I scheduled a business trip to Auckland, New Zealand, and Apia, Samoa. I was fortunate that Leslie was able to accompany me.
In Auckland, we stayed at the Stamford Plaza Hotel. One evening we decided to try the Kabuki Teppanyaki restaurant in the hotel. It is a Japanese display cooking restaurant. Along one of the walls are dozens of bottles of various alcohol.
We had been to that restaurant once before and liked it, so we decided to try it again. The second time was even better. Maybe the chef was more flamboyant. What was the most surprising about the meal was my utensils…I was able to eat the entire meal with chopsticks! That is a feat I was never able to accomplish before.
I work with a Japanese colleague. After the trip, I asked her if these restaurants were popular in Japan. She said, not really. It is much more of a touristy thing.
Following our time in Auckland, it was off to Samoa. It is only about a three and one-half hour flight.
Our hotel room overlooked the Pacific. That provided the opportunity to watch ships coming and going from the port of Apia.
Of all the times I have visited Apia, I had never visited the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. During this trip, we had an opportunity to go. It was fascinating. The Scottish RLS was born on November 13, 1850. Around 1888, RLS made his first visit to Samoa. He fell in love with the island. In 1890 he bought a plot of land and built his home. That is now the RLS Museum.
For about US$20, one can take part in a guided tour of the residence. One of the interesting things about the house are the fireplaces in some of the rooms. Obviously, RLS was thinking of Scotland when he designed the home. A fireplace was indispensable in Scotland; in Samoa they are superfluous.
The grounds are stunning with a wide variety of tropical plants and flowers. The house is at the base of Mount Vaea. He died at the very young age of 44 and is buried upon that mount, overlooking the sea.
Following the photo below of Leslie holding the Vailima beer, I added some additional photographs of the Catholic cathedral in Apia. It is one of the most stunning I have ever seen.
We departed Nynäshamn, Sweden, on July 16, at about 20:00. The cruise schedule had us at sea all day on July 17, arriving in Copenhagen, Denmark at about 05:00 on July 18.
At various times throughout our cruise, Leslie took time to practice with about a dozen other passengers as the ship’s choir. All of the practice culminated with a performance on our last night at sea. When we arrived in the piazza area of the vessel, there was a string quartet playing. The same quartet played every evening.
When the quartet finished, a talent show began. The first act was two young gymnasts, a girl, and her brother. I believe they were Dutch. The emcee said the girl was aiming to perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics. She was good. Next was a young woman singer who had an absolutely beautiful voice. She reminded me of a singer one might hear in an animated Walt Disney movie. The final act was a brother and two sisters. The brother played the piano, and the sisters sang. They needed a bit more polish, but it was nice to see they at least tried.
Following the talent show was the choir which sang several songs from The Sound of Music. They sounded good, but of course, Leslie was the best!
After the concert, we, minus Lorraine, went to the dining room for dinner. Lorraine was not feeling well. During dinner, we heard the captain on the public address system announce we would pass under the Storebæltsbroen (Great Belt Bridge) at about 20:00. Sure enough, shortly before 20:00, we saw the bridge looming on the horizon. We watched the sight from our balcony. Below us, on one of the main decks, we saw several other passengers gathering to watch the passage and take photographs of the bridge. The bridge connects the Danish islands of Funen and Zealand. Zealand is the island on which we find Copenhagen. The span really was a fantastic sight.
We docked right on time. Once at the Marriott, Lorraine and Arlene waited for a room while Leslie and I walked to the tourist information center to get our Copenhagen tourist cards. The cards ended up not being worth the price only because we did not make much use of them. We ultimately used them for only one bus ride, one church, and one museum.
While we stood in the tourist information center, my name caught my eye; the Vice and Vesterbro Tour. Vesterbro is a district in Copenhagen. We all know what vice is, so maybe we will try that tour on our next visit to Copenhagen.
With our cards in hand, we decided we would do the Strøget (stroll). The Strøget is a mile-long pedestrian thoroughfare, encompassing the streets of Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet, Amagertorv, and Østergade. It winds from Town Hall Square to the Nyhavn area. Along the way, shopping is a mix of tourist shops and very high-end shops and boutiques. We did not buy anything.
On Strøget, the streets came to life as we walked along. The people made it a great walk. I enjoyed capturing photographs of many people as they walked together. Some that stand out in my mind is the couple walking two huge dogs; a young toddler running around; a woman pulling a sausage cart; a juggler; and a street performer.
About two-thirds of the way through the Strøget, we discovered the Royal Copenhagen building. That is the primary outlet for Royal Copenhagen china. We went into the store. Beautiful china was displayed everywhere. It was all lovely but incredibly expensive. The only thing I took from the building were some photographs.
