Le Havre, France (9-9-18)

The final full day of this cruise brought us to the harbor of Le Havre, France. Le Havre, which lies along the English Channel on France’s western coast, is the common port of entry for big ships.

While Le Havre is an ancient and textured city, dating back to the 16th century, it was badly bombed during World War II.  

We decided to forgo the long bus trip into Paris (with a two hour ride both ways, we knew very little of Paris would be seen; beside, we’ve done Paris–see the “Europe In The Fall” blog we posted a few years ago). So, instead, we picked up a trip to Fécamp, France about 40 minutes away from port.  The Palais Benedictine, an architectural masterpiece of gothic and Renaissance inspirations is the location of the Benedictine Distillery. The home of the celebrated herbal liqueur is a magnificent gothic-style palace in this coastal town. Fécamp is just 20 minutes’ drive from Étretat, where Impressionist painters like Claude Monet painted canvases of the coastal scenery.

Our tour included a detailed view of the Palais’ rooms, a visit to the distillery (the only location making all three styles of Benedictine) and a master bartender who treated us to a cocktail making lesson. 

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Edinburgh, Scotland (9-7-18)

This was an unplanned day as far as scheduled shore excursions were concerned, but we managed to fill our time with wonderful sights and a detailed exploration of Queen Elizabeth’s decommissioned yacht the “Britannia.”

We were tendered to Queensferry where we hailed a taxi and headed straight to Her Majesty’s berth in Leith further down the coast. While the ship is no longer in use, it remains almost frozen in time, as if the Royal family were there entertaining world leaders or circumnavigating the world.

Halfway through our tour, we realized the Tea Room on board the main deck was opening; a perfect time for scones and a spot of tea!

Britannia’s tour ended in the spotlessly clean engine room and it was time to start our engines toward Edinburgh. Another taxi ride took us to the Shops of the Royal Mile and ‘The Castle’—Edinburgh’s main attraction.

Having spent so much time “on the yacht,” we decided to look out for an authentic lunch. But first, we took in the medieval and neoclassical beauty of Scotland’s capital, gracefully set among rocky hills and green ribbons of park. We browsed the Royal Mile—the famed avenue connecting the hilltop Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Every pub and restaurant seemed to be overflowing with patrons until we came upon a tiny dead-end side street and the quaint “Stocks Urban Bistro & Bar” at 24-26 St Giles Street.  The menu touched all the right spots for us and before long we were enjoying the muscles, linguini, mushroom soup, and vinaigrette salad.

After lunch, the other end of the Royal Mile was calling us to look at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This is another palace Queen Elizabeth frequents when she’s jaunting around Scotland. She must jump off her yacht and use her Reward Points to stay at these fabulous houses!!

It was getting on in the afternoon, so we decided to get back to Queensferry and board the tender for our return to the Royal Princess!

Tomorrow is the last of our sea days. We’re looking forward to our stop at Le Havre, France and excursion to the Palais de Benedictine in Fécamp—check back later, it should be fun!

Invergordon, Scotland (9-6-18)

Invegordon’s dock in Comarty Ferth was our pick-up spot for our private tour with Gavin Nicholson the owner of Invergordon Tours—(www.invergordontours.com).

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Gavin is the perfect host! We were treated to a whirlwind day packing as much as Gavin could give us and his selections were amazing. 

We started out with a stop Struie Hill viewpoint overlooking the nearby Dornoch Firth —

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Invergordon

then on to the Falls of Shin, after a quick nip of some fine Scottish whisky. We wanted to see the salmon run up the falls, but alas, they were hiding.

 

Our morning ended with a stop at two area distillers — Bilblair and a full tour of Glenmorangie.

 

After the tour we stopped for a ‘wee’ bit of lunch at a local restaurant. We were treated to the traditional Scottish dish of “Haggis.” It used to be made in a sheeps stomach pouch, but we think that practice has been “b-a-a-a-a-a-nd.”

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Haggis !!!

After lunch we scurried over to Dunrobin Castle for a look inside and on to a fascinating exhibition of Falconry as demonstrated by a local expert —

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Falconer at Dunrobin
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Dunrobin Castle

If that weren’t enough, Gavin continued our journey through the picturesque town of Dornock (pictures later) and then back to the cliffs of Invergordon.

 

Kirkwall, Scotland (Orkney Islands) (9-5-18)

Kirkwall is the capital of the Orkney Islands which sit between the Scottish mainland and the Shetland Islands to the north. The weather was partly sunny and nice in the upper 59’s to low 60’s. The ship provided a short 5 minute shuttle into town which we found charming and delightful.

We visited the central cathedral St Magnus. Known as “the Light of the North,” this cathedral was founded in 1137 by Viking Earl Rognvald in honor of his uncle St Magnus. Barbara was intrigued by the Norwegian influence in this part of Scotland.

Again, we found ourselves at lunch at the Orkney Hotel which had a wonderful menu of topical bar fare.

After more food than any of could put down, we peeked in a few mor shops before returning to the Royal Princess.

