Beer, Butts and Bathing Suits

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There are waterfalls everywhere you look in Iceland. This is Skogafoss in the southwestern part of Iceland

Today (well, actually yesterday) we started our journey to a land not-yet visited by Carol and me—that being Iceland. As often happens on these kinds of trips, the flying was less than spectacular. Yes, you can dream of taking off on time, souring into the wide blue yonder and floating on clouds to your destination. But sometimes, like today, mother nature has other ideas—like a large storm front moving onto the east coast disrupting all the air traffic from Crap Apple Cove, Maine to Sopchoppy, Florida.

So while our flight from Tallahassee to Atlanta was fine and on time, the rest of the day was… shall we say…. Tense! Our flight from Atlanta to New York was delayed a half hour… no, make that fifty four minutes… no, now make it one hour forty seven minutes. Ever notice how precisely the airlines time their delays? Ok, now let’s make it two hours and 51 minutes. Now it’s to the point that we MAY miss our JFK to Iceland flight, so sit tight. New post – now delayed three hours twenty minutes. OK, now we will DEFINITELY miss the Iceland flight. But NO, I just get a notice that the JFK to Iceland flight has been delayed an hour. YEA! We’ll make it… or will we? So far we have changed gates five times in Atlanta while we’ve been waiting, but here we go again—another gate change and more waiting. We watch the empty gate until a plane pulls it.

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There are fields and fields of these beautiful purple flowers throughout Iceland. These are Alaskan Lupine, introduces to Iceland in 1945

Great! At least we have a plane. Looks like we’ll make it on time. Then comes the announcement—”Folks, we have clear enough weather to fly, we have a plane, but the only thing we don’t have is a crew. If the crew for this flight is anywhere in the concourse, please come up to the podium”. So we sit with the other couple of hundred people and wait another half hour until we see a pilot show up. OK, one down, a few more to go. Finally after almost an hour, the rest of the crew comes walking into the terminal area to the cheers of all the passengers around.

It’s going to be close in New York, folks. Thank goodness I’ve been upgraded to seat 2A, so I’ll be one of the first off the plane. The plan is, if it’s feasible at all to catch the flight to Iceland, I’ll dart off the plane and run to the next gate to keep the door open until the rest get there. The plane lands thirty five minutes before our Iceland plane takes off. OK—doable. We taxi toward the gate… and stop… and wait… another five minutes gone. We move again… yes, I see the gate approaching. Then a hundred yards before the gate… we stop. After another long minute the pilot comes on and says we are waiting for the ground crew to come out and park us. Another few minutes go by but we finally get to the gate. It’s now fifteen minutes before our Iceland plane leaves (and they generally close the doors ten to fifteen minutes ahead).

So off I go! Fortunately we arrived at gate B33 and Iceland leaves at gate B20, so at least we are in the same concourse. Maybe… just maybe. So after a few minutes of full-out run with my backpack on my back, I do indeed arrive at the gate… only to find out they have not even started boarding. So… the moral of the story… just keep pushing on—it all might work out.

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Nat and Frances join Carol and I at the Blue Lagoon

Our plan is to rent a car and spend seven days driving the ring road that circles the island of Iceland. Starting in Reykjavik, the capital city on the east coast, and driving counter-clockwise. So we pick up our Hertz rental and head out. The temperature is a pleasant fifty two degrees and the first stop is the famous “Blue Lagoon”. Iceland processes lots of thermal activity and hot springs owning to the fact that it’s basically a grouping of volcanoes. The Blue Lagoon is the best known and most popular of these. Many people make this a stop either on they way to or from the airport. I’ve even heard of people making a run to the lagoon between flights while passing through the airport. As a result, we see all kinds of interesting attire… a man arriving in a full three-piece suit… another arriving wearing a heavy coat on his top and nothing but a speedo below almost covering a robust bottom. So they lounge around the hot springs in fifty-some degree weather drinking ice-cold beer. Welcome to Iceland.

Today as we drive across the southern part of Iceland we encounter all kinds of terrain. There are vast areas of very flat, desert-like spaces with low scrub growing. Then we round a corner and come across tall mountains on the left and the North Sea on our right and we may feel like we are in New England someplace. Then it’s on to the green, green pastures with sheep grazing which reminds us of Scotland. Then, in another section of the landscape we feel we are on the moon. Large fields of lava rocks and lava flows are visible as far as you can see. In certain sections these are bare lava rocks and in others the rocks are completely covered in thick layers of green moss making this one of the most unusual landscapes I’ve ever seen.

Along this drive we stop various times to hike to thunderous waterfalls, take pictures of the thousands of acres of purple flowers, visit the earthquake and volcano museum, and enjoy some wonderful soup for lunch. Now it’s time to find our hotel for the night and we rely on our car’s trusty GPS which of course takes us off the main road onto a secondary road up past the school, around the bend, up the hill, unto the dirt road and up another hill until the dirt road ends at a group of barns and buildings none of which has our hotel’s name on it and none of which look anything like the picture we have of the hotel. Hum… There is another guest house near there, so we ask them and of course they know exactly where our hotel is. Just twenty two kilometers in the other direction. So much for the GPS!

We laugh through it all. After all, if you stop and think about it, the most memorable moments of traveling and those you talk about for years to come are usually about things that did not go perfectly or things that you did not expect.
So today has been a wide variety of sights and sounds and I had a very hard time deciding on a title for this blog. I finally zeroed in on the Blue Lagoon and called it—Beer, Butts and Bathing Suits!

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Notice the basalt columns on the cliffs beside this black sand beach
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These large pipes transport very hot water from the geothermal areas to the cities. All the heating of buildings is done by this geothermal energy
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Notice the buildup of minerals in the Blue Lagoon
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Bathing in the Blue Lagoon
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The stairs leading up to the top lookout point above the Skogafoss Waterfall
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Passau – Don’t Shoot that Cannon near the Church!

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Looking up along the Inn River which merges with the Danube River in Passau

Day 12: Nov 27, 2017 – Passau – Don’t Shoot that Cannon near the Church!

Last evening we docked in the city of Passau at about 5:00 in the afternoon.  Well, I say afternoon, but here in Bavaria at this time of year, it’s already completely dark by this time.  So before dinner we decided to take a short walk through town to stretch our legs.  There are lots of pedestrian streets here filled with shops, cafes and restaurants, but this was Sunday evening so most were closed.  A few cafes were open with outside seating and it was interesting to see local people sitting there on sheepskin covered chairs and blankets on their laps enjoying chatting and enjoying dinner or drinks.

