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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman


Renaissance R7
Dover to Copenhagen
August 3-16, 2001--Part Two

by Pam and Jim Murphy

Dublin, Ireland -- We once again order a continental breakfast in the room. Dublin is another port where making a decision on which tour to choose is confusing. We have to decide between the ship's tour of Dublin, doing Dublin on our own, or taking the ship's tour of Glendalough and Powerscourt. I want to see Dublin but am not crazy about the shore excursion offered by the ship; it sounds like another of those ride-by tours. It is scheduled to stop at Trinity College but there is no mention of seeing the Book of Kells; it also makes a stop at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The Glendalough and Powerscourt full day tour, also sound interesting. We finally opt to go with Kathy and John on the city hop on - hop off bus tour. Now Kathy will need a bright colored umbrella to hold up as our tour guide.

Clustered on the banks of the River Liffey, Dublin is a splendidly monumental city, but it's also a youthful city. Of roughly one and a half million people in greater Dublin, about half are under 25. Membership of the European Union has infused money into the city, and we see new building everywhere, but we also witness deprivation as bad as any in Europe. It's the collision of the old and the new, the slick and the tawdry, that makes Dublin what it is. Dublin really began as a Viking trading post called Dubb Linn (Dark Pool), which soon amalgamated with a Celtic settlement called Baile Átha Cliath (Town of the Hurdle Ford) - still the Gaelic name for the city. Because most of the early city was built of wood, only the two cathedrals, part of the castle and several churches have survived from before the seventeenth century. The fabric of the city dates essentially from the Georgian period, when the Anglo-Irish gentry began to invest their income in new town houses. After the Act of Union, Dublin entered a long economic decline, but it was the focus of much of the agitation that eventually led to independence.  In 1829 Daniel O'Connell secured a limited role for Catholics in the administration of the city, and Dublin was later the birthplace of the Gaelic League, which encouraged the formation of an Irish national consciousness by nurturing the native language and culture. The long struggle for independence came to a head as open warfare hit the streets during Easter Week of 1916, an uprising commemorated by a host of monuments in Dublin.

It is a mixed bag of a day, beautiful and sunny and also cloudy and drizzly. Irish Pub Musicians singing and playing Irish favorites such as 'Fiddler's Green' and 'No Never No More' greet us at the dock. Now I feel like I am really in Ireland!

There are two places where the ships can dock, one near the heart of the city of Dublin and the other way on the outskirts. As luck would have it, our ship is docked on the outskirts. Clodagh tells us that taxis may be available but may be in short supply. We purchase a ticket ($19) for the ship's shuttle bus to avoid any hassles.

We take the first shuttle at 8:30 and hit a traffic jam leaving the port - it takes us close to an hour to go a distance that should only take about 20 minutes. The first landmark we see from our shuttle bus is the Customs House, sitting prominently on the Liffey's north bank. It is one of Dublin's finest Georgian buildings. Designed by James Gandon and completed in 1791, it is beautifully proportioned, with a long classical facade of graceful pavilions, arcades, and columns, and a central dome topped by a 16-foot statue of Commerce. The 14 keystones over the doors and windows are known as the Riverine Heads, because they represent the Atlantic Ocean and the 13 principal rivers of Ireland. Although burned to a shell in 1921, the building has been masterfully restored and its bright Portland stone recently cleaned.

The shuttle drops us off at Trinity College. Kathy suggests touring the college before getting the city tour bus.  Our first stop is to the Davis Theater to see the Dublin Experience -- an ideal orientation for first-time visitors, this 45-minute multi-media sight-and-sound show traces the history of Dublin from the earliest times to the present.

Trinity College is what a university should look and feel like, and its Book of Kells exhibition gives an insight into the ancient art of manuscript illumination.  Queen Elizabeth I founded Trinity College in 1592 on the site of an Augustinian monastery. Originally, a Protestant college, it only began to take Catholics in numbers after 1970, when the Catholic Church relaxed its opposition to them attending.  Among Trinity's many famous students were playwrights, Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Beckett and political writer Edmund Burke. The college's lawns and cobbled quads provide a pleasant haven in the heart of the city. We plan to see the Book of Kells, housed in the Treasury -- it is the most richly decorated of of Ireland's medieval illuminated manuscripts.  It may have been the work of monks from Iona, who fled to Kells in AD 806, after a Viking raid. The book, which was moved to Trinity College in the 17th century, contains the four gospels in Latin. The scribes who copied the texts also embellished their calligraphy with intricate interlacing spirals as well as human figures and animals. Some of the dyes used were imported from as far as the Middle East. When we see the line for the Book of Kells we decide that the facsimile they have near the Davis Theater will suffice. The page illuminated for today doesn't have much artwork so we feel that we aren't missing much. There is too much to see to waste a lot of time waiting on lines. Trinity has a gift shop and I manage to pick up a few postcards and a nice Irish Wool scarf for my son. We catch the city tour bus outside Trinity and are able to get tickets on the bus. Since the sun is out we go up to the upper level to sit.  The bus driver gives commentary as we pass the different sights.

The first thing we see is St. Stephen's Green, originally one of the three ancient commons of the old city. The Green was enclosed in 1664.  It was laid out in its present form in 1880, using a grant given by Lord Ardilaun, a member of the Guinness family.  Landscaped with flowerbeds, trees, a fountain and a lake, the green is dotted with memorials to eminent Dubliners including Ardilaun himself. We pass the statue of Molly Malone (referred to by the locals as 'The Tart with the Cart.') I absolutely love this statue but we don't have a good angle to get a photo. Will buy a postcard of her later. Next we are taken past the Georgian Terraces. The 18th century was Dublin's Age of Elegance, a time of relative prosperity when the Irish gentry, eager not to appear as the poor relations of Britain, set about remodeling Dublin into one of the most elegant cities in Europe. Terraced town houses were built, forming handsome new streets and squares. During the 19th century the city's wealth declined, forcing some middle-class families to divide their homes into tenements. Many of Dublin's once grand streets slowly deteriorated. A century later the property boom of the 1960s threatened to rip out what was left of Georgian Dublin. Fortunately, much has survived and some of the city's finest architecture can be seen in Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square. The doorway was usually crowned with a segmented fanlight. The principal decoration on the door itself was a heavy brass knocker. Wrought-iron balconies gave added prestige to the Georgian house. Those still in place today are mostly later Victorian additions. The drawing room was always on the first floor. The high ceiling was decorated with the finest plasterwork. The bedrooms were usually on the second floor, while the upper floors contained the servants' quarters and children's rooms. Lavish stucco-work was an important way of showing an owner's wealth during the 18th century. The dining room was normally on the ground floor. The kitchen contained a huge stove, which was fired by either coal or wood. The adjoining pantry was used to store the household's groceries. Whole Georgian streetscapes may appear uniform, closer inspection reveals a diversity of styles in terms of details such as fanlights, architraves and balconies. The hallways usually had stone floors and, facing the hall door, a staircase rising to the upper floors. Many of the town houses did not have gardens since the fenced-off parks in the center of the Squares were reserved for residents only.

