I arrived into the Port of Tyne on Friday morning after a fabulous trip to Norway and Murmansk. I even have a certificate to prove I've crossed the Arctic Circle. What an experience! We saw beautiful scenery; enjoyed mixed weather from hot sunshine to thunder storms; met a wide range of people; and had a ball.
Our ship was the Marco Polo, and was originally a Soviet ship. It is 50 years old next year, and is going in for a refit in November to prepare it for a series of birthday cruises. We attended a fascinating talk on its history. It was designed to withstand ice, so it is actually a liner rather than a cruise ship, and has a reinforced hull. The crew were international; some were excellent, and others need customer service training. I'm going to write to Cruise and Maritime with detailed feedback - there's no point in moaning to other passengers about the things that need to be improved when only the company can put things right. Some passengers were critical of things that no one could control, like the weather. My criticisms relate to the attitude of one particular receptionist, and a few bar staff.
Our route was the same as that taken by the Arctic Convoys in WWII, and there were 3 veterans on board. We learned a lot from a guest lecturer about the Convoys. Many on the places we visited in Norway had been razed to the ground by the occupying Nazis as they retreated, and so the building were comparatively new. For anyone interested in history, Norway has centuries of it.
One of the highlights for me was meeting a fellow textile enthusiast at the Viking longhouse museum. She was spinning wool with a drop spindle. We got chatting, and I discovered that she and I had something else in common - MS. Unfortunately the photograph I took is blurred. She is a professional dyer, and told me how the Vikings dyed with woad. They used fermented urine - and you know it's fermented when it no longer smells - and placed the container with the wool, woad and urine in the centre of a horse dung heap because the temperature there is exactly right!
There was just the right balance of excursions and rest days to make this holiday ideal for someone with a condition like MS.
Thursday, 3 July 2014
Tomorrow I embark on my first ever cruise holiday. I have a lovely kind and generous friend with whom I have occasional holidays. In 2010 we went to Florence; last year it was Masham in Yorkshire. This year it's a 14 night cruise called North Cape and Land of the Midnight Sun, which is mostly Norway but also includes Murmansk in Russia.
We chose this holiday on the basis of it being MS-friendly - the ship departs from Newcastle (actually the port is in North Shields, but they call it Newcastle) so it's just a 15 mile drive to get there. Our luggage is taken to our cabins for us, all our meals are made for us, and all we have to do is enjoy the trip. I know another person with MS who has gone on several cruise holidays, and she says it's the ideal vacation for people like us. The only draw back I have identified so far, in comparison to a self catering holiday, is the lack of a washing machine. This may sound odd, the thing is on a cruise you have to dress for dinner, and there are two formal evenings. That's a lot of clothes, especially when you can't wash your day wear to use it twice. Can you imagine how many pairs of knickers are required!!! I have two sizeable pieces of luggage filled to almost bursting. The only things left to pack in the luggage are the items that I need to use before we go - mainly make up and toiletries. I even have a small folding stool for excursions so that I don't have to stand as standing causes fatigue and back pain.
I bought a small rucksack last week when I was in Northern Ireland. I have to try to fit a variety of objects into it - vacuum flask for excursions, iPad, Kindle, medication, and something to keep my hands busy on the days we are at sea. I've been contemplating how to put together an embroidery kit that isn't too bulky. I may end up just taking my Zentangle book, pens and pencils. That should be enough, along with the reading material on the iPad and Kindle, to keep me meaningfully occupied when not ashore.
I should have plenty of photographs to share on my return. I'll be back on 18th July with lots to tell you.
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
This summer, due to GCSEs, my husband's work schedule, and my trip to Norway with my dear friend Janet, the three of us only had one week when were all together to have a family holiday. Our original plan had been to go to Orkney, but when that didn't work we decided to go to my native land - Northern Ireland. We chose a small apartment on the coast at Portstewart so that we could explore places like the Giant's Causeway and Dunluce castle - or at least Stephen and Owen could explore them as they are not really suitable for my limited mobility. We haas a wonderful time, and managed to see several family members. I hope you enjoy these photos of the wonderful scenery: