Monthly Archives: August 2018

Canada, Quebec – St Anne Canyon and a winery on Iles D’Orleans

Lovely to be back in Quebec even though it was pouring with rain.

First stop the spectacular St Anne Canyon and waterfalls. It was warm but very wet hence was forced to purchase on of those ponchos I always swore I’d never wear – but I guess “never say never”! Even in the wet this was a great trail.

Then a visit to Iles D’Orleans which is pretty and houses some very “local wineries” where everything is done by hand from presssing to labeling and they mostly specialise in ice wine.

Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador – I’ve “Come from Away” to L Anse aux Meadows, Red Bay and Corner Brook

Although I had the pleasure of living and working in Canada for four years (Vancouver) I (like many Canadians) had never made it to Newfoundland which I think is closer to the UK than it is to Vancouver.

It was a gap I very much wanted to fill and it was really nice to stop off at three more obscure parts of the island – populations ranging from 2800 to about (aboot ???)350.

First we visited L Anse Au Meadows. A charming village and the opportunity to get out on the ocean in a fishing vessel looking for whales. Very excited to see two killer whales, humpbacks and dolphins. Almost made me forget how nauseous I was feeling!

Then to Red Bay – a real teeny tiny place that nevertheless has a statue of Leif Erikson the explorer on the dockside.

And then Corner Brook where we followed the footsteps of Captain Cook. Who knew he spent five summers in Newfoundland learning cartography and other useful things before he went on to discover The Antipodes? The wood piles are collected by the locals in anticipation of Winter and the orange boats are called Dorys and used for fishing although the fishing industry is much depleted as the big players take over.

All the people we met (and they really did describe us as “Come from Away” – a musical I will be seeing next month in NYC which tells the true story of the people in Gander who took in 6000 stranded passengers post 9/11 shut down of the skies) were welcoming and kind. At each church the locals had baked for us and rustled up coffee. Truly a special group of people in that part of the world. And the sun does shine there too!

Loved it.

Canada, Labrador, Happy Valley Goose Bay

Well back to one of my most favourite countries in the world. I suspect that many of my Canadian friends have never visited this remote spot with a population of 9000 of which about 3000 work on the army base.

Weather was pouring rain – actually very unusual for this time of year but it did mean less mozzies so that was good.

We were the first cruise ship to visit in 30 years so although it was tipping it down the locals rolled out the red carpet for us. Lovely welcoming people.

First stop was a chat with a local who breeds and trains sled dogs. I swear he loves those dogs more than anything. Really interesting to hear how important it is for him to keep up the local heritage. AND there were Mounties on arrival – cant resist those RCMP boys in their Red uniforms.

Then on to Them Days – a nfp magazine of local history and also a visit to the Moravian church which included home made partridge soup and cakes made by the church ladies as a welcome to us (including cloudberries which are in season). Who needs the Great British Bake-off?

And then to meet a character called Joe Gaudie who is 79 and hand makes canoes which he sells across North America just by word of mouth. He has painters for the outsides – beautiful craftsmanship and a great story teller.

Finally a stop at Birch Island Conservation Area – a beautiful spot – even in the rain – where another local lady talked to us about growing up here before it became a national conservation area. She had so many lovely memories although I think life must have been tough in the middle of nowhere!

Greenland, Ilulissat – a walk on the ice fjord and a clear early morning and evening for viewing – last day

Well I thought Greenland couldn’t get any better but the last day in Ilulissat which involved perfect weather the night before and in the very early morning as we cruised past magnificent icebergs proved me wrong.

On arrival in port we tendered off the ship and I walked the boardwalk which took me to the icefjord – bizarrely, considering we were now in the arctic Circle it was probably the warmest it had been – and the walk was certainly worthwhile.

Then as we sailed away from Greenland for the last time we had spectacular light and icebergs – including one that was calving (breaking off in parts”). Wow.

I’m going to miss this place but also excited to be heading for northern Canada – hope to see some wildlife there.

Greenland, Parmiut and Nuuk

As we head north into the Arctic circle we are stopping off at various points along the way.

Parmiut is a tiny town with a lovely Danish designed church (Greenland is autonomous but is also part of the Danish realm and receives a lot of financial support from them) and a great museum about life in Greenland and the locals were happy to chat about their history and lifestyle.

Then on to Nuuk – the capital of Greenland with a population of 17000 which is growing rapidly as more people move there from the remote towns – so lots of construction going on there. Some more attractive than others. We were lucky to have a sunny and warmish day so I took the opportunity to walk all around the town. Another cool church -and the “mother of the sea “statue which becomes totally submerged when the tide is in. The yellow and White House is the main meeting hall where important events are held.

Saw this lovely husky on a walk and also the not so lovely whale meat at the fish market! Below right – is the wabi sabi style cultural centre.

After walking round the town I took a yellow water taxi tour through the fjords in search of icebergs and waterfalls. I was not disappointed. Spectacular

Greenland – iceberg chasing, Hvalsey Norse ruins by zodiac and Qaqortoq

Greenlandic is not an easy language to write let alone speak.

This was my first time on one of Seabourn’s zodiacs for a one hour journey to a remote island to visit some Norse ruins. Even though it is August it is quite chilly especially if on open water so the first challenge of using the zodiacs is the delightful get up – basically a step inside one piece under which you wear every piece of clothing you own and over which you wear a heavy life vest with heavy duty carbon containers should you hit the water. A definite Michelin man effect as you can see.