We get off the bus at Belfast Castle. Built between 1208 and 1220, this complex represents some of the oldest surviving architecture in the city. It was the center of British power in Ireland for more than seven centuries, until the new Irish government took it over in 1922. Nothing remains of the original structure except the much modified Record Tower. Following a fire in 1684, the Surveyor-General, Sir William Robinson, laid down the plans for the Upper and Lower Castle yards in their present form.  Highlights include the 13th-century Record Tower; the State Apartments, once the residence of English viceroys; and the Chapel Royal, a 19th-century gothic building with particularly fine plaster decoration and carved oak gallery fronts and fittings. The newest developments are the Undercroft, an excavated site on the grounds where an early Viking fortress stood, and the Treasury, built between 1712 and 1715 and believed to be the oldest surviving office building in Ireland. We consider taking a tour here but find that it is 45 minutes in duration and decide that we really don't have the time.

From Belfast Castle we walk to St. Patrick's Cathedral. There is street work being done and a fine white powder mist is in the air. It has an unpleasant smell and people are walking with handkerchiefs covering their noses and mouths. Even our photos of the Cathedral will be permeated with this white dust. It is said that St. Patrick baptized converts on this site, and consequently a church has stood here since AD. 450, making it the oldest Christian site in Dublin. The present cathedral dates from 1190, but because of a fire and 14th-century rebuilding, not much of the original foundation remains. It is mainly early English in style, with a square medieval tower that houses the largest ringing peal bells in Ireland, and an 18th-century spire. The 300-foot-long interior makes it the longest church in the country. St. Patrick's is closely associated with Jonathan Swift, who was dean from 1713 to 1745 and whose tomb lies in the south aisle. Others memorialized within the cathedral include Turlough O'Carolan, a blind harpist and composer and the last of the great Irish bards; Michael William Balfe, the composer; and Douglas Hyde, the first president of Ireland. St. Patrick's is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland.

We hop back on the bus (each bus has a different driver, each with his own unique personality), which takes us to the Guinness Hopstore. Our bus driver has that dry Irish sense of humor and tells us that there was a leak in one of the water pipes and that it is closed. We all look at each other and can't believe our bad luck. As we pull up to Guinness he tells us that he was only joking, about it being closed. So in we go. Have you noticed how we have no time for the historical tours of the city but do seem to find the time to check out the brewery?  Founded in 1759, the Guinness Brewery is one of the world's largest, producing the distinctive stout famous for its thick, creamy head. Although tours of the brewery are no longer offered, we are able to explore the adjacent Guinness Hopstore, a converted 19th-century building. Its 4 stories house the World of Guinness Exhibition, an audiovisual presentation showing how the stout is made. At the end we are able to go upstairs for a free glass of Guinness at the bar. I have so been looking forward to tasting my first glass of Guinness and find it really nasty. It is bitter and leaves a bitter after taste in my mouth. Try but can't finish it, so go back downstairs to shop at the Guinness store. Here I get tee shirts for Jim and several friends, also a couple of rugby shirts for my son and another as a Christmas gift. Find a couple of cute fitted Guinness shirts for my daughter and daughter-in-law. Pick up a Guinness pen and pencil set for my son's stocking and also some condiments made with Guinness for him. Jim gets himself a Guinness pint glass.

Back on the bus and this time we get a driver who is a real piece of work - with his gift of gab (never even stops for a breath) he sings to us along with his commentary.  Love it!  We pass Leinster House and have the rare opportunity of seeing the Prime Minister getting into his ceremonial coach, which is horse drawn and quite ornate. Leinster House, dating from 1745 and originally known as Kildare House, is said to have been the model for Irish-born architect James Hoban's design for the White House in Washington, D.C. It was sold in 1815 to the Royal Dublin Society that developed it as a cultural center. The National Museum, Library, and Gallery all surround it. In 1924, however, it took on a new role when the Irish Free State government acquired it as a parliament house. Since then, it has been the meeting place for the Dáil Éireann (Irish House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (Irish Senate), which together constitute the Oireachtas (National Parliament).

The bus drives past the Kilmainham Gaol.  Within these walls political prisoners were incarcerated, tortured, and killed from 1796 until 1924, when President Eamon de Valera left as its final prisoner. They say that there is a fascinating tour offered here and that walking through these corridors, through the exercise yard, or into the main compound is a moving experience that lingers hauntingly in the memory. Oh, I would love to get off here to tour the jail but there just isn't enough time to do all we would like. Dublin is another port where I wish Renaissance would dock overnight, giving us two full days.

Next we pass the Garden of Remembrance, another spot I would like to stop to visit. However, no time. The garden is a small, peaceful park, dedicated to the men and women who have died in the pursuit of Irish freedom. The Garden of Remembrance marks the spot where several leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were held overnight before being taken to Kilmainham Gaol and was also where the Irish Volunteers movement was formed in 1913.  Designed by Daithi Hanly, the garden was opened by President Eamon de Valera in 1966, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. In the center of the gardens well kept lawns is a cruciform pool. A mosaic on the floor of the pool depicts abandoned, broken swords, spears and shields, symbolizing peace. The focal point at the end of the gardens is a large bronze sculpture by Osin Kelly (1971) of the legendary Children of Lir, who were changed into swans by their stepmother.

This particular bus takes a longer tour than some of the others, giving us the opportunity to see a bit more of the sites, off the beaten track. We see the Official Residence of the President of Ireland. Áras an Uachtaráin had a colorful history before becoming the Official Residence of the President of Ireland. Built in 1751 and situated in the 1,752 acres of the Phoenix Park near Dublin, the original house was built by Park Ranger Nathaniel Clements. By 1782, it had been acquired for use by the Viceroys who oversaw British rule in Ireland. Clements received 25,000 pounds for the house.  The house continued as the official residence of the Viceroys until 1922.  For much of the period of Home Rule that followed it was the residence of the Governors General, the Crown's representatives during the new dispensation. In 1938 it became the Official Residence of the President of Ireland and has been used for that purpose since.

