Day 5: …. Over the sea to Skye

JAX the official stamp licker, the Portree post office mascot.

Skye Boat Song

“The Skye Boat Song” is a Scottish folk song recalling the escape of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) from Uist to the Isle of Skye after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. The story goes that the Prince, disguised as Flora MacDonald’s Irish spinning maid Betty Burke, escaped to the island of Skye after the disastrous battle.  Flora MacDonald, a secret supporter of the Jacobite cause, was later arrested and held in the Tower of London for her part in the escape.  She was quite a character and seemed to be in the right (or wrong) place in history a few times, including the American Revolution, before her death in 1790 at 68.  The Prince ultimately escaped to Italy where he spent the rest of his life.

There are various versions of the Sky Boat Song. Robert Louis Stevenson composed this version.

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Mull was astern, Rum on the port,
Eigg on the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul:
Where is that glory now?

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Give me again all that was there,
Give me the sun that shone!
Give me the eyes, give me the soul,
Give me the lad that’s gone!

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.

We have another full day off the ship, today is the island of Skye, the town is Portree. We must tender into this port and, of course, it goes very smoothly (thank you Azamara). We have a full day tour scheduled with Skye Tours.
As we’re leaving the ship Captain Carl comes to the gangway with a couple of other officers. He explains (in his lovely Irish/Scottish accent) that once everyone is ashore he’ll be going hiking, that what started out as a small group has grown to 25 officers and crew, and that he must wear shorts (its quite cool out). The reason, he says, is that one of the other officers doesn’t have “track” pants with him and has to wear shorts. Not to be outdone in the manly Scot department, the Captain says he must wear them too. One of the other officers points out that to outdo the person in shorts the Captain should wear a thong.  It was a funny exchange and indicative of this very capable Captain not taking himself too seriously and having some fun with passengers, officers and his crew.

The port is small and charming, the town square, where we’ll meet our small group tour, is a short walk from the harbor and we have a few minutes to walk around.  It’s early and shops are just opening up.  The town is tiny and very friendly. We zip into the post office to buy more stamps and learn from a friendly postmaster that the stamps we’ve been using to send postcards to the US are domestic only and, alas, the postcards will end up in a trash bin.

Kathleen will be our driver and guide for the day. She’s been a tour guide for over 25 years and is in her early 70’s.   She has a bad knee and will have surgery in Glasgow this summer, but otherwise she’s as sharp as a tack.  We have a bit of a drive before our first stop and she tells us a little about herself.  She explains that she grew up on Skye and has both English and the Gallic. When she was a girl she and a friend were riding on a train to Glasgow. As she wasn’t on Skye she was comfortable speaking to her girlfriend in Gallic when she didn’t want others to understand.   A good looking young man entered their car and they talked about how good looking he was and wondered if he was going to the dance they were attending in Glasgow. As they reached the Glasgow stop the young man turned to them in perfect Gallic and thanked them for their kind words and said alas he wouldn’t be going to the dance but wished them a good time. I’m sure he was chuckling to himself, and the girls were mortified.

Our first stop is the Old Man of Storr   its not a great day for pictures but the mist adds the right amount of drama to the scene. You can’t get the full effect of the rock formation, but I imagine it’s a rare day when there isn’t mist. Skye is known for its rocky mountainous landscape, lochs, fields of grass, wild flowers, and sheep, but its the mist that gives the landscape a surreal feeling. Its rough and the roads are winding, narrow, and can be steep.  Kathleen drives them with ease.

Next s

Next we stop at Kilt Rock with its lovely water fall. Its called Kilt rock because the rock formation looks like the pleats of a kilt.

Kathleen makes a stop at the Skye Museum of Island Life.  We don’t have a lot of time,  but its very interesting. Crofts like this were still lived in only 70 years ago in some parts of Skye.  It was an island of farmers and sheep herders living very simple lives. Peat fires, fish liver oil lamps, not exactly all the comforts.

Very close to this museum is the burial place of Flora MacDonald, just a few miles from where she landed with the Prince 200+ years ago.

Kathleen tells us the island is experiencing a surge in population these days – mostly retirees coming from all over Europe. They come for the better real estate prices, the beautiful views, and quiet life. Sounds good to me. Kathleen talks about a couple of “German Ladies” who recently built a house with a grass roof, which has the whole island talking.

Next is lunch at an Inn Kathleen has set up. Its a lovely old house which has been converted into a small hotel off the beaten path – lots of fireplaces, wood paneling and comfy furniture.  We’re tucked up in a private dining room with a bowl of steaming fish soup and its delicious.  I’m not usually a fish soup person but this is tasty.

