Taking a lovely stroll around St. John’s Newfoundland

It was going to be a beautiful day!

I stepped out onto the balcony this morning and was treated to a gorgeous sunrise.  The temperature was a little cool with a gentle breeze.

I loved the beautiful sights we were passing as the ship made its way towards the harbor.  The rocky landscape was dotted with beautiful and colorful homes,

As we got closer to the harbor entrance I could see Cabot Tower high atop Signal Hill.   Signal Hill is the birthplace of modern communications receiving the world’s first Atlantic radio transmission in 1901.

What I found incredible as we got closer and closer to the harbor entrance is just how narrow it is.

We had plenty of time to prepare to go ashore so we made our way up to the lounge for coffee and a lite continental breakfast.

After Mr. Judson’s presentation yesterday I was very excited about our “St. John’s Guided Walking Tour”.

We boarded our bus and learned that we would start our tour at the top of the hill and slowly make our way back down to the main street of the town.  Our first stop was at the St. Thomas’ Anglican Church.  The church opened in 1836 and although it survived two fires a wind storm dislodged it from it’s foundation by 6 inches.  Wings were eventually built on both sides of the church to stabilize it.

South entrance and hot house

Our next stop was the residence of the Lieutenant Governor, Government House.  The office of the Lieutenant Governor is mostly ceremonial.

The family was in residence so we could not go in, however, we were able to enter the front portico and peek inside.  This beautiful home and the grounds are used for many ceremonial occasions and receptions throughout the year.  We spent some time walking around the grounds and enjoying the beautiful gardens.

We continued our walk passed a lovely small, white house.  I loved the windows in this house.

The next stop on our walk was the Colonial House.  This neoclassical designed beautiful building was built in 1850 using white Irish limestone, beautiful columns and bears the Royal Coat of Arms.  Unfortunately, we were not able to enter the building because it is under construction and will eventually reopen as a museum.

Our guide shared an interesting story about the beautiful ceiling frescos inside the building.  Evidently, Polish painter had been imprisoned for passing bad checks.  The government made a deal with him to paint the ceilings of the building in return for reducing his sentence.  He did the work and it was beautiful.  Unfortunately for him, the government only reduced his 15 month sentence by one month.

By now we had been walking for quite a while so our guide took us Bannerman Park for a rest and bathroom break.  Within this lovely and colorful park is a gazebo, splash area, playground, pavilion, loop ice trail, pool and pathways around the park.

We continued our walk down Military Road to the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. We stood outside while our guide gave us a history of the church and grounds.  A funeral was in progress preventing us from entering the church.

 

The beautiful exterior pf the church was constructed of bluestone, quarried at Signal Hill.  The entrance arch is made of granite with a marble statue of St. John the Baptist on top.  What we could see of the church and grounds was beautiful.

We continued our walk down Bonaventure Avenue to St. Andrews Presbyterian Church.  The original building was badly damaged during the Great Fire of 1892.  It was later rebuilt of brick.

 

Our next stop would be another beautiful church.  We stopped at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.  We entered and were greeted by two docents who were kind enough to share a little history of the church with our group.  One of the docents played the organ for us.  It was quite lovely.

 

 

The church was so beautiful!  Everyone walked quietly around the church admiring the stain-glass windows, the Eagle lectern, the altar, pulpit and more.

 

We continued our walk down Queens Road and saw a number of lovely homes.  Walking down this street was a bit of a struggle because it was a very steep hill and the sidewalk was made up very deep steps.  Like so many places we have visited on this trip a great fire consumed many of the wooden homes.  After the fire the homes were built right next to each other (sharing walls) to expedite the sharing of heat; it was winter.

George Street

We stopped for a few moments at the Court House and then descended over a hundred steps down to Water Street.  From here our guide said this is where she would say her goodbyes.  However, she offered to take those who wanted to continue to George Street. We wanted to go to George Street to find a place to enjoy something to eat and a beer.  So, off we went.

Our guide explained that George Street is a two-block long street with nothing but bars, pubs and restaurants.  Evidently, the street is open to pedestrians only in the evening and some places do not close until the wee hours of the morning.

 

At the beginning of George Street was a sculpture called “A Time” by sculptor Morgan Macdonald.  It was commissioned to celebrate the contribution of the Arts to the City of St. John’s and commemorate 2006 as the year the City of St. John’s was designated a Cultural Capital of Canada.

We said our goodbyes to our lovely guide and  continued our walk along George Street trying to decide where to stop for lunch.  Many places were closed because it was Labor Day in Canada.  We finally chose a lovely looking pub called Green Sleeves Pub & Eatery.

