Wednesday, October 24, 2018

October 9, 2018 - Heading Home

October 9th - Heading Home

I managed to sleep in till nearly 9:30 - it was a wonderful treat.  Got up and had breakfast with Clive, then Ruthie and I headed back to the airport to drop me off for my 2:30 flight.  Very quick trip, but so glad we could make it happen.  My flight home I had an exit row seat, so I wasn’t as crammed in as the flight over, but still could not sleep to save my life, so it was quite a long day by the time I finally got to bed.  I woke at 9:30 AM London time and fell asleep around 5 AM London time. Long, long day - but it was good to be home

Saying goodbye

Wednesday was the day to pick up the car, pick up groceries and have coffee with Mary, then back to real life for Thursday and Friday - work and all.

Vacations are the best!

October 8, 2018 - Oslo to London

October 8 - Oslo to London

4 AM wake up call.  I had to be in the lobby at 4:30 for my ride to the airport.  It was nice that it was so early because there were no lines to drop off luggage and the security line was not bad at all.  I had plenty of time to find my way to my gate, grab a bite to eat and charge up my phone.  

I landed at Heathrow at 9:15 and made my way through customs (lovely agent) and got my bags.  Time for a cup of tea and a snack before Ruthie picked me up at 10:30.  From there, it was off to their house in Penn/Tyler’s green, with a stop at Watrose for some soup for lunch.  

We had such a nice visit - so lucky to have friends for whom the passage of time does not stop us from reconnecting as though it was yesterday when we last talked.  Ruthie and I did some driving around in the afternoon and Clive fixed a fabulous meal which we shared with Tom and Ed (extra treat!).  It was nice to be able to talk with the boys, who really aren’t little boys anymore at all.  Time flies.

October 7th - Kirkenes, Norway

October 7 - Kirkenes, Norway

The northern coastal area is also known as Finnmark.  With the exception of the Cold War years (1945-1989), the border areas in eastern Finnmark have been a place of trade and cultural exchange between Norway, Russia and the Sami population.  

We were off the ship by 9 and on our way to the tiny airport in Kirkenes.  We were the first of several buses there, so we were able to drop off our bags and get through security pretty quickly.  Jackie had been trying to get a hotdog since the day after we arrived - and luckily they had them at the airport.  We shared one since we had just had breakfast.  

After a two hour flight, we arrived back in Oslo, found our bus and drove the 45 minutes to our final hotel - which was the sight of the ski jump during the Oslo winter Olympics.  It was a beautiful hotel with stunning views from the top of the hill.

We had our farewell dinner there at the hotel and lingered in the lobby with our traveling sisterhood (Jo, Noeleen, Cathy, Birgette and Jackie and I).  It was hard to say goodbye.  Jo and Noeleen were going on to Iceland for a week of more fun, Cathy, Brigitte and Jackie would all be going their separate ways and I was heading to London the next day to visit friends.  It was such a great trip - I’m so glad Jackie had this on her bucket list - made even better by the people we met along the way.

October 6, 2018 - Honningsvag

Day 9 - October 6, 2018 - Honningsvag

We arrived in Honningsvag at 11:15 and boarded the coach for a 50 minute drive to the North Cape. The weather here is crazy, snowing one minute, sunny the next, and foggy after that. Our ride took us up the mountain on very winding roads that were covered with snow. We crossed the 71st parallel on our journey to the Cape, the Northernmost point on the continent. On the way up, we stopped at a Sami Reindeer camp. The Sami people are renowned for herding reindeer, creating distinctive handicrafts (duodji) and their harmonious relationship with nature.

heading toward our tour bus

At the Sami camp

We continued up the mountain which rises for 307 meters, almost perpendicular to the Arctic Ocean. The Globe Monument Sculpture has become the iconic symbol of the North Cape.  There is also a set of sculptures a bit away from the visitor’s center.  A mother and child, with the child pointing to medallions.  We were told the designs for the medallions were drawn by children.

At the North Cape - the weather was amazing changeable - all these photos were taken in about 20 minutes

I love how the clouds hang low and you can see through to where it's clear

At the actual furthest north point.

The clouds - and that rectangular opening to where the sky is blue

Loved this sculpture

On the way back to the ship

Back at the ship we were treated to a delicious piece of apple cake provided by our wonderful tour guide, Birgette.  She also introduced us to cloudberry jam earlier today.  It was delicious.  The cloudberry can only be found in the wild, and it is not easy to find if one does not know where to look.  A single berry grows on each stem.  Since at least the Viking era, the cloudberry has been used a a universal remedy in Nordic folk medicine, thanks to its high levels of vitamins, minerals and anti-aging antioxidants.  Jo and Noeleen picked some up for us while we were on our tour - I’m saving it to share at Christmas.

Unfortunately, the cruise ends tomorrow morning, so tonight we must pack. We end in Kirkenes at 9:00 and then fly to Oslo.

October 5, 2018 - Tromso

Day 8 - October 5, 2018 - Tromso

We started the day with a group meeting during which Brigitte gave Jackie a gift for being the first person on one of her tours to win the Arctic Circle prize.  Also in the photo - Jo, Noeleen and Cathy - the traveling sisterhood....

Brigitte - the other honorary member of the traveling sisterhood showing us the jar of cloudberry jam she had just shared.  I was able to get a jar and look forward to having a taste at home.

Views from the ship

Today we took the Arctic Capital tour. We started the tour with the cable car ride up the mountain ledge, Storsteinen (421 meters above sea level). At the top, we could see panoramic views of Tromso and the surrounding islands, mountains and fjords. 

The Arctic Cathedral - next stop

Next stop was the Arctic Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece and town landmark. Final stop was the Polaria center which is an Arctic aquarium. We had a beautiful, sunny day just a bit on the chilly side. We have been blessed with great weather. The locals tell us they don’t usually see this much sun.

Our final stop of the day was the Polaria Aquarium.

Back on the ship for dinner and Oktoberfest. Unfortunately, Oktoberfest was a bust. Not much of a celebration. But still fun hanging with our group of sisters, Noeleen and Jo from Perth Australia, Jackie and I, and our two honorary sisters, Cathy and Birgette. Such a fun group of ladies.

To top the day off, we were treated to a view of the Northern Lights. The funny story is that Jackie had just gotten back in our room when she looked and and said - I see northern lights.  I said she was full of it.  One minute later, we hear an announcement from the crew that the northern lights were visible.  I was obviously wrong.  We both got dressed and went outside.  I could barely see them and knew my camera would not be able to capture them, so I went inside where it was much warmer while the people with the good cameras did their best to get shot.   I am glad I can say that I saw them in person.