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Oslo 2010 Home Page

Virus and Volcano

Pre-Trip Information

Formal Gallery

Who Went


Oslo 2010

Thursday, May 06 - Oslo, Norway
Friday, May 07-  day at sea
Saturday, May 08 - Normandy (Paris), France
Sunday, May 09 - Cherbourg, France
Monday, May 10 - Dublin, Ireland
Tuesday, May 11 - day at sea
Wednesday, May 12 - Edinburgh, Scotland
Thursday, May 13 - Loch Ness, Scotland
Friday, May 14 - day at sea
Saturday, May 15 - Oslo, Norway

Oslo 2010 Home Registration Who is Going?    

The SSQQ 2010
Oslo Cruise

Thursday, May 6th - Saturday, May 15th

A 9-day cruise across the North Sea
from Norway to the Normandy Coast
from Normandy to Ireland
from Ireland to Scotland
and back to Norway
aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas

We start with the Fjords of Oslo, then sail to see Paris - the spectacular Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, and the fabled Moulin Rouge. 

After Paris, we move down the coast to Cherbourg and the beaches of Normandy where D-Day took place in 1944.

Then it is on to Dublin and the stunning green vistas of Ireland. 

We wrap up our trip in Scotland with the Castles of Edinburgh one day and a visit to the mysterious Loch Ness Monster the next!

Day One:  Oslo, Norway -- Departs 5:00 pm
Day Two:  Fun Day at Sea Cruising the North Sea
Day Three: Paris, France (Le Havre) -- 9 am - Midnight
Day Four: Cherbourg, France  -- 7 am - 3 pm
Day Five: Dublin, Ireland -- 11 am- 11 pm
Day Six: Fun Day at Sea Cruising the British Isles
Day Seven: Edinburgh, Scotland -- 8 am -
5 pm
Day Eight: Loch Ness, Scotland --  9:00 am -- 6 pm
Day Nine:  Fun Day at Sea Cruising the North Sea
Day ten: Oslo, Norway -- Arrive 7:00 am



On May 6th, 2010, we will set sail aboard The Vision of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s finest ships, for a nine day trip across the North Sea of Europe.
In 1998, SSQQ took its first summer Dance Cruise.  This trip marked the first step in a summer tradition that quickly became a huge success. Our summer cruise trips were so much fun that people began to ask me about other destinations.  Good idea!  In 2004, starting with our Mardi Gras Trip, I have organized one Destination Cruise each year as well.  By the way, that Mardi Gras Trip remains a real favorite of mine thanks to the wonderful group.  Amidst the insanity of Mardi Gras, our group bonded together in a very real "Us against the Mob" mentality.  Feeling safe within the protection of my group, I had as much fun that day as on any trip we have ever taken.  That is the first time I truly understood the dynamic energy inherent in the group travel experience.

Since then, we have taken one incredible trip after another - Alaska 2005, New England 2006, Hawaii 2007, Eastern Mediterranean 2008, and Western Mediterranean in 2009.  I am going to tell you like it is - I got into this cruise trip business because I wanted to see these places just as much as you do.  Now thanks to our phenomenal success on our most recent Barcelona cruise, I decided it's time for an even more ambitious trip.  I am excited about my first chance to take a look at Northern Europe tour with our Oslo trip in May 2010.
 I think I chose well.  Judging from the initial responses I have received, barring the unforeseen, this trip will be an unparalleled success as well!

As most of you know, with the end of our lease at the Bellaire location in April 2010, we are coming to the end of an era.  As my husband hands the reins of SSQQ The Next Generation over to his successor Daryl Armstrong, Rick is more than ready to sail off into the wild blue yonder (me too!)

Rick and I both want to celebrate the next chapter of our lives with more travel. Hence this trip marks the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of the next Era of SSQQ.  We would love for our friends and family to join the fun.  Hint - that means you.

It should be pretty easy to wrap your mind around the incredible highlights of this trip - Oslo and
the Majestic Fjords of Norway, Paris, long considered the world's most romantic city, the beaches of Normandy at Cherbourg, the stunning green vistas of Dublin, the amazing Scottish Castles of Edinburgh, and finally a chance to see the mysterious Loch Ness Monster (we are certain that Nessie will make a special appearance just for us!)

Please come and share our adventure across the magnificent North Sea.  

This trip has everything - history, stunning natural beauty, rich culture and tradition,
dancing and, best of all, friendship.

As always, you will be faced with tough choices.  Will it be a trip to explore ancient ruins or an expedition to witness spectacular mountain vistas?  Is it a day at the pub or a chance to enjoy the compelling natural beauty in Dublin?  Or will it be a chance to view the rich architectural and historical heritage?  Will you make a trip to The Louvre or hit a nightclub at Moulin Rouge?  Can you possible see all of Paris in a day (no, but that won't stop you from trying!) 

Don't worry, whatever you choose, you can't miss!!  This will be, yes, the trip of a lifetime.  By the way, I never get tired of saying that -;)     MA

May 06 - Oslo, Norway

 Oslo, Norway

Day One

Our cruise departs on Thursday from Oslo, Norway at 5:00 pm in the eveningWhy not come a day or two early to explore Oslo in even greater depth?

Oslo is a dynamic city.  Fashionable shops fill the wide and tree-lined Karl Johan Avenue.  Cafes spill on to tree-shaded footpaths. The population of 1.3 million is expanding rapidly; the city nudges hills, forests and the Oslofjord, creating a planning dilemma that only enhances the cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Take a walk to Aker Brygge (pictured) a modern dockside development for dinner. It could be part of an Australian coastal city were it not for Akershus Fortress, the 16th-century castle guarding the harbour.  Two ordinary meals and two glasses of wine will cost about $100. Tourists can begin to remedy costs by purchasing an Oslo Card. An equivalent is available in Bergen and these passes provide admission to many attractions, public transport and discounts at a selection of venues.

Head for the National Gallery. Van Gogh, Monet and El Greco are all represented in addition to the paintings of late 19th-century expressionist Edvard Munch, whose fame centres on his disturbing work The Scream (pictured).  Munch created many versions of this enduring portrayal of a human face distorted in a release of unbearable emotion. It perfectly mirrors how the director of Oslo's Munch Museum must have felt in 2004 when two prized and revered paintings, a version of The Scream and Madonna, were audaciously plucked off the gallery walls by thieves. Those wails of distress were fuelled by chagrin, too, because the crime echoed a previous heist. In 1994, the National Gallery's painting of The Scream had also been stolen. The lesson finally hit home: security systems in both galleries are now, as it were, state of the art. Thankfully all the paintings were eventually recovered and the anguished faces of Norwegian gallery directors are once more composed.