After lunch we’re off again to Dunvegan Castle. It too has a Flora MacDonald story. Her daughter married a Macleod and lived at Dunvegan, her mother stayed with her for a time and Flora MacDonald’s Jacobite relics are displayed at the castle.  Dunvegan Castle is said to be the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland.  Its been the stronghold of the chiefs of clan MacLoed for more than 800 years.

Our last stop is at a local bar for some Scotch tasting. The young man has a 12 year old GlenFiddich, my mother’s favorite Scotch, and a 10 year old Talisker (made on Skye) set up with glasses. A good “nosing” glass is tulip-shaped, with a decent bowl (for swirling) and a narrow lip (to catch the aromas). Ideally it is made from crystal, but not cut crystal, which distorts the hue in its facets. David, who studying the art and refining his “nose”, first talks about the color and has us swirl the liquid. Next he explains that adding a touch of water opens the aromas. We try it first without water then add just a few drops and swirl again, you can see the oily lines as they swirl around and you can smell the enhanced aroma. Or maybe its all in my head but it was interesting anyway.

Kathleen takes us back to the harbor to board our tender to the ship. Its been a great day on the Isle of Skye.

Returning to the ship

Gail and I have a reservation at one of the ship’s small restaurants and after cleaning up a bit and a cocktail in the “Living Room”its time for another great Azamara dinner.

Yup that’s me on stage after the show – no shame.

After the show its off to bed but not before a stop on the deck where the sky is still light at 11pm!

Orkney Islands: Who knew?

Day 4 of our Azamara Club cruise of the British Isles.

We left Edinburgh’s Leith harbor about 2:30pm on Wednesday, July 6 on route to Kirkwall, Orkney islands.

We’re scheduled to arrive at 8:00am and have a full day for exploration.   At this point I’m wondering why we need 10 hours on this little island but I soon discover there’s much more to the Orkney islands than I imagined.

The harbor is small and we’re the only ship docked. I can see the town in the distance with St Magnus Cathedral dominating the skyline, otherwise the landscape is rolling hills and very few trees.  Apparently the salt air isn’t very kind to trees and they have a hard time achieving full growth. However the grass is green and as we’ll see later there are fields of wild flowers and oodles of grazing sheep and cattle throughout the mainland. Many more cattle and sheep than there are houses and people it seems.  It’s quite pretty despite the lack of trees. There are several farms and small clusters of homes, but for the most part the island is field and small hills.

Our Craigies taxi arrives on schedule and we hop in to meet Eddie who will drive us to the sites we’ve chosen in the three hours we’ve reserved.  He agrees that we’ll have enough time to see the Stones at Stenness, Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae and if we’re efficient he’ll be able to take us to the Italian Chapel as well. I’ve been excited to see Skara Brae, the best-preserved prehistoric village in Northern Europe,  since I learned Kirkwall was one our stops.

Eddie starts out a little reserved but as soon as he realizes we don’t expect him to give us the history of the island he lightens up.  He was born and brought up on the mainland of Orkney, not far from the town of Kirkwall. He doesn’t go off island often but he’s been to the US, he went especially to see Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry.  I guess there are “country” fans even in Scotland.  He’s able to answer a few questions about the island, he admits he knows little about the standing stones and wonders why people come to see them. At one point we pass two people walking on the road, you rarely see people on the long empty roads, Eddie calls them “free range pedestrians. Eddie has a sense of humor.

Our first stop is The Stones of Stenness and there ‘s only one other person there.  It’s peaceful and serene surrounded by fields and water. There are only three stones still standing but you can see the outlines of others and some stone remnants from where others stood.    Little is known about the standing stones in this part of the world. They’ve dated nearby Skara Brae at 3100 BC but they don’t know when the stones circles were created or for what reason.

Next stop is The Ring of Brodgar  this Neolithic henge and stone circle is said to have been constructed between 2500 and 2000 BC.  It’s larger, with more stones visible and the circular shape more defined. Many of the stones are still standing, others have fallen over or split. The site is flat and surrounded by fields of wild flowers and grazing sheep and cattle, it’s peaceful. Our time is limited, so as much as I would like to sit down and think about what life must have been like 5000 years ago on this tiny island so far north we get back into our taxi and are off again.

There’s a lot of water (lochs) on this main island of the Orkneys,  they seem to run into one another and Eddie tells us some are fresh water but most a mixture of fresh and salt. The neolithic sites we’re visiting are close together and are part of the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” World Heritage Site.

