Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Wake of the Vikings: Breakfast on the Balcony in Montreal

It is another beautiful, soft morning as we dock in Montreal. This is the first time we haven’t been scrambling for the airport at o-dark-thirty; today we have time for a leisurely breakfast on our balcony before we have to vacate our room.

 

 

 

Exactly when we asked for it, breakfast arrives in our room; lovely fresh croissants, eggs, bacon, orange juice to pump up the Vitamin C for AdventureMan. We bask in the luxury of having breakfast made for us and delivered.

 

 

The roller coaster across the channel starts running early!

We finish our breakfast, we dress, we vacate, we wait for our ride to the airport. The airport is quiet, even serene, on this Saturday morning, even with all the cruisers coming through to head home.

We get to Pensacola in the early evening, and we barely stop to brush our teeth before we head for bed. It was a wonderful trip, and it’s also wonderful to be home.

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September 25, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: TugBoat Dances to Welcome us to Quebec

 

It is a joyful morning. The air is soft, the sky is blue, and Quebec shines like a jewel in the harbor.

The sun is gleaming off a smaller white boat – a tug?

 

The tug starts shooting off water. This is interesting! What is he doing? Is the tug able to use seawater to form the chute of water? Is it also a fireboat?

 

The boat starts toward our boat, and one chute of the water is grazing the bow! Oh no! Is he going to spray all the cruise ship guests? Is this a security risk?

 

No! He veers away, just in time to keep from giving us a soaking, but bouncing port to starboard, starboard to port, dancing for us, dancing with us. One of the crew members waves seeing me shooting this segment. AdventureMan joins me, he waves back.

 

What a delightful and lovely way to start the day. It just keeps getting better!

He is having so much fun. We are having so much fun! The water sparkles off his joyful waterspouts!

 

He almost disappears in a spray of water. He goes around the back to welcome the other side of the ship.

It doesn’t take much to thrill our hearts. This joyful welcome does the trick.

As we dock, the World Cafe is full of people and their cameras; we are docking in the heart of the old city, and views present themselves for the taking. You couldn’t ask for a lovelier day in Quebec; the temperatures will be in the high 70’s F.

 

 

The tug boat harbor:

 

 

“Oh look, the local Vikings are coming,” I said to AdventureMan, and looking right at them, he asked “where?”

“That’s them, the local Viking crew, coming to help get people onto their tours and hand out water,” I pointed out.

“Oh, I thought you meant REAL Vikings,” he grumbled.

LocalVikingsArrive.jpg

Hmmm. When I attended the Bayeux Tapestry lecture, the speaker said that the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is considered the end of the Viking Era, meaning exploration, pillage, plunder and settlement. But really, the Battle of Hastings was Norman (Norseman) against Northman, Viking fighting Viking, and perhaps . . . perhaps . . . the Viking Era goes on, hidden under a thin veneer of civilization.

Don’t you like that idea?

We have a tour late into the afternoon, then final goodbyes, dinner, and making sure our bags are out in the hall and ready to go by ten tonight. The good part about a cruise is unpacking and not having to pack and unpack again. The bad part is that a reckoning always comes, and we are stuffing our suitcases, and throwing out old underwear to make room for the few souvenirs we picked up along the way. The Viking Sky leaves Quebec City tonight for Montreal, and from our landing we head to the airport, en route back to Pensacola. I don’t believe I will be able to post again until we are there, and perhaps not right away, as you know what it is like, the deluge of things that must be done, when you get home . . .

So for now, au revoir from Quebec.

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Marketing, Pensacola, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Sunset over Saguenay

Ah, I do so love having a view of the sunrises and the sunsets. Here is last night’s late sunset over the city of Saguenay:

Bonne Nuit!

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Sunsets | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: A Short Day in L’Anse Aux Meadows

 

We have a wake-up call for six o’clock; we are on the first tender headed into L’anse Aux Meadows and we are excited. Who wouldn’t be; just look at this gorgeous morning sky to greet us. I’m good with drama if it is a morning or evening sky.

We wait a long time to get clearance; there is one other boat in town, and it is the National Geographic Explorer. Canadian Customs officials have to go through our paperwork and interview a select few face-to-face. Our 0700 departure is more like 0830.

