Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Political Prognostications

Occasionally I offer predictions for the coming year. Since 2016 will be all about the Presidential campaign, my predictions are all about the election.

Polling confirms there is one thing everyone agrees on - the 2016 election is lasting too long. Everyone (except maybe the candidates) is tired of the candidates’ rhetoric, 24/7 news repeating the rhetoric, analyzing the rhetoric, discussing future rhetoric, and endlessly focusing on the most media-savvy candidate(s).

As of January 1, no one can name all Republican candidates remaining in the race.

Less than 10% of Democrats know the names of the three Democratic candidates, most forgetting the guy from Maryland.

Only a small number of New Yorkers know the names of Donald Trump’s three wives. Most mispronounce his current wife’s name.

The award for the most erroneous political statements (2007 to the present) goes to Ben Carson, followed by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Check out how your favorite politician compares here. Trump will head 2016’s list as Carson’s candidacy fades away.

Carson is not the only candidate to disappear by spring. Others withdrawing: Carly Fiorina, Martin O’Malley (the who is he? Democratic candidate from Maryland), Rick Santorum (yes, he was still stumping), George Pataki (most people did not know he was running, and outside of New York and neighboring states, no one knows who he is), Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul. Jeb Bush reluctantly throws in the towel. Chris Christie remains in the race, unwilling to return to New Jersey and face the state’s problems, but no one pays attention as he continues campaigning and losing weight.

Trump announces he is divorcing his wife when he discovers she goes to the bathroom.

Bernie Sanders continues drawing crowds while the media continues ignoring his candidacy.

Trump will not be the Republican Presidential candidate. When asked if he would, as he pledged in the debates, campaign for the party’s candidate, he states, “Much as I admire the candidate and am a proud member of the party, I have been away from home and my businesses too long. It is time for me to get back to business and my family, and therefore I cannot campaign for the Republican Party right now. I wish all the party’s candidates, in federal and state elections, the best of luck, and urge everyone to vote Republican. Goodbye.” Trump waves to the crowd and exits (temporarily) the spotlight.

Vladimir Putin, upon hearing of Trump’s withdrawal from the race, pounds his fists on his desk and declares, (in translation): “Why? Why? He would have been such fun! I will miss him! Send a condolence card.”

The most formidable Republican candidate (of those currently running, omitting a last-minute dark horse or compromise candidate like Paul Ryan) would be Marco Rubio.

Hillary Clinton will be crowned the Democratic nominee and appoint Julian Castro (or his twin brother Joaquin) her vice-presidential running mate. Both are Texans, Latinos, politicians, Democrats, and young (politically-speaking, early 40s).

Ted Cruz thrives the first part of the year, but falters as more people listen to him. Grudgingly ending his campaign, he vows (to his advisers) that he will be back in four years because, since he is not the nominee, the Republicans will probably lose the election.

It is very likely no Republican candidate will win enough votes in the primaries to enter the convention a clear winner. 

Whoever the Republican candidate may be, advisers work hard trying to find a running mate as calamitous as Sarah Palin. Failing, the vice-presidential candidacy is reluctantly bestowed upon John Kasich (Governor of Ohio). No one in the GOP wants him, but Ohio is a crucial electoral state up for grabs. Before the party confers the honor, Kasich agrees not to campaign in any red state, confining his politicking to states along the East and West coasts (except North and South Carolina and Georgia), and Ohio.

Here are the 2016 Presidential contenders:

Democratic ticket: Hillary Clinton and Julian Castro

Republican ticket: Marco Rubio and John Kasich

May the force be with them

How about an alternate absurd scenario?

On the Democratic side, Hillary withdraws (for personal reasons) from the race before the convention. Bernie Sanders wins the nomination before a flabbergasted, unbelieving convention audience. He reaches out - all the way to Japan - and chooses Caroline Kennedy as his running mate.

On the Republican side the current crew beat up on each other so much no one appears a clear winner after multiple convention ballots. The convention turns to Jeb Bush’s oldest son (because everyone felt so bad Jeb did not come close to winning the nomination), 39-year-old George P. Bush and heir to the family’s political dynasty (because he is old enough, minimum age 35 to be President). He chooses his Dad as his running mate.

