Thursday, July 21, 2005

St. Petersburg - Day 1

Day started very early. This is the second day that we had to set our watches ahead; with the two hour difference and the 6:45 start we were all somewhat tired. But this is St. Petersburg! Vast, monumental, colourful, opulent, but dowdy, this is a city that needs time to explore. But we only had two days. Our guide, Alla, packed in an enormous amount of sight-seeing, history and culture into the little time we had.

St. Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great. He grew up in Moscow (and I mean grew – he reached 6’8”). He found a boat that had been given to Ivan the Terrible by Elizabeth I, fixed it up himself and dreamed of starting a Russian fleet. He eventually did, after travelling incognito to England and Holland where he observed the ship-building (both merchant and navy) industries worked. On his return, he encouraged the Russians to adopt more European styles – no beards, European clothing - and hoped to build a city that would be a “window on Europe”. After winning some land from Sweden on the Baltic, he started to put his dream into reality. St. Petersburg is said to have been built on people’s bones as many died in its construction due to primitive conditions, limited food, disease from the flooding of the Neva delta, the difficult climate and very long working hours. First to be built was the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress. Peter, himself built a small house for himself, which still stands, though it is encased in a brick structure to preserve it.

We started our day driving to a spot near St. Isaac’s Cathedral by the statue of Peter the Great, also known as the Bronze Horseman. What is remarkable about this statue is the the horseman is only supported by the back legs of the horse (usually a sculptor will have the tail as a third support). The statue was designed by the same architect who designed St. Isaac’s Cathedral (August Monferrane) but sections were created by different sculptors. After taking a bit of time for photographs, we moved on.

St. Petersburg is built on the Neva and Fountain rivers. Our next stop was a cruise on the rivers and canals. We passed the many palaces and gardens. The colours of the buildings are striking. Alla explained that they have to be painted every three years. We passed under a number of low bridges. Even the bridges on the Neva are low. All freight traffic takes place at night when the drawbridges are raised. From midnight to 3:00 incoming vessels enter and from 3:00 to 6:00 traffic goes the other way. We cruised near the Aurora, a battleship famous for firing a blank shot in 1917 to signal to the rebellious forces to storm the palace. This was the start of the Russian Revolution.

After our cruise we went to see the Bronze Horseman, the monument to Peter the Great, commissioned by Catherine the Great. She, a German Princess, wanted to establish her right to the Romanov throne and so was making connections between herself and Peter the Great. The scuptor wanted to depict him as a lawmaker and not as a soldier. This is one of the many monuments where newly married brides and grooms go and pose for photographs. We saw some when we passed the monument later.

Next stop - the Hermitage. It is said that if you stopped for a minute before each item in the museum you would need 11 years to see them all. With only 2 hours we did a speed tour. We went through some of the rooms of the former Winter Palace. The opulence and excesses are extreme. The floors have incredible parquetry, each room with a different pattern. The ceilings have elaborate designs. The beginnings of the art collection stem from Catherine’s time. She was a voracious collector, sending emmisaries to buy out complete collections from people around Europe. She kept the collection for her own private viewing. The visit is something of a blur. We stopped before paintings of Rembrandt and Rubens. We looked in a loggia with a copy of Rapael’s frescos (his were in plaster, these are oil on canvas). We had a quick look at paintings of the impressionists and then it was lunch time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Helsinki is known as the Daughter of the Baltic. We got onto the bus with our guide Eero. As we left the dock he pointed out Finland's shipyards which are one of the largest in Europe along with some in France and Germany. Finland was part of the Swedish Empire from 1155 - 1809. After the War of Finland it was annexed to the Russian Empire as an autonomous duchy under Grand Duke Alexander I. A diet was signed in Porvoo in 1809 and Finland remained part of Russia until 1917 when it declared its independence. Both Finnish and Swedish are national languages.

We drove through the city and passed the Museum of Contemporary Art. Outside was a sculpture of a large head with red hair. It is the head of government of Finland, Daria Hallonan - quite amusing.

Our bus took us into Helsinki where our first stop was at the monument to Sibelius.It looks like organ pipes and apparently when the wind blows through it makes an unpleasant sound. It is supposed to represent the voices of nature, the wind and the sea. Apparently people were not pleased by the monument which is quite large so an addition was made off to the side - the head of Sibelius without ears as he did not need ears to hear the music in his soul.