But a little about Passau, located on the border between Germany and Austria.  Few cities in Germany enjoy a setting as remarkable as that of Passau.  It sits at the confluence of three rivers where both the Inn and the Ilz rivers flow into the Danube.  The city dates back some 2500 years but they had terrible fires in the 16th and 17th centuries, so most of it is rebuilt from this time.  For instance, a fire burnt three quarters of St. Stephen’s cathedral in 1662, but the main stone structure was saved.  The people were so happy they saved the cathedra that they decided to have a celebration and brought in a number canons to help in the celebration.  The canons were not aimed at the church, but it turns out that the concussion of the cannons being fired numerous times was enough to finish off the job—the walls crumbled.  The one end of the cathedral that was not damaged was built in Gothic style, but the rebuild of the fire (and cannon) damaged part was rebuilt in Baroque style and includes one of the largest organs in the world, with 17,388 pipes and 233 registers.  Now that’s an organ!

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Outdoor cafes are open in the evenings even when it’s in the 30’s or 40’s

Passau is still dominated by its original medieval ground plan—a labyrinth of narrow lanes.  So we decide this morning to walk many of them stopping in various little shops along the way.  One of Carol’s favorite shops, a paper store, is run by the sweetest little old lady, so Carol needs to stop by each time we are here.  We also pay a visit to the Passau Glass Museum, the biggest museum on European glass worldwide with over 30,000 pieces in their possession.  This museum, officially opened in 1985 by Neil Armstrong, is certainly a must-see for people interested in the history of glass in Europe.

After having another great lunch back on board the Crystal Mahler, we set sail for Melk.  Tomorrow we will connect with three small towns along the river – Melk, Durnstein and Krems.

Deggendorf & the Bavarian Countryside

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The Church of St. Catherine in Deggendorf is a great example of Baroque architecture

Day 11: Nov 26, 2017 – Deggendorf & the Bavarian Countryside

Today is a little bit of everything. We start by docking in the tiny town of Deggendorf. Seen from afar, Deggendorf is dominated by the Baroque towers of the two churches, as well as the medieval tower of its City Hall which was built in 1380 and rises up some 175 feet. When you get closer up, well, the town is still dominated by these things. Other than a few cafes and restaurants and maybe a few shops, there is not much else here. Since it’s a Sunday morning when we dock, there is nothing open. But the good news is since it’s a Sunday morning, when we get to the Church of St. Catherine, we make it for the beginning of a service and get to hear the grand old pipe organ in this cathedral. It’s very peaceful sitting enjoying the sound of the organ and seeing the fine artistry of the church with its splendid ceiling fresco dating from 1763.

Then it’s on to the Bavarian countryside where it looks a lot like central Pennsylvania farmland where we grew up. The roads are narrow and the trees are bare of leaves at this time of year but the grass is very green as we drive toward Passau. We go to the overview high above town on the opposite side of the river and as we are standing there enjoying the view, it begins to snow… and I do mean SNOW. It’s coming down fast and furiously, but we are all loving it. It’s certainly going to feel like Christmas is coming.

After we return to ship which is now in Vilshofen, we sail on down the Danube river and dock for the night in Passau.

 

Regensburg – Sausage, Sausage and more Sausage

 

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The kitchen at the old Sausage House

Day 10: Nov 25, 2017 – Regensburg – Sausage, Sausage and more Sausage

Oh what a fun day! We take off on foot to explore Regensburg. Carol hears there is going to be an organ concert and wants to go so we head to the church, but not everyone is so excited about an organ concert, so we deposit Carol at the church and head on down the street to do some shopping. But Carol catches up to us soon after the concert and we all eventually head to the “Sausage House”. I simply can’t come to Regensburg and not eat at the Sausage House.

The official name is the Historic Sausage Kitchen of Regensburg, and serves one dish only – sausage with sauerkraut. All you have to do is sit down and order Six, Eight, Ten or Twelve – meaning the number of sausages you want. It’s served with sweet mustard and WOW, is it GOOD!

This place is the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world, having opened in 1146 AD with the construction of the Regensburg stone bridge. The kitchen serves 6,000 sausages daily.

After our lunch we head back to our ship to join an afternoon tour to… hold on… a sausage-making class! When we get back to the ship, I noticed a line of ship personnel unloading fresh goods from a truck into the ship. I went up to the deck to watch them unload all kinds of goods for the ship… two office chairs… stacks of lettuce and other produce… and… you guessed it – sausages.

At any rate, we head out for our afternoon excursion to the kitchen of a downtown restaurant. Here we proceed to make German White Sausage from scratch. We start with ground veal, ground pork, pork fat, ice, onions, parsley, lemon zest and spices. Then we grind these ingredients to a very fine mixture at certain temperatures. From there we feed it into pork sausage casings (see photos), tie it off, and throw it into the hot water.

After another drink or two the sausages are cooked and we get to eat them along with pretzels and sweet mustard. Ymmmmm

Finally it’s back to the ship and we set sail for our next port. It’s been a great day with lots of fun that we all talk and laugh about over dinner. Oh yes, one of the options for dinner is… sausage!

Nuremberg & Miles of Rock-cut Beer Cellars

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Some of the miles of beer cellars

Day 9: Nov 24, 2017 – Nuremberg & Miles of Rock-cut Beer Cellars

Today is a mix of various centuries in Nuremberg – from Medieval City to industrial times to Nazi rise & fall to Beer Cellars & air raid shelters. The Medieval Old City of Nuremberg is one of the best preserved in Germany with miles of old city walls and castle buildings and towers. It’s not only a great place to see the history, but also a good viewpoint to look out over modern Nuremberg.

Along with the old city we see some of the highlights of the WWI era in this area, including the Nazi parade grounds, the palace of justice where the Nuremberg trials were held and the Congress Hall – the huge, part finished building that Hitler was building to use one day a year for his speech to top party leaders. After seeing all of this, all you can think is “what a waste”.

We then move on to the main part of the old town with its main square full of shops and its narrow streets with their half-timbered houses. Certainly one of the highlights of the day is seeing the miles and miles of Rock-cut Beer Cellars. Originally, these rock-cut cellars were used primarily for the making and storing of beer. The first construction was in 1303 and then later, an ordinance of the Nuremberg town council dated November 11, 1380. It is decreed that anyone intending to brew and sell beer must have a cellar of his own, “ten feet long and sixteen feet wide. Well, they just kept cutting more and more from the rock below the city, until there are now miles of tunnels. During the devastating air raids of World War II, many citizens of Nuremberg found a different use as they sought and found shelter in the historic beer cellars.

Bamberg and the Christmas Markets

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Phil & Carol in the Christmas Markets in Bamberg, Germany

Day 8: Nov 23, 2017 – Bamberg and the Christmas Markets

YEAH… It’s time for our first Christmas Market today. In fact today is the opening day for the Bamberg Christmas Market so we definitely want to spend some time there.