Skara Brae is next on our tour, with Scaill house next door. Both are close to the coast and surrounded by open fields.
The story goes that there was a big storm about 150 years ago (1870). Lots of rain and high winds and once the winds died down the owner of Skaill house (William Watt) went out to survey the damage to his property. He found that the wind and seas had unearthed stone structures and knew he had unearthed something old and important. Soon the archeologists were unearthing more and more of the ancient village. It’s not possible to know how many houses were there originally because the village was built close to a coastline that has eroded significantly over the many years (like 5000!). A retaining wall now holds what’s left from being consumed by the sea as well.

The inhabitants had used the building materials available to build their houses and furnishings. Rock, rock and more rock! Slate was used for some of the ceilings on the passageways, but it’s speculated the roofs of the houses were made of whale bone covered with grass. There were no trees and they didn’t have the means to kill whales, they relied on what washed up on shore. Procured whale carcasses and driftwood were cleverly re-purposed into tools and utensils. Skara Brae has a neat little museum displaying tools, ornaments, and cooking utensils found at the site, some amazingly well preserved.

As you exit the museum on your way to the site there are stones set along the path indicating various important historical dates. These are used to put the age of Skara Brae into perspective. Skara Brae is older than the pyramids, people were living here 5000 years ago. It blows my mind.

By the time we reach the site the buses are arriving and it’s getting somewhat crowded but we’re still ahead of the majority of people.
The area is carefully blocked where they don’t want you to walk and they’ve built a substantial retaining wall right beside the sight where there is a large drop to the beach. Its windy and you can imagine what the weather must be like in the middle of winter with wind howling from the north sea. Its surprising the sight has remained at all over this many years in this harsh location.

We’re on somewhat of a timetable but Eddie’s fast asleep in the parking lot (he warned us he would likely be asleep when we returned) so we dash through Skaill house next door,  which actually was pretty interesting. The house was built in 1620 and added to over the next 400 years. All 12 lairds were related and retained a collection of family furnishings and objects from the 17th century on. The current house is 1950s era (notice the pink tile bathroom) but with antiques and collectibles throughout the house.

Back in the car with Eddie rested from his snooze, we have time for one last stop before going back to Kirkwall.
Orkney has an interesting war history and there’s a chapel built by WWII Italian prisoners of war that we’re headed to now. On the way we drive over Churchill Barrier 1. These were a set a barriers started in 1940 to keep German submarines out of the natural harbor of the Scapa Flow. Today they’re used to connect the mainland to some of the smaller islands. The Italian chapel was built by Italian prisoners captured in North Africa and held in Orkney to help build the Churchill barriers. In their spare time they built the chapel from whatever materials they could scrounge, it was decorated by one of the prisoners. The light holders were made out of corned beef tins. The baptismal font was made from the inside of a car exhaust covered in a layer of concrete. The facade and interior painting is lovely.

Next stop Kirkwall, St Magnus Cathedral and the Earl’s Palace. Eddie drops us off in front of a cafe/gift shop he recommends for lunch.  The menu is pure Scotland, love it, and we order local cheeses, bannocks, brown bread and tea.

To pay for the meal I gave the person at the counter a credit card. She put the card into the hand held credit card reader then frowned at it – held it up above her head waving it around, frowned again and repeated the gesture. Turns out the Internet signal is precarious and has to be just right. I thought it was hilarious – okay, you had to be there.

Right across the street from the cafe/gift shop is St Magnus Cathedral (it’s huge), the Earl’s Palace next door must have been stunning in its time. For a little, seemingly insignificant group of islands off the northern tip of mainland Scotland, there is an amazing amount of history connected.
The cathedral was started in 1137 and added to over the next 300 years. It’s built from a very porous red sandstone and I can believe it’s still standing.

Right across the street is the Earl’s Palace built in the 1600s. The guy who built it is described as being one of the most tyrannical nobleman in Scottish history. He used forced labor to build the palace – on land he didn’t own. It took the land from the owner by accusing him of a crime, fabricating evidence, and having him hanged so he could get the land. Not a very nice fellow, but apparently he got his in the end when he and his son were hanged for unrelated chicanery.
I was fascinated with the palace because of its beautiful lines, but also because its fairly well preserved and you can almost picture the inhabitants.  There is a huge fireplace in the ballroom and you can actually see the scorched stone from fires so long ago.

By this time my Fitbit was telling us we’d walked quite a bit despite the taxi ride. We caught the bus back to the ship with time to spare and were very happy to have visited, if only for a short while, this interesting and beautiful island.