Since both parties offer a ticket of dubious winning potential, Donald Trump decides to run on a third party slate. He selects Miss Columbia as his running mate, a.k.a. Miss Universe 2016 for a few minutes. Trump, feeling sorry for her, offers her the job. When told she is ineligible, he said he would change the Constitution.

And the winner is…

Definitely not the American public. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

My 2015 Holiday Letter

My first holiday letter debuted last year. I dismissed letters from friends and relatives in the past as cheesy and kind of silly, but now I am a writer, and so I write…


Travel dominated my year.

2015 began on a Caribbean cruise with my entire family celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday. Hub and I stayed in Florida throughout January keeping warm and cozy.

We returned North to cold, bitter weather and high heating bills.

There were trips to the kids, flying to Florida or driving to Vermont, then returning home for a couple of days of much-needed rest and recuperation (grandkids can be exhausting).

We flew to Seattle for a convention, hub working while I played. We drove to Boston for hub’s retirement party. It is official. He is 100% retired, so he says. We shall see.

Spent a couple of days strolling through the summer manors of the 19th and early 20th century rich in Newport, Rhode Island, peeking into their bedrooms, gawking at the furnishings and clothes, spying on their parties…

Meanwhile my ancestors got seasick crossing the Atlantic packed in ships, then worked long hours in the hot city toiling in un-air-conditioned buildings. Eventually they spent summers in the Catskill Mountains, but that is another story…

Between trips we hosted an assortment of Airbnb guests, cutting into treasured lazy retirement time. The income, however, was appreciated.

I earned additional income - $14 - fulfilling my civic duty serving on a jury.

Three weeks in Mexico my Spanish improved (a tiny bit) and we made a large contribution to the Mexican economy. (Still waiting for a thank you note.) Time passed drinking Sangria, relaxing in a comfortable casita, and hanging out in cafes.

In June I celebrated my birthday and qualified for Medicare, receiving my card just in time to show off to hospital personnel. Following my sojourn, I recuperated at home from the hospital food. The kids and grandkids came and enjoyed the beach while I slept.

The summer concluded with two weddings a week apart, one in Massachusetts and one in San Francisco. Nothing makes me feel older than witnessing young folks tie the knot, and watching the young couple and their friends party while I struggle to stay awake past my normal bedtime.

In October Italy beckoned and I, along with three girlfriends, enjoyed wine and wonderful cuisine while touring Florence and Venice.

Come November we welcomed our fifth grandchild, Lila Doris, into the world and our family.

December found hub and I in Norway on an Arctic cruise in winter 24/7 darkness. When we decided to go it did not seem like a crazy idea…it was a remarkable, unique adventure.

Maybe we are somewhat crazy.


May 2016 be a year of happiness, adventure,
excellent health and peace
for everyone. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

SCRAPPY’S DINER

Eating on the road presents challenges when avoiding fast food outlets like McDonald’s and Burger King. Sometimes hub and I bring along snacks and drinks, but we like to take breaks, stopping for coffee, to pee, for a snack, to pee, for a meal, to pee…

Locating a restaurant offering decent food and reasonable prices should not be too much to ask, but often is.

We used to depend on our GPS, but it frequently led to places out of business, under new management advertising a different cuisine (who wants pizza for breakfast? or a pricey French bistro?), or we land in the middle of a neighborhood or industrial park far from food. Of course we could update our GPS database, but that cost money, so we decided there are alternatives to finding good places to eat, like keeping a sharp eye on the lookout for possibilities as the car whizzes by the landscape.

There are times we travel miles with no prospects in site, other times patronize places where the food rates barely edible to abysmal, but occasionally discover a local, non-chain establishment that surprises in a good way. That is exactly what happened this past week.

Scrappy’s Diner (for anyone living in or passing through upstate New York) is a rare find.

Eyes peeled for a lunch stop as we traveled Route 149 from Glens Falls to Fort Ann, we noticed a fluttering flag calling to us, welcoming us and beckoning us inside the log cabin building. The restaurant, open 6 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. everyday, offers enough menu variety that a hungry customer can discover something appetizing, yet not so overwhelming that it continues for pages.