Our next sighting is the Abbey Theater, founded in 1898 with WB Yeats and Lady Gregory as co-directors; the Abbey staged its first play in 1904. The early years of this much lauded national theater witnessed works by WB Yeats, JM Synge and Sean O'Casey. Many were controversial nationalist sensitivities were severely tested in 1926 during the premiere of O'Casey's 'The Plough and the Stars' when the flag of the Irish Free State appeared on stage in a scene that featured a pub frequented by prostitutes. The Abbey remains best known for its productions of early 20th century Irish work, though in recent years it has done much to encourage new writing talent, particularly in the small Peacock Theatre downstairs. One of the most acclaimed performances staged in the main theater was Brian Fiel's 'Dancing At Lughnasa' (1990). The walls of the foyer and bar are lined with portraits of famous names linked with the theater.

Another interesting site is a statue that was built for the Millenium. The locals fondly refer to it as the 'Floozie in the Jacuzzi' and this is exactly what it looks like!

As we drive down O'Connell Street - very different from the original plans of Irish aristocrat Luke Gardiner. When he bought the land in the mid-18th century, Gardiner envisioned a grand residential parade with an elegant mall running along its center.  Such plans were short-lived. The construction of Carlisle (now O'Connell) Bridge in 1790 transformed the street into the city's main north-south route. Also, several buildings were destroyed during the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish Civil war. Since the 1960s, the plate glass and neon of fast food restaurants, amusement arcades and chain stores have replaced many of the old buildings. A few venerable buildings remain, such as the General Post Office (1818), Gresham Hotel (1817), Clery's department store (1822) and the Royal Dublin Hotel, part which occupies the street's only original town house. The street offers a mix of architectural styles and the series of monuments lining the route. At the south end, stands a massive monument to Daniel O'Connell unveiled in 1882. The street, which throughout the 19th century had been called Sackville Street, was renamed after O'Connell in 1922.

Halfway along O'Connell Street is the General Post office built in 1818. The GPO became a symbol of the 1916 Irish Rising. Members of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army seized the building on Easter Monday, and Patrick Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from its steps. The rebels remained inside for a week, but shelling from the British eventually forced them out. At first, many Irish people viewed the Rising unfavorably. However, as WB Yeats wrote, matters "changed utterly" and a "terrible beauty was born" when during the following weeks, 14 of the leaders were caught and shot at Kilmainham Gaol. Inside the building is a sculpture of the mythical Irish warrior Cuchulainn dedicated to those who died for their part in the Easter Rising.

We leave the tour near Nassau Street.  Now the truth comes out -- the reason that we didn't have time to do more touring is that Kathy and John want to experience an Irish Pub in Dublin and I want to shop. Here we split up and go our own ways. We only have about an hour and a half before we have to catch the last shuttle back to the ship - missing the shuttle means getting to Belfast on our own! I stop at a jewelry store on Nassau Street where I find the Children of Lir jewelry - purchase two gold necklaces fo  myself and a friend ($175-$300) and a silver bracelet for another friend ($65). I like the Children of Lir design because it is a bit more unusual and not quite as common as the Claddagh and Celtic cross designs. We then head for the bus stop where Jim chooses to wait with his cigar. I still have some time to browse in the shops nearby the bus stop. There is a store called Knobs and Knockers where I purchase a brass doorknocker like we have seen on the Georgian houses, here in Dublin (about $50). The one I choose is the female design taken from artwork of the River Liffey. We have just painted our house and this will be perfect on our front door. I am very happy with this find! Pick up some postcards, including the one of Molly Malone. Jim is down by the bus stop enjoying a cigar and the sun is shining brightly. I go into the Blarney Woolen Mills (about 2 blocks from the bus stop) to look for the outfit for my daughter-in-law that I couldn't get in Blarney. This branch of the store is much smaller than the Blarney shop and I have no success. While I am in the store it starts to rain cats and dogs. I'm not sure that I have ever experienced such a downpour. There is not a soul on the street and all the people have run into the stores. Now here is my dilemma -- I can wait for the rain to stop and will probably miss the shuttle or can make a run for it with my trusty fold up umbrella. Out I go, hearing comments like, "are you crazy?" and "my, you are a brave one".  Little did they know I am just choosing the lesser of the two evils! Once I get outside I find that it is not only raining but also hailing and those pellets hurt! Within, 30 seconds I am totally drenched even with the umbrella. I could actually wring my clothes out -- they were so wet. The good news is that I make the bus and see a very relieved look on Jim's face. Thankfully, the trip back to the ship is quicker than this morning's trip. The minute I get into the cabin I strip and hop into the shower. Boy does it feel good. Once dry we order room service for something to eat -- we are starved (remember that I shopped rather than ate!). Spent the remainder of the afternoon writing postcards and relaxing. 

Kathy and John meet us at 8:30 in the Grille for dinner. I order the strip steak, good but not great. The others order the prime rib, which they all seem to enjoy. (Renaissance gets their meat flown in from the US so we have no worry about Mad Cow Disease). We discuss our day and all agree that for the limited amount of time we had in Dublin, that we saw a good bit. Kathy gets a gold star for her job as tour director! We skip the show this evening and decide to make it an early night - I'm too tired to even read.

Belfast, Ireland -- Today is another day for a continental breakfast in the room. I am starting to crave one of those yummy full breakfasts that they serve on board. We sit on our balcony as we sail into Belfast -- the sun is out but it is a bit chilly and the seagulls are overhead making the sounds that seagulls do. Jim makes the comment that even the seagulls are speaking in Gaelic! There's a brass band playing to greet us as we arrive.  

This morning we have booked the tour of the city of Belfast. There was one other tour that was very tempting - the Antrim Coast and Giant's Causeway. Kathy and John are taking this tour so we will hear all about it this evening at dinner. 

