Archive for September 9th, 2010

France at last

September 9, 2010

This morning we arrived in Dover to a typical morning of low cloud and drizzle.  Not a great way to be greeted.

Dover As much of Dover as could be seen.

After breakfast on board we made our way off the ship and into a cab for the ride around to the Dover – Calais ferry terminal.  We made the first crossing of the day and arrived in Calais just after 11:30am.

FranceFrench soil

Then because we lingered to see if we had wifi at the wharf we missed the bus into town.  So a half hour wait twiddling our thumbs at a bus stop in the rain.  Finally boarded the bus and made our way to the rail station expecting an information desk to guide us on our way.  I should say at this stage we had no idea where to go or what to do next, all we knew was that we wanted internet access and to get a new sim card for the phone as the other one had not given us any service for the past week.

When we got to the station there was no information service and no one who even looked interested.  So Roy went walkabout to find what was going on.  Found the Tourist Information office down the road but all we got from there was a map of Northern France.  Could not find any information of wifi locally.

So after sitting down with the map decided Lille looked a likely spot as it appeared much bigger than Calais and also looked central to the North of France.  Once decided it was off to buy a ticket.  Had a great train trip again from Calais to Lille.

Snow on the train to Lille Snow on the train to Lille

It was not the TGV service but was interesting and comfortable.  Arrived in Lille to pouring rain not knowing anything.  Went to the exit from the Station and asked a man if he; spoke English and  knew where the Tourism Information Office was.  Well what happened next was a real surprise after all the tales of French disinterest and rudeness one hears.  He started to direct us but then said as it was raining we had best take a tube train and then walk fifty metres instead of a fifteen minute walk in the rain.  He then surprised us by taking us in hand, guiding us to the tube station, showing us where to, and what ticket to get and then actually took us down to the specific platform and directed us to get off at the next stop.  Now that is what I call going the extra mile. C’est magnifique!!!

Hopped off the tube, out into the rain, across the square into the Information Centre where again the young woman there was very pleasant and helpful and booked us into a small hotel and then directed us to where to buy the sim card for the phone.  So off we  trot with luggage in tow along cobbled streets to find the store for the sim card.   She had directed us to the local Tabac, but unfortunately the person there did not speak English and no amount of hand waving on the part of either party managed to resolve the issue.  However a customer stepped in who had at least one or two words and between us we figured that we should go to a shop at the end of the next Place.  Again, we were greeted by a very pleasant young man who not only helped us with the language, but then filled in the application for the sim, put it in the telephone, added on some extra credit for me, explained and showed me how to top it up, explained all the information regarding the number and what our number is for calling from within France and from outside France, then he updated the date and time on the phone for me before sending us on our way.  Again we say c’est magnifique!!! Although I shall be revisiting him again tomorrow as now all the instructions on the phone are in French and although we are managing with it, it would be better if we could reset the language to English….and I can’t figure that out!

With working phone in hand, we put a call into Alex to make sure it was working ok, caught up with her before we again braved the rain to head to our hotel.  We found it quickly and went up the four flights of stairs to our very comfortable room which overlooks the street.  Caught up with blogs and mail before we headed out for dinner.  We stepped out onto the street and walked the 50 metres to the end of the street which intersects the main street….what did we find at the end of the street?  The main Rail Station…so instead of walking/tube half way round Lille…we could have walked 50m straight to the hotel!!  Typical.

View from Hotel windowView from the Hotel window

We had a lovely simple dinner at a Bistro just along the street, where I did have to pinch myself as here we were, in a French restaurant………… in France!!

French cafe In a French restaurant

Tomorrow we are off to Paschendaale for a visit as this was where Roy’s father was injured during WW1. Then we think we will have a couple of days in Rheims (the Champagne region), where we will no doubt do some serious tastings….damn, someone has to do it! Then Sunday we will be off to Charleville-Mezieres to meet up with Roger and Ruth on their canal boat Romany which we are really looking forward to.

Oh by the way came across another interesting sign around the corner from the Hotel

Imteresting sign

Forgot to add new phone number: from mobile +33687682678  from landline 0033687682678

Last two days at sea

September 9, 2010

Well, that’s that.  We have survived, well nearly, our first and probably our last cruise.  We don’t think we are built for this type of travel.  We are too restless, or at least one of us is.  The consequence is we perceive this trip as being periods of boredom on-board broken by intense periods of activity in various locations.  Would not have missed it but will be a long time before another.  This is being written prior to disembarking at Dover somewhat early in the morning.

We left Stockholm in smooth conditions, and this continued throughout the Baltic Sea. 