Edinburgh July 2016 – Waiting for a Princess

Day 3, Azamara Club cruise of the British Isles, Day 2 of Edinburgh.

We’re up, breakfasted, and off the ship by 8am as planned. The ship has a shuttle for us to go into Edinburgh and its outside as promised.
We’e excited about walking the Royal Mile again, the weather is beautiful and it’s quite busy, even this early in the morning. We’re headed to the castle at the top of the mile for the 9 am opening. We arrive in time to watch the changing of the guard and are in the gates and buying our tickets by 9:10.

Love the way their kilts swish when they walk!

As soon as we start walking around with our tour headsets it’s evident something’s happening at the castle that day. Having been there just last July the vibe feels different. There are people walking around with formal uniforms, more soldiers and guards, just more activity in general, and nothing to do with tourists.

Once we reached the main square there are formally dressed people waiting in front of the chapel and no nonsense guards at the entrance. Tourists are becoming interested and are hanging around. I asked one of the young soldiers and was told Princess Anne was coming to attend the annual ceremony to mark the loss of the ship Royal Oak which sank in the Scapa Flow in the Orkney islands during WWII. The ship was hit by a German submarine with the loss of 833 lives. Royal Navy divers place a White Ensign underwater at her stern every year. The ceremony Princess Anne is attending is related to the changing of the flag.
Side note: There’s a plaque and memorial in St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall Orkney islands dedicated to those who lost their lives. The ship’s bell and a list of all those who lost their lives is part of the memorial. We’ll be in Kirkwall tomorrow and plan to visit St Magnus Cathedral.

Lots and lots of medals on display, even the clergy is resplendent.

We waited around for quite awhile with guards trying to keep everyone back, finally a black car drove into the square right in front of us and out pops Princess Anne. She quickly walks to the front of the chapel, exchanging a few words with people there, then goes into the chapel without turning around. Acknowledging the people patiently waiting to get a glimpse of her, perhaps a smile, would have been nice.

We’re under a little bit of a time constraint so we finish our tour of the castle and head back to the Royal Mile and the shuttle which will take us back to the ship. Walking down the Royal Mile is always a treat. Edinburgh is clean and friendly, the Royal Mile is a wide stretch of road with shops and restaurants on either side. People are happy and friendly, there are some street carts and buskers scattered along the mile. With the Castle on one end and Holyrood Palace on the opposite end, its fun to walk the length from one interesting and historical sight to the other. Holyrood Palace is closed this week because the queen is in residence – or so we’ve heard. Too little time in Edinburgh as usual. Back to the ship for our 2:30 departure.

We looked it up but still don’t know how these free floating buskers do it.

Back on the ship’s shuttle for lunch and watching the ship get out of Leith harbor!

Arrival in Edinburgh, Royal Yacht Brittania and Lord Hopetoun.

After a restful first day on board the Azamara, we docked in Leith Port, Edinburgh, Scotland. Few ships can dock in this tidal port because it requires pinpoint navigation and just the right size ship. We went upstairs to Deck 11 to watch the pilot and Captain Carl thread the needle of this large ship through what seemed like an impossibly narrow lock. Gail laughingly compared this to being directed into a car wash, but without as much hardware at stake.
Leith Harbor locks, yikes, how is this possible?

Laughing our way through the optical illusion of this it’s-going-to-be-way-too small lock and our less than 12 inches success, we happily docked in Leith, finding ourselves next-door neighbors to Queen Elizabeth’s (now decommissioned) yacht, the Britannia. We were “moving on up!”

After leaving the ship and being greeted by a female bagpiper, we walked the short distance to a mall where we found the entrance to the Britannia museum on the third floor. After (happily?) paying our “concession” (a.k.a. senior) rate, we began what turned out to be an extraordinarily wonderful tour. You start on the top floor, the Royals residence, and move down to the officers quarters, then two levels of seaman’s quarters. The ship exudes the feeling that time has paused. Crews’ towels hang ready. Shoe shine kits are open, waiting to polish with regulation shine, and the queen’s formal dining room table is set for a grand reception, utensils scientifically measured for exactness, and knives, forks, and spoons stand like soldiers ready to greet her honored guests.