But first I should tell you something about the city. Bamberg was established in 1007 AD and it embarked on some very ambitious building projects. Soon it was being called the ‘German Rome’ and ‘the city on the seven hills’, not withstanding the fact that it only had six hills. But no problem. They just gave one of the hills two names, so then they had seven hills. Now Bamberg did not have significant industry so was relatively untouched in WWII. Thus its Old City can boast an architectural heritage spanning a whole millennium. No wonder that all of it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has the required cathedral and rathaus (or town hall), but also all kinds of shops, pubs, breweries and now, of course, the Christmas Markets.

The Christmas Markets in all of these German towns and cities are typically located in the various squares around town and have a variety of local goods ranging from local foods to Gluehwein (hot, spiced wine) to craft items to hand knits goods to Christmas ornaments to… well, you get the idea. You can spend many hours in these markets. And the best of it is the atmosphere. All the locals come out to meet their friends, have a bite to eat and drink wine.

So, another day is gone and we’ve spent it with good friends having a good time. What could be better?

Wurzburg – A Quaint Old City on the River Main

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Walking the Old Stone Bridge into town

Day 7: Nov 22, 2017 – Wurzburg – A Quaint Old City on the River Main

Today we dock at noon and venture into Wurzburg on a SWAT – (Swartz Wandering Aimlessly Tour). This means we have no set agenda, just wander into town and see what happens. Since we didn’t take time to eat lunch aboard, our first stop in the city square at a walk-up kiosk for some sausages & fries. (Here you pay a deposit on the ceramic dish they put the fries in and then collect the deposit when you turn your dish back in.) There are a variety of sausages available.   Some of us get beef, some sausage, but I go all-out and get the big, fat beef sausage infused with cheese and wrapped in bacon. Ymmmm.

Then it’s off for some shopping and sightseeing. The girls are impressed with the various stores available here—everything from small shops to six-story department stores, so we investigate and pick up a few things.

Now from many places around town you can look up and see the Marienberg Fortress high situated high over the west bank of the river. In the USA we think of anything from the 1800’s as being OLD, but here in Europe something isn’t old unless it was built at least a thousand years ago. In this case, the first mention of the fortress that we know of dates back to 704 – that’s over 1300 years ago!

Miltenberg and the Peeing Men

Day 6: Nov 21, 2017 – Miltenberg and the Peeing Men

I neglected to mention yesterday that we left the Rhine river and headed up the Main River through the heart of Germany. While the Rhine is mainly a North-South river (flowing North incidentally) and serves as the border between France and Germany for much of its length, the Main is an East-West river that heads deep into the heart of Germany. We are sailing east toward the mountains that serve as the continental divide in Europe.

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Love these half-timbered houses in town

The first town we visit today is Miltenberg that sits on the Northern bank of the Main river on the edge of the Odenwald Forest. Walking the long main street in town, there are many beautifully preserved half-timbered houses. Due to WWII, there aren’t many towns where you can find preserved houses like these dating back to the 15th to 17th centuries. I remember a few years back walking with friends up to the fortress above the town and being rewarded with great views of the town below, the river and the region on the opposite bank. We had a leisurely lunch and enjoyed the view.

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Three men contribute to the flow of the Main River

As we round the corner near the river, we stop short at an unusual sight – three men standing and peeing into the fountain! Now THAT will stop you dead in your tracks – until you realize that it’s just a statue.

Meanwhile the Crystal Mahler sails further up the river to the town of Wertheim.

Koblenz’s Peppermint Lady

 

Day 5: Nov 20, 2017 – Koblenz’s Peppermint Lady

Today we are off to see the city of Koblenz. They are just beginning to set up the Christmas Markets here, so we get teased for the days to come. We see Christmas trees—but they are still bundled up and stacked in carts waiting to be set up. We see Christmas Market stalls—but they are still closed with nothing in them. We see rides for the kids—but they are still on the trailers being brought into the town squares. You get the idea—it’s the Christmas Markets…. Almost.

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The Peppermint Lady—read about her in the blog

 

Now today we hear some great little stories about Koblenz. Like the Peppermint Lady who would wander around town begging for food for the stray cats and give a peppermint stick to anyone who would donate. I guess there are not any great town heroes here, since the Peppermint Lady has her own statue.

 

After touring the town we venture high on the hill above to the fortress overlooking the town and river. This dates back to the middle ages but was completely destroyed by the French when they were driven out of the area by the Prussians. But the Prussians rebuild the fortress starting in 1817 and today this is the fortress we see.

 

Cologne: Not your normal German City

Day 4: Nov 19, 2017 – Cologne: Not your normal German City

This morning we cruise along the Rhine River through Germany until we come to the city of Cologne, the second largest city in Germany. When you think of all the common conceptions of Germans, like Serious, Humorless, Stern people, when it comes to Cologne you can throw those thoughts away. Cologne is just the opposite! Cologne is to Germany what New Orleans is to the United States—right down to having an annual 6-day Mardi Gras festival.

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This Brew house is the second largest in Germany, seating 1500 people at a time.

So it would be appropriate for us to spend this afternoon on an educational tour—of the local brew houses. Cologne has its own version of beer, call Kolsch Beer. In order for a beer to be called Kolsch, it has to be an ale brewed IN the city of Cologne. But there are many different brands of Kolsch, so today it’s our job to try the various brews to distinguish the differences. We visit three different brew houses with very different flavors of beers.

Now, lest you think we spend ALL our time in the Brewhouses in Germany, we do visit some other sights this afternoon, such as the world-famous Cologne Cathedral. The Cathedral took over 600 years to build, but they finally got it right and if you are ever in Cologne, it’s a place not to be missed.

Now Cologne is full of traditions and legends and they are all true (or could be). Cologne has the reputation around Germany of not having the hardest working people. This came about by the following legend: In olden days, the people of Cologne would get to work about 10:30 in the morning and work until it was time for lunch. Then after lunch, they

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The woman looking down the stairs sees the elves piled up at the bottom.

needed a rest after eating all that food, so they would nap until four. By then, of course, it was so late in the day there was no use going back to work! Now how did they get away with working so little? It was because of the elves that lived in the basement and came upstairs each night and did the work. But alas, one night a woman decided she would get to the bottom of it all. So she spread peas on the stairs, turned off the lights, and went to bed. When the elves started upstairs, they slipped on the peas and fell down the stairs. The woman, upon hearing the noise, ran to the top of the stairs with her lamp and found all the elves piled up at the bottom of the stairs. Well, the elves were so mad they never returned to do the work and the good folks of Cologne finally had to work like the rest of the Germans. (See the photo of the statue)

Then there are the facts around town. Like the gentleman who lived across the square from the town hall and was made mayor of

the city. So he erected a statue on top of his building facing away from the town hall, but mooning the city hall. So when the city built a new clock tower, it included the face of the mayor facing the man’s house and he sticks out his tongue every fifteen minutes. (Again, see the photos).

So in a nut shell—that’s Cologne.

