Norwegian Getaway 70th birthday cruise
the video for this blog is at (https://youtu.be/ZdShBQ21o20)
If you want a clear concise reading, read what is written in italics – which is from Narda’s blogs; if you want to sludge through my verbiage then read the rest too.
Day One 05 August Copenhagen
I have always been restless. We have always been restless. I can speak for Narda too. After twelve years living away from Australia and traveling a lot during that period we could have easily settled once back in Adelaide. Our first year back, 2015, we tried to nest, working on our new house in a trendy eco-friendly village but after having renovating three houses in the States each a hundred years old we realised new was not us and so we moved to Vista, half an hour further out from downtown, into an older place. We spent months gutting and re-doing our house and creating a home. We still were focused on going elsewhere. We got a caravan and did some exploring but that was not enough. Early 2016 we were back doing international stuff; Cambodia and Thailand, and by the end we were on a four-month trip, November 2016 – April 2017: the States, Holland, Cambodia. We got back to Adelaide and a few weeks later went out with the caravan and planning next trips. Now we are on this one past the mid-point of 2017 doing a cruise around the Baltic then six weeks in Ringkøbing, Denmark where we will live like a local though we no doubt will do trips within trips as we explore this part of our life. For me, this part of our life is me becoming a seventy-year-old. It seems just a few years ago I was wandering the States from age 16 – to my mid-thirties when I became an Australian-bound single parent and except for a few trips back to New York with my children in tow I did little travel. Then I met Narda and we have just been going, except for 2015, and going.
So, we got to Copenhagen in an alternative state. Not the type of alternative state that I existed in while traveling on many different levels back in the late 1960s and early 1970s but in the alternative state to being awake and feeling alive. After a few hours in Dubai wandering like zombies through the airport after little sleep on the fifteen-hour flight. The flight from Dubai to Copenhagen was better, we were on one of those new double decker setups and got a seat in the first row. It was originally for business class but now that the whole plane is economy there is no business section but the seats are more spread out and more comfortable. Our wonderful host, Erik and Bi Bi, met us at the airport, they had a sign with an Australian and a Denmark flag on it, but we were easily spotted and they got us to their flat in downtown Copenhagen which is our home at the start of our trip and for four days at the end. After our cruise, we have their home in Ringkøbing for six weeks and they have our home in Adelaide during that time.
August 4, Friday from Narda’s blog
Arrived in Dubai at 5.15am. Slept a few hours, maybe 4 or 5, which helped to break up the trip. The next plane we boarded was amazing. A double decker Airbus. We had 2 seats together on the upper level, seats 34a and B. They were really roomy and so we slept a bit more. The transit stop in Dubai was pretty difficult. We were really wiped out, and the airport was so crowed; we could hardly find seats anywhere.
We got into Copenhagen at 1pm and were met by Erik and his daughter Bibi. They were great. First we took the metro with them to their apartment, where we left our stuff. They showed us the iconic harbour of Copenhagen and we had a nice chat, walk and some drinks.
They left and we set out for dinner. We found a nice place nearby, near the sea, and waited for 45 minutes for a bowl of soup. The soup, when it finally came was yummy, but we were so tired by then, it was difficult. Still we hit the bed and slept. Both had a good night.
Leaving our stuff in our new flat Eric and Bi Bi gave us a tour of Copenhagen and then we found our way back via the metro to our flat by ourselves, becoming lost only a couple of times.
Amazing to us we were still upright at nine pm, having gone for a couple of days with a few hours of uncomfortable sleep somewhere between Adelaide and Copenhagen. That was our extended Friday which had more than thirty hours in it; such is international travel.
I often take photos of airlines I have never heard of and the first plane at Copenhagen Airport we saw was WOW airline, https://wowair.com/, Air Iceland – sounds like our kind of airline
We were up at 5:30. We have lost the ability to sleep. We dragged ourselves, muttering incoherently, to the nearest metro station and off at another station where we wandered aimlessly for way too long in search of Bus # 25 to get our sorry asses to the cruise port. We walked and walked, dragging all our crap with us. No one seemed to know where Bus # 25 did its thing. We even stopped a city bus and asked the driver who did not know. Of course, because we are now on our boat it is obvious we found someone to guide us to Bus #25. Not having done this cruise capper before we were amazed by the size of this boat, which we have been told not to call a boat because it is a ship. People are so thingy about stuff, aren’t they?
Seeing the ship for the first time was so amazing. Getting on was more amazing. In the Copenhagen Harbour, I took a zillion plus photos and images – see our video clip about this cruise – video here – https://youtu.be/ZdShBQ21o20
Check in time we were told was between noon and three with departure at five. We were checked in by 11:30 in our acting like little children just shaking with excitement. Our room was not ready so we ate and ate and then ate some more. Holy guacamole! I, we, have never seen such a large spread of so much good food. Like a city block worth of food. This was the Garden Buffet Café or some such name. Exercise is good. We walk around the buffet. We did go to the gym too and stretched and lifted a bit then went and ate some more. There were hundreds of dishes to choose from – and we did; except for meat stuff I tried it all, Narda tried the meats and reported back, yum.