Finland was at war with Russia in 1940. From 1941-44 German soldiers came to help in their fight. Because Germany lost the war and Finland fought on their side against the USSR, Finland had to pay reparations, which they did. In addition they had to give the Eastern part of Finland to Russia.

We drove on to Porvoo, a small town which was founded in 1346. We drove through the countryside which is similar to Southern Quebec. The wildflowers are the same as you would find at home. Porvoo has about 42000 inhabitants. The name comes from borg meaning castle and o (?) meaning river - so the castle by the river. There is a Lutheran cathedral at the top of a hill reached by a steep cobblestone - and I mean stones - street. The stones are fairly large and round and stick out from the sandy soil. There is no mortar between the stones. There was a service taking place when we arrived, so I only glanced in. I wandered through the market square and through the small streets filled with shops.

We drove to Kiiala Farm for lunch where we were served in a lovely old building. The farm has Charolaix cows. We ate some interesting spicy beef patties and roesti potatoes, lovely tarts for dessert an then took a stroll. Leaving the farm we travelled on some small unpaved country roads. It was nice to see the countryside.

Some facts -
At midsummer eve it is common to have bonfires.
Finnish people eat a lot of fish (salmon, rainbow trout, white fish, herring) as well as reindeer meat and elk. The kitchen is influenced by both Swedish and Russian styles of cooking.
On weekends the family often goes together to the sauna.

We drove through Helsinki passing the railway station (designed by Saarinen), the Estates - the office of the prime minister. We stopped at Senate Square which is dominated by Uspensky Cathedral (also known as the wedding cake church). Although the church is Lutheran, it has four towers, like an orthodox church. To go in there is a staircase - very steep and many steps. As you stand at the bottom you feel quite small. The cathedral is Lutheran and so is quite plain inside. We heard someone practising the organ while we were there. The view from the top of the stairs is lovely - you can see over the buildings, the market and out to the port. Some of the buildings around the square were designed by the same architect - Engel. Most of the other buildings on the square are government buildings. Then "shopping time" - (a must it seems for every excursion) in the Market Square, which was fun to wander through. Nearby is the sculpture of the "Daughter of the Baltic" - a name Helsinki is known by.

Our next stop was the Temppeliaukio Kirkko or the Church in the Rock. This is truly an amazing place. It was built in the late 1960's by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and is hewn out of solid granite. The walls are the natural granite, the ceiling is a copper dome surrounded by windows that look at the sky. The place is simple and yet very spiritual. It was built as a non-denominational church. I found this place to be quite breath-taking and would love to be there when a concert is being played. Truly a remarkable place.

Back to the ship....

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More Stockholm

After the Vasa Museum we went for lunch in a lovely restaurant. The food was only typically Swedish in that we got lingen berry sauce on our chicken. It reminded me a bit of cranberry sauce. After lunch we drove around a bit.

Some facts:
We passed the city's first hospital. When it was founded there were 8 beds - 7 for men and one for women
We passed a streetcar with a coffee cup on top. It is a rolling cafe - you can get on, have a coffee and watch the city pass by.
Vikings take their names from Vik - meaning bay. They used to get together with their friends and travel from bay to bay.

The Old Town
We walked through the streets of the old town. The streets still follow the plan of the original city of the middle ages. In the centre of the old town is a square in which there is a fountain. All distances to Stockholm are measured to this point. The fountain in the square was the city's original water supply. A bloody incident happened there in 1550 when the Danes took over Sweden. The King of the Danes invited 100 Swedish noblemen to the a dinner and then had them arrested and beheaded in the square. One escaped and organized his countrymen to start a rebellion. It took 3 years but they defeated the Swedes. He became the first modern king of Sweden. The Nobel Prize museum is located on this square. It was originally the Stock Exchange built in the 1700s.

It is interesting to walk through the narrow streets, though it is now mainly tourists and shops that you see.

Vasa Museum

How can I describe the Vasa Museum? In 1628, the king of Sweden - Gustavus Adolphus commissioned the construction of a warship to fight the Poles. In those days there were no plans made - a good shipbuilder knew what to do, designed the ship as he went along and people built it under his direction. When the king saw the ship he thought it should be higher. The shipbuilder said it would be too heavy, but the king insisted and we all know that kings get their way. So an extra deck was added complete with cannons. The day the ship was launched with bands and much fanfare, it moved into the water and within 10 minutes it listed and then sank in Stockholm harbour. One story - someone was behind a tree when the ship launched and when he turned back the ship was gone. He was said to have exclaimed, "that was one fast ship!"