The Dutch Countryside

Day 3: Nov 18, 2017 – The Dutch Countryside

Today it’s time for Cheese, Eels, and Windmills. What a combination! When you think of the Netherlands, you may think of cheese and windmills, but EELS? Well, yes, that is one of our experiences today. But I’ll get to that in just a bit.

We start our day at the breakfast buffet aboard the Crystal Mahler and this is the place to fuel up for the day,   Omelets, slices of bread, meats, yogurt, fruits, sweetbreads etc. A good variety and great taste. Then it’s time to head out of Amsterdam into the Dutch Countryside on our Crystal motor coaches. For this excursion, there are forty or forty-five people which would fit nicely on one motor coach, but Crystal wants you to be comfortable and not crowded, so we take two motor coaches and have plenty of space to spread out.

The Dutch countryside is interesting in this area as most of it is below sea level and we ride along the dry side of the dikes with the water above us on the other side of the dike. All the fields are green with cute little houses and farms spread out here and there. The sheep are grazing and the people are not in a big hurry.

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Just a very small sample of the cheeses at the farm

Our first stop is a family cheese maker, and what great cheese. After touring the place, visiting the cows, sheep, and goats, and learning the cheese-making process, we get to the shop where they sell the cheese—lots and lots of cheese. They have samples out of about forty-five different cheeses, so I try as many as possible and end up buying a smoked herb gouda cheese stick to take along home.

We ended our afternoon with a stop at a working windmill. Since a lot of the land in this area is reclaimed from the sea and sits below sea-level, the water that seeps in and collects at these lower levels has to continuously be pumped back out to the sea at a higher level. This is where the windmills come in. They are the pumping station. Wind turns the blades that turn the shaft that turns the huge screw that lifts the water up to the higher level. Simple as that. In the old days, the man that took care of the windmill lived with his family in the windmill itself (they still do in a few cases). It must have made for a very dull life, but you have to say these windmills are a beautiful sight to see the landscape.

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Phil experiences his first-ever smoked eel

But I skipped the second stop of the day—the eel experience. Who knew it? There is a lake here where eels are plentiful and this local family that we visited owns a smokehouse and restaurant that specializes in smoked eel. So the owner gives us a tour, shows us how the eel is smoked, and then passes out samples. I’m a little leery about eating this “snakefish” at first, but OH, WHAT A GREAT FLAVOR! Well, you learn something new every day and today it was the fantastic flavor of a smoked eel!

Amsterdam – a City of Bikes, Birds & Brothels

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The Central Train Station in Amsterdam is a major connection point for travel throughout the Netherlands

Day 1& 2: Nov 16-17, 2017 – Amsterdam

Amsterdam—the city of Bikes, Birds, Brothels and Borderline “Coffee Shops”. Oh… and also the start of our sixteen-day Crystal River Cruise.

We leave Tallahassee on the afternoon of Nov 16th and arrive in Amsterdam on the morning of the 17th to board our ship—the Crystal Mahler. It’s a brand new river vessel built by the luxury line, Crystal Cruises, so we hope everything lives up to its name.

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After we check-in on the ship, I want to stretch my legs a bit so I head into the city and walk for a couple of hours. As I walk, Amsterdam is just as I remember it. There are lots of people out and about, especially young people. There is an energy about this city and I think it is fueled by all the bikes zipping every direction and every street. While the bike lanes are clearly marked, it’s best to be extra careful when navigating the city as it’s easy to get distracted by all the sights and step in front of a local on their way home from work or out grocery shopping. In fact, there are twice as many bikes as people

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A few of the bikes parked at the train station

in Amsterdam as it is the major means of transportation around the city. And one of the places with the highest density of bikes in the city is the Central Train Station. Lots of people have a bike they keep parked at the station as they live in another area of the city or outside of town and need a way around when they take the train into town to work. There are so many bikes that there is now a parking garage at the station just for bikes.

The train station is also a major shopping center with lots of shops and restaurants on the level above the train tracks.

One of the places I stop by is a grocery store I remembered from my last visit here. It’s always interesting to me to watch the locals as they shop and to compare the prices to those back home. Some of the best local fares here are all the cheeses and the Stroopewaffles, two thin waffle-cookies with a layer of caramel or syrup between them—super good!

 

Anacortes, Washington – A town you have never heard of in the San Juan Islands!

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View from high on the mountain looking down on the bay

Now when most people first hear about the San Juan Islands, they immediately think of Puerto Rico or the Caribbean.  But, no!  The San Juan islands are at the very opposite corner of the United States.  Head to Seattle, Washington, rent a car, and drive the best part of two hours due north and you will find the San Juan Islands and the small town of Anacortes.

We spent five days there in early JPicture3uly.  The weather was beautiful—cool and clear.  Anacortes is that type of small town where you think the time has stopped a number of years ago.  You know what I mean— when people were laid back, friendly, and trustworthy.  It’s got a great little downtown area that is full of local shops (not chain stores) and is very walkable.

Now for a brief history lesson.  Anacortes was founded in 1877 by a guy named Amos Bowman.  Bowman thought this would be a great place for the Pacific terminus on the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Real estate boomed from 1888 to 1890, but then the real estate bubble burst and the town failed to become the New York of the west.  So Amos took his daughter’s name, Anne Curtis Bowman and named the town after her (Anacortes) and left town!  True story!  But don’t worry, after the bust, the town became prominent in the area of a fishing tradition, thriving canning industry, and timber mills.

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Washington State Ferry boat pulling into Friday Harbor

The Washington State Ferry has a terminal in Anacortes, so there are lots of other places around the islands that can be visited from there.  We boarded the ferry one morning and cruised to Friday Harbor, another great little town with quaint little shops and eateries.  Again, Carol and I along with our good friends spent a wonderful day together.

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Seals along the shore in Deception Pass

 

Another day, we took a cruise out to spot whales, see the seals laying along the shores and view the Deception Pass Bridge—180 feet above the water at Deception Pass.

Of all the things to do in and around Anacortes, one of the most fun activities was provided by our friend, Scott, who lives there.  He invited us to his house for a GREAT Salmon dinner.  But before dinner, he invited the owners of Anacortes Candles over and we had a “candle-making” party.  Now that might sound strange, but it was SOOOOO much fun, using all kinds of colors and scents to create your own, individual, unique candles.

So now for some final facts on Anacortes:

  • “Shipwreck Day” is a popular single-day, flea market/town garage sale.
  • “What the Heck Fest” was held annually from 2001 to 2011
  • The first weekend of August hosts the “Anacortes Arts Festival” and shuts down the main street for all the vendors
  • Probably the most famous person from Anacortes is Burl Ives – Folk Singer, Author, and Actor

Sunday, December 4, 2016: Crossing the Drake Passage – Life on board ship

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Specialty Dining Room

Today is a day at sea, so I thought I’d write about life on board ship.  Hurtigruten is not your typical cruise line – either in Norway or here in Antarctica.  We’ll let the discussion of Norway for another time, and talk about the experience here in Antarctica.  First, one needs to realize that this is NOT a cruise.  It’s an Exploration Voyage.  What this means above all else is that things can (and will) change constantly.  So just because your daily program says we’ll have a lecture on the history of Antarctica at 6:30 pm does not necessarily mean it will happen at 6:30.  For example, we walked into the amphitheater for such a presentation one evening, sat down and were about to start when the lecturer got up and said “We are about to pass through some of the best icebergs you’ve ever seen.  Do you want me to give the presentation now or should we postpone it till 8:30 or 9:00?”  We all voted to postpone, of course, and were certainly glad we did.