Belfast began its life as a cluster of forts built to guard a ford across the River Farset, which nowadays runs beneath the High Street. However, Belfast was very slow to develop, and its history as a city doesn't really begin until 1604, when Sir Arthur Chichester was "planted" in the area by James I. Belfast was the only city in Ireland to experience the full force of the Industrial Revolution. Its shipbuilding, linen, rope making and tobacco industries caused the population to rise to almost 400,000 by the end of World War I. Belfast was a city noted for its liberalism, but in the nineteenth century the sectarian divide became wider and increasingly violent. Although Partition and the creation of Northern Ireland with Belfast as its capital inevitably boosted the city's status, the 'troubles' exacerbated the industrial decline that hit most of the British Isles during the 1980s. However, a massive program of regeneration commenced in the 1990s at the first signs of peace, fuelled by the billions of pounds being pumped in from Britain, the European Union and the International Fund for Ireland in the hope that political stability would ensue. New businesses were attracted and old ones - such as the linen and shipbuilding industries - reinvigorated. As yet, there's no sign of the bubble bursting and there's a real sense of liveliness; Belfast is no longer a city under siege.

As our bus leaves the port the first thing we see is the Sinclair Seaman's Church (Presbyterian), which has a nautical theme and a ship's bow for a pulpit. Our tour guide remarks that Belfast is a Victorian City unlike Dublin that is a Georgian City. We next pass St. Anne's Cathedral. The Neo-Romanesque façade of this Protestant cathedral, consecrated in 1904, fails to make much of an impression. We are told that the interior is far more attractive, especially the vast, colorful mosaics executed by the two Misses Martin in the 1920s. The one covering the baptistry ceiling contains over 150,000 pieces. The wide nave is paved with Canadian maple and the aisles with Irish marble. Lord Carson (1854-1935), implacable leader of the campaign against Home Rule, is buried in the south aisle. The next landmark we see is the newly built waterfront Concert Hall, large and of modern design. The Concert Hall is close to the Hilton Hotel.

Our first stop is at City Hall, which sits right at the end of the main shopping street. Most of Belfast's main streets (and many major bus routes) radiate out from the hub of Donegall Square. In the center of the square stands the vast rectangular Portland ston  bulk of the 1906 City hall. It has an elaborate tower at each corner and a central copper dome that rises to a height of 173 feet. Built in the grand Classical Renaissance style, with an Italian marble interior, it looks rather like American state capitol buildings except for the big statue of a glum looking Queen Victoria at the front. She came to Belfast in 1849 - gave the town the status of city - and must have been held in high esteem by its citizens since dozens of streets, a hospital, a park, a man-made island, the harbor deep-water channel and the University were all named after her. The marble statue of Queen Victoria has bronze side figures representing the shipbuilding and linen industries. On the eastside, there is a statue of Sir Edward Harland, founder of the Harland and Wolff shipyard that built the Titanic. A memorial to those who died when the Titanic sunk in 1912 stands close by. There is also a plaque to commemorate the visit of Bill Clinton to Belfast. As we enter the heavily marbled entrance hall we see a lovely marble statue of Frederick Richard Chichester, Earl of Belfast. The statue shows Chichester dying with his mother lamenting by his side. There is an impressive Grand Staircase and a multitude of gorgeous stained glass windows. The highlight of our tour is the oaken council chamber redolent of the years of British domination. We have the opportunity to sit in the seats of the council. One side of the room is for the Sinn Fein Party and the other for the Unionist Party. Jim and I happen to be seated on the Sinn Fein side, where the ship's photographer snaps our picture. The Lord Mayor's chair is at one end of the chamber and Jim sits in it for another wonderful Kodak moment.

Queen's University is one of Ireland's most prestigious institutions. Housed in wonderful nineteenth-century buildings, it is the architectural centerpiece of the university quarter. The university was built in 1849 by Charles Lanyon who designed more fine buildings in Belfast than anyone before or since. The university with its mellow brickwork and Tudor cloister, is in an area that is full of charming Edwardian terraces with magnolia trees in their front gardens.

As we drive to Belfast Castle a rock formation is pointed out up on a hill overlooking the city.  It appears to be a sleeping giant -- this was the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels'.

Our guide tells us a bit about Belfast and the 'troubles'. Belfast is 50% Catholic and 50% Protestant. Ninety-seven per cent get along well and live in harmony. The other 3% are the ones involved in the 'troubles.' She feels that the press has blown the situation entirely out of proportion making it seem much worse than it is. She also tells us that 3000 have died in the 'troubles' and that no one has been left unaffected by it. She believes that the majority of the population wants peace but that the two extremes at either end are acting like children having a tantrum.

Belfast people seem to live close to work and to extended family. Men work till 5 and expect dinner on the table when they get home. Belfast women are stupid enough (her words - not mine) to have it there for them.

Before the laws of primogeniture, the lands were divided among the children. With large families the parcels became smaller and smaller.  Only ¼ acre is needed to grow flax for linen. The small fields were divided with hedgerows.

A bird flies overhead and our guide tells us that there is a superstition
about seeing birds.

One is for sorrow
Two is for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret yet to be told
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird not to miss

Another statement made by the tour guide is that Belfast is the safest city in Ireland. I'm not quite sure that I believe this one!

We arrive at Belfast Castle where we are served coffee, tea and scones (this is the first that I have tasted a scone - a sweet biscuit and quite good.) Dating back from 1870, the castle is built on the same site as a previous castle that dated back to the 12th century. It is situated on a prominent site, 400 feet above sea level on the slopes of Cave Hill and offers one of the most panoramic views of Belfast Lough and the greater Belfast area. The Castle was the home to the former Earls of Belfast.  After our refreshment we have time to wander around the magnificent gardens and to enjoy the breathtaking view.

We drive out to West Belfast and drive along Antrim Street. While the legacy of the 'troubles" is clearly visible in the landscape of areas like West Belfast (the peace walls, derelict buildings and political murals), security measures have been considerably eased and the place still buzzes with a tangible sense of optimism engendered by the peace process and economic rejuvenation. My main disappointment is that we are rushed for time and don't see the political murals. Ever since the onset of the "troubles" in 1968, popular art has played a conspicuous role in proclaiming the loyalties of Belfast's two most intransigent working-class communities, on the Protestant Shankill Road and the Catholic Falls Road. The gable walls of dozens of houses in these areas have been decorated with vivid murals expressing local political and paramilitary affiliations. Likewise, curbstones on certain streets are painted either in the red, white and blue of the United Kingdom or the green, white and gold of Ireland. Whatever the outcome of the current peace process, many are likely to remain. The description of the tour said that we would see the murals and this was the main reason that I chose to take this tour.  

