Paris Aug. 30/22

We are off to Montmartre and Sacre Soeur. I certainly hope it is cooler today than yesterday. It was at 32C. yesterday

It was good to have gotten an Uber ride although the 7 minutes the app said it would take for one to come was way, way longer. It was all uphill. Coming back should be easy… all downhill.

This was a OMG moment at the Sacre Soeur….spectacular! My first impressing was that it reminded me of the “Taj Mahal”. Not any info but a good number of pictures.

There is a funicular as well that you can use. And the stairs… going down was easy…… not so much walking up…. OMG!!!

We continued down coming across the red light district….. unintentionally! Every other store was a sex shop, the buildings of course were run-downed. This is where the “Moulon Rouge” with the big red windmill was situated. But in the middle of this was a lovely pedestrian walkway down the middle of the street, lined with trees.

Another time I would gladly come back here to Paris and investigate more of the museums particularly.

We chatted with a couple of gals originally from San Francisco. One (Janice) was presently living at the foot of the Italian Alps with her Italian husband. The other (Chris) was heading to a month at a chateau in Normandy. That…… sounds like something the Womens Travel group should be interested in.

Oh yes…it was only slightly less hot at 30 C

Correction on something I wrote a couple days back…..Marie Antoinette was not beheaded at the Corciergerie but only held in prison there. She with the 2500 or so others, were beheaded at the Concorde Square, where the blood ran in rivers to the Seine below. Nice, huh?

We are now safely home in Victoria, digesting all that we saw and did. Wow!!! And resting up for the next……

Paris, France and off ship-Aug. 27-31/22

In the Le Havre harbour as we are leaving for Paris, we see the parts for making the wind turbines….laying flat….the humongous poles and the enormous blades. Apparently the blades wear out and then have to be replaced. Problem is what to do with them used. Apparently they are not exactly recyclable.

It takes us 3 hours to drive in with a short break. The countryside could be anywhere….nothing really noteworthy except chalk cliffs in places.

Oh my, this hotel is not what we were expecting especially after being quite spoilt on the ship. First, the room is about 8 feet square plus a very small bathroom. There is no Airconditioning and we are on the ground floor so don’t feel comfortable sleeping with the windows open. Thankfully they moved us the 2nd day to to the 3rd floor….and there is a fan in the room….whoopie! We did not venture very far the first day but got 2 days on the “TO-OT Bus”….a hop-on, hop-off plus a Seine River cruise.

Palais Garnier is built in the Baroque style, took 15 years to built-1860-1875

In the 19th century Baron Haussman changed the look of Paris. He was the Prefect of Paris 1853-1870. 60% of buildings are of that style of which Paris looks.

Top three priciest cities in world.

Comedie de Francaise is the House of Moliere. The actor died who on stage wearing green so since, green is not a lucky colour for Parisiens.

Louvre Museum is largest museum in the world. It was the palace of the Kings Louis XIV and XV that lived here before moving to Versailles. The glass pyramid in middle was commissioned by President Francois Mitterrand.

Louvre on left side going upstream on the boat … was fortress in 1200, palace in 14th & 15th centuries. There are 38,000 pieces of art.

Pont Neuf is relatively near Notre Dame

Conciergerie across on the Left Bank also home to Ste. Chapelle.. church with 50’ high windows. The Consiergerie was a palace and then a prison where they beheaded Marie Antoinette.

The pedestrian only promenade along the Right Bank was once roadways. In the summer they turn it into beaches by adding sand.

Notre Dame….. Largest circular stain glass window in the world. It is also mile “Zero”. All roads lead to Notre Dame. It is built on Ile de Citie. Notre Dame was built in 1163-1345. In 2019 a fire caused the centre spire to collapse but the rest of the structure held. They are hoping to have it repaired in time for World’s Fair in ‘24

Isle of the city…2 bridges cradle of Paris. 4th century AD was when the city was christened with the name of Paris.

In the Latin quarter. … Area of schools and students. Sorbonne amongst, started in 1257.

Middle Ages Museum.

2nd Largest hotel in visits after London .. Bangkok is 3rd.