So everything needs to be flexible.  One day we were scheduled to land on Danco Island.  When we got there it was packed with ice, so we just sailed over to Cuverville Island instead.  Of course, all the landing times that were in our program needed to be adjusted.

Entertainment on board is different.  No casino, no big production shows, no karaoke.  Instead, it’s primarily educational presentations on the wildlife, geography, history, or culture of the area.  There is also a science lab on board that members of the exploration staff run.  They will gather a sample from wherever we are, bring them on board and we can examine them under microscopes, for instance.

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Lots of presentations were given in the Amphitheater

Speaking of Exploration Staff – this replaces the Cruise Entertainment Staff on other cruises.  We are on a ship with 325 passengers and there is an Exploration Staff of 20 consisting of two photographers (they don’t sell pictures to you, they help you take great pictures), botanists, kayak instructors, geologists, experts in marine life, birds, etc and lifetime explorers including a guy that has skied to both the north and south poles in the same year.  In other words, this stuff is packed full of knowledge and there is nothing they love more than showing you their world.

Meals on board consist of buffet breakfast and lunch (very good I might add) and then dinner which depending on the day’s activities could be a buffet or a county-themed dinner – American one night, Italian another, etc.

Unlike other cruises, you don’t put on your T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops and get on a tender boat to cruise to the town dock.  No, instead you put on your waterproof jacket, waterproof pants and boots to join 15 other people in a rubber Zodiac to land on a stone beach in the middle of nowhere.

There are some of the normal amenities on board such as fitness center, a shop with clothes and souvenirs, a couple of bars, etc but some of the best entertainment is when the bridge comes on a says there is a pod of feeding whales just in front of the ship and the ship comes to a stop for the next 45 minutes so we can watch nature at its best.

Saturday, December 3, 2016: Antarctica – Cuverville Island – Carol, Phil & the Momma Penguin

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I found this little guy just wandering down the beach

Today we were at a landing site at Cuverville Island located on the Antarctic Peninsula.  It’s located in a small cove within a larger bay, so it’s well sheltered from the wind and seas.  The sun was shining brightly which brought the temperature well above freezing.  The warm sun and calm winds made for the perfect summer day here in Antarctica.  As you can see in some of the pictures, the water was so flat it was almost like a mirror.

We started the day with a really nice Zodiac excursion.  Our driver/guide was the same one we had yesterday and he again was full of the knowledge of the area.  The Gentoo Penguins were one of the stars of the day with over 5,000 breeding pairs in the immediate area.  They were everywhere – walking on the beach, swimming in the water, climbing the snow banks, making their nests.

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I have never seen blue ice as in Antarctica

We cruised in the Zodiac among the icebergs deep into the cove.  There were icebergs of all sizes and shapes, some flat top table bergs, some domed, some very craggy and broken, but all beautiful.  Our driver took us close enough that I could break off an icicle to pass around.  I’ve never seen such deep blue in icebergs.

Besides all the Penguins swimming around us, we also had many birds, including Condors, flying around us.  Then we rounded a corner and found a Crab Eater Seal laying upon an iceberg, enjoying the sun.  We took the Zodiac all around the bergs but it didn’t bother him a bit.

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And the trophy for Ms. Antarctica goes to…

We got back to the ship just in time for a quick lunch and then it was back to the Zodiac to cross over and make a landing on the shore.  Again when we landed, there were Gentoo Penguins everywhere.  We needed to be careful not to get in their way or step on them.  We sat and watched the Penguins on the rocky beach for a while and then hiked in the snow up the steep hill to get to another Penguin colony high up on the hill.

When we got to the top, we found one particular mother penguin with her egg.  No one else was around except the two of us so we enjoyed watching her protect her egg for a long time.  Each time another penguin walked anywhere near her, she would lash out and peck at them, warning them to stay away from her egg.

Friday, December 2, 2016: Antarctica- Orne Harbour- A walk in the Snow

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Phil and Carol out on the glacier

Although we have been having a terrific experience so far in Chile and Antarctica, today was certainly the highlight of the trip.  This is an exploration voyage, so the itinerary always has a plan A, plan B, and plan C (and sometimes plans D and E), so you need to be flexible.  Today found us in Orne Harbour, a nice bay on the Antarctic Peninsula.  When we did our zodiac landing this morning, we landed on a snow bank instead of a rocky beach.  We took our hiking poles and zigzagged our way up a very steep hillside.  It was a soft, deep snow, but we quickly had a packed track to follow in.  If you stepped off the path, you went in the snow up to your knees or more.

It was a good climb to the top of the hill, but when you came out on top – WOW, what a view.  Totally surrounded by brilliant blue water with icebergs and then steep mountains covered with snow, ice and glaciers as far as the eye could see.  It was an exceptionally clear day with bright sunshine, so we took advantage of it and stayed at the top for a long time.

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Screaming at the mountain

But we were not alone.  There were many, many penguins and many kinds of birds on the top of our hill.  We watched penguins build their stone nests from a very short distance (10 to 15 feet).  They are so much fun to watch as they waddle back and forth gathering stones and returning to their nests.  When you look down the steep hillside that we just climbed (see the pictures to get an idea of the height), you have to wonder how they ever got up here from the water.  And the hillside is all covered with snow and ice.  This coastal area gets between six and twenty feet of snow each year as opposed to the interior of the continent, which is a cold desert area that is lucky to see two inches each year.

After a late lunch, we set out by zodiac for an excursion to explore the area by water.  Our driver was full of knowledge and explained the creation of this rugged area by tectonic plate movements.  We saw mountains and cliffs and glaciers and calvings and streams, etc.  It was the perfect afternoon to be out here with mother nature.

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Today’s sunset (at about 11:00 pm)

After dinner this evening we watched a movie on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations and then watched the sunset over the mountains.  The days are long here as it’s summertime at this extremely southern latitude.  Sunset today was about 11:00 pm and sunrise is one something in the morning.  So if you want to watch the sunset and also the sunrise the next morning, it makes for a very short night’s sleep.

