17 June 2018

Greece, At Last!

Milly in the harbour of clear, blue water and the mountains of Albania in the background.  Superbly beautiful.  We have arrived at sensational cruising grounds - warm water (finally), thousands of years of history, lovely people, tons (perhaps a few too many) boats, incredible geography.  It might take a lifetime!
We have arrived in Greece!  Actually at the tiny island north of Corfu called Erikoussa.  Albania in the distance.  A lovely welcome by locals.  A quick reconnoitre and then off to Corfu.  Ahhhh, Greece!

2 June 2018

The Plastic Passage

We have now arrived at the tip of the stiletto of Italy, an attractive and very busy resort town of Santa Maria Di Leuca.  We daysailed what should have been, and largely was, a beautiful 34 NM passage from Gallipoli hugging the coast, down wind using each of our sails, including golden spinnaker.
These nets used in packaging were one of several plastic catches.  These are especially dangerous to sea life that as they catch around body parts from which there is no escape.  

The spoiler was the horrific amount of flotsam in the otherwise beautiful, clear, blue sea.  Miles and miles of plastic floating on top and swimming beneath the surface along with styrofoam, and other crap.  Our fishing hooks gathered several loads of plastic but no fish - which is always a disappointment and a relief.  At the end of the day, jumping into the sea, I picked up several pieces of plastic as it floated past and cut a huge, thick bag off the propeller.  I'm afraid to say that on this passage we saw the worst of appalling human waste in all of our three and a half years on rivers, seas and oceans.  And this along the coast of and in the sea almost completely surrounded by "developed" and relatively affluent countries.  So distressing!  What are we thoughtless humans up to?

1 June 2018

Gallipoli, Italy

From Milly, the old city in blue surrounds.
This is not the Turkish Gallipoli of WW1 infamy, but a small old and new city on the stiletto arch of Italy.  A two night stop in a rolly anchorage to clear out of Italy and check out the walled old city on a small island off the nondescript and, dare I say, ugly new city.
The industry here used to be pressing olive oil.  Now tourism...

Clearing out took awhile.  After leaving Tunisia we have had no official stamp on our passport.  Neither when we cleared into Malta, nor cleared out, cleared into Italy, flew to Norway via Amsterdam, and back via Paris.  Now clearing out of Italy with the aid of Google Translate, they were a bit perturbed that we did not have a stamp into Italy.  After to-ing and fro-ing between two offices four times, we finally got a guy who understood what we needed.  No passport stamp!  Ninety Schengen days start when??

...and fishing provide the employment.  I have a feeling that this heel of Italy is a bit forgotten.

The city, or rather tiny town of narrow cobbled streets, laundry hanging and pots full of geraniums and succulents was lovely to amble around.  The facade of the cathedral was intricately carved but difficult to see- it was the first cathedral that was not in a piazza and so jammed into the surrounding streets and impossible to admire.  We lunched on the promenade that circled the island. And then enjoyed a lazy siesta on the boat.  Life is good.

30 May 2018

The Norse and The Sun

Basking at the king's palace park where the public have full access.
We happened to visit Norway during what everyone told me was an unusual period of heat and sun.   The popular paper even saw fit to publish a full page story of the dangers of sun exposure and methods to prevent sun damage because the Norse were sun worshipping in droves.  And for good reason.  After a long, dark winter when children go to and return from school in the dark, the warm, long, sunny days of late spring and summer are enjoyed to the utmost.
A small island, 6 minutes away from Oslo city centre by ferry, where those who enjoyed natural surrounds bathed.

Any small patch of grass or even rock would do.

They are not just basking but actively enjoying the outdoors.  They bike, hike, SUP, kayak, sail, canoe, fish, hunt, pick blueberries, swim, mountain climb.  A five year old girl who we hiked with brought her mountain bike and managed a rocky, root-y trail with aplomb.  She chose when to walk and fell a few times but over a two hour hike she didn't give up and never stopped smiling.  Her brother, three, biking for the first time on training wheels managed the same trail.  An elderly man chatted with us while eating a snack, then climbed on his mountain bike and rode along a gravel path, uphill!
And then for those who enjoyed the city, the infrastructure was set up for public use with grassy patches and interesting sculptures.

On the main street downtown, children enjoy the decorative fountains while tourists watch.

These cement pads are not just taken over by sunbathers.  They are purpose built with swim ladders and even diving boards.  And this is in the middle of the city harbour which is clean enough to swim in and buoyed off for safety.  The beach is created.  Surrounded by the contemporary art museum, loads of restaurants where blankets and rugs are provided for outdoor patios in winter, condos, stores and offices.  

Same location: A fjord swimming pool.

On the river that flows through Oslo, a side pool is specially constructed for bathers use.  How cool is that!  And a river clean enough to swim in that runs through the downtown!

All with a sense of humour.
This is not to say the Norwegians huddle around the fire on those dark winter days.  The long ski trails through woods and up and down hills are groomed and lit.  The small lakes are ploughed for skating.  The Norwegians love the great outdoors and the government sets up the infrastructure to allow them access everywhere.  So impressive!  And healthy!
After long walks, this Norwegian chose the shade.  Wise!

29 May 2018

Oslo Wanderings

Oslo has an interesting juxtaposing of new and old, a recently modern city surrounded by sensational nature.  
We travelled by train to Oslo from Trondheim - a six hour gorgeous ride over old gently rounded and snow bound mountains, through green valleys with fields on incredibly steep slopes, beside swiftly moving rivers, and through small cities and towns.  White long rectangular farmhouses creating one side of a square with three red barns dotted the hillsides as did other cabins.
The king's palace.  When we walked by a marching band was performing in front of the statue.  Behind the palace is a large park with sunbathers galore.