We went to a life-boat/what happens if we sink, type of drill at six pm. There were lots of announcements in lots of languages and when the alarms sounded we slowly made our way to where our section of 3500+ passengers were lounging about. People were not too serious, of course the crew were – and they were a bit annoyed at us for not paying attention. Several children, and being school holidays – the place had an infestation of them, were chatting and laughing and rolling about as children do; but our mindful Narda went over to them and in her best school-teacher fashion brought them to heel. A couple gave her a bit of a stink eye but at the end she went over to them and thanked them for behaving. Once a teacher – is there a continuation of that line?
We attended the evening’s orientation which highlighted various performances for the next nine days. We figured maybe we would see one, two at the most. By the end of the trip we had seen them all. Then we went back to the buffet and ate heaps more and managed to get back our room about ten-pm. We love our room with a balcony, sofa, desk, bathroom and of course a comfy bed.
August 5, Saturday
Woke up early, but feeling pretty good. We managed to put together a breakfast, continental style, a couple of rolls, some yogurt, and a glass of Berocca. Then we headed for the local grocery and marvelled at the stuff….all good. Our credit card was not accepted, luckily we had some Euros which they took.
Then off to the cruise terminal. Again our credit card was declined; annoying. Still we got ourselves from the metro, then onto bus number 25, and arrived at the port. Beautiful ship. The Norwegian Getaway. Fantastic. We have spent a lot of time today at the buffet, the food is amazing. And our room is lovely too. I think we won’t want to leave here!!!!! Bloody nice life!
Day Two. Sunday, 06 August, Warnemunde, Germany
August 6, Sunday
OK, talk about a weird day. We woke at 5.30, at least Terrell woke and woke me up. Daylight of course, as we are in the higher latitudes. So we are sitting on the balcony taking photos (he is) of dark seas, misty horizons and the occasional ferry. The we had breakfast number 1. Bacon and eggs for me. Then back to the cabin for a shower, watched our ship come into Rostock, Germany.
It was very interesting watching the manoeuvres of two other cruise ships who came after us. They had to go right into the port to find room to make a 360 turn, and then head back to park. They all seem to be equipped with side parking thrusts. (been handy in a car).
Then back to the Garden Buffet for breakfast number 2. This time some bread and cheese and salmon mousse. It’s exhausting, all this eating, so we went back to the cabin for a nap. I slept 3 hours. Bit jet lagged I guess. Another meal and now I’m writing this.
I think I can become addicted to cruising. Wasn’t sure, but now I am. It’s a lovely life. Last night we watched the ‘Duelling pianos” Two guys singing all the songs everyone knows. Really well done. Both guys played really well and one especially had an amazing voice. The average age of the audience was about 72+ but an enthusiastic group.
We were up early, probably about 5:30 am and went on to the balcony. It was a bright sunny day already. Our room has blackout curtains making sleep easy unless one is too excited to sleep. We were soon at the buffet; our go to place for incredible comfort. Then back to our room for a lay down so we could wake up in real time. Today is a ‘sea day’ meaning there is no port stop from when we left Copenhagen last night until we get to our next port, Germany, tomorrow.
So here I am writing in our dark cabin. The curtains are closed blocking out all light because Narda is asleep. She has been asleep since 9:30 this morning and it is now 12:15. I slept from 9:30 until 10:30 then I was anxious to play in Photoshop with photos we took last night. Our sleep patterns are all over the shop. Three days ago was the flight from Adelaide to Dubai. Twelve hours with Dubai arrival being at 5 am. Wow were we feeling under slept. Hey folks, I am old, I need blocks of comfortable sleep. Not to worry soon we were on a double decker plane to Copenhagen. More leg room and just a great new plane with Emirates. The flight was only six-hours. There was confusion due to the fact I was not getting my vegetarian meals. We ordered it months ago. We have not had this happen since we left Australia in 2002 to take on the States. And I did not have this happen for the decades before. Of course, I let everyone know this and the wonderful cabin crew rushed around trying to please me. Of course, this is natural; I am a Leo, I was adopted; Narda suggested I could take it easy on one of my attention-seeking behavours but that is just nonsense. I was well served and I was assured this would not happen again as they put in for our return flights to Australia in a couple of months that I was this old, needy, special, dude. What I liked especially was their music selection which was good as we did not find any movies worth watching. They had all these albums of the 1960s and early 1970s. I fell to sleep at some point listening to Janis Joplin and got caught up with all the Dylan albums I had not heard for weeks. My friend Daniel complained once late 1970s that I was stuck in the 1960s and it was time for me to progress. I still don’t know what he meant.