Because the Baltic is not as salty as the ocean, worms that usually eat wood cannot survive. Thus the ship remained, incredibly well-preserved on the harbour bed. In the 1950s someone researched this ship and decided to try to find it. He went out into the harbour, taking core samples and struck, not gold, but old oak. The ship was found. But how to get it up? We saw a film about how they got cables underneath it and raised it between 2 barges. The result is an amazing artifact that takes up a whole museum. The hull came up intact and they were able to reconstruct the ship. This ship was meant to impress. It was originally brightly painted - no camoflage in those days. By taking samples of the bits of remaining paint they were able to restore some of the many statues and carvings to their original hues. The carvings are amazing. Some of the ship's ropes are original. Chests were brought up that had not been opened since the ship sank; they contained clothing, shoes, etc. They are in amazing condition.We learned about life on a ship, saw the many things brought up with the ship and gawked at the ship itself from different stories of the building.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


An early start- we had to meet at 6:45 to disembark, so we had breakfast in our room. We anchored off Nynashamn and had to be taken to shore on boats (tenders). It was a short trip and quite pleasant. ONce there we boarded buses for the trip into Stockholm (about 40 minutes). The landscape resembles Quebec in many ways. The wildflowers, the trees could all be found in Quebec. Stockholm, however, is not Montreal. Our tour guide, Joachim, was very knowledgeable with a dry sense of humour, and very good looking. It was a delight to spend the day with him.

It seems that Swedes are avid golfers. There are many courses with almost 1 million golfers out of a population of 9 million Swedes.Stockholm, alone has about 50 golf courses. On the drive we passed lovely wooded areas. Sweden has the law of common access. Although the land is all privately owned, anyone can have access, picking berries, mushrooms (according to Joachim all are edible but some only once!).

Stockholm is situated on a number of islands knit together by bridges. It sits between a lake and the Baltic Sea. We passed the entrance to what looked like a parking lot carved into a cliff. Apparently it is a bomb shelter large enough to hold 30,000 people. Our first stop was the City Hall which is also the site of the Nobel Banquet and ball. There are about 200 rooms; we saw 2. The building was designed to feature the craftsmanship and materials of Sweden, so there is a lot of variety from room to room.The architecture is considered to be National Romantic eclectic. The building was inaugurated in 1923. The first room we saw was the Blue Hall, which was originally supposed to be an open air atrium, but which the architect decided to cover with a roof. The walls were supposed to be painted blue hence "Blue Hall" but the architect decided he liked their natural colouring so the Blue Hall is not blue at all. This room is used for the banquet of the Nobel Cermony. Our guide said that this is an important day in Sweden. Everyone watches the ceremony which is televised including the dinner and dancing. His family prepares a special dinner and sets table in front of the TV. When they serve the salad, his family eats salad. When it is time for the main course his family has the main course and when the dancing starts they dance in their living room. What a great idea! The stairway up to the ballroom is one of the easiest I have ever climbed. It seems to be ergonomically perfectly designed. The ballroom is huge - covered with gold mosaics (over 19 million tiles) which is an allegory of Sweden's history. On one side is the Melaran Queen (Malaran is the lake on which Stockholm sits) who welcomes the world.

Stockholm - stock means log and holm is island. There was a log barricade built around the island where the first settlement was - hence Stockholm. We drove around and then went to the Vasa Museum. More about this in the next post.

A day at sea

This being a day at sea gave us time to get to know the boat more. A newsletter lets us know what is happening each day and today there was lots - most of which did not interest me. There were illustrated lectures of note. We went to one on Stockholm which helped us know more about what we would be seeing as well as introduced us a bit to the history of Sweden. June stayed for a lecture on Faberge eggs, Matrioshka dolls etc.while I went and walked - 20 times around the track for 2 miles. It gets a bit boring, but the sea air is lovely.