Weary travelers come upon a homey, old-fashioned country atmosphere. Employees know a lot of the customers, and many customers recognize each other, greeting individuals entering, “How are ya today? How are the kids?”

What more could you ask for when traveling America’s roads than good quality, fresh food cooked with love and care, a responsive, friendly staff, clean rest rooms, and free coffee and soft drink refills (including our own travel mugs)! The cook – and restaurant owner - came to our table to ensure our dishes met expectations.

So if you are in the neighborhood, stop by Scrappy’s Diner, say hi to Cyn, and savor a hearty, delicious breakfast or lunch.

I doubt you will be disappointed. I bet you add the place to your favorites list. We did, and will stop by on our next trip to Vermont.

---------------------------

If you have not stopped by the Best of Boomers this week,
take a look at the 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Return to Sunlight

The Norwegian coastline is an endless array of craggy stone mountains, snow-capped throughout winter, treeless and barren year round, soaring on either side of deep blue fjords, inlets of the sea formed millions of years ago when the glaciers retreated. 

Sailing south along the coast, additional hours of daylight greeted us. Our last day aboard ship the sun shone and the stark blue sky delighted eyes grown accustomed to darkness. 

Highlights of our adventure...

Norwegian folk songs and Christmas carols chanted at a midnight concert in the Arctic Cathedral in Tromso.

A visit to the Magic Ice house in Svolvaer, a warehouse chock-full of ice sculptures of Vikings, trolls and sea creatures. An ice bar supplied drinks to warm our insides. Hats, gloves, coats, boots and scarves also helped!

Ice cream in what is advertised as the best ice cream shop in Norway. Flavors vary with seasonal ingredients. The fresh ice cream was very good, but I remain a Ben and Jerry's fan.

Lots of choices for Ben and Jerry fans!
Shops similar to Wawas and 7-Elevens sell the ice cream.
And 7-Elevens are everywhere in Norway.

While on the subject of food...I never thought I would get tired of lox, but by the end of the cruise opted for other offerings. 

Night walks on the ship's observation deck, necks stretched back, eyes searching the sky for the Northern Lights. 

Hub and I participated in an inaugural trip (members of an elite group of excursion virgins) to a marble mine (not part of our Road Scholar program). Donning hard hats and life jackets, we rafted along mine waters in the interior of a mountain, tasted fresh-tapped mountain water, enjoyed local fare (vegetable soup and flat bread), and learned a bit about marble mining. The road leading to the mine - a word used loosely, as it was more a snowplowed path - caused heart palpitations as the tour bus maneuvered hairpin turns in darkness during a snow storm, the ride downhill more precarious than the trip up the mountain. No guard rails, only a driver with experience navigating Norway's roads. He also played the accordion, entertaining us during our meal in the mine. 

Bus excursions into the countryside and walking tours of towns illuminated by holiday decorations brightened our days and provided opportunities for fresh air and exercise. We were lucky temperatures hovered around 32 degrees, moderate for December, although bundling up a necessity before venturing outdoors. Wind our adversary, freezing temperatures along with strong blasts occasionally limited outdoor activity. We experienced snow, rain and a mixed bag while wandering ice-covered streets and sidewalks, heated pedestrian paths, lighted walkways and rocky, uneven trails.

Commercial fishing and fish farming are major industries. These are salmon holding centers, part
of a fish farm operation.


Oil has made Norway a prosperous country.

The days passed quickly and suddenly discussions of disembarkation procedures and flights home jar us back to everyday lives.

Following two plane rides and a two hour drive, we arrived home 5:00 p.m., 17 hours after leaving our hotel in Norway. After a quick take-out dinner from our local pizza shop, hub fell asleep at 6:00 p.m. and I lasted until 7:30 p.m., sleeping until morning while dreaming of fjords, fish, snow-capped mountains, and a rolling ship.                                                                                                

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Norway's North Cape

Communities along the Norwegian coast beckon winter travelers, offering warmth, good food and drink, local hospitality, tourist attractions and modern amenities. But venturing into the countryside the fierce Arctic winter stuns while at the same time captivating the first time visitor.