Having a long morning nap and a second or was it a third? breakfast, extended our day. Like having two days in one.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the ship. We even played a game of shuffle board; Narda had never heard of it and I played once at some Bible Camp my parents would send me, kicking and screaming, to each summer when I was staggering through adolescents in the Catskills. It was an exciting game and after many attempts we each got a thingy on a seven so we decided never to play again as we had tied. There is so much to do. I did go swimming for a few minutes. The pool was good. I wanted to sit in the spa but they had a sign warning people with cardiac trips (like an implanted defibrillator/pacemaker), diabetes, and a couple of other things I share with the infirmed – Narda was strongly opposed to me going in, so I didn’t. I thought of sneaking out and going in but our overpriced insurance would not cover me if I had ‘an incident’. Stuff them all I still enjoy myself. We both went to the fitness area and tossed about some weights. I went most days but my sidekick went just this first day. There is a large casino area which we gave a miss to. It seems such a waste of time to give more money to this company, sitting in front of a pokie like an idiot waiting for a possible coin to fall when some several childish characters line up on the machine. But people do. And they have the roulette tables with more people doing that instead of eating at the buffet or looking at the world outside passing by.
By four pm we thought we should go for a walk. Not having any idea what the procedure was and not signing up for any tours today we found our way to gangplank shuffled off and to our delight discovered there was nothing to it. We could just walk out into the street. Because we had already gone through customs in Denmark, only Russia required us to go through passport control of the several cities we would stop at. I bought a fridge magnet and we walked around the town.
As there was a safety drill at six pm, and we had already suffered through one, we walked for a couple of hours before hunger got the best of us and we were back in the buffet line.
In the evening; already forgot what we did for the afternoon, this is what we call retirement, we gave the buffet a miss with the thought that eating in a restaurant environment would give us a more adventurous feeling to ourselves. The buffet is our comfort zone and they say to challenge yourself by doing something different. We went to the Tropicana where there was a Jamaica like trio of dudes doing the golden oldies routine with a few recent songs such as ‘YMCA’ tossed in. White tablecloth, waiters, the whole shebang. I got some veggie pasta thingy and Narda lasagne with dead cow. The food was not as good as the buffet and I am not used to having someone fuss over us, obviously for tips, but it is a complimentary restaurant for our cruise so outside of 18% on Narda’s overprice glass of wine it was a cheap date. What amused me was seeing a lot of children; like about 5 – 11 years old, dancing to the ‘YMCA’ song and singing along and doing the hand motions. I wondered if they knew it was a song about men picking up men in Greenwich Village, NYC, at the Y (Young Men’s Christian Association) for sex. If I see them again I suppose it is my duty to inform them so.
I also am amused at the buffet counter(s) watching children choose what to eat. I find it amazing that the common fare for adolescents, with hundreds of things to choose from is hotdog and chips. No matter the nationality. I watched in parental horror a Japanese, maybe 18 years old, alternating between a mouth full of ice cream and chips. He had an ice cream cone in one hand and every other bite was a handful of chips. Another favourite was watching a nine or so year old in front of a large cake with a lot of icing, he had already had a slice of pizza on his plate. He would set down his pizza, look around, look at the cake, then pick up his plate of pizza. Finally, he quickly ate his slice of pizza then took a rather enormous slice of cake. We figured his mother probably said he had to eat his meal before dessert. The child was already considerably over weight. No doubt someone looking at his would remark that we spend a lot of time cruising the food – and rapidly going back for more. In our defense I will say, we take small amounts each time. For me this is all quite a challenge. For two years I have been on a strict diet of low carb crap to curtail my diabetes so I can carry less medication with me as it takes up too much room in our suitcase. Then add the vegetarian caper (fifty or so years of) and I have a rather bland diet. Can you believe I even brought enough dry kale and protein powder for two months? And I brought a container of my special low-carb cookies and bread I made a few weeks ago. I need to eat some of it or I will have to give the bread and cookies the toss in a few days or they will have some white and green growth on them. (I did finally give them a toss – not over board but in the trash as they did turn green and white) Bottom line, I have ‘sampled’ the mac and cheese (in the past my favourite food in the world), the corn and cheese thingy, one slice of German fudge cake, and a few things I have stayed clear of for years; more than once. Today or early tomorrow, perhaps soon after, I will work back toward the low carb diet. Narda is fine. She will eat anything if it is dead. She can have the wine and beer too. I don’t even drink alcohol but that is due to a shot liver from too many years of too much good time and not enough constraint time.
There are ‘professional photographers’ roaming all over. Always wanting to take people’s photos in front of a green screen – hey I do that at home, and I have a new camera (Nikon D7500) so I am not interested but they sure ask a lot. [The camera was from Narda for my birthday, oh so was the cruise – can’t wait to see what she will get me if get to 71]. However, we found machine that took a photo for free and we could Facebook or email it so this was the result. This is a real money making boat – but we managed not to spend any more than what we have for whatever free money we got for signing on to this cruise. We didn’t even have to pay the 18% tip. We had $350 to spend and we spent it on Narda’s daily wine at $10 a shot, some laundry as Narda was tired of doing ‘the smalls’ in the toilet basin; something about it not being classy. What? Saving money is classy to me. Then there was my birthday meal in a ‘specialty restaurant’, a couple of not-included for free Broadway performances and I got a fridge magnet. The only other expense was Narda’s new watch – well that put us way over budget, but hey, we are on holiday. She is very happy with her new watch so be sure to notice it when you see her.
