Thursday, January 03, 2013

To the Seas.

Time to write at last. It has been an odd couple of weeks and my mood is playing up to the point of annoyance. But I want to catch my blog back up. So this is going to be a catch up on my holidays as I had a lot of fun and took a lot of photos.

I boarded the ship on December 12th, mid afternoon, having travelled to London the day before and staying with a friend. I still wasnt feeling great, but wanted to spend some time with her. I dont think I turned out to be much company as I was so exhausted that even conversation was tiring. But it was nice to catch up anyway.

I had a huge room on the ship, with one of those beds that are bigger than a single but smaller than a double. The room was lovely and whats more I had a nice bath and shower in my en-suite  With me not being a morning person, there was the option to order room service for breakfast, I of course took that option and enjoyed pretty much having breakfast in bed. Though, I did get a very small strange look, when I answered the door in my cookie monster pj bottoms and my scooby doo tshirt. I am just that classy. 

Breakfast was tasty.
We has 2 days were we spent the whole time at sea. There was no time to be bored though as there were so many things to do on the ship, from craft classes, to lessons in playing bridge, to dance and many other things. On the second day at sea, things got a little rough. Being out in the middle of the North Sea in December, it is expected to get a little windy, but there were lots waves and the boat got bounced around everywhere. If I recall, it was a gale force 11 storm. I must say, it is one of the most odd sensations, to be standing on a boat, whilst it is moving forward and the waves are rocking it from side to side and then you get in the lift and travel upwards. Your body dosnt quite know which direction you are going in. I luckily deal well motion and so I barley noticed the rocking. However, not many people ventured out of their rooms, not even for dinner. And the following days, there were a lot of signs of injuries, bruised faces, people with broken arms and/or ribs.

After that, we made it to our first docking point; Oslo, Norway.

They had had a fresh falling of snow during the night and so we woke up to a white wonderland. It was so pretty, if a little chilly. After having breakfast, this time in the restaurant  I wrapped up warm and headed into town.

The markets were a little differnt than most of the ones I have been to before. Stalls were hosted in  wigwam type structures and there were open fires around to warm up by.
The food stalls sold the usual type of things such as hot dogs and hot chocolate as well as the more unusual stuff such as reindeer meat and smoked whale. I was not adventurous enough to try any of them, though I did have some mulled wine. Norwegian mulled wine is much sweeter than its French counterpart, as it is made from raisins rather than grapes, as they store better in the colder temperatures. 

Even the birds seek out shelter where ever they can.

I got talking to the most wonderful man whilst at the market. He sold pieces of natural slate, that has a type of moss growing on it. Around the moss, they have painted woodland pictures, so that the moss becomes part of the image, a type of living art. The paintings were all so pretty. I could have pretty much bought every item he has. From foxes, to deers and bears, to rabbits and owls. Every piece is unique and hand painted. He spoke very good English with the most wonderful accent. He didnt live in Oslo, he was from much further north and explained, that in the summer months, they find the slate and paint it, whilst running a guest house. When it gets November, he comes to the city to sell the items on his own and heads back just before christmas to be with his family. I couldnt decide which piece I wanted, but in the end settled for a very realistic bear painted on slate and made into a clock. If the items had not been so heavy, I think I would have purchased more than one. He gave me a very good price on the clock as he only had a few days left in the city. (It is worth enlarging the above picture and zooming into some of the piece, they are most wonderfully painted.)

In the centre of the market, was a square with railings that is there all year round. When the ground begins to freeze, it becomes a natural ice rink and they just smooth it over once a day. Unlike most ice rinks, if you have your own skates, you are free to come and go s you please, with no cost. There was also somewhere to hire skates. As the day went on the rink got busier with local children coming out to play.

A view of the ship, with the snowy backgrounds.

You can see the steam coming off the pool and jacuzzi, whilst docked in Norway. 

It was very postcard like.

The next day we landed in Copenahgen, Denmark. It was a drizzly morning with lots of fog. Walking down the road, admiring the buildings and in a little world of my own, I almost walked straight into someone walking across my path. As I glanced at them and went to mumble an apologise and carry on, I instead froze on the stop. The person I nearly walked into was carrying a rather large gun and an even bigger sword. Turns out I had just happened to walk past the Royal Palace and the guards were marching on the regular patrol. You can get close enough to touch their palace, no railings like in London. The best way I can describe it, is like a large roundabout, with minimal traffic. There is a statue in the middle, then circling that, are houses. The queen lives in the bigger of the houses with her husband and her family live in all the other houses in the circle. The guards patrol around the circle, but people are free to come and go as they please. It has also been known for the queen to venture out and speak to tourists who have come to view the palace. 

Most of the buildings had been eaten by fog, but the one in the centre of this image, I cant remember what it is, but the steeple, is 3 dragons, with their tails twisted together pointing upwards.

The main thing in Copenhagen for Christmas, is a theme park, that has been lit up and decorated. All the lights made it appear very magical. The squeals of children on the rides, the different smells from the food stalls and the colours lit up everywhere, made for a very enchanting atmosphere. I did get a little lost getting here, so didnt get as much time as I would have liked, but I loved every minute that I was there.

After another day at sea, the next stop was Hamburg in Germany. Although there was no snow, it was very cold. I was most proud of myself for making my own way to the city. There was a shuttle bus from the ship, but there was a huge cue for it and it was £5. I ventured out on foot and within a few minutes of walking, I found the metro train, paid the equivalent of £2 return and got into the centre of town before the first shuttle bus had left. Plus I like to people watch so it all worked out.
I of course, being in Germany, had to have bratwurst and mulled wine for dinner, whilst being entertained by traditional German musicians. 