Dawn in the Baltic Dawn in the Baltic

First day at sea woke to a nice sunrise and then proceeded to update blog, finish accounts etc.  Later in the day managed to clean up at the trivia quiz again with a couple from Chicago.  Our third win so far.  Also managed to relax a little and read a book. 

Not Dover yetNot Dover yet just an island in the Baltic sea

We approached the island where Copenhagen is situated from the other side this time and passed under the bridge that links the island of Zealand to the mainland

suspension bridge 1 Under the bridge

 

DSCF1581  Looking back at the bridge, that span is 1.6 kilometres long

Next morning we awoke to somewhat rough conditions in the North Sea.  This left one of us slightly off but, thanks to the magic earplug, in not bad condition for the first seven or eight hours of the day.   After that the sea moderated quickly and we were back to plain sailing.

 Wind turbines off the coast on Denmark Wind Turbines off the Danish coast

Once again had a win at the trivia quiz, this time with an Australian couple with whom we had won one previously.  The quiz provided a distraction from the sea conditions.  We also took part in a movie theme quiz where we at least got greater than half right but not enough to win.  So in some eight quizzes we entered we won four and had it not been for the bias to American questions we should have won more.

Had an interesting evening watching two shows.  The first was put on by the crew who displayed an array of talent.  Then we had a Beatles tribute band which was not bad and certainly helped pass the time.

We have to state that in the long term Bernice took both the Crib and Backgammon titles.  Obviously as a result of better sailing legs!!!

Other insights in cruising; They have a person standing at the entrance to EVERY restaurant on the ship with spray bottle of “sanitiser” which they then spray your hands as you walk past.   Static stations of sanitizer are also located on every lift, and entry into every public area…you will be pleased to know that we are now well sanitised!!! Staff were mainly of Filipino and Central American extraction, the head dining room man was the spitting image of Gomez from the Addams family with the gait of Uncle Fester! And he was always publicly berating the staff, which made for fun sideline entertainment.  The whole cruise we felt as though they were trying to extract money from us at every single opportunity and the prices were just silly – we figured this was a good trip to do if you wanted to dry out as the price of drinks were just ridiculous!!

 

Anyway, an experience and we really did enjoy visiting the capitals of the Baltic.

Stockholm

September 9, 2010

sunrise Stockholm Sunrise approaching Stockholm

 

We arrived on shore via tender by 8.30am ready to make our way to the train station. 

Inside the tender Inside the Tender

We passed the shoreline on the way in and thought it particularly reminded us of Tasman National Park.

Tasman National Park Tasman National Park relocated

Armed with helpful information from locals we got to the train station fairly quickly to await its arrival, by 10.30am we had arrived in Stockholm.  Nynasham is a one hour train trip from Stockholm and although we only had a short day in which to visit, we thought it was an opportunity we should not miss.  The train trip through scenic countryside was an extremely pleasant way to travel (please note NZ Rail!!). 

Train to Stockholm Train to Stockholm

After arriving in Stockholm we exchanged some money to krona and then made our way to a cafe which had free wifi available.  This enabled us to update email, Facebook and the blog including the ability to go back through some of the older entries to add photos, so if you have been following our latest entries, some of the older entries now have photos included. 

 

Then it was off into the old part of Stockholm to explore the city’s original heart. 

Snow and the Lion Snow jumped on a Lion as we walked to the Old Town

Entrance to old town Entrance to Old Town

This is also where the Royal Palace and Cathedral are located but we made a beeline for the Nobel Museum.  Roy went off to explore the museum by himself whilst Bernice did her own thing only to meet up later. 

Lunch time Bernice doing her own thing

The Swedish Academy The Swedish Academy, Nobel Museum inside

Around the square in front of the Academy building there were a number of colourful buildings.

coloured houses

As we were leaving the museum we heard a band strike up so it was off around the corner to watch the changing of the guard at the Palace. 

changing the guard 2 Changing the guard in front of the Palace

Snow at changing the guard Snow looks on

 

Soon it was time to head back toward the rail station as we were all told that the last tender would be leaving at 5pm for the boat.  Adding in the time for the train plus the half hour walk from the train station to the dock we were back in time to be on the boat by 4.30pm along with a long line of others. 

back to the ship Back to the ship

We saw a number of interesting signs in our travels and here are three of them:

another sign

DSCF1513

DSCF1515

We saw the last on on the train going back to the ship.  A local young man told us that slut meant end, so this meant end station.  The end of the line.

Now we have the “pleasure” of two days at sea before we dock again in Dover.  We have frequented the onboard quiz when we can, and have done reasonably well each time finishing in the top two or three , we won this mornings quiz.  This two days at sea give us an opportunity to tweak the blog, add in photos and an opportunity to do some research on the next part of our trip. 

 

Keep the emails, comments and facebook notes coming in!