We have been doing the free shows but are signing up for some comedy wine show where they provide wine – how embarrassing I will ask for soda water at a wine show. One free show we watched was ‘duelling pianos’. They were quite good and people put in requests. I asked for ‘She belongs to me’ by Dylan, never did hear the song. They seemed to like songs by Elton John and the like.
We set sail at ten pm. Heaps of people lined the shore waving and yelling so lots of people, including Narda, yelled and waved back. I am not sure whether the town was happy to see us leave or wanted everyone to return and spend money. I had bought a fridge magnet so no doubt that is what everyone on shore was so excited about.
Today we are at sea all day. This morning we took a walk around the ship for some ‘exercise’. Met some girls our age, one of them was our neighbour. They are very interested in a house exchange. Who knows! Last night we took a walk around Warnemunde. Lovely little town, the port of Berlin.
We did our walk like we do back at home though there were no kangaroos along the way but walking around the boat is good fun. Of course, we made a few detours to the Garden Café Buffet before getting to the jogging track which with eight laps the sign says equals a mile. OK we made it to five and tomorrow we plan to walk before eating.
Lunch was some to-do at a Spanish Restaurant Buffet – which was kind of alright but not as good as our blocks of regular food buffet. Now I am at the main outdoor entertainment area where there was a soul-rock band and now some loud mouth DJ doing dance contests or some crazy thing with folks. I found a sheltered place to write, play in Photoshop, and Narda is in the midst of people cheering and stuff. She said it was a ‘hairy-leg for dudes contest’. See photo below.
It is a lively area with the swimming pool, main stage, and today being a sea day; we left last night at ten and get to Tallinn tomorrow morning, everyone is just everywhere. We spoke to our boat-neighbour who we ran into on our walk this morning about house exchanges. They are from England and I think one of them has a house in Spain so we are hoping we can get some more home exchanges on this trip. We have one for Berlin next September and need a couple more of a month each to make flying to this area worthwhile. This is what retirement is about; forgetting what happened the day before and planning for the next trip. Saying that I remember what we did yesterday afternoon, we went into Warnemünde for a wander. A nice seaside town. A lot of people had gone for a tour to Berlin and other German like towns but we wanted to immerse ourselves into the cruise experience, sleep and eat, and we did not think we could just walk off the boat whenever we wanted to. But by five pm we were a tad bit bored and wanted to go out. It was all very easy, just showed our room card and went for a couple of hours walk. There were two other large ships behind us and hoped the people aboard were not envious of our larger and newer vessel.
Day Four, Tuesday about August 8 or so, Tallinn, Estonia
Not sure what we were going to do; book a tour, take a hop-on-hop-off bus, or walk to town. After another lengthy lots of food brekkie – though I kind of did a diet compliant almost with egg over avocado over toast with a lot of hollandaise sauce – I didn’t eat the high carb toast – and fruit and some muesli. We made the decision to walk into town which we were told was only about twenty-minutes. Narda had a bit of a sore foot so we did toy with the hop-on-hop-off bus parked at the end of the pier but we didn’t. Then right away we saw the bike-rental shop and we were home and hosed. The bikes were great and not expensive; we paid nine euros each at the end for four hours.
August 8, Tuesday
Today a wonderful day in Tallinn. We rent a couple of great bikes, and headed off on our own.
All the cruise people went to the old town, but we decided to check out a residential area to the right of the old part. We found a great little local coffee shop and sat outside drinking coffee (2 cups for EU3) The we worked our way back to the Old Town, which is surrounded by a very old thick wall.
Day Four, Tuesday about August 8 or so, Tallinn, Estonia
It’s just a beautiful cobbled city. We stepped into a lovely little chapel, and then rode on to the market square. There was a funny incident there. We saw a few young lads looking for customers on the rickshaws. Then suddenly they high tailed it, at a dangerous speed out of the market square. We tut tutted them ‘how dangerous’, and the girls standing in front of one of the restaurants said they are running away from the police. And sure enough, a couple of cops in a car came cruising through the square. They didn’t see any problems and continued on their way. A few minutes later the boys reappeared and continued their soliciting. It happened twice. So funny.
We got a map and were off, riding past all the people lined up at the buses for their tours so they could obediently follow the guide with their umbrella or sign in the air. Some were walking into town, others were lined up at the hop-on-hop-off bus. We proudly rode past them all. We decided not to go to the old town right away but went off into the burbs to live like a local. Stopping at a local wonderful café for coffee for only a euro and a half we enjoyed the beginning of a wonderful day we would be having. There was barely a cloud in the sky at about 19 degrees centigrade. The only thing that separated us from the locals was we had no idea what they were saying in their Estonia-speak and we were drawing lines on our tourist map of all the places we would go. We did not look at the map again for the day so that was a bit of waste though fun planning. Tallinn is quite flat so riding around is easy. People seemed friendly or amused by us – difficult to tell whether people are smiling because they think we are cool or because we are some daft tourists. Nevertheless, we managed to negotiate the place and not get run over. We found our way into the walled town and like all European cities it was old and cool. Built in the 1200s.
According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallinn), Tallinn was first mentioned in 1219, received city rights in 1248, but the earliest human settlements date back 5,000 years. The initial claim over the land was laid by the Danes in 1219. Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe.
