Monday, 4 April 2022

Back to UK and day trips


First wander out was to Allington Lock, just on the outskirts of Maidstone. It maybe close to the main town of the county but the lock is a world lost in time.
I parked by the London Road and walked down from there. It's about 1 km and you pass over the main railway line, passed the Allington Bakery (the smell of hot cross buns being cooked was fabulous) and then down toward Allington Castle.
Sounds grand and probably is but its privately owned and opened only for filming or weddings or similar. If you look on Google the images are stunning.
Anyway, we meer mortals turn left at the keep and past the old church which has now been sold.
The road gets steadily steeper until you pop out at the Lock keepers house.
If you're lucky the cafe is open but no loos so be aware.
The area is fabulous and I took a couple of pictures from the lock itself. 
I anticipate going there again but it was a Sunday and everywhere was closing down. I suspect most of the area is closed outside of weekends and school holidays, but a great place to come. The house boats look fabulous, I will walk down to them another day.
view from the lock looking towards Maidstone 
some of the smaller day boats which moor up here. There's a small harbour just up river from here 

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Our final port - Kristiansund and not its namesake Kristiansand


 I missed our docking but on opening the curtains was greeted by a very small harbour any larger ship would have to tender to from a way off. The entrance is so tight and so shallow there are specific times to get in and to get out so we would be leaving on the next tide which hit its optimum point at 4pm.

I had booked to do a walking tour of the place itself but had changed it for a coach trip of the area instead; I realised I wouldn't make 3 miles yet and booking blind, not knowing how far we would be from the ship I just didn't dare risk it.

So I plumbed for a trip called Norway in Miniature. Basically it took us to various parts of the region and we were allowed to enjoy the scenery and the long tunnels connecting one place to another.

Our first stop was on the recently constructed Atlantic Road which I spoke about earlier. The path round was a great addition and the views over the Atlantic were stunning.

This is the car park in front of the 'transport cafe' there. The side of the place is built in a way as to represent the fish of the area and the door is only discernible by the handle [we got that wrong, we were try to go in via the disabled toilet!] 

 



Our next stop was a church, one of the earliest in Norway. The large tree trunks pushed against the sides are a prevention of collapse due to wind damage which usually blows hard over this part of the region. We were lucky, it seems as the wind was almost non existent whilst we were there.


Inside the church, the walls and ceiling were covered in this pattern you see here. The work goes back to the early records of the 18th century and as a consequence we were asked to make sure our flash was off.


Common in all Norwegian churches is a small ship hung from the ceiling. This was a way of blessing those at sea and asking the Gods to bring them home safely.


At 5.7km long and going 250m below sea level at its deepest, this is considered the steepest and longest tunnel in Norway. Sadly, on one of the very narrow roads we had an altercation with a driver - whilst backing up to allow a farm vehicle to pass, we reversed into a car which for some reason did not back up with us, don't know why, but the long and short of it was the driver was fine but the car had some damage. When we got to a point in the road where we could pull over, details were swapped and we then wound our way back to the ship.

When I come back again, and I will, I will stay in Kristiansund and have a wander round. Its some two weeks after returning and in that time the ankle is making great strides [excuse the pun] at hurting less and being more mobile. I will return and enjoy this cruise once more but do different day trips [I want to do the reindeer sledding] and visit some of the ports such as this one with its free water bus.
 




 So, 4pm came and we started to slowly move off the dock passing close to the flats which edged the entrance. They came out onto their balconies waving flags and wishing us bon voyage.
Little did we know we were heading into even bigger seas, stronger winds and a delay to our final docking in Southampton.
Taxis were waiting for us to get our cases and within 20 minutes of being summonsed from our muster points to the gangway for the last time, we had been united with our drivers and were whisked back to our front doors and settling back into land living once more
 
So cheers everyone, and to the next journey, may it be as exciting as this one has been. 
May the sun be on our faces and the winds to our backs.
 

Vikings, Bluenoses and Valued Champions

 Whoever said being at sea is dull and there's nothing to do, think again.


 First stop, The Grill on deck 12 for breakfast and a view over the sea, then a stroll around the deck [buffeted all the way] and then wander down to the Playhouse theatre for a talk on the truth behind the Vikings.

After that it was down to deck 5 for a coffee and listen to the piano playing of Myroslav Taranik  followed a cooking demonstration of genuine Indian curry with head Chef Kumar; yummy.