Thursday, December 1, 2016: Antarctica-Deception Island-Hiking the Caldera

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The rock wall we sail by when entering the volcano’s caldera

Today was another interesting day.  Early this morning (about 7:30) we sailed into Telefon Bay at Deception Island.  Deception Island was created by a series of volcanoes erupting over the last few thousand years, the latest being in the 1970s.  The main caldera is filled with water and, of course, is surrounded by the rims of the volcanoes.  It only has a narrow opening from the caldera to the open sea, with very calm water inside the caldera.  It was through this narrow opening that we sailed early this morning to enter.

Deep in under the surface, this is still an active volcanic area as evidenced by the steam we can see seeping from the ground along the beach when we do a landing.  Of course, this is the most southern part of the chain of mountains that start far north in Alaska with the Alaska Mountain range.  The continuation south is then the Canadian Rockies, the U.S. Rockies and continues through Mexico and Central America before becoming the Andes Mountains the entire length of South America and finally the Antarctic Peninsula.

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Phil sits on a rock and takes in the view

When we land, there are Penguins on the beach waiting to greet us.  The plan is to hike up to the top of the volcanoes’ rims for the beautiful views from there.  Today there is no hiking on snow and ice, but instead, it’s on volcanic rock and gravel.  When we look at the stones below our feet, there are all kinds of colors and textures of rock, depending on what volcanic explosion it came from.  We grabbed our walking sticks (compliments of Hurtigruten) and started up the side of the volcano.

It was a fairly long and steep climb, so even though it was near freezing we worked up a sweat.  At one point Lana was feeling a sugar low and could use something to eat.  Now one of the rules in Antarctica is that there is NO food brought onto shore, so we had nothing with us.  So Lana asks one of the ship’s exploration team that was stationed along the way and he pulled out a granola bar, gave it to her and said: “don’t tell anyone”.  They provide them to the staff in case they get stuck on land from bad weather, etc.

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The landing area and the start up the volcano side

It was a great day for hiking and as we looked down at the various volcanoes’ calderas, we could help but think of how fortunate we are to be able to experience places like this.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016: Antarctica-Brown Bluff-Icebergs and Penguins

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I’ve seen more blue ice here than anywhere in the world

Today was an interesting day in a variety of ways.  Again, Antarctica showed us how quickly its weather can change.  The morning started off fine with calm winds and a light snow falling.  We were sitting in the middle of many icebergs and started the day with a great zodiac excursion (more on this later).  To dress for this excursion requires a little effort as we were moving across the water in an open zodiac with some wind blowing and some snow falling… and WE ARE IN ANTARCTICA!  So, Carol’s garments, for instance, consist of:

  • Thermal underwear #1
  • Thermal underwear #2
  • Thermal underwear #3
  • Sweater
  • Fleece
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Life vest
  • Waterproof pants
  • Wool socks #1
  • Wool socks #2
  • Wool socks #3
  • BIG rubber boots
  • Gloves, Hat and Hood
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Our zodiac drivers knew how to dress for cold weather

So each time you go out, all this needs to go on.  And, of course, it all comes back off when you get back on board.  Now, this normally would not be too big of a deal, but today we got dressed to go out in the zodiac this morning and undressed again when we ended the excursion.  And that’s when the dressing started to get funny.  We had some soup for lunch and were getting ready to go back out for a landing this afternoon, so got all dressed up again.  But the wind picked up to gale force and the snow was even heavier, so they announced that we were holding off on landings to see if the weather improved.  So, off came the hat, gloves, life vest, jacket, fleece, sweater… well, you get the idea.  We waited for a while and they announced we were done for the day.  So off came everything and we showered and changed to spend the day on board. 

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Yeah…It’s snowing, it’s snowing! Must be summertime in Antarctica!

A little while passed and we were cruising along, but I noticed that a number of the zodiacs had not been loaded on board, but were instead following the ship.  Sure enough, we came to another location and the weather got much better.  So the landings here were on again.  So Carol got to start all over with the above list… Thermal underwear #1, Thermal underwear #2, Thermal underwear #3, again… you get the idea.

So we were all ready and standing out on deck to stay cool when the wind started blowing and… you guessed it.  “Sorry folks, we can’t go ashore here either”.  By now, we are all about rolling on the ground laughing.  You really can’t predict mother nature.

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Like the blue ice shelf under the water?

But back to our morning excursion.  We were out in the zodiac to view the icebergs and penguins.  The color “ice blue” became very well defined today as we peered at the edges of the bergs as they went under the sea.  Large and small slabs of ice floated silently by, but a faint squeaking noise could be heard.  Penguins having a party!  Waddling along while on a flat, floating slab of ice, hopping to the edge or falling on their bellies and sliding into the water.

Many Christmas-card worthy pictures were made of the ice flows with happy penguins partying away.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016: Antarctica-Half Moon Island-Peaks, Penguins and Poo

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Hello and welcome to my island

Today was the day we did what we most wanted to do.  For Phil, Carol and Dwight, the day made them “Seven Continent Travelers”.  Stepping onto the land (yes, mucky, muddy land) in the Antarctic was certainly an exciting experience.

Here, on Half Moon Island, the ones in charge are certainly the penguins or “pinkwinks” as our Norwegian cruise director pronounces it.  NO stepping onto penguin highways.  NO walking up to the penguins.  NO food allowed on the island (so NO feeding the penguins).  NO taking care of bodily functions while on the island (if nature calls, you must go back to the ship to take care of it).  And, of course, NO touching the penguins.  You can not approach them closer than fifteen feet, BUT… if you stand still and they approach you, even to the point of nipping at your pants, that’s OK (since it’s their decision).

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OK. Let’s play follow the leader, but watch your step

Today we saw Penguins traveling up steep “Penguin Highways” (paths through the snow) by hopping up a few steps at a time.  They launch themselves up the hill, then waddle a few more steps, like their baggie pants have fallen halfway down.  Occasionally, a hop doesn’t end well and they slip onto their bellies and slide into home plate.

If you come too close, there is an orchestra of screeches to let us humans know that you are breaking the rules.

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An Emperor Penguin sits on the beach (just longing for a mate)

Chinstrap penguins, with their black line under their beaks, where the majority breed that we observed today.  They seem to be perpetually smiling.  There was one Emperor Penguin who had strayed away from his own kind and peacefully sat on the beach with his back turned to us.  Emperor Penguins are the biggest of the penguins so their name suits them well.

One lone beige seal slept through it all on the beach, as if he was sleeping off a long night of drinking.  He was very fat and very good with that.  You don’t have to diet in Antarctica, after all!

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Making a zodiac landing on Half Moon Island

Getting on the tender boats requires a person to be somewhat athletic.  Bundled up in long johns, hats, gloves, puffy down jackets, wool socks, scarves and heavy black boots makes it difficult at best to throw your leg over the side of the boat in the way you were instructed.  Coming back there was the added handicap of having penguin poop all over our boots.  On the ship, all boots were put through an electric boot cleaner and then disinfected.

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As we get out of our zodiac on the beach, we are already greeted by a couple of Penguins.

