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Deck Chair Queen

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  1. I too am sorry to see this review come to an end. It’s my first time seeing Norris’s photos, as he won’t let me look at them until he has worked to perfect them. He catches a lot that I miss so enhances my experience immeasurably. This was one of our most memorable cruises, unequalled in its combination of breathtaking scenery, history, and architecture. Usually you only get one or two of the three in one cruise. In London I got to cross “ high tea in a fancy London hotel” off my bucket list but alas bad timing prevented me from satisfying another, which was attending an opera at Coventr Garden. Seeing my cousin (more like a sister to me) was an added bonus. For those of you who have said your plans don’t include cruising the Norwegian fjords, you really should reconsider. Along with the glaciers of Alaska these are special places you can truly only experience from a ship. The sailaway from Flam was the most beautiful and varied of any in my cruising experience and that even includes Venice. As a Chicagoan I never let weather ruin any experience. Just dress for it, is our motto. Thank you all for your kind wishes and keen appreciation of good witty writing and excellent photography. Warmest regards, Carol
  2. The Alesund aquarium excursion. This was a great little excursion, just the right length. Also the best tour guide of the trip. A professional handball player from Macedonia. He kept everybody engaged, taught us some Norwegian, and was very knowledgeable about Alesund’s famous Art Nouveau architecture, pointing out gorgeous little details on the buildings I would otherwise have missed. Of course the fire was a great tragedy but it accounts for the unique architectural uniformity of the city. We had a nice long time at the aquarium, which had both indoor and outdoor exhibits and a dramatic waterfront location. I’ll try to insert some of my photos but my iPhone shots are embarrassed to appear alongside Norris’s photography! The tanks are all filled with sea water and feature the staple fish of the area such as herring, cod, and salmon. Outdoors are the penguins, seals, and otters. Many hands on exhibits inside and timed feedings. You can barely see the diver for the fish! Later I visited the Art Nouveau Museum, a former apothecary shop with the owner’s home above it. There is a great “time machine” exhibit about the fire and the amazing rebuilding feat and stunning Art Nouveau rooms and decor. Carol
  3. <<Long and winding ... rail>> Best band ever. Also a shoutout to Harold Arlen for Somewhere Over The Rainbow earlier. As can be seen having booked the funicular tickets online saved time going up but for obvious reasons did not help going down. A bench or two would have been most welcome, adds Bench Girl. I’m seeing Norris’s photos for the first time and I am gobsmacked. It’s as if I were there! Oh yeah, I was. Deck Chair Queen aka Carol
  4. Reading this I can’t believe how much we packed into one day in London! I bought tickets for the Mamet play months ago when it hadn’t even opened yet. This was the world premiere so we knew nothing about it except the subject and the star. It opened to horrendous reviews and is closing this month. That’s probably why we got our seats upgraded. But I found it to be thought provoking although very difficult to watch at times. It’s an important topic to tackle and Mamet did it with wit and even some sympathy for the devil (more for the victim, of course, but she does fight back effectively). I love all his plays, not just GGGR. Many premiered here in Chicago, where I saw the premiere with the original casts. Then seeing my cousin was so special for me. She is a year younger than I and we were the best of friends when we were girls, spending every summer together at her home in Kingston, Jamaica while my mom visited my grandmother but for the past few decades she has lived so far away I seldom see her. But when I do, the years just melt away. Thanks to Norris for capturing all this on film!
  5. Hi. Deck Chair Queen here, aka Carol. I do most of the negotiaing after Norris finds a hotel! We typically have another criteria, which is ideally within walking distance of the opera house. Unfortunately no opera this trip as we were too early for the ROH season. But Royal Horseguards met this criteria as well. Also public transportation nearby. To to get the most out of Royal Horseguards, first join the Guoman loyalty program (it’s free). That gets you either a discount or free breakfast. Having read how exorbitant the breakfast pricing was I figured we would be eating elsewhere and chose the discount. However now that I know that the options for a cooked to order breakfast nearby are nil and having discovered how enjoyable it is to go downstairs and have breakfast on the terrace, I think I would go for the free breakfast next time (I’m not a fan of steam table breakfast so look for the a la carte menu). Just do the math for yourself: breakfast for one if booked ahead of time is GBP18.