What a find!  The atmosphere was wonderful, great patio, the beer was ice cold and the food delicious.  I must tell you that I really do not like fish but finding myself in a city that started as a fishing village, I decided to try.

I ordered the Fish & Chips.  The fish was fresh local code prepared with a crispy local beer batter.  The fish was served with house-made russet potato French fries and tartar sauce.  When they brought out the plate there was a small bowl of brown gravy.  I asked the people sitting behind us what the gravy was for.  “It’s for dipping your French fries in,” they replied.  I did and I liked it.  We spent the rest of our lunch enjoying a wonderful conversation with this lovely Canadian couple.

After lunch we took a leisurely walk down Water Street looking for a shop to buy a magnet.  We found one and returned to the ship.

After all that walking, we returned to the ship and sat on the balcony for a very long time just enjoying the view.  Eventually, we prepared for cocktails and dinner.

Dinner was wonderful.  I enjoyed yet another wonderful hot soup and then ate a delicious Beef Stroganoff meal.  After dinner was served, our wonderful server Aleli brought by a dish filled with small maple cookies shaped in a maple leaf.  These cookies were courtesy of the culinary staff and was given to every passenger.  These tasty cookies were a very nice welcoming gift from our friends to the north, St. John’s Newfoundland Canada.

Tomorrow we are at sea again as we slowly cruise to our last port-of-call.

St. John’s magnet

Enjoy,

Mary

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A busy, entertaining day at sea

Oh my, what a gray, gray morning.  The temperature is only in the 50’s and the sea is an angry and turbulent gray with many white caps popping up as the 9’ waves rise to a peak.

We stood on the balcony for a while and every once in a while caught a glimpse of blue sky and the sun trying to break through the cloud cover.

Hungry, we decided to make our way up to the concierge lounge for coffee and a light breakfast of fruit and pastries.

Today we had a busy day planned.  Our plans included attending a lecture, matinee, fashion show and the evening entertainment.

The enrichment lecture today was given by Thomas Judson and was called, “St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada “The Oldest English-Founded and Most Eastern City in North America”. We attended to his lecture on Reykjavik earlier in the cruise and found him to be both interesting and informative so we were looking forward to this one.

Judson talked about the city’s history, architecture, the great fire of 1892 that destroyed most the downtown, religion and the importance of Signal Hill and so much more.  Once again, we found his presentation very interesting and made us excited about our visit to St. John’s.

We had a bit of time before our next event so we returned to the cabin to check our email and post a few things on Facebook.

By noon the waves were rocking us back and forth quite a bit.  As we made our way to the Windjammer for a bit of lunch I noticed that the crew had put the net over the pool.

Our next event was a matinee show featuring recording artist, David Klinkenberg.  He was amazing!  This wonderful violinist, he calls it his fiddle, played a wide range of genres that kept you spellbound at his talent and the music he created with his ‘fiddle’.  The applause was thunderous and the audience gave this fine musician a standing ovation at the end of his performance.  Wonderful!

I read in the Cruise Compass that there would be a fashion show in the Centrum and thought that would be fun.  Randy ran up to the Windjammer to get an ice cream cone while I watched the show.

 

Now what is really funny is that this ‘fashion show’ lasted all of ten minutes.  I am not sure how much planning went to this program but it was funny.  A few employees who work in the jewelry store walked across the Centrum floor showing off pieces of jewelry and handbags.  They went so fast, it was over.  Very funny!

 

 

While Randy enjoyed sitting by the window watching the roiling sea, I ran out onto the Promenade deck to watch.  I love the way the waves undulate until they reach a peak and a fine mist spray appears.  I could look at the sea for hours; sometimes I do.

It was time to prepare for cocktails and dinner so we returned to the cabin to make ready.  We met Jim and JoAnne in the lounge and had a great time talking to another couple who are always I the lounge at the same time.

The conversation was so great that we lost track of time.  It was time to make our way down to the dining room for dinner.  During our dinner conversation, we learned that Steve had decided to sign up for the “Build a Boat” completion.  We saw this competition a few years ago on a cruise to Hawaii on the Star Princess.   It was a great deal of fun.  Steve told us that the contest would be held on one of our last sea days.  We all assured him that we would all be there to cheer him on.

I have to say that this is the first cruise I have been on where I have enjoyed so many hot soups.  Tonight I chose the Jalepeño-Potato Soup—creamy soup with a twist of heat and rich sour cream.  I loved this soup.  There was just enough heat to make your tongue tingle but not too hot as it went down your throat.  Delicious!

For my entrée this evening I choose something light.  I chose the Turkey BLT Salad with roasted turkey breast, mixed lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggs, roasted shallots and crispy bacon strips.  Again, delicious!