The parliament buildings.

The blockhouse 1960's city hall

And the castle that held resistance members and tragically saw their execution during WWII.

A part of the city which was once circumspect is now part of a trendy arts scene and lovely city walk.

This was my sixth visit to Oslo, the first being on a European post-graduation backpacking tour before I even met my 50% Norwegian husband.  I remember being impressed with it then - an amazing park with a crowd doing an aerobics class, buskers lining the main street of lovely old buildings, a king's palace where the public were free to roam on the grounds, an impressive resistance museum with tragic stories, all on a beautiful fjord.  It was too expensive for our very limited budgets so we didn't stay long.  But it made an impression.

When I first came to Oslo in 1982, I was very taken with these statues - 100's of them - in a city park, Frogner Park.  Expressive life cycle scenes of humans in their basic form - no apologies, no excuses.  Fantastic.

A good belly laugh

An angry boy who many have tried to soothe.

The corridor is lined with dancing, stamping, sitting, hugging, fighting statues and so much more.  Pretty amazing.

Then I met and eventually happily married my 50% Norwegian husband.  I was lucky to visit Olso several more times and each time I loved it.  These were family visits with young children and wanderings out and about.  With each visit, Oslo became more sophisticated.

A rich country can afford great ingenuity.  There are no taxes, no parking fees, no tolls,  and free municipal charging for electric cars.  Norway has the greatest number of Teslas per capita over any other nation by far.  This street was lined with charging stations.  Wonderfully progressive!  Learn, Canada.

I hadn't returned for almost 20 years although Peter has visited and Em did an exchange term here.  Now Olso is a world class city with a trendy arts scene, several shopping areas with all the major names in fashion plus Scandinavian highlights, an intriguing and very well-used waterfront (Toronto should take note), interesting modern architecture with more promised.  All these additions but it hasn't lost it's small city feel.  It is surrounded by easily accessible green mountains and the fjord is dotted by lovely green islands.  The castle and 1960's city hall are still part of the low skyline and the king's palace still sits at the head of the main drag and, importantly, the grounds are used as a public park.

A lone cello going into work at the Opera Centre, a beautiful white marble building.

You are warned to climb to the roof at your own risk - slippery when wet - and bikes and skateboards are forbidden.  But sunbathers abound on these white marble slopes.  

Climbing the opera centre slope on a hot day.

We snuck in for a peek just before a performance.  Beautiful wood interior with sloping, shaped balcony railings.

Definitely a city to return to!  Loved it!!  Now the question is, how to get Milly here and when?

Norwegian special for dinner!  White bread, mayonnaise, unpeeled to peeled shrimp (must be fresh) with dill and a squeeze of lemon with a glass of white wine.  Ever since we were in Norway for Em's 5th birthday, she has chosen the meal as her birthday dinner.  Hard to get fresh shrimp in Toronto.

Peter and I took a city bus/ferry to an island a 6-minute ride from the city.  We circumnavigated.  This view was looking down the fjord away from the city.

And this toward the city and opera house.  The mountains are a walk away.

The contemporary arts museum is another modern building on the waterfront.  Better close up, made of glass and wood, it's shape is striking.  It's grounds are swarmed with sunbathers.

There are statues all over Oslo from the traditional male figures  to the fun and modern.

We had such fun touring with these two.  Couldn't have been better.

I think Em thought so too!
And there was more family time!  Family dinners, exploring family.  So fun.  We are grateful!!

Trondheim Birthday Celebrations

Trondheim city centre.  A winding river flows through the small but busy old city.  Colourful wooden houses line the river and pedestrian cobbled streets.
We have just returned to Milly after a wonderful ten day family (minus a few important characters) holiday in Norway to celebrate Ake's 90th birthday.  First in Trondheim, latitude approximately 63 degrees north, where it never really gets dark.  Even between the late sunset and early sunrise there is a twilight zone.

We were hosted by Ake's family who we met for the first time and who were extremely generous and kind. They hosted dinners, toured us about town, led us on a nature hike, and hosted a delightful birthday celebration at an old restored farmhouse/estate.

I was told that Trondheim experiences two seasons: white winter and green winter.  We, however, enjoyed mainly blue skies and temperatures in the 20's.  It was so lovely that I thought we should sail across the Bay of Biscay, through the English Channel and over the North Sea to get there...maybe not.  Chartering might be the answer.

It's always a treat for us to spend time with family.

A group of seven of our kind hosts toured 8 of us through the city centre.  At a comfortable amble, we covered the whole thing in it's spring glory.  Flowers, new fresh green leaves.

Almost 45 years ago, Peter spent a year at this middle school in Trondheim.  We searched for the house he lived in to no avail.

The next day we walked a very short distance - about 10 minutes - out of the city.  The houses in Norway, even in Oslo, are surrounded by wild.  Tended gardens surround the houses but the edge along the streets are natural which gives the impression, to me anyway, of being more wild than just a city suburb.  Love it!  This building with the sodded roof - no goats feasting on the grass, though - was a hospital school in the woods where one of our hosts worked.

The area was dotted with small lakes.  People sunbathed at the edge, swam, hiked, biked, canoed, kayaked.  Norwegian people enjoy the outdoors!

From a hilltop we enjoyed a view of the city and the fjord in the distance.  Our hosts home is on the closer hillside.  All easily accessible.  Mountains in the distance are in Sweden.

Ake was a ski jumper in his athletic youth.  These jumps were new since he lived here.

The birthday boy!  So wonderful to be able to celebrate with him.  Thank you, Anne and Per!