March 11, 2023, just two days into our journey on the Viking Venus, we were treated to a breathtaking display of the Northern Lights as we sailed through the fjords towards Narvik. The shimmering green and purple hues of the aurora borealis left us speechless and in awe.
The next morning, we stepped off the ship into a winter wonderland, with snow-covered mountains and fjords stretching out before us. A panoramic bus tour of Narvik gave us a glimpse into the town’s history and culture, including a visit to the Narvik War Museum, where we learned about the town’s role in World War II and the Battle of Narvik. It was a sobering but fascinating experience, and we left with a newfound appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who fought for their country.
As we set sail once again, we couldn’t help but feel grateful for the chance to experience such natural beauty and learn more about Norway’s rich history and culture. Next stop Tromso Norway.
Our first sighting of the Northern Lights from the decks of the Viking Venus
March 7, 2023, we had only one full day in London before we boarded the Viking Venus to start our Northern Lights cruise to Arctic Norway. Having visited London in the past, we had seen most of the typical tourist sites, but have never ridden on the London Eye. We had booked tickets several weeks before on Trip Advisor so we could bypass any long lines.
Late afternoon we walked from our hotel, Conrad St. James in Westminster to the Eye, about 20 minutes walk. It was cloudy and cold and had been raining and snow showers earlier. We got the The Eye at about 5:15pm and the sky was brightening, we had no wait, right on board our pod and away we went, about 30 minutes to go around and what views!
Day 10 of our 2020 Viking Chilean Fjords & south America cruise on the “Viking Jupiter”. Another sea day in the South Atlantic as we sail north off the Patagonia coast.
Spent the afternoon on our veranda and the sundeck photographing the majestic sea birds as they glide effortlessly hundreds of miles from shore.
This day was Superbowl Sunday, so the ship put on a watch party on the pool deck. The Pool Grill and Pool Bar was serving “tailgate” specialties as we watched the Chiefs and 49’ers live on the big screen. Here we were in the South Atlantic, 5,000 miles from Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, watching the Superbowl live! Thank goodness for satellite communications!
We arrived in Prague on November 26th after a long overnight flight from Boston (via Munich). This would be our eighth Christmas Market trip since 2013. We visited Prague back in the Spring of 2019 at the end of a Viking Elbe River cruise and loved this beautiful, old European city. At that time, we thought it might be a good Christmas Market destination. Early this past Fall we decided to do another Christmas Market trip, and after some Internet research, we saw that Prague had high Christmas Market ratings, so the choice was made!
We arrived at out hotel mid-afternoon on Nov 26th, the opening day for the Old Town Square Christmas Market. Our hotel, the Ventana, was perfectly located near the Old Town Square and from our room we could see the square and the famous clock tower. Resting for a bit, we ventured out to the square to watch the lighting of the Christmas Tree at 4:30pm.
Wow, the crowd was huge, it was difficult trying to move around or get a decent spot to view the tree lighting. We attempted to walk around the Christmas Market but it was near impossible to get close to any vendor stalls for food, drink or crafts. We decided to find a proper restaurant for dinner and after checking out many crowded restaurants, we settled for one away from the square but not far from our hotel. All the restaurants were crowded, especially ones with large screen TV’s, you see, the World Cup was going on and we were in a soccer loving country!
The next days and nights the Christmas Markets would be crowded, but much easier to get around. At night the lights created such a magical experience. Christmas Markets at night are the best!
Stay tuned for more blogs on our Prague trip:
Visit to Prague Castle
Checking out other Christmas Markets around the city
Christmas Market foods
Tour some of the beautiful Prague Churches
Here are some images from the Old Town Square Christmas Market.
Prior to the Pandemic we had booked two cruises with Viking for 2020, one river cruise of the eastern Danube and one ocean cruise of the Mediterranean. Both cruises were cancelled as everything shutdown and we took cruise credits in hopes to reschedule. Well finally, cruising is restarting and we have rebooked our Mediterranean cruise for mid-October.
While COVID protocols for the cruise restart are a bit intimidating, we are ready and are so looking forward to getting back to traveling and cruising. We will start our cruise in Barcelona where we will embark on the brand new “Viking Venus”, launched earlier this year. This 13 day cruise will take us to ports on the French Riviera, Italy, Greece, and Croatia, ending in Venice. We opted for a 3-day post cruise extension to Lake Como, Italy.
Looking back at our past Viking Ocean Cruise experiences provides us with so many wonderful memories. It’s these past experiences that are fueling our excitement and eagerness to get back to cruising again.
