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Holiday – Ice and Fire – 2012

Our first Cruise Experience, taken in 2011 has given us a yearning for the high seas.

This year we chose Eire, the Northern Isles and Iceland.

Dover

With the Pilot on board we set sail out of Dover harbour and headed roughly west, leaving the White Cliffs behind.

The pilot performed the tricky maneovre of climbing down a rope ladder (at speed) and joining the pilot boat again.

 

We were delighted to take Afternoon Tea on board.  It was quite late in the evening when we passed Wolf Rock Lighthouse off Lands End, and turned north west into a distinctly choppy Celtic Sea.

 

 

 

Eire:

Cobh (Cove)

A very pretty Victorian town, well worth a visit, as is the fantastic exhibition about the trip taken by many people trying to escape the famine during the mid-19th century to America. Later many chose to sail aboard the HMS Titanic on her ill-fated voyage in 1912.

 

 

 

 

We also took a bus tour to picturesque sailing town of Kinsale, taking in the busy market town of Bandon, which lies on the River Bandon between two hills.  The name in Irish means “Bridge of the Bandon“, a reference to the origin of the town as a crossing-point on the river.

We actually had visited these places in 2001 when we stayed for a long weekend with eminent homoeopathist Charles Barrett and his wife Betty, who used to live at Knocknagallough Farmhouse, near Bandon, but have since moved to Spain, where they still continue to practise, with clients, both human and animal around the world.  See link to the right of this page.

Our tour finished with Coffee and Scones at the delightful Emmet Hotel, before returning to the ship.

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin’s Fair City

Our next stop was Dublin – much too much to see in a single visit.  We took a couple of hours to walk around the city and by the river, a bustling, busy place.  On our return to the ship, we learned that our visit had been extended by 24 hours due to a malfunction and subsequent repair of one of the life boat launch mechanisms!

Our Cruise Director, Neil, worked fantastically hard and succeeded in organising some Irish Entertainment for us – a singing trio and four lovely Irish girl dancers.

The delay entailed a reorganisation of our schedule over the next few days which meant, sadly, that we missed a stop in Shetland.  However we did get an enjoyable trip up the coast the next day, ending with a cup of Irish Coffee accompanied by an excellent Irish Musician, before returning to the ship once again. Here’s a short video of him playing

 

The day after we left Dublin was the start of the Tall Ships Race.  Most of the ships had already arrived and were anchored off.  We passed one close by on our way out of the River.

 

 

 

 

 

The Orkneys, Scotland

The archipelago of islands known as the Orkneys numbering around 70 islands, is a farming community (cattle and sheep) benefiting from a mild climate due to the Gulf Stream.

 

 

 

 

On Mainland Orkney the sites of Maeshowe, Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae were given World Heritage Status,  and these are some of the most visited attractions in Orkney. There are many other sites to visit and explore from Neolithic tombs and dwellings to Pictish brochs and Viking settlements.

 

 

 

More recent historical attractions are the sunken remains of the German High Seas Fleet which was scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919 and divers travel from all over the world to dive on these wrecks.  Marked by a black buoy is the site of the sinking of the “HMS Royal Oak”, by torpedos from a German u-boat in the early hours of 14 October 1939.  I met a lady on board our ship whose Grandfather had served on the Royal Oak, but fortunately for him, he was off duty at the time of the sinking and was ashore.

Torshavn (Tors Havn) or Thors Haven (harbour), Faroe Islands, Denmark

Torshavn is a pretty fishing port on a mountainous island.  We elected to take a boat trip along the Vestmanna sea cliffs, 2000 feet high, where thousands of sea birds nest.  The phrase “White water rafting” sprung to mind.  There was plenty of spray and much pitching and tossing of the little boat.  Sadly there are no pictures of this epic voyage as both hands were needed to hold on tightly as the pilot skilfully navigated the edges of the steep cliffs as they plunged vertically into the sea, and wound his way round rock pillars to give us a closer viewpoint.

The return journey over the mountain, was both informative and thankfully, more leisurely.  Just for the record, we both survived the experience intact and returned to the ship in time for a much deserved dinner!

 

Iceland:

Seydisfjordur.

A beautiful fishing village sheltered by the mountains.  Our tour took us over the mountains to Lake Lagarfljot whose bed is 330 feet below sea level, due to the past action of glaciers.

We visited a farmhouse once owned by Gunnar Gunnarson who was born and spent his early life at the farmstead which is now a museum to his life and works, and the church where he attended as a boy.

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Akureyri and the Godafoss Falls

Akureri is the second largest town to Reyjavik, and is a fishing town nestling by a fjord.  It is heated exclusively by geo thermal energy from Laugaland in Eyjafjorour.

 

 

 

 

 

Although it has been a dry summer (in Iceland at least) the Godafoss Falls, high in the mountains were pretty spectacular.  The story goes, in ancient times, when Christianity arrived on the island, a local  pagan Chieftain ceremonially threw all his pagan idols into the Falls.  Whilst we were there – just to add to the effect – the heavens opened and  a heavy hailstorm ensued!  Ten minutes later, the sun shone again!

 

Leaving Akureri that evening, I saw what might have been the splash of water over a whale’s back.  There have been lots of whale sightings in this area.  I took out my camera and quickly snapped a shot.  One of our fellow passengers spotted a dark shadow across the bottom half of my picture.  Is this a whale – what do you think?

 

 

 

 

Isafjordur

The dramatic landscape around Isafjordur was fantastic.  They even had a tunnel which went straight through the mountain.  The picture on the right shows the horizontal layers of basalt, each layer created by a volcanic eruption many years ago.  The vertical lines are where streams from the melt water have worn through the basalt.  The volcanic activity now usually only takes place on the south west of the island.

 

We visited a little village church where a local girl, a talented singer, sang 3 icelandic songs for us.  She explained what the songs were about and sang the first 2 unaccompanied, the third she accompanied herself on the piano.

 

 

 

 

We saw fishermans huts for drying fish, and visited a maritime museum, where a young lady is national dress played the accordion and sang for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon we visited Skrudur gardens.  Miles from anywhere, up in the mountains, this small walled garden was created by Rev Guollaugsson, a teacher who taught his pupils how to grow plants, particularly vegetables which would improve their diet.

 

 

Grundarfjordur

We spent a morning looking round this pretty little town.  The pictures speak for themselves.

 

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Reykjavik

We spent a full day in Reyjavik, taking in the waters of the Blue Lagoon about an hour’s drive away.

 The Lagoon reputedly has healing qualities for those who bathe in its’ geo-thermally heated waters which are an inviting 37-39°C / 98-102°F even on the coldest day.  See the live webcam link.

Afterwards we visited The Pearl, a revolving restaurant sitting on top of geo-thermally heated water tanks.  The views over Reyjavik are stunning.

Apparently my Father went to Reyjavik in August 1946.  He was called back from Navy Leave early and was sent to Iceland. (This was unfortunate for my father, whose overcoat had been sent to the Cleaners).  However, the mistake was soon spotted and he was re-directed to where he should have gone – a port in Ireland where he served until he was demobbed.