Iceland, Day 1 ~ Geothermal Fields, Blue Lagoon, Viking Museum

Sunday September 7th – Reykjavik Iceland (Day 1)

Geothermal pools

Geothermal pools

I did not make notes while in Iceland. Our time there was limited and with two long excursions booked, I had little free time other than for meals and some sleep. I’ll reconstruct our time there mainly via the pictures we took with a brief explanation. We arrived at noon on our first day and would be overnighting with a 5:00 pm departure scheduled for the next day.

Our first tour was labeled Krysuvik Geothermal Field and Blue Lagoon. It was a 5 hour excursion and cost $89.75 USD per person.

What stood out immediately for me was that other than right in the main city of Reykjavik, which is the capital of the country, the rest of the land is quite barren and sparsely populated. We passed mile after mile of lava fields now partially covered over with green moss. In some areas there was decent red soil being cultivated with crops as well as used for range land for sheep, a few cows, and the pure bred Icelandic horses.

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Faroe Islands ~ Still unspoiled, beautiful and welcoming

Friday September 5th ~ Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands

A little about the Faroe Islands (or Faroe Islands 101):

The Faroe Islands map

The Faroe Islands map

  1. They are in the heart of the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic
  2. Located northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway
  3. An archipelago composed of 18 islands, 16 of which are inhabited
  4. The population is approximately 48,000 people and a larger number of sheep
  5. 687 miles (1,100 km) of coastline and at no time on the islands can you get more than 3 miles away from the ocean
  6. The highest mountain is 2883 feet (882 m) above sea level
  7. Local time is Greenwich Mean Time, the same as London.
  8. They have their own currency, the Krona and use Danish coins.
  9. They are an autonomous country, self-governing but within the Kingdom of Denmark
  10. The climate is surprisingly mild for as far north as they are located, and it rarely freezes here
  11. The population is well-educated, and every family has a computer
  12. The fishing industry is the most important source of income
  13. The language is Faroese, which is related to other Scandinavian languages. Danish and English are also taught in school.

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England ~ Portland Port and Weymouth Harbor

Tuesday September 2 ~ Portland Port and Weymouth Harbor, England

Weymouth, England

Weymouth, England

Docking at the port or Portland, we hopped on a free shuttle that delivered us to the nearby town of Weymouth in the Brewers Quay area. With no tours booked and nothing in particular on our list to see, we simply enjoyed wandering around the town, crossing the bridge into the old town area, walking along the boardwalk at the beach, and then circling back around the enclosed harbor.

Walls painted uplifting colors

Walls painted uplifting colors

Nice long and clean beach where families played in the sand

Nice long and clean beach where families played in the sand

Comfortable chairs lined the boardwalk for anyone that wanted to sit and watch the surf

Comfortable chairs lined the boardwalk for anyone that wanted to sit and watch the surf

The Royal Hotel held center position along the water front

The Royal Hotel held center position along the water front

How long has it been since you have seen hair dryers like this, ladies?

How long has it been since you have seen hair dryers like this, ladies?

This was a pretty uneventful day with overcast skies and nothing spectacular to report.

Tonight is our first formal evening on The Brilliance of the Seas. With only carry on luggage, we did not bring much in the way of fancy attire.  None of the last three cruises we have taken were booked before we left home, so we are rather unprepared for formal nights. It is slightly uncomfortable to attend dinner in the dining room without being “dressed to the nines”.  Thankfully we are sitting with a lovely group and no one seems to mind.  Or if they do, their good manners prevent them from saying so.

L to R: Colleen, Dennis, Joanne, Tim, Gaye, Daryl

L to R: Colleen, Dennis, Joanne, Tim, Gaye, Daryl

Tim is off to the casino this evening trying to make his winnings from the previous night grow while I relax in the cabin and type up my recollections from the day. I have already sorted through todays pictures, edited and cropped and now just have to wait until we have strong enough Internet to post again.

