Sunday, 29 June 2008

Cruisin'

Well hello there... my oh my, we have sooo much to tell you!
We've just got back from a truly amazing two week cruise in the Baltic Sea. I could waah on and on about how great it was forever really, but will try my best not to...
We left on the Celebrity Constellation (currently ranked by Conde Nast as the world's best large cruise ship - fancy, huh?) from Harwich, which is just on the other side of the river from Ipswich, so it was pretty handy for us. The sailing was super-smooth; to the point where, if I didn't know better, I would have thought we were on land pretty much the whole time, which was good, especially considering Kent's little motion sickness issue!
There's a huge dining room where a full-on 5 course meal is served every night, it looks like the sort of thing you might have seen on the Titanic, only our ship didn't sink, which was nice. We were at a table with 3 other couples, Steve & Steve from Florida, Gus & Terry, who met and married during WWII in France (she's French) and also live in Florida and Peter & Peter from Birmingham, one of whom is the cousin of one of my friends from work - it's a small world! We were a bit worried beforehand that we'd end up with horrible annoying people and have to sit with them for a fortnight, but needn't have bothered because the 8 of us got on famously.
Photos of the boat are here:

Our first port was Oslo in Norway, where we berthed literally across the road from a fortress... so far, so good. It's apparently the most expensive country in Europe, but as Kent keeps a fairly tight rein on the wallet, we didn't really notice... with the abundance of food on the ship, we didn't need to eat (and may never need to ever again!) during the day, so it was a pretty reasonable day trip. We braved the metro system and trams - man, I LOVE public transport in Europe, it's generally clean, quick and pretty reliable... and, London aside, quite reasonably priced.
We took in quite a few of the sights, including the Vigeland sculpture park, which was all kinds of weird - there were more naked-people-doing-bizarre-stuff statues than you can shake a stick at, some of the photos will give you an idea... From there we went to the Munch Museet, a museum dedicated to the work of Edvard Munch, who painted 'The Scream', which both of us have liked since we were quite young... to be honest, and this will make me sound a bit of a philistine, I didn't realise he had lots of other works. Both 'The Scream' and his other well-known piece, 'Madonna' were stolen from the museum in 2004 and not recovered until 2006, but they're just hanging there, on the wall, like any random painting you have in your house... they even let you take photos, unlike so many other museums.
After finding the requisite copy of Asterix in Norwegian, we headed over to Bygd√ły on a boat to see the Viking Ships museum, which contains 3 ships that were buried hundreds of years ago and unearthed from the late 1800's... it was just amazing, and some of the artefacts they found inside are pretty well preserved. The weather was just beautiful, sunny and warm, but not hot, so ideal for all the walking we did. Our final stop was the Armed Services museum, although as we arrived only ten minutes before it closed, it was a bit of a whistle-stop tour... which is a shame as there was quite a big collection on display, but we were a bit paranoid about making it back on to the ship in time - we didn't think it would be a good look to be running down the pier shouting and waving as it sailed away!
Our photos of the first day are here:

The next day was another Sea day, so a bit of a chance to sleep in, and wander around the boat, go to a lecture about the history of Berlin (the next port) and laze next to the pools in the sun - ahh, it's the life!
And that is part one of seven... I do hope you're somewhere comfy!
Love Kent & Eryn x

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Vive La France... finale!

Righto, where were we?
Yes, France, obviously... our final night in the castle was great - the weather was super; lovely and balmy, perfect for dinner in the huge garden, under the equally huge tree... more French food mmmmm.
Photos of the castle... and the feast etc here:
The weather packed it in that night, with a ferocious storm howling its way through Jaulny; pelting the biggest hailstones (proper big too - they were somewhere between the size of a large pea and a broadbean, not pathetic ones like we get at home) into our somewhat fragile window. This was accompanied by quite a large amount of precipitation, most of which, it seems, ended up inside our car, as we left the windows ajar the night before so it wouldn't be so hot. Kent remembered this as it was teeming down, and thoughtfully risked life and limb to wind them up; I pretended to be asleep... my hero!
The abysmal weather continued for our last day, which was mostly spent driving... We decided that forking out another €20 just for the privilege of driving on an extra-fancy motorway was a bit over the top, so we made-do with the fancy motorway that TomTom took us on... not realising it went through two other contries before it reached our ferry terminal... infact, had we blinked and missed the letter 'L' in an oval on a road sign, we might not have even realised we had driven into Luxembourg... the same goes for Belgium an hour or so later... ah border control, schmorder control!
It was lucky we did take that slight detour though (it was only 20 min longer than the toll route) as we hadn't managed to track down Asterix in Flemish on our earlier sojourn into Belgium - they'd sold out in the bookshop in Ypres! Surprisingly, there's no setting on TomTom for "find us a town that's big enough to have a decent bookshop, but small enough to find parking on the main street", so after a bit of hasty map-reading, we ended up in Poperinge, in Flanders, where we managed to unearth the blasted book from under about 200 copies of TinTin...
With that task ticked off, it was back to the Corsa, which by this stage had started to make a funny grinding-y noise...hmmmm... Oh well, let's just keep driving and see what happens...
Made it to the Dunkerque Ferry terminal in time, no smoke, or tears from the car - phew!
And here endeth our French trip, or "ad-French-ure" as I like to call it... looking forward to going back - it was just wonderful.

In case you're wondering, the funny noise continued all the way from Dover till we got home... it's evidently the noise your engine makes when it has NO OIL in it!
Oops, Kent's bad.
It's all better now... although we did run out of petrol on the way home from the Sex and The City movie (clearly, this wasn't Kent's first choice for entertainment) a couple of days later... we're thinking walking could be a good option from here on in!

Take care,
Kent & Eryn x