A breath of fresh air is essential after a Munch encounter.  Embark on a 15-minute ferry ride from City Hall to Bygdoynes where there are three maritime museums, all close together. Even if you are not crazy about seafaring history this is a worthy excursion. Some splendid homes and gardens are found in these wealthy streets and the waterfront is a relaxing place to sit and munch a quick lunch.

At Frammuseet one can board the robust 1892-built polar ship Fram and see the cabins of Roald Amundsen and his crew, their expeditionary possessions scattered about. This is the vessel that took Amundsen to Antarctica so Robert Scott fans might skip it. Nearby at the Kon-Tiki Museum (pictured) are the many handcrafted boats of adventurer-scientist Thor Heyerdahl, an environmentalist before the word was known. The Kon-Tiki astonishes with its apparent fragility, yet in 1947 this balsa wood and bamboo craft took Heyerdahl and his crew from Peru to the South Pacific.

An equally worthy shrine to Norwegian seamanship is the Viking Ship Museum (pictured), 10 minutes away. Here are three magnificently preserved ninth-century grave ships that were buried with the bodies and possessions of high-ranking people.

We will complete the nautical day by putting to sea in Johanna, an old timber sailing vessel that takes tourists on three-hour harbour cruises. We will pass by the glinting new opera house and into the Oslofjord, where painted cottages provide splashes of color on the hills and shoreline.

If you have the time, take the Bergen Railway on a four-hour journey from Oslo to the high mountain town of Myrdal, 866m above sea level. Here you will change from a slick modern train into a 70-year-old standard-gauge rattler known as the Flam Railway. It will descend on a gradient of 1:18 through 20km of thrilling countryside torn into green patches, gashed by waterfalls and sheered off by upheavals.  If you prefer try a bike ride at Myrdal and ride down scenic paths over ravines and past farms to Flam, a tranquil port located on an arm of the Sognefjord.

This deep fissure off the west coast of Norway is the world's longest fjord, extending over 200km and reaching into stunningly picturesque valleys.  Arrive in Flam to find its wharves filled with romantic tall sailing ships en route to Bergen for the annual races.  Boasting a surfeit of troll marts bulging with ugly critters and other kitsch, this commercialized hamlet caters mainly to cruise passengers.  Walking in the Flam Valley is a popular activity so fill a morning with an easy ramble, following the course of the rushing, tumbling river.

Time permitting, visit Balestrand, a couple of hours from Flam by high-speed ferry (May to September only), which lies right on the Sognefjord. Ringed by snowy peaks, this community of just 1800 permanent residents is blessed by such a relatively moderate climate and fine scenery that tourists have been coming here for two centuries. Kaiser Wilhelm II made annual visits for 25 years until World War I. He loved the region and the Norwegian people, whom he romanticised as being of pure Germanic stock.

The Kaiser stayed on his yacht while other tourists generally sought out the famous waterfront Kivikness Hotel.  This white, Swiss-style mansion of fretworked timber has been welcoming tourists for 140 years. It has belonged to the Kivikne family for five generations, their shared commitment to hospitality and the continuing upkeep of this sprawling hotel is a story in itself. Grand public rooms marry the style of English country house with Norwegian hunting lodge.

After exploring the immediate township (allow an hour if the private art galleries are open), to wander by the fjord.  You will find a traditional stave church (pictured at right) with a welcoming atmosphere. Known locally as the English Church, it is a memorial to Margaret Kivikne, the nature-loving daughter of an English vicar. Since her death 115 years ago, visiting Anglican clergy have held summer services for tourists.
One good decision would be to visit the Jostedal Glacier, requiring a full or half-day excursion, or take the morning ferry to Bergen.

The four-hour ferry ride along the Sognefjord to Bergen is one of the globe's great journeys, enhanced on this occasion by craft of all sizes under sail. Be sure not to miss any of this majestic scenery.  The historic area, Bryggen, with its toy-town row of timber warehouses, is hidden behind a forest of masts festooned with flapping pennants. Bands, food and souvenir stalls draw surging crowds.

While visiting Bergen, stop by Grieg's home 8km south of town and take the dizzying funicular ride to the top of Mt Floyen.  At the top, forested trails and a lake provide refuge from the city while Bergen.  You may choose to walk down but it will be a long and steep hike.  Bergen's 900-year history was partly written by the Hanseatic League, an association of German merchants and their apprentices who conducted business all over Europe in the Middle Ages. This city was one of their main bases.

The merchants would have regarded the mass of vessels and partying in an aloof mercantile way, because league members lived dour, monastic lives when away from home. (Or so the story goes. Prostitution was rife in this area.) Their apprentices endured horrific hardships but many eventually prospered. The league's living quarters have survived, making for a fascinating tour that sets out from Bryggen Museum.

The true beauty of Norway will be found in tiny, ageless towns fill with friendly townfolk where life advances against a background of glassy fjords and peaceful mountains altered only by the seasons.

We will have our SSQQ Welcome Aboard party this evening. Meet your fellow SSQQ Cruise passengers and dance to your favorite tunes as we sail across the majestic North Sea.

May 08 - Paris, France


I Love Paris
Cole Porter

I love Paris in the
spring time!

I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris

Because my love is here


Many people in our group have never visited Paris.  Add Rick and Marla into that category!  For us, this is the first chance we have ever had to see this legendary destination.  Everyone tells us that Paris is the most romantic destination in the world.  We can't wait to find out why!

Our ship will arrive at Le Havre at 9:00 am on Saturday.  Then we take the train to Paris.  Since we don't have to be back to the ship till midnight, we have lots of time to explore and enjoy.  For that matter, you might even be allowed to spend the night in Paris and catch up with the ship the next day in Cherbourg, France.  Le Havre is 170 miles from Paris.  Cherbourg is 190 miles from Paris.  If there are trains from Paris to Le Havre, then surely there are trains the next day from Paris to Cherbourg, yes? 

That neat little trick would give you nearly a full day and a half in Paris. 

Paris is definitely one of the world's most popular tourist attractions, with 45 million tourists every year coming to the Paris Region, 60% of whom are foreign. 

There are numerous iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower among the many attractions of Paris. The list is practically endless. There is the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, the Palace of Versailles, the lovely Seine River, and popular parks such as "Le Bois de Boulogne".  At night, the city never sleeps thanks to rowdy venues at the Moulin Rouge.  There is so much to see that people have reasons to visit again and again.

Paris is known as the "City of Lights", a name it owes both to its fame as a center of education and ideas as well as its early adoption of street lighting.  Paris is also considered the most romantic place of all to visit.  The "City of Love" has many beautiful parks, street cafes, and long walks along the Seine that all help make Paris the perfect place for lovers to frolic. 