I am still awed by the size of the ship. We are on Emerald deck which is the 8th floor - I think it is the first floor of staterooms. On floors 5 - 7 are the main restaurants, the theatre, the casino, bars, a library, a card room, stores.... The pools are on 14 as well as another dining room while the spa and gym are on the 15th floor. The "16th" is open air and that is where the track is for walking or running. We had lunch and then went to a lecture on St. Petersburg which was very well done. Afternoon tea - ahh life on a ship is tough and then time to relax a bit, get on the Internet and catch up a bit on news in the real world.

So I spent my birthday at sea. June had arranged for flowers in our stateroom (it's a good thing my birthday was at the beginning of the trip) and they are just gorgeous.

This evening was "formal" night so we put on our fancy clothes. Some people take this quite seriously. You could have formal portraits done and the lineup for them did not end until after 10:00. I know all you readers will be disappointed to know that we did not have one taken. Dinner is always at shared tables. It gets a bit tiresome to repeat the "and where are you from". Unfortunately, ignorance of the world on the part of Americans has been confirmed. So dinner conversation has not been scintillating. After tomorrow we will at least be able to discuss the things we saw during the day. After dinner, which was quite delicious, we went to the show. It was quite well done (though I was very tired and missed a bit), but not really my taste. Then to bed......

Friday, July 15, 2005

And we're off...

Another wonderful day. After breakfastr we set out exploring again. Danny's friend, Peter, from Copenhagen sent us his recommended walking tour. He was out of town or he would have taken us himself. His instructions and descriptions were excellent. We took a bus toward Osterport station. There are beautiful parks and water goes through several parts of the city. It makes for a very liveable city. We walked near the Citadel - there are still soldier's barracks. This is part of the old fortifications, which are now a park as well. We walked through and then down to the water and saw the Little Mermaid up close. A woman had a cart and was selling fresh peas. It made for a delicious snack as we walked. After passing a lovely garden, we got to the Gefion Fountain. Peter's e-mail explained that it embodies a legend of a mother who was promised as much land as she could plough out of Sweden in one night. She turned her 4 sons into exen, hitched them to a plough and dug up an area resembling Sealand, the island on which Copenhagen sits. We passed the English Church (St. Alban's), the Freedom Museum which tells the story of the Danish Resistance, to the square of Amalien Castle. The squares are a special part of Europe - gathering places, people places. From this square, a circle actually, you could see the Marmor Church (marble church) an imposing structure with a domed roof. On the square itself is the old opera house. We turned left and walked through the Amalie garden with its lovely fountain and then walked along the warterfront to Nyhavn. This was once a seedy area but it has become a tourist haven with cafes and upscale restaurants. We ate outside - more smoked salmon - and enjoyed people-watching for a while. Then we headed for the Kongens Nytorv (the king's square). There was an interesting monument - a core sample going back thousands of years. You could see remnants of the cultures that lived in different eras. From here we went to Stroget, the oldest pedestrian street in the world. Upscale stores (Armani, Georg Jensen...) rub shoulders with American fast food spots. We spent some time in one store that featured Scandinavian glassware and other housewares. I love to look at the clean lines of the pieces. This is really the household style I love the best. We decided to forego the Round Tower (hundreds of steps to walk to the top) and went instead to the square near the court house where we enjoyed good European coffee.

Back to the hotel and off to the ship. It is hard to imagine the size of the ship - long, high - like a piece of a city on water. It was even more overwhelming as we went inside. There are certainly many crew who directed us each step we went inside. Our stateroom, on Emerald deck is quite nice. We have a window with a "restricted view" which means there is a lifeboat outside and the top of it comes to the bottom of our window. We can still see out and it is certainly less claustrophic than being without a window. We do see daylight and daylight here is about 18 hours. The ship is a study in excess. I am a bit cowed by it. There are a lot of people and a constant push for people to spend money - in the shops, which spill out into some of the public spaces most of the day and evening, on photographs, drinks, the Internet, art work, at the spa.... You name it. We explored the ship a bit, went through the saftey lecture (what to do in an emergency, how to put on life jackets) and then went for dinner where we were seated with other people. We are definitely among the younger folks on the ship. There are some younger than us, as well, but many over 70s. June went out to watch the ship leave the harbour. I stayed and chatted with our table mates. I hope I get different people at the table this evening. I wandered the ship a bit looked at the swimming pools, found the walking / running track and then spent my life-savings using the Internet. June and I did not go to the show, but sat and chatted about our impressions

