Saturday, September 13, 2008


Iceland is like no other place we visited. Its landscapes are breathtaking.

The fact that geothermal energy provides most space heating and a significant amount of electricity generation is a hint that this is an unusual place.

We took an eight hour bus excursion around the "golden circle" from Reykjavík.

Apart from the stark volcanic landscape we saw the Golden Waterfall, Gullfoss, and erupting hot spings at the Geysir geothermal area, before visiting the rift valley at Thingvellir.

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At Thingvellir the valley floor is subsiding because the North American tetonic plate is pulling away from the European plate. Our bus took just a minute or two to travel from Europe to North America.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ring of Kerry

We cruised gently around the Ring of Kerry in west Ireland, and saw not one tourist bus. More astonishing was that it didn't rain.

Sylvia found a pleasant shop in Kenmare. We also had a pleasant meal.

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Tower of London and the Cabinet War Room

For reasons that have yet to be explained, some people feel compelled to throw coins into ponds and fountains. At least here at the Traitor's Gate in the Tower of London, the money is collectedfor charity.

The WWII Cabinet War Rooms were facinating, particularly the Cabinet Room which, like many other significant rooms in the underground complex are just as they were at the war's end.

Room 63 was a secret room used by Churchill to talk by secure telephone line to Roosevelt.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

London again

Lyndal and Nick joined us on our outing to Hampton Court Palace.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sensory overload in New York

Frommers publish a helpful pocked guide to New York. They realise that negotiating what has been described as an urban theme park can be a bit distressing, so the guide includes a "tear-resistant" map.

Fortunately there were no tears for us. We just ran out of time in this fabulous place.

We stayed in the Midtown Comfort Inn on West 46th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway. Times Square, the most visited place on the planet, is a 3 minute walk.

We saw Mamma Mia on Broadway. What a hoot!

Manhattan from any vantage point is spectacular.

If the city iself doesn't overload the senses then the museums surely will.

This is a Picasso. It is among dozens in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, along what seems equal numbers of works by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, van Gough, Matisse and many others. No point in visiting the Tate in London to see the Turners: most are in the Metropolitan.

This is another Picasso, this one is at the Metropolitan.

Birds, Whales and Al Gore

This is a kittiwake. It lives on the open ocean, mostly far from land.

It was one of the birds we saw almost every day. Whilst it was impressive in flight, it was the fulmar that really caught my attention. I watched one keep station with the ship moving through a choppy sea and into a stiff breeze at about 17 knots. For twenty minutes or more this remarkable bird did not flap its wings, using instead the local air currents created by the wind and sea just above the surface, to perfection.

This is Danny Catt. Ecologist, photographer and teacher, he knows more than a little about the birds and marine mammals of the North Atlantic. His wonderful presentations were a highlight of the cruise. One of his challenges was to tactfully raise the matter of climate change and its dramatic consequences on the ecology of the north, not least on the polar bear which struggles to survive at the edge of its range because of diminishing sea ice. Republicans, for instance, apparently do not accept climate change nor their part in it. It is not rare for some of Danny's audience to walk out at the mention of Al Gore and his film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Danny encouraged us to look out for whales. We saw a pilot and a humpback, but sadly no blue whale was to be seen.

The bird below is a glaucus gull. These birds often escorted the ship into open waters, apparently curious about the passengers and the small fish that are stirred up by the ship's passage.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Sailing from Iceland we were ready for three days at sea before making landfall at Saint Johns, Newfoundland. What a pleasant surprise, then, to realise that the ms Eurodam was heading first to the southern tip of Greenland for “scenic cruising”. The Captain prepared us for disappointment should ice and weather conditions (fog) prevent us from entering the sound early the next morning. Ever hopeful your correspondent stumbled out onto the rear deck to be greeted by an iceburg at the entrance to the sound. Undeterred by this icy lump, and by patchy fog the Captain steered the ship into the sound and for the next 4 hours we were treated to extraordinary vistas.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mr Bergermeister

Alas, I have no images of Mr Burgermeister. He remains a man of mystery, but not without notoriety.