Home to more than 10 million people, Paris is majestic in its architecture and artistic heritage. More than a destination of pleasurable externals, bourgeois absolutes and just-baked baguettes, Paris is great sightseeing, incredible shopping, and leisure dining that always comes with desserts in the form of delicate trays of the finest chocolates and macaroons.

Paris is so much more than the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame and the Louvre.
Stroll the Marais and shop along rue des Francs Bourgeois or walk under the arches of the oldest square in Paris, Place des Vosges. Take time to explore the Latin Quarter to see the church of St. Severin, the Sorbonne and rue Mouffetard -- not just because it's where Joyce, Orwell, Balzac and Hemingway once lived, but also for the rows and rows of fresh food glistening like bouquets of colorful gems under the street market's faded French blue-striped awnings. Stop by the booksellers' stalls along the banks of the Seine around Notre-Dame for antique and second-hand books, comic strips, postcards and posters at great prices.

Saint Germain-des-Pres and the stately Church of St Sulpice's beautiful Delacroix murals are a must-see this trip -- as is the St. Germain Church, the city's oldest church -- before heading down the neighborhood's enchanting streets, through the old squares and artists' studios that surround it. Don't forget to leave time to head up to the little village of Montmarte and the old cobbled streets where Renoir, Lautrec and van Gogh lived and worked; there are wonderful views of the city.

Paris is basically divided twice, first into 20 municipal quarters called arrondissements and second by the Seine, which divides the city into the Right Bank to the north and the Left Bank to the south, linked by 32 bridges. Two of those bridges connect to two small islands at the heart of the city: Ile de la Cite, the city's birthplace and site of Notre-Dame, and Ile St-Louis, a moat-guarded oasis of 17th-century chateaux. The quarters spiral out like a snail, beginning with the first arrondissement. Included in these 20 "neighborhoods" are well known areas like Montmarte, Montparnasse and the Marais.

The best way to find an address is by checking out the arrondissement first. This is indicated by a number followed by "e" or "er," which in English means "th" or "st" (i.e., 7e, 1er)

What to See

What weighs 7,000 tons and has 1,665 steps and 10,000 light bulbs? The Eiffel Tower! This breathtaking landmark was built by Gustave Eiffel (did you know he designed the framework for the Statue of Liberty?) for the 1889 Universal Exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution and was opened by the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII of England.

The Louvre is the world's greatest art museum -- so it really doesn't matter if you've been here before since there's no chance you've seen it all. Collections divide into Asian antiquities, Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Roman antiquities, sculpture, objets d'art, paintings, and prints and drawings. Obviously, the top attractions (and most likely the ones you've seen) are the "Mona Lisa" and the 2nd-century "Venus de Milo."

Note: Avoid the never-ending lines to enter through the Pyramid. Instead, come in from the Carrousel de Louvre mall on rue de Rivoli or, even better, through the Louvre's Metro stop.

(Rick Archer's Note: I have a stunning collection of some of the magnificent artwork displayed here on the SSQQ website.  You really must see it!  The Louvre)

Moulin Rouge has been putting on its famous show since 1889. Of course, being immortalized by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and known for the risque can-can didn't hurt either. It's still fabulous with plenty of feathers, sequins and of course, gorgeous semi-naked showgirls. It's open every night.

The 164-foot Arc de Triomphe was planned by Napoleon to celebrate his military successes, but wasn't finished for another 20 years after he took a trip to Elba. It has some magnificent sculptures, and the names of Napoleon's generals are inscribed on the stone facades. There is a small museum halfway up the arch devoted to its history (you can actually climb to the top). France's Unknown Soldier is buried beneath, and the flame is rekindled every evening.

Although it's probably easier to take the elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can also climb 387 steps up to the north tower of 12th-century Notre-Dame for a nice view of the city. It was here in 1804 that Napoleon crowned himself emperor and then crowned Josephine as his empress. When planning your visit, keep in mind that the cathedral is open year-round from 8 a.m. until nearly 7 p.m., but the towers and crypt are operated by the National Monuments Centre and have more limited opening hours.

Musee d’Orsay is in fact a magnificent 1900 railway station that now houses a superb collection of Impressionist art from 1848 - 1914, including major works from Degas, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and Gauguin. If you don't have lots of time, browse the Upper Level to see the enormous railway clocks in addition to some of the museum's best exhibits.

There's little left of the Bastille, and its remains are pretty much surrounded by a neighborhood filled with an array of popular cafes, clubs and the Opera Bastille, completed in 1990. The Colonne de Juillet dominates la Place de la Bastille, marking the site of the prison that was stormed at the start of the French Revolution in 1789.

In the 16th century, 30 windmills were built in Montmarte for winemaking and milling grain, but only two remain today. Wander the back streets, away from the main square and souvenir shops. At dusk, sit on Basilica du Sacre-Coeur’s top steps and watch Paris indeed become the City of Lights. The basilica is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Christ and the crypt contains what many believe to be Christ's sacred heart. By the way, when its 19-ton bell tolls, you not only hear it -- you feel it!

Check out one of the city's off-the-beaten-path museums. The Rodin Museum was once the home of Rodin and now houses several of the artist's impressive collections, including personal ones. The garden is as spectacular as the inside, so leave time for both.  Hotel des Invalides is the magnificent 17th-century domed structure constructed under the direction of Louis XIV to shelter old and wounded soldiers; it's also the site of Napoleon's tomb. The Museum of Jewish Art and History in the Marais is a wide-ranging collection of objects dating as far back as the Middle Ages.

Head for the rue de Bac for smart shops and a bit of neighborly biographic history. Edith Wharton lived around the corner on the rue de Varenne at Nos. 53 and 58; the Prime Minister's official residence is at No. 57 on Varenne. The chapel of the Miraculous Medal, where Catherine Laboure was said to have visions of the Virgin in 1830, is at No. 140.

Cite de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine which opened in 2007, is the first and only permanent collection dedicated to architecture and architectural heritage. Designed by Jean-Louis Cohen and Jean-Francois Bodin, the new museum showcases the collections of drawings, drafts and models of the French Institute of Architecture.

The Bois de Boulogne is a park located along the western edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, near the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.

The Bois de Boulogne is a giant park that is virtually a forest within a city.  The park covers an area of 3 1/2 square miles, which is 2.5 times larger than Central Park in New York.  In addition to canoes for romantic rowing in the lake, there are waterfalls and plenty of trails through the wooded area for those hand in hand strolls. 

