Category Archives: 2017

Pisa #AtoZChallenge


Pisa is known for its Leaning Tower — but there are many other reasons to visit Pisa, such as winding streets and hidden plazas. We had our pre-dinner place for wine, hidden patios for dinner, and back to the original restaurant for late night. It is a lovely place to spend a relaxing few days.

First, some of the streets…

Then the Piazza dei Cavalieri which I loved because there is a connection between the buildings on this plaza and the Knights of St. John — and two of my favourite places, Rhodes and Malta (notice the St. John’s crosses that decorated the buildings)!

And, of course, the Field of Miracles and the Tower of Pisa.

And a rare selfie of a very hot traveler…


Oh Canada #AtoZCanada


Oh Canada! What can I say about how beautiful my country is. Here are some of my favourite placed and pictures of Canada.

Probably one of the most beautiful places on the East coast is Cape Breton Island.

But I was most surprised by the Gaspé.

Then, there it the Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick.

This is just a taste of Canada, but I would be remiss not to celebrate my home, Toronto.

Nyborg #AtoZChallenge


Nyborg is a beautiful Danish city, with a medieval city central. but, before I could venture into town, the ship had to go under the Great Belt Bridge. My first time under this bridge was at midnight — and this time it was at dawn.

The Nyborg’s central area is anchored by a castle, one built for defense. The grounds surrounding the castle was a beautiful public park.


Mystery Cruises #AtoZChallenge


So, why would someone pay to go on a mystery cruise; get on a ship and head to ports unknown? Since I love to cruise, this sounded like an interesting opportunity to sail into, well, mystery! I’ve now done two of these cruises and both on the Braemar.  I really like this ship. It is a smaller one and feels like family. It is very easy to sail solo and meet lots of friends on this ship.

On the first cruise, we sort of knew where we were going. The passengers were given a choice and we voted for one port or another — but we did not know where we were going until we got there! Here are the ports we visited:

Porto, Malaga, Barcelona, Valencia, Cartegna, Cadiz, La Coruna

The second mystery cruise was truly a mystery — one that would include only maiden ports (ports where our ship had never visited). It was very strange not to be able to plan or research the ports we were going to, nor to be able to know exactly what to pack — for warm or cold! The cruise was early May, so it was hard to plan for everything. It started in Dover and we waited to see if we would turn to go north … or south (or if we could even trust that, in the night, the ship would change directions!). As it turned out, we continued North and thus we began a cruise that went to Norway, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.


The ports included:

Larvik, Hundested, Nyborg, Fredercia, Wismar, Lyskil

Would I go on another one? It would be hard to keep me away!



Larvik #AtoZChallenge


Larvik, Norway was the first stop on the mystery cruise and we disembarked the ship on a beautiful Spring day. Here are some of my favourite things of Larvik.

The sea is probably the most important resource that ties so much of this area.

In nearby Stavern is Minnehallen,  a memorial for merchant marines.


Ship building  was, obviously, very important to this area and the area that was used for this is setup for tourist visits. It also has a dark side because it was used during WWII as a concentration camp for prisoners of war and Norwegian resistors.

There are also a number of islands to explore and enjoy.

Kronborg Castle #AtoZChallenge


Kronberg Castle is also know as “Hamlet’s Castle.” The first time I cruised in this area, I sailed by the castle on the way to Copenhagen.

Kronberg Castle, setting for Hamlet
Kronberg Castle, setting for Hamlet

On the Mystery Cruise, we docked close to the castle and I was able to finally go into the castle. It is perfectly situated at a place to stop ships sailing on their way to the Danish capital — perfect for collecting tariffs.

The outside fortifications are impressive, with several types of fortifications surrounding the castle.


Inside, there are large rooms and hallways that lead to a ballroom that is the entire length of the area facing the sea. I thought is would be very cold in that room, as there was only one, albeit large, fireplace at one end.

As for Hamlet, This castle has so many nooks and crannies — places to hide and towers to climb. It could definately be a place of secracy and betrayal.


Jelling #AtoZChallenge


Ever wonder where the symbol for Bluetooth comes from — or even the name?

BT logo

If you go to Jelling, Denmark, you will learn about the Viking King Harald “Blåtand” Gormsson and see this familiar symbol carved into rocks, on signs and in the museum (Blåtand sounds like “bluetooth”). It seems that his name is living on through modern technology. However, Jelling is not about the technology, it is about a Viking burial ground filled with the memories of King Harald and the beginnings of Denmark.