One thing of interest that we do see in this area is a church with a memorial to Irish freedom fighter and martyr, Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers. There is a black flag flying and also a huge wooden "H' structure to commemorate the H cell block where the hunger strikers were incarcerated. Bobby Sands, IRA Volunteer and MP in that order as  far as he was concerned, inspired as much attention and admiration as any other Irish or international hunger striker. Bobby became the spokesperson and negotiator for his fellow prisoners. He wrote, "I refuse to change to suit people who oppress, torture and imprison me. They have suppressed my body and attacked my dignity, but I have the spirit of freedom that cannot be quenched by even the most horrendous treatment. Of course I can be murdered, but while I remain alive I remain what I am -- a political prisoner." The first hunger strike was started on October 27, 1980 and ended on December 18. The British government, under pressure from people in the US, Europe, Ireland and Britain, said it would comply with the prisoners' demands. The British promises were broken, so, on the fifth anniversary of the withdrawal of political status in the H-Blocks and Armagh Gaol -- March 1, 1981 -- a second hunger strike began. From the first day of his hunger strike, he kept a diary. He made his last entry on March 17, in Irish. Translated, it read: "If they aren't able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people will have the desire for freedom to show. And it's then that we'll see the rising of the moon."

As we leave West Belfast to drive back into the heart of the city we see the Harland & Wolff shipyard. Harland and Wolff, once formed the backbone of Belfast's' Industrial Base, employing up to tens of thousands of people. Perhaps the most famous ship built there was the Titanic. We are told that the Titanic was just fine when it left Belfast! The Samson and Goliath - the shipyards most famous cranes can be seen from points all over Belfast, each has a capacity of 840 tons and would dwarf London Bridge.

Directly across the river from Harland and Wolff is one of Belfast's best known monuments, the Albert Memorial Clock Tower, designed by WJ Barre. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort, had no personal connection with Belfast, but memorials to him were built in many British cities in the decade following his death in 1861.  Today, the tower arouses most interest because it leans slightly as a result off subsidence.

Another landmark we pass is Stormont. Built between 1928 and 1932, Stormont was designed to house the Northern Ireland Parliament. The huge Anglo-Palladian mass of Portland stone and Mourne granite stands at the end of a majestic avenue, one mile long, bordered by parkland. A statue of Lord Carson stands near the front entrance. Since the parliament was disbanded in 1972 the building has been used as government offices.  Its future depends very much on the outcome of the ongoing peace process. The debating chamber was badly damaged in a fire in 1994.

Rather than return to the ship we leave the tour and stay in the city. Belfast is trying very hard to promote tourism and has provided a free shuttle bus for the ship's passengers to and from the city.

First thing on my agenda is to check out the shops. I'm a bit disappointed since there is really nothing special -- the shops seem to stock mostly the things that we can buy at home rather than the type things a tourist looks for. I do find one Irish shop and here purchase a couple of shamrock appliqued linen table doilies, good luck small shillelaghs for stocking stuffers, and postcards. While I'm in this store a man approaches Jim who is waiting outside. He makes it clear that this is an Unionist shop and that Jim shouldn't shop here. I am hoping to find sweaters in Belfast for my daughter, son and daughter-in-law. Not seeing anything, I stop at the tourist information center and ask for some recommendations. Try the suggested shops but no luck; they carry only one or two styles. Should have looked harder in Blarney or Dublin.

Along the Golden Mile we look for a place for lunch. The Golden Mile is Belfast's entertainment strip - from the Grand Opera House to the university - home to the best pubs and clubs in town. We select the Crown Liquor Saloon, Belfast's most famous pub. Even teetotalers should make a detour to the multicolored tiled façade of this flamboyant Victorian-drinking palace. The Crown, which dates back to the 1880s, is the only pub owned by the National Trust. The lovingly restored interior features stained and painted glass, lots of marbling and mosaics and a splendid ceiling with scrolled plasterwork. The wooden snugs facing the long bar have their original gas lamps and are the perfect place for a pint of Guinness. Yes, I do order Guinness - am determined to like the stuff! Jim orders a pint along with champs (creamed potatoes with scallions) with pork sausage with leeks. I wasn't planning to eat but once I tasted his, I helped him devour it. I'm not a fan of sausage but this is very different than any sausage that I have ever tasted - really delicious! Thankfully they gave us a huge portion so that we both more than had our fill. And guess what? The Guinness actually tasted good and I drank it. They say that you have to acquire a taste for it but I doubt they mean after your second pint. Perhaps it was having it with food that made the difference.

Right across the street from the Crown Liquor Saloon is the Grand Opera House. Designed by Frank Matcham, the renowned theater-architect, this exuberant late-Victorian building opened its doors in 1894. The sumptuous interior with its gilt, red plush and intricate plasterwork was restored to its full glory in 1980.  On occasions, bombings of the adjacent Europa Hotel disrupted business at the theater, but it survives as a major venue for plays and concerts. In 1984, Belfast born singer Van Morrison recorded a famous live album here.

From here we grab a Belfast Black Taxi to take us back to the ship with a stop first at the Hilton Hotel. I found online before leaving from home that the Hilton has the Irish Souvenir Shop with some beautiful Irish sweaters. They carry the Tivoli sweaters and also Maggie sweaters, which are custom-made for you and are in some very unusual designs.  Find that the shop has moved from the Hilton to the area we just came from. I sure didn't see it! So, it is back to the ship with no sweaters from Irleand. The cab driver points out an area and tells us that this is where they manufacture the bombs that are used in the local bombings - he also mentions that it is a Unionist area. I wonder which side he is on? In talking to our driver, I mention how disappointed I am not to have seen the political  murals. He offers to take us to see them for about $40. We are tempted but think better of going with him to this area since he seems to have strong political leanings. I'm getting the feeling that the 'troubles' are more volatile than our tour guide would have had us believe.

We return to the ship mid afternoon and I sit out on the balcony with a drink, my book and my feet up - this is living! After all the touring these rest times are a real luxury. Jim goes off the ship for his cigar and while out there, finds local people to chat with. He gets more information this way than we do in all of our tours. Today he becomes a buddy to the Belfast Police - one male and one female. After their conversation he asks if he can take their photo. They pose for him and one asks if he can use Jim's camera to take a photo of Jim with his partner. Well, they pose and all of a sudden out come the handcuffs and Jim is being cuffed! This is going to be a priceless picture. He was relieved when the cuffs were removed after the photo! Can you just imagine how surprised he was?