 

No rain, so we are thankful, because rain is predicted. We are hoping it will hold off until we have visited the L’anse Aux Meadows Viking Site. Or is it a Native American Camp? For many long years it was believed to be Native American, but a team of archaeologists did a re-look and determined it may well have been an early Norse settlement.

The people in L’anse Aux Meadows go all out to make this interesting for their visitors. They dress in Viking costume to welcome us, and the site we visit has people who are “in character” telling us about their challenging lives in the early settlement, which only lasted maybe ten years.

Below is the woman who organized the buses:

 

 


A beautiful statue of the Vikings reaching the new world:

Statue detail of the ship:

 

There are a series of rooms built together, covered with sod. At one end is an outbuilding with a lathe. This may be someone’s imagination rather than something they really found, like they may have found evidence of an out-building and someone thought “oh it might have been a place where people worked wood, which Vikings did, a lot.”

 

These character actors really enjoy playing their roles. They were a hardy lot, and they work hard.

Decoration on entry to middle of houses:

Outside view of houses:

To the far end of the connected rooms is a multiple bedroom, with kinds of clothing they might have worn. The beds are small, the mattresses thin. It would appear this might be where a family might live, or a father keep his unmarried daughters, as it looks like the next room, much larger, is more of a lodge room where unattached men might sleep along the side of rooms or on the floor near the fire.

 

 

 

More clothing, and cooking tools. Sigh. I am guessing mostly women did the cooking, and that those are women’s clothes, and the corner where they speculate women might have worked preparing meals.

I love the room at the far end. I bet some old woman lived there, some old woman who loved fabrics and colors and textures, who would shear the sheep and clean and comb the wool, card the wool and make it into yarn, or thin threads that could be woven into serviceable clothing.

 

And I am speculating that old woman slept in this chaste little bed among all the supplies for spinning and weaving the wool into yarn and fabrics to clothe the inhabitants. Maybe she even made warm blankets 🙂

Outside the far end of the long house, with an opening for smoke to escape, and light to come in.

This was a forge. What it seems they might have made there was nails, using the most primitive tools and techniques.

We walked back to the center, where we were told to catch the bus, but we are told no, go to this bus-gathering place. Our meet-up seems to have been scheduled about the same time as the National Geographic Explorer meet-up, as their buses are there and . . . ours are not. It is starting to rain.

We wait a long time, and then our bus comes, to take us to another stop, a sort of re-creation of someone’s idea what things may have been like. AdventureMan and I look at each other. He is really tired. He wants to go back to the ship. When the others get off, we stay on, and one other couple asks if the bus can take us to the ship. More and more people figure out that this bus might be going back to the ship, and hop on.

It is really raining now. A tender has just arrived, and a lot of people get off, more people than I would have thought possible. We get on. I learn that a tender can hold a total of 234 people. We head back to the ship. On our way to the elevator, we ask the spa lady if the spa pool is open and she says “YES!” We run upstairs and take off all our clothes and jump into our swim clothes and head down to the hot pool. There is no one else there, just us, rolling around, warming our chilled bodies in the relaxing hot pool and the “ya-kut-zee.” We have a quick lunch, AdventureMan sacks out, and the ship is making rumbles like we are leaving L’anse aux Meadows any minute now. Life is sweet, or as the Captain ends all of his daily announcements from the bridge – All is Well.

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Weather, Women's Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Day at Sea Between Qaqortoq and L’Anse aux Meadows, Canada

 

AdventureMan pokes me awake, he’s hungry. “I felt like I was falling out of the bed a couple times last night!” he told me.

I am sympathetic. I don’t have motion sickness, but the other day, after a massage, in the spa at the bottom of the boat, I felt queasy. I’m pretty sure it was the moisturizing lotion; there was something about the smell of it, but once I had showered it off, I was OK again. I can imagine what it must be like to have that feeling every time the boat rocks and rolls.

 

 

The sun is coming up; it may be a little rocky but it is a beautiful day. We even see some gulls.

After breakfast, we grab our reading material and head up to the Explorer’s Lounge, where we  have a 180 degree view facing forward. There is a rainbow, ending almost on our ship, and a shadow rainbow with it. Surely, that is the best of luck!

