Monday, 31 August 2015

Coffee and Cakes by the Baltic in Swden

Roses in the garden

My lasting memory of the tour of Stockholm will be sitting in a garden on the banks of the Baltic Sea. Across the water is a fascinating free-standing waterfall and off to the right is an iron bridge. Very peaceful except for my fellow travellers milling about and taking photographs. Oh, and the peep-peep-peep of a baby seagull calling for its parents. This was at Rosendals Tradgard, a popular cafe where we had coffee (or tea) and a cinnamon-type-bun.

We had driven through the city, crossing several of the bridges that connect the many islands and were now on Djurgarden, once the King's hunting ground, but now an upmarket residential area. Hikers and cyclists make full use of the forest and parkland. It also contains the Diplomatic Quarter with many embassies lining the streets.

Probably the most visited museum is the ABBA. Very popular with fans and as it is interactive - great for a singalong and dancing.

During the first part of our tour we had, inevitably, seen shops, houses, churches, the Parliament buildings and City Hall where the Nobel Prizes are presented in the Blue Hall on 10th December which is the anniversary of the death of Swedish born Alfred Nobel.

There were several photographic stops to see the colourful medieval old town which has the Royal
Palace, the Cathedral and the Nobel Museum.  And from across Lake Malaren we again saw City Hall.

To my way of thinking the best way to reach Stockholm has to be sailing in on a cruise ship and viewing the scenery from a top deck. We seemed hardly to be moving as we sailed majestically into port. All around were what seemed like hundreds of islands, some small enough to look like puffy green cushions. Some of the larger islands are residential and/or have businesses located there.

Obviously in one day it is impossible to see everything the City has to offer, especially among museums such as the Vasa, home to a 17th century Warship, and the Skansen Open-air one. And not forgetting time to shop.

Would probably have been better had the photographer been
on the other side - in the water?

Stockholm was the third port of call on this P&O Cruise.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Good Neighbours - Edison, Ford and Firestone.

People from the Northern United States and Canada have been travelling to Florida for the winter since the 19th century so this isn't a modern day fashion. The difference is that the earlier snowbirds had lots of money and bought winter homes in the Sunshine State.

Three of these gentlemen were friends and neighbours in Fort Myers - Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. One invented rubber made from Goldenrod, one made cars and the third made tyres. Put the three together and you can see the result in Edison's garage at the home in Fort Myers.

The home is actually two houses, the second one containing the guest bedrooms. Set in lush gardens the two story white houses have red roofs and the main one is surrounded by a wide patio - like a large outdoor sitting room. When the houses were built central heating hadn't been invented so it was, obviously, cooler to lounge outside. Can't you just picture the men having an afternoon nap there?

The rooms themselves open onto the patio and into each other to help any passing breezes keep the rooms cool.

All of the rooms are beautifully furnished. The living room has sofas and chairs and a well-stocked bookcase. The dining room has the table laid with hand painted china, crystal and silverware.

Lighting throughout the house is, of course, electric and consists of ten brass chandeliers and electroliers that were originally in the Edison home at Menlo Park (New Jersey). Some of the bulbs are ones that were invented by Edison - and they are still working.

Following a tour around the house there is a visit to the laboratory and a chance to look in the museum to see examples of some of the many items that Edison invented.

A blooming Lipstick Tree
The beautiful gardens are filled, not only with native trees, shrubs and flowers, but also with plants from other continents. He would experiment with various plants to see what could be made from them - such as the tyre from goldenrod.

The adjoining Henry Ford house is also open to the public. Some evenings when the friends were all in residence they would roll back the living room carpets and square dance. The caller? Henry Ford. I would have loved to have seen them and their guests on one of those evenings!


Monday, 17 August 2015

First Stop - Oslo

Moored by the Ramparts
Yes, I've been cruising with P&O again. This time on the Arcadia. Last year I did a Baltic cruise in June (on the Oriana) and the weather let me down. St. Petersburg was wet and Tallin was freezing. So this year I went in July and the weather was fantastic - blue skies and sunshine! I also chose a cruise calling at some different ports, the first stop being Oslo, the capital of Norway.

Coach drivers everywhere are excellent especially those who have to manoeuvre their buses around some very tight corners, but guides come with various qualifications. Especially problematical are the ones with heavy accents which get emphasised through the sound system. Fortunately all of our guides - at least, on the tours I took - were very clearly spoken and interesting to listen to.

In Oslo we were driven around the city being shown the sights such as the Nobel Peace Centre and City Hall where the annual Peace Prize is presented on 10th December each year. The recipients are selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee made up of five people chosen by the Norwegian Parliament. Other sights we passed were the National Theatre, the Ibsen Museum, the Royal Palace and, in Market Square, the Cathedral.

Nowadays instead of through-traffic clogging up the centre of the city there is a tunnel and Main Street is pedestrianised. With the sun shining it looks fabulous as the restaurants have tables set out in what was the road - and doing fantastic business. It reminded me of the ramblas in Spain with shops and restaurants along one side and a tree-lined 'rambla' on the other.

Out of the city and we were taken to Holmenkollen to see the famous Olympic Ski Jump, the first in the world. Remember Eddie the Eagle? No, we didn't go to the top but to the viewing platform part the way up, from where we watched daring young people whizz down on a zipline wire. Rather them than me.

The view down across the fjord is glorious - blue water, islets and every imaginable foliage green of nature's palette.

Back down into the city again to finish our tour and have a couple of statues pointed out to us. Two of their 'war' heroes - Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Sir Winston Churchill.

Inevitably it was time to return to the ship to sail on to our next port of call - Copenhagen. As I visited this city last year you can read the blog about it and the ports of call during that cruise on

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Dancing the Night Away

One of the things that I look forward to on my cruises is ballroom dancing. As a single person living in a village this is the only time I get to participate in one of my favourite activities.

It wasn't until my third P&O Cruise that I discovered that members of the Entertainment Staff drop in at the dances and help the host and hostess by dancing with people needing a partner. Unfortunately, since that cruise, it seems that the young men no longer have the time or, as I discovered on one cruise, they cannot dance.

Obviously I have complained to both P&O and Carnival (the parent company) each time I have returned from a cruise. The popular response is that they don't - at the moment - have enough members of the Entertainment Teams to go around but.... They are working on it and there will be more staff and they will be taught the basic steps. I first complained after a cruise last September and I am not giving out any prizes to those of you who have guessed the reason for this blog.

On one occasion I was told that there are Dance Hosts on Cunard but not on P&O because Carnival want to keep each Line distinctive. (When I cruised on P&O's Oceana last year it was just like being on a Carnival cruise ship. I know because when I lived in Florida I used to take short breaks on their ships out of Tampa).

As single people pay extra - a LOT extra - surely we are entitled to a couple of Dance Hosts?

Of course there are Strictly Come Dancing Cruises on P&O but you can guess what happens to the price. Way out of my league with the added Single Supplement.

Come on, P&O, stop spoiling the cruises for singles who want to dance.

Thank goodness for the dance tutors who also act as hosts. Without them I wouldn't get in any dancing and on this Baltic cruise it was Wayne and Sharon who came to my rescue. Thanks guys!

A plea - if you are single, cruise and enjoy dancing but there aren't dance hosts on the Line you use - write and complain. It seems that that is the only way - at least with P&O. Maybe if a few thousand single ladies write and complain they might (fingers crossed) re-think their policy.