Pictures by Walter

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North to Alaska

Departure – Canada Place, Vancouver

We took a break from our Canadian Adventure to go on a 7 day (There and Back again) cruise to Alaska via the “Inside Passage” departing from Canada Place Vancouver.  Our ship was the Holland America line “Nieuw Amsterdam” (New Amsterdam).  We had arrived earlier and as a result we had to wait, but the good news we were one of the first to board, the bad news it was a long wait for our luggage.  I shall say right off I will never sail with Holland America again. The cabin was fine, the food was excellent and the crew very polite.  However, what you pay is not the final price, they add on hotel service charge, and a service charge for a drink.  We are used to all inclusive with complementary drinks with meals, no hidden surcharges and gratuities left for us to decide on.  It did not help that they confiscated my dress  sgian-dubh (ske-an do) an imitation knife which is part of my highland dress outfit and the KILT pin.  As this was my formal dress my partner and I felt reluctant to attend the two formal evenings.  As a result of that we ate our meals in the Lido Restaurant and had a great selection of meals around the world.  Really loved those salads.

Our fist night cruising allowed us to explore the ship, the shops and go to a show (the only one we did go to).  The show team were very talented, but the volume was deafening.  I do stage photography and am used to shows, but this really was loud and yes it was colourful.

Juneau

The first port of call was Juneau – the State Capitol City.  (Following from Wikipedia) Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital, sits in the state’s panhandle, at the base of 3,819-ft. Mount Roberts. It’s a popular cruise-ship stop, reachable only by boat or seaplane. A tram carries visitors 1,800 feet up Mount Roberts to an alpine area with hiking trails, wildflowers and views of Gastineau Channel. This is also the site of the Juneau Raptor Centre, dedicated to local birds.  A port that has four cruise liners in is going to be busy.  While nearly all passengers headed for the Mount Roberts Tramway or other tourist attractions we opted to explore the city and visit the museum, which was very interesting on local history.  We wandered around the town making our way back to the dock plaza and the Mt. Roberts tramway station.  It takes about 5 minutes to get to the station at the 1,800 foot point. Feeling hungry we partook of lunch – very nice it was too.  Making our way to the Ranger Station we asked if there was a circular trail that would take about an hour to walk.  There was indeed, and we were advised to take the right hand as that would be easier for us going down the large flight of stairs rather then climbing them.  (We were glad we took that advice).  The views at that level we good, they got even better as we climbed up the trail.  The Ranger had given us a map and there was a point marked “Father Brown’s Cross” which was a 1/2 mile up from the Alpine loop trail we were on. In for a penny in for a pound, we plodded up that extra 1/2 mile.  Those kind souls coming down gave encouragement to stick to it as the view was worth it.  I’ll let you decide if it was.

We thought it was, and very pleased we were to have taken the time and energy to get there.

Skagway

Our next stop was Skagway: Skagway is a compact city in southeast Alaska, set along the popular cruise route the Inside Passage. It’s home to gold-rush-era buildings, now preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad runs vintage locomotives past the famously steep Chilkoot trail and offers sweeping mountain views during its climb toward Canada.

If it was not for the modern traffic I would have thought we had stepped back in time.  As the blurb above states “gold rush era buildings each one with its own story.  Even new builds have to comply with “the look”.  Gateway to the Chilkoot trail Skagway had an unsavoury reputation thanks to one Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith II.  We strolled up and down “Main Street” like many tourists and the spirit of “Soapy Smith” lives on with retailers enticing customers into shops with free charms.  Two routes to the Klondike Goldfields originated from Skagway – The main being the Chilkoot Trail, the other the White Pass Trail (aka The Dead Horse Trail).  Each have their own bloody history and tales of woe.  It was at Skagway  the second highlight of our adventure occurred, again it involved a train journey up the White Pass on the White Pass & Yukon Railway.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

The second highlight on the cruise – Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a vast area of southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage, a coastal route plied by cruise ships and other vessels. Stretching north of the town of Gustavus, the bay is flanked by high peaks, including Mount Fairweather, and glaciers like the huge Grand Pacific Glacier. Bartlett Cove is the starting point for forest and riverside trails. Wildlife includes humpback whales and puffins.

On our Canadian Adventure we walked over a minute part of the Athabasca Glacier here we stood on a ship looking at nature in the raw. In fact we saw 3 active glaciers out of the seven: Margerie GlacierGrand Pacific Glacier and Johns Hopkins Glacier.

We stood on the deck listening to the sound of silence being disturbed by the groans and creaks of the living glaciers as the slowly moved their way to the sea. On 4 occasions we heard a deep rumble vibrate through the air.  We later found out from a passenger on another ship that was the Margerie Glacier Calving. Alas we never saw a calving.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is an Alaskan city facing the Inside Passage, a popular cruise route along the state’s southeastern coast. It’s known for its many Native American totem poles, on display throughout town. Nearby Misty Fiords National Monument is a glacier-carved wilderness featuring snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. It’s also home to rich wildlife including black bears, wolves and bald eagles.

