Archive for August, 2016

Then Norway

Posted in Out and About on August 15, 2016 by drycreekherbs

At the crack of dawn we left the Viking Osfrid for the Porto Airport. Because we used American miles for our air tickets we had lots of layovers before we arrived in Oslo. In light of all the terrorist activities, I expected to see more airport security but it was only in Heathrow where the police traveled in threes with automatic weapons. I was glad to see them.

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Norway. I am pretty sure I could live in Norway except for the cost and the snow. I love that Norwegians start taking mandatory English from grade 1 through high school….and it makes me feel like such a slouch that Americans aren’t required to take a second language straight through. I can hold my own with slow Germans but it isn’t exactly a popular language….nope, I regret that I didn’t take Spanish. Brother Bill has a fairly good command of Spanish from the contracting business and school. I am jealous.   

So now it has been nearly two weeks since we returned and I regret that I waited so long to write….my memory glazes over events where they become vague concepts. I will say straight away that I am left with wonder at the exquisite landscapes….and I owe that to our National Geographic expert, David. I don’t know exactly where to start-I think I will write about the tour group

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The National Geographic Expedition (NG) team: Dr. David Scott Silverberg, the Geographer, Maria Q, the Logistician, and Marianna, the local guide. David is a graduate of Harvard and MIT and is American/Norwegian by virtue of marriage. Maria is a Swede, married to an American. Mariana is Norwegian. All three were very interesting….when you are on a tour like this you really get to see the humorous side of personalities—like David starting each of his lectures with, “Hei-Hei, David Scott Geographer, here.” Hei is Hi in Norwegian. The tour was very organized and I didn’t notice any glitches that couldn’t have happened anywhere to anyone at any time. We stayed in nice hotels and had great food. The hotels weren’t air conditioned so sometimes it was warm at night. I am not a fish fan but I do like cod and I love halibut. There were always alternatives to the fish like salmon, sea bass, and other peculiarities.. The breakfasts were HEARTY so I could have managed on just those meals and all the bread. I learned to enjoy brown cheese that is caramelized and not to enjoy something called old cheese, which is exactly what it smelled like and tasted the same. James and Belinda ate Reindeer stew—I ate chicken curry that night. Speaking of night—it was only semi dark ever between 3-5:00am, otherwise it was very bright. I took a sleep mask that helped immensely.

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The itinerary: Ten nights starting in Oslo for two nights, then Trondheim for two nights, then on to Geiranger and Balestrand and ending in Bergen for two nights. Len and I arrived early because so we really had several days in Oslo. Norway is about the size of New Mexico and most of the land isn’t suitable for cultivation. The farms are “small and steep.” Norway is sparsely populated (5,147,792) and mostly along the coast. Obviously, there are lots of mountains and glaciers. David made sure we knew about the tree lines and timberlines; the tundra; the boreal forests, fjords, glaciers and lichens. Marianna was in charge of local culture. We saw more than our share of naked statues-some I could swear I modeled for! Rubenesque.

We traveled by buses, trains, and ferries. I loved the trains and ferries and yes, even the busses. One of the rail rides was on the Flam Railway, one of National Geographic Expedition Traveler magazine’s top ten rail rides. We traveled up 2,837 feet and passed through 20 tunnels in one hour. I am still amazed that I didn’t SKRIK (SCREAM in Norwegian) on all those cliffs and switchbacks. The scenery was just exquisite. The weather was unseasonably warm most days. Our first few days in Oslo enjoyed lots of thunderstorms.

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Belinda and James are marvelous traveling companions. We laugh a lot—spend as little or much time doing the same things. It works. Belinda and I like museums….well, some   museums. On this tour we saw the complete fossil primate ever found, visited a couple of Stave churches, the Bergen Defense Museum, the Hanseatic Museum, the Ringve Museum, the Oslo Resistance Museum, the Edvard Munch Museum, the Oslo Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, and saw one of the oldest Viking long ships in existence. Really, I am glossing over many sites and omitting others. I adored the Oslo Opera House….but above all else… the scenery. It was just fabulous….oh, at the waterfalls….one with a live singing troll (possibly a huldra!) These mythological huldras, female, forest spirits will lure men into the woods with their looks and beautiful voices. Oh, did I mention they have tails like either a cow or a fox, depending on who is telling the story. If they can get a man to marry them while not noticing the tail, the huldra will make the man her pet and treat him badly. Very good story I think. I also think I have some very poor grammar here. I am not fixing it.