 

Midmorning, we still have beautiful skies, even some blue, lots of sunshine. A little rocky but people are getting used to it.

I love the way the wind blows the spray off the top of the waves and leaves a ghostly mist.

 

 

 

We had a wonderful dinner in the Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s, last night. I had a cold tomato soup, very tasty, even some peppery heat, and the seafood platter, AdventureMan had Caprese Insalata and the Seafood Platter. It was a lovely evening altogether, great food, attentive service and very interesting dining companions from the Carolinas.

 

Every day the Captain comes on at noon to give us a location and conditions update. “Ladies and Yentlemen” he begins and then brings us up to speed on what we can expect, ending with “From the bridge, all is well.” We love that ending. All is well.

September 18, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Restaurant, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Three Q’s in Qaqortoq, Greenland

 

The day dawns calm and beautiful, and the tenders are in the water early, waiting to take us to Qaqortoq. We are eager for so many reasons. We want to get off the boat and walk. We want to set foot in Greenland. And even before we had a grandson whose name begins with a Q, we have loved living in Qatar, begins with a Q, and then in Kuwait, shortened in text-talk to Q8. We look for Q’s, we delight in Q’s.

When I say early, we are in the third group to leave, and our departure is scheduled for 7:45 A.M. Fortunately, we have gained another hour – love this traveling west by ship – and most of us are up and ready long before our tender time is called. We have to make the most of this early morning call, as the boat is scheduled to start on it’s long leg to L’anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland, Canada. We will be at sea all afternoon, overnight, all day tomorrow, and tomorrow night. This is a great time to get off and WALK!

Qaqortoq is a great place to walk; it is big enough to have a lot of loops, small enough that we really can’t get lost. It is not only early, it is also Sunday morning, so we don’t have a lot of local people around, not much is open, and there are no other cruise ships in town. We have the place to ourselves.

 

Tenders emptying cruisers into the village:

We love the variety of house colors. There are no pastels, even the yellow houses are a bright yellow. I found several purple houses in the village. Back on board, people said how isolated this place was, how they couldn’t live there. I found myself wishing for a wonderful purple house 🙂

 

We’ve walked up to the top of Qaqortoq; all down hill from here 🙂

Do you see the purple house, next to the spearmint green house?

Love these solar panels, even in Greenland!

 

Qajaqs!

See?

Village stone art:

 

 

 

Here’s the one I like the best, but it is the hardest to see. It is a whale, maybe a hump-back whale. Can you see its shadowy outline? Part of the rock is incorporated in the whale design:

 

Love this pine-tar finished house, which is old, not painted, and a museum which is also not open.

The old church. No photographs allowed inside, and a service (this is Sunday) was about to begin. The church had very large crystal chandeliers inside, held maybe 60 – 80 people. I am guessing it was a Catholic church.

 

The old school; AdventureMan commented that the statue girl needed more clothes in this cold climate and I told him she was a metaphor for naked longing to get an education. Sigh. Sometimes it’s still a wonder to me that people who have conversations like this find each other. I am sure there are people who think we are a couple of nut-cases.

Sod livestock shed behind the school.

 

We really wanted to find a cap that said Qaqortoq on it for our grandson, who loves Q’s the way we do. We would have been happy to spend some money, but there was only one gift shop open and it seemed a little picked over. Everything was Greenland, not Qaqortoq. We never saw a cafe where we could have a cup of coffee or tea, or a cold drink – Sunday morning and nothing was open. I am not complaining. I loved being able to get out and walk and get the feel of the town. I liked Qaqortoq. Just wish we could have found a way to give a little back to the community.

Time to catch the tender and return to the boat.

 

September 17, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Public Art, Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: You’ve Got to Be Flexible; Missing Nanortalik, on to Qaqortoq

We got really really close to Nanortaliq. Really close:

 

And just when we are all dressed and ready, so ready to go, the Captain comes on and tells us that he and the port authority in Nanortalik have decided that the surf is too rough, the incoming weather too rainy, and the winds too strong to risk transferring us to shore by tender, tenders being the boats that double as our lifeboats if anything happens to the ship. We are disappointed, but not greatly, as we know we have another chance tomorrow with Qaqortoq, and you know how it is, we love places with Q’s in them. Qaqortoq just tickles us, the very idea of a place with three Q’s delights our hearts.