The Palace of Versailles, or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles, the Île-de-France region of France.  When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a suburb of Paris, some 12 miles southwest of the French capital.  In addition to the exquisite chateau, it is home to one of the most beautiful gardens in all of France.

Where to Eat

In Paris, there are memorable dining experiences around every corner -- from the melt-in-your-mouth croissants at a sunny sidewalk cafe to the spectacular culinary creations at the city's many Michelin-starred hot spots. If you're looking to try one of the latter, be sure to make your reservation well in advance, and consider a lunchtime visit to enjoy similar gourmet cuisine at more affordable prices.

A few tips for dining in Paris: The city's restaurants, cafes and bars are now non-smoking, at least indoors -- as a result, outdoor patios are now smokier than ever. When looking at your bill, keep in mind that the tip is often included; however, it's customary to leave a few extra Euros if the service was particularly good. Keep an eye out for the phrase "service non compris," which means that the tip has not been included; in this case, leave about 15 percent.

Les Bouquinistes, Guy Savoy's trendy Left Bank bistro, is located near Notre-Dame and offers elegant French cuisine such as grilled royal sea bream with zucchini and antiboise sauce, and pan-seared foie gras with salty crumbly shortbread and cherries.

The combination of its Eiffel Tower location and spectacular food makes Le Jules Verne one of the most popular (and expensive) restaurants in Paris. Make your reservations months in advance (though it's a bit easier to land a table at lunchtime).

Pierre Herme is the city's premier pastry chef. We love the glorious macaroon confections in pistachio, coffee, rose, passionfruit-chocolate, lemon-hazelnut and the like.

The stylish Le Martel (3 rue Martel) serves up a delicious mix of French and Moroccan cuisine to a trendy clientele in the 10th arrondissement.

You can have ... er, buy your foie gras and eat it too at Granterroirs (30 rue de Miromesnil). Add truffles and other similar goodies for a memorable light lunch.

Passionate or casual tea drinkers should head straight for Mariage Freres, which sells more than 500 types of tea and has been in business since the 1800's.

It's worth heading a little bit out of town to dine at L’Atelier du Parc, where the gourmet French fare is moderately priced. The restaurant is easily accessible by Metro.

At Angelina, chocolate bars are melted down to thick syrup in the name of hot chocolate. And don't miss the amazing Mont Blanc gateau.

Where to Shop

Paris is a shopper's paradise. Serious shoppers who want to make the most of their time in Paris should take a shopping tour; several companies, including Chic Shopping Paris and Paris Luxury Tours offer different options. "Merci" should always precede a departure from any shop, whether you were helped or not -- and a "bonjour" upon entering is always appreciated.

In France, a sales tax or VAT is tacked on to most purchases; however, non-E.U. citizens who spend at least 175 euros at a participating store can get the VAT refunded (with some exceptions).

Note: Refunds are almost non-existent, so shop mindfully. In most department stores, you will be handed a "bill" to pay at the cashier (sometimes a long walk away) before getting your items. By French law, sales take place twice yearly (January, July). They're amazing and the long lines form outside the swankiest shops on day one. To avoid fines, some stores (mostly department stores) mark some racks as "specials" or "just in," but it isn't all that common.

Visit Avenue Montaigne in the eighth arrondissement for haute couture from the likes of Chanel, Laurent, Dior and Lanvin.

Marche aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, the most famous flea market in the city, is enormous -- consisting of some 3,000 stalls. It's held along Avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt Saturday through Monday.

Rue du Faubourg St-Honore pays homage to glamour, fashion, high style and the world's most expensive shops and galleries -- and the President's Palace.

The Champs-Elysees is one long promenade of high-end shopping opportunities, including names like Prada, Sephora and Louis Vuitton.

Many visitors are surprised to hear that Paris has a Chinatown, but it's actually a fun place to shop. Browse the aisles at giant Asian supermarkets along avenue d'Ivry such as Tang Freres packed with dried mushrooms, Vietnamese lemongrass, canned litchi juice and powder water chestnuts. It's a must-do for finding those ingredients you can never seem to find for a recipe (as long as it's canned or sealed, you can get it thru Customs back home

The Louvre

Notre Dame

Arc de Triomphe

Basilique Sacre Coeur

Bois de Boulogne

Gardens at the Palace of Versailles

Palace at Luxemburg

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

The Seine River runs through the heart of Paris

Another look at the beautiful Seine River

Cherbourg, France

Fort du Roule

Park Emmanuel in Cherbourg

Cherbourg, France

Day Four

Cherbourg is a city in France, situated in the Normandy region northwest of Paris.   An important city for its harbor and its proximity to French cities of note, it is also a busy deep-water seaport, naval base and maritime industrial center.

An exploration of this port city offers natural beauty and impressive manmade landmarks, from spectacular sea vistas and verdant hills to a massive sea wall that rims its harbor and a star-shaped fort that guards it.

Things to See and Do

Fort du Roule
—a classic 19th-century fortress built atop a steep hill overlooking Cherbourg—houses a WWII museum that's not to be missed. And visitors preferring the outdoors will find plenty of gardens in the city of Cherbourg that bloom with color year-round. They are beautiful settings in which to spend a leisurely afternoon.

Jardin Public is an incredible public park that sits at the foot of Roule Mountain and offers a large aviary; a sea pool with sea lions and a children's play area.

D-Day. For the history buffs, Cherbourg is situated close to sites of incredible historical importance.  A visit to Cherbourg offers a chance to learn more about D-Day and to see the actual landing site.  The Normandy beaches, where Allied invasion took place on D-Day, are only 30 miles away.  There are certain to be excursions that will take you to this site of historical importance.

In addition, the Battle of Cherbourg was part of the Battle of Normandy during World War II. It was fought immediately after the successful Allied landings on June 6, 1944. American troops isolated and then captured the fortified port, considered vital to the campaign in Western Europe, in a hard-fought campaign of three weeks.

Past and Present

Though tranquil and idyllic today, the area that is now Cherbourg has a fascinating history of conflict and conquest. Even before World War II, the city saw a string of invasions. Over the centuries, it has been home to different groups of people, including Celts, Gauls and Romans. Saxons have also invaded the area, followed by the Franks and Vikings, many of who settled there.

With the Norman conquest of England in1066 AD, Cherbourg came under English rule for nearly 300 years. In the 13th century, it became part of the Kingdom of France, later to change rule over and over again during the Hundred Years War. In all, Cherbourg changed hands between England and France 6 times, until 1540 AD, when it became a permanent part of France.

The aviary at Jardin Park in Cherbourg

A bunker at Omaha Beach in Normandy

Rick Archer's Note about Cherbourg: On September 15, 2009, I received a publicity email that touted the top 25 cities to visit in France.  Curious, I took a peek.  Alas, Cherbourg wasn't among them.  So the big question is - Why would a major cruise line visit Cherbourg when Paris is just down the street?