I found earrings of course, a cashmere poncho, and a yellow Sou’wester or a Norwegian Sydvest for our rainy season….and I wore it today. I will have to wait for a deluge to wear the hat. James bought a hat, too.   

I will have to do a lot more writing to sharpen my edge. A lot more writing. Over and out.

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OK Portugal I promised Myself I Would do Some Writing

Posted in Out and About on August 14, 2016 by drycreekherbs

This was prompted by an article sent to me by my health care provider, Baylor Scott and White, Journaling for Mental Health. Although I don’t feel particularly nuts, it was a nice reminder of the benefits of writing on a regular basis. Soooo, I am going to do some free fall writing. I will try to think and write sticking to one topic instead of doing mental kickboxing.

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What is most on my mind? Well, I am recently back from almost a month of travel. We went to Portugal on a Viking River Cruise and Norway on a National Geographic Expedition. I like saying NG Expedition because it sounds very adventurous and spikey. It was verrrrry good. But there I go, avoiding chronology.

Portugal: I didn’t know much about the country…certainly didn’t know that it was a Fascist dictatorship for fifty years ending in 1974! I like Portugal and I like the people and I like Fado music and I like Vino Verde and I reallllllly like the Douro River Valley! We went from Lisbon to Porto then onto the ship, sailing over to Barco d’Alva then back…. lots of Brits and very few Americans. Len and I were pleased with our upgrade to a suite….very nice with a separate living area and two balconies. I learned about harvesting cork and how important it is to the economy. Also that cork really does regenerate so it isn’t as endangered as I once was told. So I had to buy an expensive cork purse. It was the right thing to do. I bought a cup towel in a little shop owned by a mother and daughter. After handing me my change, the daughter said, “We thank you for your help.” What a nice sentiment.

Our ship, the Viking Osfrid is new this year. The crew is all-Portuguese unlike the other Viking ships that are staffed by mostly Eastern Europeans. Seems that Viking contracts with a government owned company that provides riverboat employees—because Portugal is so in need of revenue. I guess it is like buy America….only employ Portuguese! They were extraordinarily polite and friendly. There was a contest to see who could name all the staff members first. Needless to say, I was crazed to win for any challenge and the bottle of vintage port was an incentive….alas, I came in second but had all the names correct. I was just too slow. HOWEVER, I did win an excellent bottle of champagne that I shared with our Chinese-American tablemates.

Hmmm, what did we like best…..the Colouste Gulbenkian art museum in Lisbon aka Lisboa, the National Azulejo (Tile) Museum, the Navy Museum (Len’s choice), the port tasting, and the sailing. I go DSCN0071.jpg into a zone on a riverboat. There were other museums in Lisbon I would like to have visited….a toy hospital museum; a Fado museum (closed on Monday-grrrr.); a museum of sacred art; a pharmacy museum; a Museum of Oriental Arts; and finally a Resistance Museum (my favorite these days).

The food onboard was not as good as I have had on previous Viking ssailings but you can’t screw up breakfast or Portuguese bread! We also enjoyed the silver beverage package that entitled us to unlimited libations. I gained 6 pounds in 3 weeks. I loved recalling the tune Lisbon Antigua, the 1956 hit by Nelson Riddle. Now that was a song for dancing! I may come back to Portugal later but for now it is time to read……looking for a novel about Portugal—A Small Death in Lisbon.

Well damn. My software from the old computer isn’t working on the new computer. I have a new Mac coach coming over this afternoon—someone Anna recommends. She’s been promoted and now way too buys to walk me through new programs. I mourn losing her.

While I am waiting I will talk about a Chocolate Workshop I took today at the Salado Library. Our library really rocks. The class consisted of only 5 out of the 12 who had signed up….Letta, our 84-year-old teacher did a smashing job using You Tube’s The Story of Chocolates her foundation. We had many interesting chocolate flavors to identify, equipment to view, take away chocolate, and promotional materials for the library’s Death by Chocolate event coming up in September. The first year I won first place…..I would like to try something new this year… Ok back to Letta. She golfs every day when the weather holds out, does yoga three times a week, drives a 1954 red Ford Mustang, and works tirelessly as a volunteer for the library. A role model.

OOOPS—just looked at the web version of this I published and a lot of was left off so I am redoing it and I am putting all pictures at the bottom because something is screwy. Do overs.

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