The scenery is also not at all bad; we can just sit in our staterooms and watch gorgeous iceburgs drift by. Actually, we both make a quick trip down to the spa pool, which is quiet, and then spend some time in our room.

Nanortaliq means something like where all the polar bears get together, or the place of the polar bears. We saw some breath-taking scenery, but we never did see a polar bear.

 

 

 

I just love the sculptural quality of these icebergs; hope you don’t mind my showing so many, I actually am only showing you the best.

 

 

 

 

Near sunset, the air went all misty and glowing, and this iceberg looked pink.

Leaving the Nanortaliq area, a truly glorious sunset:

September 17, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: “Wake-Up! It’s Prince Christianssund Inlet”

 

AdventureMan wakes me early, and it’s perfectly OK. I’ve been asleep since about eight the night before. It might have been a little seasickness; I was down on level 1 having a massage and the heavy waves didn’t bother me, I liked seeing them crash, but for some reason, not seeing, and the smell of the lotion started to bother me, and I found myself breathing deeply and thinking I might end my session a little early. Fortunately, it was toward the end of the session and it finished and I managed to stay the whole time.

AdventureMan had ordered dinner – after massages, we like to just settle in, and Viking has a wonderful room-service menu. I really needed to shower, I needed to get this scent off me, it was making me uneasy, so I showered and drank some ginger ale, and felt much much better, only tired. I only ate the soup and salad, and went straight to sleep, sleeping soundly through the night.

When AdventureMan woke me, I was ready! And what a thrill, calm seas and gorgeous new scenery to start our day.

“Get dressed! Let’s go have breakfast in the Explorer’s Lounge!” he urged me, so I hurried, but we were not the first, LOL, we have a sturdy demographic on this ship!

 

The views are stunning, and change by the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spend a couple hours in the Explorer’s Lounge, and then it is eight and as the surf is calm, I need to see if the spa pool is open!

September 16, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Exercise, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: “We Call it ‘Geiser’

We are on our way, from Thingviller to our next location, through an area dramatic with waterfalls, lava flows and fascinating sights, when our guide explains how things are named in Iceland.

“We are simple folk,” she said, “straightforward, and plain spoken. We have wonderful Icelandic words, and we can add them together to give a name to a place.” She gave us an example, which I cannot repeat here, which means something like when the rural postman comes to a structure something something. This is to explain that the next place we are going is called “Geiser.” It is pretty much the same in English – Geyser.

There are actually hot springs everywhere in Iceland, because of that tectonic plate thing, because of all the volcanic activity, because the surface is lava, and permeable, and erupting geysers and hot springs and volcano eruptions are just an accepted part of Icelandic life. These clever, hardy people have harnessed the geothermal energy to heat their houses, provide their electricity and even, in some places to heat the roads and keep them clear of ice and snow.

It took me a while to get a good shot. Fortunately this geyser called ‘geyser’ goes off frequently. The first time, I was too close, the second, not prepared, so just got the steam, and then at the end, finally, success.

One of those glaciers I was telling you about:

From Geyser, we went to waterfall, and then to lunch. Lunch was in Gulffoss, and before you could get to lunch, you went through room after room of highly priced souvenirs. Some of them were a really nice quality; the prices were beyond high.

What do you expect when you are sitting down to lunch for 250 and everyone is getting the same lunch?

We keep our expectations low. We were in group number one, and our table was seated first. At each table of six, a huge cauldron of soup was brought, to be shared, family style. One man in the middle assumed the serving chore and – our eyes opened in surprise! This tomato soup was delicious. There are tomato soups and tomato soups, this soup had taste! If nothing else, we had a good soup for lunch!

Then came the salmon, again, on a large platter, with six huge slices of salmon, beautifully cooked. It was served with long grain white rice (I don’t really care about rice so I can’t tell you how it tasted) and lemon slices. The salmon was moist, and juicy, and perfectly cooked. We were all round eyed with surprise. Even people who don’t eat fish said they had enjoyed their meal. It was a great success.

 

 

 

 

 

We saw a lot of horses in Iceland, and sheep, oh sheep of so many varieties, all covered with thick wool out in the cold.