Archaeologists discovered remains of wooden pillars that formed an outline of a very large long boat. Now, white stones and pillars mark the space. In the center is a small chapel and graveyard. On the north and south side of the chapel are two large mounds. It is believed that the north mound was originally built for Harold’s father, Gorm, but no bones were found there.

Bones were eventually discovered in the church, and have been reburied there after extensive renovations. If you follow the line the goes along the floor of the chapel, it points to the spot where the bones were interred.

The chapel and surrounding graveyard is still actively used by the local community. My tour guide told that this is the church she attends and that her family is buried there.

Just outside the chapel are two carved stones. The oldest is known as Gorm’s Stone and is the first time Denmark is named as a country (~950).  This stone was dedicated to his wife, Thrya. The larger stone is Harald Bluetooth’s Stone it is tells of his conversion to Christianity.


I don’t always to into museums, preferring to get a sense of the place from the outside. But, the tour guide advised that we should, at the very least, go to the roof of the Jelling museum to get a better sense of the whole site. So, in I went and all I can say, is you should try to visit this museum! It is one of my favorite museums anywhere. It includes several an interactive experiences that shows Viking history and their culture through interactive displays. I found myself playing with every button to see what the displays would show next. We were all transformed into children playing with all the exhibits.

Some of the exhibits showed items that had been found onsite, and then, through holographic imagery, the object were transformed into what they probably looked like. It was fascinating and so much fun!

There there was the room where you could stand on different spots on the floor and experience a Viking death, funeral and journey to Valhalla to be with your kin and fellow Warriors. Sounds a bit morbid, but really is was so much fun!  I think it did that a couple of times. It was fun to “see yourself” flying with the Valkyries!

From there, you climbed the stairs to learn more about the Viking Gods and their stories. On the roof of the museum, you can get a panoramic view of the whole site. Yes, I could have stayed at the museum for a long time!


Ingrid’s Summer Home #AtoZChallenge

The fishing village of Fjällbacka is famous for two people who lived in this otherwise sleepy fishing village — and you will not be able to miss them! First, it is the home of Camilla Läckberg, an author of crime novels. You can buy her books everywhere in the town. She is known for featuring the town and some of its inhabitants in her books.

But that doesn’t,  really fit for today’s letter, which is I. That brings me to the other famous person who called Fjällbacka her home: actress Ingrid Bergman. Her summer home is located on a island just off the coast. Unfortunately, you cannot see the house because it is on the opposite side of the island. But everywhere else in the village, you will see signs of her. It is said that she enjoyed the peace of the town and being able to live quietly. There is a little garden dedicated to her near the port.

During my visit, we had a wonderful lunch at a restaurant she frequented, Bryggan. It was a delicious meal,  with fresh, local fish and topped by the best coffee I had on the entire mystery cruise. Someone watching me drink is said it looked like I was having a religious experience — yes, it was that good!

This would be a lovely place to spend a few months in summer — peaceful and beautiful.  I can see why Ingrid Bergman choose this place to be her second home.

Hundested #AtoZChallenge


Hundested is a small town of about 8,500 residents and is located on the northern coast of the island of Zealand. And this was our second port of call on the Mystery Cruise of Maiden Ports I took in May 2016. It was the fist time a cruise ship ever came to this port of call — and what a welcome we received!

It started with a flotilla of various types of ships — from small personal boats and kayaks to military boats to a Viking ship.

Then, there was the turnout of, what seemed to be, the entire town to greet our ship!

And finally, we we greeted dockside by Vikings!

Once we were off the ship, there was a little Viking Village setup where they were selling mead ad other souvenirs. The town itself had arranged for a number of tours around the local area. Everyone was friendly and seemed very happy to receive their first cruise guests.



Green Man #AtoZChallenge


The Jack in the Green Festival in Hastings is a yearly event that celebrates May Day. Drumming groups and Morris sides are up early, gathering to greet Jack in the Green. They begin the parade Maritime Museum when the Jack of the Green is brought out to take his place. The parade winds its way through the streets of Hastings, finally ending up at Hastings Castle for more Morris dancing and, finally, the banishment of winter, with Jack’s death.

Here is more information on the Jack in the Green Festival.