Angelle from the cruise director’s office did the introduction of Kevin Johnson

After this wonderful meal, we made our way to the Aquarius Theater to attend the headliner show featuring ventriloquist Kevin Johnson and his “Fine Feathered Friends”.

 

The show was so much fun.  I absolutely never saw Johnson move his lips.  The characters he used were so funny.  It was interesting to me how with his hands he could breathe human qualities into his characters Clyde, Matilda and Harley.

At one point he asked for a volunteer from the audience and used him as a human puppet and a magic drawing board that seemed to come to life created non-stop laughter and applause from the audience.  He was great!

Dusk was closing in as we stood along the railing trying to catch a glimpse of an iceberg floating by. Amazng!

Just as the performance came to an end and our cruise director Chris came onto the state, the captain announced that there was an iceberg flowing in the sea off the starboard side of the s hip.  I never saw a theater clear out so quickly.  Everyone hurried to the Promenade deck to see if they could catch a glimpse.  There iceberg was a great distance away but you could see it.  All I captured on my camera was a large gray object.  Randy said he could see the white and blue clearly.  “How wonderful,” I said to Randy as we watched until we suddenly realized that it was cold and we were not dressed properly.

We returned to our cabin satisfied that we had had a busy and wonderful day.

Tomorrow we arrive at St. John’s Newfoundland Canada.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Lazy, lazy day at sea

The Aquarius Dining Room

Today is our second day at sea as the ship makes its way to our next port-of-call, St. John’s, Newfoundland (Canada).  Today is not going to be a pretty day at sea.

I stepped out onto the wet balcony to a blue-gray sea and sky with the temperature just hovering at 57°.

We decided to in the cabin during the early morning hours enjoying coffee while we caught up on the news.  We looked over the Cruise Compass and settled on two events we would like to attend and then made our way down to the Aquarius dining room for a leisurely breakfast with Jim and JoAnne.

I have two favorites on the breakfast menu in the dining room; made-to-order omelets and the French toast.  Both are yummy.  Today I decided to have a tomato cheese omelet with a side of very crisp bacon.

While we enjoyed our breakfast we talked about our plans for the day.  JoAnne loves to play cards and found a fellow passenger who loves to play cards too.  So, their plans included spending some time in the Park Café playing cards.

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way up to the Masquerade Theater to attend an enrichment lecture by Dennis Cheredar, “St. John’s: the Oldest and Most Easterly City in North America”.

We had attended one of Cheredar’s lectures in 2016 on a cruise along the western coast of Norway and found him to be interesting and informative.

Today his talk was on St. John’s, Newfoundland Canada.  St. John’s sounded like a wonderful and friendly place to visit.  During his presentation he told the story of the residents of Gander, Newfoundland and how they reacted to 38 airplanes landing within their mist carrying over 7000 people on 9-11-2001.

This small town of 10,000 welcomed the passengers and crew of these flights with open arms offering safe haven on that horrific day.   They housed, fed, gave them cars to drive around in.  The people of Gander and surrounding villages did all this out of the goodness of their hearts and would not take any money.

Cheredar explained that after the passengers were able to go home, a notebook was passed around asking each of the passengers to contribute to a scholarship fund for the children of Gander. They raised $15,000.

He also talked about the fact that the story of Gander inspired a musical, “Come From Away”.  What an amazing story and what an amazingly welcoming place.

It was close to the noon hour so we made our way up to the Park Café to pick up a lite lunch before attending the ‘Friendly Feud Game’ in the Masquerade Theater.

The game is modeled after the game show Family Feud and played much like the actual game.  When we entered the theater volunteers were being solicited to form several teams.  The more teams available to play the more rounds of the game could be played.

The questions in this game all revolved around cruise topics like, “What is the first thing you would pack to get ready for your cruise vacation”, “Name something that your fellow guest does that might aggravate everyone on board,” etc.

The game was fun and handled very well by Angelle.  In the end, the winners of each round won Vision of the seas hats and the others all walked away with key chains.

When the game was over, we retreated back to the cabin for an afternoon of relaxation and reading.

Time to prepare for cocktails and dinner came quickly so we set about preparing for our evening.  We met Jim and JoAnne in the Concierge Lounge for cocktails.  JoAnne was wearing a jacket that I admired.  It was beautiful!  I learned that she had actually made this beautiful garment.

Steve and Jan

Jim and JoAnne

 

 

Tonight was formal night and everyone was dressed beautifully.  The women were beautiful the gentlemen very handsome in their collared shirts and ties.

