"Big Boat" Cruise
14 October 2011 | Copenhagen to Florida
We flew to Copenhagen on Icelandic Air - stopped in the airport at Reykjavik long enough to make me want to come back to Iceland and stay a few days - and arrived at our destination in time to take a cruise through the canals of this lovely city. This pic is the Nyhavn area - gorgeous old houses and boats, the neighbourhood of Hans Christian Anderson and now of tourists and locals sitting in the sun and enjoying the sights.
The highlight of our stay here - well one of the highlights! - was our biking tour with Mike (www.bikecopenhagenwithmike.dk) when we wheeled along paths and bike lanes, in and out of gates and great arched doorways, and I felt like a local and also like a kid again. Just the best fun - and Mike was a philosopher-guide - not interested in just telling about Copenhagen, but wanting us to understand the heart and soul of his city and the people who live there. Anther highlight was seeing Ann Christin and Christian (Ella) walk through the door of the hotel dining room. We met these two in Cuba, got to know them better in Halifax, and had coffee with them in Copenhagen. Isn't that great? From a casual meeting on a dock in one place to coffee several thousand miles away. Maybe next visit will be in their native Norway. All the shared connections we've discovered since we started sailing seem like the most wonderful thing to me. Our world has expanded so very much, and I am continually delighted and amazed by it.
Copenhagen is an expensive city, but we managed not to break the budget entirely. We stayed at Clarion Hotel 27 very near Tivoli gardens - oh yes - Tivoli at night was another highlight - just gorgeous! The hotel rate included breakfast and dinner buffets - lots of variety of tasty food. We ate lunch out at different spots, sampling local beer and the traditional open faced sandwiches at sunny sidewalk cafes and bustling bakeries. Besides exploring by bicycle, we walked through Christiania, the amazing alternative neighbourhood where creativity and pot and determination to live outside the lines reign supreme, and took a train to Fredriksborg for a back in time stroll through King Christian IV's lovely castle.
We finally tore ourselves away, loaded up our bags again and took the train to the cruiseship terminal where we boarded the Norwegian Sun for our first ever "big-boat" cruise.
To be honest, we were a bit surprised by how much we enjoyed this trip! We had one day stops in Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Lisbon and Ponta Delgada (Azores) and then a 6 day crossing of the Atlantic to Port Canaveral in Florida. We booked it about 15 months in advance (unheard of planning for us!!) and got an excellent price. I was curious about whether we could consider an ocean crossing and after the 24 hours between Lisbon and Ponta Delgada when the wind was gale force and the seas were over 3 metres high, I thought I had come to a definite NOT decision, but all the rest of the crossing was so benign that - well - we are left with a probably not, but not a definitely not decision. So what else is new with the Madcap crew?? What we do know is that somehow or other and sometime or other, we'd love to do some sailing in Europe.
The stops, while short, gave us a taste of different cities and we combined boat sponsored tours, wandering on foot, more bicycling (Lisbon) and a private taxi trip (Azores) in an effort to make the best use of our time. Our bus tour in Amsterdam took us out of the city to Edam where we strolled quiet cobblestone streets lined with lovely old buildings, and then spent some time at an admittedly "touristy" but nonetheless interesting area where we watched wooden shoes being gouged out and shaped from chunks of wood. We heard how the wheels of edam cheese are made and stored, and we took lots of windmill pictures. We climbed up to where we could stand just under the creaking blades of one of the old ones and imagined the days when they were totally dependent on these marvels of engineering to not only run their equipment, but keep the land dry. All that area is about 12 feet below sea level, and now not only windmills but high tech pumps and drainage systems continue to manage the water. We strolled on our own through the little streets along canals and across countless flower-lined bridges in the big city of Amsterdam in the afternoon.
In hindsight, we would have preferred to take the train from Blankenburg to Brugges and explore it on our own, but we didn't know that at the time, so we took another tour there. It is a beautiful old city (and very confusing - with myriad twists and turns) and we were happy to see it and take a canal tour, but felt we were being herded along more than we would like. We'll go back one day with time to poke around and explore it as it deserves to be taken in - one corner, one hot chocolate shop, another corner, a canal, another chocolate stop at a time.
Lisbon was great fun on bicycles again. Miguel was a fine tour guide - not quite as good as Mike in Copenhagen - but still great. We started at Parque Eduardo VII at the top of one of the hills and rolled down to the river - stopping to see cork trees and monuments, sip the local cherry liquor Ginjinha, and taste flaky little custard pastries before wheeling for miles along the new boardwalks that line the river. It seemed fitting that we stopped our tour at the same spot the explorers set off to find new worlds - at Belem Tower.
In Ponta Delgada, we rented a taxi and drove along hydrangea lined roads to Ribera Grande and Fire Mountain before heading in the other direction to the twin lakes and back to town where we wandered the streets on our own. The vistas overlooking terraced green hills were absolutely gorgeous. The fog lifted and fell enough to give us glimpses of beauty on the tops of the hills, and was absent completely from the lower elevations. We tried codfish pizza for lunch - which I enjoyed but Jim won't mind never having again!
While aboard ship on sea days, we read books, walked the deck, enjoyed excellent entertainment - singer pianist Claire Maidin, comedian Ross Bartlett, hypnotist Nadeen, sleight of hand man Sideshow Bert, flamenco guitarist Fabio along with the musical and dance productions of the Norwegian Sun show team. The dining was fine both in dining rooms where service was attentive and plates were attractively presented with tasty food, and in the busy buffets on the top deck where we could eat in the salt air. We loved having time with our friends, Christine and Art, and we shared stories every night over dinner about our day's activities. Norwegian Sun had freestyle dining which meant no set times or places for meals and no mandatory dressing up for dinner. While we don't have anything to compare it to, the system suited us just fine.
Now here we are back in Florida after a very fine trip back home to Halifax for Thanksgiving. We're on our way to the Seven Seas Cruising Association Gam in Punta Gorda, Florida where we'll connect with old friends Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) and meet lots of new folks. Then we'll head back to Tiger Point Marine and get down to some serious work!!