I assume the reason is that Cherbourg offers people the perfect chance to walk the beaches of Normandy and see first-hand the places where the Allies landed at D-Day.

I am well aware that no one who reads my travel write-ups needs me to explain the significance of D-Day to them.  So I will not insult your intelligence with a long-winded recap.  That said, I hope you won't mind if I say a word or two. 

The Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, was by far the largest amphibious operation in history. Known as D-Day, this remarkable event marked the beginning of the end for Germany in World War II. 

The Normandy landings were the first successful "opposed" landings across the English Channel in over eight centuries. The attack was very costly in terms of men, but the defeat inflicted on the Germans was one of the largest of the war. Strategically, the campaign led to the loss of the German position in most of France. In larger context, the Normandy landings also helped the Soviets on the Eastern front, who were facing the bulk of the German forces.  There is little doubt that D-Day contributed to the shortening of the conflict there as well.

Contrary to what some people say, the Germans weren't stupid.  They knew full well from the Allied build-up across the channel in England that the invasion was coming.  Accordingly, the Germans put tremendous energy into building up their defenses along the coast of France.

One of the remarkable features of D-Day was just how successful the Allies were at duping the Germans into believing the main thrust would come at Calais (see picture).  Even after the assault on Normandy began, much of the German high command still believed this attack was just a fake to divert forces away from Calais.  Field Marshall von Rundstedt screamed at his Nazi superiors to allow him to move the vaunted Panzer divisions at his disposal down to Normandy, but he was not permitted to commit the armored reserve for several hours. When it was finally released late in the day, any chance of repelling the attack was lost.

So, thanks to the ingenuity of the Allied command, the resistance they did face at Normandy was diminished.  That still didn't make it easy.  As everyone knows, the GIs had to slog through water completely exposed to enemy machine guns pouring out thousands of bullets per second.  Then they had to crawl across the sandy beaches of Normandy without cover. Half the time they were pinned down eating sand as the deadly fire raked the beaches.  Just imagine the fear these young men had to feel in such a helpless position!  Finally, they had to literally scale cliffs to get to the enemy bunkers and begin the attack - with a hail of bullets whizzing past their ears scaring them to death the entire time.

For this reason alone, the willingness of these brave men to risk their lives against all odds ranks this attack right along with the Spartans of Thermopylae as one of the greatest displays of courage in human history.  These men certainly get my vote as the greatest heroes of my time here on Earth.  I admire their courage tremendously.

You might be amused to know I spent half a morning searching the Internet for pictures of the men as they lay pinned down on the beach with bullets flying overhead.  I was also looking for pictures of men scaling the Normandy cliffs as the Germans tried to shoot them down from above.  I was frustrated at my inability to find these graphic pictures.  That's when it occurred to me that any man in a position to take a picture like that was more likely to have a gun in his hand than a camera.  That's when I realized it is ridiculous how little I understand what these men really went through.  If I were to ask one of these guys what really happened that day, I am sure they would look at me and say, "Son, you have no idea."  Exactly.

Although naturally you and I focus on the Americans who bravely served their country in this fight, the people who had the most to lose were the British.  Hitler was determined to invade Great Britain.  Because the British channel stood in the way of invasion by land forces, the Germans thought they could soften up the UK population by indiscriminate bombing. Thanks to this reign of terror, 60,000 people died and the United Kingdom was decimated with senseless destruction. 

When D-Day finally arrived, you don't suppose the attacking British forces had a score to settle?   Interestingly, with their successful assault at Normandy, the British settled yet another score as well.  For you history buffs, you may recall the Norman Invasion of England led by William the Conqueror in 1066 AD. 

Today in the British cemetery at Normandy you can read the inscription: "
We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror's native land"

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

Day Five

Dublin is the capital of Ireland as well as its largest city.  The anglicized name comes from the Irish Dubh Linn meaning "black pool". It is located near the midpoint of Ireland's east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey and at the centre of the Dublin Region.   Originally founded as a Viking settlement, it evolved into the Kingdom of Dublin and became the island's primary city following the Norman Invasion. Today, it is ranked 10th (up from 13th in 2008) in the Global Financial Centres Index.  Dublin has one of the fastest growing populations of any European capital city, and is ranked amongst the top 25 cities in the world.

The River Liffey divides Dublin. On the north side of the Liffey is O'Connell Street - the main thoroughfare, which is intersected by numerous shopping streets, including Henry Street and Talbot Street. On the south side are St. Stephen's Green, Grafton Street, Trinity College, Christ Church and St. Patrick's Cathedrals, and many other attractions.

St. Patrick's Cathedral is the second of the capital's two Protestant cathedrals. The other is Christ Church, and the reason Dublin has two cathedrals is because St. Patrick's originally stood outside the walls of Dublin, while its close neighbor was within the walls and belonged to the see of Dublin. Legend has it that in the 5th century, St. Patrick baptized many converts at a well on the site of the cathedral. The original building, dedicated in 1192 and early English Gothic in style, was an unsuccessful attempt to assert supremacy over Christ Church Cathedral. At 305 feet, this is the longest church in the country, a fact Oliver Cromwell's troops—no friends to the Irish—found useful as they made the church's nave into their stable in the 17th century. They left the building in a terrible state; its current condition is largely due to the benevolence of Sir Benjamin Guinness—of the brewing family—who started financing major, restoration work in 1860.

Make sure you see the gloriously heraldic Choir of St. Patrick's, hung with colorful medieval banners, and find the tomb of the most famous of St. Patrick's many illustrious deans, Jonathan Swift, immortal author of Gulliver's Travels, who held office from 1713 to 1745. Swift's tomb is in the south aisle, not far from that of his beloved "Stella," Mrs. Esther Johnson. Swift's epitaph is inscribed over the robbing-room door. W.B. Yeats—who translated it thus: "Swift has sailed into his rest; Savage indignation there cannot lacerate his breast"—declared it the greatest epitaph of all time. Other memorials include the 17th-century Boyle Monument, with its numerous painted figures of family members, and the monument to Furlough O’Carroll, the last of the Irish bards and one of the country's finest harp players. Immediately north of the cathedral is a small park, with statues of many of Dublin's literary figures and St. Patrick's Well. "Living Stones" is the cathedral's permanent exhibition celebrating St. Patrick's place in the life of the city. If you're a music lover, you're in for a treat; matins (9:40 AM) and evensong (5:45 PM) are still sung on many days.

