheep eat them. They wander all over the place. Some are known to have GoPro’s on them!

In the Wake of the Vikings Days 1-3

Vacation time has rolled around again, and this time we took off on the Viking Sky Cruise ship to trace the path of the ancient Vikings as they explored Norway, The Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. The trip took 23 days and was filled with many unexpected events and sites.

Our plane landed in Oslo, Norway and we used the Hop On, Hop Off bus to acclimate ourselves. We took in the Viking and Maritime museums.

Wooden figurehead from prow of ancient Viking ship

Both had relics from the days of the Vikings.

Leather boots taken from remains of a Viking ship

Out the train window near Flam

After a day in Oslo, we took a train to Flam and passed through cloud shrouded fjords and had our first glimpse of the quiet life of Norway.

Hotel in Flam

In Flam we had our first taste of reindeer meat as we strolled through a local Farmer’s Market.  It was actually very good and we had it several more times during our trip.

After a day in Flam we boarded another train and headed for Balestrand for a two night stay.

Balestrand was a busier city than Flam, but still very small and quiet.  The views were extraordinary.  We were able to do quite a bit of walking with the temperatures being in the low 50’s.

One of the best things about Balestrand was the food. We had two nights of the most amazing buffet of Norwegian foods. The dinner service offered at least seven different ways of preparing salmon. It was all so wonderful. By this point in the trip, we had eaten, reindeer, veal, halibut,

Balestrand as seen from the tr

salmon, and numerous kinds of local fish that I’d never heard of.  The bread was to die for.  If this was the kind of food we would be eating for the next 3 weeks, we were going to be in big trouble! It would be a challenge to keep portions small or pass on sampling everything our eyes would see.

At the end of our time in Balestrand, we took a ferry to Bergen were we would meet the ship. These three days were a nice adjustment to the 9 hour time change before we began our official journey.

Greeter at the Viking Bar

 

The Shetland Islands, Lewrick

The seas were so rough this day we were unable to stop in these islands. We were disappointed as we wanted to see the many ruins that dated back to the Iron Age. The swells were about 8 feet and the captain was not comfortable docking us. This was a day to take sea sick pills!

So here is the trivia for the day:

Traditionally, early houses in Norway were painted red, yellow or white. Why?  The easiest colors for them to make. Red was for those structures owned by the commoners or poor.  Barns too were painted this color. The middle class would paint their homes in yellow and the wealthiest class used white paint.  Today, Norway has added shades of blue and green that give homes their signature look.

Our Big Vacation Begins: Bergen, Norway

In Bergen, we began our day in the rain with a drive around the waterfront and then on to a small working farm just outside the city proper.   The farmer had four working horses, chickens, and a dozen or so sheep. Since it was raining quite hard we didn’t wander about the farm too long, but the guide did stop to show us some of the animals.  When was the last time you saw a barn/shed with a grass roof?  Take that a step further and ask yourself if you had that barn and some sheep would they have kept it neatly trimmed by eating it regularly? These sheep did! I watched them climb the rooftops and nibble away. Amazing.

Eventually we went inside the farm-house and had a lovely snack that include fresh-baked pastries and tea. The farmer changed into traditional Norweigan clothing, along with the gals that worked the tours. They came out and did a traditional dance of us and the farmer played the piano. It was a charming morning despite the rain.

By the time we headed back for the ship the rain had stopped and we were able to walk along the wharf to see some of the old Hanseatic buildings. Having been in Bergen before, we didn’t spend a lot of time walking around.  Instead we headed for the ship to get settled in before setting sail early that evening. This was a must see city.

Family Reunions

When was the last time you gathered together will all of your extended family to honor a special member?  Often times, it seems like it is at a funeral.  I remember when my grandfather died many years ago, it was the first time I had seen my cousins in years.  We decided at that time, we should make it a point to see one another in happy times. That is hard to do when people are spread out across the country.  If you are married, then you have two families to try to keep up with.  Despite the hurdles, we’ve kept to our promise and gathered together (Indiana to California) for vacations and weddings.

This year, Dan’s family came to California to celebrate their mother’s 89th birthday.   Believe it or not, every living member of her family came for the event.  With her husband, four grown children, their spouses, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, there were 24 in attendance!  That was a lot of people to gather not for a one day event, but for a week of activities leading up to the party.  In this one week we celebrated 5 actual birthdays:  July 4th, 5th, 7th, and two on the 8th!  The grand finale party, Grandma’s 89th, was on the 8th.

Everyone did their own touristy things during the day, but those who could, rallied at our home for dinner, swimming and great conversation.  A special “kid station” was set up outside so the little girls had shade and were pool safe.  We brought out the play kitchen, tiny table and chairs, the easel, and other “girly toys.”  The two 3 year old’s became fast friends despite just meeting one another.

Nothing is more special than being with family.  We are so abundantly blessed to be able to have family to share the good times with.  Glad we are retired so we could do all the fun things with everyone and still be able to plan meals at our home for everyone to share in.  This was a great summer to remember.  I hope it will be possible to do something similar with my side of the family soon!