The main market was outside the town hall, but there were markets everywhere you looked. The one below, included a bar, hidden within a maze of fir trees. You literally felt like you were lost amidst a forest here, though it also felt warmer, as the trees offered shelter from the cold wind.

The main archway into Hamburg market.

A stall selling mistletoe offered such vibrant colours against the dark skies.

Though the geese running around the centre, were not afraid of humans and in fact like to chase any small children, or adults for the matter, who looked like they had food. I actully managed to stroke one, but I do love this picture, although not the prettiest of pictures, seeing the water droplets sitting on the feathers kinda brings the scene to life. There was a homeless guy wandering around picking up peoples left overs and feeding them to the geese, not sure if that is a good thing or not, but he seemed very friendly with them.

When you are moving around and wrapped up warm, you sometimes dont notice the cold. That is until you look to the water nearby, and what appears to muck or rubbish floating at the sides, is actully huge chunks of ice. If I had been a little braver, I might have picked one out, just to see how deep it was, tip of the iceberg and all that.

Of course, I do love my low light photography, though it was a little crowded to get the perfect shot, I was happy with some of the ones I managed.

Around the top of the market stalls, there was a little train that went chuffing round and round. It is the small touches that make a big difference. 
Last stop was Bramerhaven Germany. Cant say I was very impressed. Perhaps, after being in such a big city the day before, I was a little underwhelmed here. It was a small town, I got the impression it was a poorer town. The market consisted of about 8 stalls and the journey from boat to market, was a long one through roadworks and rough looking docklands. Though, I did try mulled beer here, which was quite nice and it being a small town, fitted my energy at this point.

Of course inbetween all of that, there were lots of things to do on the ship. Every night there was at least 2 shows on, from Abba, to Las Vegas, to a crew talent night, to comedy. The dancing was fantastic, the voices wonderful and the costumes, were just perfect.

During the staff talent show, the guys from the engine room came out dancing to the crazy frog song. They got the biggest laugh in their orange jumpsuits. Really was a funny show.

Of course, I knew the talent of the catering staff, I had been eating their food for the past 9 days, but on the last day, was the Gala buffet, to showcase the talent. I was always taught not to play with my food, but the things they came up with, perhaps I was taught wrong.

I also met some great people, staff and guests alike. It has been a long time since I have laughed so much. And of course sitting talking, I tend to like to keep my hands busy. Which resulted in me making hats out of the napkins. Which, of course escalated to seeing how many things I could balance on my head whilst walking around the ship. I could see a guy sitting at a table 3 over from us, kept looking over and laughing, so I said he must think I was insane, in the end he was one the worst for suggesting more things to balance. From tea pots to christmas trees. Bear in mind this is about 3am, so most of the ship is asleep and we had the dinning room to ourselves. 

I actully ended up sitting drinking tea, with all that on my head and just having normal conversation. Pretty much forgot about it, till someone at the table would look over and burst out laughing again for no reason.

I got talking to a lot of the staff and a lot of the higher staff too. They were all lovely and a wealth of information, from weather, to places to visit. So on the last night, it seemed only fair to play with them a little. We hid the reindeers from one resturant, around the ship, the main one being sat on the captains tables, with the reins going to the captains chair. He had a note to the captain, about not worrying about petrol in his ship, as if he got stuck, rudolph caould always pull him home. The staff laughed a lot and I hear the captain heard about it and had a good laugh also. It was nice to unwind. 

Though walking past the gingerbread village, always made me feel hungry as the smell filled up room.

I did have the most wonderful time and I am glad that I did it. However, I also promised to keep this blog as honest as I could and so I want to add a little of the flip side. I think going on this cruise, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I went away on my own last year, for 4 days, but things have changed a lot since last year. Not only did I have a full voice last year, I also didnt have a trach tube. Outwardly, I was much more normal. And though I dont want things to get in the way, there are always questions. From people at lunch telling me that they were worried that I was going to make the whole ship ill with my cough, to people staring. To not being able to make conversation at the dinner table as my voice was not loud enough. It was hard and it was exhausting. My days at sea, were mostly spent asleep. I needed the rest and I needed the energy to stay on top of my treatments. 

One morning I also woke early, coughing and chocking and bringing up blood. Now I have done that before, but never to the severity that I did this time. I knew I could manage things, but it is still not a nice experince and is one of the most tiring things I can think of. You have this fluid coming up and you cant stop it, all you can do, is keep coughing and hope not to keep your airway clear, by leaning with your head down.

As I said, I am so glad that I did it and I had so much fun. But, it did also take a lot of work and discipline, to be so exhausted and just want to sleep, yet sit up for another 90 minutes doing nebs and physio. To deal with all the questions, the stares and the attitudes of some people. I am proud of myself for doing it and I have no regrets. 

Plus, seeing family over christmas, and they always ask what I am up to these days. It was nice to be able to tell stories of travel instead of hospital based crap and excuses as to why I cant work.

And just to end back on a high, I cant wait to go again. Same ship, same crew hopefully. Really excited already.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Kim! Good for you. What a geat post with wonderful photos. Sounds like you had a good, if exhausting, sociable, fun time.
    I would love to go away again on my own . . . One day, when the kids have grown. It's great isn't it? discovering new cities alone and just people watching in different cultures.
    I'm so glad you got away and enoyed it all. As always, you're an inspiration. Sending you love and best wishes for the new Year x x