This short video montage shows what we have missed about Viking Ocean Cruises and illustrates why we are so ready to get back onboard cruising again.
Check back to follow our Viking Venus Mediterranean Cruise
“Quick Pick” a Photo Essay series highlighting a specific place, moment, or event from our travels or everyday life.
Perkins Cove in the town of Ogunquit Maine is a charming harbor village, known for it’s small artist community, restaurants, shops and a small harbor sheltering a mix of lobster boats and pleasure craft.
These photos were taken during a sunset walk we took around the harbor in June of 2016. We did a weekend getaway in celebration of our 45th wedding anniversary. Ogunquit, Perkins Cove and the southern Maine coast are very familiar to us. It is only an hour drive from our home, and we had spent the first couple of nights of our honeymoon back in 1971 at nearby Cliff House resort before driving to California to start our new life as a married Navy couple.
It was a short walk from our accommodations at the Hartwell House Inn to Perkins Cove. As you walk along the narrow Perkins Cove Road, you started getting glimpses of the harbor between the grey weathered clapboard covered homes and shops. Once you pass Barnacle Billy’s restaurant, the harbor view opens up, the lobster boats on their mooring lines all pointing out to sea. A small floating dock in the foreground with a cluster of colorful rowboats.
We decided on a early, light dinner, so we would have time walk along Marginal Way and watch the sunset later in the harbor. Chowder and a Lobster Roll were what we were craving so we went the The Lobster Shack for a simple, low-key dining experience. Rustic picnic style tables, plastic plates and utensils, it was perfect. The Clam Chowder was rich and creamy, big chunks of clams and potatoes. The Lobster Rolls, toasted hot dog buns over-stuffed with buttered lobster meat, a small side of tangy cold slaw and chips. Topped off with house wine. Nothing fancy, but really good! The waiter’s tee-shirt asked the question… got tail?. Well, there was tail meat in the lobster roll, so yes!
We walked along Marginal Way after eating. Marginal Way is a public pedestrian walkway that is about one mile long, starts (or ends) at Perkins Cove and goes along the rocky shore all the way to the town of Ogunquit. The views are stunning looking out over the Atlantic with the rugged, rocky shoreline in the foreground. You pass in front of multi-million dollar ocean view homes and there are a few small coves with sand beach strips breaking up the mostly rocky shore. It was getting close to sunset, so a golden glow was tinting the scene.
Part Time Bridge Tender
Back at Perkins Cove, we walked on the foot bridge that crossed the narrow channel. This is a great location to photograph the boats in the harbor. This foot bridge is a draw bridge, which must be raised so boats can enter or leave the harbor. Anyone who happens to be on or near the bridge may be called on to open the bridge for approaching boats. A sailboat was returning from sea and the gentleman piloting the boat was blowing the whistle and calling on his bull-horn for someone to open the bridge. Well, I was near the operating switch, so it was my turn to open the bridge. Yelling for everyone to clear, I pushed the button as directed and the motorized winch raised the bridge, and our friends on the sailboat passed safely into the harbor, just in time for sunset.
Day Ends with a Stunning Sunset
Hope you enjoyed this “Quick Pick” photo essay. More to come, so please follow to get notifications when a new post is available. I’d be interested in your comments or questions, so please comment below. Thanks!
The Pandemic has taken a toll on our travel blog. Nothing to report since our last article in early March about our final days in Buenos Aires.
I thought it would be appropriate on this Veteran’s Day/Remembrance Day to share some of my grandfather’s writings about his experiences in World War One. I am fortunate to have inherited a treasure trove of his typewritten, hand illustrated stories.
ARMISTICE NOVEMBER 11, 1918
The following stories were written by my Grandfather, David Lee Wetmore who served in the Royal Canadian Dragoons cavalry regiment during World War One. He enlisted in Canada at war’s outbreak in August 1914 and served in France and Belgium fighting in battles that included Somme, Ypres, and Cambria. He returned to Canada in 1919 with his war bride (my Grandmother) he met in England.
The stories that follow were from typewritten pages, illustrated with his hand drawn sketches. He wrote these (and many more) during the 1940’s and 1950’s from his recollections. While these stories were not dated, they are obviously written about the events surrounding the Armistice while he was in an unnamed Belgian village. The French phrases in each story are my grandfather’s attempt at written French.