Place de Institute … domed building

D’Orsay Museum.… originally train station, then Nazies took it over during war… now a museum.

1836 Arc d’Triomphe …built by Napoleon in honour of those that have died in war. The Arc is tomb of unknown soldier. The 12 streets that radiate from the roundabout that surrounds it, is in the shape of a star.

National Assembly (covered in sheet)….seat of Democracy. Champs d’Ellysse … mile long developed by Louis XIV

Trocadero Square … Palais de National Theatre

Eiffel Tower….1000 feet high …. Built for the World’s Fair of 1889. Eiffel was the owner of a steel factory. They brought the prefabricated sections to the site where it took 2 years to build from 1887-89 which was 100 years since the French Revolution. The tower is rustproof and lighter than reg steel. It takes 60 tons of paint to repaint it.

Pass under 22 of 37 bridges on Seine in Paris

Right is left bank, left side is right bank …. We are heading upstream.

1987 flame from Statue of Liberty & 10 years later. Princess Diana died in tunnel right there.

Pedestrian area was once a street for vehicles.

Alexandre III gave bridge … liberty style with garlands.

Concorde square (means peace but where 2300 people were beheaded) ….to National Assembly building. Obelisk is from Egypt thanking the deciphering of hieroglyphics. Orange trees on Concorde square.

Thomas Jefferson bridge beside building that he used to fashioned White House in America.

Littlest house in Paris now art gallery.

The river boat made a uturn ….then you see the St. Louis Isle. Now the right side is the right bank and left is the left cuz we are now heading down stream.

Claude Monet lived in Paris near seine street.

Palais Invalid is a hospital for “broken faces” or “disables”… now is for living martyrs.

Next building from Russia

Brass gates is a celebratory palace.

Pont Marie… the most romantic bridge. Confluence of the seine river.

Miscellaneous pictures from our boat ride on the Seine.

I will send more miscellaneous picture on the posting. I think this site cannot handle too many more pictures without crashing

Brugge (Bruges), Belgium-Aug. 26/22

This is Belgium.

11.5 M. population with 3 languages…..Flemish (Flanders), French and German. Protestant with king since1831.

In 1st WW it became an important base for German submarines….that sunk 2357 ships.

9th C was the beginning for Bruges. 9, 10 & 11 c. Port 3 miles from centre of Brugge. The waterways became silted up but after terrible storm (the worst in 1000 years) it cleaned out a channel to the city and so they once again had access.

They started the 1st stock exchange in the 14th C. In the 15 century they developed a banking system that is still used today. Up until 19th century the city was very rich but in the 19C it became poor with 50% unemployed. That lead to the development of lace industry. And diamonds amongst other industries. It became the 1st diamond centre in the world.

Unemployment in Brugge now only 2-2.5%. The city is only 3sq mile but 8 million visitors come every year. It is the most important distribution centre for cars …,3 million cars per year go through the port pre COVID. Did you know that China now owns Volvo? 1700 different beers are produced here in Belgium. They have a beer pipeline to outside city to bottle because there is no room inside the city. And of course, the famous Belgian chocolates.

The city is surrounded by a canal. At one time there was a population of 45,000 but it is now only 18,000. It is the biggest gothic style city in world.

One of city centre was a fish market. It was decreed that you must eat fish 150 days a year. If you were found to have had 3 times meat in a week, you were decapitated right there in the market place.

Besides walking around this most incredible medieval city ever, we took a canal boat ride….wow!

At sea Aug. 24&25

Nothing much happened yesterday, the first of 2 sea days except sleeping in (no tours to run off to) and lazing by the pool. It was quite hot…. even if the morning started out cool. Got a slight burn in between dips in the pool.

Last night we were to enter the Kiel Canal…..supposedly at 2 am but who knows. I wasn’t awake. This captain is always ahead of schedule so it was probably earlier. We arrived at our exit point at the Elbe River at 9:30 am not noon as planned.

In the other lock we watched as they managed to get 2 larger vessels and 3 smaller ones.

This Kiel Canal (Kiel is the name of the town on the Baltic), was previously named Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal after William II of Germany. It was completed in 1895 to avoid the long journey around Denmark. Apparently it is the most used canal in the world according to Wikipedia but I had never even heard of it before.

