The Beautiful Countries of the Baltic

The incredible weather has continued and summer warmth has thrown her arms around this very large area if the Baltic. In each port we have been told that this past winter was hard and this unexpected early summer is very welcome.

Last night, leaving Russia, we experienced White Night.. the sky stays light and if no clouds.. turns milky white

First let me thank Donna Williams at Wow travel for, once again.. sending us away with her YOLO catchphrase! You only live once and enjoy the journey. Donna is responsible for every big trip we have taken these past ten years to Europe, Egypt, Istanbul, Scotland.. and I think our next stops might be Italy, Greece, Australia and New Zealand .. but not all at once! OMG! Thank you Donna.

Wowtravel@att.net

The staff on this ship, ( Anand, our butler extraordinaire) and all of crew, staff of #Oceaniacruises are excellent. Thank you #Oceaniamarina …Thank you to everyone!

Copenhagen, Denmark

One of our favorite cities. Its a short stroll from the ship to the center of town..and the colorful bars, people and landscape thats Copenhagen.

Germany brought us to a fairytale castle inland on a beautiful lake . Schwerin Castle is Remarkably well preserved when much of this town was destroyed in Ww2.

We avoided the long haul trip to Berlin on the Autobahn.. which proved smart as one accident ( not cruise related)delayed everyone returning by hours.

Visby Sweden is a small village on the island of Gotland. Its very beautiful but one must wonder how the cruise traffic will affect it.

Helsinki Finland .. we had been here before and decided to just stay close to ship today. Two big days ahead!

St. Petersburg, Russia for 2 days

Its a jewel box and it never disappoints. Likely not a true depiction of Russian life but this beautiful city reminds one of the greatest European capitals.

First stop.. The incredible Faberge museum. Housed in a beautiful palace, this was a concession by Brian to me.. as I love sparkly things, but he admitted to loving it as well. The small group tour was the perfect way to see the worlds largest collection of Faberge items including the very first Egg !

Evening was all dressed up for The Ballet Russe and Swan Lake.

The theater had 5 balconies and was fully booked when our small group arrived. Classic and stunning.

Yes.. Brian loved it as well and no.. he would not look hood in leotards.

Next morning was a small tour of The Dostoevsky museum and apartment where he lived, died and also wrote Crime and Punishment as well as the Brothers Karamazov.

The drive through the city was great as it was the equivalent of July 4 in Russia and the whole city was celebrating. The Winter Palace ( Hermitage above and below) is incredible.

We also went to a private Palace owned by a Russian billionaire we are guessing but otherwise known as Prince Vladimir.

Very beautiful and it was great until Oceania tour number 27 walked through someones wedding photos. 🤣. Guess the billionaire needs to cut a profit! Why do i find pissed off brides hilarious?!?

all the festivities combined with World Cup about to start ( Our daughter Erin touched down in Moscow around same time we were there to see game one as a sponsor with her company) Its a very big deal.. as if Super bowl lasted three weeks! The entire crew is European, eastern European and Asian on ship and are so freaking excited about this once every 4 year battle royal. Also they were sooo impressed we had a daughter going to game number 1 in Moscow…They were also impressed with daughter who works for Yelp… but not as much. Heehee.

Last night, as we sailed from Russia to Estonia, the water was completely still.. more like a lake. The sky stayed light and we just sat on our deck in disbelief of the beauty of it all.

Photos taken after 11 pm!

Today was Tallin, Estonia and, as we have already been here, decided to go ourselves to the old town as we remember it as so interesting. Today.. 4 cruise ships were in. Insanity prevailed. We found cold beer

and watched the tours walk by. Still a great place in spite of the crowds. It was challenging to take a photo without crowds.. !

We are powering towards Stockholm and disembarkation. We could seriously spend another twenty days on board but really do miss so home. Its a conundrum! Haha

So ….we booked a few trips in future and will try out best to come home to Oceania.. somewhere, anywhere!

As long as we can see this view we know where we have been.. on to next adventure with best guy in the world❤️

Baltic Heatwave as ship turns North! Go figure!

We had planned on the sun and heat in Spain and France but instead are experiencing Mediterranean weather in the Baltic.

We sailed from Southampton on a beautiful bluebird warm summer like day. This entire region is now experiencing unexpected warm weather rather unheard of in Late May and early June.

Our first stop was Oslo, Norway. After the ship enters the straight its a two hour journey through the Fjords to reach the capitol of Norway. It ranks up there with sailing into Venice or seeing the black hills of Montenegro with the sun setting on them. Just incredible. Small homes and villages dot the shoreline. It all looks so idyllic in the summer sun but reality of long, cold winters with minimal daylight hours reminds you of the true hardiness of people who call this part of the world home. Reading my book, eating this breakfast as we sail in was a perfect way to spend the morning

Oslo is rich in history and Viking lore and also the home of the famous KonTiki raft. The numerous Maritime museums gave us a rich understanding and respect for these hearty and super healthy people who live their lives on the sea. Our guide pointed out that Norwegians eat dinner around 4 pm so that they can go out and run, bike and exercise after.

We are heading toward the longest day of year, summer solstice and the sun is still attempting to set at midnight.

Copenhagen !

One of our all time favorite cities, Copenhagen was also enjoying the best weather ever on record. 90 degrees and we set out on foot to retrace our 2014 trip steps to the little mermaid, then to the city center where boats, bikes and people jostle together. It was crowded for a Tuesday and we soon learned it was a national holiday so every Dane was out enjoying the incredible weather. We sat in one of many waterside bars, drank ice cold beer and watched the parade go by! Picture perfect day.

we just love Copenhagen, home of Tivoli gardens and Hans Christian Anderson. The irony was not lost on me when i noticed a family of swans swimming around the famous little mermaid statue. The baby ‘ ugly ducklings’ were all grey but so , so sweet.