According to Wikipedia: Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles, found throughout the city and at four major locations: SaxmanTotem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. Most of the totems at Saxman Totem Park and Totem Bight State Park are recarvings of older poles, a practice that began during the Roosevelt Administration through the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Totem Heritage Center displays preserved 19th-century poles rescued from abandoned village sites near Ketchikan. We never saw any of them due to the fact that it lived up to its title as “Rain Capital of Alaska”.  We did enjoy a light snack as we wandered around the city before returning to the ship for our journey back to Vancouver.

Alaskan Adventure Video

 

 


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Cultural Cities of Northern Europe – Sailing Days

As I watched Tallinn fading into the horizon I realised we had a whole 36 hours of cruising before we reached our next port of call, Kiel, Germany.  I did mention in a previous blog I hated the feeling of being confined to a ship for more than 12 hours when all one has to see is the endless horizon and the empty sea (weather permitting). However, that was a simplistic statement.  We are not confined to our cabins, there is plenty of entertainment, bars, decks to stroll round and observation room to site a gaze at the “Oh so open sea”.  You are assigned a Dining Room and table  for your evening meal at other times you are free to go A’la Carte, eat at the buffet, grill.  There is entertainment twice a night in the main lounge.  Whilst the early sitting is at evening meal tye late sitting have the opportunity to enjoy the evening show. The same show is presented to the well fed and sated early sitters.  The Black Watch entertainers/dancers were far to energetic, especially on a rolling , yawning ship.

Monday 26th September “Golden age of Rock

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The talented team also performed a tribute entitled “Legends” in which the they paid tribute to “Freddy Mercury – Queen”, “Elton John”,  “Cher”, “Grease”, “Elvis”, “Abba”, “Cabaret”,  “The Rat Pack” and .

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“Queen & Freddy Mercury”

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“Elton John”

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“Gypsy, Tramps & Thieves – Cher”

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“Grease”

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“Elvis”

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“Abba”

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“Carbaret”

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“Rat Pack”

Gallery

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Gallery of 55 Images of “Legends” show

 


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Cultural Cities of Northern Europe – Tallinn

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Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn The origins of Tallinn date back to the 13th century, when a castle was built there by the crusading knights of the Teutonic Order. It developed as a major centre of the Hanseatic League, and its wealth is demonstrated by the opulence of the public buildings (the churches in particular) and the domestic architecture of the merchants’ houses, which have survived to a remarkable degree despite the ravages of fire and war in the intervening centuries. (Extract from UNESCO) (Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0)

Early Saturday morning saw us docked near the Estonian city of Tallinn. Tallinn is a contrast of modern and medieval – the outer part is modern verging on ultra modern but the heart of the city is sited on a hill, the medieval town.  Our ship was dock well outside the city and we had to bus into the modern part to be dropped off at the foot of the hill for a long walk up through one of the medieval gates into the small cramped streets. The old square is surrounded with medieval buildings with some fine attachments. I’m sure that the talk given by the tour guide was interesting and informative, however, we where on top of a hill, exposed to the wind which added a windchill factor of Freezing.  We stood there for 5 minutes before setting of on our own for bit of a wander around the centre before going for a sample of mid morning tea and folk dance display.

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Susan and I enjoyed our little meander around this old town.  Looking at how the old buildings were being used for modern business without destroying the outer facade of the building. We spotted  dragons, a Scottish Pub, some intriguing statues, carved doorways as well as a few Irish pubs

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After about an hour we made our way back to the meeting point in time for the “Cultural Treat”.  The folk dance was interesting unfortunately it was very vigorous and too fast for me to capture via my camera, as I had not taken my fast lens.  (Oh well lesson learnt there). 30 minutes later we were heading back to our coach for the return trip to the ship.  Like all shore excursions there does not appear to be enough time to explore places in detail.  It takes so long to get between places and so little time at the destination.  What did stick in my mind is that Tallinn is a town of two parts the ancient surround by the modern. This can be summed up with the opening image and the closing image taken as we departed the docks.
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Click on this image to see Flickr Gallery of 37 images from Tallinn


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Cultural Cities of Northern Europe – St Petersburg

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The Admiralty building is the former headquarters of the Admiralty Board and the Imperial Russian Navy in St. Petersburg, Russia and the current headquarters of the Russian Navy. The edifice was re-built in the nineteenth century to support the Tsar’s maritime ambitions

The morning of Friday 29th September 2017 saw us docking at St Petersburg – I was up very early and watched the ship manoeuvring up stream to the docks near the city centre.  We had been briefed, via a ship’s newsletter, as to how we approached Russian Immigration.  I thought UK Immigration staff were poker face but the Russians had them beat for deadpan face.  I will admit to slight trepidation as I entered the room, passed my visa and passport across, after a few minutes of being scrutinised and my passport checked, an entry visa was stamped into my passport.  (After 46 years and going through four passports my fifth was the one that had a visa stamp stamped onto it).  Anyway I digress, having passed through immigration we made our way to our tour bus – Everyday St Petersburg – and it was everyday St Petersburg.  We did see some of the historical/touristic sites but only externally.  We explored the city centre, enjoyed a trip on the Moscow Metro, walks along “Nevsky Prospekt” bought a few gifts.  As far as the cruise went St Petersburg was the highlight and the Metro trip was the bonus.  Unlike the last two cities with quick tours St Petersburg was 8.5 hours and we enjoyed every  minute of it.