Jim and I go to the Horizon's lounge for a pre dinner cocktail, but never get waited on. We find the service here ultra slow. We waited for a half an hour and received lots of apologies but no drink order was taken. I can't quite understand what the problem is since there are so few people in the lounge. Jim has previously encountered the same problem here. We leave to meet Kathy and John in the Italian restaurant at 8:00. We ask Kathy and John about the service they have received at Horizons. According to them they have always gone during Happy Hour or after the evening show and the service is fine. My guess is that they are short staffed during the dinner hours and this is why we had the problem. This is our time to catch up on what the day held for all of us. Kathy and John loved the Antrim coast and its beautiful scenery. The fame of the Giant's Causeway, Ireland's only World Heritage Site, overshadows the other attractions of this stretch of North Antrim coast. The Causeway proper is a mass of basalt columns packed tightly together. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Altogether there are 40,000 of these stone columns, mostly hexagonal but some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 40 feet high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 90 feet thick in places. A circular walk took them down to the Grand Causeway, past amphitheaters of stone columns and formations with fanciful names like the Honeycomb, the Wishing Well, the Giant's Granny and the King and his Nobles, past Port na Spaniagh where the Spanish Armada ship Girona foundered, past a wooden staircase to Benbane Head and back along the cliff top. Today was a clear day and they had a great view of Scotland in the distance. They stopped for lunch and raved about the meal. They were served a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all trimmings. The restaurant wanted to serve something special for the Americans and outdid themselves with a wonderful meal. Everyone was touched by this gracious gesture. After lunch they visited the Bushmills distillery. The small town of Bushmills has an attractive square and an excellent river for salmon and trout fishing, but its main claim to fame is whiskey. The Old Bushmills plant on the outskirts of the town prides itself on being the oldest distillery in the world. Its Grant to Distill was given in 1608, though the spirit was probably made here at least 200 years before that. Kathy and John say that the tour was the typical distillery tour and that there is a shop at the end where you can purchase the Bushmills and also logo merchandise. The tour took the scenic route to the Giant's Causeway, which was a 2-½ hour drive. They returned by a shorter and less scenic route. They loved this tour and were very glad that they chose it.

I spoke to a couple who took a cab to West Belfast. Their driver told them that it was safe to walk around, since tourists are never bothered. The fact that they had a camera was a dead giveaway that they were tourists. I'm now sorry that we didn't take the cab to see the murals. There is no way that I would get out in this area to walk around on my own - they are far braver than I am! They also commented that in seeing the murals, that the Catholic murals seemed to reflect peace and that the Protestant reflected more of a militaristic theme. I take these comments at face value since I have not seen this for myself.

FRIDAY, August 10
Greenock, Scotland -- Start the day with the usual - room service continental breakfast. This will be our first day in Scotland. Scotland presents a model example of how a small nation can retain its identity within the confines of a larger one. Unlike the Welsh, the Scots successfully repulsed the expansionist designs of England, and when the old enemies first formed a union in 1603, it was because King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne, though the parliaments were not united for another hundred years.

Its people are feisty, opinionated and fiercely loyal. The country is wild, untamed and beautiful. The bad climate adds an edge to both. Buoyed by the continued irritant of England on its doorstep, Scotland has survived encroachment, brass-monkey weather and the annual influx of stand-up comedians arriving for the Edinburgh Festival. But its people have a rock-solid identity and sense of self. On top of that, the Scots haven't eaten their waterways and forests bare. Scotland's lamb, beef, venison, trout and salmon are highly prized, and game birds such as grouse and pheasant abound.

It is perfect day for touring, cool but sunny. Our tour of Glasgow departs at 8:30. We travel along the River Clyde, which eventually reaches the Atlantic. This area thrived on the tobacco trade (with the American colonies), on cotton production and, most famously, on the shipbuilding on the River Clyde (the Queen Mary and QEII were built here.)  

We pass a building with a statue of James Watt (inventor of the steam engine), born in Greenock in 1736. We also see the Comet, which is the first ocean going cruise liner.  It is very small and displayed prominently in a park. Our next landmark is Newark Castle, a defensive building, from the 15th century. The Castle was home to the Maxwell family and is no longer used.

The famous Dunbarton Rock lies in the Clyde River; it is the remnants of the solid core of a volcano. Braveheart (William Wallace) fought for Scotland in the War of Independence against the English.  He was imprisoned in Dunbarton Castle before sailing for England. Also, Mary Stewart, Mary Queen of Scots, (born in the early 1500s) sailed from here, as a child, when she was sent to France at eight years of age. She was already a queen and betrothed to the Dauphin of France.  She eventually married him and when he died, she returned, at the age of 19, to rule Scotland. Upon returning to Scotland, she caught a cold from the change in weather. The French chef, that she brought from France with her, took sugar and the juice from an orange to make a cure for her - he called it 'Marie is sick' - in French 'Marmalade." Lord Donnelly then married the 6 foot tall, Mary. The political situation turned against her and she went to England to seek refuge with her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth turned around and imprisoned Mary and years later had her beheaded. Ironically, Mary's son, James VI, became King of England when Elizabeth died childless. There are two spellings for the name Stewart. When Mary went to France they didn't have a 'W' in their alphabet, so spelled the name Stuart.

The town of Paisley is pointed out to us, where they produce a cloth pattern with the teardrop Paisley design. William Wallace, Braveheart, was educated at the Abbey in Paisley. The daughter of Robert the Bruce fell from her horse and was taken to the Paisley Abbey for treatment. She was pregnant and died but the baby (who later grew up to be Robert II, King of Scotland) was saved by a Cesarean section.

Our tour guide gives us some Scottish words, which come from the Gaelic:
Loch - Lake
Ben - Mountain
Glen - Valley
Mac - Son of
Inver - Mouth of a river
Firth - Inlet from the sea

She also explains to us about the Tartan. Originating in Scotland, it is a plaid that was unique to a particular clan. Originally "tartan" designated how the woolen thread was woven into cloth. Each individual thread went over two threads then under two threads, and so on. This means that  there is always a square where two colors cross, giving that speckled effect. The Gaelic word for it is Breacan, meaning partially colored or speckled, and every one today features a multi-colored arrangement of stripes and checks. These patterns or Sett's, are used to identify the Clan, Family or Regiment with which the wearer is associated. Strangely enough clan patterns were not something that have evolved out of the mists of time in Scotland. The first documented reference dates from 1703.