Once in the zodiac though the fun begins with the first order of the day being to chase icebergs and if you are lucky to find the sun shining on them! We were lucky.

This is what being on a zodiac is like. Large ones take 14 and the small ones 8.

Then onto the very remote island to check out the Norse ruins and learn what they know about the people who lives here. Most males were Vikings from Norway etc while many females were Irish/Scottish – slaves who had been addicted en route to Iceland and Greenland.

In the afternoon I took the tender to the town of Qaqortoq. So many pretty coloured houses – think I will be seeing a lot more of those on this trip.

Greenland – back on Seabourn Quest cruising around Greenland.

After being thwarted in our attempts to disembark onto Haimey Island in Iceland (due to rough waters) I was ready to move on and and get ready to experience Greenland. Another new country for me and officially the coldest one in the world.

It’s great to be back on Seabourn Quest and now I’m starting to know some of the staff. So far we’ve had both a sashimi (big slabs of tuna and salmon) plus a caviar evening as we cruised through Prins Christian Sund. Spectacular scenery at every turn culminating in a finals stretch of magnificent (and menacing) mountain peaks.

Iceland, Reykjavik

Thanks to my friend Danielle who told me to sit on the right hand side of the plane whenever you come into Iceland. Views were spectacular.

I had a day and a half here. The town or Reykjavik is tiny but cute and colourful especially in summer when everyone is out and about enjoying the light nights. The white building bottom left is where the prime minister works. So unpretentious. Also like the simple main cathedral – very different from the ornate features in middle Europe I have been used to over the last few weeks!

Delicious degustation meal at Nostra restaurant downtown. This is just four of the six courses. All locally sourced ingredients. All delicious.

Needed an post dinner stroll after all that. The pics below were taken at 11pm so still pretty light. The galleon was visiting from Europe.

First stop on the Golden Circle tour was Pingvellir National Park which is stunning in whatever direction your turn.

Then on to the Golden Waterfall which was magnificent. No wonder they already make more electricity than they need from their hydro electricity – although luckily they left this place as nature intended.

Then on to the Secret Lagoon which is one of the very many natural warm spring swimming pools in Iceland (I was told that a town in Iceland is not really a town unless it has at least one natural swimming pool). Lying in the warm water and taking in the surrounding scenery is a national pastime in Iceland – summer or Winter. While the water was very warm the external temperature was only 15 degrees and those who know me know I would never get into any water unless the external temperature was nearer 30 degrees – so I declined to partake and just enjoyed the view.

The nice thing about all this free hot water is that this is how people heat their homes (underwater hot pipes that just tap into the geothermal springs) and things like showers and washing machines just auto fill with already hot water. So one of the few cheap things in Iceland is water and heating. Nothing else is remotely cheap though:)

I am heading off on a cruise covering a bit more of Iceland, Greenland and then Northern Canada and the US so will be blogging intermittently due to wifi limitations. Will catch up when I can though as I am hoping for some great scenery.

The Netherlands, Three day trips from Amsterdam – Giethoorn, Haarlem and the Kroner Muller Museum. Last post from the Netherlands

While Amsterdam is a wonderful city which can easily keep you amused for a week, I also wanted to take the opportunity to get out of town and visit some places in other areas of the country where I had never been before.

First visit was to Giethoorn – a picturesque village built totally on small canals. It is very popular at this time of year but when you get the chance to see through the people it is quite cute. It’s interesting claim to fame is that it has a place on the official international Monopoly board. They achieved this very cleverly. The place is very much loved by Chinese visitors and the locations to be chosen for the Monopoly set were to be set by a global vote so every Chinese visitor was asked to vote for the town and to ask their mates back in China to do the same – and Bingo – there they sit alongside London, New York and Sydney. The power of social media! Best to do Giethoorn via a coach trip as not easy to get to with public transport.


Next stop Haarlem – just 15 minutes out of Haarlem on the train and a lovely smaller version of Amsterdam with far less people so great place to visit in August when the city crowds get a bit too much. The artist Frans Hals was born here so there is also a museum about his works (I didn’t like how it was curated) and a very large church. The place has a great vibe.

Then finally to the Kroner Muller Museum. My friend Heleen who I first met in Melbourne and who now lives back in her home of the Netherlands kindly took me to this museum. It is another collection where a wealthy woman bought some amazing works of art and has shared them with the public. Unbelievably, since I’d never heard of it before, it has the second largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world – and this time pics were allowed so I am enclosing a chunk of his works plus others in her collection. It is also situated in a massive park so you can wander around enjoying the sculptures too and we got a glimpse of the Royal Family’s hunting lodge. Great day out.

The Netherlands, Amsterdam – canals, bikes, wonky buildings and lovely light

It has hard to take a bad photo in Amsterdam as so much of it is really pretty and a good example of what UNESCO protection (the whole canal systems and buildings are protected so no changes allowed, no advertising on buildings etc). Yes there are some streets that are not that nice – usually the big ones where the hordes hang out but it doesn’t take long to find the good stuff. I particularly liked the Jordaan area which not only has nice canals and architecture but also great shops and restaurant.

Here’s what I saw – either wandering around or on a great boat tour called Pure Boats (max 10 people so you get to the smaller canals and away from the crowds – plus wine and nibbles!). Different perspectives in the day and the evening too.