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The Church of the Savior on Blood commemorates the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated personal collection

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Saint Isaac’s Cathedral or Isaakievskiy Sobor in Saint Petersburg, Russia, is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city. It is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the world.

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One of the many mosaics on the St Petersburg Metro

 

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St Petersburg Metro Station. The cleanliness and upkeep of all the staions and art work are of a very high standard

 

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Puskin’s Statue at Metro station named after him

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Click on Image for St Petersburg Gallery of 51 Images

We left St Petersburg early evening and watched the lights of the city fade as we sailed down river to the Baltic See and an overnight cruise to our next port of call Tallinn in Estonia


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Cultural Cities of Northern Europe-Helsinki

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Helsinki sits on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland. Its central avenue, Mannerheimintie, is flanked by institutions including the National Museum, tracing Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present. Also on Mannerheimintie are the imposing Parliament House and Kiasma, a contemporary art museum. Ornate red-brick Uspenski Cathedral overlooks a harbor

Cultural Cities of Northern Europe (September-October 2017)

We departed Copenhagen later Wednesday  heading for our next port of call  – Helsinki.   We arrived in the early hours of Thursday and would have six hours to explore the city before setting sail for St. Petersburg.  We elected to have the city tour and set off to see the touristic sites and monuments.

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Helsinki Central Station is the main station for commuter rail and long-distance trains departing from Helsinki, Finland. The station is used by approximately 400,000 people per day, of which about 200,000 are passengers

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Alexis Kivi, born Alexis Stenvall, (10 October 1834 – 31 December 1872) was a Finnish author who wrote the first significant novel in the Finnish language, Seven Brothers (Finnish title: Seitsemän veljestä). Although Kivi was among the very earliest authors of prose and lyrics in Finnish language, he is still considered one of the greatest.He also died alone in a mental hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tour took us to the Sibelius Monument and Bust.

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The Sibelius Monument by Eila Hiltunen is dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The monument is located at the Sibelius Park in the district of Töölö in Helsinki, the capital city of Finland (Wikipedia)

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Marja Leena Suvela – Keraamikko Ceramicist , Helsinki

On returning to the ship we spent some time in the Finish market at the dock – of course we bought some souvenirs, one stall in particular interested us.  Susan was delight that the objects were made by the stall holder  Marja Leena Suvela – Keraamikko Ceramicist , Helsinki

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Click for Gallery of 41 images of our visit to Helsink

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Cultural Cities of Northern Europe – Copenhagen

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(1) Gefion Fountain by Anders Bundgaard

On Monday 24th September 2017 Susan and I set of on our first sea cruise.  I say our as Susan has made three previous sea cruises, this was my first.  We had book on the Fred Olsen “Cultural Cities of Northern Europe” cruise.  This ten day Baltic Sea cruise took us to Copenhagen (Denmark), Helsinki (Finland), St Petersburg (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia) and Kiel (Germany) the back to Rosyth, Scotland via the Kiel Canal and North Sea.  We set sail at 5 pm Sunday evening and cruised the North Sea To Copenhagen (Denmark) and docked Early Tuesday morning.   After breakfast we boarded our City Tour (with Canal Cruise) to explore Copenhagen city and harbour. We were taken to the usual tourist sites such as:

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Little Mermaid: At Langelinje Pier you will find one of Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attractions: The sculpture of The Little Mermaid. On 23 August 2013 she turned 100 years old. She has been beheaded several times, dubbed with red paint – in all for a statute she has had an eventful 114 years

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St. Alban’s Church, ( the English Church), is an Anglican church in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was built from 1885 to 1887 for the growing English congregation in the city. Designed by Arthur Blomfield as a traditional English parish church in the Gothic Revival style.

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On 6 September 1982, a Danish frigate, the HDMS Peder Skram, accidentally fired a Harpoon missile during maneuvers in the Kattegat.[1] The missile traveled 34 kilometers at low level, severing several power lines before striking some trees after which it exploded. The fireball and subsequent shock wave destroyed four unoccupied summer cottages and damaged a further 130 buildings in the immediate vicinity. No human injury was reported.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Copenhagen Opera House is the national opera house of Denmark, and among the most modern opera houses in the world. It is also one of the most expensive opera houses ever built with construction costs well over US$500 million

 

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Copenhagen Gallery – Click on image to view 46 images