 

 

We had a special treat this evening.  Our wonderful server, Aleli brought us a plateful of delicious cheese rolls that are a favorite in her home country the Phillipines.  They were fluffy and tasty and a delicious addition to our dinner.  After we had eaten our rolls we all said, “Salamat Po” (Thank you).  She was very pleased.

Dinner was wonderful.  I started my meal with a wonderfully flavorful Roasted Pablano Pepper and Corn Soup with a cilantro oil drizzle.  As soon as I tasted the first spoonful I thought of my friend Bob.  He and I love hot, spicy, flavorful foods.

For my entrée I chose the Thai Chicken Breast with a mild red curry, edamame and shitake sauce, bok choy, carrots and steamed rice.  I have enjoyed this menu choice in the past and look forward to it each time I cruise.  The chicken is always tender and I love the sauce.

Feeling full and relaxed, we returned to our cabin for a quiet evening.  Tomorrow is another day.

Tomorrow will be our last day at sea before arriving in Newfoundland.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Fun, fun, fun day at sea

King Neptune his queen Angelle, cruise director Chris, Mary and Randy

 

Today was a very good day to be at sea.  Outside was gray, cold, windy and wet.

We slept in this morning.  Randy ran up to the lounge and brought back hot cups of café lattes and we just relaxed and watched the news and coverage of Hurricane Irma.  We were sad about the damage and the heartache it was causing wherever it made landfall.  We were also a little anxious about its impending hit on the United States mainland.

We eventually dressed and made our way up to the lounge for a lite breakfast.

After breakfast we returned to the cabin to catch-up on our email and friends on Facebook.  We were in contact with our friends and neighbors, Bob and Sandy, who were keeping a wary eye on the path of the hurricane and took steps to clean off our lanai and courtyard of anything that could cause damage. I looked at Randy and said, “We are so very blessed to have such great neighbors”.  Randy agreed.

There were many activities to enjoy but Randy and I zeroed in on two.  The first was an Arctic Circle celebration in the Centrum and the other was a matinee show featuring impressionist Karen Grainger.

At 10 o’clock we made our way down to the Centrum to watch the Arctic Circle Celebration.  We thought we left early enough to find a seat; not.  Every seat was taken and people had already started to line the railings five decks up.

Getting ready to kiss the fish

Randy and I were on a cruise along the Norwegian coast in 2016 on the Serenade of the seas and attended a celebration called Captain Tor’s Blue Nose Initiation.  If today’s celebration was anything like that one we were in for some fun.

Enduring ice being spill down his back

Crossing the Arctic Circle is a big deal in the nautical world, especially for first timers.  It is a rite of passage for young sailors new to the whole experience.  Only after completing a series of rituals could these so-called ‘Pollywogs’ be considered tough enough for life on the high seas.

Eggs being cracked over his head

We finally found a small space near the Centrum floor  to watch the fun.  Our cruise director, Chris called up three senior officers who had crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time and had committed variety offenses and needed to atone for their sins.

Then there was Chris who had endure all…

Once the offense was read, King Neptune would declare whether the officer would have to pay for his crimes.  He always said, “Yes”.

These poor souls were led to the center of the Centrum with their hands bound by chains and  had to endure kissing a fish, having ice poured down their shirts and eggs broken on their heads.

Everyone thought the initiation program was over when our wonderful cruise director was brought down to the Centrum floor.  Evidently, Chris was new to the Arctic Circle experience. He was made to endure all the indignities as the other staff but they also poured flour over his head that covered his whole body.  What a sight!

And in the end he had to ‘kiss the fish’ Very funny!

At the conclusion of the ceremony, King Neptune his Queen and Chris posed with passengers for pictures.

King Neptune and his queen Angelle

We returned to the cabin and filled our Canadian declaration card, moved on to the Park Cafe to pick up some lunch then back to the cabin.

Karen Grainger

Two o’clock rolled around and we made our way down to the theater to attend a matinee performance of female impressionist Karen Grainger.  Randy had attended last night’s show and he enjoyed it so much he wanted me to see her show.

The show was wonderful.  Karen sang in the voices of so many popular male and female stars even doing several duets. During her act she performed the songs of Cher, Dusty Springfield, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire and others. The last one was a duet of The Pray a song made famous by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. She brought me to tears. Dusty Springfield, Bob Dylan, Reba McIntyre, Wille Nelson and more.  Very entertaining!

This lovely person made herself available to pictures after her show. Very nice!

Throughout her show the impressions were spot on.  At all times Karen had the rapt attention of the entire audience.  She was a joy!

We retreated back to the cabin for a little relaxation before preparing for our evening activities.

We met Jim and JoAnne in the lounge for cocktails and then down to dinner.  I was a little hungry this evening and decided to order soup to nuts.  I started my dinner with the Beef broth with brisket bits, vermicelli noodles and chopped chives.