Then, after a quick lunch, up to the Britannia lounge on deck 14 for the Blue Nose ceremony at 2pm.


 

Yes, I am an official Blue Noser and have the certificate to prove it. God I look a mess but I'd been outside again and this is the general state of most of us by this time, tired, disheveled and for me, losing weight!![ whilst most were finding buttons wanted to pop I had gone the other way and with the increase in general exercise, going up and down staircases, along corridors and trying my best to balance when really the sea had other ideas ... well it was certainly fun, can't wait to come again!!].

That by the way is Viking Vodka. Some spilt onto my chapped fingers and it stung like crazy, dread to think the proof rating on this stuff but let me say it was crawling out the glass, something I'd not seen for years and that had been with ouzo.

At 3:30pm it was along to the playhouse for and amazing afternoon performance by Louis Hoover who did a tribute to Sinatra and the Rat Pack - now he was good!

Blimey, is that the time, a quick scoot up the stairs [this is killing me] deck 6 to deck 14, wheeze, puff, hurt, back into the Britannia Lounge and watch crew members accept their awards for February.

Right, what time is it, OK back down to deck 5 for a special about Swedish glass jewellery and a fascinating insight into diopside garnet.

Aching like crazy I headed back to my cabin and collapsed on my bed for a while. Before I realised the sea had rocked me back to sleep for an hour; I decided coffee and a gentle stroll was in order.

View over the balcony in the library. You can catch a glimpse of the cafe and bar on the deck below and then down the sweeping staircase to the living room where the live instrumental interludes occur. Its really nice to sit and listen whichever of the three decks you're on.





Rest, relaxation and much time spent in the library

 Two days at sea and a bit of a relief really. I can go and hide in the library when I want to, go onto deck 6 for a break and a sit in the cafe there or I can go to the promenade deck and take a stroll round the ship [wind and weather permitting]. We are beginning to experience seas not forecasted and it's lowing our transit by several knots. 

I venture outside having forced the door against the power of the wind. I just got through the door when it slammed shut behind me and I went a distance down the deck grabbing the rail as the wind buffeted me. I managed one side before I went back in, my ankle and I weren't ready for balancing and this required ingenuity, fine motor control and a high degree of luck; I felt as though I had none of the above, safer and calmer inside. I forced a door open and quickly went back inside; I decided walking the corridors would be safer, walking down the stairs to B deck  I began the loops, looking at the art work as I went. Certainly is a lot more stable down here when compared with A deck.

It's no good, the Library called me back, so wandering in I went as far as that bookcase sticking out the left and turn to my left to the coffee station and cookie jars... it would be rude to resist now wouldn't it?

 


The nicest ones as far as I'm concerned are the gluten free ones as they aren't as sweet but the diabetic ones were good too, and yes, before you wonder, I sampled all of them and decided the standard ones, although lovely, chocolatey and big, they gave me a headache whereas the others didn't.

Had the necessary coffee and cookie hit then, ooh, 10:45, time to head to deck 5 for a talk on morganite.


I was the only one there so we had a great chat about the stone, cutting and the best way to get the full body of fire in it. I did a quiz which asked me to identify three different gemstones from their cut form. I did it, and discovered afterwards I was the only person on the ship to get all three right. I would have won a prize if I had gone back at the time but missed out. Never mind, it was just nice to know I hadn't lost my touch.

By the time we parted it was almost lunchtime and there was, what was billed as, A Viking Feast in The Grill so off I went and was greeted with a rousing shout...


Lift doors opened and this lot lunged at you screaming and shouting, it was quite something and certainly a laugh and a half. The food was great too and yes it was a feast of fish, meats, roasted vegetables and all sorts. I had pasta just to be, well, didn't fancy anything too heavy and pasta just hit the spot, linguini and seafood caught and bought in Alta, delightful.

By 2:00pm I was in the theatre ready for a talk on the stars and constellations and how these featured in the Nordic history. He related it to the Greek and Roman interpretations; fascinating. By the time that finished it was already 3:20pm so I stayed put and waited for a talk on editing photos from the northern lights experience. 

It must have been gone 4:15pm by the time we came out of the theatre and as it was a formal night [yuk] I had two hours of slobbing around before the posh frocks started to come out and the Captain gathered his select few for the high table on deck 5. 