As we were to exit into the Elbe River (Hamburg is further upstream in Germany), the managed to cram 2 larger and 3 smaller freight carrying ships into the lock opposite us.

The canal is 61 miles (98kms) long and saves nearly 250 nautical miles by avoiding the typically rough seas of the North Sea around Denmark’s Jutland peninsula.

Larger vessels than our “little” ship, cannot use the canal because they cannot clear the bridges.

Tallinn, Estonia-Aug. 23/22

Highlights of Tallinn is our tour today. It’s cloudy but supposed to go up to 26C.

Margaret Tower was the last built. It is 5 meters thick. Bastion built by Swedes. It is now surrounded by green belt.

400 kms to St Petersburg from centre of medieval of Tallinn to. “Vitu” Square. It also refers to the language and people. Peter the Great called this area Catherine’s valley. Any of the old houses of any period is not allowed to be altered.

Estonia is 45,000 kms in size….about the same size as Denmark. Only 1.3 million population in the whole country. They have never had royal hierarchy.

There is no written document previous to 1300ad when they were invaded by Danes. Some years later the country was sold for 700 kgs of gold. In 1600s they were conquered by Sweden. Then Danes, then Poland.

Great Northern War late in 17century by Peter the Great. Back then Russia did not have a sea port so no navy. 1703 was the beginning of St. Petersburg. The country was under siege by Russians but plague made them give up. Peter purchased land that had a hunting lodge on the grounds. He then built another bigger “cottage”. The pink building is the office of president….Not his residence. Independence was gained after Versailles…20 years between wars.

Palace built by Peter the great 1800’s is first stop.

Palace of Peter.. “small” a summer cottage. He met his love named Martha at the time… was a maid cleaning the windows. She became Catherine I. In 1725 Peter died and she ruled for 1 year. She was a straight shooter….said things as they were. Their children were born out of wedlock. Elizabeth their daughter come on the throne 15 years after Catherine’s death. His first wife was sent to a convent. Catherine I converted to orthodox. Her name was changed from Martha, on her marriage to Peter.

Estonia became member of NATO in 2004.

Russification by Tsar Alexander III. … people had to learned in Russian language, etc. 95% of language etc was safe up until then.

34,000 sang together … love songs. There was a reawakening in mid 1990s at culture song festival centre. 1988 Gorbachev made it easier. With the 1991 coupe in Russia, Estonia also said they wanted out.

Homes built during Russian era look like the “Wall of China”. 900% inflation rate after Russia. Russian built apartments given based on years of service to Russia with no payment. 24% Russian speaking are still not citizens. No Schengen visas are given to Russian tourists since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine..

Bridgedine Convent was started during the 100 year war when “Bridgette” travelling to Rome to get certified by the pope. It was then that she saw all the starvation so pleaded politicians to fix it. Both male monks and female nuns in the convents but headed only by women . She was instrumental in making prostitution legal but if you pay for a prostitute is a crime brought by on board by Bridgette. The convent was used only for 150 years after 15th century.

Russian destroyed all monuments from previous eras. 25,000 people were sent to Siberia for resisting after 1940. German occupation was for 3 years 1941-44. The Forest boys, that had escaped during Russians take over were hunted down til the 60s. They used families to get back the forest boys.

The IT sector developed first as means of crawling out bad period after Russia.

Timber exporting is big in the is country. Agriculture(rye) and dairy too.

Vitu gates… centre Wall is 1.8 kms long. All houses are authentic to their own period. The stone on the outside walls of the church used to be flooring inside the gothic church… were moved out in 19 th c.

Most of the buildings in the old town were built in 13, 14 & 15th centuries during the Hanseatic period

Tallinn was German town before Russia. It was until 1925 that the name became Tallinn.

Church is actually town hall….. medieval 1530… dragons are medieval. Education basis of Christianity according Lutheran. Lutheran church was town hall ..,,,poor peoples hospital.

Gate… this one of 2 gates called “long leg gate” cuz you needed take long strides to get up it.. Other was a staircase so called “short leg gate”.