For my entrée I ordered the Chicken Piccata, egg battered chicken breast, caper-white wine sauce, lemon-scented creamy mash and seasonal vegetables.  The chicken was so tender and I always love the mashed potatoes.  Yummy!

For dessert I ordered the Chocolate Marquis—satiny chocolate cream with raspberry sauce.  This was a melt-in-your-mouth delight.

Dinner time was delightful with very lively conversations and laughter dominating the evening.

 

After dinner Randy and I walked over to the R Bar to enjoy an after dinner drink before returning to the cabin for an evening of relaxation and reading.

 

 

Tomorrow we continue our journey at sea to our next port-of-call.

Enjoy,

Mary

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An exciting day of whale watching and seeing the Northern lights

I am so tired!

Before we turned in for the night, there was a hint that perhaps, just perhaps  there was a chance that we would be able to see the Northern Lights. Excited I made a conscious decision to try and stay awake as long as I could in hopes that I would witness this wonderful light experience.

In order for these lights to be visible, the sky has to be clear at night and all other magnetosphere conditions met.  Unfortunately, all the ingredients for the Northern Lights to make an appearance failed to come together leaving me disappointed and very tired.

Fortunately, our tour for the day does not leave until 12:30 pm so I could spend a little extra time in bed and enjoy a late breakfast before heading to the pier to meet our tour group.

To we are off on a tour called, “Whale Watching Safari”.  The tour will take us a sail through the Eyjafjörður fjord to search for whales.

The Eyjafjörður is over 70 km (229 feet)  in length from the mouth to the bottom of the fjord and is the longest fjord in Iceland. There are high mountains on both sides.  Over 20 species of whales make their way into the fjord looking for krill, sand eels, cod and other small fishes to feed on.

It was only 60° with a heavy cloud cover when we prepared to meet our tour group.  We dressed warmly and made our way down to the pier.  We boarded a medium-sized boat with seating above deck and below, a cafeteria and bar.

Randy wanted to go below but, really?  I wanted to feel the wind in my face as we sailed through the water and not have any barriers between me and a clear sight of the whales.

I went upstairs and found a seat in front just above the bow of the boat.  There were several other passengers there too.  As the boat started to make its way through the water, the air became colder and colder.

Several people including Randy put on one-piece jumpsuits to stave off the cold chill coming off the water.

I found the chill in the air exhilarating! As we started our ‘safari’, I looked around.  On one side of the fjord was the city skyline of Akureyri on the other beautiful, sloping mountains with clusters of homes and farms near the shoreline.  “It is going to be a wonderful day,” I thought to myself.

When we boarded one of the crew members introduced herself as the ‘spotter’ on this tour.  She explained that she would be watching the water for telltale signs that a whale was in the vicinity using the face of a clock for direction.  When she did she would say something line, “Whale at 12:00 we knew to look straight ahead and so forth.

There was not a sound to be heard as we all stared at the waterline hoping to see a sign.  All of a sudden we heard, “Whale at 3 o’clock”.  Everyone looked to the right.  And sure enough we saw a spray of water rising high above the waterline.

A bit later we could see a shiny, black humpback whale curving its back as it started its move to go under.

We held our breath as the humpback whale lifted its tail and started its descent into the depths of the fjord exposing its fluke.  Beautiful!

 

As we circle the fjord several other ships appeared on the horizon.  It was interesting to watch as all the boats kept a respectful distance from one another.  Time passed and we had another sighting.

At one point we found ourselves sailing close to an old canning factory and we had yet another sighting.  We circled and circled for over three hours watching, waiting and getting excited at every sighting.

I was standing next to the railing and all of a sudden a whale appeared right next to the boat.  I was so startled.  I was not sure if I caught this amazing creature with my camera but I snapped away hoping I did.  I did!

The water was so clear we could see the whale’s flippers.

It was time to go back.  Randy took off his coveralls and we sat hand-in-hand just enjoying the boat ride and the spectacular views all around us.  We looked at each other and said in unison, “What an exciting day!” 

We returned to the ship and dressed for evening cocktails with Jim and JoAnne.  We had a wonderful time sharing our days’ excitement with our friends.  Before we knew it, it was time to go to dinner.

During dinner the captain announced that there was a good chance we might see the Northern Lights this evening.  He promised that he would alert us if this was to happen.  Tired, I put Randy in charge of keeping an eye open during the dark of the night.  The captain also promised to blow the ship’s horn if we passed the Arctic Circle.

At about 11:00 pm, the captain made an announcement that the Northern Lights could be seen off the port side of the ship.