The Strøget ultimately deposited us at the Kongens Nytorv Plaza. From there we walked the short distance to Nyhavn where we had lunch at a beautiful place, Nyhavns Frergekro. I tried a traditional Dutch open-faced sandwich known as Smørrebrød. It was roast beef with a remoulade sauce and gherkin pickles. I thought it tasted excellent. I also had the Nyhavn Dark Ale, which had a real smooth taste. Leslie ordered the Danish meatballs and some fried brie cheese.
When we finished lunch, we caught a bus, which took us near our hotel. We walked the last few blocks. All totaled, we put in about 3.5 miles that day.
Lorraine stayed in the room all day with Arlene. They were both getting sicker.
On this return trip to Copenhagen, I found it surprising once again how many swimmers, and sunbathers changed from clothing to swimwear and back again in public. I guess I am too shy to try such a stunt. Oh, and there is no way I am flexible enough to get dressed or undressed while covering up with a towel.
The next day, Lorraine and Arlene were to depart. Leslie stayed with them while I went on a walk. I wandered into the Christianshavn area. It is a small island. The canal scenes and the colorful buildings were striking.
I took some stairs to get up to the street level of the drawbridge which crossed over the canal. It was easy to see how much this city favors bicycles. On every set of public stairs, there was a steel track installed. The track was wide enough to allow for any size of a bicycle tire. It will enable a bicyclist to walk up the stairs while rolling the bicycle up or down alongside.
I ended up at the Our Savior Church. It dates from the 1680s, known for its massive spire with a winding staircase on the exterior. On a whim, I decided to go up. The climb inside the spire was impressive. One needed to be like a mountain goat to make it up some of the steeper sections. I did not count the stairs, but it had to be close to 200. Finally, one exits the interior stairs through a very narrow door. At that point, a narrow platform rings the spire. The views of Copenhagen were stunning.
On one side of the spire, copper-covered stairs began to ascend, winding around the spire to the very top. Supposedly, there are 150 steps there. Even though there is a sturdy railing, I had several mental battles about whether or not I should continue the assent or give in to my newfound fear of heights. Ultimately, I did not continue to the top.
Getting back down was also an adventure. The stairs accommodate two-way traffic, even though they are only wide enough for one person at many points. I felt like kissing the ground when I finally made it down.
Back at the hotel, we got Lorraine and Arlene a taxi for the airport. Once they were gone, Leslie and I took a cab to the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark). We had lunch when we arrived. Then we spent a couple of hours touring the museum. I saw several paintings by Edvard Munch, an artist I am familiar with, but I have never personally seen any of his works. I was also happy to see a couple of works from my favorite Spanish artist, Picasso.
We departed Copenhagen on July 20. At the Copenhagen airport, we decided to get a wheelchair for Leslie. Once we made it through security, we sat in a very comfortable waiting area set aside expressly for those passengers needing additional help. Everyone who helped us was extremely friendly.
When we arrived in Dubai, we also had a wheelchair waiting. However, they took us to the land-of-broken-people. It was not nearly as courteous or friendly as what we experienced in Copenhagen. Regardless, we only had a three-hour flight ahead of us.
As we approached Islamabad, it was cloudy and rainy. I do not believe Islamabad has a precision approach capability, so I began to get nervous as we circled. I was hoping we would not be diverted to Karachi or Lahore. I did not feel like dealing with that. However, nearly 30-minutes late, we landed in Islamabad. We were at home.
This morning at about 07:00, we anchored just offshore from the small Swedish town of Nynäshamn. It was the first time we anchored as opposed to tying up at a dock. Stockholm is the standard cruise ship port. The reason we did not dock in Stockholm is our ship; the relatively new Regal Princess has a draft too deep for the Stockholm port. The draft of our boat was eight meters or about 26 feet of the ship below the waterline. That meant we had to be ferried ashore by the ship’s tenders.
When fully loaded, each of the ship’s tenders holds about 150 people. I can only imagine that we would have had to anchor too far from Stockholm to make tender transportation practical. So, the next best thing was to anchor near Nynäshamn. That meant the ride from the ship to the shore was about five minutes. Once on the coast, we took a shuttle bus to the train platform. That ride was another seven or eight minutes.
Many of our shipmates opted to board the train for a one-hour trip to Stockholm. We decided we would stay and explore Nynäshamn. One of the first sights we spotted was a church on a cliff above us. I am not positive, but I believe it is a Lutheran church. We walked roughly northwest along Stymansgr. The church was on our right, so I made a quick side trip to visit. Much like the church in Helsinki yesterday, the church decoration was sparse. It dates from the 1930s, but I was not able to find the name of the church.