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Copenhagen - day 2

What a day!. jWe had breakfast (included in the price of the hotel)0utdoors and then strolled around the old part of Copenhagen. Then to the tourist office where we met none other than Hans Christian Anderson, looking remarkably good for someone who is 200 years old. He was leading a walking tour which we joined. He was well-informed. Copenhagen was founded in the 12th century by Absalom. The site was chosen for the natural harbour.
We started at the town hall where the name of every king and queen of Denmark is represented on the wall. Once out on the square we saw a sculpture of 2 Norsemen playing the lur, an ancient metal horn. We saw real ones later in the National Museum. They were used for sacred recitals and were at least 3000 years old. We continued on to the old debtor's prison and then the square near the old courthouse where we were treated to gammeldansk, a Danish alcoholic drink somewhat like compari. From there we wwent in the area near Christianborg - now the parliament, the state dining-room and the prime minister's office. Then there is the library from the 1600s. The garden behind had a nice fountain with a statue of Kierkegard nearby. He now has to deal with his angst in all weather, watching the water jetting up and splashing down - getting nowhere, with no purpose.
On past the old stock exchange - the oldest in the world, built in 1620. A spire of 4 intertwined dragons guards the exchange. It seems dragons are good at guarding gold and virgins (don't know how many of the latter were at the exchange). Took a bridge over the inner harbour and saw the new library - a modern structure which is made partly of Zimbabwean black marble which reflects the water.

Those are the highlights. We bought lunch at a bakery. I have never seen such a variety of Danish pastry. We feasted with our noses.

We then went back to Christianborg for a tour. We had to don slippers over our shoes to preserve the floors. This is a strictly NO SMOKING area, particularly because this is the 5th palace. The original was built in the 1200s. Then a second was destroyed in war. The third was built by King Christian - hence the name: Christianborg. It burned down, was rebuilt and burned down a second time. The latest was constructed in the early 20th century. The stables and indoor riding arena survived the second fire. All this to say that there is good reason for the NO SMOKING. However - one person is allowed to smoke an that is the queen, herself. Apparently she is a heavy smoker and when she is around, there are many ashtrays available.The palace is opulent and we visited several rooms - anterooms, dining-rooms, etc.
1) There is a set of 17 tapestries which were made for Queen Margrethe's 50th birthday. (they arrived 10 years later as they took 60 people 10 years to weave them). They are quite extraordinary. They tell the history of Denmark in vibrant colours, images and symbols. Each tapestry uses images and icons from the period in history it represents. The 20th century one includes episodes from major events in the century, portraits of world leaders as well as Danish leaders and people who were influencial in a variety of fields, again both from Denmark and other parts of the world. It would take a long time to see and absorb all the details in each tapestry.
2) There is a large painting done in the late 1800s representing the Danish Royal Family. The king at the time ( I think it was Frederik) was known as the father-in-law of the European monarchy. I cant' remember all the connections, but I'll try. He had 3 daughters and 3 sons. One daughter married Edward VII of England, 1 married Alexander II of Russia (she didn't like him too much) and the third married ( I can't remember). One son became king of Greece (they didn't have monarchs so they imported one) another was offered to become king of Bulgaria but he refused because they were often at war with Greece. He married a French countess who loved to help out at fires. She was an honourary firefighter and would don a helmet and rush away whenever she heard a fire alarm. The oldest son, of course, became king of Denmark. The royal families are so interconnected. Because we got so steeped in British history when I was growing up, I had always looked at it from the British side and there were many interconnections, but this one painting sure illustrates it.
3) Some things were reescued from the palace the second time it burned. One craftsman used wood from the bannisters to make legs for the tables which are in the second dining-room. It also contains 2 magnificent chandeliers which wre stolen from Poland by Sweden andf then given as a gift to Denmark.

We saw much more on the tour - but you will have to visit yourself.

After the palace we went to the National museum but fatigue only allowed us to see part of the ground floor - the oldest history of Denmark. While there were many interestingthings (largeboulders with runes, a 2000 year old chariot, glasses, pottery...) it was also quite ghoulish. There were a number of bodies in thousands of years old coffins and cases with body bits - skulls, leg bones, arm bones, illustrating some archaological fact. The scientist in me is curious, but the humanist greatly prefers the other artifacts. Finally we could walk no more and went back to our hotel to rest. With careful planning (and slightly lower temperatures) the temperature in the room was bareable and we rested.