We woke up, dressed and made our way down to the deck 5 and stepped out into the cold night air and all we could hear were words like, “Beautiful, awesome, wonderful” from all the passengers lined up along the railing.

A very nice gentleman stepped aside as I approached the railing saying, “Here, take this spot I have all the pictures I need”.

I stood there for the longest time snapping away hoping that whatever my camera was capturing it would convey what I was seeing with my own eyes.

We eventually went back to the cabin and went out onto the balcony.  There were wispy signs of the lights on this side of the ship but they were quickly fading away.

Happy, we returned to bed and hoped we would be able to fall asleep after such excitement.  But just an hour later the captain blew the ship’s horn signaling that we had passed the Arctic Circle.

What a day!

It did not matter if we slept or not this evening because tomorrow we are at sea.

 

The next day we were presented with certificates acknowledging that we had successfully sailed through the Arctic Circle.  Wonderful!

We were surprised on the last night of this leg of our cruise to find a beautiful photograph taken by one of the ship’s photographers of the Norther Lights on our bed.  What a surprise!  What memories!  This was truly a wonderful, magical day!

Enjoy,

Mary

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Discovering historical Akureyri and visiting Santas House

Akureyri

I woke up very early today and could see the sky beginning to lighten but fell back to sleep.  Woke up again and could only see cloudy skies.  I finally rose from my slumber and walked out onto the balcony to surprisingly warm air , a sky filled with cloud cover but a hint that today we would experience some sun and streaks of blue sky.

While I dressed, Randy went out with his binoculars and remarked, “It looks like the Napoli coast with the mountains coming right down to the water”.

I joined Randy on the balcony and was treated to beautiful sights.  A streak of sunlight along the top of one mountain, a small waterfall dropping into the sea on another and on yet another topped with snow.  We were slowly making our way up the Eyjafjörður  and the city of Akureyri.  “Beautiful, just beautiful,” I thought.

We continued watching and all of a sudden a whale broke through the surf.  It went down and did not come up again.

Today we are on a tour called, “Akureyri & Santas House”.  Everyone who knows me knows that Christmas is my very favorite holiday of the year.  I was very excited to be going to Santa’s House.  But, our tour was not to leave until 3:15 pm so what to do?

 

We were docked within walking distance of the town so we decided to take a stroll around town.  Akureyri is a town in Northern Iceland and is Iceland’s second largest urban area with a population of just over 18,000.

It was a short walk to the main part of town.  As we walked through this quaint, small town, we passed several bakeries, restaurants and shops. Of course, we as we walked around town we encountered several ogres and trolls.

We arrived at a corner and as we waited to cross the street Randy said, “Look Mary, look at the church up on the hill”.

 

I turned my attention to the church and crossed over to take a picture.  I said, “Let’s climb the stairs and look inside the church”.  There are 116 stairs to climb to reach the church.  It was a lovey climb especially as both sides of the stairs were lined with beautiful white, yellow, blue, purple and yellow flowers.

 

 

The Akureyri Church was consecrated in 1940 and is a Lutheran Church. Standing at the top of the stairs, I was able to get a wonderful picture of the Vision of the seas in the harbor.

The interior of the church is simple and beautiful.  What I loved the most were the stained glass windows above the altar; they were beautiful.

 

We returned to the town center and looked for a place to get a bite to eat.  We came across a very inviting shop called Kristjan’s bakery.  Oh my, my eyes were happy at the sight of the wonderful choices in front of me.

There were deliciously looking breads, pastries, sandwiches and other lunch foods.  I absolutely could not resist the chocolate covered, cream filled pastry.  We ordered our pastries and cups of café lattes and settled at a table to enjoy our sweet treats..  They were both delicious!

We made our way back to the ship to get a bit of rest before going on our tour.  The bus tour will take us around Akureyri to see notable city landmarks and then visit, “Santas House, where Christmas occurs all year long”.

One of the first things brought to our attention was the traffic light just outside the harbor.  We stopped for a red light and our tour guide told us to take a good look at the red light.  It was in the shape of a heart!  She said, “The light is this way to remind drivers to be kind to other drivers”.  How cool is that!

Nonni’s House

Jesuit priest Jón Sveinsson, Nonni

 

We drove along the waterfront as our guide pointed out homes that were a part of Old Akureyri.  We stopped to visit one of the oldest houses in Akureyri, known as Nonni’s House.  The house was the childhood home of Jesuit priest Jón Sveinsson, Nonni.  The home now belongs to the municipality and is a popular place for visitors.

 

 

 

We walked through the remarkably simple home then stepped into the small, wooden church next door.  The church is very typical of the early churches of Iceland.