The clans were large extended families where everyone had a job. One job was that of the weaver, who would sheer the sheep, dye the wool in colors provided by local plant dyes, and then weave the fabric. The guide tells us that the weaver, tending to be lazy, would set up the loom to weave a specific plaid design and then kept weaving it over and over. This is why a specific tartan is associated with one clan.

St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and the St. Andrew's cross is on Scotland's flag. Legend says that in 832 AD, an army of Scots was facing a Northumbrian army. The Scottish king prayed to St Andrew for help, and saw the saltire of St Andrew (the saint had been martyred on a diagonal cross) in the heavens against a clear blue sky. On seeing the cross in the sky, he swore that if the Scots beat the English in the battle that was about to be joined, then St Andrew would forever be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did in fact win the battle, and from that day on the saltire has been the national flag of Scotland.

The Scots had many battles with the Roman, Viking and English invaders.  They also had battles among the different Scottish Clans. There is a saying that "If the Scots aren't at war then they are fighting." The Romans built walls to keep the Scots out of England. Hadrian's Wall has come to represent the frontier between England and Scotland. Strangely enough, today it is well south of the political border between the countries. Ninety per cent of  the English County of Northumberland is north of the wall. However many of the border changes took place during the Middle Ages, and to most people Scotland still starts at the wall.

There must be a rivalry between the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Our guide tells us that if you knock on a door in Glasgow, they say welcome and would you like a cup of tea. If you do the same in Edinburgh, they say welcome but you would have already had your tea!

To reach Glasgow we drive through a tunnel that is the steepest underwater tunnel in Europe - it is not very long.

We arrive in Glasgow, which means 'Dear Green Place.' The civic architecture of Victorian Glasgow was as grand as any in Britain, and the West End suburbs were regarded as among the best designed in the country. Since this heyday, however, it has not enjoyed the best of reputations. The Gorbals area became notorious as one of the worst slums in Europe, and the city's association with violence and heavy drinking stuck to it like a curse. Like so many dockland cities, Glasgow is undergoing another change of image nowadays - a change symbolized by its selection as the European City of Culture in 1990 and City of Architecture and Design in 1999, and by the urban renewal programs around Glasgow Green and the Merchant City. Industrial grime is being sandblasted away (we do see one building that hasn't been cleaned and a city of all these blackened buildings would be a very depressing sight), city-center overcrowding has been reduced, and more open space and less traffic congestion mean cleaner air.  The splendor of the city has reemerged. John Betjeman and other critics have hailed Glasgow as "the greatest surviving example of a Victorian city."

Glasgow's tenements (this is a word for an apartment and not a derogatory word as in the U.S.) are about four stories in height and made of yellow or red sandstone.  Even, new apartments are built in this style. I can't help but admire the many parks in Glasgow - we see Victoria Park, which has lovely flower gardens and fossilized tree stumps.  

We drive past Glasgow University, set up on a hill in a very picturesque setting. On the grounds is a statue of Lord Kelvin, a professor at the university and the man who invented the Kelvin temperature scale. The gates of the university have the names of famous people connected with the university done in gold.  The university has a teaching hospital affiliated with it. The bus stopped long enough for us to take photos. This is a good vantage point to see the arched ivy covered bridges below the university and Art Museum on the hill. We also see the Tower of Glasgow, pretty but leaning as the Tower of Pisa, in Italy.

Our first stop is at St. Mungo's Church (also known as Glasgow Cathedral), consecrated in 1136, burned down in 1192, and rebuilt soon after; the Laigh Kirk (lower church), whose vaulted crypt is said to be the finest in Europe, remains to this day. Inside the cathedral is the tomb of St. Mungo in the crypt, where a light always burns. The edifice is mainland Scotland's only complete medieval cathedral, from the 12th and 13th centuries. It was once a place of pilgrimage, but 16th-century zeal purged it of all monuments of idolatry. Highlights of the interior are the 1400s nave, built later than the choir; with a stone screen (unique in Scotland) showing the seven deadly sins. Both the choir and the lower church are from the mid-1200's First Pointed style. The church, even though a bit austere, is filled with intricate details left by long-ago craftspeople-of note are the tinctured bosses of the ambulatory vaulting in the back of the main altar. The lower church, reached via a set of steps north of the pulpit, is where Gothic reigns supreme, with an array of pointed arches and piers. The Chapel of the Virgin has intricate net vaulting and bosses carved with fine detailing. The Blacader Aisle projecting from the south transept was the latest addition to the church, a two-story extension, of which only the lower part was completed, in the late Gothic style.

We look up to a nearby hill and see the Necropolis (City of the Dead), inspired by the Père Lachaise in Paris.  The Necropolis is an eerie, atmospheric hilltop cemetery behind Glasgow Cathedral. We are in Glasgow at the time of the Royal Pipe Band Competition. Pipes from all over the world come here to compete.  

At the end of the tour we are given some free time to either go to the Modern Art Museum, cafes and pubs or to shop. Have you figured out which I will choose? Glasgow is known as a city for shoppers but once again, I am disappointed. They have all the top designers but these are all things that can be purchased at home and it seems foolish to carry them home from Scotland. I do find the Lush Shop, with hand made cosmetics (mainly for the bath). My daughter discovered this store when living in London, so take the opportunity to pick up a few Christmas gifts. It is a fun shop to explore and smells ever so good. Another store I find to browse in is the Pringle Kilt Makers. I wasn't in the market for a kilt but it was fun to look around. Kilts are made with about 7 yards of fabric - they are warm in winter because of so much material and cool in summer. Our tour guide commented that she is always asked the question of what a Scotsman wears under his kilt. She tells us that if we are very lucky there may be a strong wind to reveal 'the true glory of Scotland'!  

Since we have another tour booked for this afternoon and don't have time for lunch we stop at a bakery to buy some scones and pastries filled with cheese and onions - good but much too rich to eat much of.