Ahhh…. The hot, apple-flavored tea that greeted us upon our return was absolutely heaven on earth.

Sunday & Monday, November 27-28, 2016: Sea Days headed to Antarctica

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Our ship, the Midnatsol with Hurtigruten Voyages of Exploration

On Sunday, we tried to make a landing on Cape Horn, the small island at the very tip of South America.  The only man-made structures on Cape Horn are a lighthouse and a monument marking this most southern point.  The only inhabitants are the lighthouse keeper, his wife, and son.  That certainly must be a very isolated existence.  The weather looked good. 

We had dropped anchor, the tender pit doors were open and the zodiacs were ready to launch.  Just then the wind started to pick up and the waves started to roll, and within thirty minutes the wind went from calm to gale force and the waves from flat to crashing across the tender deck.  So, as you can imagine, we didn’t get to Cape Horn. 

Here we had a great example of how quickly the weather can change here in these southern regions.  In fact, when we get to Antarctica, on each landing the expedition crew must first go in and survey the landing area.  Then ferry ashore tents, sleeping bags, and food for a couple of days just in case we were ashore when the weather turned and we needed to spend a couple of hours (or a couple of days) there before they could pick us up again.

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Cape Horn. Southernmost point in South America

We spent these two days on board ship preparing for Antarctica.  There were safety lectures, photography classes and presentations on the animals and landscape we will encounter.  We also needed to take whatever outer clothing we were going to wear ashore to be vacuumed.  This is to prevent any foreign seeds or contaminants from entering Antarctica.

We have already experienced many wonderful things in Chile, but excitement is running even higher on board ship as we anticipate what is ahead in Antarctica.

Saturday, November 26, 2016: Puerto Williams, Chile… from guest blogger Lana

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The Prince and Princess of Puerto Williams

Suddenly the dusty gray streets came alive with color as the Prince and Princess of Puerto Williams arrived for the 60th birthday party of the Puerto.  With her long, dark hair perfectly braided on one side and punctuated with colorful magenta flowers, the Princess smiled as the tourist “paparazzi” took her picture.  Creamy, soft skin and bright dark eyes gave away her youthful beauty.  We knew she was important because she had the fullest petticoats of all under her dark flowered, wide skirt, authentic Chilean dress.

The Prince dressed in tight, black jeans, white shirt, white shorts, tailored jacket.  Yet, he matched his Princess with a magenta, woven poncho over the top.  His special mark of royalty was his black Gaucho boots to the knee, and, best of all, were his silver, giant spurs.

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The festival celebrating the 60th anniversary of Puerto Williams, Chile

Already moving with the Chilean music, loudly blasting the air, the royal couple were ready to dance and promenade with other Chilean women dressed in their finest costumes of colorful dresses in contrast to the dull, windswept houses nearby.

Brightly colored, crocheted squares were hung together on a line of yarn and strung through the trees to make the area, high on a hill above the sea, look festive.  King crab was served all around to the village residents.  Neighbors and friends greeted each other with smiles, kisses on the cheeks and hugs.  It seemed like everyone knew everyone.  It was the youthful exuberance that delighted the scene.

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Taking a snooze in the park

Lazy dogs combed the area for crumbs.  A horse wandered through town and ate the bright, sun-shiny dandelions behind the school’s fence.

 

 

Friday, November 25, 2016: Garibaldi Fjord, Beagle Channel, Chile…

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Phil ready to head for the zodiac

Today dawned with us sailing in the Beagle Channel  (see the photo of the map)  which was named for one of the boats used by Charles Darwin when he sailed through this region doing research.  We took a little turn off the channel to cruise up the Garibaldi Fjord to the glacier that formed the fjord.  When we got near to the glacier, the captain stopped the ship and dropped anchor.  It was time to launch the zodiac and have some fun on the water.  Well, on the water AND the ice as it turns out.

We got bundled up against the cold air and wind outside and pulled on our big rubber boots (courtesy of Hurtigruten) to begin our adventure.  There were 15 or 16 people per zodiac and we went down to the “tender pit” in the bowels of the ship to board them.  These zodiacs have rubber sides but steel bottoms and we quickly found out why steel as the water was full of small icebergs from the glacier.  So off we went, flying through the water and occasionally over the icebergs.  The driver would slow down for the ‘bergs, but then just run up on them and push them out of our way.  Using this method, we worked our way up closer to the face of the glacier.  Along the way, we saw hanging glaciers high up on the mountains, waterfalls that fell hundreds of feet down to the water’s edge, birds and even a seal pop his head up between the ‘bergs.

As we ventured deeper into the fjord and everyone got quieter on the boat, Lana listened

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Long, long waterfalls

closely to the fjord, and this is what she felt:

“I am a lonely fjord, only ice comes to hug me cold.
Sometimes the Sun sends tears of waterfalls.
But it is so quiet…

I smell the frozen air and taste the salt for eternity.
I hear the gunshot sound of a glacier calving.

And on a Special day, the sun warms the water
So the animals come to entertain me.

 

I see the dark eyes of my sea-loving friends
Who only care to hunt and fish.

I am a lonely fjord
Whose life slowly changes through time…
….but always stays the same.”

It was a great day on the water and I can’t begin to describe the beauty, but look at the pictures to get a taste of it all.

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Bob and Linda in the middle of their zodiac

After returning to the ship and dinner this evening, we decided to go to a movie in the amphitheater.  No sooner had we sat down then Lana said “I have an enormous head in front of me.  I can’t see anything.”  There was an extra place beside me, so being the gentleman that I am, I offered to slide over a seat.  That was great for Lana, but Dwight was on the other side of Lana and this meant that poor Dwight got Lana’s old seat.  But he said he could live with it (see photo for Dwight’s view of things at this point).  So we started watching the movie.  Well, it wasn’t two minutes later and a lady with another large head came into the row in front of us, sat down and now completely blocked Dwight’s view of the movie.  But I must say, I have to greatly admire Dwight as he didn’t get upset at all, even when Lana, Carol and I were about rolling on the floor with laughter.  No,  he just slid down into his seat and promptly fell asleep.

Thursday, November 24, 2016: From Santiago to Punta Arenas…

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The view overlooking Punta Arenas

Transfer day – flying from Santiago to Punta Arenas started early.  Let’s just say that yesterday when we were checking in with Hurtigruten (the company we are sailing with) for our flight times, the man looked at the list and said breakfast would be at 3:10 am.  We all just stared at him and Carol said “You are kidding… right?”.  To which he replied “No, really.  3:10 is breakfast and we leave for the airport at 3:40”.  So, yes, today started early!

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Alpaca in a field outside of town

It was actually a good flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas.  Where you ask, is Punta Arenas?  If you have ever looked at a map of Chile, you know it is long and skinny.  So if Chile were a pencil with the eraser at the top, Santiago would be about halfway down where you hold the pencil and Punta Arenas would be way down in the lead.  It was about a two and half hour flight.  After arriving and boarding our busses to transfer to the ship, our guide told us we could not go down to our ship immediately as we had to wait for the tsunami to pass by. 