Officer’s bar

Royal living room

Officer’s Dining room

Gail and I stopped for a proper cup of tea at the yacht’s tearoom, and I thoroughly enjoyed my whiskey cake and Earl Grey tea. Then, continuing our tour, we marveled at the artful flower arrangements in every room, and the engine room that gleamed more like a Hollywood set, making it hard to believe that this same engine had circumnavigated the earth more than 11 times in its long history.
Brittania’s Tea room

View of Azamara Quest from the Brittania

A short walk back to our ship we grab a quick but LOVELY dinner at the buffet then ready ourselves for our Azamazing Evening at Hopetoun House, a grand estate near Edinburgh. This is a for-free evening for all Azamara guests, offered on each cruise. They are always different and seek to amaze guests with a cultural event that creates a unique life-long memory of the cruise.
From start to finish, the Azamara crew set a new standard for efficient excellence. Moving 600+ guests to an off-site location in 14 buses, we were greeted by a highlander war band, complete with highlander regalia, their “plaids” more rustic than the official versions you typically see, and their war chants, drum beats, and piping set the stage for collective fun! Lord Hopetoun, who had arrived only moments before from Queen Elizabeth’s afternoon garden party at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, greeted the Azamara guests with genuine enthusiasm. He and his family of 5 still live on the estate, and he has become an unofficial representative of Scotland’s welcoming nobility. Sharing the granite steps with Lord Hopetoun was our affable Captain Carl, a man of genuine wit and ingratiating humor who seems to generate a sense of shared fun whenever he speaks. Unlike other cruise captains, he does not take himself too seriously, and instead, always creates a mood where strangers feel authentically welcome.
Highland Drums

Hopetoun Estate

Lord Hopetoun, the ships Captain Carl, the Cruise Director Russ (in the kilt)

Facade of the estate

One of the estate bedrooms

Dining room

View of the bridges from the roof – there are three bridges, the closest is under construction, the third is a railway bridge from the Victorian era. The middle bridge is the currrent automobile bridge that has become obsolete. The new bridge will open next year.

My 18th century boyfriend. He was actually a nice man who gave me the run down on what parts of the estate were used in the making of “Outlander”. The central part of the facade was used as the “Duke of Sandringham’s” estate in season 2 and parts of the stable out buildings were set up as some of the Paris scenes. He had all the scoop because he too is a fan.

The ladies that keep the place running

Great entertainment

The night ended with a bang

Azamara Great Britian Cruise July 2016

The Azamara 8 day British Isles cruise leaves from Copenhagen, Denmark, cruises wset across the North Sea to Edinburgh, goes North to the Orkney Islands, west to the Isle of Skye, south west to Belfast, Waterford, and finally Dublin. In Dublin we disembark and fly to Paris for 5 nights.

July 2, Saturday – Our Air France flight doesn’t leave until 10:50 so I’m finishing up work issues, tidying the house and have a last minute conversation with my mom. I should take a nap but I’m too wound up. Gail and I are sharing a larger bag that we’re shipping back after the cruise. We each have a separate carry on that we’ll bring to Paris. We’ve booked a limo to pick us up at Gail’s at 7:20 to make our 10:50 flight.

The driver is 20 minutes early but we’re ready to go. Not too much traffic on the roads or through checking/security – so far so good – then we go through to the international gates and its packed! Invariably our flight is delayed by an hour and we’re now talking about what we’ll do if we miss our connection from CDG to Copenhagen and miss the ship. However to put everything in perspective, we aren’t traveling with young children about to get on a 6 hour flight leaving at midnight, and we have the knowledge and means to readjust our plans if need be! If we miss the connecting we check for another flight Paris to Copehagen, if we miss the ship we fly to Edinburgh to meet the ship on day 3 and spend our time there (we both love Edinburgh). Could be worse.

No worries – we depart BOS at midnight, get in 25 minutes late, hit the long security line and the even longer immigration line in Paris, run to the gate with only minutes to spare – wow are we tired. (CDG, Charles De Gaulle airport is huge, but the signage is excellent)
I never sleep on a plane, much as I try, so I’ve been up for 36 hours. Fortunately we arrive in Copenhagen on time, a little wait for luggage, but no immigration or customs, easy getting to the exit and into a taxi. The driver has a list handy and sees exactly where the Quest is docked and we’re there in no time. We had exactly enough Kroner (450) for the ride. The travel gods haven’t forsaken us after
all. We’re here and so is our luggage.

We made it! After swearing that we haven’t brought Noro virus on board, pose for a security picture (who is that pale exhausted person) we enter we ship. We’re late and they’re about to start the safety drill. We don’t need our life vest and we aren’t led outside – good thing because while sitting in the Cabaret/theater (our designated lifeboat station) we discover its hailing outside!!! Very weird because although it was overcast when we arrived in Copenhagen it’s not that cold (60-65). It lasts minutes but caused quite a stir, we’re told that hail at this time of year is rare.