Later we went to sit in a square just soaking in the atmosphere - taking time.

For dinner we ate in an outdoor cafe - agian with blankets provided. We tried the Danish fish platter - typical Danish fare - fried fillet of fish with a mustard mayonnaise, shrimp with a dollop of sour cream and caviar,fried pickled herring, smoked salmon and some salad. It was quite nice and the one plate was plenty for both of us.

Next stop: Tivoli. It was delightful. You could spnd a fortune there for rides and restaurants but we just enjoyed the concerts and entertainment that was part of the admission price. We ehard an orchestra play "Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen" (and we snag along quietly to ourselves) a pantomime show with some lovely dancing, a swing orchestra with 2 singers who alternated (they were very good) and finally a spectacular display of giant 10 foot tall puppets from Hans Christian Anderson's stories (there was Danish narration that went with it, but my Danish vocabulary is limited to 2 words). The puppets were worn on the shoulders of the people who manipulated them. They had lights as part of the puppet and were just magical in the dark Copenhagen evening (started at 11:00 so it actually was dark). At times fireworks accompanied the anrration. We went home t6ired from a long day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wonderful, wonderful.....

I met June at Heathrow. She was waiting for me to come through security. All was fine at the airport and our flight was uneventful - at times lovely views. We arrived at the airport and splurged on a cab to the hotel. We are very well located - in walking distance to Tivoli and other attractions. In fact, when we came back to our room at 10:00, June pointed out a lovely ride you could see from the window. The seat of the ride slowly raised to the top of a structure which looks somewhat like a candle, but is several stories high. Then the seat (and all on it) is dropped to the ground and we can hear the screams (if they aren't masked by the buses and motorcycles). Sometimes the quarter hour peal of bells adds to the soundscape. But being near Tivoli has other benefits. Firesworks! I heard them and we moved closer to the window to watch - 3 rockets and then over - our front row seats no longer a bonus.

When we first came to the hotel, the room had been baking all afternoon - quite a sensation after travelling. However, the hot sun was perfect for drying the bit of handwash I did upon arrival.

Copenhagen was unusually hot (around 30C). We walked over to the tourist office to get information and then went to a nearby Internet Cafe to inform our families of our safe arrival. This Internet cafe is also a serious gaming place. We were two misplaced females over a certain age in a room full of testosterone pumped males under 30 playing video games.. Smokers welcome. But we fulfilled our missions.

Our next destination - a canal boat tour. We wandered through the streets to the nearest stop on the route. Out on the water was much cooler than in the sun on a plaza. We enjoyed the cool breeze and the leisurely pace of the tour. We saw so many things - churches, the new opera house, the parliament buildings, the Roayl barge, the Little Mermaid (who is indeed, quite little), many sailboats of all qualities and sizes, an area with houseboats, colourfully painted buildings - some to be visited more closely tomorrow. After a delightful tour we found a cafe with outdoor tables (blankets available) and ordered what we thought would be a modest salad with smoked salmon. What arrived was a large plate with nice greens, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and the best smoked salmon I have ever eaten - all bathed in a delicate but piquante mustard dressing. Ahhhh.... sitting in a cafe on a quitet street, by the canal, taking time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

castle tour

On Monday, Gerry and I went to Arundel Castle. It is the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, who still live there. Parts of the castle are open and others not. It is part medieval castle, part manor house. The medieval part was quite interesting. Hard to imagine living under those conditions. The commode would be enough to convince me modern life is good. The views from the top were splendid. Arundel is not a large town and it is surrounded by bucolic scenes.

What is odd about the place is that much of it was built or rebuilt in the mid to late 1800s. The money that must have gone into it is hard to fathom. It is also hard to imagine the money that is needed to keep up this kind of lifestyle. There was some interesting history. One of the dukes was Thomas Howard - uncle of both Anne Bolyne and Catherine Howard. He had a high position with Henry VIII which he lost when Catherine Howard was found to have been unfaithful. Cromwell used the chapel to house part of his army during the civil war. There is a burial sarcophagus on which the heads of all the angels are missing - ostensibly knocked off by Cromwell's troops. The Howards managed to keep their Catholic religion. The church on the site is mainly Church of England, but the back part remains Roman Catholic.

The grounds are extensive - well worth a visit.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


This post covers a couple of days - part of my time in Brighton and the area around it. On the train I happened to sit beside a London policeman on his way home from work. He had been working for over 24 hours and had witnessed "things no one should ever have to witness". You have to admire the people who have been on the front lines of this crisis.

I have done a lot of walking here.
Went to Chichester and saw The Government Inspector by Gogol. It was well-acted. I am still trying to sort out the play.
Went to Evensong at the Cathedral. This was amazing. We sat in the "quire" with the choir boys right near us. The service was ethereal, peaceful, beautiful. This is a wonderful experience.

Today we went to have lunch in a country pub - The Tiger in East Dean. One of Gerry's colleagues and some visitors to the Institute from Mexico joined us. After lunch we took a long walk (about 4 - 5 miles) on the Downs. It was wonderful. You just walk through countryside, past the farm animals, wild flowers etc. We walked to the coast where the cliffs are chalk. The hills are called the Seven Sisters. We walked up one "Beachy Head" where the views were magnificent. It was a glorious day - sunny and warm. We stopped at a sheep farm for tea. Tired but feeling good.

It has been good to spend time with my brother.


Friday found me in Richmond - a short walk away from Kew Gardens. My niece, Tendayi and I set off to spend some time there. It is a wonderful place to walk. The trees alone, make the visit worthwhile. I have never seen such variety. We passed one that looked like a mountain of branches. You could not see a trunk - just branches cascading down from somewhere. It was a weeping beech. We looked more closely and you could have held a wedding under the canopy created by the branches!

After a lovely lunch in the Orangery, we wandered through some of the greenhouses. The waterlily house was amazing. I remember reading about lily pads that could be 5' across. Well - there they were, truly amazing. There were leaves with designs that looked like they were painted on them, diverse textures of leaves and breathtaking flowers.

There was a special exhibit of glass at Kew. There were pieces here and there, but the temperate greenhouse was full of them - growing from the ground as if they were plants, hanging from the ceiling and floating on the water. Some were quite bizarre. I liked the effects of others. Pictures will be posted when I get back.

Nature heals as does family. I felt refreshed.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

What a difference a day makes

What a surreal day! I arrived at Victoria Station at around 9:30 on my way to meet my niece. There was a constant beep (like a truck backing up) and the gates to the tube were closed. Police were saying there was a power problem on the tube. People wre milling around, most with cell phones trying to contact people. I had to try to reach my niece and my first thought was also to try to get a bus. Getting through to anyone was a challenge as the whole of London was trying to use telephones. As I was on the phone I heard the announcement that all buses were not running as well as the tube. This was not a power surge! I only managed to send a voice mail to my niece and then decided to try to find an Internet cafe. When I asked a shopkeeper for directions she asked if it was true there had been bombs on the tube. The G8 - of course it was the perfect time for idiots to target London.

Went back to the B&B and found out about an Internet cafe further from Victoria Station. Who wants to be near a target? Walked there and e-mailed home. Susie had already e-mailed me with information so at least I was able to get in touch with her.

It's hard to be alone in a city in chaos. While my B&B was quite nice, I had no phone and felt quite isolated. The proprietor let me use her phone, but I still was not able to reach anyone. Watched the news for a while. Unbeknownst to me Tendi had come to the B&B, but the doorbell wasn't working and she waited around, probably not more than 10' from where I was watching TV. I am very pround of my niece. She is a St. John's Ambulance volunteer. All volunteers were called up so she went to Hyde Park and later to Paddington Station.

At around 1:00 I realized I should eat and walked to Victoria Station because I could pick up some healthy food at Sainsbury's. The station was shut tight. Police were everywhere and people were hanging about outside int he rain, talking on mobiles, aurrounded by luggage. Back I went towards the B&B, tried calling again to no avail and then back to the Internet cafe. Another message from Susie telling me Tendi was going to my place (too late!) but I raced back just in case. A short while later, Susie arrived. She had cycled in from Richmond. I was in no danger, but it was such a relief to see someone I knew - not to be alone.