I really dislike formal nights so had already decided tonight would be a meal ordered through room service, a film and the Japanese NHK channel. I would then flick over to the Playhouse Theatre channel at 7:45pm and watch tonights performance called, Twisted Circus which sounded interesting.


Monday, 28 March 2022

A perfect night sleep followed by day 2 in Alta

 

So nice to wake up and feel as though I'd had a full and uneventful night. I had an early morning stroll around deck 7 and noted just how cold it must have been during the night; the salt had frozen to the deck.


 Went downstairs to the launderette and this apparition appeared; off to do a bit of dog sledding. It did make me laugh.

I wasn't due out until 10:15am so had plenty of time to get the whites done.

Where was I going? Oh yes, the world heritage museum, yes, I remember. Their coffee was to die for but I get ahead of myself.

After last night and the late return of us and then the next group who were equally as high and loud as we were on getting back, I really was still tired. My ankle ached like crazy by this time and all I really wanted to do was stop. It was getting tougher to walk anywhere as the ankle was seizing up if I stayed still for any time. I think I'd done enough on it and what it really needed was a rest.

So we arrived at the museum and I headed straight to the downstairs exhibition knowing most would start at the top and work down. it wasn't a huge place but still rather interesting.

Downstairs there was an exhibition of Sami clothing some of which I have photographed here




The work which went into these was amazing and the detail in the silver work was beautiful. They had head bands and belts and body warmer type jackets too. The top two photographs are of a ceremonial garment only worn on very special occasions.

Next I sat down and watched a video on the changing landscape which was great. The sound track was interesting in so far as it echoed much of the Sami music and singing.

The rest of our group started to come down so it was my cue to return upstairs where a cafe and a shop occupied most of the space.

I rummaged round the shop and found a fridge magnet which echoed the area and then had the ubiquitous coffee and a small piece of chocolate which, in hindsight, I shouldn't have had. I thought it was a wafer bar of some kind but it turned out to be a milk chocolate which gave me a headache the next day.

The views over the fjord were spectacular and the cafe had a balcony you could go and have a fag as well as enjoy the mountain air. Mm, I declined that and sat enjoying the coffee and the warmth.

On our way back we stopped off at the church.

The wind was biting this morning and I really didn't want to be out in it. I did love the snow plough though. It didn't stop clearing the paths and the roads around the church and with every pass another layer of fresh snow fell.


The church itself won awards as with most of the churches built around this part of the world. Another one where windows are long and thin and the spire is tall and, well, spiky. It was open but on this trip we had not paid to go in, so......

We could have got off the coach here at what was called Centrum but I declined as did all bar one person who obviously fancied looking round the shops. Like the rest of us, we were more than happy to return to the ship and find out what was on offer this afternoon.

The port was an active one and this ferry left every 30 minutes to the far side of the fjord somewhere. I never managed to see where it went as it disappeared from sight even with binoculars.

I'd missed the tom yum soup which saddened me but the amaretto hot chocolate was still available to tempt the cold returnee.

Craft courses had started and people were having a go at felting a polar bear, creating an enameled box lid or water colour. Meanwhile there was another talk on the northern lights in the playhouse, carpet bowls in the card room and of course live music in various bars around the ship.

I snuck into my cabin and had a lie down, catching up on some of the talks I had missed because  I was off on a trip somewhere and letting my ankle relax. By the time I had caught up on the two talks and enjoyed some NHK Japan TV in English, I was ready for dinner, so I hobbled down to deck 6th and enjoyed an orange and sparkling water whilst listening to the pianist.
 


As the sun was setting on yet another day , we watched as a ship started to come into port. She was taking over our berth when we finally took to the sea once more. We still had some daylight left so the slow back out to sea was beautiful.







As we approached open water, the pilot left us and the sun sank ever further leaving a peach coloured sky, which , I hasten to add, has not been touched up.

After an OD of chocolate

 Emerging with chocolate fudge cake in one hand and hot bitter chocolate drink in the other, the sky had started to do us proud. Sara had moved her camera and the lights came on for us....



 






 

By the end of our stay, we had enjoyed a truly orgasmic experience and as the lights of the coaches appeared at the main road, the northern lights began to dim and we happily left, wishing the next group an experience as wonderful as ours.