The North Cape, wind-swept and desolate - especially in winter - is on an island jutting into the sea beneath, the place where the Norwegian Sea (part of the Atlantic Ocean) meets the Barents Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean). Leaving our warm cocoon on the ship, we boarded a toasty bus and belted up. Norwegian law requires bus passengers wear seat belts. 

The black landscape appeared ominous and although a steady snow fall looked pretty, we could not help but feel insecure.  

Drifting snow often closes area routes. Ensuring a safe arrival at our destination a snowplow met the bus, carving a path along the snow-covered road.

It was afternoon but felt like the middle of the night. Dim lights from town and an occasional home along the way was not enough to pierce the darkness as our caravan meandered up the mountain. Scanning the road ahead or behind grew difficult, blowing snow blocking any view illuminated by bus headlights, the moon, and the white landscape.

Tentatively stepping off the bus at the North Cape, we walked slowly along a snow-covered path to the globe, a monument marking the Cape as the point farthest north on the European continent. Ice beneath the snow made walking hazardous. Wandering further out onto the cliff the wind grew stronger and fiercer. It became a challenge remaining sure-footed.

The Cape globe

Lights strategically placed provided enough light to safely maneuver, but no one stayed outside long. After viewing the globe, snapping pictures and walking along the perimeter, peering down into a black abyss, we headed for the information center/cafe/gift shop/museum, normally closed in winter but opened specifically for our ship's visitors - our Road Scholar group and a few other hardy souls. During the summer five or six thousand visitors a day mill around observing the midnight sun.
Sign on the Cape information center marking the North Cape latitude.

The dark days attract few tourists.

The snowplow led the way back into town. Meanwhile employees at the Cape visitors center closed the place and were escorted into town, returning to their warm, welcoming homes. 

Cell phone service is sporadic and often non-existent along country roads, especially in poor winter weather. To prevent people getting stuck and unable to contact help, convoys lead travelers along the roads around the island when conditions warrant. A schedule is posted regularly and meeting places listed. Locals plan their shopping, errands and other travels accordingly.

The North Cape was the most daunting, hostile and coldest place visited during our voyage. As we sail south again, additional daylight hours and more temperate weather should prevail.  

The North Cape, an experience to remember but not necessarily repeat. At least not in winter...

Sailing south, crossing the Arctic Circle and once again a brief glimpse of daylight.

I Can See Russia From My Bus Window!

We exited the bus at the eastern edge of Norway and walked right up to the Russian border. Although an open gate beckoned, our guide told us - quite emphatically - NOT to step into Russia. We would be arrested and fined - by Norway - a hefty $10,0000 USD. And do not think we could get away with it, the Norwegian guide emphasized, security cameras posted everywhere do not miss anything...

No guards in sight, but buildings immediately inside the gate probably kept border patrol personnel warm and cozy.  

The crossing separating Norway and Russia,the Schengen Border,  is a cold, snowy, windy, white and forbidding place in winter. Yet there is a surprising amount of activity. 

Cars cross in both directions. Russians venture into Norway to shop, lured by the variety and selection of merchandise. The closest town, Kirkenes, caters to these shoppers, boasting stores in much larger numbers than the town population warrants. 

Norwegians venture into Russia because of the cheap prices, especially for commodities such as vodka and gasoline.

The Sami, the area's indigenous people, travel unencumbered across the borders of Russia, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Anyone living within 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) of the border, on either the Russian or Norwegian side, can cross unimpeded.

Tourists arrive (on the Norwegian side) and gawk, take pictures and browse in the souvenir shop, a small red wood shack selling Russian merchandise.

Recently Syrian refugees crossed over on bicycles, but two weeks ago Norway closed the border to the newcomers. (Norway accepted about 35,000 Syrian refugees in 2015.)

The refugees' travels often proceeded as follows:

Travel to Lebanon, a train ride to Moscow, a plane flight to Murmansk, followed by travel to Nikel (about a two hour drive from Murmansk), the nearest Russian border town. The refugees purchase bicycles for about $150-$250 USD, then take a taxi to the border and cycle into Norway. 

Why bike across a snow-covered path?

Because a Russian law states individuals must cross the border on wheels - no one can walk across, and Norway will not allow vehicle passengers into the country without proper documents. 