I was fortunate to find the daily war diaries of the Royal Canadian Dragoons on the Library and Archives of Canada website and can now provide the historical context of my grandfather’s stories. From these diaries, here is the timeline of the days leading up to 11 November 1918.
Nov 7…. Left Baralle (France) at 07:30 arrived at Cuincy (France) at 13:00 very dull day – men billeted in ruins of village – horse in open
Nov 8-9…. Left Cuincy at 06:00 arrived Martinsart (Belgium) 10:00 – men in buildings and horses in open
Nov 10…. Left Martinsart at 09:30 arrived at Peronnes (Belgium) at 20:00 – Belgians very pleased to see us
Nov 11… Left Peronnes at 08:00 – “A” Squadron left Flank Guard to the Division – Regiment leading with ??? – Brigade halted at Tourpes (Belgium) at 10:40 – Cease Fire sounded at 11:00 – Everyone overjoyed but rather sorry not to be actually in touch with the Bosche at the time – returned Westward and spent the night at Haut-Trieux.
In My Grandfather’s Words
OU FAIRE VOUS MESS’URE? We were following up the German retreat. The vaunted power of the Kaiser’s army was badly diminished, and a corporal and four men had been known to bring in a whole regiment of German prisoners.
An old soldier by this time, I knew enough to carry an extra blanket rolled in my greatcoat, as the army’s slogan “one man, one blanket” was proving badly inadequate on these chilly nights. My right hand mate had crawled under the blankets with me and we had spent the night fairly comfortably, then getting up and underway again with the dawn in the morning.
But as we began to pass through the villages, more and more we were asked the question “Ou Faire vous Mes’sure. Le guerre finis”. About noon we were off saddled in a field while the officers attended a ‘pow-wow’. Idly we lay around, caught up on our sleep or played cards, expecting any moment to get the order to saddle up and move. After having been asked the question several times that morning, the liaison officer passes us and I asked him whether he had heard anything of what the villagers were talking about. He replied that there was a rumor to that effect, but that it was, as yet, unconfirmed.
TRUMPETER We were sitting around waiting for orders when the Colonel came rushing out of a gang of officers who had been ‘pow-wowing’ all the time we were in there, at a telephone station, roaring for a trumpeter. Thinking that we were about to move out we all started scrambling around for our gear, when the trumpeter instead of the ‘Boots and saddles’ that we had expected, sounded ‘Cease fire’.
We were all so fed up and disgusted that for a moment, nothing happened. Le guerre, indeed, was finis. But just for the moment, it didn’t register, there was no outbreak of cheering, no demonstration of any sort. We were just so eternally disgusted with everything that nothing mattered any more.
YOU HAVE DONE ENOUGH FOR BELGIUM When we stabled the horses that night the civilians came rushing into the stables. They would not allow us to do anything. “You have done enough for Belgium” they said “Belgium now does for you”. They seized the brushes, pails or whatever we might have in our hands as we were doing the necessary work of seeing our mounts taken care of, out of our hands. “Merci Dieu vive le Canadien” they said, and we were forced, much to the sergeant’s disgust to stand with our hands in our pockets while the civvies took care of our horses.
DANCING IN THE STREETS There was dancing in the streets of the Belgian village that night. We had scarcely eaten our supper when the local beauties, arrayed in their best, dragged us out “Allez: Allez le dance” they said. And we danced in the streets, where huge blazing fires had been lighted, until early dawn. Even the good priest had attended, though I don’t remember that he danced.
We could scarcely find it in our hearts to blame them. They had had their faces ground into the dirt by the arrogant German Soldiers for too many years now to let anything interfere with their pleasure. And they were a pleasure-loving people.
All night long, as we danced to the music of a local fiddler, doing his best, the village rang with cries of the villagers “Vive le Canadien” “Merci Dieu”. With a girl on each arm, dressed in the finest she had, we kept the celebration going until early morning, nor were the girls loath to stay as long as we would.
EVERY DAY IS WASHDAY The Belgian villagers just couldn’t do enough for us. Having a small washing I wanted done one morning, I approached the good lady of the house asking if I could get it done. “Oui, Mess’ure: she responded cheerfully. “When can I get it?” I asked “Tonight, mess’ure” she answered “But” I said “This is not washday” “Every day is washday, mess’ure” she said “If you have washing to be done”.
A Badly Frightened Man Shortly after the Armistice, we were following up the German retreat when we received word one afternoon that a German straggler was hiding in a barn a few miles away.
I was sent with a small detachment to bring him in and turn him over to the authorities.