Mid 19c was the last time suburbs were burned down when attacked in a war. Suburb homes were made of wood and no stone. Inside the town they had to be built of stone and no wood.

Helsinki Aug. 22/22

Today we are doing the Helsinki harbour cruise.

Population of city is 600,000 with total of 5.5 in Finland

Biggest Orthodox Church on Finland…across from our ship

20-22C today but no rain. May 17/22 Finland sent papers to join NATO. Only Turkey has not applied. They share a 3100 kms border with Russia so as the guide said “Its good to be a little awake”.

Yellow building is presidential palace. It looks like there is a cool market on the pier across from it. As we head out into the harbour guide points out where they have lively music in building on left in the summer. Sauna is only know Finnish word outside Finland. Out of that 5.5 million population there are here 10 M saunas. In this country they believe that political problems can be solved by sitting stark native in a sauna to discuss things.

It cost out in the country 1500 euros/square meter for a home but 9500euro/ in this area along the shore. There are 180,000 islands in Finland. Like Sweden, the islands keeping popping up cause by the earth is rising now that the glaciers are receding and the land isn’t being pushed down.

Click on each of the picture to see a much bigger and better picture

The tables on the docks are used for cleaning their carpets once a year. Then they leave them hang to dry while they go to the outside bars for a glass of week. Everyone gets 5 weeks of holidays every year.

188,000 lakes caused by glaciers. The Baltic is quite shallow …. Only 92 meters deep at most. Not very salty because it is fed by rivers. Only salt water comes in through channel between Denmark and Norway.

Ships that sail into city centre cannot be longer than 200 metres. There are 300 islands in Helsinki.

It cost 90 barrels of gold to build fortress….. 5 islands connected by bridges….that was never completed.

Kings gate at fortress. The Passage in front of us is only 80 meter wide and not very deep. That is why this little ship and a couple of the ferries that go out of here (because they are less than 200 feet in length.

In 1822 Russia attacked Finland … captured it because they could attack by marching over the ice. The church on the fortress was originally Russian orthodox but changed to Protestant Lutheran in 1917 when Finland gained independence.

High divorce rate. There is a lot of changing of partners so when the teacher asked a child what was family, he said it was bunch of people that all eat from the same refrigerator.

Last week they had snow here in Helsinki. In Lapland in the winter goes to -50 C.

So expensive to live here that mothers go back to work after 1 month even though they have 1 year maternity with pay. Both parents share maternity leave. The children get free meals at kindergarten. Books are expensive but university is free. Baby box is given to all new parents. Snowsuit are included because babies nap outdoors in pram. Foreign students have to pay for courses in English but not those in Finnish.

One new development being built will be home to 20,000 people.

Forestry used to be number one industry but not now. Surnames are named after things in nature like animals or birds including lynx or woodpecker.

Icebreakers manufactured here are sold to Norway and Canada. “Kontio” on icebreaker is pet name for bears. Bears are the national animal. There is a zoo on the island across from this.

Average wage 3500 euro income….3800 men, 3100 women/ month. Progressive taxes depending on amount you make.

Retirement age is rising to 65 but must retire by 68. Everyone is entitled to old age home at a cost of 85% of pension.

City hall Stockholm and Spectacular Vasa Museum in Stockholm -pictures

Stockholm Aug.20&21 pictures

Leaving Stockholm the islands with little cabins dotted all along the route.
Leaving Stockholm the islands with little cabins dotted all along the route.
The markers are so close by as are the other big ship through a very narrow passage.
Not sure if these ruins are called St. Olafs or St. Lars (1100AD) but were at the oldest “village/city” that was once the capital of Sweden….Sigtuna
Rune found near the church ruins in Sigtuna
At the information centre in Sigtuna
Old town Sigtuna
Jeanette petting on of the police horses…near Royal Palace in Stockholm
In the square near Royal Palace
The Royal Guardsmen
Old cannon in Old Town
In old town
Old town Stockholm
Water well in old town
The royal city park (former hunting grounds of the royals during the Middle Ages)
Stockholm street
Metal sculptures…old town
Sailing ship seen in the harbour
One of the ring of 5 sculptures
The locked door to the toilet….in old town
Old town city hall Sigtuna