Stephen's Green is a verdant, 27-acre Southside square that was used for the public punishment of criminals until 1664. After a long period of decline, it became a private park in 1814—the first time in its history that it was closed to the public. Its fortunes changed again in 1880, when Sir Arthur Guinness (a member of the Guinness brewery family who was later known as Lord Ardiluan), paid for it to be laid out anew. Flower gardens, formal lawns, a Victorian bandstand, and an ornamental lake with lots of waterfowl are all within the park's borders, connected by paths guaranteeing that strolling here or just passing through will offer up unexpected delights (such as palm trees). Among the park's many statues are a memorial to W. B. Yeats and another to Joyce by Henry Moore, and the Three Fates, a dramatic group of bronze female figures watching over human destiny. In the 18th century the walk on the north side of the green was referred to as the Beaux Walk because most of Dublin's gentlemen's clubs were in town houses here. Today the legendary Shelbourne hotel dominates it. On the south side is the alluring Georgian-gorgeous Newman House.

Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I to "civilize" (Her Majesty's word) Dublin. Trinity is Ireland's oldest and most famous college. The memorably atmospheric campus is a must; here you can track the shadows of some of the noted alumni, such as Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Bram Stoker (1847-1912), and Samuel Beckett (1906-89). Trinity College, Dublin (familiarly known as TCD), was founded on the site of the confiscated
Priory of All Hallows. For centuries Trinity was the preserve of the Protestant Church; a free education was offered to Catholics—provided that they accepted the Protestant faith. As a legacy of this condition, until 1966 Catholics who wished to study at Trinity had to obtain a dispensation from their bishop or face excommunication.

Grafton Street is no more than 200 yards long and about 20 feet wide, but this brick-lined street, open only to pedestrians, can claim to be the most humming street in the city, if not in all of Ireland. It's one of Dublin's vital spines: the most direct route between the front door of Trinity College and St. Stephen's Green, and the city's premier shopping street, with Dublin's most distinguished department store, Brown Thomas, as well as tried and trusted Marks & Spencer. Grafton Street and the smaller alleyways that radiate off it offer dozens of independent stores, a dozen or so colorful flower sellers, and some of the Southside's most popular watering holes. In summer, buskers from all over the world line both sides of the street, pouring out the sounds of drum, whistle, pipe, and string.

O’Connell Street is Dublin's most famous thoroughfare. It is 150 feet wide and was previously known as Sackville Street, but its name was changed in 1924, two years after the founding of the Irish Free State. After the devastation of the 1916 Easter Uprising, the Northside Street had to be almost entirely reconstructed, a task that took until the end of the 1920s. At one time the main attraction of the street was Nelson's Pillar, a Doric column towering over the city center and a marvelous vantage point, but it was blown up in 1966, on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Uprising. A major cleanup and repaving have returned the street to some of its old glory. The large monument at the south end of the street is dedicated to Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847), "The Liberator," and was erected in 1854 as a tribute to the orator's achievement in securing Catholic Emancipation in 1829. Seated winged figures represent the four Victories—Courage, Eloquence, Fidelity, and Patriotism—all exemplified by O'Connell. Ireland's four ancient provinces—Munster, Leinster, Ulster, and Connacht—are identified by their respective coats of arms. Look closely and you'll notice that O'Connell is wearing a glove on one hand, as he did for much of his adult life, a self-imposed penance for shooting a man in a duel. But even the great man himself is dwarfed by the newest addition to O'Connell Street: the 395-foot-high Spire was built in Nelson's Pillar's place in 2003, and today this gigantic, stainless-steel monument dominates the street.

Dublin provides a beautiful setting: it loops around the edge of Dublin Bay and on a plain at the edge of the gorgeous, green Dublin and Wicklow mountains, which rise softly just to the south. From the famous Four Courts building in the heart of town, the sight of the city, the bay, and the mountains will take your breath away. From the city's noted vantage points, such as the South Wall, which stretches far out into Dublin Bay, you can nearly get a full measure of the city. From north to south, Dublin stretches 10 miles in total, it covers 28,000 acres—but Dublin's heart is far more compact than these numbers indicate. Like Paris, London, and Florence, a river runs right through it.  All the major sights are well within less than an hour's walk of one another.

Phoenix Park is Europe's largest public park, which extends about 3 miles along the Liffey's north bank, encompasses 1,752 acres of verdant green lawns, woods, lakes, and playing fields.  Old-fashioned gas lamps line both sides of Chesterfield Avenue, the main road that bisects the park for 4 km (2½ mi), which was named for Lord Chesterfield, a lord lieutenant of Ireland, who laid out the road in the 1740s. To the right as you enter the park is the People's Garden, a colorful flower garden designed in 1864.

Famous for its literary tradition, Ireland's capital has been home to writers from Jonathan Swift to William Butler Yeats and James Joyce. A visit to Dublin allows you to explore both the historical and the hip, from castles and churches to cafés and clubs. Those in search of the perfect pint need look no further than one of Dublin's thousand pubs. The vibrant city life brims with traditional Irish culture and trendy European cool - all set against the backdrop of its stunning coastline.

One of the world’s liveliest cities, there’s been a buzz about Dublin for centuries. While some tales of the city and its residents are clichéd, many ring true. Dubliners are a friendly and talkative bunch.  No visit to Dublin would be complete without spending time in some of the city’s one thousand-plus pubs. A Dublin pub is an excellent place to experience the craic – that quintessentially Irish sense of bonhomie that improves as the evening wears on and the glasses empty. Dublin has pubs to suit every taste, from Victorian gems to 21st-century wannabes, elegant lounge bars to spit-and-sawdust dives. There are bars for the early morning and the late night, for listening to music or watching the big match, for soaking up literary history or indulging in quiet conversation; bars for a quick tipple, a long lunch or a whole evening’s drinking.

The Guinness Brewery is Ireland's all-dominating brewery.  It was founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, and at one time was the largest stout-producing brewery in the world.  It spans a 60-acre spread west of Christ Church Cathedral. Not surprisingly, it's the most popular tourist destination in town—after all, the Irish national drink is Guinness stout, a dark brew made with roasted malt. The brewery itself is closed to the public, but the Guinness Storehouse is a spectacular attraction, designed to woo you with the wonders of the "dark stuff." In a 1904 cast-iron-and-brick warehouse, the museum display covers six floors built around a huge, central glass atrium. Beneath the glass floor of the lobby you can see Arthur Guinness's original lease on the site, for a whopping 9,000 years. The exhibition elucidates the brewing process and its history, with antique presses and vats, a look at bottle and can design through the ages, a history of the Guinness family, and a fascinating archive of Guinness advertisements.  The star attraction is undoubtedly the top-floor Gravity Bar, with 360-degree floor-to-ceiling glass walls that offer a nonpareil view out over the city at sunset while you sip your free pint.