There is a loudspeaker in the bedhead of every cabin (sorry, stateroom) on the ms Eurodam. At 6:12am the Captain used this facility to encouage one Mr Burgermeister to contact him immediately. He didn't, so the Captained asked again at 6:30am. In the meantime the Captain turned the ship around and steamed 44 miles back towards the Faroe Islands to search for this man.

He wasn't found in the water, but somewhere on ship. According to the Captain, Mr Burgermeister was "found" but gave no further information. The ship turned to resume its course to Iceland.

There was not a little speculation on board over the fate of Mr Burgermeister. One of our dining companions that night was an 8 year old girl. She had heard not less that 4 versions, but sadly could only remember one: that he was found drunk somewhere other than his cabin.

Whilst there was no official announcement, the most widely circulated theories were that he either died, or was found drunk in the crews' lodgings on A deck, after a row with his wife. In any case he was apparently put off the ship in Iceland. His wife remained on board, but made no announcement. Some thought that he should be sent the bill for the additional miles steamed. The ship gets 70 feet to the gallon, so this would not be a small amount.

The Ship

The MS Eurodam is big and flash. This must be so because people, including your correspondent, keep taking pictures of her. Here she is at Warnamunde, Germany.

Sylvia was on board, reading.

Deck 3 is the promenade deck. It is for, well, promenading. One promenade around the ship is 500m.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Winchester Cathedral is big, really big. It is also wondrous, with amazing fan vaulted ceilings, and stunning stained glass. It is also quite old.

Possibly the most challenging job in the cathedral's community is the chair of the memorials committee.

Tomorrow we fly to Copenhagen to board Eurodam for our cruise. There might be a pause in blogging until we reach New York in late August.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

By the seaside

This morning we watched the rugby. I have nothing more to say about that, except that there is still one more game.

After the rugby we went on a family outing to Portsmouth. Amy and Gavin are in Phuket, so they couldn't make it. Ships of all sorts. From the Tudor Mary Rose, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, to current warships in the harbour. All facinating.

On board the HMS Warrior.

Jane Austen

We went to a lovely little village called Chawton to visit one of Jane Austen's homes. I went inside and it was great to see some of her letters, crockery, books and furniture. There were also samples of the clothing worn. This quilt was made by Jane, her sister and mother. I found it all fascinating. We also saw Chawton house and the local church.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Today is Thursday, this must be Bath

Bath is a masterpiece of urban design. John Wood (1704-1754) saw an opportunity to provide accommodation for London's chattering class, for their "season" in Bath. His genious, however, was to insist that builders used his facade patterns, and only local limestone (the same stone that was used to build Buckingham Palace).

The result is elegant medium density housing, four to five storeys, with not a detached bungalow in sight. My favourite is the Circus (1764) which was actually completed by John Wood's son; confusing also called John Wood.

Oh yes, there are also Roman baths, and very fine late gothic abbey, and a Pret (no image).

We took a 2 hour guided walking tour of Bath. Wonderful.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The Eurostar takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to travel beween London and Paris. It is quiet, comfortable and pretty fast (up to 300kph). This is St Pancras station in London.


Salisbury is magnificent. Not only the wonderful Salisbury Cathederal which dominates the town, but the old quarter surrounding the cathederal and the charming city centre.

This is a list of all deans of the cathederal, since 1092. The current dean is June Osborne. This seems to be a departure from tradition.

Romsey, Hampshire

I think I detected a hint of frustration in Beryl's voice today. In the main her directions from Gatwick (where we picked up the car yesterday) to our B&B near Romsey, Hampshire, were clear and accurate. Today, however, I think that she was troubled by our reckless determination to drive across fields to reach our B&B. It was, in fact a perfectly serviceable track but, hey, what does a SatNav know about tracks?

This aside Sylvia likes Beryl, and is happy to have her and her screen join us on journeys.

This is our B&B - Woodpeckers. Very comfy, with a delicious breakfast.

Romsey is small but beautifully formed. It has a rather old abby, and a pleasant town centre. We liked it.