Cyclists immediately abandon the bikes in Norway because they do not meet safety requirements.

Although this time of year darkness prevails 24/7, a couple of hours of morning twilight provides enough light to view the sites.

We reached the Russian border within that tight time slot. 

Yes, we could see Russia! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Traveling Inside the Arctic Circle

Experiencing Norwegian Medical Care...

A dentist's visit was not on our original itinerary. During breakfast hub discovered a piece of tooth dislodged, not hurting but bothering him. Realizing another week traveling with a broken tooth would be upsetting at best, he made a beeline for the ship's reception desk. Luckily the ship was scheduled for a three hour stop in Bodo, a town of 50,000. The staff made a dental appointment and ordered a taxi to be waiting at the dock.

The ship docked about half an hour late. Disembarking, a car awaited at the bottom of the gangplank. The driver, speaking excellent English - he spent time at school in the states - drove us to the dentist, who happened to be the driver's brother.

The office was neat and clean. We noticed several pairs of shoes along one wall, and a waiting patient pointed to a sign on the wall - leave shoes here (in Norwegian, but we figured out what the sign meant). Luckily hub wore socks without holes, not a regular occurrence!

The dentist visit proved successful, a positive socialized medicine experience. X-rays taken, the tooth fixed, the dentist called his brother on his cell phone to pick us up.

The office's credit card machine did not accept our credit card. Most machines in this part of the world nowadays require a chip and password. Hub paid with cash. He did not have quite enough to cover the bill, but the dentist accepted whatever we had and sent us on our way.

Walking outside our cab pulled up. Hub requested a stop at an ATM, then handed our driver the rest of the money owed on the dental bill, telling him to give the dentist (his brother) the cash. 

We pulled up in front of the ship with about ten minutes to spare before sailing.

Life aboard ship...

The extended darkness blends together day and night. Towns are lighted by house and building lights, street lights, and holiday lights. Leaving for a tour on shore during the day, the atmosphere seems like nighttime. Returning one wants to head for bed, feeling as if it is late at night when only mid-afternoon. Our bodies are conditioned to sleep when it is dark outside, and that feeling envelops us even though we might not actually be tired.

Road Scholar is part of an Astronomy group. Leisure time is punctuated by a series of eight lectures offered by an expert on the skies in this part of the world. In addition our tour leader, John Haywood, an authority on the Vikings and the author of books on the subject, offers a series of five lectures. 

Ship life is slow-paced. Our stateroom is small, but there is lots of public 'hanging out' space. We linger over meals, move to the bar area for after lunch or dinner drinks, and socialize with fellow Road Scholar travelers. We read and use computers, although internet is not free, often sporadic or non-existent. 

At times we hit rough seas. We make sure everything in our cabin is stored away and secure. Hub is fine, I feel queasy at times, although have not needed the travel sickness bags placed strategically around the ship.

The best time to view the Northern Lights is evening, and we walk outside to examine the skies. No sign of stars, the overcast night does not bode well for seeing anything. We retire for the night. If there is promise of viewing the phenomenon, we hang out a while longer. Some nights the ship's chefs offer treats on the observation deck, such as potatoes and fishcakes (prepared the Norwegian way).

Sailing through the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, and the Arctic Ocean, I am amazed at the number of inhabitants and the variety of businesses in this part of the world. Tromso, calling itself the capital of the Arctic, is a vibrant city of over 70,000 plus home to a university. Towns bustle with economic activity, fishing and tourism the major industries, but companies from mining to high tech maintain facilities in towns along Norway's Arctic coast. 

Next  post, hopefully pictures. The ship's internet connection in our current location refuses to upload photos.

Norwegian Ship Ahoy!

Folks back home appeared skeptical when told about our trip to see the Northern Lights. Won't it be really, really cold? What cruise line? The Arctic? In winter? Are you guys crazy? You guys are crazy...

No one heard of Hurtigruten, our cruise line. Their ships sail the waters around Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica. They are experts, or at least experienced, sailing cold, distant, often rough, inhospitable seas, places most tourists avoided in the past.