What would you rather have, a “Jab” or a “Shot”??? -(See Next Picture!!)
Scotch anyone?
Our tabletop at lunch!
A German mine removed from the waters around Orkney after WWII.
A tribute to St Olaf
Old man by the sea! 🤫

Glasgow, Scotland (9-3-18)

Today’s journey off the ship was relatively unplanned. We decided to sleep in a bit and wait until the larger crowds disembarked. The biggest decision we had was weather to take the train from our landing port in Greenock or a taxi into the central city of Glasgow. We voted on the taxi, not sure how punctual the train might be getting us back to port. As it turned out we made a good choice. We hired a young chap’s taxi and were whisked into town in less than half an hour. John dropped us off in St Mark’s Square and we were off for a day of shopping, a pub lunch and an hour and a half Hop-on/off bus tour.

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After our day’s exploration, John met us planned and we returned to the ship well before rush hour! We had plenty of time to freshen up before our scheduled wine tasting and dinner at the ‘Anytime Dining’ venue— the Symphony dining room!

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Belfast, Ireland (9-2-18)

We booked a private tour today which took us not only through the city, but also to Hillsborough, where Queen Elizabeth and family frequent when traveling in Northern Ireland. Hillsborough Castle is a beautiful example of royal living. 

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There was a time when the name Belfast raised an immediate red flag to visitors, but these days, political unrest or “the troubles” have greatly subsided. We found elaborate murals and other relics from those times as our driver drove us through those neighborhoods, but for the most part, Belfast is now seems as safe as any other European capital, and its new image is one of both progress and hospitality.

If you’ve been to Dublin, the differences between that city and Belfast may seem striking. Belfast, of course, is part of Northern Ireland, which itself is part of the United Kingdom; the Republic of Ireland is part of… just the Republic of Ireland. 
 The city has come a long way since the days of security checkpoints and armored patrols, and Belfast now appears poised to shed its unfortunate past and take its place among Europe’s new hot spots.

Another highlight of this day was the impressive “Titanic-Belfast” – a museum dedicated to the building, launch and ultimate demise of this famous ship.

 

Dublin, Ireland (9-1-18)

Saturday found us in the capital of the Irish Republic — Dublin. We had great fun telling new acquaintances when asked where we were from, “Why, from Dublin, —Ohio! of course.”

None of us had been to Dublin before, so we decided to take a quick turn around the important sights before heading to the most important sight, that is, the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery right in the heart of Dublin. They love this rich dark brew and do everything they can to get us to love it too.

Not far from our shuttle stop we found a location favored by the famous Dubliner, Oscar Wilde; and decided to have lunch.

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Cork, Ireland (8-31-18)

The Royal Princess docked in the port of Cobh (sounds like ‘Cove’) early this morning for our drive through Cork and a direct hit on our target, Waterford and Lismore. After a quick breakfast, we caught up with our group to board the bus to Waterford.

Cobh, as a port city, has a fascinating history.  More than 4 million emigrated from here, some of the first to arrive at New York’s Ellis Island.  Cobh was also the port which launched the ill fated Louisitania and maiden voyage of the Titanic!

Waterford is about an hour and a half drive north of port.  The Irish mist found us early and stayed with us most of the day. What would Ireland be without rain?

We were dropped off in front of the Waterford showroom and factory, which is quite impressive. The tour, after a well planned introduction, took us on a very up close and personal step-by-step process of making this famous and most beautiful crystal.

The pictures attached give and idea of some of the highlights. The tour ends, of course, in the showroom where customers, like us,  can browse and consider the sound of a draining credit card!! After the tour we had time to have lunch at a local pub before heading to Lismore.

Lismore was a relief spot on our way back to port. A quaint little town with a castle and town park. The locals were very friendly, especially at a well placed pub which served Guinness and well-flavored tonic water.

We returned to the ship in time for dinner, a trivia game show and Irish music in the central piazza.

More tomorrow, as we move on to Dublin (Ireland, that is!)—

St. Peter Port, Guernsey (8-30-18)

 

What a wonderful day we had exploring this delightful island in the English Channel. This post will be short as internet access is very limited at present. The pictures above are just a few of many. Barbara is holding a land mine salvaged from the coast of Guernsey after the German’s occupation of World War II. Guernsey and it’s sister island, Jersey, we’re the only British lands to be held by the Third Richt. Our 1954 retro tour bus was such a fun way to travel. We stopped by the ‘Little Chapel’ grotto covered with chards of China and porcelain.

Embark Southampton, England (8-29-18)

Passports out and our landing cards in hand, we traversed the maze of lines to have our passports checked and tWell the adventure has begun. After a slight delay leaving Columbus, we endured a 30 minute flight to Detroit in a stifling hot Delta commuter “cigar” airplane. To our delight, the Detroit airport had refreshingly cool air conditioning and a Mediterranean café next to our departure gate, so we had appetizers and beverages, of course.

Our Delta, flight #16, boarded right on time, we got settled and pushed away from the gate on schedule. Nothing much exciting happened over the course of our seven hour flight and landed just a few minutes late because they didn’t have a gate ready for us.

Passports in hand, we followed a never ending line of travelers through the UK boarder, then claimed our luggage. The Royal Princess representatives were there to meet us as we were assigned a bus for transport to the ship in Southampton. Not wanting to go hungry while on the bus we stocked up on sandwiches, snacks and canned Gin and Tonics to go!