Posted by: glenswatman | September 7, 2012

20120821-31 ENGLAND and braving a force 10 storm on a cruise to ICELAND

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TUESDAY 21 AUGUST – Keith has an appointment in Shipley so we wander round ASDA (and I get sucked into buying a few more things) then along with Sandra we head to Yeadon for a walk around the Tarn. It’s about a mile circuit and the most amazing thing is the runway of Leeds Bradford. Across the top of the lake you can see the tops of planes on the runway. Round the far side are picnic tables full of plane spotters. Nearby we get a nice meal at Wetherby Whalers, used to be Harry Ramsdens. The seniors (over 60’s) special is good value, soup, fish, chips, bread and butter, tea or coffee and dessert. We’ve already figured that either a/ we both now look that age or b/ the waitresses are too polite to ask!

WEDNESDAY 22 AUGUST – I try to get all our washing done before the cruise but battle with the rain. Prior to the cruise we are going down to the Midlands for an evening wedding party so it is quite a task sorting luggage. We are going to try and make this cruise as easy as possible so I book the proper Fred Olsen’s tour in Iceland, about double the price of doing the way we normally would but at the moment ease is the higher priority. Claire & Natasha pop round in the evening, Natasha has just got back from a wonderful holiday in Majorca and has lots to tell us. Frustrating from my medical point of view the spotting has almost stopped to be replaced by thrush. Going on line I find that one of Steve’s anti fungal medicines “itracconazole” can be used and after checking on 5 different websites they all concur I need to take 200ml doses morning and evening. It comes in 250ml bottles so I settle for half a bottle at bedtime.

THURSDAY 23 AUGUST – Well I don’t know about helping with my itchy thrush but the medicine sure has taken my mind off it as I now have the trots but still take the morning dose. Over at BRI Steve has his bloods checked and I deal with his Hickman line and receive a carrier bag full of stuff to take with us so I can do it next week. Steve’s neutrofils are down to 0.5 which is too low so they suggests 3 days of G-CSF injections into his stomach to bring that up and increase his immunity. They say we are now OK to head off so Steve sets off for the Midlands. I enforce a toilet stop en route – finally I may lose a few extra pounds before the cruise. Mum’s not answering her phone and not in but luckily she has a new key safe and we know the code so can let ourselves in. It actually works really well because she can see the car on the drive when she gets back so doesn’t have a shock of a break in or anything but has also avoided the stress of preparing for our visit. She’s recently had a holiday in Lytham St Anne’s with Auntie Pam and is looking wall. Just before she went there was a problem during an electrical storm when she lost all connections to her bungalow. This has meant new phones and a new electric bed so I set about putting in an insurance claim for her. Unfortunately Mum got confused last year when I took out a home response emergency policy to cover her for plumbing, gas and electric. She thought it was the same as buildings and contents and cancelled that one. I guess the good news is that the lightening strike didn’t burn the house down. Of course I have now created a job for myself in sorting out new buildings and contents insurance for her but feel that RIAS who she was with before are a bit pricy at over £300. Claire and Malcolm, our motorhome friends from Cheltenham, arrive just as Mum’s pupil does. We get our motorhome fix by sitting in their van over scone and drinks and catching up with their tip news. We last saw them in February in Spain and since they have been across to Romania. We pop back to see Mum then head out to Wetherspoons for an evening meal. My stomach is still a bit dodgy so I settle for working my way through a bowl of soup between toilet dashes. Almost ironic that at the moment Steve is feeling pretty good.

FRIDAY 24 AUGUST – Claire’s and Malcolm call round and spend a few hours chatting in the lounge with us all before heading off to friends in Shrewsbury. Steve drops me off at Domino’s at 1pm, not for a pizza but a hair do. After it has been washed Ruth dries it, straightens and then cuts it to be sure of getting a good level, a little different to what I have had done before and the results are good and reasonable at £18. Next we call round to Netty’s and are joined by Bobby & Steph then Nick. We’ve still time to go back and chat with Mum before getting ready for our evening out. Verity got married this afternoon at Goldstone Hall Hotel and we arrive for the evening do. It’s been a very smart affair so many of the men are wearing morning suits and Carol has an unusual outfit with a show stopping hat. Verity comes down from upstairs and looks like a Princess in a fairy tale outfit. It’s good to meet the rest of Carol’s family, some of whom we haven’t seen for years. Paul, Elaine and Matthew are also there so the time passes quickly before the 9pm BBQ. Verity has arranged a lot of props for people to wear whilst having a fun photograph done. Steve copes really well an even manages a couple of dances before weariness catches up with him just after 10pm.

