Saturday, 1 August 2015

“Back-log” Blog

It was a couple of weeks ago that we met up with friends Vanessa and Lance who were spending a few days in the Portsmouth area.

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There was much chin-wagging (and the occasional drink!) on the water front at Spice Island, Portsmouth ………

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…… watching the huge yachts practicing for the leg of the America’s Cup being held in Portsmouth that weekend.

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It was a gloriously sunny day for us and we chose one of our favourite haunts, The Spice Island Inn, for lunch.

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From the first moment of a chance encounter with Lance and Vanessa on “Queen Elizabeth last year we’ve got on like a house on fire.

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If you’re lucky and get a window table in “The Spice Island” you can watch the world and his brother going about their business. Like the man cleaning the Spinnaker Tower (he’s the spec where the two curved bits join at the top) …….

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…… just there …….

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…… see!

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Portsmouth’s old Napoleonic defence battlements have a new role these days as something to lean against while people sun themselves.

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Spice Island and Old Portsmouth have a lovely atmosphere and it’s great to wander around all the old defences during the short walk to Southsea …..

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….. wonderful Southsea where James can get his dose of the Hovercraft!

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Now – while James was being restored and refurbished so was “Chance”. Getting it up to MGM meant we could have the bottom blacked and a safety inspection during James’ operational ‘downtime’. Once back on board, we had an unintentional week’s stay at MGM due to the failure of the Mikuni heater to start.

We can’t praise Mikuni Marine (023 8052 8777) in Southampton enough. After Doug had whisked the unit down to them, in 2 days they replaced the air blower, water pump (to be on the safe side) and given it a full mechanical and software service. We now look forward to getting another 4 years’ faultless service from it.

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Yesterday, on our last night at MGM we were able to witness the wonderful spectacle of the “Blue Moon”.

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Today (Saturday) we finally set sail down the River Soar, sharing Cossington Lock with a beautifully presented little 2005 boat “Red Rose”.

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The massive brick railway bridge just after Mountsorrel is always imposing – even more so on a lovely sunny day.

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Entering Barrow-upon-Soar there are usually numerous pleasure craft around on a good day but we’ve not seen these before.

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You can’t help but admire the beautiful gardens …..

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….. as you cruise gently towards Barrow Deep Lock.

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The depth of the lock at 9’ 7” wasn’t the reason why we decided to put it off until the morning. With the shady moorings before the lock, and the fact that we were feeling lazy, it seemed a good idea to call it a day and enjoy the afternoon and evening. Our first day back on the cut has been splendid.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Alas, everything comes to an end!

We haven’t had many “sea days” on this cruise and so the formal dress evenings, daytime lectures and deck activities have been less than usual.

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However, during the sea days James enjoyed a brilliant set of talks by Michael Kushner who has a superb knowledge of wartime code breaking at Bletchley Park, World War II sea battles and espionage. Did you know that we warned J Edgar Hoover about a possible attack on Pearl Harbour in Dec 1941 but he decided not to do anything about it? Well, we heard some amazing facts from him. Great stuff!

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We also had the pleasure of being entertained by Roy Walker – here being interviewed about his life. He’s a very funny man and we spent quite a lot of time with him on and around the ship just chatting and ‘chewing the cud’.

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Yesterday evening (Sunday) at dinner Christabelle and James arrived in matching outfits – don’t they just look soooo smart together?

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Being the penultimate evening of the cruise, last night’s formal dinner included the opportunity for us to show our appreciation to the ships’ chefs and catering staff staff. What would our waistlines be like if it wasn’t for them!

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Talking of food and catering: here are “our wonderful boys” who’ve looked after our every need at dinner each evening. You know when you’ve had a good cruise when your waiters start telling you what’s good for you and what you’re going to eat and drink that evening! Flanked by our waiters Sidesh and Sheldon, Doug stands next to our dear friend (and, coincidentally, our wine waiter – what a surprise!) Dolreich.

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Sheldon and Sidesh – the terrible two ……..

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…….. and Sheldon wanted a close up (showing his best side) if he was to go “viral”.

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Always the last table to leave of course, we include another pic of most of us: Willie, James, Sandy and Steve, Christabelle and Doug. (Eileen and Ian had to leave us early for the cinema)

“Aurora” was our first cruise ship in November 2013 (since then we seem to have lost count!) It gave us a fabulous cruise back then and has done so again this time. The itinerary, the weather, the people we’ve met and, of course, the ship’s company have all come together to give us something we’ll not forget!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Norway–Geirangerfjord and Mount Dalsnibba.

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On the rear deck of “Aurora” enjoying a bit of the remarkable and everlasting sunshine we’ve had on this cruise.

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On the Promenade Deck, still inside the Arctic Circle, enjoying the warmth and the sunshine at 11:45 at night, after the evening theatre performance.

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So blatantly self indulgent! (sun filter on the camera – it’s not getting dark!)

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It must be about midnight by now!

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We’ve had some of the loveliest  of dinner companions during the cruise – we all gelled straight away.  Here’s Christabelle and Willie (seated left) Ian and Eileen (standing left) and Sandy and Steve (right). We’ve had a real hoot every evening.

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We anchored at Geiranger at the top of its 9 mile fjord on Saturday morning. The surroundings at sea level in this lovely place are just pure, wild beauty and very fitting as it’s a World Heritage site.

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Twins do you think?

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All the melt waters from the Geiranger valley gush down this tremendous waterfall. The recently constructed steps up from the village allow some great close up experiences. You need to be fast at taking photos as the lens gets wet very quickly!

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At the top of the waterfall you get a super view of little Geiranger and the head of the fjord. There are only 300 hundred residents in the village but they welcome over 600,000 visitors every year. The acclamation that it’s “the most magnificent and the most beautiful of Norway’s fjords” is well founded.

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We half expected a Troll to emerge from this little shed!

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From the top of the waterfall it’s a short walk to the fascinating little octagonal church built in 1842. In true Norwegian style all the gravestones are perfectly upright and in line!

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We took a bus ride up the precipitous road to Mount Dalsnibba, 4,500 feet above the village. We stopped briefly at Flydalsjuvet on the way up to take in this spectacular view towards the village and the fjord.

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There are six little mountain houses dead centre in the pic. They’re constructed of wood and stone with grass roofs – almost impossible to see.

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After countless hair-pin bends and shear drops down the mountain side we arrived above the snow line where, in some places, the snow was still several metres deep.

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Passing a huge frozen lake we took the even steeper road up to the top of Mount Dalsnibba ……

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…… where, in places, the road had been cut out of several metres of deep snow.

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And then we arrived!

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This is nature at its very best – words are unimportant in this level of adventure. Much of the the road from Geiranger can be seen as it snakes its way up the valley. All praise to the young driver that so skilfully got us to the top of the mountain and back again.  “Aurora” is the little white spec in the distance.

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Just to prove we were there!

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The ride back down had a lot of us on tenter hooks – this is a relatively level bit of road but in some parts it was very steep. Everywhere the water tumbles down.

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We left Geiranger in the evening having had a truly memorable day. Mount Dalsnibba is the one just right of centre.

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Many of us enjoyed the Great British Sail Away on “Aurora’s” rear decks while the awesome scenery of the Geirangerfjord passed close by on each side.

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The Seven Sisters waterfall - falling a thousand feet into the waters of the fjord.

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At this point along the Geirangerfjord we counted 23 waterfalls within sight.

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Another fjord branches off the main waterway. The regular car ferry, which had been journeying with us from Geiranger left us at this point (far left).

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There were miles of the Geirangerfjord left to travel before we got to the sea and the start of our two day journey back to Southampton. With heavy hearts we now make our way back home.