After taking lots of photos and looking inside (free) churches which we were figured were as trendy as the expensive tourist ones we found a fantastic café. The tofu stack in the front is mine the smoking gelato marzipan apple crumble Tallinn style is Narda’s. https://revalcafe.ee/ Reval Café.
Later we stopped at a really lovely café for ‘lunch’. Mine was apple pie and cream, (I did order what Terrell described, but this is what I got)…… but on a plate of dry ice. Smoking everywhere.
After dinner we saw a great show “Burn the floor”. A troupe of 12 dancers, a singer and to drummers with a Latin style dance routine. High energy and really skilled. Great fun.
We got back to the boat at 3:30 pm, found the food buffet place; hard to miss, it covers a large area of the fifteenth floor, and lucky us we are on the fourteenth floor so it is not much of a journey to the food trough. We have decided to do all the shows, most of which are free, and tonight’s was ‘Burn the Floor’. It was a full Broadway dance musical. Amazing to us. The only down side was we were told not to take pics. OK I snuck in a few. There were sixteen or so dancers. Really amazing. We read their profiles after the show and everyone was some variation of a national or world champion dancer at some point. I believe they were in their twenties. How else could they have so much constant energy and be so athletic? And their skimpy outfits. Wow, where we ever like that? Back to the gym for me. Actually, I have been the gym a couple of days so far, but my body is not quite on par with twenty-year-old professional dancers. Tomorrow I will be 70, I suppose that is an excuse. That and the buffet line and other restaurants dotted around the place. See our video of the tour for their performance on the last night of the tour – toward the end of our video if you get weary watching.
My big goal for today was not to eat mac and cheese and not to take any more sunset pictures. I managed not to eat any mac and cheese so that was a proud moment in my low-carb struggle on a ship with so much wonderful food. I caved when it came to the sunset pictures and though I limited myself to only a few dozen I knew I was on my way to a reduction of my sunset picture obsession(s).
All those times I thought I won’t make it to 70. I used to believe I would never get to thirty. I was pushing the boundaries of what my body could ingest back in the 1970s and I thought well if I make it to 30 that would be an achievement. Yesterday I had a moment in the afternoon while eating when I felt faint and I thought I was going to have a heart problem and we returned to our room. Narda was taking my pulse and saying we should go down to the emergency room but after half an hour I seemed to start feeling whatever feeling normal for an old person is.
I was up at 6 something this morning, Narda was trying the sleeping in routine but my phone alarm went off with Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up in Blue‘, at seven so we dragged our sorry asses down to brekky and off the boat by 7:30. Low and behold there was a glitch in the Russian Immigration computer system, who would believe that? Oops, no photos; that is just so unfair, me, a Yank, first time in Russia and they’re trying to say not to take pics. Well stuff them, I took heaps. Videos too. Sorry – couldn’t resist embedding us into the door. The rest is real news though and an actual photo taken in a restricted zone – whoopee.
And it took us two hours to get through to our waiting tour guide who told us she had been waiting, and that all the rest were already on the bus. She was the archetype Russian keeping us in line all day. She reminded us a few times that the most important rule was to follow the rules. We were marched through Catherine’s shack,
some palace park fountain thingy,
rushed through lunch and I have already forgotten the day, except for the metro ride which was the only non-tourist, live-like-a-local thing we did. There is a good segment of this on our video at https://youtu.be/ZdShBQ21o20
Narda tried to stage a coup – by getting several passengers together to say we wanted a longer lunch period but at the end of the day we got rushed through everything.
August 9, Wednesday
Today, St Petersburg. We left early, got stuck in a passport queue for an hour and a half (some computer malfunction!) and embarked on a fairly intense sightseeing tour of the tourist attractions of St Petersburg. First the Palace of Catherine. Lot of rooms with gold gilt, and mirrors and art.
Many tourists there, so there was quite a bit of waiting in lines, but definitely worth a look. After that we went to Peterhof, and ornate garden with fountains, canals and lovely gardens. We had lunch at this bus place, bought a couple of salads ($5 ea) and a beer ($3). No too bad. Later in the day we rode the Metro. Beautiful subway station, lots of decoration and art. Enjoyed this very much.
Tonight we had a shower, ate a nice buffet meal, and now we’re just chillin. It’s 8pm, and I’m ready for bed. Finished “Mosquito Coast’ by Paul Theroux, last night. Hard act to follow!
We were happy to be back in the buffet. After dinner, we roamed about. This ship is so large. There is a library though usually full, lots of areas to hangout in, plus the whole upper deck, half of which is for children so we avoid that area. We did not engage in any of the many activities such as ‘movie scores music trivia’, ‘country line dancing’, ‘Latin Rhythms with their DJ’, the video concerts shown on their big screen, and many other game, dances, music stuff. It is fun just to wander about and soak up the atmosphere. Being an American ship (the Norwegian part seems to be the company or driver, not sure how that works out) it was more American than European I think though of course there were people from everywhere. This was the first time this ship had done the Baltic area, usually hanging out in Florida. The entertainment was predominantly American. We loved to sit on our balcony and watch the evening sea.