SATURDAY 25 AUGUST – As Mum leaves for the hairdressers we head back to Keighley. Steve drives without a break but is tired once we get home and spends the afternoon restlessly moving around from bedroom to lounge. I unpack, wash then put the heating on to dry stuff as there is no chance outside where it is pouring with rain. Claire and the kids call round in the evening, Claire thinks Steve looks tired but it’s not surprising as we have had a hectic week and maybe we need to get away!

SUNDAY 26 AUGUST – We are both awake early so Steve opts to get up and get going and we are on the road by 8am. The nearer we get to Newcastle the better the weather. For ease we take the tunnel under the Tyne, £1.40, and emerge at Tynemouth where Couchsurfer Guy has offered us parking on his drive. This causes a little confusion with his wife Claire who thought we were arriving next week but it’s no problem. A taxi to the port cost us £7.50. It’s only 11am when we arrive and the check in doesn’t open until noon but we can relax here rather than stress being stuck in traffic or with a car problem. The departure hall soon fills up and brings a whole new meaning to 50 shades of grey as I look across the heads of hair! Most people who cruise with this line are over 60 and it shows. I speak quietly to someone and mention that it is not good for Steve to be stuck in a massive crowd of people so they arrange us priority boarding with the Gold star customers getting us on board just before 2pm. The Fred Olsen Boudicca is a fairly small 800 passenger old ship that had parts refurbished last year. Cabin 4133 is near the back on the starboard side and looks a decent size. Lunch is provided in the Secret Garden, sandwiches and cakes. It’s actually hot and sunny enough for us to spend a little time sat out on loungers by the pool. The lifeboat drill is thorough with everyone having to show that they can put on and secure their own lifejacket before being allowed to leave. Steve rests in the cabin whilst I walk around the decks for the sail away noticing a nice cluster of motorcaravans parked up by the priory. In this instance I would rather be where we are than where they are. Early evening meal is at 6.15pm and we are in the Tintagel restaurant on a table for 5. There’s a good choice of food and Steve eats well and just has to slip out a couple of times to get away from the noise. Luckily when we return to the cabin we don’t fall asleep and make it for the “Licence to Thrill” show, an excellent mix of music and dancing from the James Bond movies. After the 10.30pm quiz we are ready for bed but both struggle to sleep much.

MONDAY 27 AUGUST – Breakfast is self service at a number of restaurants and we make it just before the 9am rush. It’s a day at sea and there are numerous things we want to do at 10am and 10.30am so have to make choices and do part of the port lecture then a quiz. The rest of the day is a mix of eating, resting, playing games and exploring the ship and chatting to people. My LBD makes a return for the formal night, can’t believe my £10 bargain has now been on cruises in every continent! First we have the Captains welcome gathering with photos, drinks and introductions then the meal. Most men are wearing dark suits and women dressed up to some extent but very few evening gowns so I fit in perfectly. The meal is nice but not an outstanding menu. The show consists of an English couple who harmonise with songs but also both play clarinet and Irish whistles and put on quite a performance. By the time we head to bed the sea is pretty rough with force 10 winds storm and 15 metre waves. Luckily on Deck 4 few of the waves reach our port hole although it is still pretty bouncy for sleeping.

TUESDAY 28 AUGUST – It’s rougher than ever and I am sat in one of the lounges, giving Steve a lie in, when we get hit by a huge wave side on. The ship lurches followed by the sound of crockery and glassware smashing. Turns out the tables in the Secret Garden dining room were not bolted to the floor merely weighted so when people grabbed hold of them they along with their seats all shifted to the other side of the room, back again and then without time for recovery a repeat performance. Many people have fallen on the floor and others have injuries from broken stuff. Luckily there is a calm spell when it can all be taken care of and the restaurant closed off for a cleanup. I check on Steve who is now awake and we head to the Tintagel restaurant where the tables look firm. The outside decks are closed and many activities cancelled but Captain assures us we will be through it by 4 or 6 this afternoon. By evening everything has calmed down and normal service resumed. We enjoy the “Who wants to be a Millionaire” quiz but walk out on the female singer Kaye Weston when she gets to her Country songs.