Our ship the MS Midnatsol

Things change, and the company that sails Norwegian waters ferrying passengers, cars, mail and cargo between towns seven days a week, everyday of the year except Christmas, now carries tourists as well.

Stereotypes about cruises and past cruise experience should be thrown away when thinking about sailing Hurtigruten. As an introductory program emphasized, this is an expedition, not a cruise. Along with warm clothing bring along an open mind and sense of adventure.

Not that the ship is rustic, not at all. Public areas are well-appointed and comfortable. The ship is small compared to many cruise ships, maximum 1,000, and that includes day passengers as well as overnight guests.

Our ship, the MS Midnatsol (Midnight Sun), docks about 35 times during the 11 day round-trip cruise. At many ports the ship docks, loads and unloads passengers and cargo and leaves within fifteen minutes. Longer stops allow tourists to enjoy shore excursions or explore on their own. Docks are a few minutes walk to the center of town in most places, allowing easy access. 

We took a bus tour around the city of Trondheim, Norway's original capital, beginning in the dark at 8:00 a.m. and ending in daytime twilight at the Nidaros Cathedral. Norway's patron saint and first king, Olav, was buried on the site. It quickly became a pilgrimage destination, and the church was built to accommodate visitors. Today pilgrims, tourists and townsfolk enjoy the facility. Church services are held at various times by Catholics, Lutherans and Orthodox. Originally Catholic, Norwegians later converted to the Lutheran faith. 

Usually we sail close to shore and the coastal 7,000 islands. We encountered rough seas, however, when sailing open waters. Waves were so high sea foam crossed our deck 4 window. I witnessed the activity lying down, the best position to calm a queasy stomach.

The further north sailed the fewer hours of daylight experienced. We crossed the Arctic Circle and continue north and east. Lights from houses and towns lining the shore dot the landscape, with snow-capped mountains a constant backdrop.

View from ship's deck passing a town.

Meanwhile we are warm and toasty inside the ship, unless venturing out on deck.

Crossing the Arctic Circle is cause for celebration. The exact time is noted, the Captain reads a proclamation, King Neptune appears, and passengers are doused with ice cold water down their back (I can verify there are lots of ice cubes in the water!) and then handed a glass of wine to help recover from the shock.

Flexibility is key to enjoying this trip. Excursions cancelled because of bad weather, sporadic or no internet service, rough seas, schedules delayed or changed due to weather conditions, fish available every meal smoked, boiled, baked, fermented, stewed...such is life in the Arctic.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

December in Norway

Holiday decorations begin appearing around Norway the beginning of December. Traditionally people did not erect their Christmas tree until the day before Christmas eve, keeping it throughout the twelve days of Christmas.A few (very amateur) pictures of our time exploring Oslo, the country's capital and largest city.

The Vinterland, in the heart of Oslo, an outdoor holiday market with booths selling ornaments, 
clothing and other gift items, 
lots of food stands, and a ferris wheel.


The National Palace, home of the King and Queen. Unfortunately we were not invited to tea...


Telephone booths are sparse but still seen around the city.


Don't tell the kids, but I met the REAL Santa Claus!


Replica of the Kon Tiki raft Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the Pacific.


We left Oslo via train, a seven hour ride across the country to Bergen 
and our ship. This is not a black and white photo, but the scenery was
mostly black and white except for a few houses, buildings and barns, red and mustard yellow
the colors of choice.

Next post aboard ship..








Rediscovering Norwegian Sagas


Viking ship built about year 1000

(Originally I titled this post Discovering Norwegian Sagas, but did not want to admit there are large gaps in my knowledge of Norwegian history.)

The first night following our flight to Norway I slept until dawn.

9:20 a.m...

Not a lot of daylight this time of year in the Land of the Midnight Sun. We definitely will not observe the Midnight Sun this trip, an experience which will have to wait for a summer visit. 

We had a day on our own before our tour program commenced. Purchasing Oslo passes, allowing access to public transportation and a number of museums, hub and I set out to explore the city.

We found buses and trains clean, scheduled only a few minutes apart, not over-crowded, with upholstered seats and light, airy cars equipped with large windows. No graffiti. The underground train stations were well lighted, clean, with enough signage that we did not get lost!