Day 6, Thursday 10th – I am 70 – St. Petersburg, Russia – Day 2
Wow! Woke up this morning in Russia, day 2. That was the backdrop. 70-years old today. So what? Heaps of people, and some animals do that. But in my little self-centred world, what a thing. The 60’s was my favourite decade – the 1960s. Amazed I survived that, never thought I would make it to 20, then 30, surely not to 40. My son, Leigh only got to 20 before ending his. Perhaps my own 60s was my best. Who knows? Bottom line; I made it thus far. Still got most of my hair and only a bit has turned grey. I have shit wrong with me but that is normal, I think (heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, stuff like that), but damn don’t I feel great. Maybe not drinking any alcohol since 2005, no drugs since the 1970s, no cigarettes, going to the gym for decades, walking heaps, getting rid of the hep C virus – thanks to the wonders of new drugs, my stents (5), implant, low carb diet for past two years (well we strayed from that on this cruise a bit), no sugar (strayed a bit from that one too), good thoughts and all, and of course the one that makes me glow and still young(ish), Narda. Have I found a way to slow down the aging progress or will it hit me next week?
When we got back after our run amok through Russia there was a birthday cupcake and a card for me. How cool is that? They were not sure what language I spoke so they listed heaps. Lucky gibberish was not on the list.
Today, we did the St. Petersburg Day Two tour crawl. Back to that in a moment because we were talking about me. I am a Leo. I was adopted. I had a bit of a rough trot for the first couple of decades, and later as a single parent but that is all so far behind – though I retained the attention behaviour one does being a Leo and being adopted. The dozen people on our tour wished me happy stuff, even sang to me in Russian, Spanish, and Chinese. And Narda’s grandchildren, age 3 and 5 sang to me on Facebook. In the evening we went out to dinner on the boat to an Italian restaurant. It was our first pay-to-eat dinner. There are several white-table-cloth waiter serviced complimentary places and of course the buffet that is so superb but we actually booked the Italian one and it cost us some sixty bucks but hey, it was my birthday. I had a card in our room signed by the captain – I believe it was a true signature and not a printed one; a birthday cupcake in my room and at dinner we were given a birthday cake and the wine too. Of course, I didn’t drink the wine but Narda did. Drinks are expensive. A beer or a small glass with a bit of wine in it is ten dollars. So we saved about twenty bucks because we didn’t pay for the dessert either. I did eat quite a big chunk and I am sure my body will forgive me in a few days. The Indian waiter offered to sing me happy birthday but I said we were OK. In the evening we saw some singer from the UK, Rob Acre-something. I guess for those into that kind of singing it was OK. He was good – did Stevie Wonder songs and rambled on about his own self a bit, kind of boring.
I made a little clip (two minutes) of the Russian tour guide singing happy birthday to me in Russian, The New Jersey family in Spanish, and a Chinese family in whatever they sing in and Narda’s grandchildren sent me a clip on Facebook which was the best of all. https://yo utu.be/odkR5yaIGBM My son, Sacha, said he made a clip too – but I haven’t seen it yet. Hey Sacha where is it?
St. Petersburg – I will grab Narda’s notes, as they will be better than mine. I was too busy turning seventy and being in awe of the fact I got this far in life.
August 10, Thursday from Narda’s blog…
Today Terrell turns 70!!!
Second day of our tour in St Petersburg. We started the day with a canal tour for an hour.
We booked a nice meal at the Italian Restaurant in the ship. They brought us a small cake, a card form the captain, and then another cake at the end of the meal, and a free glass of wine. All very pleasant. A nice waiter from Mumbai! Then strolled on to the centre area, and watched the small band play rock and roll; we even did a little dancing!
We took a boat road during the day – there is more in the video – I forgot to put it above for today but here is a photo of that boat ride,
By this time, the Russian guide was getting pretty irritating. She talked nonstop about the 18th century history of the czars, interacted very little with us, threatened that we would lose our lunch break if we strayed from the group or caused it to run late in any way. The afternoon at the Hermitage Museum was exhausting, though incredibly beautiful.
On the trip we met a nice couple from Jersey. The guy, Alfredo, would be independent and got lost, or ran late a number of times. The Russian guide was very frustrated with him. I told her that she would always remember this tour group as the “Where is Alfredo” tour. She actually laughed.
Two hours trailing this woman was too much. Actually had to wear these head pieces, she had a microphone, so she could call us back to heal anytime. Blimey! The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is another amazing church, full of spectacular walls and art work.
My impressions, to be brief; would love to have spent more time here. Would have loved to have gotten away from our guide – she made me a bit funny in the head. If someone was into history and religion and art the tour would have been good. I had no idea what she was on about most of the time. She took for granted we knew stuff like she would say, ‘as you would remember about Catherine…. As you would recall about St. Paul…. As I told you earlier about Alexander… Really, she thought we knew shit. None of us did. We all just wanted to take photos and wander around and see how ordinary people lived. The palaces and cathedrals were amazing but we didn’t need to know every grubby detail about every painting, every Russian hero. She surely did not speak well of Germans – I suppose because they dropped a few bombs here and there. She was a real commie, often injecting in her own world view and telling us how much better Russia was before it fell to pieces. Narda asked her some questions about life before the fall of the Soviet Union and she said life was easier then; they all had free education and medical, that now there is much more distance between the rich and the poor. Interesting.