The temperature in Dublin does not vary wildly by season, nor does the propensity to rain. Cool, wet summers and mild, wet winters are the hallmark of Dublin’s climate.  The capital boasts a bevy of free museums. A crop of upscale bistros concocts innovative takes on Irish cuisine, and pubs serve excellent food. A constantly evolving arts scene is the city’s lifeblood. There’s always something happening in Dublin.

Blarney Castle (pictured) is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, Ireland, and the River Martin.  It is about 140 miles from Dublin.  The noted Blarney Stone is found here at this castle.

The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence. There are many legends as to the origin of the stone, but some say that it was the Lia Fáil—a magical stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.

Surrounding the castle are extensive gardens. There are paths touring the grounds with signs pointing out the various attractions such as several natural rock formations which have been given fanciful names, such as Druid's Circle, Witch's Cave and the Wishing Steps.

Blarney House, also open to the public, is a Scottish baronial-style mansion that was built on the grounds in 1874.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Stephen's Green

Trinity College

Grafton Street

Wicklow Mountain

Temple Bar, Dublin's most famous pub

Edinburgh, Scotland

Old Town Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh, Scotland

Day Seven

Edinburgh is Scotland's capital and second-largest city after Glasgow.  Its dramatic windswept hills make it a site to behold. Edinburgh is known for its arts festivals and Hogmanay celebrations, where hundreds of thousands of people come to ring in the New Year. Edinburgh is considered one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe. Its distinctive and unique skyline follows closely that of Venice and makes for fantastic photography at dusk or dawn.

The historic City of Edinburgh preserved over the years has its own medieval atmosphere. Every corner of the city has its own story -- or legend -- which awaits to be uncovered. For example, no tourist should miss a visit to the vaults beneath the City which uncover spooky stories of ghosts and mystery.

Kirkyard is the Scottish term for 'churchyard' and Edinburgh has plenty of them. Each has countless stories to tell, grave stones and mausoleums in honour of famous individuals -- the economist Adam Smith, Robert Louis Stevenson and the world's worst poet, William McGonagall.

Greyfriars is possibly Edinburgh's most famous churchyard thanks to Greyfriars Bobby, the terrier who sat by his master's grave for years until his own death. All tourists take pictures with Bobby's statue just outside the kirkyard.

Despite its well preserved history, Edinburgh is by no means medieval. The year-round events -- like the Edinburgh Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Edinburgh Hogmanay -- make it a vibrant city and can be quite overwhelming for a tourist dying to cover it all.

Built on the site of extinct volcanoes on the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh’s Old Town is filled with cobbled laneways and atmospheric Gothic buildings, while the New Town boasts handsome streets and elegant treed squares. The Old Town’s oldest building is over a thousand years old, while the New Town dates back only to the 1800s.

But it’s not all about the past. Edinburgh is also a cosmopolitan city, with world-class restaurants, scintillating nightlife and every type of hotel imaginable. While the Castle looms on its crag at the top of the Royal Mile, the uber-modern Scottish Parliament building sits at the opposite end of the mile-long cobbled street.

Since we are visiting in the spring it will offer us the opportunity to see Edinburgh without the hordes of tourists that threaten to overrun the city in high season.

For first time visitors to Edinburgh take one of the hop-on-hop-off buses around the City.  It is an ideal way to see a good selection of Edinburgh - which is quite spread out and built on hills.  There are four different bus tours with varying routes.  Check to make sure the one you book goes to the sites you want to see.

The Royal Mile is the historic spine of the city, running from the Castle at its highest point to the  Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom. In between there are lots of significant historic sites and lots of cafes and souvenir shops.   If you are short of time do not walk all the way down the Royal Mile.  Enjoy the Castle at one end, and
hop on a bus to Holyrood at the other.   
Alternatively, keep in mind that Edinburgh is a walker's city.

Get right off the ship at 900 am and head for the Palace of Holyroodhouse (opens at 9:30).  If there is a good exhibit at the new and beautiful Queen’s Gallery, buy a combination ticket and see the exhibit there first, then with your audio guide, tour the Palace and the Abbey ruins at your own pace.   Don't neglect a short stroll in the Palace gardens after your tour. They are pretty and well kept. 

Then walk slowly uphill toward Edinburgh Castle stopping on the way to look at John Knox’s house and, and St. Giles Cathedral; go inside these sights or not, as your whim takes you.  Peek into the Closes (small pedestrian alleyways) along the way, and if a shop strikes your fancy, of course, do that too.  There will be several shops offering free samples of Whiskey.  Along the way have lunch, perhaps "toasties" or soup at a charming place like the Forsythe Tea Shop in one of the Closes.  A short detour up George IV Bridge will take you to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby and the nearby Greyfriars Church.

Edinburgh Castle
is an ancient fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. The Castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland.  It is considered to be Scotland's most-visited tourist attraction.

There has been a royal Castle here since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. As one of the most important fortresses in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has been involved in many historical conflicts, from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century, up to the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and has been besieged, both successfully and unsuccessfully, on several occasions. From the later 17th century, the Castle became a military base, with a large garrison. Its importance as a historic monument was recognized from the 19th century, and various restoration programs have been carried out since.

Be sure to listen for the Once O’clock Gun, which is sounded from the Castle ramparts.  Be sure to get to the Castle by early afternoon, so you'll have enough time to see it all.  You can see the Honours of Scotland (crown jewels, etc.) and enough armor, dungeons and exhibits to entertain the whole family.  Sailors from the American Revolution were among the prisoners here, and you can still see their names and a ship with an American flag and other handiwork carved into the old wooden doors of the prison. The view over Edinburgh is marvelous, the complimentary guided tours or the audio tours are very informative. 

If there is time permitting, be sure not to miss the surrounding Scottish lowlands and the coastal villages on the outskirts of the city,

Edinburgh deserves its accolade of ‘Athens of the North’ – its grand setting, impressive architecture, stately presence qualify the Scottish capital as one of the finest European cities.

Any architectural tour of the city should include:

Holyrood Abbey – founded in 1128 by Queen Margaret’s son King David
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Edinburgh Castle
  – Built by King Malcolm III Canmore and his wife Queen Margaret.
John Knox’s House – from around 1490 is a fine example of the Scottish tenement
Gladstone’s Land – from around 1620
Moray House – c.1628
Queensberry House – c.1634
George Heriot’s School - 1628
Tron Kirk - 1663
Canongate Kirk – 1688
National Gallery of Scotland – 1850, Classical temple-inspired
Cockburn Street – example of Scottish Baronial Style
Scott Monument--Built in the mid 1800's.  This Gothic-inspired monument has a seated statue of Sir Walter Scott and his Scottie dog in the spire.  Climb the almost 300 steps to the top for amazing views.

