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.
These massive ice flows are indescribable. It seemed like you could reach out and touch them.
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!
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!
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.
Both had relics from the days of the Vikings.
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.
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,
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.
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.
Retirement and Road Trip seem to go together, don’t they? This past spring we had the opportunity to head for the Grand Canyon with our son, Brian and his wife, Jenny. Dan and Brian shared the driving and it seemed like the long trek went quickly.
Judging by all the creature comforts we packed into the car you would have thought we were going for a week instead of 4 days! But we had a great time taking pictures, tasting beers from local brewery’s and sharing family stories. New memories were made like Brian bringing a hammock and stringing it between 2 trees so we could lookout over the canyon! Can you imagine how beautiful it was? It was a bit scary too!
Three of the four of us are NOT morning people, but we were all up and headed for the park at 4:15 to see the sunrise beam light over the red canyon. Dan drove and parked the car inside the park. By moonlight we hiked in to find the “perfect spot” to watch the day begin. My pictures don’t do justice to the magnificence of the Canyon, but I did manage to capture a few good shots.
And yes, later in the day as we were hiking, an elk wandered up to a public drinking fountain to have a sip of water. A park visitor was happy to give this big animal a slurp before moving on.
We had a great time traveling with our grown children. Now we have our free “lifetime” National Park pass. As senior citizens it cost us a big ten bucks. Who knows where we will go next…
I’ve discovered that traveling is a great way to be on the hunt for my favorite collectible: thimbles. They are easy to collect and store, but not necessarily easy to find. I started collecting around 1983…long before retirement! But over the years, the collection has grown to just over 200!
I don’t look for what I call “airport” thimbles, which are inexpensive and usually have tacky machine-stamped logos on them. In a pinch these little icons will do, if they represent a city or place that has meaning and there are no other choices. I tend to look for the unique or unusual that will remind me of a special location or event.
When we travel with friends, they all know to be on the lookout for these hidden treasures and give me a heads up. They are often shelved almost out- of- sight in shops, as I suspect they aren’t great sellers. It’s like an adult scavenger hunt! An added bonus is that they take up no space in a suitcase and don’t add any weight. And, I save lots of money by not collecting jewelry!
These tiny souvenirs are very affordable as far a collectibles go. Some of my favorites cost under $8. Some can be more, a lot more, but those are typically passed by. No one will want my collection because of its value! It’s purely sentimental and a beautiful reminder of places we’ve been.
I’ve managed to acquire thimbles from every continent but Antarctica. Hopefully, I will make it there one day. Then I can declare I’ve been on every continent!
Our tour of Italy allowed us to see some amazing fountains. Hope you enjoy these beauties! Since we went from Rome south to the Amalfi Coast and then north as far as Venice, I don’t remember where they were all from. Some were more ornamental than useful, although dogs didn’t seem to mind where the water came from.
Final stop on the “Best of Italy Tour” with Trafalger (and a bit of Rick Steves’ thrown in) was Siena. We knew nothing about this city except that St. Catherine of Siena was my Patron Saint. It brought back childhood memories at the parochial school I attended and all the kids talked about who they were named after. I had no idea where Italy was or why my parents chose that particular saint. It is too bad that as an adult I never thought to ask, because it would have added meaning to this stop.
Once in Siena the four of us broke off from the group and headed down three terraced streets to the site where Catherine had a room and worshiped. Pretty much all I knew about her was that she played a role in moving the Popes Palace from Avignon, France back to Rome.
Today the church, named for St. Catherine, serves as a local parish. There was a statue of her inside the courtyard and I couldn’t resist posing for a picture. I managed to buy a thimble with her name and picture on it to add to my thimble collection.
Our last dinner with the big group was
a wonderful family style Italian meal. As usual we sat with new and old friends and shared favorite memories from the trip.