Back on the “trail,” joining up with Leslie again, we continued our stroll. The name of our small street changed to Centralgatan. It was the entry to the central business district. For the first block or so, we did some shopping. Then we decided we would go to the Nynäshamn Ångeryggeri brewery. We did finally find it, only to discover the tour was an hour or more away. That, coupled with the fact they could not sell strong beer from that location helped us to decide to continue walking.
After leaving the brewery, we walked into a supermarket. We wanted to get some “salty” snacks to enjoy in our room on the ship. In addition to those snacks, we bought some Swedish chocolate to take to our colleagues at work when we returned to Pakistan.
We found a small cafe not too far from the supermarket where we stopped to try a local beer, Mariestads. It was a tasty lager.
After our break, we ended up at the local marina. We found a few tourist items, but most importantly, we found a fantastic restaurant right on the dock of the marina. We both had a hamburger. Leslie enjoyed a glass of white wine with hers while I was able to have a beer from the local Nynäshamn Ångeryggeri brewery, Ladsort lager. It was good, but I liked the Mariestads we had earlier much better.
The hamburgers were the best we have had in quite a long time. I imagine the beautiful setting had something to do with that.
We headed back to the tender and the ship at about 14:00. Stockholm may have had more to see and do, but we were pleased with our stroll through Nynäshamn. We were also happy we did not have to rush to get on a train to and from Stockholm. After all, this was supposed to be an R&R trip.
Leslie and I are fortunate to be able to return to the beautiful city of Tallinn, Estonia. Our fortune is all the better because we shared the experience with Lorraine and Arlene. As our ship docked, we saw one of the many ferries also coming into port. It was dayglow green, so it was hard to miss.
After breakfast, we disembarked. We had a very long walk along the pier to the taxi stand. Once we finally made it to a taxi, we got in and asked the driver to drop us off at the tourist information office in the Old Town area of Tallinn. I knew that location had a taxi stand and it is only a block or two from the town hall plaza. As we neared our destination, Leslie and I began to recognize the places we visited when we lived there for a short two weeks.
Within minutes, the taxi driver deposited us at the tourist information center. We entered and got the requisite tourist maps and brochures. It was still early, so we decided to get a coffee and pass some time. We selected the Caffé Centrale for our coffee. The interior was rather eclectic. Our server, 19-year old Alice, was kind enough to pose for a photo with the very giddy duo of Lorraine and Arlene.
After coffee, we completed the short walk to the town hall plaza. There was a medieval festival in the area. The day we were there was the final day of the festival. The vendors in the square sold various handmade crafts. We stopped at a booth where the man and woman made wooden items accented with woven strands of wood. While we stood there, the man took thin pieces of wood and drew them through a long-knife. That was how he made the strands used in weaving around the wooden items. Leslie bought a trivet. It is a cross-section of a piece of wood about six inches in diameter. On one edge, there are holes through which they weave the small strips of wood. The article is accented with pieces of amber, a substance that is abundant in Estonia. For a handmade craft, it was surprisingly inexpensive at only 7€.
We noticed bicycle cabs in the plaza. Leslie stopped one of the boys, Maxim, and asked him to take Lorraine and Arlene for a ride. We sat at a street-side café to wait for them to return. Shortly after they left, the heavens opened up. The trip lasted about 20-minutes. When they returned, they joined us at the table under the umbrella. We sat there and waited out the rain.
When the rain ended, we decided it was time for lunch. We ate at the Olde Estonia Inn, the same place Leslie and I had lunch when we were in Tallinn in January. Unfortunately, we did not think the lunch was quite as good at this visit. Regardless, ironically our server was the same young woman that waited on us in January. It almost seemed like an old home week. She very obviously remembered us.
After lunch, we walked back to the tourist information center. The women waited there while I ran up the hill about two blocks. I wanted to see if a store Leslie and I had visited in January was open. Unfortunately, it was not open. My trip was not a total loss. I was able to photograph the blue door. It is simply a blue entry door to some apartments. I just liked the colors.
A little shopping later and we got back in a taxi to go back to the cruise ship. For some reason, taxis are not allowed to go all the way to the original taxi stand at which we hailed the first taxi that morning. That meant we had an even longer walk to get back to the point to board the ship. Once we made it to the smooth concrete of the pier, Arlen sat on her walker, and I pushed her to the boarding point.
Tallinn, Estonia is one of my favorite cities on this planet.
That evening was one of the formal dining nights onboard, so we all dressed up. We had some photos made in the piazza area of the ship before going into our dining room. Quite frankly, I would have been just as happy to go to dinner in my jeans.
After the ship left Tallinn, heading for St. Petersburg, Russia, we saw a fantastic sunset.
We were excited about our upcoming visit to St. Petersburg.