 

From here we journeyed a distance to Santas House.  As soon as we got off the bus I was enchanted.  Everything in eyesight said, “Santa” and “Christmas”.  What a joy!

Santas House evoked thoughts of being at the North Pole.  The building is bright red with ice cycles hanging down, large, bright red Santa boots at the entrance and a large red box just waiting for all those letters to Santa.

The inside of Santas House is filled with the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas.  Santa himself greeted everyone as they entered the house. There were decorated trees everywhere, a crackling fire, nutcrackers, ornaments and baskets of sweet candies.   Outside was this fun Santa cutout.  We absolutely could not resist so we struck a pose!  Fun, fun, fun!

 

 

A walk around the grounds revealed miniature houses filled with miniature furniture, a miniature church with miniature pews and altar and out back a bright red outdoor restroom with a bright green door.

 

There is a castle tower attached to the house.  We walked up the spiral staircase and entered the magical “world’s largest advent calendar”.  Painted on the walls were every child’s favorite fairytale.  For each day there is a small wooden door to be opened with a little saying inside.

We opened the door to December 25th and it read:

“Now you have visited this huge Christmas Calendar. *** Christmas is a fairy tale of its own full of joy, laughter and magical things. Merry Christmas”.

We continued our walk over to an area where I saw beautiful, golden stars jutting above the trees.  Inside this clump of trees was a beautiful wishing well.  The wishing well is made of small mosaic pieces of white, gold and blue.  The design on the front of the well is of a typical stork carrying bags containing babies. This is a wishing well for unborn children.  Nearby in a frame are two poems one about the stars high above the trees and the other about the wishing well.  Both were quite moving.

I went back into the gift shop and spent a bit of time  shopping for a few Christmas ornaments and stopped by the cave to visit the half ogre, half troll Grýla. Legend has it that this terrifying ogre has hooves, horns and 15 tails and large warts on her nose.  Grýla is an integral part of Iceland’s Christmas traditions.  Back on the bus our guide told us the story of Grýla and The Yule Lads.  All I can say is that it was scary for me and I could only wonder how it sounded to small children years ago.

 

Our next stop was to a small but beautiful botanical garden.  Our guide gave us a bit of time to take a leisurely walk through the garden.  Randy and I were surprised at the variety of flowers, bushes and trees in the garden.

 

This is a fountain. Very cool!

There were fountains, ponds, terraced areas, benches and pieces of artwork throughout the garden.    I must admit that Randy and I found it amazing to find a botanical garden so far north and yet, there it was.  I found it to be the perfect way to end our first day in Akureyri.

We returned to the ship just in time to have dinner in the dining room.  We stopped at the R Bar to pick up a drink before meeting Jim and JoAnne at the table.

Steve and Jan had other plans so it was just the four of us at dinner.  We had a great time sharing stories about our day and what we had planned for our second day in Akureyri.

I was tired so decided to have comfort food this evening.  I ordered the Chicken consommé with roasted sweet corn and delicate chervil, the al dente pasta tossed in onion, bacon and tomato confit for dinner.  For dessert I ordered two scoops of ice cream with a little chocolate sauce.  My wonderful server Aleli added whipped cream and a cherry.   Everything was delicious as always!

There was a movie in the theatre this evening but we had seen it so we decided to retire early.

Tomorrow we are going whale watching.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Lovely early morning tour of the city of Reykjavik

View of city from atop Perlan Museum observation deck.

Up early and walked out into a morning just starting to come alive.  The air felt as though it was in the mid-fifties with a very gentle breeze.

I found myself mesmerized by the cloud cover that was hovering over the mountains; the sight was quite beautiful.  I stayed on the balcony for quite a while until it was time to prepare for room service to come by.

Randy went up to the lounge and brought back cups of hot café lattes.  Just a few minutes later our breakfast arrived; a lovely plate of fresh fruit and plate of fresh pastries.

Today we are off on a tour that will take us around Reykjavik hitting the main points of interest.  The Discover Reykjavik – City Sightseeing tour will take us to the settlement exhibition, the Árbær  Open-Air Museum, the Hallgrimskirkja Church, and the Hofdi House.  We chose a short tour today because we have to be back on board this ship by 1:30 pm.

Árbær Open-Air Museum

 

I loved the settlement museum.  This lovely spot is an outdoor museum that showcases over ‘20 Icelandic buildings including original turf-roofed farmhouses and a quaint church from 1842’.

 

 

 

 

We arrived at the museum and were immediately joined by a guide who said he would walk with us through the area and explain what we were seeing and answer any questions we had.  He was very informative and engaging.

Our first stop was at a beautiful, small turf-built church.  The church in the Árbær  Museum is a type that was common throughout the country in the 19th century.  This church was built in 1960-61.  The church was very small but lovely inside.

