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Monday, September 2, 2019

Outrunning hurricane Dorian...

Dear Family and Friends,


I was due to fly out of Quito tonight (Monday night)  for a visit to Georgia.   

Last Thursday night I was on the internet and learned that hurricane Dorian was headed to Florida and was expected to hit sometime on Monday.

On Friday morning I called Delta airlines and changed my flight to that evening.  While I packed my suitcase Chuck went downtown and changed my ticket on Latam from Cuenca to Quito.  

I flew out of Quito and had an uneventful flight to Atlanta and then on to Columbus, GA.  

Now I am sitting at my sister's house, watching the weather channel.  I think I did the right thing to change my flight but it will be interesting watching what happens through the day on Monday to find out what happens.

Hopefully the hurricane will turn and stay out to sea, but only time will tell.

Thank you Chuck for helping me get out of Ecuador and fly to Atlanta ahead of the storm.

Happy Labor Day everyone.

Love,
Nancy


Sunday, September 1, 2019

One day Holland Adventure.

Dear Family and Friends,

We spent the night in Bergen, Norway after our boat docked.  We had a quiet dinner in the hotel because it was raining out.  We were told that this is common for Bergen.

The next morning we boarded our plane for Amsterdam.  We decided to spend a day in the Netherlands but wanted somewhere besides Amsterdam.  Chuck researched and picked Haarlem.

Haarlem is not very far Amsterdam.  We went from the airport to Haarlem by train.  We had to change trains on the way...not good with luggage.  

We arrived in Harlem about 45 minutes after we left the airport.  We left the train station and there was a big plaza. Chuck had booked us a hotel right on the plaza.  So easy...no taxi.  We walked across the plaza and checked in.

Unfortunately, Bergen is not the only place it was raining.  It was misting in Haarlem.  We grabbed our rain jackets and started viewing the town.

We loved this town from the start.  It is very walkable, flat (as is all of Holland) and what seems like thousands of people riding bicycles.  

Here is a shopping street.  Just the right size town.



The church in the distance is the Grote Kerk, the church of St. Bavo.  It is right in the center of town on the market square.



We were able to go inside and view the organ.  This organ was built in 1738 and has been played by Mendelssohn, Handel, and a 10-year-old child prodigy, Mozart.  


View toward the altar.


We enjoyed walking around town despite the misty rain.  Haarlem is very walkable and with the architecture, canals and bridges, there is not doubt you are in Holland.


Chuck in front of a souvenir shop in a pair of red wooden shoes.  


We had dinner at a Thai restaurant because it was right next to the hotel and by then it was raining pretty hard.  

When we woke up the next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel.  We were delighted to see the sunshine.  

We started off the day by walking to the dock and taking a sightseeing boat abound the canal system.


It was fun, but not the best way to see the city on a beautiful day.  Great in the rain.

We went to the Teylers museum, an art, natural history and science museum.  It was incredible and we could have easily spent the whole day just viewing and reading about all the exhibits.


Here is Chuck standing on a drawbridge over that spans the main canal.


The sunshine and blue skies made the views perfect.  Here is a canal from another bridge.


This windmill has been a distinctive part of the skyline in Haarlem for centuries.  Well not actually this windmill.  The original one burnt down in 1932 and was rebuilt as an exact replica of the original.


I can't end this post without sharing a typical Holland style building.  I just love them.



We had a wonderful lunch at an outdoor restaurant right across from the church.  

Chuck and I both agreed that Haarlem is worthy of a return visit of 3 or 4 days.  

It is a perfect day trip from Amsterdam if you are staying there.  But here is a secret.  The hotels in Haarlem are less expensive than hotels in Amsterdam.  So, if you are thinking of going to Amsterdam you may want to stay in Harlem and day trip to Amsterdam.  

The next day we took a bus directly to the airport.  It only took about 30 minutes.  No changing train stations while dragging luggage for us.  

We had a nice trip back to Quito and landed in the early afternoon so we were able to fly home to Cuenca the same day.  

We had a grand trip.  Cruising with Ronnie and Andre was so much fun.  

Love,
Nancy

PS:  Please excuse any spelling or grammar errors in this post. My editor, Chuck, is in Cuenca and I am in Atlanta at the airport.  

This is a whole story in itself.

I will share that with you next time.



Saturday, August 31, 2019

Views of the Coast from the Ship

Dear Family and Friends,

For me, the best part of the trip was seeing the views.  A lot of days the sky was very overcast and I did not take many pictures.  On the few days that the sun was shining, I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and took many pictures.

Some of the beautiful scenes:


A small town we visited.  Notice the waterfall in the left of the picture over the boat.







This sunset is at 10:30pm.  Long, long days.  


Going into a narrow fjord.



This lighthouse was built in 1880.  Before it was automated in 1987, the lighthouse keeper lived on the bottom floor.  Today, this lighthouse can be rented for vacations.  It is lit from July 21 to May 16 every year.  It is not lit during late spring and early summer due to the midnight sun.



Chuck and Andre checking out a boat coming to our ship to pick up tourists.