The rain had stopped and Susie and I went to a hotel for lunch (it was now 3:00.). We passed the station on the way and it was still closed. Somehow sunshine makes things feel better (as does food). We lingered over lunch with many phone calls from Gervase and Tendi. Both kept us informed as to what was happening. Tendi was able to hear the police radio from her vantage point, so we had up to date information. By the tiem we left the hotel, some buses were running and Victoria Station was open. The plan was that I would go back to Richmond and spend the night there. Gervase met us (Vicoria Station was once again closed only to be opened again a short while later) We walked to the station to get a train - an overland train, not the tube. It was eerie. There were few people in the station, which is normally buzzing with activity.There was barely a queue for tickets and we were able to catch a train quickly (with suitcases, Susie's bike..) to Clapham Junction and then quickly got another train to Richmond. What a relief to be out of the centre of London.

I was drained from doing nothing. I cannont imagine those who experienced the terror. Susie worked for many years at the Institute of Education and now works near there. Both are near the Russel Square Staion. Six of her former colleagues were caught in tube trains. Fortunately none sustained more than surface injuries. Her good friend got a phone call from one of them and she went down to see if she could help. She spent the day helping out the injured. What courage.

So that's how I spent my day - not eventful, but feeling helpless.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Wednesday - London is jubilant

On Wednesday I set out for the Victoria and Albert Museum where I saw a very interesting exhibit on the Arts & Crafts movement. It was very well laid out - with items, photographs projected on screens ... going from England to the US to Western Europe to Japan. In both England and the US the movement was spearheaded by architects who got involved in furniture-making, pottery, jewellry etc. I loved the work of Gimson, especially a set of fireplace tools, as well as the houses in Windmere (amazing hand carved woodwork and ceramic tiles), Frank Lloyd Wright's designs and furniture, Lunch in the V&A cafeteria which is like a museum piece. One room was completely designed by William Morris. A lady from Switzerland joined me. She is an art historian and we had a nice chat.

After lunch I toured through some of the exhibits (the museum is large) and then went walking. Every newsagent had signs outside proclaiming London's win of the 2012 Olympic games. People were jubilant. I strolled through Kensington, enjoying the city. I finally had to buy a map as London streets are a challenge. Found my way to Harrod's. They were having a sale and the place was mobbed - still out of my price range. Tube home for a bit of a rest and then I went off to the Southbank. I read, sitting on a park bench for a while, but it was a bit too windy. I met Susie for dinner. We had a lovely dinner and then went to Queen Elizabeth Hall to see Flavio, a Handel opera. The staging was bizarre, but the singing was excellent. I particularly enjoyed the instrumentalists as well. Act 1 had no notable arias, but the music got better in acts 2 & 3. A delightful evening. We walked across the bridge to Embankment Station and took the tube home.

Walked many steps today!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Taking Time

An uneventful flight to London. I reached my B&B which is well located. Nothing special, but the hostess is nice.
Today I am taking time - something I don't do at home. Time for a walk, time for an art exhibit, time to sit over a coffee. Being in London again is amazing. It is a city I start to know quite well. The tube is no problem. I negotiate where I want to go - to Waterloo and then a lovely walk along the South Bank. It doesn't matte that is was cool There is a wonderful atmosphere - people aren't in a hurry except the joggers.

I sat in the cafe at the Tate Modern sipping a large cappuccino (needed the caffeine) after seeing an astonishing exhibit of Frida Kahlo's work. This was a very extensive collection - extremely well-presented. Her self-portraits are still my favourite, but it was an eye-opener to see some of her other work - graphic reactions to her miscarriage, explorations of Eastern beliefs, social commentaries. I sat at the cafe looking through a picture window - St. Paul's across the river digesting this powerful exhibit by a powerful artist.

Then more walking - just going where the spirit moved me. until I found this (Kinko's) place where I could add to my blog.

Hope to hear from the readers

Monday, July 04, 2005


Today's the day - still things to do, but I am nearly ready.
Do you want to see the view from the ship while we're on it?
Hit Go beside Bridge Cams. I checked it today. The ship is in Copenhagen. It departs for 10 days and will be back there on the 14th for us.

Some facts:
I will be travelling in 4 different time zones (1. England 2. Denmark , Stockholm, Gdansk and Oslo 3. Helsinki 4. St. Petersburg)

I'll be far north so the days will be long. In Stockholm the sun rises at 3:59 and sets at 9:48, Helsinki 4:27 and 10:25
Check out this site where I got the info.

More to come....

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ready, Set

Well, it's down to the wire. What to take, what to leave at home. Monday I leave for England to be joined by my travel buddy a week later. I'll try to keep up this travelog so anyone who wants to know what's up can follow my adventures.