Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thirty One Years!!!

Today 31 years ago I was waking up in agony with my back, having slipped a disc a few days before, I had seen an osteopath and my GP and they had managed to get me back on my feet. I ended up walking down the aisle of the church on our Wedding day dosed up on Valium!!! I am wondering now if the ceremony was valid??? Tom and I  are still happily married 31 years later so the Valium must still be working!!

Our Best Man, Peter, his daughter and our God Daughter Becca, Madeline, Kay and my sister Val.

30 years 11 months later that same tiny bridesmaid  at her own Wedding!!

This time Peter was performing as Father of the Bride!

The sad thing looking back is just how many people have passed away, they have all left their mark on our lives. In the photo above to my left its almost a complete line gone, my sister Val, Grandad and Nan Bot, Aunty Lorna, Uncle John and Aunty Vera. On the other side Mum in her white feathery hat that she was very proud of!

By the time this photo was taken, it was too late to change our minds!!!
So here's to the next 31 years!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Helsinki calling!!!!

We arrived in Helsinki one cool morning!! We had been fooled by the weather, it looked 'warm' so we decided on an open top bus tour!  We headed off and it became clear that it was not as warm as we had thought! I was prepared I had a cardigan and a hoody with me, Tom and Richard only had the t shirts they arrived in, Sue had her trusty cardy!! By the end of the trip, I had loaned Tom my hoody and Richard had frostbite!!

The square was dominated by the magnificent Cathedral.  It was designed by the architect Carl Ludvig Engel and it was completed in 1852. Its a stunning building with elements of other famous buildings. It reminded me of St Peters in Rome, particularly the statues on the roof of the twelve apostles. Other elements of the building reminded me of St Isaac's Cathedral in St Petersberg.

There was a huge set of steps in front of the building and only one set of hand rails, so I went all the way to the top, but had to climb by the edge where I could hang on!! Coming down was easier, I hung onto Tom!

The view from the top was great, all the buildings are so pretty. I can imagine that in the winter with snow it would be stunning!!

Our hop on hop off Big Green Bus, with air conditioning set to arctic blast!!!

Sue and Richard, with Richard pretending that he was plenty warm enough!!!

So another country off my list, goodbye Helsinki and Finland!!!
Tomorrow we arrive in Stockholm, Sweden. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Life on Board!

Life on board the ship was fun, it consisted of lots of eating and drinking, punctuated by dancing and theatre!  We tried out lots and lots of Cocktails......

Long Island Iced tea.

Baileys Alexander

Blue Paradise.


Jamaican Paradise

Cape Codder.


Dirty Banana.

Strawberry Daiquiri and  Long Island Iced Tea.

By the end of the first week, I had drank my fill of cocktails and I had to swap to the good old stand by, Bulmers Cider!!! It was all too much!
One evening we had a 'reception' to attend. Before that we had Italian evening in the dining room, where we had free sparkling wine with the meal. The reception had more free sparkling wine, so it would have been rude not to have had a couple of glasses (or 7) So by the time I had finished the reception, I was feeling just a touch wobbly, it was only 8pm!!! We had the rest of the evening to contend with, poor Tom felt he was in for a rough time, but as it turned out the worse thing I did (well the worse thing I can remember!!) was inviting a Danish couple to join us and then promptly bumping the table and spilling his drink!!! 
Oh well I had a good time and learned that cheers in Danish is Skaal!

Around St Petersburg.

One of the first stops of the day was at this beautiful Cathedral. We had such a fact filled day it was hard to remember what all the locations were! This is the St Nicholas Maritime Cathedral, it was built in an area settled by sailors at the time of Peter the Great.

They construction of the church started in 1753 and is absolutely beautiful, covered in cherubs. The whole building looks like a giant Wedding cake.

This was the first time that we saw a gold dome on a building, by the end of the trip we had seen a fair few. The guide said that they were covered in gold and not gold leaf, They are beautiful and incredibly expensive!

Inside there was lots of artwork and lots of gold and bronze in evidence. I lit two candles here as well. The difference between our churches and Russian churches is that we have seats and in Russia they don't. Worshippers are expected to stand throughout the whole of the service, which traditionally runs into four or five hours. People are not kept captive they can come and go as they please !

The whole building was stunning with the sun shining off of the gold domes!

We stopped at Smolny Cathedral, another blue and white building with beautiful domes.

Construction on the Cathedral was started in 1748, it was intended to be the central church of a monastery. It was later used to house the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth.She was initially forbidden to take the throne of Russia, so she decided to become a Nun and live at Smolny.  She wasn't there long before a coup overthrew her predecessor and she decide to abandon her harsh way of life and take the throne that was rightfully hers. 