WEDNESDAY 29 AUGUST – After docking around 8.30am in Reykjavik ICELAND we leave at 9am for our cruise organised “Golden Circle” tour (£85). Reykjavik looks bigger, more modern and busier with traffic than we expected and the overall appearance is a bit bland and boxy. Heading out into the country we can immediately see the effects of the volcanoes with steam rising in many places and lichen covered lava fields to be seen. One town is built over a hot area and has green houses where they can grow almost anything. At a visitor centre we see a mock up of how a kitchen would look after an earthquake, much like the restaurant on the ship yesterday morning. Iceland is at the joining point of the American and European plate so has a lot of natural disruption to contend with. We see the volcano that caused chaos halting air traffic a couple of years ago. At Gullfoss falls we get a superb view of the long glacier which seems to run sideways along the top of a mountain. The waterfalls have 2 drops then fall into a gorge and look very impressive. Lunch is at a nearby hotel, soup, salmon and cake but takes over 1-hour with slow service. Opposite is the geyser area that we walk around and see bright blue hot pools and some geysers including a huge one that starts with a sort of blue hot water balloon coming out ahead of the steam. Pingvellir national park is where the two plates are pulling apart creating a rift valley that has filled in with lava. It’s an incredible sight and we walk underneath the American uplift and can see that movement is causing the rocks to split again. In the valley is a beautiful meadow and small pools where people used to gather to hear points of law debated by the government who stood on the ledge above enabling their voices to carry. We see more beautiful countryside heading back to the city where our final stop is a place called “The Pearl”. Five huge tanks contain naturally heated water that feeds the city and they are joined above with a pearl like dome that contains a viewing platform and revolving restaurant. Here we get a view of the unusual cathedral and other points of interest. It’s been a long tour, over 8 hours so we are not surprised to note that Steve’s hands, ankles and feet are swollen. The theme tonight is Rock n Roll and we really enjoy the show.

THURSDAY 30 AUGUST – Today we dock in the Western fjordlands at the tiny port of Isafjordur. We walk to the tourist office and are happy to join a local mini bus 2-hour tour advertised at £15. We head out of town through an unusual tunnel, it has a cross roads, becomes one way, contains a waterfall that supplies the town with water and a cut out that is used for musical shows. Our driver talks about life in the area pointing out the lack of trees and how low they are. He tells an Icelandic joke. What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? The answer is you stand up. The tunnel emerges by the next fjord but we continue beyond enjoying the scenery, narrow waterfalls from the mountains and inlets. At Skruour there is a garden that was started in by a priest in 1905 to show school children just what could be grown here. It remains today and is a really pretty spot. Returning to the middle fjord we detour to the fishing village of Flateyri with some nice wooden houses. Whilst it is great to get out and see a bit of the landscape there is very little of major interest to see and even the fjords are barren and stark compared to what we have seen in Norway. Isafjordur’s claim to fame is the European mud soccer held here each August on seriously muddy pitches giving the players and onlookers a good laugh. After the tour we walk around the small streets and notice dozens of bikes, all unlocked, outside the school. Steve’s feet etc are still swollen so he spends the afternoon in bed. Before the meal I clean and flush his Hickman line and seem to remember all the procedure. I’m concerned about the swellings so text Claire who in turns gets in touch with the hospital about Steve’s problem and they suggest we visit the ships Doc. The nurse tells us it is £40 for a consultation but she recommends Steve puts his feet up high overnight and returns tomorrow if need be. To speed the evening meal we do the buffet meal which is Indonesian style. The show is comedian Barnaby who prides himself on no swearing or blue jokes, he’s not bad but has to work hard with the audience. For the quiz we are at a table with a couple and a ships officer. We get chatting and find the officer comes from Dawley and is the ship’s Doctor Nigel. I joke that we nearly came to see him early and he asks about the problem then has Steve’s feet up on the table for a free consultation. He thinks it is an effect of the Amlodopine tablets and that rest and elevation will solve it.

FRIDAY 31 AUGUST – Reykjavik is the only city in Iceland and we are now docked in Akyreyri the largest town. Situated at the end of a side arm from one of the longest fjords it still looks really tiny. A couple of nights ago they had their first snowfall of the season which makes the mountain tops look pretty. Steve opts out of a walk so I explore alone. There’s little to see, an old street, attractive modern church with a quirky stained glass window that came from Coventry cathedral. The botanical gardens are charming and I continue to the old town below which is reclaimed land with some interesting style modern houses. It’s all pleasant but nothing is outstanding. Steve is looking a bit better and joins me for lunch. We talk about the Fred Olsen ship and decide that for us it is lacking in the “wow” factor and a little too small in that there is no indoor pool and Jacuzzi area and only one theatre so no show alternatives. It’s a very old ship and lacks modernisation and has very old fashioned carpets etc but the vast majority of cruisers are repeat passengers so they are obviously doing something right. During our evening meal we are sailing out of the fjord and suddenly people begin to walk to the windows where we get a fine view of a whale. The people who went on the whale watching trip claim this to be a better sighting. Steve’s feet are still swollen but improve with rest.


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