I struggle a bit when I am forced to be offline.  I have become so accustomed to having great Internet service to research something, send off a quick email, check Yahoo to see the latest news, post a note on Facebook or look to see what my friends are up to today. I don’t like feeling out of touch and cut off from everyone.

The up side of being cut loose from my electronic tether, is perhaps now I will tackle the first of several books that I downloaded to my Kindle.  My friend Karen recommended several for me to read when she and Dick met up with us in Edinburgh.  I guess now is as good as any time to get started on “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley.  If you have already read it, let me know what you think.

Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for the staff on board our ship who work so hard to provide us with an amazing vacation. Our cabin steward is from a small island off the coast of India.  I could not pronounce his name after several tries, so he is sweetly allowing me to call him by the first part of his last name “Joy”, and he does give us that by keeping our small stateroom and bathroom clean, providing fresh towels, and always a friendly greeting as we pass him in the narrow hallway. Our waiter in the dining room, “Sommy” is from the Philippines. Sommy calls us by name, always makes recommendations from the menu and serves the meal with a warm smile.

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Normandy Beaches, American Cemetery and Memorial, Bayeux France

Monday September 1st ~ Le Havre, France and the beaches of Normandy

Bayeux France

Bayeux France

Northwestern France is beautiful. Quaint villages, brilliant long sandy beaches, bright colorful flowers and a fertile landscape. After our ship landed in Le Havre, most of the tour groups either headed east toward Paris, or west to visit the infamous beaches where the Allied Troops landed, on what has become known as D-Day.

When we landed in this port a couple of months back, Tim and I opted to take a local bus and went to the lovely town of Honfleur where we enjoyed a bucket of delicious mussels. Click here if you want to read about that day. I later regretted not taking the day trip to visit the D-Day beaches, but at the time we felt that the excursion on the Princess Cruise was too expensive. This time around we decided to just bite the bullet and go…

There are five named beaches that the allies landed on in 1944, with the goal of pushing back Hitler’s forces and liberating France.

Map of Normandy Beach area

Map of Normandy Beach landing area

How the beaches were named was interesting to me. According to our guide, the three beaches that were to be stormed by the British and Canadian troops were code-named Goldfish, Swordfish and Jellyfish. The two beaches the Brits were to land on were shortened to Gold and Sword beaches, however the Canadians did not like the name Jellyfish, (or the shorter version, Jelly) so the commander instead named the beach after his wife, Juno. The two beaches that the armed forces from the USA landed on were named after where two specific soldiers were from, Omaha and Utah.

When researching this on the Internet, I now believe this may all be fiction, but it made for a good story at the time.

Our bus ride was around two hours. Arriving at Omaha Beach, was emotional. A large monument had been erected to commemorate the importance of the beach and to honor the fallen soldiers.

Omaha Beach Memorial

Omaha Beach Memorial

The beach itself went on forever in both directions. It was low tide when we arrived and we were reminded that the beach landings were also done at low tide. There was a huge expanse of empty beach where our soldiers were left in the open and many either drown with 75 pound back packs while getting off the landing boats, or were mowed down by German’s entrenched in concrete bunkers.

Omaha Beach Memorial

Omaha Beach Memorial

Tim and I walked down the beach, hand in hand toward the water and then looked back toward the monument to see just how far the soldiers had to travel, vulnerable, unprotected, out in the open. I found myself wiping away a tear or two.

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach

This year is the 70th anniversary of the landing.

Loading back onto the bus, we drove a short distance for a visit and to pay our respects at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Another, larger and more grand memorial was built here, the resting place for over 9000 American soldiers. Most of the graves were marked with marble crosses, row after row, line after line. The occasional Star of David marked the grave of Jewish soldiers.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Cemetery Memorial

Cemetery Memorial

Cemetery

Cemetery

The cemetery was located on top of a hill, and when we walked along one side, we realized that we were overlooking Omaha Beach itself.