Our cabin is the normal outside cabin size but its newly refurbished and good quality. They’ve created plenty of storage space and we’re able to unpack and put everything away in closets and drawers. The linens and bedding are quality and I long to stretch out on the bed – but we have a ship to explore!
First things – we apply for the full voyage Internet package so we can keep up with the family and friends and I can post. It actually works surprisingly well.
Our Stateroom

Leaving Copenhagen – love the off shore windmills

Light dinner

Gail and I on deck – a bit chilly but the sun is lovely

Azamara offers wine and cocktails and you can upgrade to higher quality wines and liquors if you chose. We’re tired but we’ll enjoy a cocktail in the “livingroom” and light dinner before heading to bed.

Day 2 – Sunday, July 4
Day at sea
Wonderful crew

We’re not sure what time we woke up because the ship TV says 10:05, our iPhone says 9:05 and according to the ships clock its 8:05. Conundrum. In any case we had a good sleep and we’re ready to go. We’re in the North Sea going west from Copenhagen to Edinburgh. We left Copenhagen at 9pm Sunday night and we’ll arrive in Edinburgh at 2:30pm on Tuesday. The sun is shining but it’s quite windy on the top level jogging track and we’re not dressed for it. The gym treadmill is a good substitute, although it’s quite strange walking on a treadmill on a ship! The ship’s movement makes you feel unsteady, you need to hang on or fall over. The faster your pace the more you feel as if you’re careening around the treadmill. The gym is small but has great equipment.

After a shower we’re in time for the 10am Jazz brunch, champagne and all. Great food, atmosphere and service.
The ship is elegant and everything from furnishings, to decor, to food, is good quality, however the real difference with Azamara seems to be the staff and crew. The Captain – Carl is an Irishman and very personable and funny. He’s around a lot, as are his department heads. You get the impression the crew is genuinely happy to see you and the guests are genuinely grateful for the services provided.

At dinner we met two women from Houston TX, they are doing back to back Azamara cruises (Baltic first) and had arrived in Copenhagen 11 days ago. This is the second cruise and one of them is still without luggage! She’s surviving on borrowed clothes and whatever she can find in ports. The airline has no idea where it is and won’t give her compensation until its missing for 45 days. Ya gotta love airline customer service. Never fail to disappoint.

After dinner we head to the Cabaret to see Teacake (that’s her given name) a singer from Texas who sings Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin songs very well. Time for bed, anticipating arriving in Edinburgh at 4:30P tomorrow afternoon.

Anticipation….. vacation summer 2016

azamara-club-cruises-azamara-quest-exterior-galleryJuly 1, 2016 Packing and anticipating our Azamara 8 night British Isle cruise and hop over to Paris.

Gail and I were so enamored with Scotland last summer that we started looking for ways to return this summer to see the places we missed. Gail receives email offers for cruises and one thing led to another….. here we are leaving tomorrow for Copenhagen to board the Azamara Quest for our 8 night cruise. While we’re in Europe we decided to fly to Paris for a few days before returning home.

We spent the last few months planning, pouring over maps, and combing the Internet for things not to be missed. Some of the highlights we’ve arranged are – a taxi tour of the Orkney islands, a small group tour of the island of Sky, the Giants causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge , an independent tour to Mont St Michel, tickets to the top of the Eiffel tour, Louvre, Versailles, a private Citroen tour of Paris, and a Paris market and cooking class.
We’ve arranged an Airbnb apartment across the street from Notre Dame in the 5th Arrondisement and I’m familiar enough with public transportation and the layout of the city to get us around – famous last words.
The only regret – what WAS I thinking – is that we arrive in Copenhagen just a few hours before the cruise leaves. If Air France decides to delay either flight we may be meeting the cruise in Edinburgh two days late!
But I have to think positively.
Packing – just when I thought I had it down pat I run into the various weather types this trip will bring. Orkney Island and Skye could be very cold and wet – hat, gloves, rain gear, wool sweater and warm, water proof shoes. Edinburgh, Belfast, Waterford and Dublin will be mild but could be rainy – layers and rain gear. Paris could be hot and does require some thought to style, light layers, and good walking shoes that aren’t too ugly! Even though we’ve arranged Luggage Forward to pick up a bag with our cruise clothes so we can travel light to Paris, I still think I’m bringing more than I need despite going over and over the clothes laid out for packing. Sigh.