The Kon Tiki museum, our first stop, the story a vague shadow of a memory lingering in the back of my less-than-great memory, tells the story of Thor Heyerdahl's adventures crossing oceans in replicas of ancient rafts. I found most interesting his theory that beliefs are not always right just because 'everyone' believes them. He set about proving some commonly held historical ideas wrong. 

Building a craft similar to ones used thousands of years ago by Peruvian inhabitants, he sailed in what his contemporaries labeled an unseaworthy vessel to Polynesia. 101 days after leaving Peru (the year 1947), he landed on a Polynesian island, disproving the assumption that South Americans could not have sailed west to these islands. Whether they did or not has not been established, but they could have.

Next the Fram Polar Museum and a walk through the ship used by early 20th century explorers charting the Canadian Arctic islands and waterways, Greenland and nearby northern waters. The ship also sailed to Antarctica with a group of hardy explorers (I would say crazy men - no women on board - I am not enamored of spending months and possibly years on board a ship and in tents lacking central heating in subzero, harsh weather conditions).

Piloting the Fram. Unfortunately, since I cannot see over the wheel an therefore have no idea what is ahead, 
I would probably wreck the ship. 

Our official Road Scholar program began with John (our esteemed leader throughout the trip) previewing tour details, followed by dinner at the hotel, the food not worth mentioning. However lattes and other coffee drinks from the hotel coffee shop/bar tasted wonderful!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Norway Way, Way Up North

Writing from Oslo, Norway, the furthest north I have ever been, travel way, way up north begins.

Flying east across the pond can result in mental and physical exhaustion, challenging the body (my body, I do not know about other people's body) to remain healthy and alert. Younger folks probably have no problem, used to late nights beginning long after I happily pull my quilt around me and settle in for the night. Our flight left 7:00 p.m. (in the dark) arriving in Oslo 7:30 a.m. (still dark), total flying time seven hours. Flight information available onscreen offered a camera view in front of the plane and under the plane - the earth beneath. Unfortunately both screens were pitch black, as if turned off, because we flew in darkness the entire flight.

The airline served dinner and breakfast. I found the food unappetizing, tea drinkable and coffee barely so. The hours between meals most people slept, listened to music, and watched movies or TV shows on their monitors. I tried sleeping, actually dozing off for a short time, the tight accommodations not conducive to a long, restful slumber. 

Arriving at the airport, a glitch with the conveyor belt resulted in a long delay retrieving bags. But we, along with numerous other passengers, remained patient, sort of, eventually grabbing bags and dashing off, glad the trip - or at least this part - was over.

I must admit I did not do a lot of reading and preparation before our trip, leaving the details to Road Scholar, our trip planner. However, utilizing the all-knowing Internet, I did research transport options from the Oslo airport to our hotel. A bus kiosk conveniently located near the terminal exit directed us outside to stand 11. Exiting into 32 degrees Nordic weather, a tour-type bus, outfitted with upholstered seats, seat belts, a tray table and plenty of storage space, idled directly in front of stand 11. Forty-five minutes later, heaving a sigh of relief and eager to drop our bags and begin our adventure, we arrived at our hotel. 

I was hungry, tired, and a bit cranky.

We quickly realized almost everyone speaks English. Lucky, because we speak no Norwegian.

Given a tour booklet on Oslo - in Norwegian because the hotel was out of English books - we followed the map and headed out in search of food, real edible food. The temperature hovered around the mid 30s. The bright sun blinded, but sat low in the sky. We walked in the shade, few rays penetrating the skyline to warm our bodies.

We found the Alfred cafe, attached to the Nobel Peace Center. The museum looked interesting, but we were too tired to think about wandering through. Following delicious, steaming cups of coffee and an omelet/goat cheese sandwich, we returned to our hotel, finally relishing a couple of hours of comfortable, peaceful sleep.

Our Road Scholar program begins tomorrow. A favorite pastime is perusing travel brochures. This particular trip caught my eye, and before hub knew what was happening we signed up for a trip to Norway comprising a couple of days in Oslo and a cruise along the Norwegian coast, culminating in crossing the Arctic Circle and - hopefully - viewing the Northern Lights.

But I am getting ahead of myself...