Old Town Edinburgh

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Edinburgh Castle atop the hill and the Princes Street Gardens

Calton Hill

Edinburgh Castle

Gardens at Dunrobin Castle

Loch Ness, Scotland

Loch Ness, Scotland

Day Eight

Loch Ness is Scotland's second largest lake (Loch Lomond is the largest), but it is definitely Scotland's most famous lake thanks to the greatest myth in modern times.

Everyone has heard of the
legend of the Loch Ness Monster, often called Nessie or Niseag in Gaelic. Rumors of a mysterious creature living in the lake have been around for centuries (with the earliest account being attributed to a record of the life of St. Columba in the 6th century).  It was not until the mid-1900s that the legend of a plesiosaur-like animal living in the lake spread outside of Scotland. Since then, there have been about 10,000 reported Nessie sightings. Many other lakes have also claimed to have their own monsters, including one in Japan and another in Turkey.
Regardless of whether or not there is a monster living in Loch Ness, the legend has become a part of the local culture. In 2003, a group called the South Loch Ness Heritage Group was founded to promote and preserve local culture through exhibitions, lectures and other activities.

Even if you do not see the Loch Ness Monster on your visit, the beauty of the lake and the Scottish Highlands should make up for the disappointment. This region of great natural beauty is home to many museums, moors and picturesque villages.

Loch Ness is located on the Great Glen, which bisects the Highlands of Scotland. It resembles a rift valley but is in fact a lateral fault.  The rocks of Scotland, Scandinavia and North America were once one continent, separated by an ocean from the rocks of England and the rest of northern Europe. Around 420 million years ago in a continental collision called the Caledonian Orogen the rocks of Scotland collided with the rocks of England. Around 40 million years later, the Highlands north of what is now the Great Glen slipped sideways relative to the south side; geologist W Q Kennedy reported matching granites at Strontian with those at Foyers, 65 miles to the east. 

The great Glen stretches between Inverness in the East and Fort William in the West. There are several lochs in the Great but Loch Ness is the longest, and the deepest, with a depth variously said to be between 700 and 900 feet (the North Sea's deepest point is about 150 feet). The Bathymetrical Survey of the Fresh-Water Lochs of Scotland, 1897-1909 reports that in 1901 Murray and Pullar using a wire sounder found the greatest depth of the Loch to be 754 feet.  Deeper sonar soundings have not been independently verified. The average temperature of the Loch varies by only one degree Fahrenheit during the year, as the volume of water is so large and there are few shallows. Some areas of surface water may heat up in the summer by several degrees, for example in the shallows of Urquhart Bay, where the Coiltie and Enrick rivers debouch into the Loch. The bottom of the loch is deeply silted.

The current history of the loch goes back to the end of the last Ice Age roughly 12,000 years ago when the glaciers melted. During the Iron Age, primitive tribes built a crannog near Fort Augustus, which is now called Cherry Island. Driving oak trunks into the relatively shallow waters on the edge of the Loch, which was then infilled with earth, made it. The crannog was a safe place to retreat to in winter when wolves and bears roamed the area. To this date, it is the only island in Loch Ness. When Thomas Telford built the Caledonian Canal to link the North Sea and the western coast of Scotland, in order to minimize the considerable amount of digging involved a weir was constructed at Dochfour which had the effect of raising the level of Loch Ness by about 9 feet, which means that the crannog is rather smaller now than when it was first constructed. 

Legends of a monster in Loch Ness have existed for over a thousand years. In the sixth century a biography called The Life of St. Columba reports that the saint saved a man from being attacked by the Loch Ness monster simply by making the sign of the cross and commanding the beast to retreat. Other sightings before 1933 indicate some sort of large fish. Mrs. Aldie Mackay's sighting of 1933, however, saw the name "Loch Ness Monster" used for the first time and the scene was set for Nessie to become the most enduring mystery of recent years.

In July 1933 Mr. George Spicer and his wife had a land sighting. They saw 'a most extraordinary form of animal' cross the road in front of their car. They described the creature as having a large body (about 4 feet high and 25 feet long), and long, narrow neck, slightly thicker than an elephant's trunk and as long as the width of the road (about 10-12 feet wide); the neck had a number of undulations in it. They saw no limbs because of a dip in the road obscuring the animal's lower portion. It lurched across the road towards the loch 20 yards away, leaving only a trail of broken undergrowth in its wake.

Over the subsequent decades, there were more unexplained sightings, mainly of a single hump, sometimes described as like an upturned boat. There were also many hoaxes. The issue took on international importance and several groups of scientists have now undertaken research expeditions attempting to prove or disprove the existence of such a monster. In all, thousands of people have claimed to see Nessie, though only a few fuzzy and inconclusive pictures have ever been captured of the putative animal. 

The famous picture that started all the fuss

Urquhart Castle

About the Oslo 2010 Trip

The Oslo Trip will be our 17th SSQQ Cruise Trip.  As always, you have the best of both worlds.  You can be alone with your sweetheart sharing a croissant at a local cafe in Paris or you can hang with the group whenever you wish.  Wherever you go, you will always have friends.  We watch out for each other. At dinner time when you wish to share tales of your adventures, you won't be talking to strangers, you will be talking with friends from home.

We chose this week for two reasons.  We were able to get a good rate for this great sailing time (cooler temps and less children).  Also, due to the studio transition, we thought it would be the perfect time for the next adventure.  What better time for us to go exploring?

Our trip will be aboard Royal Caribbean
’s Vision of the Seas.    This ship is part of Royal Caribbean's  Vision Class, a sister ship to the Rhapsody of the Seas, our long lost love.  It is a smaller ship than the Voyager or the Navigator, but still has beautiful wooden dance floors in a spacious attractive non-smoking lounge.   Thousands of windows on this ship will showcase our views! The ship has full fitness center and spa, a sports deck with a rock-climbing wall and basketball court   

RCCL Vision of the Seas

If you wish to go, here is what you need to do:

Fill out the registration form and provide a credit card number for your $450 deposit.   This is a slightly larger deposit because it is a 9 day cruise.  All passengers must have a Northern Europe Cruise 2010 registration form on file.  There will be new rules in effect for this cruise.

The first deposit of $450 per person is due by November 6th, 2009.

Final payment is due on February 22nd, 2010.

Please Note: 
If you would like a specific cabin type/location not offered, please call and I will get that rate quoted.

Contact Marla Archer at 713 862-4428 or e-mail with any further questions.



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