Tuesday, October 4, 2016

10.2.16 Horses & Football

Another day, another British Breakfast. Then we headed across the street from our hotel to the Royal Mews - the stables of Buckingham Palace. The big draw here is viewing the carriages used in official state functions.

We then headed to Wembley Stadium for the Colts versus Jaguars game. It was incredible being there. NFL fans from all over Europe convened. Outside was similar to the NFL Experience set up at the Super Bowl with several areas with games, food, and beer. We had Club level seats and saw Roger Goodell walking around. The stadium had a lot of different food options. We laughed that all the bars were very clearly marked. The bars stayed open after the game. The atmosphere was so much fun. When the game was over, the police force was so efficient at moving people to the train. They would stop everyone to let the platforms clear. So by the time you got inside, a train was ready to go.

Back near the hotel, we decided to try the pub across from the hotel - Bag O Nails. It was terrible!! They were out of tonic and beer and some menu items. The fish and chips were bad. We went back to our hotel bar which was very nice. We should have started there. It was a good end to the trip. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

10.1.16 London Adventures

IWe started the day at a cute cafe around the corner from the hotel. We knew we were in the right place when the taxi drivers and  construction crews started coming in.  I got a proper British breakfast of baked beans, sausage, bacon, and 2 fried eggs. Then we headed out towards the Lord's Cricket Grounds.  We decided to take a taxi because it would be faster than the two connections we had to make on the Underground. We arrived a little early at the cricket grounds so we walked up the street to Abbey Road Studios in that the obligatory photo. The cricket grounds tour with fantastic. It was really fun to see such an iconic sporting venue. We found it really interesting even though I have no idea how cricket is played. We've grabbed taxi to Borough Market. It's a wonderful indoor / outdoor market with food stands, fresh produce and meats, and other vendors.  We found a pub for lunch that had pies so we got to taste a proper british pie. Yum! Then we headed to the Tower of London.  We visited the Crown Jewels  - a bit over the top if you ask me.  We took a river Thames cruise back to Westminster where we explored the Churchill War Rooms. The Churchill War Rooms were really incredible.  They were much more expansive than I had thought.  Over 100 people worked underground during the war.  The War Rooms recreated the bunks and added an extensive museum dedicated to Churchill
We found the personal interviews with Churchill's staff really interesting. We headed up to James Street to find a place for dinner. It is an area with high end shops. We ended up at a lovely little restaurant and had a very nice dinner. We were pleased to find that French wines are much less expensive here -  most half the price so we enjoyed a very fancy rose 50% off. Another great day in the books.

9.30.16 London: Bus tour, afternoon tea, and a pint.

We took the overnight flight from Tampa arriving in London at 7:45 am. We took the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station and took the short walk to our hotel - The Rubens at The Palace right across the street from the horse stables at Buckingham Palace. Our room was ready so we unpacked. Breakfast was at bbar right off the lobby. We used our London Pass for the Golden Tour Hop On/ Hop Off bus. The blue route offers live narration instead of the head phones so we enjoyed that. We got a good overview of the "essential" sites. After the tour, we came back to the hotel for a rest and a little work for me. We headed out in time for our 530 pm reservation for afternoon tea at the Savoy. The Savoy is a gorgeous hotel. Afternoon tea was great! Our favourite cheese sandwich was the chicken curry. We stopped at a local pub that was frequented by coal miners back in the day. Then we headed back to the hotel.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

7.15.16 Bergen

Today was Bergen. It's the largest city we've visited. We took the hop on/ hop off bus around town. Again, it's a city that had a lot of fires though they've been rebuilding in the original style. They had a good fish market in the harbor. We found a cool old tavern down one of the alleys so tried some more Norwegian beers. We headed back to the ship early because we signed up for the Behind the Scenes tour. We had a good lunch at the Dutch Cafe. The Behind the Scenes tour was great. It's a two day tour so today was the Engine Control Room, the Engine rooms and the Bridge.  Meeting the Chief Engineer was a real highlight. He has a real passion for his work and was excited to show off all the machines. It's the first time we have been able to go into the power plant, engine rooms, reverse osmosis plant, and even see the ship stablizers. It was so interesting. The level of complexity is mind boggling. For instance, everything that goes into making sure the shower pressure amd water quaility in a Deck 10 forward cabin is the same as a Deck 1 Aft cabin is incredible. The bridge was also interesting. It was set up more like a cockpit than a traditonal bridge. They even added a situation room and a chair for the pilot that comes on in each port.