  6. Here is Snowy this afternooon dozing in her igloo, thinking about her seafaring forefathers such as Captain Cat, who explored the Arctic and discovered the coziness of an igloo. Thanks to to you all for participating and truly making this a community effort! Happy cruising! Carol
  7. Hi Crystal. Sorry to be so late in responding. I’ve had a very busy week and can’t keep up with Norris’s prolific output. Yes the garden was spectacular especially the 900 bird of paradise plants. But it was being taken through it by the gardener himself that I will never forget. I’ve been to many botanical gardens bigger and better organized and labeled but never had the experience of walking through them with the guy who plants, tends, and nurtures them. We transcended language and cultural barriers and bonded. He was so shy at first and spoke only to our guide. By the end we were chatting like old friends in broken English and much worse Spanish. He had relatives in Chicago! There were only a few birds of paradise in bloom yet he cut off a bloom (with a rare blue center) to give me. He wove a little bookmark from a tough sturdy brown leaf for me. Other flowers and leaves soon joined them in my bag. The bookmark was the only thing I was able to keep as you cannot bring plant material on board. Francisco helped me up and down the steep rock steps of his hillside sanctuary (no handrails). We met another garden worker aptly named Orchid, who was the local representative in the National Assembly. Big warm smile and great people and language skills. There was, of course, a friendly dog and some chickens. It was a very special experience, a genuine one not put on for tourists. Carol
  8. The Beatles. Roughly. Happy birthday to Cap’n Norris from me and Snowy! (Best way to catch his attention when he’s mid review.) Carol, researching Norway excursions for September. ABP is our motto; Always Be Planning!
  9. Seeing the photo of me and our guide, Diana, reminded me of how much I enjoyed talking to our guides and drivers about their lives, families, hopes, and dreams. As Guidebook Carol I have already done a lot of research and know most of what I hear from guides, sometimes more than the guides. In fact it is quite tiring for me to have to pay such close attention and respond as appropriate to show I was paying attention for hours on end. (Am I the only one who feels this way about private tours?) The responsibility for interaction falls to me usually as Norris is hither and yon taking pictures. In most cases I would prefer just having a driver, actually. I also love using Rick Steves audio tours when in Europe , no interaction required. But these Cubans were very special and I’m glad I had the chance to get to know them a bit and experience the pride they had in their cities. Carol
  10. The gardens were vast and varied but nothing was labeled and there were no paths. The most charming part of our visit was our guide Diana walking beside me telling me personal remembrances about the plants and flowers; how she made dolls out of them as a child, which ones grew at her grandmother’s house, which were used for medicinal purposes. None of our guides ever had a rehearsed “spiel.” It was all spontaneous, proud, and heartfelt.
  11. In case you are wondering about my T-shirt it refers to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s upcoming production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle (it’s in 2020 and we just ordered our tickets). We travel all over the world to see the Ring and this will be my 15th I believe. Norris has seen a few fewer as I saw several before I met hm. I like to wear an opera T-shirt on sea days because it always snags a like minded person. And so it did, as a lovely man from St Louis hailed me in the buffet line and we started talking Rings, much to the annoyance of folks trying to reach for the smoked salmon! Presto, a new friend!
  12. Hi Jazzbeau! This is so odd! I am not an alcohol drinker but I drink a small bottle of tonic water every night and it’s Fever Tree all the way. But I get it delivered with my groceries from Peapod, where the selection is “tonic” or “no tonic.” I had no idea there were other flavors. I will investigate Whole Foods delivery. Carol
  13. These few minutes watching the National Ballet of Cuba rehearsing Swan Lake in that beautiful theater was one of the highlights of my trip. To suddenly hear that beloved music in such a strange and exotic place made me feel at home and was so moving. I feel like this wherever we go in the world to see opera. Kindred spirits sharing an experience that transcends language, cultural, and economic differences. Not something that is done just for the tourists but something authentic. Plus Cuban ballet dancers (the men, especially) are legendary. I had to be torn away, I’m afraid. I thank our guide, Michael, who somehow knew how much it would mean to me and came and called me back in from the street when he was already leading another tour group. Cuban kindness and hospitality again! Guidebook Carol
  14. A couple of items of interest. Our driver asked if we minded mostly avoiding the Malecon as the sea was rough and the salt spray is bad for the finish on these lovingly restored cars. We understood completely. Also re the Museum of the Revolution, I think our guide was surprised to have an American request to go there. We had recently watched the eight part Netflix documentary The Cuba Libre Story and were fascinated by the history and, frankly, impressed by what they accomplished. Seeing that little boat, the Granma, in person was very moving. The exhibits inside were all labeled in Spanish and not tourist friendly but I was able to get the gist and of course having a private guide at my side really helped. Next trip more museums, says I.
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