And we walked and walked. Way too often, she would say, ‘you have three minutes to take pictures then we have to go, we are behind schedule’. The Jersey family really annoyed her because they would wander off and we would spend time looking for them. I have taken so many photos and so has Narda. We will try to make albums of specifics as they are worth looking at. St. Petersburg looks like a really cool place and one to be left alone in though I believe there are a lot of steps to go through to do that.
Day 7 Friday 11th – Helsinki, Finland
Today we are in Helsinki.
An anti-tour day! Set out with no plans. The best way. After waiting for a little time at the tram stop, we changed our minds and walked into town. We hung about at a pleasant flea market, had a coffee and then continued our walk. Bought some floor and 96c beer at the Aldi down the road, and caught the tram back to the harbour.
Upon our return we tried to take a nap, but I finished up reading for a while. Terrell went off to the gym and a swim, and then we headed to our dinner show, which was a dinner and a show, “Cirque Dreams and Steam”. The dinner was great, really good food. We sat at a table with an English couple who lived ½ year in Spain, and a young German couple. The show was great too, speccie circus stuff with unusual costuming.
This cruising suits us. It is just so relaxing and fun. We do whatever we feel like, when we feel like it. Fantastic.
As Narda mentioned above we went to see “Cirque Dreams and Steam”. A fantastic show. There is some of this performance in our video of this cruise. https://goo.gl/5V1q9i. We were told not to take videos so I took 8 pictures per second which the Nikon D7500 we bought for this trip does. I recorded some of their music too but no one saw that so don’t tell on me.
Here are a few images of hundreds:
Day 8, Saturday, 12, August, Stockholm, Sweden
Here we are in Stockholm. The approach to the city is a long sail though many islands.
We arrived in Stockholm about an hour late, so tours were thrown in a bit of a tizzy. We were held in the theatre for a time, so that they could dismiss us in an orderly fashion. After waiting too long we gave up and went outside, and hopped straight onto the Hop on Hop off bus. It took us to the old town first where we got off and walked down a lovely narrow street, full of tourists.
We enjoyed a coffee and learned our first Swedish word “tuk” which means thankyou. Don’t know about the spelling J The we walked to a nice market area where there was a Korean Festival. Back on the Hop on Hop off bus, where despite assurances to the contrary, our round the city loop took 2 ½ hours! Making us latish…to get back on board. Panic. We got off the bus thinking a quicker way was in the other direction, but it was not so. Finally we boarded the green line hop on Hop off bus, the conductor was an Aussie who kindly told us “we’ll get you there”. It turned out that this double decker bus, a two story one, was making the run to the ship, with us and 3 young girls as a mercy dash. The driver, a Swede, was so sweet, and reassured us that we were going straight there, no stops. He exceeded the speed limits and actually ran a red light. We have him our remaining Kroners in gratitude. A nail biting ride. We will not do this again.
So back on board, all relaxed again, we ate a decent meal and I slept for an hour and a bit. The evening show was amazing, the best yet! It was the story, with lots of great live music, of the owner of Sun records, who is credited to be the ‘father of rock and roll’ and in the 50’s hosted Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, some other guys and Jerry Lee Lewis. They were actually in his studio recording all together. Great story and such great playing/music.
We were up and on the balcony taking photos – well I was, at six am. Then breakfast while watching the many islands going into Stockholm. We were herded into the large Gateway Theatre to find out when our hop-on-hop off bus would deliver us to a day of excitement and wonderment. OK we got into port an hour later than planned, then we had to wait for buses. The theatre was full and no one wanted to wait. Narda thought she had insider information as someone told her that the first rows would go to the first buses – I thought we should sit in the last rows as they were closest to the door. Much to our low-waiting skills they chose the back rows first to go to the hop-on-hop-off bus. After a long wait we stood up and went outside. The announcer in the front who was trying to keep us all in control said we should stay inside until our row was called as it was running outside. We were soon off the boat and the rain was actually a few drops. Lucky we did as the hop-on-hop-off bus was there and by the time it filled there was a huge line waiting for another one to arrive. As Narda often points out we should never follow the crowd and once again we were on our way looking at those who were not.