When we reached the village, we found an excited mob of villagers milling around the door of a barn.
We went in and after a short search, found the man cowering behind stacked bales of hay at the back of the barn.
We took him out, formed a hollow square with the horses and placed him in the middle of it. He was the most badly frightened man that I have ever seen and well he might be. If those villagers, armed as they were, with pitchforks, axes, clubs, any weapon with which they could do damage (one woman had even brought along an iron ladle) had they ever got their hands on him, they would cheerfully have torn him limb from limb.
Our South America Trip Comes to an end in Buenos Aires
After nearly a month on our South American trip, we arrived in Buenos Aires from Colonia Uruguay early evening Monday February 17th. The ferry ride from Colonia was less than 2 hours, when we arrived at the ferry terminal it was pouring rain and we joined a long line of people waiting for taxis. We waited about 1.5 hours before we got a cab to our hotel, apparently getting a taxi in Buenos Aires on a rainy evening is very challenging.
We stayed at the Anselmo Buenos Aires, a Hilton Curio Collection hotel. This is a lovely property and we had a balcony room overlooking Plaza Dorrego. Plaza Dorrego is a very popular square in the San Telmo neighborhood, a quaint area with 19th Century buildings. The square is surrounded by cafe’s, bars, restaurants, antique shops and Tango clubs.
Since it was raining on our arrival at the Anselmo Hotel, we decided to stay in and had a light dinner at the hotel’s wine bar which feature Tapas style selections and, of course, good Malbec wine.
Tuesday morning was sunny and the forecast was for a warm, clear day. We walked from the hotel to the Plaza de Mayo, a little less than a mile. Along the way, we were taking in the splendid architecture of Buenos Aires. This city with its wide boulevards and neoclassical buildings reminds one of Paris. At Plaza de Mayo we took our obligatory pictures of the presidential residence, Casa Rosado.
To get an overview look at the city, we found our way to the Hop-on, Hop-off tourist bus stop and did the 2.5 hour loop. We did get off at “La Boca” district and spent an hour walking around, stopping for latte at a cafe to watch some Tango dancers. The colorful La Boca district is a very popular tourist attraction. When we got there it was a bit early so the crowds were not bad, but it didn’t take long before the cruise ship tours started arriving and the place became elbow to elbow. That was when we had seen enough and moved on.
By mid-afternoon we headed back to the hotel. At Plaza Dorrego, the nearby restaurants had tables set up under the plaza trees so we decided to get some lunch. A good asado (steak) was in order along with some Malbec. Tango dancers from the nearby clubs were performing right next to our table, so we enjoyed a long lunch immersed in the Argentine Tango experience. Quiet a classy way to end our day.
Time to go home
Our fight home was Wednesday evening. The hotel checkout time was Noon, so we had lots of time to kill before heading to Buenos Aires Int’l airport. Fortunately, the hotel offered a special private lounge area for checked-out guests awaiting late flights. This was a nice amenity, the lounge had a TV, coffee, water and other refreshments as well as comfortable chairs and tables. Since most international flights (to North America and Europe) leave late at night, this amenity is a great idea.
We were taking a LATAM flight from Buenos Aires to Lima Peru to connect with our United flight to Houston. All flights were on-time and we had a long layover in Houston before our final Boston flight, which was a good thing since Kathie had an issue with Global Entry and ended up in a long immigration line. Since we traveled United Polaris Class (Business), we were able to use the Polaris Lounge at Houston during the long layover. This lounge offers both a large buffet or à la carte dining along with very comfortable seating in a quiet, relaxing environment.
Home at last, but still buzzing about our amazing journey.
We got to Colonia around noon on Sunday February 16th after the 2.5 hour bus ride from Montevideo. It was a short cab ride from the bus terminal to our hotel, the Radisson and we were able to check-in right away. The Radisson is located on the water in the historic district and since this was a summer weekend in Uruguay, many families were staying at this hotel…. lots of kids!
We were hungry so decide to walk down to the area near the marina where there were many restaurants. All the restaurants had outdoor seating, but it was so hot and humid, we chose a place that had indoor “air conditioned” seating. It turned out the A/C was not very helpful, it was quite hot inside, but we powered through and had our Chivitos.
Because of the heat, we went back to the hotel to cool off and rest after lunch. Our plan was to go out to the waterfront later to watch the sunset.
While doing some Google research about Colonia long before our trip, one attraction that is mentioned by many is the beautiful sunsets. So we wanted to make sure we caught the sunset on our one and only night in Colonia.