We return to the ship and only have a few minutes before the tour to Loch Lomond and the Glengoyne Distillery departs. This is just enough time to see what the vendors set up at the terminal have to offer. There is a very pretty pendant on a chain that is crystal with Scotland's national symbol, the thistle, etched into it. The thistle grows wild in Scotland and the plant goes with the saying of 'Don't touch me or you'll be punished.' There is also single malt scotch whiskey for sale here. Buy two bottles for my son and daughter. I am told that both are good scotches. The Glenmorangie is 100 Proof and is $100 - sure do hope it as good as he tells me. This is a limited edition and a single person can purchase no more than two bottles. My second bottle is from another distiller and runs about $70.

We drive out to Glengoyne - the trip affords us the opportunity to see the beauty of Scotland - truly some breathtaking scenery.  Glengoyne is a charming town with some beautiful rose displays. Monks started the Glengoyne Distillery. It lies on a tranquil wooded glen on the western edge of the Campsie Fells, near to Loch Lomond. The distillery takes its name from 'Glen Guin' or 'Glen of the Wild Geese' and sits at the foot of a small waterfall tumbling from the volcanic plug, Dumgoyne Hill.

What distinguishes Glengoyne is that the distillery uses only specially selected unpeated malted barley - barley that is malted using the air from a natural fire rather than a peat fire. This ensures that the other elements of Glengoyne Malt Whiskey are allowed to express themselves more fully - the water, ripened barley, the oak and sherry of the cask and some say the air of the place. We are given a sample and I can't say that I am a big fan of Scotch single malt whiskey. At the end of the tour there is the shop where you can buy all that Glengoyne has to offer. I pick up some small bottles of different types of the scotch to use as stocking stuffers. Also buy a mustard, mustard relish, cranberry sauce, and a whiskey cake all made with the Glengoyne whiskey. Also get a couple of bags of hot toddy mix as stocking stuffers.

Scotland has many distilleries where they manufacture malt whiskey, which is sometimes smokey in flavor due to peat.  By law, the whiskey must ferment for at least three years and one day. Many of the whiskeys are fermented for much longer - the longer it ferments the more that evaporates. The Scots are known for their thrift, but this evaporation is not of concern to them because it is referred to as the 'angel's share.' Scotland has two kinds of whiskey--good and better. Scotch Whiskey distilled from barley or grain liquor and flavored with peat tainted water. Known as the Water of Life or Uisge-Beatha in Gaelic. The are two sorts of whisky:
· Malt Whisky - made from barley, more expensive, and the product of a single distillery
· Blended Whisky - made by blending grain and malt whisky and is therefore cheaper
The whisky-producing areas of Scotland are mainly, but not exclusively along the River Spey, in the Highlands and on the island of Islay.   Scotch can only have this name if it has been distilled and matured in Scotland. It is protected under international law in the same way that Champagne and other regional specialties are protected.

Driving to Loch Lomond we pass sheep, cows and more gorgeous scenery. There is a tall purple wild flower that grows called Rose Bay Willow Herb.  At first we think it is heather but our guide tells us that the heather is mostly in the Highlands and we are now in the Lowlands of Scotland.

We have a 10-minute stop for photos at Loch Lomond, a fresh water loch that was formed during the Ice Ages by the action of glaciers. The lake and its surrounding area are lovely, but it is just a lake! It is 23 miles long, 5 miles wide, more than 600ft deep, lies 22ft above sea level and covers 18,000 acres. The rugged highland peaks with hidden glens and passages are steeped in history and heritage. Full of romance and mystique Loch Lomond has inspired poets and songwriters throughout the centuries. Our guide explains about the song 'On the Bonny Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond.'  A Jacobite (follower of Bonny Prince Charlie), who was being executed wrote the song for his friend, who was being released. There is a belief that when one dies his soul goes back home - since he would be dead his soul would travel the high road getting to Scotland before his friend, who would be mortal and taking the low road.

I am really glad that we took both of today's tours  -- they gave us a good overview of the Lowlands of Scotland, including both the city and the countryside. There is a bagpipe band, in full regalia, waiting at the ship to say goodbye. As we sail they play Auld Lang Syne. The national bard of Scotland, Robert Burns, wrote Auld Lang Syne. Burns Suppers have been part of Scottish culture for about 200 years as a means of commemorating their best-loved bard.  

Robert Burns was born in 1759 and immortalized the haggis (a dish consisting of the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep, calf, etc., or sometimes the tripe and chitterlings, minced with suet and oatmeal, seasoned with salt, pepper, onions, etc., and boiled like a large sausage). In verse he created a central link that is maintained to this day. These days poets do not write odes to hamburgers, but Burns had his address to the Haggis, and hence the 25th of January, Burns Night is the high point of haggis in Scotland. Burns Suppers have been part of Scottish culture for about 200 years as a means of commemorating their best-loved bard. Robert Burns said in his 'Address to the Haggis': Fair fa' yer honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the pudden race!

Tonight we meet Kathy and John at the Club Restaurant. I order the vegetarian meal, which is filled pastry - excellent!  After dinner we watch the Paramount Performer's Broadway Review - very entertaining.  The gift shop has the special on watches for $69.99.

At Sea -- What a treat, to sleep past 6:30 AM - this is a day at sea. Jim and I finally get to the club for our long awaited real breakfast - it tastes so good. We are seated with another couple who are very enjoyable.

My main project for the day is to sort through all of my purchases and get the receipts together for customs and also the VAT forms filled out. Begin to pack one suitcase to see if all my treasures will fit so that I will be able to bring them home. Everything fits just fine; however, it takes up one whole suitcase. I did leave some extra space when packing to come but not quite a whole suitcase's worth of space. We only had three checked bags and have packed a fold-up bag just in case (being allowed four). Do hope that this will do the trick! At 11:30 AM we attend the port talk.  We find these talks very informative for each of the ports we visit.

Decide to have as late a lunch as possible and eat at the Club Restaurant, which I much prefer to the Panorama Buffet.  It is the same food but somehow tastes much better at the Club. Unfortunately today is rainy and windy, and causing the ship some motion, although not too bad.  Once we hit the Atlantic it becomes a bit choppy, but then calms as we enter the North Sea.  By early evening, the sun is out and it is perfect for sitting on the balcony. 

At 8:30 dinner is once again with Kathy and John and tonight at the Grille Restaurant. I select the salmon with the Dijon mustard sauce -- another great meal.  After dinner I return to the room to read - totally enjoying what I missed with today's rain.

Continued... Part Three

Back to Part One

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