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School children evacuate the school and head up the hill in this Tsunami drill

What?  A Tsunami?  Then he went on to explain that the city needs to do a Tsunami drill once a year, and wouldn’t you know it – today is the day.  So we would be taking a city tour while the drill was completed.  It was pretty interesting to watch as people came out of their business and headed up the hill.  All the school kids left the schools and hiked up the hill also.  So we had fun watching and shopping for an hour or two and then made our way down to our ship.

Now, this is not a Luxury Cruise, but rather an Exploration Voyage.  What I mean by that is if you have sailed on a Caribbean cruise before, you can pretty much forget everything you think you know about cruising – it just doesn’t apply here.  There are no big shows – here nature IS the show.  There is no Casino – here you gamble on the weather and ice.  There are no “dress-up” nights – here dressing up for dinner means putting on a clean pair of blue jeans (or not).  You have to have an open mind about everything.  Yes, you get a schedule each evening that outlines the activities for the next day.  But then there is an announcement in the morning that the schedule has been rearranged because of weather changes and no, we are not going to the place listed in last night’s paper, but to a whole different place instead.  When you sign up for an activity (like we did for the two-man Kayaking), you don’t ask which day it will be, let alone what time.  They will just let you know when conditions are right and try to give you a couple of hours notice.

But this is all part of the adventure, so just sit back and enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016: Santiago – Driving the Andes Mountains with Juan…

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As we started up into the mountains, we notice many cacti hanging onto the thin soil

Today we are heading out-of-town to see some of the surrounding areas.  Santiago sits at the foot of the Andes Mountains, so the four of us hired a car and driver/guide, Juan, to show us nearby mountains.  Juan is a grandfather who speaks very good English although he has never taken any courses to learn it.  All the English he has learned is from leading tourists over the last 40 years.

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Phil, Carol, Juan, Lana and Dwight at lunch

We spent a great day with Juan, a man full of information and obviously proud of his homeland of Chile.  We learned much history, identified various plants (of course, we had Lana with us), asked questions about the animals of the area, and talked about his family, his deceased wife of four years and his new girlfriend.

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Look closely and you can see the hairpin curves coming up the mountain

We gradually drove higher and higher into the mountains.  Just then we thought we should be about at the top Juan turned unto a side road, lowered the windows and turned off the air conditioning, explaining that at this point he needed the added power to the engine to climb the steep hills!  And here came the switch-backs.  One hairpin turn after another.  In fact, while most places mark their roads with mile markers for identification, here they have curve numbers.  In the steepest section, there were over 50 of these hairpin curve markers.

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Dwight enjoys his pot roast. You would have thought it was his last meal for a very long time!

After coming down from the mountains, Juan took us to a local Chilean place for a four-in-the-afternoon lunch.  I had a local corn souffle, Carol had beef stew (with beef, potatoes, corn, pumpkin, carrots and rice), Lana had chicken stew (same as the beef stew, only with chicken) and Dwight had a monster portion of Pot Roast (approximately the same amount I would make for a family of four!)  It was all delicious.

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We encountered this fox beside the road and got out to take pictures. After a while, Juan got an apple from the trunk of the car and rolled it over to the fox at which point the fox picked up his treat and trotted away.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016: Exploring Santiago…

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The school kids were very excited about getting on the funicular up to the zoo on San Cristobal Hill

Today we sleep in a bit to catch up on our sleep and then picked up tickets to the Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing bus.  We used this as our mode of transportation around the city today, but traffic proved to be a challenge for a couple of reasons.  First, the Chinese President/Premier/Emperor/Supreme Begin (or something) was in town, so they were diverting traffic.  Second, there was a downtown protest for higher wages going on, so they were diverting traffic for this also.  Third, there was one red light out on our route with no policeman directing traffic here since, presumably, they were all busy diverting traffic from the previously mentioned items and routing them through this one broken light.  It took us over an hour to get past this point!

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Carol & Phil on San Cristobal Hill

One of the highlights was taking the funicular up San Cristobal Hill in Metropolitan Park.  There are some great views of the city from this point almost 3000 feet above sea level.  At the top is also the large statue of the Madonna with outstretched arms – a replica of the one in the Spanish square in Rome, only larger.

We are staying at the Sheraton Hotel in the downtown area and decided to have dinner in the restaurant there. Dwight had lamb shank and the rest of us had to-die-for Salmon.

Today the Fit Bit was charged up, so we knew we got in 17,960 steps even with using the bus.

Antarctica & Chile November 20-21, 2016

P&C_Antarctica

This adventure will begin with flying to Santiago, Chile. After spending three days there, we will continue by flying further south to Punta Arenas, Chile and boarding our ship, the Midnatsol with Hurtigruten.  Setting sail from Punta Arenas, we will cruise south through the Magellan Strait and then into the Beagle Channel, visiting first the Garibaldi Fjord and then on to Puerto Williams.  Next, it’s on to Antarctica for five days of zodiac cruising and making landings on the continent.  Then we’ll reverse our course and head back north eventually ending up in Punta Arenas to fly home.

Sunday/Monday, November 20-21, 2016: Flying South—but still a Red Eye flight…

 We left Sunday afternoon to head South to Antarctica, but of course, since we are leaving from Tallahassee, we have to head North to go South.  That’s right—Atlanta!  Can you go anywhere in the universe from Tallahassee without going through Atlanta?

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Our hotel in Santiago- Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center

At any rate, we flew to Atlanta and then took a red-eye from Atlanta to Santiago, Chile, to begin this adventure.  After landing in Santiago on Monday morning, we checked into our hotel and then hit the town by foot.  As usual, we find the best way to get a feel for a city is by walking the streets, eating in the local establishments and watching the locals.  We found Santiago, a city of some 7.5 million people, to be clean, safe and friendly.  If we needed some directions, there was always a local more than happy to give us some guidance – even if our communications were a bit of a struggle.

It was just past noon as we walked and realized we were getting hungry since we hadn’t had anything since that supreme “breakfast” served on the airplane.  We stopped by a small café on the street only to learn they didn’t start serving lunch until one o’clock.  Carol and I looked at our friends, Dwight and Lana, and we all immediately pulled out chairs and decided it was time for breakfast!

P&C_Santiago
Carol & Phil high above the city of Santiago

Later along our way, we decided to get a bird’s eye view of the city by going to the observation deck called Sky Costanera.  It’s part of the Costanera Center, which is Chile’s largest shopping mall and South America’s tallest building.  From here you can contemplate the city from above with some great views.

All in all, we had a great day.  My Fit Bit battery went dead somewhere over 20,000 steps, but we figured it was somewhere between 25 – 30,000 steps that felt like 40,000.