As the day went on it became clear that Russia love blue and white buildings, we later visited the Winter Palace, which was also blue and white!!

I will post a few more tomorrow.
Don't work too hard!!!

Monday, June 09, 2014

At Sea.

After stopping off in Tallinn we had a couple of days at sea, its a mixed blessing really because if the weather is good it great to sit out by the pool and sip cocktails, if its bad you have to sit inside and amuse yourself !! As it happens we had a mixture of weather, one day we could sit out and the other we couldn't.  Beth and I visited the spa area on one of the days to use our free sauna and steam bath voucher. I much prefer the steam bath but poor Beth couldn't cope with it, she said she felt like she couldn't breathe! So she went and had a chill out in the relaxation area instead!

I have a couple more photos of the Tallinn stop, the photo above tickled me, 'Decent bowl of Elk Soup' not something I have tried!!

I am not really sure what this life sized model of a doll was all about, but lots of people had stopped to have their photos taken with her!

My hip has been so much better, but I carry a fold up stick with me just in case. I find that I am more 'limpy' when I get tired, so as I am trying to avoid limping its best to be prepared! Here are a couple of photos of us getting back on the ship. In the background you can see the lovely MSC Opera and our cabins were four decks from the top at the back, we spent a lot of time sitting out the back watching the world go by!

Our next stop was St Petersberg in Russia. I had prepared well, or so I thought! I had booked us all on a day trip around the city. To enter Russia you need a visa, the tour company had arranged them for us and we had to bring along printed confirmation to show to the border control officers. The night before we arrived, I got out my paperwork only to find that I had forgotten to bring the visas!! Luckily I had sent a duplicate set of paperwork to Sue and she had bought hers with her. It didn't end there, once through the controls, I got the ticket out only to find that I had picked up the Copenhagen tour and not the St Petersberg tickets!! This time the tour guide confirmed us on her list and we didn't actually need the tickets! t wasn't my finest organisational hour! Once under way we finally stopped for lunch at this wonderful bakery. A lovely old building with the most intricate of cakes, biscuits and pastries, we had to try some for our lunch.

They were so beautiful! Russia is a place of contrast, the centre of the city was quite affluent with nice shops and plenty of evidence of money. On the outskirts there were some very grim looking blocks of what I think of communist flats, thousands of people living in bleak grey buildings. single glazed draughty windows which would not be adequate in the harsh winters. 

These blocks went on for miles people living on top of each other. The churches on the other hand were opulent and covered in gold. Its a strange place. 
I am glad  that we were able to see this fantastic city, I will post some of the churches and cathedrals later in the week.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

A Brilliant Trip!!!

I can't believe that our long awaited trip is now over and that tomorrow its back to work as if nothing has happened!! We drove to Southampton on Bank Holiday Monday to board the MSC Opera for the third time. We love MSC and their laid back style of holidays so we were happy to be back on board, this time with our friends Sue and Richard. 
We checked our bags in, parked the cars and headed back to the terminal for registration. Once on board we headed for the buffet for lunch . We were advised by tannoy that our cabins were ready so we headed there and started to unpack our cases. We had one slight problem, when one of our cases went missing and didn't reappear until late in the evening, we think it had been accidentally delivered to the wrong cabin and it took them a while to find it !!
Before we could leave we had to do a drill to make sure we understood what to do in the case of an emergency. We collected our life jackets and went to our muster station, it was all over in less than 30 minutes, soon after that we set sail for our ultimate destination of The Baltics and St Petersburg.

First stop was Amsterdam, a city that we are very familiar with! We had a good day walking around there, looking at Dam Square and the floating flower market. We also hit the shops and bought a few bits and pieces!! I love Amsterdam so much that  I have another trip planned at the end of the month!!!

I spotted this shop on the walk about, its a clothes shop, but I loved their shop window design!!

Once we were back on the ship we headed out to the back deck and soaked up a few rays before getting dressed for dinner. Our next stop was Tallinn, a country that is now in the EU but was once part of the USSR. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was really impressed with it. We were met by our tour guide directly outside the port and we were taken off in a coach to have a look around. 

The Cathedral was spectacular with the typical onion shaped domes. 

I was able to light candles for my sister and my mum. The artworks in the buildings are beautiful.

We walked around the town and looked in all the little shops. In the lower part of the town I found a craft market, it was stocked with lots of little gifts I could have spent ages there but we only had a short 45 minutes. 

The view from the top of the town was beautiful it looked like the town out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
I had planned to update my blog as \I went along but Internet coverage was very very patchy, so I gave up and decided to save it all for when  got back.If  I get the time I will cover some of the other places we visited, I do just have the odd 700 photos, so plenty of choice!!!
Have a good week, don't work too hard!!!