We signed up for a vow renewal ceremony to see what it was like. It was so lovely. Holland America does it in a group setting once a sailing. We were with another couple who'd been married 40 years. We had a nice private reception with canapés and champagne. Then the Captain arrived and we were able to chat with him. Each couple had their own ceremony and then a toast after. Plus a cake. We were impressed.

We had dinner at Tamarind - the Asian restaurant. We opted for sushi. It was okay. The rolls had a lot of asparagus in them. If Carnival got a deal on broccoli - then Holland America got a deal on asparagus. After dinner, we had a night cap at our favorite bar - Ocean Blue with our favorite bartender Ryan.

Friday, July 15, 2016

7.14.16 Geiranger

7.14.16 Geiranger

This adorable little town is fun to explore. It has lots of hiking trails. We took a long staircase up to the top of a large hill for a better look at the waterfall. It was terrifying coming down since looking through the grates went straight down. After a mini panic attack, I pulled it together and made it down. We walked around and saw some of the sod roof houses. Then we headed back to the ship to try the Dive-in burger. (Pretty good) and enjoy some time in the spa.

For sail away, they opened the bow again and set up a small bar out there so we could enjoy the narration and have a cocktail. We past the Seven Sisters waterfall, the whoo-er and the Bridal Veil. It was a little funny because we past about 15 waterfalls. People would be gathered around taking photos and then the location guide would say one was more famous so everyone would switch. The scenery was incredible. This has been Glenn's favorite port so far.

We finished watching sail away from the balcony then headed to Canneletto's for dinner. We had a great table right by the window. The Italian food was good, homestyle cooking. After dinner, Glenn tried his hand at slots in the casino. This was the one night the casino would be non-smoking. I watched the BBC game show. It was really well done.

7.12.16 Eidefjord

We woke up at 4:30 am because the Captain said we'd be passing under a suspension bridge at 5:00 am. While we enjoyed our first views of the fjord - there was no bridge. Later we saw it leaving port so no need to get up at 430 am. We went back to sleep and had a slow start to the day.

We walked into Eidefjord. It was raining so we cut our visit short. The town is very small. We walked out to a farm and then made our way back to the Quality Inn where we sampled some Norwegian beers.

Back on board, we enjoyed tea on our balcony as we cruised out of the fjords. I loved cozying up on the balcony reading a book. For dinner, we went to Sel de Mar - the seafood restaurant. We had salt crusted fish and escargot in the shell. A total Pretty Woman moment. The meal was very good. We listened to the piano players in Billboard for a little while to cap off the night.

7.13.16 Aalesund

7.13.16 Aalesund

We had been looking forward to this port since the annual boat festival coincided with our visit. We started our day with a walk around the town center and a trip to the Aalesund museum. The most impressive piece in the museum was the original enclosed lifeboat that the Norwegian inventor sailed to Massachusetts in to prove it was safe. They had restored it and you could crawl inside.

We went to the tourist information center for a walking tour for 100 Krone per person - about $12.50 per person. It was a fantastic tour. We learned about the building style, the fishing industry, and the impact of the WW2 occupation.  One of the interesting parts of the building style is that the 1st floor and 2nd floor have different styles of windows.

One part of the boat festival we had been looking forward to was the jet pack show. We found an outdoor cafe with front row seats. Glenn had the fish stew. I had a salt cod pizza. Both were very good. The tomato helped balance the salt cod. After the show, we had a cocktail at Milk and then headed back to the ship.

We lost again at Name That Tune trivia. We attended the port talk for the next day and then got in on the end of a game of Pictionary before singing along with the hits of the 60s with the 2 piano players.

Dinner was a pop up based on a 3 Michelin star restaurant in The Netherlands. It was a fantastic five course meal.