Next to the cemetery is a museum style visitors center with ongoing films and very informative displays. One of the films showed General Eisenhower being interviewed about the turmoil and decisions that led up to the D-Day invasion. Knowing he was probably sending half of these young men to their death was an almost impossible decision to make, yet he believed that the freedom of the world rested on the need to stop Hitler, at whatever cost.

Powerful words...

Powerful words…

When we finished there, we traveled on to the small town of Bayeux for a delicious French meal, complete with an apéritif and both white and red wine were on the table for us to help ourselves to.

Town of Bayeux, France

Town of Bayeux, France

After lunch, as a group, we went to see the Bayeux Tapestry.

“…an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry, which is instead woven—nearly 70 metres (230 ft) long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.” ~ Wikipedia

What is remarkable about the tapestry is that it was commissioned almost 1000 years ago in the 1070’s and remains an excellent reference of the history of that time.

Bayeux Tapestry

A small panel of the Bayeux Tapestry

Then free time to explore the town. For anyone that has followed along on our blog for a while, you know that we have photographed more churches than Carter’s has Little Liver Pills, (link for you youngsters that have no clue what that is) but for some reason the church here stood out for me. So of course…

Cathedrale De Bayeux

Cathedrale De Bayeux

The town had a few nooks and crannies that gave it great charm and we enjoyed wandering for a while, but before long, whether the emotion of the day took a toll, or we were simply tired, we both felt the need to just take it easy and relax. Finding a park near where we were to meet the bus, Tim took a nap on a bench while I took pictures of a variety of flowers.

Flowers of Bayeux

Flowers of Bayeux

Our day came to an end after 1.45 hours on the bus back to the ship, and then dinner with our new found friends. We are seated at a table with two couples, both from Australia – Gaye and Daryl from Melbourne and Colleen and Dennis from Sydney. We are a lively group, with hearty discussions ranging from traveling (of course) to politics and gun control.

Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for how well maintained the cemetery is. Most of the fallen were hardly more than children, even younger than our son. I left a part of my heart there today filled with immeasurable appreciation and gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice they paid for my freedom. May they rest in peace.

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Brilliance of the Seas – Transatlantic Cruise

Sunday August 31 – Bon Voyage!

This post will be just a short update to let you all know that we are safely on board our floating home for the next 14 days and just leaving the port at Warwich, England.

Our ports of call will include: Continue reading

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Long Term Travel ~ Not always as easy as it looks

Saturday August 30th ~ Taking the train from York to Ipswich, England

Travel like being on a merry-go-round

Travel is like being on a merry-go-round

Sometimes traveling gets old.  There I’ve said it…

Have we been having an incredible, amazing journey?  You bet we have!  I will forever be grateful for this time away together.  We have passed through so many countries as we have traveled around the world, seen natural beauty that left us breathless, checked off UNESCO site after site, and visited more churches, Cathedrals, and museums than I can count.

However…

The small amount of clothing that we brought with us that all fits inside carry-on luggage is getting worn, stained and in some cases, thread bare.  And anything that is still decent, might as well be worn out because after wearing the same things over and over again, I am quite tired of it.  Continue reading

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York ~ Final Hoorah, Sizzle or Fizzle

Friday August 29th ~ York, England

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

Over the past couple of days we managed to get a few more places explored, and fun times squeezed in.  One stop was to the Royal Theater where we took in a performance of “The Wind in the Willows”.  This delightful story based on an English classic children’s book written in 1908 by Kenneth Grahame, was made all the more special by attending a matinée where we were surrounded by youngsters.  Their laughter and squeals of delight certainly helped make this even more memorable.

Set for the play "Wind in the Willows"

Set for the play “Wind in the Willows”

Before the production started, we took a backstage tour where the living quarters for the animals portrayed in the play were reproduced in details to match the storyline.  Many of the children attending the production queued up and quickly pointed out items they recognized from the story. Continue reading

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