The bus, we were told, would take an hour and a half to make the run through Stockholm, which would get us back before noon, long before the four-pm departure of little boat. We got off in the old town quarters and walked a few blocks of tourist infested streets, settling in for coffee in a groovy, narrow, street. After walking a bit more we thought it was time to get back on a bus and be early back on the boat. After more than an hour, and feeling quite lost, we asked which way to get back the quickest and the non-English speaking driver indicated we should stay on the bus and in 45-minutes we would be to our home, this would get us there at about one pm – cutting our time a bit short. After more than an hour we felt we were going the wrong direction and asking one of the people collecting money on the bus how to get back quicker she said we should get off and go to another stop and get the bus. We even followed her off the bus and rushed to the stop she pointed out. We asked again at the bus stop and were told we were at the wrong stop. It was now after two and we were to be on the boat by three for a four-pm departure. Someone told us it would take two hours – which means our home would be sailing the high seas before we got there. The traffic was intense as any downtown in a major city would be in the afternoon. We tried to get a taxi and there were none. Being in a full-on panic mode we started jogging back to where we got off the bus. When we saw a hop-on-hop-off bus that was red, the same colour as ours; there are two companies in Stockholm doing this and we were told one was ours and the other a different company that we could not ride with, we ran the last two blocks – even crossing a busy road, not at a pedestrian crossing. There were only four people on the bus and we saw it was the wrong bus company but in one of those divine-heroic moments someone said we could get on that bus and it would take us to our dock. We think he sounded Australian – he told the driver in Danish to take us. By now it was 2:40, we were in the centre of town, the dock we wanted seemed forever away, and we were both sweating and quite upset. If you do not return in time for a departure cruise ships leave and it is the passenger’s responsibility to find their way to the next port, which for us was Copenhagen, meaning we would miss out on a whole day at sea. When the bus was on the way Narda went to the driver to confirm we were headed to our dock and he said not to worry we would get there in time. The four girls on the bus were also going to the same boat – OK, ship, and told us that they too were in a panic and that they tried to get onto the hop-on-hop-off bus earlier but it was full and they saw this one and could get on. To end this story, which writing this now a couple of days later, I still feel surges of panic about, the bus did not stop for anyone and drove us straight to the ship which we got to at three, we realised we had until 3:30 but still, when being stuck in the centre of a major city in a traffic jam and being told it would take two hours to get to where we needed to be in one hour is not a good feeling. By the time we got aboard, and sitting in the Garden Café, with plates full of carbs we were still a bit shaky but happy as the ship began to sail out of Stockholm Harbour with us once again stuffing our faces with food. We have not much to say that would be good about the red hop-on-hop-off bus; their WIFI did not work, they got us lost – but the green hop-on-hop-off bus saved our sorry asses for sure – and they had WIFI, which meant I could separate myself from our panic and post photos of us on several social places, giving our family and friends (all five of them) the sense that life was going great for us. The driver even had to call ahead and say we were going into the other buses spaces so to deliver us. If we had not been given this bus ride we would have to had stay in Stockholm, which most people would think was fine, and fly to Copenhagen. OK so no one would feel sorry for us. But we did.
What a great evening. Sailing – sitting on our balcony; the ability to change clothes, which we would have not had if the ship had sailed without us and with all our possessions – and of course having my laptop, the ability to sooth my shredded nerves with Photoshop, and being full and prepared to attend the evening’s performance we were signed up for; ‘The Million Dollar Quartet’. ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ is a recording of an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash made on December 4, 1956, at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. The person playing Jerry Lee Lewis was great and hilarious as well as musically amazing, as were the other three musicians. See https://youtu.be/vKpg3PkGlZs for the original video of this moment in history.
Day 9, Sunday 13th @ Sea
Our last day of the course was at sea, from Stockholm to Copenhagen. We got caught up with some computer stuff, I read for a while. At 12.30 we saw “Wine lovers, the musical” where we had a nice lunch and 6 glasses of wine to taste. It was nice. I sat next to a single girl from Atlanta named Megan. In the afternoon I packed the 2 main suitcases. Dinner at the Garden Café, then watched the Finale show in the main theatre, which was great.
And there I am at a wine lovers bash and I don’t drink wine. Also, the appetizer and the main course are parts of animal carcasses. I wanted to say I am on a low-carb diet, no sugar, and could you please be sure my food is organic, but I didn’t; don’t want to sound strange. I did say no wine for me and no meat and no sugar. I am sure there was some eye-rolling going on but I didn’t look. It was a bit of a funny and an entertaining show.
Day 10, Monday 14th and all over – Copenhagen to Ringkøbing Denmark
Ringkøbing is a town in Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality in Region Midtjylland on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula in west Denmark. It has a population of 9,717.
August 14, Monday
We left the ship at 8.30, it was all really efficient and orderly. Picked up our suitcase, and were then met by Erik and Bente, who generously drove us around Copenhagen. We saw the Royal Palace and some other beautiful buildings, which we will return to at the end of the trip. Had a coffee with them at the beach, then started our long drive to Ringkobing. It was actually quite easy. A great car, a Citroen van, easy to drive, and the roads are pretty much all freeways. We arrived there at about 3pm.
More stuff: http://neuage.org/e-books/new_for_2017addphotos.htm And my textual imagery is at several sites as I do them: https://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/ ~ https://youpic.com/photographer/neuage/ ~ https://twitter.com/neuage ~ https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB and of course on my twitter page: https://twitter.com/neuage And other stuff I do (such as video stories for children and maybe grownups) is at http://neuage.org As every breath is a creative moment, the possible start of a new universe, I only reproduce a few – the rest of my creative breathing time is filled with travel, study (always learning something), Narda, and sleep.