Welcome to San Francisco. Farewell fjords, canals, and Olivia women

San Francisco as seen from my neighborhood, Bernal Heights.

It was hard to say goodbye to this incredible voyage with friends from Olivia who made everything happen so smoothly. The trip home was long: many lines to wait in, two customs, albeit automated, to go through, baggage transfers, connecting flight in LA. It was 7am to 7pm, but you have to add the plus 9 hour time change…21 hours. I didn’t sleep until home in my bed, so hopefully I’m back on SF time, or will be soon.

A huge part of every Olivia cruise is the entertainment. Here is a taste of what we enjoyed every night:

Thank you everyone for being on this voyage with me!

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Thursday: Bergen, Norway

These are the old-fashioned Bergen houses, usually painted red, yellow and white.

This rainy weather is typical for Bergen, the second largest city in Norway, population 280,000. I won’t torture you with rainy photos, except for these red covered stalls of the fish market. They are always prepared.

I didn’t bring raingear except for an umbrella, and because it’s windy, that got ruined. These photos are from inside a bus, so I did very little walking.

There are two very famous Norwegian artists that I’m sure you have all enjoyed. The first is the painter Edvard Munch.

The Scream, 1893. His most famous work…and the parodies: click to enlarge

College graduation debt

The second famous Norwegian artist is the composer Edvard Grieg. Listen here to his Peer Gynt Suite, Morning Mood, written in 1875. It will be familiar:

Here is McDonald’s of Bergen in a building dated 1710.

Now for some rainy day reading.

Tonight many dressed up as fairies, trolls and vikings.

Vaarwel til i morgan.

Wednesday in the port city of Alesund

I woke up to these views of the port city of Alesund. It burned down in a fire in 1904 and was rebuilt in an art deco style.

This view reminds me a little of San Francisco…near Fort Mason:

Here is where Alesund is…on the West Coast of Norway…kind of like SF.

German soldiers occupied this city, and all of Norway for 5 years during WW2. Their resistance movement could only last 2 months before they were defeated.

We ran into a couple of Vikings but couldn’t get a photo. The trolls are everywhere.

Tuesday: Geiranger fjord

This morning our ship pulled into the Geiranger fjord, already nicknamed Gay Ranger by cruisers within the first five minutes, and this is what I saw after breakfast.

Above are Bridalveil Falls and Seven Sisters Falls. Honestly, there are so many waterfalls around here that by the end of the day you feel a tiny bit ho-hum about them. Unless you meditate on The Cosmic Dance of Life…’the interplay between dynamic and static divine energy flow’, as symbolized by the Indian god/goddess Shiva. This is what a waterfall embodies to me.

Magdalene Thoresen, Henrik Ibsen’s mother-in-law said of this most famous fjord:

‘This fjord is surrounded by some of the steepest mountains on the entire west coast. It is very narrow and has no habitable shore area, for the precipitous heights rise in sheer and rugged strata almost straight out of the water. Foaming waterfalls plunge into the fjord from jagged peaks. There are, however, a few mountain farms here, and of these one or two have such hazardous access, by paths that wind around steep precipices, and by bridges that are fixed to the mountain with iron bolts and rings, that they bear witness in a most striking way to the remarkable powers of invention which the challenges of nature have developed in man.’

In this photo below from google you can see that we have a feeling of being completely enclosed by these tall mountains:

On our way to visit the Herdal Mountain Farm we were surrounded by this beauty:

Herdal is a traditional goat and sheep farm: hand raised goats; cheese handmade as well.

Watch Chez’ 30 second video:

This guy needs to hand stir whey for 7-8 hours. Don’t ask me, I don’t get it. Young people come from all over Europe to work on this summer farm that is WAY up in the mountains, through a hundred fjords.

This farm building is built the old fashioned way. The roof is made of several layers of naturally waterproof birch bark. Then dirt is piled on top. Eventually something grows there.

Even trees.

The hills are alive with The Sound of Music.

This last photo, above, shows Seven Sisters Falls again. If you enlarge the photo you will see a green patch to the right of the falls. That is another mountain farm, if you can believe it. An old Norwegian story goes like this: a farmer got too close to the edge of his farm one day and fell off. His wife was too afraid to look and called out to him, Was your fall hard? The farmer replied, I don’t know. I haven’t hit bottom yet.

Here’s me having fun posing amidst the grandeur:

That’s a waterfall.

Then home to our Geiranger fjord where our ship and lovely Maine lobster dinner awaits.

Until tomorrow…

Monday in Norway: fjords, waterfalls, fog, elfs and trolls

This is what I woke up to this morning. It’s the town of Eidfjord, whose population is about 500. They have more beds for tourists than there are residents.

What is a fjord?

More than 90% of Norway is mountain, mostly made of granite. A fjord is a body of water that is formed when a glaciar moves through the mountains and forms a valley. When the glaciar melts it forms the fjord.

We went on an excursion to find waterfalls and drove up a steep granite mountain.

We headed up the mountain in a bus and found fog.

Robin, Rachel and me at the top of the mountain, which must be Norwegian heaven. We are standing on a dam built with only rocks, no cement.

Looking for the waterfalls from above:

When you’re up there in the fog and you look closely you can see the trolls and elfs.

Back to the ship we head out into the fjord.

The evenings on an Olivia cruise are incredible. We have a late seating so we see a show first and eat at 8. Last night we were entertained by the singer Ruthie Foster, an incredibly good blues-based singer/guitarist. Google/youtube her song Phenomenal Woman.

Here’s our group at dinner:

Find me on the upper left and go clockwise: Rachel, Denelle, Bea, Becca, Linda, Robin, and Chez. Last night my meal consisted of an escargot appetizer, cream of asparagus soup, truffle risotto, and chocolate souffle. Over the top goodness. All the food service is Holland America, which is spectacular.

Til e morgen.

Sunday: sailing all day

This is my view all day. So, it’s a day of rest. Reading the Sunday NY Times, just like at home…the Magazine is all about love. I’m reading the new novel White Houses by Amy Bloom, told in the fictional voice of Lorena Hickok about her on-and-off love affair with Eleanor Roosevelt. Bloom conveys the deep love and respect that Hick felt towards Eleanor:

We love the tenderness of powerful people, because it’s such a pleasant, gratifying surprise, but Eleanor was not a grand light shining briefly on the lucky little people. She reached for the soul of everyone who spoke to her, every day. She bowed her head toward yours, as if there was nothing but the time and necessary space for two people to briefly love each other.

Quite appropriate reading for an Olivia cruise.

On a much lighter note, since I just saw the Dutch painters at the Rijksmuseum I found this Portrait Pain Scale amusing:

Not in any pain at the moment…maybe a Vermeer.

Saturday at the Rijksmuseum. Setting sail on the ms Rotterdam for Eidfjord, Norway!

The Rijksmuseum is so huge, bigger than the Met in NYC. Lots of walking, but I stuck to the highlights. First, look at this:

The guy who designed the museum, Pierre Cuypers, put himself into the facade of the building:

At the top of the white stone you can see a sculpture of him putting a stone in.

We saw the most famous painting, The Night Watch by Rembrandt:

Vermeer’s The Milkmaid

And Van Gogh:

Then I had to say goodbye to Amsterdam, such a wonderful city.

Now in Rotterdam. Just boarded the ship. My state room:

Leaving Rotterdam:

A whole different kind of excitement happens when the Olivia cruise begins. 1400 women. Into the Norwegian fjords. See you on Sunday.

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