This is a church in the first capitol of Iceland; inland. We are told that the early Icelandic settlers were primarily farmers, working the land, not fishing, so the focus was more inland where arable land was more available. The Icelandic people know this because from the very earliest Icelandic civilizations, they have written records.

Below are two volcanos, both of which have erupted and rumbled in recent times.

In this river, at this point, glacier water, at the top, meets run-off water, at the bottom and you can see the different sources from the color and clarity.

You see steam vents everywhere. Some places they are harnessed; some are just out and exposed:

I imagine how terrifying this land must have seemed to its earliest settlers, a land that rumbled and trembled, from which scalding water might erupt with little or no warning, or a volcano might spew lava and throw hot rocks and ash for miles. What courage they had to make a living there, and to learn how to turn the apparent disadvantages to their advantage.

 

Next stop, a state of the art geothermal energy plant (with a really good gift shop with great kids books and unique items.)

Back in Reykjavik, view from La Perla; a dome covering several old water storage tanks.

Statues in front of La Perla:

The Reykjavik cultural center:

We are back on the ship just before we are due to sail, and we can see the foul weather blowing in:

Today we are at sea, the waves are high, and they have closed the spa pool, my favorite place, as it may be dangerous when floors are wet and the boat is tossing passengers around. I would be disappointed, but that would be selfish. There is a lot for people to do, lot of activities, lectures, dancing lessons – today is the waltz, there are scrabble games and trivia games and bridge games, and even still those quiet places where internet reception is better and it is quiet enough to read a book. It is Italian day in the World Cafe; AdventureMan had the Tuscan Bean soup and I had the grilled vegetables to honor Italy 🙂

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Character, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Reykjavik and Thingvellir in Iceland

We can’t believe our good luck, after the clouds and rain in Oslo, Bergen and being shut out of Lerwick, here we are in Iceland, and the weather is PERFECT. Perfect, that is, if you are an Alaska girl who loves to chill 😉 as AdventureMan debates whether or not he needs to wear his long underwear to keep warm.

The cruise director, Aaron Syfert, has told all of us, his cruise-children, to dress “like onions,” in layers, so that we can dress down if possible, and be warm enough when it is really cold. As we enter the bus, we have three or four layers; within minutes, there is a loud outcry from those aboard “Please turn down the heat!” In our full-up onion garb, it is really hot. The driver laughs and said he had wanted us to be warm enough, and turns down the heat until everyone is happy.

We drive through part of Reykjavik en route to our first stop, and the place I have wanted to see the most, Thingviller.

I have a thing about sacred spots, that it seems to me that there are some places in the world where the interface between this world and . . . the next? . . . the former? . . . .the alternate? . . . the interface is thin and perhaps not open, but permeable. Thingviller is a very very old place, a place where all those spread out in rural Iceland would gather to made decisions for the community. It was one of the most ancient forms of democracy, or democracy of a sort, of course it was mostly chieftains making the decisions, advised by their counsel, and while those decision makers were probably mostly men, they made decisions by consensus, and vote, for the greater good of the community.

Some of the decisions they reached would chill you. You will see a waterfall, below, by which there is a pond where violates of the law were drowned. Our guide tells us that most of them were women who had children out of wedlock. “What happened to the men?” one guest asked. “They were beheaded, if they could be found, if they could be identified,” she replied. She added that most of the time, the women went to their death without identifying the man who had impregnated her.

Geologically, Thingviller is fascinating. Thingviller is a huge rift between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Euro/Asian Plate. I had known of “The Thing” the Viking Thing, about the decision making places, but it wasn’t until Digg, or one of the other news sourcing articles I get told me in some spectacular photos from around the world, that I knew about the rift. There were photos underwater, photos of daring young divers with one hand and foot on the North American Plate and the other on the EuroAsian Plate, truly spectacular. I wanted to visit the decision making place, and I wanted to visit the rift.

Last – and not least – Thingviller is one of the locations where Game of Thrones is shot, many of the scenes north of The Wall and of The Wall are shot here. It gives us a thrill, first Spain and the Alcazar and Alhambra, then Dubrovnik, and now Iceland, we are on a roll.

We had a great day, a truly great day, and the weather held. For me, Thingviller was worth the trip to Iceland.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 4 Comments