We noticed that there were benches in the front that were facing the parishioners.  We asked why and were told that the young unmarried men would sit there so they could look at the unmarried young women in the church.  We all thought that was very funny.

 

We continued along walking past and stepping inside several homes in the museum.  The homes, furniture and decorations ranged from the very simple to more elaborate as the years rolled by.

 

I loved that we could go in each home and walk about and talk to the period-dressed volunteers inside about what life was like during that period of time.

 

Perlan (The Pearl) Museum

It was time to leave so we moved on to Perlan Museum where our guide told us there was a wonderful observation deck on the fourth floor that would give us a 360° view of the city and surrounding area.

The design of the Perlan is very interesting.  There is a large glass dome that sits on top of six geothermal hot water tanks.  Within its walls is a Viking museum, restaurant, gourmet and souvenir shop.  There was a great deal of construction going on when we entered.  We only had a limited time so we went straight to the observation deck.

Randy and I walked around the observation deck and took in the view of Reykjavik.  In the distance we could see the most prominent building in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskrikja (top). We did not linger as the wind was very strong and cold.

Dance by sculptor Þorbjörg Pálsdóttir

On our way back to the bus we noticed a sculpture on the grounds and stopped to take a look.  The sculpture “Dance” was created by sculptor Þorbjörg Pálsdóttir.  I loved it!

I noticed a man encouraging his wife to pretend she was playing an instrument like the men in the sculpture.  I asked him if he would like me to take a picture of the two of them.  They both struck poses.  I thought that was fun so I asked the husband if he would take a picture of me playing air guitar.  I felt a little silly but I must admit it was fun.

Hallgrímskirkja

Our next stop was the Hallgrímskrikja. This beautiful building was massive.  The guide said it was to look like the glaciers in the surrounding area.  The outside facade reminded me of a rocket ship.

According to church literature, “The church is both a national monument, dedicated to the most renowned sacred poet of Iceland,

Hallgrímur Pétursson, and a mid-town parish church.  The parish is part of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Iceland”.  The church is the largest in the country reaching 73 meters (239.5 feet).

 

 

After taking a few pictures outside, Randy and I walked inside to see the interior. The interior of the church was simple and very beautiful.  The simple altar, stained glass windows, beautiful statue of Jesus, long stately windows and wooden pews all created an inviting and serene atmosphere.

 

In front of the church stands a large statue of Leif Erickson (Leifur Eiríksson) that was a gift to Iceland by the United States to commemorate its 1,000 anniversary of Alpingi, the parliament of Iceland.

National Museum of Iceland

Beautiful stained glass windows between second and third floors.

 

We were back on the bus and on our way to the National Museum of Iceland.  Our guide gave us a short time to have a look around the museum.  We spent our time trying to see and read as much as we could of the museum’s permanent exhibition, “The Making of a Nation”.

Having fun in the hands-on room.

The Vikings must have been very strong men indeed. This chainmail armor was so heavy.

 

One room we found fascinating was a hands-on room with a chainmail armor and costumes to pretend, if only for a moment, that you were a Viking.  The Viking who used the helmet Randy put on must have been fairly small.  We laughed when he could not get it to go on.  Me, the helmet was too big so when I posed for a picture the helmet slipped and covered my eyes.  Now, that would not have been good in battle.  Very funny indeed!

Viking weaponry–Axes, upper guard of sword hilt, arrow heads, Bronze scabbard Chapes

Altar frontal from the church in Grund North Iceland 15th Century

 

There were archaeological finds, an enormous amount of photographs, weaponry, books, maps and exhibits chronicling the Vikings transition from paganism to Christianity.  “Oh, if only I had more time”, I thought to myself as we hurried off to get back on the bus

The Hofdi House

Then back on the bus to drive down by the waterfront to have a photo opportunity of the Hofdi House. This is where in 1986 President Reagan and President Gorbachev met for an historic meeting to talk about ending the Cold War and taking down the Berlin Wall.

Also on the grounds is a 4-ton section of the Berlin wall that was erected in the city in 2015.  Also on the grounds was a statue of one of Iceland most beloved poets,  Einar Benediktsson.

We ended our tour where we started, on the pier.  Randy and I made our way up to the Park Cafe to grab a bit of lunch before returning to our cabin.

We barely got settled and we realized it was time to prepare for the evening.  We met Jim and JoAnne at the lounge for drinks and then made our way to the dining room.  Steve and Jan were already at the table.  The evenings conversation centered on how we spent our day.  As always dinner time was quite fun.

Tomorrow we arrive in Akureyri, Iceland.

Enjoy,

Mary

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