The weather forecasts indicated that thunderstorms were approaching from the northwest and late afternoon we could see the big clouds building on the horizon over the Rio de la Plata. This probably would make the sunset more dramatic.
With camera and phones in hand, we headed to the riverfront and it seems that everyone else was doing the same thing. As it turned out, watching the sunset was a nightly ritual here in Colonia, and we were treated to a spectacular sight. The lighting was constantly changing as the sky started to glow a fiery red. The clouds enhanced the effect and the distant silhouette of Buenos Aires high-rises on the horizon added to the dramatic scene. At the point when the sun disappeared below the horizon, the onlookers broke out in applause. What a way to spend our last night in Uruguay!
Morning Walk Around Colonia
After that beautiful sunset, the skies were filled with brilliant lightning as the thunderstorms moved into the area. We decided to get back to the hotel for dinner so we wouldn’t get caught in any downpours. That night some heavy T-storms passed through the area.
The next day we went out for an early morning walk around the old town. It was still cloudy but the rains had stopped and it was very quiet and tranquil around town, it seemed we were the only people out and about.
We had the morning to ourselves, then checked out of the hotel early afternoon to get to the ferry terminal for our ferry to Buenos Aires. We left Colonia to spend our last two days in Buenos Aires. Our long amazing trip is coming to an end, stay tuned for our final Buenos Aires blog coming soon.
We arrived in Montevideo from Mendoza Argentina on February 13th, the 22nd day of our South American adventure. The first 21 days were with the Viking Ocean Cruise and Mendoza post-cruise extension, now we were “free-styling”, on our own for another week.
Why Montevideo? Back in the 1980’s Rick made many business trips to Uruguay and enjoyed the visits to Montevideo. The city had an interesting charm and culture and it’s fun to go back after all these years to see what changed and what stayed the same.
On our brief stop in Montevideo with the Viking Jupiter (our South America Cruise – Part 5 blog), we had a scheduled winery tour, so had very little free time to spend in Montevideo. Now we were on our own with several days to explore the city.
Then and Now
Montevideo has retained its charm and character. We stayed in the old town district, Ciudad Vieja, with its older colonial buildings as well as art deco architecture. This neighborhood, adjacent to the port, has several pedestrian-only streets that lead up to Plaza Independencia, the main square.
Most of the old town area hasn’t changed much since the last visit in the early 1980’s, but elsewhere there has certainly been big changes in Montevideo and Uruguay. Across the city, modern buildings can be seen and along the Rambla, a 13 mile long avenue that runs along the shoreline of the Rio e la Plate, high-rise apartments evoke a South Florida look.
Back in the 1980’s Uruguay was ruled by a military dictatorship. Anyone who spoke out against the government risked imprisonment or worse. Today Uruguay is a thriving democracy and Latin America’s most progressive country. Crime is very low, the standard of living is one of the best in South America. Uruguay has the highest literacy rate in Latin America, school is mandatory up to high school and the state run universities are free. Uruguay legalized the production, sale and consumption of cannabis.
Our hotel, the Don Boutique Hotel, located across the street from Mercado del Puerto or Port Market in the old town. This location was perfect as it was adjacent to one of the main pedestrian streets. We were able to walk to most old town attractions, restaurants and shops.
Our room was a front room on the second floor with a small balcony overlooking the street. Across the street was a small open air arena that was part of the Carnival Museum. Since this was in the middle of Carnival season (Mardi Gras), we had free (and loud) entertainment every night, so no early bedtime!
Apart from the late night entertainment, the Don Boutique Hotel was a nice place. The building is art-deco style, looks like it could be in South Beach. The roof-top bar was a great spot to enjoy a bottle of local Tannat wine while watching the sunset cast its golden glow over the city.
Sights & Sounds of Montevideo
Montevideo boasts the longest running Carnival celebrations which start in late January and goes on for 40 days. Local neighborhood dance and drum groups participate in various parades and events and we were fortunate that a couple of groups performed at the nearby Mercado del Puerto. The groups perform Candombe, a style of music and dance that immigrated to Uruguay with African slaves.
On Sunday February 16th, after a fun 3 days in Montevideo it was time to leave. Our next stop, Colonia del Sacramento, one of Uruguay’s oldest towns. We would stay in the cobble-stoned Barrio Histórico (historic quarter), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We got the last two seats (next to the toilet) on the 9:00AM bus to Colonia for the 2.5 hour ride. In our next post we will share the experiences in that historic town.