Here are some cool facts about our trip. We drove over 1,183 miles over 12 days. We walked approximately 185, 680 steps which meant we walked about 82 miles! No wonder we ate like kings and queens, had gelato everyday and didn’t gain any weight. What a wonderful trip. Sure hope we can travel with our dear friends again and share new travel adventures! We are so blessed to be able to take the time to see the world. Retirement is wonderful!
We hopped on the bus bright and early as we had several places to see. Our first stop was Pisa. It was not what we expected; it was better! It really was leaning at a pretty steep pitch and neither of us wanted to hike up (or pay the Euro’s). The tower has 7 tiers. The first 3 floors began to sink shortly after being built because they were so heavy. In the early days Pisa was an important port city, so the surrounding soil tended to be soft and not the best for supporting a marble structure such as a tall tower. Building stopped for a while until another architect came along and added 3 more marble stories. You can imagine that it began to tilt even more! By the time the bell tower was added a total of 300 years had gone by since the original building began. We could not believe the detail and ornateness of the tower. You needed to see it up close to appreciate its true beauty. They say it is structurally safe now, but we figured we’d pass despite the amazing views there must have been from the top. Walking the perimeter was fine for us!
Off in the distance we could see mountains that looked to be snow-covered, but in reality they were huge marble mountains! No wonder Italy has magnificent marble structures everywhere.
From Pisa we headed to the great city of Florence. The drive was so pretty as we passed green rolling hills with rows and rows of vineyards. Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to many famous artists, scientists, poets, and of course, Pinocchio! During the Renaissance it was the wealthiest and most politically influential city of the region.
Walking the streets was a wonderful treat. These pictures were taken inside one of the famous shopping areas. Museums, cathedrals, fountains, and monuments were in abundance. So much culture and history everywhere we looked!
Since Florence is also known for its leather we went to a leather factory. I will admit, we purchased a few little leather items. We had no intention of making such purchases, but when in Italy… Too bad leather goods aren’t as inexpensive as all the gelato we consumed!
We also went to Santa Croce, the church where Michelangelo, da Vinci, Marconi, and dozens other famous men were buried. It was almost like an indoor cemetery. What a beautiful church. Simple compared with other Duomo’s we’d seen, and almost like another museum. The marble carvings and tributes to the deceased were tasteful and very elegant.
Our final stop in the city was Galleria dell ‘Accademia where the famous statue of David was on display. It was incredible to think that Michelangelo created such a magnificent statue out of one huge slab of marble. Can you imagine what thoughts must have gone through his mind each time he struck his chisel on the brick of marble? Like the Pieta in Rome, the statue of David was something I never thought I would get to see in person. What an amazing site!
We ended the evening with a magnificent prime rib dinner at a local restaurant. We had some great wine and champagne along with a brief tour of the underground wine seller of years gone by. We brought some wine home so we can continue to enjoy Tuscan wines. Exhausted by yet another long day of walking and overloading of the senses, we fell asleep the minute we hit the pillows. According to my Fitbit, we managed to put in exactly 19,000 steps that day! It felt like it too!!
We arrived late on October 9th just in time to see the magic of dusk settling over the city below. Our room was quaint with a view of Lake Maggiore that was spectacular. We ate a quick dinner and headed to bed after an exhausting day.
October 10th, we woke up early and set out for an excursion to Isle Isabela where the Borromeo family have their home or rather, Palace. The 18-year-old princess still lives here. Most impressive were the terraced gardens. Besides incredible topiaries, flowers, and fountains, there were a dozen or more white peacocks roaming around!
Besides the lake, we could see the Swiss Alps off in the distance. Dan and I have been to the Alps for skiing, so it made this stay that much more memorable.
From Isle Isabela we headed for Lake Como. This area was very slow-paced, tastefully built, and clean. Seriously, no trash anywhere!
We saw another beautiful church dedicated to Mary the Immaculate. I would love to live here! If only I spoke Italian…
In the evening we attended a very special dinner on Isle Madre. It was a good thing we walked over 15,00 steps that day, because dinner was delicious and served family style, which meant a never ending bowl coming our way!