We saw waterfalls galore.


Looking back at the fjord we just came through.  Notice the waterfall on the right side of the fjord.


This scene is as we arrived back in Bergen.   Overcast and rainy when we left and overcast and rainy when we returned.  We were told that this is typical weather for Bergen.  


We finished our cruise up to the very tip top of Norway and back in exactly 12 days.  A very fun adventure.

We disembarked, hugged Ronnie and Andre goodbye.  They were heading to Spain for more travel. Chuck and I headed back home to Cuenca, but we did spend one day in a charming town in the Netherlands before we flew out of Amsterdam.  

I will share that adventure on our next post.

Have a great day.

Love,
Nancy





Friday, August 30, 2019

Stops along the coast of Norway.

Dear Family and Friends,

We sailed all the way from Bergen to Kirkenes, which is at the top of Norway, and back.  

Here is a map of our route.



As you can see, there are many stops.  Most of these we did not get off the ship.  They were for only a few minutes, or they were during the night.  These stops were made because of cargo and ferry passengers.

In almost every place we stopped, the tourist shops had trolls.  



Sometimes the weather was nice and clear, but mostly it was overcast.


Chuck and Andre.  They look a bit cold and we are not even at the northernmost part of Norway yet. 



One memorable stop was at the North Cape.  On the way to the North Cape monument we stopped and visited some reindeer and people from that area.  They are Sami (Laplanders.)

This man is in the traditional dress and is feeding his reindeer.



I doubt they live like this anymore, but they had tents, much like the American Indians that lived in the plains.  Since they were nomad, these houses could be moved from place to place.



Here are Ronnie and Andre with a reindeer in the gift shop.


 A real nice picture of Ronnie.


Here is Chuck checking out the souvenirs in that shop.


This is the monument at North Cape.  


After the trip to the North Cape and to visit the Laplander, we were served reindeer for dinner.




When we finally got to the tip top of Norway it was a bit cold.  It was easy to forget it was early August.


Street scene in the extreme north.


Ronnie looking around in another souvenir shop.



 More Trolls.



Along the coast of Norway are many islands.  Almost every place we stopped had a bridge going over to an island.


I think almost everyone in Norway owns a boat.



Not a lot of pictures on land, but the real beauty was in the views from the boat.

Next time I will share those with you.

Love,
Nancy

Thursday, August 29, 2019

About our boat, the Hurtigruten

Dear Family and Friends,

I am going to share with you about the unique cruise line, Hurtigruten.  As I said in a previous post, they operate a combination cruise, ferry and cargo ship fleet.  The company has been in existence since 1893.  There are 12 ships operating the same route (Bergen to Kirkenes).  Because it is a ferry and cargo ship it must sail every day.  It takes the ship 12 days to complete a round trip.

The name of our ship was MS Nordlys.  The ships come in different sizes and ours was one of the smaller ships.  It could carry 500 passengers.  

Although this boat is considered a cruise ship, it was different in many ways from a traditional cruise ship.  Our cabin was small, it had two beds (one that pulled down from the wall and the other made into a sofa.)  The rooms were only cleaned if you specifically asked by putting a green card on your door.  Otherwise, no service.  Clean towels were provided upon request, but they do not have wash clothes.  

There was one dining room.  Buffet style breakfasts and lunch and a sit down full service dinner.  When it came to dinner, no menu to choose from.  Just like at home, take it or leave it.  Luckily, the food was very good and they made special meals to accommodate for people's food allergies.

No nightly entertainment like on most cruise ships, but I can honestly say, the views off the boat was entertainment enough.  The ship never went out into open waters so there was always the coastline to view.

The boat made several stops each day and night.  They are on a schedule.  Some stops are for as little as 15 to 30 minutes, whereas a long stop might be a couple of hours.

So, let's take a look at the ship.



Some views of the inside:

On the top deck, was a wonderful lounge with large windows for viewing the scenery.  



A daily schedule was not provided to each room, but you could see a big display in the common area.



Another common area with the dining room entrance in the back of the picture.



There was plenty of open deck for sitting outside.




The dining room was not elegant, but sufficient.



Some lucky folks even had a table with a view.



 As I mentioned, there was no formal entertainment but people spent most of their time looking out the windows, reading, playing games, napping or knitting.

A lot of the passengers are Norwegian like this lady in the picture below.  I asked her if most Norwegian women knit and she replied yes.

Look at the beautiful pattern on the gloves she is knitting.


Although I said there was no formal nightly entertainment.  When we crossed the Arctic Circle we were visited by Neptune.  As part of the ceremony, people lined up to have ice dropped down their back.  



On the return trip, when we crossed the Arctic Circle, Neptune dosed people with cod liver oil.

They also provided information each day in a short lecture about where we would be stopping the following day.

After we boarded the ship and unpacked our luggage in our room, we went to the dining room to have dinner.  

There we found our travel mates, Ronnie and Andre.


The fun was about to begin.

On my next post I will share about some of the stops we made.  

Love,
Nancy