The Incredible Basque

This trip was heavily weighted with stops in both the French and Spanish Basque areas. The history of this interesting area as well as the very different culture from language ( closer to Greek than either French or Spanish) and the cuisine is worth a trip of more than a few days. San Sabastien, Spain is a seaside beach town of 150,000 people yet been crowned the top gastronomical city in the world. There are 2 three Michelin starred restaurants, 4 two star and 5 one star. Many cooking academies and the multitude of tapas bars compete with each other in an art form called Pintxos.. toothpick pierced food art!

Tapas vrs Pintxos

The waiter counts the leftover ‘Picks’ and charges accordingly. Ohhh and there is cold wine and incredible cider.

Espadrilles on display in St. Jean du Luz

San Sabastien city beach

The Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain

Richard Serra, Jeff Koons.. heaven!

The Oceania Culinary School on board.. so fun.Top 5 cooking classes at sea

Fun each day with new besties Chrissy and Ron from Washington State. Sadly they are departing this first leg but all four of us West Coasters…shall meet again!

Sailing the waters of Northern and Western France -June 6, 1944/ May 28, 2018-Memorial Day

These past few days have been full of quiet, relaxing calm as well as the overwhelming reality of the significance of being in and around these waters on Memorial Day Weekend. Today we were drinking Margaux wines in Bordeaux

as well as strolling through the lovely old town. Yesterday we enjoyed the bucolic splendor of the Green Venice in Poitou-Charentes Green Venice near La Rochelle and it was all incredible.

We have also cruised past the beaches of normandy.. including Omaha, Dunkirk and Calais into Brittany and on to these beautiful areas known for the very best wines in the world. Every area in Northern France still has a haunting physical Nazi memory attached. Most harbors large enough for a cruise ship have Nazi Giant Submarine docks that could berth 11-12 subs and were constructed by 3000 prisoners of war. Bordeaux war years This is where Nazi generals had decided to use subs to bring the UK to her knees.

My father served in the Canadian Armed Forces in Ceylon ( Sri Lanka) for 4 years. Today I salute him

and so many others in the Greatest Generation who fought and died at such a young age for liberty of all people. The fact that the previous generation has given the next the ability to see these beautifully healed landscapes and people of Brittany and Normandy up close is not lost on me .. most especially on this day. Simply …Thank you.

Retirement done right #40yearsandcounting

The world is full of unknowns but when married to simply, the worlds greatest guy, those unknowns become extremely fun, joyful and exciting adventures. Never a dull moment around us. Two new grand babies in 2017 brought our total to three and they are the bright lights that warm each day of our life.

That said, off we go… 😉…because… we are the grandparents! Im not sure who came up with the ‘Grand’ part of the word but it was definitely someone who recognized that,even with the gentle nudge of age surrounding our joints and bones, these years are most certainly …GRAND!

“If you find yourself traveling , simply be thankful”

May 22, 2018

London.. the Churchill War Rooms and bunker underground in Westminster. Our mutual love of history ( and watching the recent movie The Darkest Hour) always finds us touring places that help brig those times to life. This was incredible.

After Winston Churchill first came into office at the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom he gave a speech which outlined how he was going to take on the all-conquering Nazis.

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

His second speech as Prime Minister was probably his most famous – a speech of defiance and pure national pride.

Number 10 door used in 30s-50s.

Next stop was the National Portrait Gallery where I found Mary Shelly. As I am currently reading Frankenstein on the 200th anniversary of its publication, this lively and lovely 18 year old girl had alot to say! Incredible. We also kept the theme going in the West end and grabbing last minute tickets to Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks.

A concert by the Oslo Philharmonic in St. Martins in the Fields was a welcome respite mid day.

May 24

Boarded beautiful Marina and set off under cloudy but forgiving skies

Paris

All day. Walked insane amount of steps but wandered through Tuileries and the Louvre and down Rue Rivoli to Angelina’s as we did forty years ago on our honeymoon here.

St Malo, Brittany ,France

This ancient walled city in Brittany was heavily damaged by the Allie forces in WW2. It was quickly and incredibly rebuilt to exact specs.

Canadians will recognize 1500’s french explorer Jaques Cartier ( who founded Canada). We was born here and died here.

My book loving friends will recognize this town as the backdrop and setting from our mutual favourite novel ” All the Light you Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

Read it!

We have met fabulous couples from England, Canada and Australia. Last nights dinner with new friends was full of laughter and stories. This ship has never disappointed with above and beyond crew, friendly fellow travellers and food to die for.

There are many ways to travel..

…Adventure around each corner, hiking through wilderness trails, traversing great bodies of water… all good…but sometimes its Hawaii and its laid back fun in the sun.

…plus the Aloha spirit calls along with a few Mai Tai’s and the occasional Shave ice ( never call it Shaved! Ever)

Beautiful Maui for 7 fun filled days with Eric, Erin, Jacks age 4.5 and Harris almost 11 months. Giggles and water slides and learning card games with Papa were daily activities. Watching turtles swim in the surf reminded us of Disneys Moana but in real life!

Learning how to Hula and feeding the neighborhood Koi is always fun.

This time with our family is always a cherished week carved out by our kids in their busy schedule and we are so blessed to be part of it. Meghan, Ben and Riley were unable to join us ( to close to last months surgery) but will next year and ohhh what a crowd of wee ones we will have together! Aloha!

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Week 2 with our good friends arriving and kids departing meant a whole lot of thankfulness for fabulous retirement schedule and zero need to get home. Relaxing fun for next week was heavenly. There was even a bagpiper to celebrate the setting sun at Mick Fleetwoods restaurant !